Expeditions blog

Borneo: A Living Laboratory

The astounding biodiversity of Borneo has inspired generations of explorers and continues to attract wildlife lovers and researchers alike.
March 10, 2020

The astounding biodiversity of Borneo has inspired generations of explorers and continues to attract wildlife lovers and researchers alike.

Scientists frequently uncover new things in Borneo’s wildlife-rich rainforests; between 1995 and 2010, more than 600 species were discovered. Hoping to make a few discoveries and memories National Geographic Expeditions Marketing Manager in the United States travelled to Borneo with National Geographic Expeditions. For 11 days, she cruised the waters of the Kinabatangan River, hiked through the pristine rainforest of the Danum Valley, and snorkelled among the coral reefs of the South China Sea. In this journal, meet some of Borneo’s exotic wildlife—from inquisitive baby orangutans and sleepy sun bears to the extremely rare Sumatran rhino. This wildlife wonderland will not disappoint!

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

A mother and baby orangutan snack on long beans provided at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The main goal of the centre is to rehabilitate and release orphaned and injured orangutans. Surrounding the centre is 43 square kilometres of protected land where orangutans can live freely after being released. The goal is to make these additional snacks as bland and boring as possible to encourage the orangutans to forage for themselves.

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

A Malayan sun bear takes his time waking up at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). During our first full day in Borneo, we arrived at the centre before its scheduled opening time to learn about these small, endangered bears during a special private talk with Wong Siew Te, CEO and founder of BSBCC.

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

The best way to see wildlife while staying at Sukau Rainforest Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the Word, is by boat. Each morning and evening we zipped along the Kinabatangan River as our skilled guides spotted wildlife along the river bank. It’s amazing what their well-trained eyes can find!

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

While watching some long-tailed macaques frolic in the trees above the Kinabatangan River, we noticed this estuarine crocodile quietly waiting on the other side of the river, just hoping that one would fall in and provide him with a nice breakfast.

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

While relaxing after an early-morning river cruise at Sukau Rainforest Lodge, our guide spotted this colugo resting in the trees right outside the reception area. Also known as flying lemurs, colugos are skilled gliders and can travel as far as 230 feet from tree to tree.

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

Surprisingly, one of the most common species we saw during evening boat excursions on the Kinabatangan were sleeping birds! This blue-eared kingfisher opened his eyes just long enough for us to take a few pictures and then he settled back onto his perch and returned to sleep.

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

During an early morning river cruise on the Kinabatangan, we were fortunate enough to come across this handsome male orangutan. Bathed in the morning light, he sat peacefully, feasting on a fruiting fig tree. Fun fact: male orangutans only grow their massive cheek pads if they are dominant breeding males. The unluckier fellas lack the testosterone needed to develop such impressive features. My guess is that this fella does very well with the ladies.

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

While staying at Tabin Wildlife Reserve, we were lucky enough to meet the last two Sumatran rhinos living in Malaysian Borneo. Both are in managed facilities and being cared for by the members of the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA). The NGO’s goal is to save the species from extinction through advanced reproductive technology—removing the gametes and germ cells from the rhinos with the hopes of producing viable embryos in the laboratory. Here, one of the BORA caretakers’ feeds Iman during her daily health check-up. For the rest of the day she is free to wander around a larger forested enclosure and wallow in several mud holes—one of her favourite pastimes.

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

Sometimes the best wildlife sightings occur just around the lodge! This red leaf langur was one of a troop of about 15 individuals that were playing in the trees just a few meters outside the entrance of the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. We watched them play for half an hour before they ventured further into the forest.

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

During our drive out of Danum Valley, I was lucky enough to capture this shot of a whiskered treeswift. Always on the move, this one was still only for a moment, subdued by a brief rain shower.

 

Photo by Coral Keegan

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