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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Sabah, Peninsular Malaysia & S.Thailand 28 March - 8 May 2001,
Moira and Graeme Wallace, Edinburgh, Scotland. email@example.com
Background and Summary of the Trip.
Site Information, Getting There
Kota Kinabalu and Likas Bay
Mount Kinablau NP
Poring Hot Springs
Gomantong Caves, Sukau and the R. Kinabatangan
Danum Valley Field Centre
Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Khao Nor Chuchi
Annotated Species List.
Travel, Accommodation Arrangements and Cost Summary.
28-03 to 29-03 Edinburgh to Kota Kinabalu (KK) via Amsterdam
and Kuala Lumpur
29-03 to 30-03 KK and Likas Bay (LB)
31-03 to 06-04 Mt Kinabalu National Park (MKNP)
06-04 to 09-04 Poring Hot Springs (PHS)
09-04 to 11-04 Sepilok (SEP)
12-04 to 15-04 Gomantong Caves, Sukau and the R.Kinabatangan
15-04 to 19-04 Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC)
20-04 to 22-04 Bornean Rainforest Lodge (BRL)
23-04 to 24-04 Pulau Sipadan and back to KK via Tawau.
25-04 to 27-04 KK to KL and Frasers Hill (FH)
28-04 to 29-04 The Gap (TG)
29-04 to 30-04 TG to KL to Phuket
01-05 to 03-05 Khao Nor Chuchi
04-05 to 06-05 Krabi and back to KL
07-05 to 07-05 KK and Kuala Selangor (KS)
08-05 to 08-05 KK to Edinburgh.
In April 2000 we undertook our first independent birding trip in SE Asia to the main sites within Peninsular Malaysia. As this proved reasonably successful we determined to undertake an extended trip in 2001 with the following objectives:
To see a large cross section of the birds of Borneo including as many of the realisticendemics as possible ( Of the 37 endemics listed for Borneo we regarded Bornean Peacock Pheasant, Dulit Frogmouth, Black Oriole, Black-browed Babbler as unrealistic leaving 33 possibles);
To revisit FH to see Cutia, Rusty-naped Pitta and Red-headed Trogon which we had missed on the 2000 trip
To visit KNC in S Thailand for Gurney's Pitta.
The trip was fairly successful recording 335 species seen and 15 heard. On occasion, and in particular at Danum Valley, we had to work pretty hard to achieve this but overall a trip list that included 21 of the 33 realistic Bornean endemics, Gurney's Pitta and a species count that included a further 5 Pittas, 7 Broadbills, 6 Hornbills, 15 Woodpeckers and 10 Barbets was ample reward. The trip included it's share of frustrations particularly our inability to translate a number of the key species" heard" into key species "seen" and the fact that many of the pittas in Sabah were not calling. The highlights and significant misses are summarised below. Logistics and transport on the trip proved relatively easy and generally accommodation was of a good standard. In retrospect the itinerary worked well and only change we would make would be in timing and we would go some 2 weeks earlier.
Anyone reading this report who would like further information is welcome to contact us on the e-mail address above.
One female circling low over Pulau Sipadan was a nice surprise - the only frigatebird we saw.
10 recorded on the same day, our last day on the R. Kinabatangan.
Mountain Serpent Eagle
Scope views of a circling bird on our first day at Mt. Kinabalu.
Seen very well on several occasions on the R. Kinabatangan.
One female recorded at close quarters at BRL on the Hornbill Trail.
One of our few successes in the grid at DVFC.
After several near misses a male seen very well from the road at BRL.
Great views of both male and female on separate days on the upper end of the Silau Silau trail. Stunning!
Several recorded on the Bishop and Hemmant trails at FH. Dont know how we missed them last time.
Great characters. Several recorded on the R. Kinabatangan.
The best hornbill with its manic laugh. Only one recorded; seen on successive days in a fruiting tree at BRL.
Eventually seen well- they call incessantly but are tough to see.
Heard constantly but, after several misses, two birds seen well from the canopy walkway at BRL.
Fairly common at FH; a beautiful bird.
Eventually seen well from the canopy walkway at BRL and then at KNC.
Marvellous! Finally seen perched on our 6th traverse of the upper end of the Silau Silau trail at MKNP.
Heard often on the Bishop Trail and eventually seen by one of us.
Common at Krabi but any pitta at 3 metres has to be a highlight.
One seen well on the Waterfall Trail at SEP, very different from its red-headed relative.
Great views on the U trail at KNC where one perched just above us.
Has to be the bird of the trip. Took us 2.5 days and finally some third party assistance to find it. One birder who later saw the same bird had been looking for 9 days.
This was a must-see endemic and we had superb views and sounds from several of these weird birds at SEP and BRL.
Large Wren Babbler
Because it was the only Wren Babbler we saw!
Looked all over Sipadan but could not find one. Others saw several a couple of weeks later but missed Grey Imperial.
Supposed to be at PHS but neither we nor others saw it.
Was always going to be tricky and so it proved. No sign or sound either on the Langanan Waterfall trail or at BRL.
