Kinabatangan Adventures With Mr Aji

It was probably around 6am when we rolled out of bed and shuffled (because shuffling is about all my feet can do at that hour) to the restaurant for breakfast. It was misty as fuck! The restaurant is right on the river and whilst it seems a bit counter intuitive to say the view was stunning when you can barely see twenty metres in front of you, it was. I’m a sucker for a bit of mist. Provided I’m not lost in it somewhere remote, fending off badgers with a stick.

I try not to imagine the horrors that could be lying in wait. At least not until after breakfast and I’m in a position to run.

This morning we’d be going on a little walk with a chap called Jul to spot stuff and things in the trees. One of the joys of walking through the Bornean jungle is leeches which meant we’d have to tuck our trousers into our socks to try and deter the sucky little fuckers from latching on. We honestly didn’t see much apart from a bit of fungus because that shit can’t run away, but we heard a lot of hornbills. Apparently there are eight species here (way more worldwide) and they eat all manner of stuff including fruit, insects, and even small snakes and rats. They’re not fussy then. We also saw a pygmy elephant footprint and a pile of shit. Sadly we didn’t see the elephant that excreted the shit, it’s very possible to see them in these parts but I think you’ve got to be pretty lucky.

Intrepid explorers. Assuming “intrepid” has been redefined to mean “completely guided and totally safe”.
Where jungle meets palm oil.
Proof the little grey fuckers do knock around these parts but we didn’t actually get a pygmy elephant sighting.

He did tell us a bit about palm oil and how it’s produced. The kernels grow tightly packed together and the entire bushel is harvested and loaded onto a truck to be transported for processing. To get the oil out you need to cook the kernels to soften them, then you press the shit out of them thus extracting the oil within. Then it’s shipped off worldwide to put in everything you held dear until you came to Borneo and saw the devastation. That’s it Cadbury’s, you’re not getting my £1.80 a week anymore. I can live a Creme Egg-less life if it means I can slowly eradicate the palm oil from it.

Bushels of palm oil kernels.
This is what they look like up close. Kind of freaky. I wonder who thought, “I know, let’s cook them and crush them and put the result in everything we can think of.”

So there’s really not much to do around Sukau apart from cat-bothering. There are plenty of felines knocking about for this pastime though. We did go for a little circular walk around the village to kill a bit of time and there did seem to be some manner of bar but I don’t know what time it opened or even if it ever actually functioned as a bar. After lunch it was time for another boat ride and this time the sky wasn’t trying to sink us so that was nice.

This time we saw a metric fuck tonne of stuff right from the off, so much we couldn’t catch on camera. A bunch of macaques were fighting and it sounded utterly terrifying, like street cats on crack. You wouldn’t want to break up that scrap if you were fond of the current location of your eyeballs. We saw so many birds including eagles and beautifully coloured long tailed bee eaters. Hornbills in flight, their wings making this sort of soft whooshing noise.

Ever get the feeling your’re being sized up for attack? (Photo credit: Tarrant)
Mother macaque and terrorist in training. (Photo credit: Tarrant)

We saw crocodiles flitting quickly into the water, the line of bubbles on the surface betraying their whereabouts beneath. I’d love to see one properly. From a distance, mind, I’m very fond of the current location of my limbs. From the glimpses we’ve caught they look gorgeous, coloured yellow and black, but they’re probably a lot less pretty with their chops wrapped around your face.

Part of a crocodile. I’ve seen many crocodiles in other parts of the world but none of them have been this lovely yellow and black colour.

We saw another harem of proboscis monkeys and Tarrant even got that coveted monkey-dick photo with her posh camera. But I think the absolute highlight was the fact we saw another orangutan, and this one had her baby with her. I simply cannot cope with this level of cute. Mr Aji has a pretty decent camera with a lens the size of my fucking head and he’ll put your SD card in his slot (fnar fnar) and take some epic close up shots for you. I think one of the things I like the most about him is that he doesn’t rush. He can spot something in the trees a mile off and once you’re there you can spend as long as you want just watching animals go about their daily lives.

He’s a man of few words (unless you ask him a question about the jungle or get him started on palm oil. The man fucking despises palm oil!) but he makes up for this with a plethora of random animal noises, calling into the trees, mimicking monkeys and birds. I’m not sure why but it seems to make him happy and the monkeys confused.

So that night we were to go on a walk through the jungle in the dark with Mr Aji where hopefully we wouldn’t be attacked by nocturnal beasts with a taste for foreigners. Now this was actually a bit of an unexpected highlight. I didn’t think we’d see anything given we saw two tenths of fuck all in broad daylight on the morning walk, but it turns out I really like insects. Never knew this, it’s news to me, but I fucking love them.

Mr Aji just knows where to look I guess, turning over leaves and scouring trees, shining his torch on unsuspecting bugs. This was brilliant. We even found a sleeping bird and a snake and there were tonnes of interesting leaves, and yes, I just used the words “interesting” and “leaves” consecutively in a sentence.

The sky was so clear that night too and light pollution here is all but non-existent. Millions and millions of stars, you could even make out the Milky Way dusting the sky above us. Me and Tarrant did try and take a few photos but it turns out we’re not good at this shit and gave up in favour of not being awake. Being up since 6am and putting all that wildlife in our eyeholes is pretty exhausting.

Sukau, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Stayed at: Sukau Tomanggong View B&B
Activity: Kinabatangan River Tours with Mr Aji who can be contacted at

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