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Borneo April 2015: Primates, Pygmy Elephants and much more….


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TonyQ

Next Day

Up at 5.45 – a cup of fine Sabah tea and we meet by the boat to set off at 6.30.

 

We see a Crab-eating macaque on the mud at the edge of the river and then

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Youngsters playing in the early morning sun

 

We head a little further along the bank and are excited to see

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Oriental small-clawed otters Aonyx cinerea (also known as Asian small clawed otters) are the smallest of all otters in the world. Their overall length can range from 70 to 100 cm and they weigh from 1 to 5 kg.

 

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They feel for molluscs and crustaceans the mud.

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Searching under the mud

We also glimpse some females and youngsters playing in the undergrowth.

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The male in particular seemed completely un-bothered by our presence. Junior said it was one of the best sightings of these otters he had experienced (he was excited about it throughout the morning and lunch!). I probably don't need to say that we were also thrilled. :)

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I mentioned early that the hotel runs a number of nature related activities. We had booked a night walk for this evening. It started at 7pm we were the only guests and it was very enjoyable walking t

Our guide is called Landrico, but known as Junior. (we find out later that he was a guide for the BBC team that made “Expedition Borneo” about 10 years ago). The boat is low in the water and has two r

Next Day Up at 5.45 – a cup of fine Sabah tea and we meet by the boat to set off at 6.30.   We see a Crab-eating macaque on the mud at the edge of the river and then Youngsters playing in the ea

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TonyQ

We moved further along the river and saw

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Silvered Leaf Monkey

 

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And then a pale-morph of the silvered leaf monkey. Generally very rare, but more common in the Kinabatangan area.

 

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The river is very peaceful

 

We are heading towards an Ox-box lake this morning, and so head into a narrow channel

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Male Proboscis monkey – showing the reason for its name

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And beautiful markings

 

The Proboscis Monkey is only found on the island of Borneo. They are leaf eating monkeys but will also eat fruits and seeds. They always live close to water and are good swimmers. Males weigh up to 25kg – females up to 11kg. IUCN rates them as endangered and as with many species is threatened by de-forestation; the Kinabatangana area is very important for their survival.

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TonyQ

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Female with baby



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A rather precarious youngster



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Female eating leaves (I feel their delicate features are particularly beautiful)



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Female with baby climbing tree (hold tight)



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Continuing along the channel

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TonyQ

The narrow channel opens out

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On the Ox-bow lake (showing invasive water hyacinth)

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We stop here for a coffee and biscuit, relax, enjoy the birds and the surroundings and then begin to head back

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Intermediate egret

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Stork-billed Kingfisher

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Purple Heron

 

And then as we went through a particularly narrow section, Junior spotted this beautiful creature just above our heads

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Yellow Ringed Cat Snake

 

After a great morning, we head back to the lodge for welcome breakfast.

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SafariChick

Wow - wonderful sightings between the elephants, otters, proboscis monkeys and that snake! Really enjoying this report and it's making me remember I need to put Borneo high on my list of places to go! I particularly love the Proboscis Monkeys and especially your tender photo of the mother with baby.

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Kitsafari

@@TonyQ jealous jealous you had such great sightings - of elephants, sliver leaf monkeys, otters! I looked across to my OH and said we have to go to kinabantangan and he nodded since he's Been avidly following your report!

 

And the sharp gorgeous pictures are due to your photography skills.

 

I've got some stats on palm oil as I'vebeen researching for another project and for a short report on camp Leakey trip. I'll share them when I get back home but all very pessimistic. :(

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Kitsafari

just some initial data on palm oil plantations. Much of the data is for the island of Borneo rather than Malaysia itself. the bulk of Malaysia's palm oil plantations are in Sabah and Sarawak where the orang utans and many other endemic species are found.

 

Both INdonesia and Malaysia monopolise the exports of palm oil producing more than 80% of the world's output. In 1960, 54,800 hectacres were grown with palm oil. By 2011, this had expanded to 5m hectacres (Malaysia Oil Palm stats).

 

 

From WWF:

Borneo: The island of Borneo has lost almost half its forests over the last few decades – and half of what’s left could be destroyed by 2030. Palm oil plantations are a main cause

WWF reckons another 22m ha of forests between 2010 and 2030 will be lost in Borneo the second largest estimated loss globally with the Amazon expected to lose 23m-48m ha.

Forest cover in Borneo will be reduced to less than a quarter of its original are by 2020 if current deforestation trends continue.