The major disappointment of the trip. We walked all over DVFC and BRL but heard only one. Two birders found a pair at BRL on their last day at Danum having been there for 9 days. Ah well back we go!!
Bornean Wren Babbler
Several heard and 2 taped in very close at W5 and W7 at DVFC but could not see them. Very frustrating.
Striped Wren Babbler
2 birds heard from the road at BRL, both of which responded to tape but stayed hidden.
Black-throated Wren Babbler
Never heard let alone saw one at DVFC or BRL.
Mountain Wren Babbler
Failed miserably to find any sign at MKNP.
Planned to go for this on our final morning as it was being seen at the upper end of the Bukit Ular Trail. In the event we changed plans to spend the final morning looking for Whitehead's Spiderhunter and in the end saw neither.
We heard 7 separate birds on the Kiau View and Silau Silau trails but were unable to tape any of them out. Apparently not as inquisitive as the field guide suggests!
Kinabalu Friendly Warbler
Walked 3.7km up from the Power Station to 2750m (9000ft) but only heard a couple which failed to live up to their reputation for sitting on the end of your bins.
Local information suggested that this species was to be found around Bukit Tupai at MKNP but despite concerted effort in this are we never saw it, although one birder did see it here.
Kota Kinabalu- Likas Bay
Likas Bay lies about 3km to the north of KK on the main road north out of town near a huge mosque. Likas Bay Wetland Reserve comprises a couple of ponds and a marshy area right by the roadsisde and much of the birding is from the roadside verge against a background of close and constant heavy traffic. Supposedly good for waders we saw very few but it did hold Cinammon and Yellow Bittern and White-browed Crake. Is alleged to hold Schrenck's Bittern. Certainly worth a visit.
We flew from Edinburgh to KK via Schipol and KL on KLM/Malaysian who were very good. Wildwings handled all the flight arrangements and can be highly recommended.
In Kota Kinabalu we stayed at the Trekkers Lodge at which we found perfectly adequate with very friendly helpful staff who can arrange bus tickets, diving on Sipadan, etc.The entrance is unprepossessing and it's on the 3rd floor above a disco but is handy for the bus station. Rooms to the front are noisy. Internet access available. A windowless aircon double cost RM45 per night, a double with fan was RM37 per night and there is dormitory accommodation at RM10 per person per night.
46 Jalan Pantai(behind the Sugar Bun Fast Food Place)
Tel. 00 60 88 213888
Mount Kinabalu National Park
At 4101m (13455ft) the spectacular granite massif of Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in SE Asia. It is also home to 70 % of Borneo's spectacular endemic birds as well as a bewildering array of orchids, rhododendrons, pitcher plants and insects, many of which are unique to the mountain.
The Park gates are 1623m (5325ft) above sea level. The habitat on the lower slopes is tall dipterocarp forest which, with altitude, gives way to oaks and laurels and in turn to stunted rhododendron forest on the permanently damp and cloud-covered upper slopes.
Endemics found at MKNP are Mountain Serpent Eagle, Red-breasted Partridge, Crimson-headed Partridge, Whithead's Trogon, Golden-naped and Mountain Barbet, Whitehead's Broadbill, Bornean Whistler, Everett's Thrush, Black-breasted Fruit-hunter, Eye-browed Jungle-Flycatcher, Mountain Blackeye, Bornean Stubtail, Kinabalu Friendly Warbler, Mountain Wren Babbler, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, Black-sided Flowerpecker and Whitehead's Spiderhunter.
From the Park HQ there is a 4.5km tarmac road to the Power Station and the Timphon Gate at 1866m (6122ft) that marks the start of the Summit Trail. From here it is a further 8.7km climb to Low's Peak at 4101m. There is an excellent trail system between the Park HQ and the Timphon Gate where many of the specialities and endemics may be seen. Be aware however, birding Kinabalu can be difficult and frustrating but the birds are there - just keep walking and listening. In general the Silau Silau, Kiau View and Bukit Tupai Trails together with the Power Station Road itself are good for birding and virtually all of the endemics and other specialities can be seen along these and the other lower level trails.
However, to see Mountain Black-eye, Kinabalu Friendly Warbler and Island Thrush, you will need to walk at least part of the way up the Summit trail. The trail is steep and climbing hard work. This trail also tends to be busy because, for many people, the sole objective in travelling to MKNP is to climb the mountain. To do this Day 1 is spent walking 5.5km from the Timphon Gate to Laban Rata at 3272m (10735ft) ascending 1400m in the process. Day 2 starts at 2.00am to allow for the climb up to Low's Peak for dawn and to get back down to the Timphon Gate before dusk. There is a climbing fee of RM50 and it is mandatory to hire a guide to go to the top. However if you wish to go only as far as Laban Rata this may be done without a guide although you do have to pay the fee. All this has to be arranged at the Park HQ in advance.
To see the Island Thrush you really need to go up to Laban Rata which, although others have hiked up and down in a day, sounds like it is better done at a more leisurely pace over 2 days. We did not go to Laban Rata because, having seen Island Thrush in Irian Jaya, our main concerns were the Mountain Blackeye and the Friendly Warbler. Mountain Blackeye is quite easily seen on the lower slopes beyond Carson's Falls and Friendly Warbler has been seen only 2km up the Summit Trail but in our case despite walking up to 3.7km we only heard it. Perhaps the better strategy is to go to Laban Rata after all where the Friendly Warbler is apparently more common. Mountain Wren Babbler is also found along the Summit Trail (but on other lower trails as well) but we failed to see or even hear it.
