"Kinabatangan River Jungle" Bilit by kenmerk

Bilit Travel Guide: 0 reviews and 10 photos

Hunting Wild Elephants in Borneo for Christmas

There is much to do in Sabah, Borneo, but by far the highlight of this trip was spending a few days in the jungle along the lower Kinabatagan river. Our first afternoon there, we took a boat ride up the river. After a while, we could hear some wild elephants foraging through the brush. The views of them were fleeting though as the jungle brush was quite dense; just brief flashes of a ear, back, tail, etc. Our guide, Kai said it pretty lucky to see them as they are migratory, and aren’t always around.

The lodge we stayed at is protected by an electric barrier fence to keep to elephants from ransacking the place. The owner showed us some pictures of a previous meandering pack that were playing elephant polo with one of his water storage tanks, which is what prompted him to put up the fence. At dinner that night, we again heard them out in the swamp splashing around just outside the perimeter fence of the compound. We were planning to take a night hike in the jungle, but Kai canceled it, as the wild elephants can be aggressive. (I gather they assume everyone is either a logger or a poacher unless events prove otherwise)

The next day the elephants were gone, so we went ahead with a morning hike through the jungle out to an oxbow lake in the area. Quite a trip, slogging through mud up to a foot deep, and dodging the ferocious tiger leeches. I am still seeing these blood-sucking bastids in my sleep. You should see how they dangle out on leafs along the trail trying to latch onto someone. (I think everyone in the group got at least one on them) Anyway, after about 3 hours, we reached the lake and took a rest along the lakeside.

We were sitting there for maybe 20 minutes, when we heard rustling and cracking of branches maybe 20 yards away. Our guide had warned us that if we encountered elephants, not to approach them. But, I guess the allure of getting a picture or two makes you brave, so we quietly creeped out a bit to try to get a look. Even though the elephants were quite close, you could just barely see them through the brush. It wasn’t too long before they saw us, though. The big male in the group started make aggressive motions, thrashing around while trumpeting and growling. Our guide, Kai, heard this and gave out an unequivocal “RUN FOR IT !!!” Everyone quickly retreated back to the lake hoping not to have the make the choice between the crocodiles and the wild elephants…. (I’m sure that putting my young daughter in the path of an irate alpha male elephant will come up should I ever face a custody battle with my wife….)

Well, fortunately he didn’t charge, and the elephants hung around and continued grazing. After a while we got up the courage to try to approach them again. This time they seemed OK with us being around, and I was able to get close for quite a few pictures and video clips. On the way back to the lodge, Kai was telling us: “Oh, very good hike, I rarely see them up close like that in the jungle.”

The next day, we took a boat ride down river, and saw another pack of elephants (20+) that had just crossed the river. It was quite amazing, there was this group on the one side of the river, and you could also hear another group from across the river singing out to them. Over three days, we also saw 4-5 orangutan swinging in the trees, plus countless proboscis/macaque/langur monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, lizards, birds, etc… Well worth a visit if you ever get the chance…

  • Last visit to Bilit: Dec 2007
  • Intro Updated Dec 31, 2007
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Comments (3)

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Jan 15, 2010 at 2:49 AM

    You saw a lot more wildlife than I did. I would love to return and spend longer there!

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Feb 9, 2008 at 5:54 AM

    Now that's a real jungle adventure Ken!! Great photos and it sounds like the hike of a lifetime!

  • jenniferchin's Profile Photo
    Jan 5, 2008 at 3:54 AM

    Elephants gone Wild, huh ? :-) Quite an adventure, Ken .. and that main pic looks abit like Nessie ...

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