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Zim Girl

@@TonyQ

Great shots of the Proboscis monkeys, especially the 2 of the male

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jeremie

Some few thoughts concerning palm oil production:

 

It is nowadays really hard to find products without palm oil components, even here in Chile. I personaly try my best to find products free of palm oil, but things change so quick here in Chile that some products free of palm oil few months ago now have some... I am totally against palm oil.

 

1- If palm trees can produce much more oil per hectare compared to soy or sunflowers, there is a huge difference between these products. While sunflowers and soy here in South America are produced in very productive grasslands, which is of course a real problem, palm oil is produced in equatorial climate, let's say Borneo, Sumatra, Continental South East Asia, Equatorial Africa where palm trees are native from as far as I understand, and is now slowly but surely arriving in South America.

These places are also biodiversity hotspots with outstanding numbers of species. While destroying native grasslands and of course using pesticides is clearly a loss in biodiversity, I think cutting native, highly productive rain forests is worst.

Secondly, rainforests play a key role to stock carbon, something really relevant to control climate change.

 

2- It appears that sunflower or soy oil are principally grown in lands already turned to agriculture, where forests or grasslands have disappeared a time ago. This is however not particularly true in Northern Argentina or Paraguay, where deforestation of the chaco dry forests - which is the second biggest forest in South America after the Amazon rainforest - goes really fast. As far as I understand, intensive GMO soy replacing native chacoan forest is grown there using roundup and other toxic Monsanto products to feed cows from the american and european farms, but it is possible they also produce oil in these places.

Excepting the case of the Chaco, I understand most of the palm trees are replacing rainforest, needing to put fire in the native habitat of orang utan in Borneo. This makes a huge difference.

 

3- I have read palm trees are planted in Borneo in indigenous lands, illegally removing indigenous people from their native lands, sometimes using violence.

 

4- The EU put the objective to use a small percentage of organic oil for cars gas, thus encouraging deforestation. Few years ago France tried to tax palm oil but lobbies and possibly the EU (arguing in was contrary to free exchange of products in the union) were to strong and the project of law was simply abandoned.

 

5- NGO's tryied to implement a green certificate for palm oil plantations. I am however not sure this is a real solution. Deforestation is still going on, corrupted governments still violate indigenous basic rights removing them from their lands. At least Malaysia state of Sabah made the objective to certificate all their plantations by 2025 recently, but as said before, I have serious doubts this will make the difference.

http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0529-sabah-jurisdictional-approach-palm-oil.html

Even the main buyers of palm oil called for strengthening palm oil standards, at least this shows there is a will to change things:

http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0601-ceres-palm-oil-rspo.html

 

 

It is a bit depressing to see that here in Chile people do not really take interest in the food they eat. There is now lot's of beef from Brasil or Paraguay available in the supermarkets, mainly from Para state in Amazonia and the chacoan forest. As it is cheaper than beef from southern chile (already deforested a century ago) or the argentine grasslands, people prefer using brasilian or paraguayan beef, thus encouraging deforestation of really important forests. The same appear with palm oil based product. I try to do my best to educate my friends about these challenges buy I have to admit there is very little concern to change their minds.

Two of my very good friends visited Sabah a year ago and they have literally been shocked about the palm tree plantations, feeling really depressed while they were expecting to see endless rainforests. They are now trying to avoid palm oil as they have seen by their own eyes this environmental disaster.

I share the same feeling when I visit Southern Chile, where eucalyptus and pine trees intensive plantations replaced wonderful native forests in the valleys, in name of the development of the country.

 

I just hope these personal thoughts will bu my small contribution to make some few changes that could nonetheless be very significant for the planet and the fate of Borneo. I can't wait @@TonyQ comments about this burning issue, I am sure it will help us to understand the reality of the things other there.

Edited by jeremie
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Atravelynn

Sautee red hot chili peppers in palm oil for 10 minutes and serve.

 

Abai Lodge seems to be a key component for good ele sightings.

 

Thanks for the info.

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Caracal

@@TonyQ - really enjoying this report. Hadn't anticipated that you would have had such a wealth and variety of sightings ranging from the elephants, bears, primates to the giant squirrel with its giant tail and the small otter etc. plus those snakes and great birdlife. Great photos.

 

Sadly the deforestation seems to have been continuing unabated in the region for years now as evidenced by the smoke haze in KL when I was there a couple of years back and in Singapore many years before that.

We had a TV programme last year about the expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia. The step taken by @@jeremie of avoiding products with palm oil is a positive move and suggestion however small it may sound.