Mount Kinabalu National Park lies 90 km from KK and is easily accessed by bus which takes about 2 hours. Air con buses leave the long distance bus station, on Jalan Tunku Abdul Raman, (about 15 minutes walk from Trekkers Lodge) from 08.00am but any bus going to Ranau or Sandakan will drop you off at the Park gates.
There is a variety of good accomodation within MKNP. There are 2 hostels; the 46 bed Old Fellowship and the newer 52 bed New Fellowship which both cost around RM12 per night. Other birders we met who stayed in the hostels said they were fine but could be noisy. There are also 10 or 12 connected twin bed cabins which cost RM92 per night and were very good. Overnight accomodation at Laban Rata costs RM30 per night. When we went, all bookings were made through:
Kinabalu Gold Resort
Tel 00 60 88 243629
Fax 00 60 88 242861
Nb. The email address may have changed and bookings/emails now seem to be made through their web site: www.kinabalunatureresorts.com/new/kinabalu_park.htm
We booked over the internet and found the office to be efficient and responsive. Tell them what you want, they will book it, ask for your credit card and once authorised will give you a booking reference. When we arrived they were expecting us.
Poring Hot Springs
PHS lies 40km from MKNP and, at an altitude of 460m (1510ft), offers the chance to see mid-elevation birds not found at higher elevations at MKNP or in the lowland forest. PHS is an extemely popular resort and on weekends will be packed with people from dawn to well beyond dusk enjoying the amenity of the hot baths. Fortunately, few people venture beyond the hot springs and fewer still beyond the Kipungit Waterfall.
Apart from the walk to the Canopy walkway (which was, as usual, closed for annual maintenance in April) there is essentially just one trail at PHS which passes through the Hot Springs, meanders on through a clearing to the Kipungit Waterfall, crosses the river and the trail then rises steeply to the Bat Caves and beyond before the climb eases off and passes through some nice forest and bamboo on the way to the scenic Langanan Waterfall.
Historically PHS is reported to hold Hose's Broadbill, Blue-banded Pitta, White-fronted Falconet, Bornean Barbet, and Everett's Spiderhunter. Hose's is clearly completely random and uncommon (although it was seen from the canopy walkway in December 2000) and Blue-banded Pitta difficult (best area around the 3100 metre marker on the Langannan Waterfall Trail) but of the others we saw no trace. Other birders more experienced than us also saw none of these birds - maybe we were unlucky.
Getting to PHS, which is still part of MKNP, can be done in a couple of different ways. The cheaper option is to get on a passing bus, all of which stop at the MKNP gates, and go to Ranau and from there take a bus to Poring. Alternatively official Park transport is available, although relatively expensive at RM60 to charter a vehicle. We intended to do this as it saves hanging about in Ranau but when we went to the Park HQ to book for the following day we were approached by a driver with time (and a minivan) on his hands and agreed a fare of RM40. The journey took about an hour.
In many respects similar to MKNP.There are 2 hostels, 2 twin-bed cabins (air con) and some 4 and 6 person cabins. Prices the same as MKNP and booked through Kinabalu Gold Resort.
Sepilok Oran Utang Rehabilitation Centre
From reading previous trip reports it was evident that Bristlehead was by no means guaranteed at DVFC and some birders had found it more easily at SEP. Bristlehead was a must see endemic so, despite some trip reports suggesting that from a birding perspective the site did not have much else to recommend it, we decided, as insurance, to spend a couple of days at SEP on our way to the R Kinabatangan.
According to the Checklist of the Birds of Sepilok which lists some 420 species, "Sepilok forest, a 4,530 hectare virgin jungle reserve, located on the north shore of Sandakan Bay, is one of the few remaining examples of lowland dipterocarp rain forest which once covered most of the lowlands of eastern Sabah". There are 2 principal trails both of which can be accessed from the end of the boardwalk that leads to and past the Orang-utan feeding platforms. The Mangrove Trail of some 4kms leads off to the right initially follows the shallow course of the Gum Gum river and then over a ridge to the mangroves. The trail is marked by red numbers painted on trees - if straying from the trail, beware, it is easy to get lost. The Nature Trail leads off to the left and along a clearly visible trail to a tree platform where it descends to a series of waterfalls and loops back to the centre.
Theoretically the public cannot access SEP until the gates are formally opened around 10.00am for the feeding of the Orang-utan at 11.00am. Through R.Chong (see next section) we were introduced to a member of staff at Sepilok with an interest in birds, who agreed to meet us at 6.00am each morning to guide us. In return for his "guiding" we paid RM30 each day for his services. This ensuredcritical early access to Sepilok and the member of staff was happy to guide us to the end of the Boardwalk, point out the trails and leave us to get on with our birding. As an arrangement it worked very well.
