From The Straits Times    |

Photo: Shutterstock

You can only hear crickets chirping, the occasional owl hoot and the water rippling when cruising down the Kinabatangan River in the evening

Shine the torchlight into the river and two tiny orbs stare back at you. Those are the eyes of a saltwater crocodile, says Roy Lee, a Kinabatangan River safari expert.

But many don’t go there just for the crocodiles. 

Photo: Natural World Safaris

Pygmy elephants – the smallest species of elephants in the world – are also native to Borneo’s exotic wildlife. You can find them drinking from the river when you’re cruising at night.

Roy shares: “There are also day trips for those who prefer to bird-watch and see the orangutans.”

The best time to visit the river safari is during the dry season between March and October.

Clouded leopards can be spotted lazing in the trees.

A full Bornean safari experience in Sabah also includes visiting the various specialist conservatories.

Travel companies Natural World Safaris and Tourradar organise trips to places like the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan, where orphaned or displaced orangutans are given shelter.

Across the road, you can find baby sun bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

Says Tan Mee Yun, a 35-year-old teacher who visited the animal sanctuaries with her students last year: “The conservation centres are built in an open manner where there are no fences. The animals foraged for fallen fruits and played about a metre away from us.”

The Borneo safari is by far the most affordable experience in Asia.

An eight-day trip with accommodation costs $1,300 by Tourradar.

Where to stay

Borneo Rainforest Lodge Located deep in the Danum Valley Conservation Area, the chalets are installed with ceiling fans instead of air-conditioning.

It now has new villas and double-storey chalets, which come with an outdoor tub attached to a viewing deck.

From $1,000 a person for a three-day trip (includes accommodation, trek on the nature trail and canopy walkway, safari night drive, trek to Coffin Cliff, and a visit to the natural jacuzzi pool). www.borneonaturetours.com

ALSO READ: INSIDER INFO ON INDIA’S SAFARIS

This story was first published on Her World’s Dec 2019 issue.