Welcome to the jungle: Uncle Tans Sepilok camp

After our rather eventful journey, we had thankfully built in a day to recover from our mountain climb which was badly needed. I was weak as a very weak kitten with a hangover for a good few days and still recovering when we got to Uncle Tans Sepilok HQ.

Strength just about recovered – we headed to Uncle Tan’s famous jungle camp to celebrate my turning 29.
Uncle Tan was one of the first conservationists around these parts and, although he sadly passed away a few years ago, his family have continued his legacy to this day. The camp sits on the Lokan river in the Kinabatangam area; the presence of the camp also means this precious land is safe from the palm oil plantations that are gobbling up so much of Sabah.

After lunch, we set off in a minivan (cue nervous glances from Craig at me!) to our jetty, where we donned very fetching life jackets, gingerly boarded a little boat and set off an hour or so up river to the camp.

Happy Birthday to me!

Uncle Tans camp is set in a fairly large clearing in a series of wooden huts which are linked by raised wooden walkways to keep you safe from the muddy jungle floor.

The jungle camp

Off the walkways are rather basic wooden huts, shared between 6 people – whether you’ve met before or not. You get a mattress, a bed sheet and a mozzie net. No pillows. No door to the hut.
The rather scary toilets were at the end of the walkway, and consisted of little more than a bucket. Showers, should you wish to, were by dousing yourself in collected rainwater.

Maldives for my 30th birthday, definitely

We shared with a lovely Dutch couple – Rik and Annik – and a rather miserable French couple.

The first evening we set off on a river cruise, where we were lucky enough to see sleeping kingfishers, crocodiles and the “jungle mafia” – long tail macaques.


The next morning, after a slightly uncomfortable nights sleep, we headed out again at 6am to see the morning wildlife. This time we were even luckier – we saw eagles and hornbills as well as more macaques and kingfishers.

Hornbills – the bird of romance in Borneo



Back at the camp, some of the more energetic guests (Craig included) played football against the guides before our morning jungle trek. Sadly the guests lost 3-2.


Once football was finished, followed by a swift dip in the croc-infested river, we headed out to do a jungle trek. I was far less keen on this than the boat rides; the only wildlife was creepy crawlies, and the mosquitoes (which were the size of a fingernail) bit straight through my t-shirt. The humidity was also stifling.

Jungle spider: totally fine with seeing these…

After dinner, we did a second boat trip which was the highlight of the whole stay. Whilst orang utans evaded us, I was still hoping to see some of Borneo’s most bizarre looking animals – the Proboscis Monkey. Sure enough, a few minutes into our trip we were lucky enough to see a family of them sitting in trees beside the river.


As we headed down the river, we were lucky enough to see a huge monitor lizard!


And then, a few minutes later, we hit the Jungle Jackpot: a troupe of bachelor monkeys sitting right by the river!


We then disembarked to do a night jungle trek. I was even less of a fan of this. My trusty head torch had packed in, meaning I was groping my way along the path trying not to faceplant into the mud or a snake. It was a rather stressful 47.5 minutes. Wildlife was pretty thin on the ground, aside from a millepede and a small lizard, but honestly? I was kind of fine with that.

We headed back to camp, past the glowing eyes of another crocodile, watching the beautiful sky and sat drinking beers with a few of our fellow campers until about midnight.


The next morning, after the guests managed to comprehensively beat the guides 6-4 at football, we scrambled back into the little boats and headed back. The drive to Uncle Tans Sepilok base camp still fresh in our minds, we opted for the 45 minute flight from Sendakan back to KK. On the way to the airport, we stopped in at the Sepilok orang utan sanctuary. This lovely place rehabilitates orphaned and injured orang utans. They then live semi-wild in the reserve safe from the deforestation that is ravaging their environment.


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