We found and enjoyed great views of Bristlehead on 2 successive dates and a number of other good birds besides including Black-headed Pitta (the Bornean form of Garnet Pitta regarded by some authorities as a distinct species), Lesser Adjutant and Rufous-backed Kingfisher. There is a site for Malaysian Honeyguidefar along the Mangrove Trail but we did not go because we knew of the Honeyguide stake out at KNC in Thailand that had been good for 12 years. Regrettably by the time we got to KNC the bird had succumbed to old age.
Aircon buses leave from Ranau going to Sandakanfrom 08.00am until 12.00am. Ask to be dropped off for the Orang Utan Centre at the junction of the main road with the Jalan Sepilok. From there it is a 2km walk up the J.Sepilok to the reserve. The fare cost RM25 one way.
We had originally booked to stay with R Chong (with whom we had booked the R.Kinabatangan trip) at his guesthouse, Labuk B&B, near Sepilok at Milepost 15 on the Sandakan Road. This was further from the Sepilok Centre than we had imagined and in the end we stayed at Sepilok Resthouse which is right next to the entrance to SEP.Sepilok Resthouse was excellent with a fan cooled double with shared bathroom for RM45 night including breakfast. Dinner was also available at RM8 and cold beers for RM12. Tea and coffee available free all day.
Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre
90309 Sandakan, Sabah
Tel 00 60 89 534900
Fax 00 60 89 221024
Gomantong Caves, Sukau and the River Kinabatangan.
At Gomantong Caves, accessed from the unsealed road to Sukau, it is possible to identify Edible, Black and Mossy-nest Swiftlets on their nest andto witness the extraordinary, mediaeval Pythonesque machinery used in the harvesting of the swiftlet nests. Bat Hawk can be seen at Gomantong but you need to arrange a permit in advance to get through the closed gate on the road in, to be at Gomantong either at dusk or early morning when the bird is active. There is a stake out tree where the Bat Hawk roosts on the hillside to the left of the administrative offices (as you face them) but it is not 100% reliable. On the R Kinabatangan itself the key bird is Storm's Stork but in addition White-Fronted Falconet and all 8 species of Hornbill have been seen, Proboscis Monkey is a virtual certainty and there is a chance of wild Orang Utan.
There are 2 principal options to get to the R.Kinabatangan. The first is to visit the legendary Uncle Tan's Camp. Recent trip reports suggested that Uncle Tan's Camp was not what it once was and we adopted the second, albeit more expensive, option. In the event this proved to be a good choice because others who we met on the trip confirmed that Uncle Tan's was now run down and shambolic.
The second option is to go with one of the 4 or 5 tour companies who operate small lodges on the Kinabatangan beyond Sukau. Sukau is nearly 50kms along an unmade road through oil palm plantation and getting their independently is tricky although there are infrequent buses and you can always try hitching an oil palm lorry. The second option has the added benefit of taking you past the Gomantong Caves where the swiftlets can be seen at their nest. (However if taking bus/hitching to Sukau the Caves are a 5km walk each way from the junction with the unmade road to Sukau.)
A number of tour companies in Sandakan run organised tours to the Kinabatangan. Of these SI Tours are reckoned to be good and in particular one of their guides Ben is very knowledgeable about birds. In the event we had booked a trip with Robert Chong who was mentioned in the Jon Hornbuckle report. We found him to be very good. Although not a specialist birder Robert has been running trips on the Kinabatangan for years, knows exactly what birders want to see and is very flexible and accommodating. He takes a maximum of 4 people but, no doubt at some additional cost, he agreed to take just us which meant that we could stop to bird at any time on the drive from Sepilok to Sukau and once on the river were in sole charge of the boat, where it went and how long we stopped.
Each day was spent the same way with an early morning and late afternoon cruise on the Kinabatangan or one of it's tributaries. It is far too hot in the middle of the day to do anything. We fared better on the trips upstream of the Lodge, particularly on the Tenangan tributary. However just down stream from Sukau on the far bank there are a few houses and behind those a large dead tree where we saw White-fronted Falconet every time we passed. Key species recorded were Storm's Stork, White-fronted Falconet, Buffy Fish Owl, Bushy-crested, Wreathed, Asian Black, Oriental Pied and Rhinoceros Hornbill and all the swiftlets at the nest in Gomanatong.
Because of the relative difficulties in getting to Gomantong Caves, Sukau and the R.Kinabatangan we booked a "package" with Robert Chong of Labuk B&B who runs trips to the Kinabatangan. The 3-day package included pick up at Sepilok Resthouse, transport to Gomantong and the R Kinabatangan, 2 nights full board at the excellent Proboscis Lodge, 5 trips on the river each lasting 2-3 hours including one night trip and transport back to the Sandakan to Lahad Datu Road where Robert negotiated a price of RM10 each for a minibus to take us to Lahad Datu. The cost for the whole deal was RM740 per person.
Jalan Labuk/Batu 15
Danum Valley Field Centre
DVFC lies within the boundaries of the Danum Valley Conservation Area which consists of 438km2 of lowland dipterocarp forest. This legendary sitelies on the Segama River some 85kms west of Lahad Datu.
There are a number of trails at DVFC the majority of which lie within a grid system on the west side of the R.Segama accessed by crossing over the suspension bridge. These trails are referenced by grid markers where W0/N0 is the start point. The trails are measured and marked every 100 metres (e.g. a bird recorded at W10/N5 would be at the intersection 1 km along the W trail and 500 metres north to the N5 trail.) Also on the west side of the R Segama lies the very steep Rhino Ridge Trail which we did not try as we were told it was now very difficult to follow. Toward the end of our stay we discovered that there is a guide called Mike at DVFC who will lead you for a small fee. On the DVFC side of the river there are other trails including the Nature Trail on which can be found 2 Great Argus dancing grounds. Just off the Nature Trail is the 40m tree platform built in 1990 by Phil Hurrell which is testing if you are not good with heights but does get you up amongst the canopy.
Review of the log book kept at the refectory/verandah area indicated that lots of birds continue to be seen at DVFC but many observers also comment on how difficult/slow the birding can be. This was borne out by our own experience. The log book indicated that most birds were seen along the W Trail out to W23 but as this is probably the most birded trail it is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy and there will be good birds almost anywhere. However, and with hindsight probably wrongly, we stuck to W0 to W15 for the majority of the time with excursions to the Nature Trail (where we failed to see or hear Argus) and the Hurrell platform.
Good birds recorded included Bat Hawk, seen every evening from the Suspension Bridge, Goliath Heron on the R.Segama, Chestnut-necklaced partridge (H), Crested Fireback at W6, Brown Wood Owl one evening by the Centre, Black-headed Pitta (H) Rhinoceros and Wreathed Hornbill, Bornean Wren Babbler (H only on 3 dates at W7) Rufous-tailed Shama, Red-bearded Bee-Eater, Red-naped Trogon and Chestnut-naped Forktail. Giant and Blue-headed Pitta were seen the week after we were there.
Danum is accessed from Lahad Datu which is reached either by flying in from KK or by bus from Sandakan. If coming from Gomantong/R.Kinabatangan minibuses also run from the Sukau junction on the Sandakan/Lahad Datu Road.By prior arrangement I am sure that the DVFC/BRL office in Lahad Datu would pick up from the airport but otherwise you need to get to the office which is located on the north side of town on the right just off the main road in from Sandakan. From there transport will take you the 98kms to the Field Centre. Regular DVFC transport, at the price quoted below, is available only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If you have to arrive on another day transport can be arranged at a cost of RM200 for the vehicle.
The Field Centre is operated by some combination of the Sabah Foundation and the commercial forestry Innoprise Corporation. For a period of time it was difficult for birders to get permission to stay at the DVFC but this restriction seems to have been relaxed.We made arrangements over the internet with Peter Chong who was very helpful. There are essentially 2 forms of accommodation: a limited number of resthouse rooms and two new hostels (the old one was washed away) that can accomodate up to 98 persons.
In 2001 the rates for DVFC are as follows :- Conservation fee/entry permit RM30 psn/trip. Transportation (return trip from LDU) RM60 psn Resthouse accommodation RM80 psn/ngt Hostel accommodation RM46 psn/ngt Full-board (food per day) RM45 psn/day Forest ranger as guide RM5 per hour (office hour only)
Camping is also available.
We stayed the first 2 nights in the resthouse which was hot and stuffy. For the remaining nights we stayed in the hostel which was virtually empty but is located some way away from the Field Centre itself and requires a 15-20 minute walk which can be inconvenient if it's lashing down with rain. The cost of food at RM45 per day is made up of breakfast RM12, lunch RM10 and dinner RM23 so it's up to you how you want to eat.
DVFC appears to be positioning itself as conference venue and construction works were beginning on a new Interpretation Centre. There is now a karaoke machine at Danum, and in general the place lacked the ambience that we had imagined.
Peter L.S. Chong Rakyat Berjaya Sdn Bhd
Forestry Division Conservation and Environmental Services Section P O Box 11622, 88817 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Lot 4-10, Ground floor,Block D, Sadong Jaya Complex Karamunsing, Kota Kinabalu
Tel: 00 60 88 243251
Fax: 00 60 88 243244
Borneo Rainforest Lodge
BRL is 98kms west of Lahad Datu and 36kms from DVFC amidst an extensive area of lowland dipterocarp forest which supports the same extensive species list as that of DVFC. There is a good trail system at BRL.The entrance road itself is excellent first thing in the morning; bird back along the road about 2kms and then bird from the canopy walkway. Hornbill Trail is also good. One of the knowledgeable guides we met said that Giant, Blue-headed and Blue-banded Pitta had all been seen in these areas. Regrettably the pittas appeared to have shut up during our stay but a fruiting tree behind the chalet area provided great views of many other species. We went out on one of the night drives and asked to be dropped off about 3kms along the entrance road where Frogmouth had been seen - played the tape but saw nothing except a billion stars.
Good birds recorded at BRL included White-fronted Falconet from the canopy walkway, Great Argus on the Hornbill Trail, Helmeted, Rhinoceros, and Black Hornbill in the fruiting tree by the chalets, Diard's Trogon from the entrance road, Yellow-and Black, Banded and Green Broadbill from the canopy walkway, Striped Wren Babbler (H) from the entrance road, several Grey-chested and Bornean Blue Flycatcher, Bornean Bristlehead from the canopy walkway and Pygmy White-eye in the chalet gardens.
We had not planned to visit the outageously priced BRLbut discovered thatone could undertake a day visit by hiring transport from DVFC leaving early morning and being picked up again at night. We have subsequently heard that DVFC may no longer be prepared to do this. Having gone to DVFC for a day and found the birding to be livelier and the trails easier we left DVFC 2 days earlier than planned and hired a vehicle to take us to BRL. The usual method however is to prebook and get to the BRL/DVFC office in Lahad Datu where their transport will take you to the lodge - it's the same road in as for DVFC - after c60kms turn left for DVFC and right for BRL.
We stayed in air-conditioned, twin-bedded chalets connected to the Lodge by a raised walkway. The lodge is extremely comfortable and serves very good, if somewhat elaborate food. Night drives (which in our case were unrewarding although the logbook suggests we were unfortunate) are included in the price as was a guide who was assigned to us. Not sure how the guide assignment works, its probably usually to a group, but perhaps because the lodge was not so busy we had the services (if we wished) of a guide. We did some birding on our own and some with the guide Wang Kong who was very knowledgeable about birds and had his own tape with the calls.
The cost (for non-Malaysians) is RM450 per person per night and seems to be non-negotiable. It is therefore v. expensive but is well set up. We did not even enquire about the cost of a beer. If your wallet is up to it bookings can be made through:
The tiny island of Pulau Sipadan (it takes 20 minutes to walk around the island) lies 36km off the south east coast of Sabah.. It is essentially a dive island but is one of the easiest places to find the endemic Tabon Scrubfowl as well as possibilities for Grey and Pied Imperial Pigeon, Nicobar Pigeon and the exquisite Black-naped Fruit Dove.In addition it has some of the most dramatic snorkelling anywhere in the world because, 20 metres off the beach, the world falls away in a sheer drop of 650 metres. You swim out from the beach and one minute you are in 2 metres of water the next you are suspended over this abyss. It is breathtaking and the reef fish are stunning.
Sipadan is accessed from Semporna and arrangements can be negotiated with one of the 5 or 6 dive companies that operate on Sipadan. We used Borneo Divers who were very good. Arrangements can also be pre-booked in KK or from overseas - in our case the staff at Trekkers Lodge did that for us. Most of the divers fly in from KK to Tawau and Borneo Divers provide transfers to and from the airport which is about 2 hours away. We actually travelled to Semporna from Danum via Lahad Datu where we hired a taxi (RM120) for the 2 hour journey. Minibus will be a lot cheaper. The downside of coming from Danum is that you need to overnight in Semporna where the choice is limited.
In Semporna we chose the Dragon Inn on the quayside right next door to the dive shacks and the departure point for Sipadan. Aircon double room and breakfast cost us RM66 and an excellent dinner at the Seafest Inn across the street including beers cost us RM50. Boats depart Semporna at 10.00 am.
Tel 00 60 89 781088
Fraser's Hill (FH)
The well known hill station of FH lies 103km north of KL and, at an altitude of 1500m (4500ft), offers excellent montane birding along the roads through the resort and by way of a number of trails. Some of the key species such as Rusty-naped Pitta, Lesser Shortwing, Red-headed Trogon, Fire-tufted and Black-browed Barbet can all be found along the Bishop Trail with mixed feeding flocks including Long-tailed Broadbill, Blue Nuthatch and Golden Babbler turning up anywhere. The endemic Malay Whistling Thrush used to be seen at dawn on the road/culvert over the stream just a few metres up from the upper gate. Not been seen for a while and the new site is apparently at the very evident landslip along the Bishop Trail. Long-billed Partridge has been seen this year on the High Pines Trail, Cutia apparently on the Telecom Loop in February.
Access from KL is either by
1.Bus from KL's Puduraya Bus Station firstly to Kota Kuba Bahru. From KKB buses depart for FH at 8.30am and 12.30 pm so you need to leave KL at 6.30 am or 10.30 to make the connection.
2. Bus to KKB and then taxi to FH which cost about RM80.
3. Budget taxi from KL International airport (KLIA) or the domestic terminal at Subang which costs around RM180 or RM130 respectively.
We flew in from KK to Subang, picked up a cab to FH and arranged with the driver to return us in three days time from the Gap to KLIA for our flight to Thailand. We had used a similar arrangement the previous year and have found all the taxi drivers to be extremely reliable. Our driver this time was:
Su Kian Yip
Mobile 03- 80246806
Home 016- 2725006 and we would recommend him.
All vehicles to FH must travel the last 8km from The Gap along the one -way "old road" because the new road is still not yet open. This means that all traffic going to and from FH is controlled by an up gate and a down gate - odd hours up, even hours down.
