Sailors are naturally drawn to the open ocean, but a river cruise can offer an enchanting experience. Risa Merl explores which of the the world’s great waterways are best seen by superyacht.
The Kinabatangan and The Rajang, Borneo
The third largest island in the world, Borneo has two rivers that are worth exploring by superyacht, both of which are found in the island’s Malaysian territory. The 560-kilometre Kinabatangan River, on the north-east tip of Borneo, winds through the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, presenting a veritable river safari. This is one of only two places in the world to see orangutans in the wild (they are one of the 10 primate species found in the sanctuary). Asian elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros roam the jungle, along with petite Malayan sun bears and spotted leopards. Crocodiles, otters and tortoises can also be seen in this watery wonderland, as well as more than 200 species of birds.
The Rajang River Delta on the north-west coast is another key habitat for wildlife, especially Irrawaddy dolphins and lesser adjutant storks, which have a few fluffy feathers on their otherwise bald heads. In the trees, silver langur monkeys munch on fruit and stare as you pass by. The Rajang just pips the Kinabatangan as the longest river in Malaysia, at 563 kilometres.
Local guides can be hired on both rivers, as reliable charts don’t exist. There are no regulations for exploring by yacht, says Captain Jean-Francois Cormerais, of Asia Pacific Superyachts, but you will need to be aware of the depth and air draught. “It all depends greatly on the season,” says Captain Cormerais. “The Rajang River can vary in depth by 21 metres, while the Kinabatangan has a sandbar at the entrance and an electric cable crosses the river further on, which makes it impossible for sailing boats to visit.” Despite the challenges, Cormerais says it is “really worth the effort” to visit. “My favourite memory is anchoring in the Rajang River and being awakened by the call of gibbons as a morning song,” he adds.
When to go: Dry season is March to October – avoid December to April when heavy rains fall, which can change river depth quite suddenly.
What to know: There is nowhere to provision, so bring all the supplies you will need.
Who to contact: Captain Jean-Francois Cormerais, of Asia Pacific Superyachts, email@example.com