Proboscis Monkey and Firefly Tour

Monkey by the river bank

A popular day trip from Kota Kinabalu is the Proboscis Monkey and Firefly tour, which we knew nothing about before coming to KK. After seeing a few brochures and posters around we did some research before booking through our resort.

River Scene

From what we could tell, most of the tours had the same set format, which included a bus ride to a river, a river cruise looking for monkeys, a buffet meal then another shorter cruise looking for fireflies, before returning home.
There was a choice of locations though: we could go south to the Klias river or north to the Nanamun. I asked which was the best place to go and was told Klias is best for spotting Proboscis monkeys, while Nanamun was best for fireflies.

Normally I would have gone with the the monkey option, as I had never seen one with a big nose before and would love to get pictures of them in the wild, but I had a problem. Due to various packing issues I had left my Tamron 150-600 zoom lens at home, so had little chance of getting a usable shot unless a monkey decided to jump into the boat with us, so I took the northern option.

Sunset on the Nanamun River

We were picked up from our hotel around 2pm and after a couple hours comfortable bus ride we arrived at the riverside estate where we had a quick snack before jumping into our small cruising boat.

The river cruise lasted about an hour and was very enjoyable. Sabah is a beautiful part of the world, and I would love to return to explore the rain forest more in the future. At the start of the cruise we had no luck with the Proboscis Monkeys but we saw a family of Macaques travelling along the river bank, as well as a large monitor lizard.
The river was popular, with at least another half dozen cruise tours looking for the elusive primates. This did help us finally locate some though, right near the end of our time just as the sun was setting. We watched them jumping among the tall trees in the distance, their bright orange coats clearly contrasting against the lush green forest. I took a couple of pictures, but with my 60mm lens all I had no real chance.

Orange Proboscis Monkey Blur

We returned to the estate just as it was getting dark, and were served our dinner. The food was basic, but flavoursome and as you would expect from local staples such as Char kwai teow rice noodles and chicken rice.

After dinner we set out for the firefly tour.

Fireflies and a Full Moon

I had never seen a firefly before so was particularly interested in this part of the tour. We didn’t have to travel far before we saw our first glowing bug, which we followed to a tree that was literally full of them.

Our host had a special green light which he shone into the tree and it soon lit up like  it was Christmas. I tried to get a few shots, but it was very dark, and even my 20mm F1.8 at 10000 iso struggled. We played with the flies for a bit, enticing them to land on our hands, then made our way back after about half an hour.

All up it was a very enjoyable tour and I would recommend it to any one. There are a variety of operators, so best to check with your hotel for the best to go with, as local knowledge is usually the best. Next time I will bring my big zoom for sure, and head south where the Proboscis monkeys are rumoured to be more plentiful.

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