Borneo has one of the largest bio-diversities in the world, yet I haven't had the chance to see one of its most well-known primates -- the Proboscis. As I was looking through tours offering the chance to spot some Bornean wildlife, the proboscis monkeys and fireflies river cruise definitely caught my eye. Not only was I totally unfamiliar with these species, it was only a 2 hours' drive from Kota Kinabalu city!
I booked my tour with Amazing Borneo and a pick-up was arranged for 2PM at my accommodation. Upon entering their van, the tour guide, Richard, greeted me with smiles following a brief of our itinerary for the day, and then we were ready to go.
The beautiful sceneries that graced our journey made me forget about how bumpy the roads heading towards the rural areas of Sabah are. Our bus captain, Vincent, made sure to drive as carefully as he can to ensure everyone's safety.
It started raining really hard halfway through, so I started to feel a little worried that we might not be able to see anything during our cruise. I remained hopeful and luckily, the sky cleared up just as we arrived at Klias River!
Our tour guide, Richard, leading us
We were welcomed at the jetty and they ushered us to join them for a nice high tea to freshen up after our journey. This was a nice way to speak with fellow travellers while sipping on a cup of tea or coffee, and munching on a small selection of local snacks. We had half an hour to relax before walking out towards the jetty.
We put our life jackets on and entered the boat. While waiting to cruise out, Vincent managed to catch a fish. He held it up and said it's for dinner -- fresh as can be!
Didn't manage to get my camera out in time for the big catch!
Just before we cruised out, Richard told us that the weather that day might actually be in our favour. Due to the rain prior to our arrival, temperatures have dropped, creating the perfect climate for the monkeys and fireflies to show up.
Cruising along calm waters...
We started our river cruise calm and steady. After a couple of minutes, we stopped and spotted our first group of monkeys! However, they were not proboscis monkeys, so we didn't stay around them for too long. We made our way further along the river, enjoying the fresh breeze as the boat moved faster.
The boat captain then spotted some movement and slowly approached the riverbank. It was there that we spotted a big group of female proboscis monkeys! One of them was carrying a baby and it was the cutest thing I saw that day.
The first Proboscis Monkey we saw!
Don't think she's too pleased to see us
Richard told us that, even with their big noses, the male proboscis are much harder to spot as they are more timid than the curious females.
After snapping photos, we headed off again. With added knowledge on these primates, we know knew what to look for. The moving branches in the trees gave their movements away. The further we went, the more monkey we spotted!
As the evening passed, the sky turned into a vivid blue, reflecting the clouds and trees on the river. What a picturesque sight!
On our way back, our boat captain put in a bit more speed on the boat. It was thrilling to race on the river in a speedboat. And I wasn't the only one having fun as I could read the excitement on everyone else's' face!
During our wild speedboat ride, the boat captain suddenly turned off the motor. He noticed a big male proboscis sitting on a tree very close to the river.
We were lucky enough to spot a male proboscis!
Just another day in the trees
We were all silently staring at this stunning creature eating his leaves when Richard told us that the proboscis monkeys have a funny nickname. Because of their big nose and pot belly, the locals used to call them "the Dutch monkeys" referring to their colour bearing resemblance to the Dutch. As a pure Dutch girl, I didn't know whether to feel offended or burst out in laughter!
There are clearly some similarities
The sun had just started to set behind the trees when we arrived back at the jetty. Dinner was ready, so we could immediately grab a plate and begin feasting.
Buffet laid out for us
There were a variety of dishes laid out buffet style. I tried most of them and really enjoyed tasting the local vegetables as well as the fried fish which was excellent! It might have been Vincent's earlier catch? Who knows...
The vegetables were really good!
The sun slowly setting behind the trees
When it got dark enough to chase fireflies, we went back onto the boat.
Fireflies, we are coming for you!
The boat captain gleamed his torch into the dark wilderness when he quickly noticed something in the water. A crocodile! He cut off the motor and slowly got closer to it. The pointed his torch at it so we could have a better look. It was a wild baby crocodile. It may have been little, but that didn't make it less impressive or intimidating.
We may have gotten too close because it vanished away in a blink of an eye. The boat captain said since there's a baby around, the mother croc should be nearby...
I see you, little creature!
After that encounter, we turned on our "crocodile radar". I suddenly felt like I was a part of National Geographic in one of their exploration documentaries looking for beady red eyes popping out of the water.
Some of the people in our group spotted a pair of eyes twinkling in the bushes, so we rapidly headed towards it. My heart started to beat faster even though I had no clue where to look. A couple of seconds passed before I finally noticed the crocodile they were talking about. This one was much bigger than the other, but fortunately for us, not as big as a full-grown croc.
I was too amazed at it til I completely forgot to take a photo!
We continued our river cruise and spotted our first group of fireflies. I didn't really know what to expect but I definitely wasn't expecting this! The whole tree was covered with twinkling green and yellow lights flying around. It felt magical; the fireflies, the trees, the reflection of the moon in the water, like something out of a Disney movie!
It was difficult to capture them on camera
Attracted to our lights, a few fireflies made it to our boat. We even managed to catch some, allowing them to twinkle in our hands before releasing them back into the wild. Richard told us that their lights are due to a chemical reaction in their abdomen.
The further we went, the more fireflies we could see. The trees looked Christmas trees of the jungle.
We got back to the jetty after our 40-minute firefly escapade and made our way back to our respective accommodations.
The Klias River Cruise is perfect for travellers who are looking to wind down after a couple of hardcore tours or for those who aren't too keen on trekking but still want to see wildlife in their natural habitat. I'd definitely recommend it to families as it's a fun way to bond with your little ones and gives them a thrill when they manage to spot an animal!
PRO-TIP: It's possible to rent binoculars for MYR 10 before boarding the boat. It can be very useful as some monkeys are well hidden in the trees and are sometimes quite far away too.
CHECK THESE OUT!: