Mt. Kinabalu, Kinabatangan River, Sepilok, Poring, Rafflesia
Forest Reserve, Gomantong
Tour leader; Stijn De Win
1 - 10 May 2017 (Custom tour 3
guests; report due to upload)Group size ; max. 6
June 2017 (Custom tour for a couple ; full.)
17 - 27 August 2017 (Custom tour group of 5 ; full.)
11 - 21 June 2018 (Custom tour; confirmed with guaranteed departure. A few participants may join Gill, Michael, Ian and Walter, extra eyes and company welcome! Interested? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are under the impression that, on this page, it may not be necessary to describe Borneo’s nature in superlatives. It simply is great and birders interested in a trip would probably know already. So you may well find yourself with those that still need to go… And we’d like to help make things easier. It works simple. We would wish you to be able to experience Sabah for real, in the field on Borneo, not just on our tour page. We worked hard to be able to offer a solid holiday at a price as affordable as possible without compromising the birding experience. The result may well be a competitively priced tour that we would like to feature exceptional value, experienced guides, and a friendly atmosphere all amongst some of the finest birding in Asia. Our tour should be accessible to people with all levels of birding skills as in the end the bird and wildlife will just be as diverse as the people watching it. Let us go and enjoy the temperate climate on Mt. Kinabalu, the lush rainforests of Sepilok and the wonders along the Kinabatangan River… We are highly committed to make our next tours a great success again.
Borneo is all about enjoying loads of fantastic bird species. These might include some common birds to start with. We photographed this rather impressive looking Black-and-Yellow Broadbill at Sepilok. The Rufous-collared Kingfisher is a little harder to find but still isn't too scarce. Psst, remember, top quality on Borneo is not something reserved for the main target birds only... -are you ready to discover Sabah's secret?!
International arrivals into Kota Kinabalu which is a surprisingly modern city. Those with early arrivals have the opportunity to visit the nearby park and waterfront for some fun introductory birding. In September 2012 we notched up 36 species with just an hour of daylight left on an easy stroll from the hotel. Birds like Long-tailed Parakeet, Pied Hornbill and White-bellied See-eagle may make for a good start. Night in Kota Kinabalu.
We’ll be out and birding in no time for a good start near Tambunan at the Rafflesia Forest Reserve in the Crocker Range where we spend at least the best part of the morning or more if needed to connect with the birds special to the area. These include some mid-altitude species rarely recorded at other sites on the regular Sabah birding circuit. We’ll focus on finding both Bornean and Mountain Barbet, Bornean Bulbul, Bornean Leafbird and the enigmatic Fruithunter. Later we continue to majestic Mount Kinabalu for an exciting introduction to Kinabalu National Park.
Day 3 - 5
We have 3 full birding days on the mountain. That this will be, besides the pleasant cool temperatures and beautiful montane forest, full of endemic birds need no say. The Whitehead’s trio, 2 Partridges, a Stubtail, a Wren Babbler, ‘the’ Trogon, 2 Laughingthrushes, a ‘Green’ Magpie, Eyebrowed Jungle-Flycatcher, Kinabalu Serpent Eagle, Bornean Treepie and Flowerpecker…lots more. The birding is done along the road towards the summit and on a network of wonderful trails. We'll also visit Mesilau station at a slightly higher elevation than the HQ area. It features a few extra species like Mountain Black-eye and 'Pale-faced' Bulbul while Bornean Whistling Thrush is common and confiding at this site. On 1 morning we will make a serious attempt to scale the summit as it’s only a little over 4000m above sea level…kidding. The fact is that the Kinabalu Friendly Warber has its home just that little higher than most of the other birds all found in areas reached on short walks from the car. We may need to climb part way up the summit trail but this is still on the lower levels and shouldn’t be much of a problem for most of us at a birding pace.
A day trip to the nearby Poring Hot Springs which is on the lower Kinabalu slopes. This may well offer some different birds. Poring is most famous for being one of the only accessible sites where the spectacular but ultra-rare and sought-after Hose’s Broadbill can be found. No kidding, Stijn found a pair here straight away on his first visit back in 2003! It’s certainly possible but we would need some good luck to repeat this. Anyhow, the area has some other good stuff on offer; White-fronted Falconet, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Yellow-crowned Barbet, Buff-rumped, Maroon and Crimson-winged Woodpeckers, Black-and-Red Broadbill, Bornean Spiderhunter and with some more luck even a Blue-banded Pitta would be possible.
Day 7 - 8
After a final morning on Mt. Kinabalu we depart for Sepilok. The Rainforest Discovery Center here makes for the perfect introduction to the lowland forest birding on Borneo. The superb canopy walkway will be of great help for spotting plenty bird species. Of course we also need to explore the forest edge and the many trails available. Even the resort grounds have good birds and this included the rare Large Green Pigeon on our last trip.
The birds available at the Rainforest Discovery Center go far beyond an 'intro' to Sabah's birds .
