We were in Borneo to see wildlife and high on our list was a boat safari on the Kinabatangan River. I looked online for tours and most of the ones I found were around $500/person for 3-5 days, which was more than we wanted to spend! Then I found Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Adventure, which was only $98/ person for a 3 day/2 night tour (including meals and transport, but excluding drinks). Uncle Tan’s was also listed in the Lonely Planet guide book as the “real outdoors” safari trip. After reading about the accommodations on their website I was afraid that it might be too roughing-it, even for me. But George, who had never even been camping before, was ready to go, so I wasn’t going to hold us back. We were able to make a reservation just a couple days in advance, which was also a plus.
Day 1: A van from Uncle Tan’s picked us up from Sepilok Forest Edge Resort and drove us the short way to Uncle Tan’s Bed and Breakfast base camp, also in Sepilok. There we were provided lunch and given a short intro to the itinerary. We could have opted to be transported to and from Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center earlier that morning, but we skipped that, since we had already gone the day before. If you go see the Orangs with Uncle Tan’s you still have to pay for your ticket and will only get to see the morning feeding (and I wanted to see both feedings). We left a backpack at the base camp to lighten our load and had already left one suitcase at D’Borneo Hotel in KK. After lunch we were transported an hour in a very stuffy non-air-conditioned van to the river. From there it was about another hour ride in an open air boat to Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Camp (at their new location). The boat ride to the camp is a mini intro boat safari in itself!
We had been told that it was rare to see orang utans in the wild, and even at Sepilok Oranutan Rehabilitation Center there is no guarantee that you will see one during feeding time. Orang utans are shy animals, that are easily scared off, and they spend most of their adult lives alone, so you’re lucky to see them in the wild. But, amazingly, we saw five orang utans on our way to the camp! It was an awe inspiring moment to see them in the wild. Apparently, some of them hang out daily along the river near Uncle Tan’s new camp area, so they usually see them now on their boat safaris, but we weren’t expecting that.
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Uncle Tan Wildlife Camp: When we arrived at Uncle Tan’s Camp, after our exhilarating boat ride, we found that the accommodations were actually better than we had expected. There is a raised plank walkway throughout the camp, so you don’t have to tromp through the mud, there are real toilets (although not automatic flush), and although the shelter’s don’t have doors or window coverings, they are plenty adequate. Inside each wooden shelter were three mattresses with mosquito nets, so 3 couples share a shelter. There was also a covered meeting/ dining room, and the food they served was quite good with lots of variety. The main draw back is that the only shower is a big container of muddy river water, with a small bucket for you to pour the water over yourself. But we were expecting this, so it wasn’t so bad. Plus after the heat, humidity, and mud you don’t mind washing off with cool brown water so much.
They do provide each person with a “blanket” that is more of a thin sheet, but we were prepared and also each brought another sheet, so we also had something clean to lie down on as well as a sheet to cover us. A folded up jacket also works as a pillow. We were able to sleep fine after the exhausting days, but there are a lot of jungle noises! After “checking in” we had a bit of a break before dinner and the evening activity…
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