The Search for the Proboscis Monkey

As I stood on this boardwalk watching this sunset in Borneo, I wondered if they were all like this one every evening. This is the pathway to the jetty where we boarded the tiny boats on the Garama River to seek out a very unusual reclusive creature. 1/250 sec f5.6 ISO 200. 17mm lens. Canon 20D.

Time flies. It’s almost been a year ago since I was in Borneo. Around this time last year we were in Kota Kinabalu, a city in Sabah, a state in East Malaysia. Specifically where is this? Well, see this map of the island of Borneo.

This was probably the highlight of our trip to Malaysia. It was my very first time to KK or Kota Kinabalu. The pace was much slower than on Peninsula Malaysia.

Most refreshing was something as simple as this: when we were done eating our meal, the waitress didn’t bring our check immediately to usher us on our way unlike where I grew up in Penang or Kuala Lumpur.

We joined a tour to see the famed “Proboscis Monkey” found nowhere else on Earth. Shy creatures with very unusual noses.

Apparently the locals called these creatures Monyet Belanda, malay for Dutch Monkey.

The explanation for this is not politically correct but it speaks to how times have changed in our world.

This verbatim description is from a bulletin board at the preserve, “the locals felt the Proboscis resembled the European traders and colonialists. Both were hairy, have big noses, and have pot bellies.”

The journey to the Garama wetlands or preserve in Kuala Penyu “malay for Turtle Bay” took 2 hours from the city of KK. When the bus dropped us, we had to use the boardwalk which meandered through a oil palm plantation.

After donning our life preservers, we hopped into the little boats just as the sun was setting.

Aside from the noise of the outboard motors, there was a beautiful silence about us.

First to greet us were some fairly common macaque monkeys. The troop appeared quite used to humans as they charged the banks for the titbits and snacks we threw them.

After about 15 or 20 minutes, we came across our first sightings. Our guide and boatman expertly maneuvered us into position, each time minding the other boats to enable all onboard to see these creatures.

It took quite an eagle eye and patience to spot these reclusive creatures.

On the way back to the jetty, we were rewarded with yet another fascinating site of a herd of water buffaloes entering the river for a swim.

Our evening was capped off with a splendid display of fireflies. If it was possible, I would have come back with images of that. But I’ve yet to see that picture, even in National Geographic.

Still images captured in both jpeg and RAW. Processed in Adobe Photoshop CS3. Equipment used was the following:

  • Canon Optura XI camcorder
  • Rode VideoMic
  • Canon 20D
  • Canon 17-35 2.8 zoom lens
  • Canon 80 -200 2.8 zoom lens

5 thoughts on “The Search for the Proboscis Monkey”

  1. Hi Dianna,
    Glad you like the post on these monkeys. I was so bummed we couldn’t get closer but I was really at the mercy of the boatman.

    If you can imagine this: as soon as a troop of these monkeys were spotted. All the little boats would close in around the tree, jostling to get a better view of the monkeys.

    I had my 80 mm to 200 mm lens ( with the 1.6 x on digitial, this made the lens a 120 mm to 320 mm). It still wasn’t a tight as I would have liked it.

    This class is still in the proposal stages. When approved, I’ll let you know for sure.

  2. I’m not a huge animal fan but those monkeys are so cute!! This is a really great way to post pictures and comments. When’s the class??

  3. Thanks Ron. I wish I had planned the trip better to include the other spots in East Malaysia.

    There is still so much to explore in that part of Malaysia.

  4. KK is a great place to visit, and is easily accessible from Manila, and other cities in the Philippines. For many tourist who semi-reside in the Philippines, it can be a nice change – a place more orderly, prosperous, and yet not like Hong Kong.
    Neighboring state of Sarawak offers some tremendous world heritage caves to visit. Kuching, the capital city of Sarawk, is considered the most livable city in Southeast Asia.
    For anyone interested in these places, Air Asia offers great connections at great prices.
    Peter, you’ve done a great job bringing this lesser known corner of the earth to your audience. Nice. Keep up the good work.

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