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TonyQ

@SafariChick @@Zim Girl @@Caracal

Thank you for the kind comments

@@Kitsafari

The Kinabatangan River is a good place for wildlife sightings - and it is also relaxing!. I will put in a bit more about the 2 lodges we stayed at as I go through the report

@@Atravelynn

We do see elephants at the next lodge as well!

 

@@Kitsafari @@jeremie (and others)

The Palm Oil situation is depressing. I wasn't surprised by the situation as I had read trip reports here and obviously researched before going to Sabah. I think as consumers it is right to put pressure on manafacturers and supermarkets - and the article @@jeremie links us to has some promising news about the move to a "no deforestation" commitment. I do not have sufficient expertise to be proposing solutions. I think the EU biofuel regulations are ill-thought through - both in relation to products such as Palm Oil but also the switching of food producing land to fuel-producing land - potentially making local food more expensive for already poor people.

 

Jeremie is obviously more knowledgeable than me in relation to South America - but taking farmland to grow mono-culture soy is having a big impact in Brazil (where we were in September) - threatening the Cerrado (one of the planet's most biologically rich grasslands) - and a major source of water to the Pantanal. Three quarters of the Cerrado has been converted to agriculture. (I don't know, but are the recent droughts in Brazil linked to this?)

 

Back in Borneo - for most of the time on the Kinabatangan River, you are not aware of the Palm Oil plantations -but in a couple of places they did come down to the river's edge. It was much more noticeable when driving from our second lodge to Lahadu Datu probably over an hour of this was past almost nothing but Palm Oil.

 

To cheer you up a bit more (Taken from Phillips Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo- highly recommended)

"Virgin Primary Forest -1200 Tree Species, 220+ Bird Species. After some logging - 1200 Tree Species, 160 Bird Species (After 30 years regrowth back to 220 Bird Species)

 

"Palm Oil Plantation - One Tree Species and about 14 Bird Species."

 

However I think it is wrong to only blame suppliers of a product when we create the demand. (This is a general statement - not aimed at posters on this site!)

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TonyQ

Continued...

 

After breakfast, MrsQ and I go for a walk around some of the lodge’s trails through the forest, enjoying the plants, insects and a fairly distant view of 2 Proboscis monkeys. (I will describe these later in the report as we spend more time there tomorrow).

 

We meet up with Junior and our group for a visit to the village across the river.

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Jetty at the lodge (our boats leave from here)

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White-Bellied Sea Eagle being mobbed by a Brahminy Kite

 

Part of this activity is tree-planting. The lodge has 5 one-acre plots where this takes place. Firstly we go to the village to collect the young trees (the village has a nursery, the lodge buys the trees). We go to one of the patches of land on the other side of the river and proudly plant our trees.

 

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The lodge aims to plant one tree for each visitor.

 

We then go back to the village, say hello to a few people, have a little wander around

 

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Fish Drying in the sun

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Coming out of school

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Heading Home

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We walked past a number of houses, along fairly precarious walkways

 

and then eat a good lunch cooked by villagers (and buy cold drinks).

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Inside of roof showing fine workmanship

 

I confess that we were a bit wary about this activity before we went – but it did not feel intrusive and there appeared to be a good relationship with the village. (The lodge has information in the reception area about the income going to the village and how it has grown over the years. The village decide as a group how the money is spent.) The village does not have any road access – only river – so it can be harder for people to get employment.

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TonyQ

We headed back over to the river to the lodge for a rest and then got together for our next trip on the river.

 

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Collared Kingfisher

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Oriental Pied Hornbill

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Proboscis Monkey

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Dollar Bird

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Crab-eating macaque

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Relaxing watching the forest go by

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TonyQ

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Silvered Langur keeping watch (with the sun on its back, it is easier to see the “silver”)

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Macaque enjoying some fruit

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River with hills in the distance (forested)

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A pair of Green Imperial Pigeons

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Pale morph Silvered Langur + a couple of the “normal” dark morph

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The trip on the river had been a bit “quieter” than the previous trips, but we really enjoyed being on the river. It is very relaxing and there is still much to see. We found out later that a couple on another boat did see an Orang Utan – but we didn’t see any along the river.

 

We headed back to the lodge and a pre-dinner night walk along the lodge’s forest trails.

We did not see a huge amount, but saw a Collared Scopes Owl, a Pencil-tailed mouse and

 

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Butterfly (rice paper?)

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Lantern Bug

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Ruddy Kingfisher (possibly!)

 

Later, at dinner, a special treat was laid on for some guests. There were 2 honeymoon couples staying at the lodge (one couple from our boat plus another). The staff had decorated part of the dining area with flowers and streamers. As dinner was served to the couples (buffet for everyone else) some staff came out, one played the guitar and others sang local songs. It was very natural, uncommercial and seemed genuinely warm. They had also baked a cake for them (and we all got to share it!). A lovely end to the day.

