The people from Uncle Tan's picked up us and another couple from the guesthouse at noon and took us back to Uncle Tan's Hostel in Sepilok. We were glad we had chosen not to stay there as it was noisy and not as nice as our guesthouse. We had a buffet lunch and talked to people who had just got back from the jungle camp and those that were going out there that day. The camp costs RM200.00 per person for two nights, three days including all food and transfers. The only thing you need to buy in the camp is bottled water (RM3.00) or beer (RM6.00).
About 2:30pm we left in a minibus with the camp captain Lan. There were seven new people going out that day and four already at the camp. The camp takes up to 50 people in the dry season. It took one and a half hours to get to the river village where we changed to a boat. The village is very rustic with wooden buildings on stilts but the villagers seemed to be trying to out do each other with potted plants which they had in rows on shelves, up the stairs and all round the sides.
The boat trip to the camp was really good. The river is wide and muddy coloured and winds slowly through the jungle. You feel far from civilisation even though in reality the jungle near the river is only a narrow strip surviving between palm oil plantations on both sides. It is because of these plantations that all the wildlife has been forced into one area and is so easy to see. The boat stopped often for the guide, Nick to point out animals and tell us about them. We finally got to the camp about 5pm.
From the landing place it was a muddy 10 minute walk to the camp. We visited at the start of the wet season when it was just starting to get muddy. At the height of the wet season there can be several feet of water on the path. Luckily you can hire wellington boots for RM2.50 a day. We got to the camp and were greeted by the volunteers that work there. The rooms are open on one side to the jungle and connected by a wooden walkway. We all sat in the dining hut and Lan went through the itinerary. As the camp was not busy we would be able to go on five boat safaris instead of three.
After dinner we walked back down to the river for the night safari. A guide sits in the front of the boat with a powerful spotlight and directs the boat driver at the back by waving the light around. Lan was our guide and it was amazing how he could spot animals and birds from so far away, in the dark from a speeding boat. We saw lots of long tailed macaques (a cheeky type of monkey), some brightly coloured kingfishers which were asleep on a branch out over the river and a civet cat (a wild cat with badger-like markings). We also saw quite a few sinister looking crocodile eyes in the river around us. Some of the crocodiles had gathered round a dead pig floating in the river. When we got back to camp there was a civet cat lurking near by, and we also saw two playing together in the middle of the night when we went to the loo.
We got up at 6am for the morning boat safari and saw quite a few monkeys waking up and going down to the river. There were also many types of hornbill flying about. We could hear gibbons in the distance but didn't see any. After breakfast we had a jungle trek with a guide called Ronn. It was very interesting as he showed us edible plants, how to get water from vines, a tractor millipede that smelt of almonds when it was stroked, a spider skin, elephant poo, giant beans and a frilled tree frog that changed colour depending on what it was sat on. Near the camp there were some Probiscos Monkeys - a species only found in Borneo that have comedy big noses (See photo). The locals call them Dutch Monkeys as they think they look like Dutchmen.
After lunch was free time. Laura slept while I went for a walk round the lake to the four storey treehouse on the other side. It was built by the government along with some other buildings and then abandoned. When I got back to camp, everyone was either out or asleep and the camp was full of animals. There were long tailed macaques on the roof, monitor lizards (big lizards that look like komodo dragons) and a bearded pig which squealed and ran off. The monkeys decided to wake everyone up by repeatedly climbing one of the trees and then dropping on to the tin roof making a bang like a shotgun going off.
Before dinner there was an afternoon boat safari to see the animals as they settled down for the night. We got close to a silverleaf monkey and saw more long tailed macaques with their babies. We also startled a wild pig that ran off into the jungle. The crocodiles were more visible this time lying on the banks, although they slipped into the water whenever we approached. When we got back to the camp eight more people had arrived.
After dinner there was still more to do - this time a night trek in the jungle. Lan showed us how to spot spiders and frogs by their reflective eyes and off we went. We found at least five types of tree frog - one of which, the brown bullfrog, was very poisonous. We also saw one of the smallest frogs in the world, which was smaller than my little finger nail. Lan cornered a big scorpion and held it by its tail while it tried to grab him with its claws. We also saw a sleeping Borneon blue flycatcher, an owl, a stick insect and a tarantula. As we were walking back Lan spotted a mouse deer (a really small type of deer). Laura saw it too but the rest of the group were too far back. Lan was really excited - after six years guiding in the jungle it was the closest he had been to one.
We stayed up until the generator was turned off at 11pm. After lights out we could see a family of pigs rooting around at the edge of the camp and sometimes a civet cat would walk by. We were pretty exausted and were soon asleep.
Next morning we were up at 6am again for another boat safari. We saw more macaques, hornbills and crocodiles but not as much as the day before. Back to the camp for breakfast and then we had some free time to wander about until the boat took us back at 10am. Some of the people played football but when we came back from our walk it had turned into a very muddy game of rugby. Lan is a massive David Beckham fan - he was even wearing an England shirt.
I would definitely recommend the jungle camp - the guides are so enthusiastic you would think it was the first time they had ever seen a monkey. The food is good and there is always something to do. Most people felt that after two nights they were ready for civilisation again but I think I would have liked one more night. A few people stay there for months at a time - it only costs RM20.00 per night to stay on and that includes accommodation and all food which must make it the cheapest place to stay in Sabah.
Today was the first day of Hari Raya which celebrates the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. When we got back to the river village, there was a very festive air. All the children were smartly dressed and the local shop had lots of miniature cakes which they were giving out to everyone who came in. There were also lights and decorations so it felt a bit like Christmas. Back at the Uncle Tan's Hostel we had a quick lunch and then they took us back to the Sepilok Resthouse.