Saturday, May 23, 2009
Irrawaddy Dolphins On The Santubong River
I had my heart set on paddling with the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins while in Kuching – unfortunately the kayak company didn't run any tours, so I had to hire a boat instead, because that was the one thing I really wanted to do while in Kuching!
So at 8:30 am I am picked up by my guide and we drive about 45 minutes to get to a small fishing village on the Santubong River where the boat driver and his brother are waiting for us.
We set out, and glide down the river with jungle on both sides – on the way out to the main river we stop by to chat with a local fisherman who is setting out traps in the muddy banks of the river to catch crabs, I think. As we enter the Santubong River we see a stork billed kingfisher – and a bit later I just see the splash of a small crocodile as it disappears into the murky water.
A bit later we see another small crocodile slowly glide from the bank into the river! Maybe I am better off in a motorboat instead of a kayak after all? After all where there are small crocodiles there are probably big ones too!
I enjoyed the scenery and the nice breeze as we meandered along the river, out to the delta area where we started in earnest to be on the lookout for the shy dolphins. We saw a fisherman taking up his nets and sailed over to ask him if he had seen any in the area, but it didn't seem like there had been any around while he was there, so we continued our search.
A little while later the boat driver suddenly spotted one, then another, and as it surfaced again I saw first one, then the other one surfaced, and I was just so thrilled!
We followed them for quite a while, and I got several good shots of them – they are quiet and shy, not at all like the rambunctious dolphins I am used to from the West coast, so there was no jumping out of the water or playing in our wake, just a gentle stealthy surface to breathe, then they silently disappeared only to resurface about 3-4 minutes later.
After a while they disappeared, and we started going back up the river when all of a sudden we spotted another dolphin, and we followed it quite ways up the river – actually much further up the river than neither of the boatmen or the guide had ever seen.
I was wondering if it would be in any danger from the crocodiles – but from what I was told it is a much too fast swimmer for that.
However, as we were passing a small fishing village they did tell me that one of the fishermen there had been attacked recently – survived – but lost an ear and a good chunk of his one side! Yes, indeed, maybe it was much better to be in a motorboat than a sit-on-top kayak! As we pulled up at the little jetty again, I was so thankful that we had had such a good day, and that I had seen the Irrawaddy Dolphins!
The drive back to town took about 45 minutes, and I was hungry, but so tired that I decided a nap was more urgent! However, the Internet was back on, and instead I ended up checking emails, and never really got to nap!
It was too late for lunch and mighty early for dinner, so I decided to invent a new mealtime – I call it lunner! Which I had at a nice café on the river, where I sat watching the people go by on the path below, and as it got later they started going across the river in the little sampans – probably going home to their villages after a day of working or shopping in the city.
As the sun was setting I walked home to Singahsana and this time there was no denying the need for sleep – so I went early to bed and soon dozed off.