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inyathi

After a visit to Borneo a good few years ago I vowed that I would never consume another product made from palm oil but I quickly discovered that that is almost impossible, far too many different food and cosmetic products contain it and certainly with food the label often just lists vegetable oil without specifying which type. One thing you can do to help the wildlife of Sabah if you have any spare cash is donate to the World Land Trust who support their local partners Leap Spiral and Hutan in acquiring degraded land along the Kinabatangan that can be reforested to create wildlife corridors for orang-utans and other species. Good to see that the lodge you stayed in is planting trees even if it’s only a very small area every tree helps.

 

"Virgin Primary Forest -1200 Tree Species, 220+ Bird Species. After some logging - 1200 Tree Species, 160 Bird Species (After 30 years regrowth back to 220 Bird Species)

 

The important thing is to make sure everyone knows and understands this; previously it was thought that degraded secondary forest had very little conservation value whereas the opposite is true. On neighbouring Sumatra surveys of secondary forest using trail cams has shown that these habitats in fact support good numbers of all of the major large mammal species and that it is vital that these areas are conserved. Without this kind of information people will think that by logging an an area of forest they can destroy it's conservation value and then claim it is too degraded to be of any use to wildlife in the hope of securing permission to clear it entirely to make way for yet more oil palms.

 

Great report, I've never seen a ruddy kingfisher nice bird I'll have to go back for another look.

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xelas

To watch how the oil plantations have invaded the area was sad already back in 2000. The part of the Kinabatangan River where our lodge was, there were mere 3-5 meters of forest along the banks, where all the animals have congregated. It was "good" for us, visitors on the boats, but so demanding on the wildlife. They lived in that narrow lifeline like in a kind of a zoo.

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Zim Girl

Love the lantern bugs and the ruddy kingfisher

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SafariChick

Love the lantern bugs and the ruddy kingfisher

 

me too - and the butterfly - all so vivid and sharply focussed!

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Tom Kellie

post-49296-0-82127900-1433503376_thumb.jpg

~ @@TonyQ

 

Not only superb craftsmanship, but a fine photograph.

It's no secret that yours truly is an admirer of your style of trip report photography.

Seeing such care taken with local materials engenders respect for local artisans.

Thank you for posting this image.

A Big Like!

Tom K.

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michael-ibk

Super stuff, Tony, very much enjoying the Q-Family´s Borneo adventures! That otter sighting was very special, and the Proboscis Monkeys are uber-cool! :)

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TonyQ

@@inyathi

Thank you for the comments - and for the link to the World Land Trust (and the others) - very interesting and useful

 

@@xelas

Thank you - The Kinabatangan Area is still very important for some species even if in places it is like a ribbon. It is vital for some species and is also a cooridor which allows movement. It does need to be protected from further Oil Palm - and hopefully some of it can be replanted.

 

@@Zim Girl @@SafariChick

Thank you!

 

@@Tom Kellie

Thank you (I think some people thought it was an odd thing to take a photo of - but I admired it!)

 

@@michael-ibk

Thank you (hope you had a good trip in Kenya). The otter sighting was special - and I really like the Proboscis monkeys (and indeed the other monkeys)

Edited by TonyQ
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TonyQ

Our final morning at Abai Lodge

We got up early and went on a pre-breakfast walk around some of the walkways in the forest. We had a group walk led by Junior and then did some more walking on our own. It is a lovely place to walk,

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Walkway in forest

 

enjoying the plants, birds high in the trees,

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We enjoyed seeing various butterflies

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Dragonfly

and we also came across a group of Crab-eating macaques on one of the walkways.

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There are also a couple of towers which enable you to get up to tree top height.

 

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TonyQ

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Plantain Squirrel

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We went to Abai because @@Safari Cal stayed there! It was a good choice. It is the only lodge on this stretch of the river and is only accessible by boat. The cabins are fairly basic (but fine), and the food was plentiful and fine.

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Walkway towards dining area (from our cabin)

 

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Dining Area (note shoes left outside)

 

We had lunch and then took a fast boat up river towards our next lodge – The Kinabatangan River Lodge, Sukau. Both of these lodges are owned by the same company (s.i.tours http://sitoursborneo.com/borneo/abai-jungle-lodges/ ). This lodge is bigger than Abai (though there were not many people there when we stayed) and has road access. There are a number of other river lodges in the general area. The cabins were a bit smarter than at Abai, and the food was good.

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