To notch up close to, if not a 100 species during our 2 days here would be well possible. A number of excellent birds call Sepilok home; Rhinoceros Hornbill, Raffle’s Malkoha, Red-naped Trogon, Diard's Trogon, Black Hornbill, Buff-necked Woodpecker, Orange-backed Woodpecker, Black-crowned Pitta, Black-and-Yellow Broadbill, Rufous-collared Kingfisher, Banded Kingfisher, Crested Jay, Bornean Black Magpie, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Wallace’s Hawk Eagle,… and a host of Babblers, Spiderhunters, Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers.
We need some luck with Bornean Bristlehead which has been reliable for a season in the recent past but proves irregular most of time. This unique bird is the only member of its own monotypic family, it's endemic, incomparable, and it certainly looks exotic. Luckily there are also other Bristlehead chances at Kinabatangan and Danum Valley.
Many bird tours seem to visit Sepilok only briefly. However one could happily spend a week there. This is very pleasant birding with good accommodation just 5 min. from the forest. For the tour, our two days and a morning is the minimum to do the place justice.Besides, we thought that in order to enjoy an introduction to the lowland rainforest, it is best done in a relaxed way.
A last morning at the Sepilok RDC before our transfer to the Kinabatangan River. En-route we visit Gomantong Caves for the swiftlet colonies and after arrival in our attractive lodge on the banks of the river, we set off on a first cruise in search of this celebrated wildlife experience the Kinabatangan is so renowned for. It’s not going to disappoint. Proboscis Monkeys, Orangutan, Silvered Langur, Smooth Otters, 8 species of Hornbill, Storm’s Stork, numerous raptors, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Long-tailed Parakeet…with some more luck even a Bornean Pygmy Elephant or Bornean Ground-Cuckoo.
A full day on the Kinabatangan with several boat trips scheduled. In between those comfortable cruises and back in the lodge grounds, we may want to stretch our legs and explore the trails. Black-crowned and Hooded Pitta, Black-capped Babbler, Red-naped Trogon, Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, Bushy-crested Hornbill and Black-and-Yellow Broadbill are all there to be found.
We will go for a last morning cruise along the river. Before we drive back to Sandakan (or proceed to Lahad Datu for BRL) we may have time for some forest birding along the quiet entrance road to Gomantong Caves. The drive back to Sandakan takes a few hours to connect with our flight back to Kota Kinabalu which marks the end of our tour.
Danum Valley extension; A 4 day/3 night birding package at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (or Tabin Wildlife Resort). After Kinabatangan drive to Lahad Datu and on to the Danum Valley Conservation Area. Here the excellent Borneo Rainforest Lodge will become your home for the next 3 nights. This place has been called the single most exciting tropical rainforest experience on our planet... What is sure is that you’ll be staying amidst some of the best birding on Borneo with impressive views of real superb primary rainforest. An extensive trail network and a nice canopy walkway will help to reveal the riches of the ancient rainforest. Specialities found at BRL include Great Argus, Blue-headed Pitta, Giant Pitta, Bornean Banded Pitta, Black-throated and Striped Wren Babbler, Crested Fireback, Great-billed Heron, Bristlehead… too many to name. This is the home of an impressive host of Hornbills, Malkohas, Kingfishers, Woodpeckers, Spiderhunters, Babblers, Tailorbirds, Barbets, Sunbirds, Broadbills, Bulbuls, Pittas, Flycatchers and we should not forget the mammals. Night drives from the lodge may well produce a Leopard Cat, Civet or Loris while by day there is always a good chance to find Bornean Gibbons, Red Leaf Monkeys or a Bornean Orangutan. The lodge doesn’t come exactly cheap at about $ 400 pp for a shared room or $ 500 single a night on a full board deal. In our opinion it’s worth it every cent though. The lodge mostly caters for tourists with some interest in nature (less than 10% are birders) and must be regarded as a smart business model. We may want to conclude that the money certainly helps the conservation of the surrounding forest! Who wouldn’t want to support that?
Comfortable accommodation in high standard hotels or lodges with private facilities. Transport by air-conditioned minibus. Food hygiene is of high standard with both tasty Malaysian or Western choices available at all birding sites. Walks are easy to moderate throughout. The weather is cool and pleasant on Mt. Kinabalu and rather hot and humid in the lowlands. Some rain is always a possibility. Photographic opportunities are worthwhile on Mount Kinabalu while they may appear excellent at Sepilok and on the Kinabatangan River cruises.
We hope you may enjoy the photos on this page. All are opportunity shots taken on previous B2A trips.
Blue-headed Pitta, Danum ValleyBlack-crowned Pitta, Kinabatangan
Bornean Flowerpecker, Mt. KinabaluBare-headed Laughingthrush, Mt. Kinabalu
Mountain Black-eye, MesilauView on Mount Kinabalu from the HQ road
Proboscis Monkey, KinabatanganWhite-crowned Hornbills, Kinabatangan
Bornean Bristlehead, Danum ValleyYellow-rumped Flowerpecker, Sepilok
Bornean Green Magpie, Mt. KinabaluBornean Whistling Thrush, Mesilau