Monkey Business in Borneo: Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

February 24, 2015
Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo

After our visit to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Henry and I had some time before our flight back to Kuala Lumpur so we dropped in at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary for more monkey business.

Like the orangutan, the proboscis monkey is native to Borneo - they coexist with the Bornean orangutan - and also endangered. However, the similarity ends there. The orangutans we saw at Sepilok had a touch of graceful melancholy about them (expressive, droopy 'hound dog' faces) and very sad stories (the orangutans were displaced victims of human thoughtlessness and cruelty) so while our experience at Sepilok gave us hope for the future of the orangutan, we couldn't help but leave feeling somewhat sombre and emotionally invested in those beautiful, helpless creatures. The proboscis monkeys we met, on the other hand, had no interest for our sympathy. Raucous pranksters with no fear of humans whatsoever; these monkeys were bold creatures - observing us with challenging stares like we were the curiousities; lounging on human furniture like they owned the place (and they did!) with their limbs shamelessly splayed all over the place (the males especially mocked us with their 'lipstick genitals' on show), delighting in scaring visitors by thundering towards and over them, and happily posing for cameras. To sum it up: the proboscis monkeys were massive attention whores who easily coexisted with humans who wanted nor needed none of our pity. The monkeys made it very clear that they were doing just fine and that this was their turf, they're to stay, and we had to just get over it. I love their defiant 'F-you, I'm a rockstar' attitude!

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

Hi.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo

Labuk Bay is on the other side of Sandakan from Sepilok, in the centre of the mangrove forest along the coasts of Borneo. For a good part of forty minutes we drove for miles past banana and palm oil plantations, rumbled over graveled roads and jeep tracks, before arriving to the entrance at the edge of the mangrove forest. Like Sepilok, we had to walk though the forest on a walkway before reaching the observation deck from which we would interact with these fascinating primates.


Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored


Henry dressed like a jungle man....oh wait, he dresses like this all the time anyway. Myself, I was drowning in the Bornean heat and cooking in my own sweat wearing these very same trousers I wore to Lisbon last summer. The difference was - in Lisbon I was half a dress size slimmer (so no photos of me, duh). Avert your gaze instead to this monkey, whose exceptional posturing makes him far better a 'camera-loving lifestyle blogger' than I (indeed, more photogenic than some I've seen).

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

'Oh, were you taking photos of me? I had no idea. I just happened to be posing like this. I always perch gracefully on banisters and gaze wistfully in the distance at all of nature's glory."

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

Yeah, you go girlfriend. Work it like the rent was due yesterday. Someone get this monkey on Bloglovin' already.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

'You remind me of my girlfriend - she too loves draping herself casually on furniture when there's a camera nearby!'

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

Pose like it's PFW '15 - Primate Fashion Week. Make sure you hashtag #monkeybusiness #apeshit #bananas.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

'Enough photos already!' This male was enraged - poised aggressively and threatening to pounce - because, I think, someone got too close to one of the babies in his harem. And rightfully so.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

And what a harem! Proboscis monkeys have a relatively relaxed attitude towards social structure and territory, with their groups overlapping each other. Each male has his own harem of females and their babies, and several of these harems come together to form a troop. Young females do transfer from one harem to another, much like certain young female humans. Then there are the all-male groups of juveniles, adolescents, and adults...all biding for the right time to hustle out the dominant males and replace them. Gosh, it's just like 'the London scene'.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

How Gossip Girl is this seating hierarchy?

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

'You're on the guestlist? Sure you are. Join that line over there, please.'

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

'Yeah, that's it; just sit there, cry, and eat your feelings. And you wonder why you're single?'

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

This adorable young 'un was observing the people observing the monkeys. 

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

It's incredible how the proboscis monkeys hold your gaze and examine you, as if they were searching your soul. Henry remarked that he forgot that the proboscis monkeys were animals, but thought of them as primitive humans who are every bit as inquisitive and intelligent as people, just that they didn't speak our language and vice versa.


Henry was also keen to observe cats, because as you know, he absolutely adores cats.



I like observing paintings, like these hilarious ones of primates as football teams...

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Borneo Posh, Broke, & Bored

...they certainly added to the colourful, mischievous tone of the sanctuary!

I definitely recommend visiting the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary after a trip to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. If not to uplift your mood with these hilarious monkeys then to at least see for yourself the way monkeys should be -  wild, audacious, and coexisting with people. x

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary | Labuk Bay, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah. 

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9 comments:

  1. I love your photos of the proboscis monkeys, they are so entertaining. I'm sure Henry doesn't think you are like one ;-0

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

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  2. I've seen some proboscis monkey on the mangrove of Balikpapan (Indonesian side of Kalimantan) but have never seen them up close. Didn't know that they are cheeky like this. Love your travel posts on Malaysia, you certainly know how to tell the story of your own homeland. Next time you're home, hop over to Bali and check out the monkey forest. Selamat tahun baru dan salam dari Jakarta :)

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    1. Monkey forest sounds like a dream, thank you for the recommendation! Gongxi facai from Kuala Lumpur! x

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  3. LOLOLOL! Laughed my head off at your commentary! Too funny. When I was at Sepilok, I was freaked out by the macaques. They were bloody aggressive. I only saw a few shy proboscis monkeys on a sampan going down Sungai Kinabatangan.

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    1. 'I only saw a few shy proboscis monkeys on a sampan going down Sungai Kinabatangan'

      I read that and imagined a sampan full of proboscis monkeys floating serenely down the river, before I realised you meant you saw them from the sampan!!!! You;ve made my morning thank you LOL

      x

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  4. Your photos are so postcard worthy hehe. Really nice and thanks for blogging about this place cos as a Sabahan myself, I've yet to visit Labuk Bay. Hope the both of you enjoyed your Borneo trip :)

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    1. Thank you Anon! We loved Borneo. Henry's seriously considering moving to Sabah to be a ranger - it's so beautiful, so much wildlife to see, and everyone is so chilled out. Do you still live in Sabah? x

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  5. I'm currently residing in PJ as I work here. I've got a love and hate thing for KL haha...but Sabah (KK) will always be home :)

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