Asian Reptiles, Asian Wildlife, Wildlife
Comments 18

Saltwater Crocodile – Buaya Tembaga

Saltwater Crocodile Buaya Tembaga Kinabatangang Sabah Borneo Malaysia

In the Kinabatangang Nature Lodge every new day is welcomed with the sound of a fast-beaten gong, a wake-up call that is followed with a 6am river cruise to meet the local wildlife. The inhabitants of the river and surrounding rainforest have their own rhythms with certain animals showing themselves at different times of the day. At dawn most primates are just waking up from their sleep – high in the treetops where they are safe from predators. Soon they will disappear deep into the shady jungle only to go to the riverbanks again late in the afternoon.

Kinabatangang Dawn Silverleaf Monkey Sabah Borneo Malaysia

Morning is also the time when birds start calling, and hornbills, eagles and egrets begin to hunt their favourite food.  The first rays of light start to warm all boat passengers now, waking up everyone for real in this peaceful and serene setting.

Kinabatangang sunrise Sabah Borneo Malaysia

However, the tranquility is deceptive as we are not the only ones waking up and getting active: Borneo’s Kinabatangang is one of the most crocodile infested places we’ve ever seen with the fearsome and deadly Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylis porosus) lurking on virtually every bank of this murky river.

Saltwater Crocodile Buaya Tembaga Kinabatangan Sabah Borneo Malaysia

The future of this apex predator looked very grim only a few decades ago – the saltwater crocodile has the most commercially valuable hide of all crocodile species and has been hunted to near extinction until it got officially protected in Sabah in 1982. The decline of the timber industry, stabilisation of palm oil plantations and regrowth of secondary forests have  provided a proper habitat for this species to recover. The major threat for a full comeback however is the conflict between the people that live and work along the river and the increasing crocodile population – on average crocodiles attack 3 people per year, a major concern for both authorities and communities involved.

Saltwater Crocodile Buaya Tembaga Kinabatangan Sabah Borneo Malaysia

Saltwater Crocodile Buaya Tembaga Kinabatangan Sabah Borneo Malaysia

From the (relative) safety of our boat we were able to observe those fascinating creatures from close proximity. A full-grown adult male the size of a family car was the absolute highlight – although we all were relieved to leave the scene as this croc was so big I only managed to take some shots of its skin and tail!

Saltwater Crocodile Buaya Tembaga Kinabatangan Sabah Borneo Malaysia


  1. Wonderful photos and information Maurice. Love the morning scene with the boat on the river. Beautiful. What a fantastic experience. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Alison – yes that morning photo worked out well with the golden light. It captures the essence of this river in the early morning really nicely I think.

  2. Amazing shots! I admit, I’d be absolutely terrified of seeing this crocodile in-person. Even from a safe distance 🙂 Thanks again for sharing some of your incredible journeys with us.

    • Thank you Takami. I don’t feel unsettled quickly but have to admit this one scared the hell out of me! But haven’t crocodiles, just as humans, got a right to have a bad temper too sometimes? 😉

  3. Great post. When I glimpsed the first photo I thought it was an interesting rock formation. It’s always unnerving seeing big crocs casually coming towards the boat you’re in.

    • Thank you Sue! The structure of their tails and hide just keeps fascinating me. This giant just seemed from a different planet – he seemed completely uninterested in our presence until he got into the water rather irritated. As soon as he submerged into the direction of the boat we agreed is was time to move on. I don’t believe he’d done any harm as the villagers watch them all very closely, and the ones that form a potential threat are now relocated to farms or culled – a particular nasty one got killed in Sarawak in 1992 after he’d taken 13 people… As Aussies we all know what Crocs are capable of!

  4. I really dig not only your photos, but the history and conservation stories you’re sharing. I like the fact that reading your posts I learn not only about the animals, but about the place. Well done!!! I’ve got Borneo, along with Cambodia, on my list of possible destinations for 2017.

    • Thank you so much Matthew for this very kind comment! Borneo is a true birder’s paradise with some icons not to be missed. Thanks again dude 😉

  5. That opening shot of yours is absolutely chilling Maurice! In my minds eye I see the crocodilian monster sliding beneath the water, heading towards its unsuspecting prey…

    Brilliantly done!

    • Thank you Dries!! This monster’s tail was MASSIVE and I just kept wondering if we were not getting a little bit too close.

  6. Girl Gone Expat says

    Beautiful pictures, looks so idylic…until you meet the crocs! 🙂 Dangerous but delightful! Their skin is very beautiful and your close up of the tail is a little piece if art!

    • It’s a piece of heaven on earth with all the drama of life and death. Their copper-coloured skins are beautiful indeed – I can see why they fetch high prices!

  7. These creatures look really scary, I can imagine the damages they can do to people.. thankfully, the number is not too high, compared with other animals. I love the textures of the scales you took pictures of !

    • Aren’t they beautiful, Gin? Agree, there might not be many Salties, but the ones that are there are lethal…

  8. Pingback: Proboscis Monkey | i AM Safari

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