Elusive elephants and mischievous monkeys – a Bornean wildlife encounter

Andrea Millar from our office headed off to South East Asia’s greatest wildlife hotspot, Borneo, on our 9-day Orang-utan & Rainforests tour. Here are some of her highlights.


One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Borneo was to see orang-utans in their native habitat, and I certainly got that.  But what I didn’t anticipate was that the orang-utans weren’t the wildlife highlight of my trip. 

The Orang-utan & Rainforests tour includes a stay in an ecotourism rainforest lodge on the Kinabatangan River – a stunning environment, only accessible by boat. A couple of times each day we cruised on the river and stared into the surrounding jungle hoping to see some of the local wildlife.  The wildlife specialist at our lodge had spoken with us about the Borneo pygmy elephant, an endangered species, and one which I had never heard of before my visit to Sabah. He explained to us that the elephants have on occasion walked right through the lodge. The elevated wooden walkways at the lodge even have gaps designed to let the elephants continue on their way unimpeded! 

Imagine the excitement in the boat one day when our guide received advice that another boat had seen an elephant at the river’s edge. He made a heroic effort to get us there quickly, but all we got to see was a break in the foliage & a bit of a mudslide where an elephant had clambered down to the river and back out again. We may not have seen an endangered Borneo pygmy elephant – but we only missed it by seconds!

The rest of the river cruise experience was filled with wildlife encounters.  The river and the jungle either side of you are teeming with wildlife. The small boats get so close that you can even see a snake curled in the branches above you. 

Unexpectedly, my personal highlight of Borneo was the proboscis monkeys. They seemed to be everywhere in the trees above us. I loved it every time we came across another proboscis family and I was happy to float and watch them for ages. I soon gave up trying to capture their faces with my camera skills – they were way too fast for me, turning their backs subtly whenever I tried to photograph them!

Our tour also took us to Danum Valley, definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Each morning I woke up to the sound of a lone gibbon calling across the river. The bird watchers looked like they were in heaven. We found old ‘evidence’ of the elusive elephants. And…joy of joys, we saw an orang-utan and her baby in the wild.  Our group was up on the canopy walkway when our local guide spotted her. We stood in awe and watched her and her baby in the trees way above us. We couldn’t have asked for a better end to our trip to Borneo.


 Thanks Andrea. Full details of this great wildlife adventure are available here.

 Have you been to Borneo? Let us know about your close-ups with its rainforest residents.

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