Accomodation choice at FH is somewhat limited. The Fraser's Hill Development Corporation will allegedly arrange accommodation but the previous year when we had pre-booked the Puncak Inn (which the Lonely Planet classes as mid-range) on arrival we found that the Puncak had never heard of us. This was maybe just as well as the place was dirty and dis-organised and, in the end, we stayed in the Quest Resort which is uninspiring but clean and comfortable. We stayed there again this year where a twin (incl breakfast) cost RM90.
With Spices now closed the best food in town, particularly for a late breakfast of roti chennai, is to be found at the Muslim restuarants beside the Nature Centre and the entrance to the Hemmant Trail, but if you want a beer with your dinner then The Quest (uninspiring), The Golf Club (poor and noisy karaoke) or the Food Emporium (Chinese- food ok) are the only choices.
The Quest Resort
Tel 00 60 (0)9 362 2300
Fax 00 60 (0)9 362 2284
The Gap (TG)
The Gap Resthouse (Rumah Rehat Gap) is a splendid old colonial building at the junction of the KKB-Raub road and the road up to Fraser's Hill. Bird along the KKB-Raub Road on either side of TG or walk uphill and bird from the road up to FH. Good birds here include Black-thighed Falconet, Yellow vented and Wedge-tailed Pigeon, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Orange-breasted Trogon, Hornbills ( although we have not seen any here in 2 visits), Silver-breasted Broadbill and Pin-tailed Parrot Finch in the extensive bamboo stands (only when in flower). Marbled Wren Babbler may be found in the deep gullies on the road up to FH but is extremely unlikely.
As for FH, just get off the bus at TG.
TG is a great place to stay, recently renovated, costing RM40 for a big old room with high ceilings. Menu has not varied in the 2 years that we have been there and I suspect not in the last 20 but the food is good and the beer cold.
The Gap Resthouse
Tel 00 60 (0)9 362 2227
Kuala Selangor (KS)
KS is a nature park comprising lagoons, low scrub and mangrove on the coast near Selangor about 70kms from KL. It is easily birded and good birds here include Watercock, Red Jungle Fowl, Masked Finfoot (Oct-Apr), Mangrove Pitta, Buffy Fish and Brown Hawk Owl, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and Flyeater as well as a range of herons, kingfishers and woodpeckers.
Access is usually by bus from KL from Pudu Raya bus station. Having only one day to visit on this trip and wanting to get there early we arranged for Su KianYip, the taxi driver, to pick us up at 04.45am. Arrived at KS at dawn and left late morning when it was too hot to bird. This cost us RM140. If you have time KS is probably worth an overnight stay and there are small chalets, A-Frame Huts and camping options.
Kula Selangor Nature Park
45000 Kuala Selangor
Tel 603 889 2294
Fax 603 8894311
Khao Nor Chuchi KNC (also known as Khao Pra Bang Khram Non Hunting Area )
The site at KNC is a small remnant of the lowland evergreen and semi evergreen forest native to the area now vastly diminished and surrounded by oil palm and rubber tree plantation. This degraded forest appears, sadly, to be the only remaining site for Gurneys Pitta where, as of this year, anecdotal evidence indicates that there remain only 23 birds (10 pairs and 3 spare males). There is a trails system which is relatively easy to follow (see Goodie report from OBC for good maps) which gives access to all parts of the forest.
Although under great pressure the forest still retains a range of wonderful birds. Gurney's Pitta is clearly the key species but Giant, Hooded, Banded and Blue-winged Pittas are present along with a host of other species including Blyth's and Wallace's Hawk Eagle, Diard's and Scarlet-rumped Trogons, Black-and-red, Banded, Black- and-yellow and Green Broadbills, Red-crowned and Red-throated Barbets, Grey bellied, Olive-winged Cream-vented and Hairy-backed Bulbuls and Large Wren Babbler. The longstanding Malyasian Honeyguide is unfortunately missing, presumed dead from old age, and the stake out for Spotted Wood Owl had, apparently, been hounded from its roost by over-zealous photographers.
If you are desperate/cannot find Gurney's Pitta employing the services of Yothin Meekaeo will significantly increase your chances. After 2 days of hearing, but not seeing, Gurney's Pitta we hired Yothin and his nephew Nok for a morning. Within 30 minutes we were looking at a calling male Gurneys which we watched for 20 seconds before departing. During the remainder of the morning we saw a good number of other species. Yothin knows the forest like the back of his hand and I believe cares deeply about the plight of the pitta; in addition to which he was a good guy. He charges US $75 per half day and can be contacted at 01 228 4586.
By air from KL fly to Phuket, hire a car and drive the 150kms along Route 4 via Phang Nga to Krabi and continue on Route 4 for a further 40kms to the town of Klong Thom. Look for a PTT gas station on your left. By train from KL (or further up the line at Tanjung Malim if going direct from FH) take the train north to the Thai border town of Haad Yai, go to the main bus terminal and catch an aircon bus for Krabi getting off at Klong Thom and look for the PTT gas station, this time on the right. If coming in from Bangkok fly to Krabi, hire a car an drive the 40kms to the PTT gas station in Klong Thom.
