Monkeying around

October 11, 2009 · 7 comments

After seeing just 3 Orangutans at Sepilok, it became clear I’ve not seen much wildlife since being in Sandakan, despite it being one of the better places in Malaysia to see some. There is another place nearby (15km away or so) called the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. Which is a Santuary for proboscis monkeys. A primate with a strange nose and different colour fur to most other monkeys. They are also endemic to Borneo Island and can only stay in forest areas near a river so you can’t see them anywhere else in the world apart from a few places on Borneo Island.

Female Proboscis Monkey

Female Proboscis Monkey

Due to the bad road conditions it can only be accessed by bus or 4×4 apparently, I would say the road conditions have improved since the last person said that though, I don’t see a normal car having a problem getting there (was previously gravel and rocks I’m told). My friend who I was staying with knows the owner of the place so arranged a bus to take me there (I was the only one on this mini-bus!) so it cost a bit to get there (still cheaper then a taxi though).

On arrival I was the only tourist there. There was a proboscis monkey on a feeding platform with an interest in something in the river and two up a tree in the background. I was told it was over an hour until feeding time so there wasn’t really much else to do.

After half our or so a Malaysian lady started shouting “eeeeeeeeeeeee ooooooooooo” into the forest. She seemed weird at first, but as it turns out she was calling for the other type of monkeys here (silver leaf monkeys) to give me something to look at.

The silver leaf monkeys certainly were not shy, they came running straight up to the observation deck and took the food straight off the lady after she threw them on the floor.

Silverleaf monkey ready to eat

Silverleaf monkey ready to eat

The proboscis monkeys seem to come endlessly out of the tree’s one by one climbing down like a military operation, the youngest calfs being the slowest. They all jumped upon one feeding platform then to the next which contained the target: lots of fruit!

A proboscis monkey leaps from the feeding platform

A proboscis monkey leaps from the feeding platform

You may notice from the picture that they don’t all look the same. In fact they are all female except one. The males have longer droppy noses and are bigger in size (the female have a more pointy nose). The male nose is believe to resonate a bit during calling which gives the male their more deeper howl, this singing voice is one thing they use to attract the ladies. The males also fight between themselves to be the dominant male and mate with all the females until he is challenged by another male. There was 3 familes I saw each with 1 dominant male, a load of females, and the offspring of the male. The rest of the males are in their own bachelor groups, and there was 2 bachelor groups, one I was told fears the other more. But both occasionally has a charge from a dominant male to scare them off trying it on with his women! You can see the dominant male in action in the below picture :^P

Monkey Business

Monkey Business

One more thing to note whilst I was there, an ‘Oriental Pied Hornbill’ (one of seven species, this one only found on Borneo Island too) turned up to the party too. One of the attendants laid banana pieces out so the hornbill had something to eat and lined up for a few good pictures.

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Oriental Pied Hornbill

It seems strange this place is not in most guidebooks, maybe it was the former poor access, the high entrance price (60RM to date) or maybe because it is a bit out of the way. Either way if you are passing through Sandakan this is worthy of a few hours of your time.
See the video to the side if you want to see the proboscis monkeys in action.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Blake October 13, 2009 at 5:31 PM

One dominant male who attracts swooming females with his sweet song!? That is the life!

Nice article. I would like to see the pics a bit larger, but they are effective nontheless. Did any of the monkeys try to snatch food from you? When my wife and I were in Costa Rica, a monkey got a bit violent with us to try to get our picnic lunch. They get pretty cocky when they’re fed by humans so much.

Did you ever go to Monkey Beach in Koh Phi Phi? Its a great trip. Canoe to a semi secluded beach, then panic as you’re rushed by hungry monkeys! Good times. I can’t wait to get out traveling again.

Blakesjourney / TBD


AdventureRob October 14, 2009 at 2:17 AM

It’s alright when you’re the dominant male yes!

Pics were taken on my point and shoot camera so zoom was limited at the time. I don’t like them too big as the website will run slow for those with a slow connection.

The monkeys didn’t take the food from me and were surprisingly tame, the Proboscis monkeys waited quite far away and to be fed whereas the silver leaf ones came right up on the visitor platform for their feed.

I found the monkeys in Batu Caves in Malaysia a bit cocky, Never went to Koh Phi Phi but want to even more know I know there is a monkey beach there!


Blake October 14, 2009 at 2:36 PM

AR: Yeah, monkey beach is really cool. They rent canoes and kayaks on the main beach for really cheap. So you load up on a picnic lunch, some beverages and of course… bananas to attract the monkeys like an irresponsible and entitled tourist. Then you paddle. You plunge past the break and around the edge of the island through some big water (for a kayak, of course). Then you see a short and shallow beach that appears to be deserted. This couldn’t be farther from the primal truth!
You pull your tiny craft to the beach and wait. The place soon is swarming with rough and tumble primates by the dozen. They get pretty cocky and go through your stuff if they see it fit, so keep your paddle on you and bring your best monkey-punting shoes… JK.

It’s a cool place.

Blakesjourney / TBD
.-= Blake´s last blog – Farewell to Film Part One =-.


Nancy October 15, 2009 at 4:53 AM

Haha-sweet! Great pics too. I love the bit about the male monkey singing!
.-= Nancy´s last blog – A Vegan Feast On The Road =-.


AdventureRob October 16, 2009 at 12:20 PM

It’s got the be the males with the big noses making the mating calls hasn’t it? n_n

I want to go to Monkey Beach now, with a locked bag of course.
.-= AdventureRob´s last blog – 10 Great Markets for your Travel Writing =-.


neha October 19, 2009 at 3:16 PM

what a great place! and amazing pictures too!
.-= neha´s last blog – Travel Tags and Kreativity =-.


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