4th May 2019 – Kinabatangan River to Sandakan

We had a 5.30 alarm call to be up and away on the river safari at 6am. A quick coffee in the cafe area and we boarded the boat. It was light, although the sunrise hadn’t properly taken place.

This time we cruised up the river and managed to see a few more primates, a crocodile and some hornbills.

Proboscis monkey
What we saw

We returned to the lodges at just before 8 and had breakfast and then checked out, took the boat back across the river and boarded our bus. Just before we got into the boat we saw a monitor lizard which had attached one of the pet cats at the lodges and apparently eaten her kittens.

Monitor lizard

We drove for about 15 minutes and then stopped at the Gomantong Caves. These caves are where twice a year they harvest bird’s nests for both cosmetics and bird’s nest soup. The harvesting is now regulated by the government and its only allowed before the swiftlets lay eggs or after the chicks have left.

Our transport

Before we entered the caves we spotted two wild orangutans in the trees next to the car park area. They seemed completely unbothered by our presence!

Orangutans in the trees behind

Hasif then explained some of the methods that the locals use to harvest the nests. The ropes and ladders all looked far too rickety to be climbing to the top of the cave 50m high! However, the rewards are worth it as the harvested nests sell for significant amounts of money.


We walked about 10 minutes along boardwalks to the entrance to the cave. It’s not really as impressive as the ones we’d seen in Sarawak, but they did have a massive entrance. As you approached you could smell the guano coming from the cave and there were hundreds of swiftlets flying around. We walked along boardwalks caked in guano and with cockroaches and sides scuttling around. There were three shacks set up in the cave that the locals use to sleep in to keep an eye on the caves. Not something that I’d want to do in a hurry!

The wardens’ accommodation inside the cave!

We walked quickly on the loop of the cave and came back out just in time to see another wild orangutan sitting in a tree eating fruit. We stopped to watch it for 10 minutes before walking back to the bus. We’d certainly been lucky to see two different wild orangutans.

A bit camera shy

We boarded the bus for a 2 hour transfer to Sandakan.

On arrival in Sandakan at around 1.30pm we dropped off our bags in the room and meet up with Peter and Zoe to get some food. We ended up getting a taxi for the short ride up the hill to an English tea Room where we had club sandwiches and scones, with, of course, a tiger beer.

After eating we walked down the 200+ steps, no mean feat given that we’re all still struggling with sore legs, and headed back to the hotel.

Anzac war memorial

We had some time relaxing before meeting up with the group at 5.45 to head to a roof top bar for a sunset drink and then some food, a bit later, in their restaurant in the floor below.

Rooftop cocktails

Finally, to end the evening, we had a couple of drinks at a waterfront ‘bar’.

One thought on “4th May 2019 – Kinabatangan River to Sandakan

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  1. What a variety of experiences, not to mention photos. All seems s bit incongruous as I look at scones and cockroaches the wardens hut and your hotel.
    Keep the stories coming please and as always, take care x

    Liked by 1 person

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