Our chances of seeing them were deemed to be low by local experts who told us that they had headed hundreds of miles away. No guided tours were on offer. Undaunted and with the fatalism of all seafarers, we headed off to look for them in the small tributaries of the river.
The Kinabatangan River, at 342 miles, is the second longest river in Malaysia. Bordered by mangroves, rain forest, limestone caves and swamps, it’s like nowhere we have sailed before.
The orangutans and sub bears were uplifting, but the experience which overwhelmed us (and still brings us to tears) was learning about the WWII Borneo Death Marches at The Sandakan Memorial Park.
When a second squall followed behind the first, all six rally boats turned 180 degrees and were pushed towards the reef. Boats began dragging in the soft sand and one of our number motored deeper to escape the danger.
Imagine how you would feel if you had to make an emergency stop in high risk seas and became sitting ducks on your sailboat. That’s what happened to us and it was a tense moment for all the boats.
Esper takes the first security night watch and Liz explains a little bit about what we’re expected to look out for.