May 2016: I visited the Brunei as part of a larger two-week trip that included tracking cobras in Bali, staying with the Korowai Tribe in Papua and crossing a remote border into Papua New Guinea. Since I was in the region, I decided it would be a waste to not visit Brunei even if my visit had to be short, so I deliberately planned a stopover on my way to Bali from Los Angelas. My stop-over involved one night one almost full day in Brunei. This was long enough for me to do what interested me the most in Brunei-to see the bizarre looking monkey with the penis shaped nose, the proboscis monkey. The proboscis monkeys live in the mangrove jungles not far outside of the capitol of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan. This made it easy for me to hire a boatman and go tracking them during my short stay in Brunei. These monkeys are unique to Borneo, and I missed them in Sabah, so this was my chance to redeem myself and see them in the wild.



Location of Brunei

Brunei is a small oil rich country the size of Delaware. it is ruled by a Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, a billionaire who competes with Putin as the richest leader in the world. He is the world’s longest-reigning current monarch and the longest-serving current head of state. Brunei is governed by Islamic law. Homosexuality for example is illegal and the punishment is death by stoning.



Tracking Proboscis Monkeys



Putting the trip together was easy. I researched likely habitats where the monkeys could be found outside of the capitol and first thing in the morning before sunrise, I left my hotel and walked over to the Kianggeh Jetty along the river. The jetty was full of fishing boats for hire. I negotiated a price with the boat man to take down the Brunei River into the mangroves where the proboscis monkeys live, and I even showed the boatman a photo of one to verify that where we were going, we could find some. The boat man assured me they were common.  Aside from monkeys, the boat ride was interesting. We visited a part of the city where people live in stilted homes, and we passed the Sultans palace. All i could see was the giant golden dome of his home jutting over the forest canopy. At 2.15 million square feet, his house is the largest in the world.


Boat man who took me into the mangroves in the customary headwrap for men in the region

My boat heading into the mangroves

Stilted city

Sultans palace

The mangrove was a dark place of thick jungles. There were massive crocodiles and lizards in the water, but they were too elusive for me to photograph. I also spotted rhesus macaque monkeys and of course the main attraction I came to see, the proboscis monkey. The proboscis monkey male is the most interesting looking with a giant human looking middle aged man beer gut that hangs out and a floppy penis shaped giant nose. They are fascinating monkeys and sadly are becoming increasingly more endangered as their mangrove habitats are being developed all over Borneo. Since Brunei is one of the richest countries in the world from oil, it has set aside large portions of the rainforest for conservation and Brunei is one of the best places to see the Proboscis monkey in the wild. I ended up seeing dozens of them.


Mangrove forest

Young proboscis monkey 

Large male proboscis monkey 

After exploring the mangroves and having good luck with the wildlife, i returned to the city to explore the market and to cool off in my hotel room in the A/C after being drenched in sweat from the tropical humidity. Later that night I departed to Bali via Royal Brunie Airlines.


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