Heading south from the PTT gas station turn left at the traffic lights at the next junction onto the A4038. After 0.1kms there is a choice of 3 roads. The A4038 continues bearing left, there is a road off to the right at a 90°angle, and another road virtually straight ahead i.e the middle option. Follow this minor but sealed road for c10kms to a junction with signs for the Morakot/Emerald Pool. Turn right onto this road and follow it straight to the Morakot which is on your left shortly after the sealed road becomes a driveable dirt road. The risk of getting stuck on the 1-2kms of dirt road leading to the Morakot is pretty low, but probably as well to rent a 4WD which seems to be the standard tourist hire vehicle anyway.
The Morakot Resort comprises 5 or 6 small but comfortable twin-bed chalets and a camping platform under palm leaf roof with open sides. There is a telephone number for the Morakot but reception is very dodgy and advance booking may be difficult although some have done it. The day we arrived all chalets were full and there were already 2 tents on the platform and a party of 4 Belgian birders were sleeping rough on the floor of the old Gurney Project HQ building. The 2 girls who operate the Morakot were tremendous and quickly erected a tent and provided bamboo matting to lie on, blankets and a couple of pillows. That said the concrete floor did rather restrict sleep but the following night we got one of the vacated chalets. Food at the Morakot was absolutely excellent, as was the cold Chang beer. Chalet/breakfast cost 400 Baht, tent only 120 Baht, dinner 55 Baht and beers 45 Baht. Tea & coffee available all day. The only possible downside of the Morakot is that it is run by people from outside the village of Ban Bang Tieo. Credit to them for doing a great job but the villagers (the ones putting pressure on Gurney habitat) therefore do not benefit from the presence of birders and it may help a little if birders bought, say lunch, at the foodstalls at start of the A trail.
The Morakot Resort business card lists the following adddresses and telephone numbers
15 Moo 2
Klongtom - Bangtieo Rd
Tel (01) 415 1982
The extensive mangroves at Krabi provide the opportunity to obtain good views of a number of mangrove specialists in particular Brown-winged and Ruddy Kingfishers, Masked Finfoot, Streak-breasted and Laced Woodpeckers, Mangrove Pitta and Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher. Between October and April the surrounding mudflats and sandbars also host a great variety of waders including Nordmann's Greenshank, Greater and Lesser Sand Plover, Malaysian Plover Terek Sandpiper and Great Knot.
As all other trip reports testify, the legendary Mr Dai is the boatman to use in the mangroves. He knows the birds, their calls, can whistle them up and knows how to approach them. We hired Mr Dai who fulfilled all his promise as well as being a great character. However as befits his status he charges a decent fee particularly if you book him through the Chan Pen Cafe who charge a premium. Given that when you first arrive you don't know what Mr Dai looks like, most people go to Chan Pen who will charge you 500Baht/hour. The second time we hired Mr Dai we did it directly and asked him his hourly rate - he smiled and said pay me what you wish. We paid 400Baht/hour and he seemed content.
For the sandbars we hired the first boatman who approached us, who took us to the rivermouth where found our own (by now small) flocks of waders which we scoped up from the shallows. Cost was 150Baht/hour.
See the section above on KNC.
Krabi is on the backpacker and tourist route so there is a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets. We splashed out and stayed at the Krabi - Meretime which cost 3000Baht/night. It's great accommodation but don't eat there - much better food in town.
Where to Watch Birds in Asia. Nigel Wheatley (Christopher Helm) 1996.
A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali. McKinnon J., Phillips K. 1993 OUP New York
A Field Guide to the Birds of West Malaysia and Singapore. Jeyarajasingam A., Pearson S. 1999 OUP New York
A Guide to the Birds of Thailand. Boonsong, Lekagul & Round. 1991 Saha Karn Bhaet [ISBN 974 85673 6 2 ]
A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia. Robson C. 2000 New Holland
Pittas Broadbills and Asities. Lambert & Woodcock 1996 Pica Press
Malaysia Compilation of 5 trips in the early 1990s. Eddy Myers.
Sabah A Birders Guide 1992. Seb Buckton.
Sabah 199?.Ian Mills et al.
Trip Report; Sabah (Malaysian Borneo)June 10-27, 1999. Aidan Kelly.
Sabah Trip Report February March 2000. Susan Myers
Peninsular Malayasia, Sabah & Southern Thailand, 1March-14April 2000. Jon Hornbuckle.
A Report on a Birding Trip to Malaysia and Southern Thailand. 16 April 2000 to 02 May 2000. Chris Goodie et al.
Many trip reports are available free on the Internet. The following sites are particularly good:
Birdtours Site http://www.birdtours.co.uk/
Whilst the Goodie report is available on the Internet, downloading it does not give you the very useful site maps which the hard copy report contains. The full report together with the Seb Buckton report are available from the Oriental Bird Club.
Oriental Bird Club
Steve Whitehouse also continues to provide a good range of hard copy trip reports.
Bird Sounds recorded in Sabah Borneo. Steve Whitehouse
Thanks to Aidan Kelly, Kalan Ickes, Brian Sykes, Ian Mills, Ron Demey and Rita Swinnen for information and advice freely given before the trip and to Phil and Charlotte Benstead, Joe Tobias and Nat Seddon for companionship and encouragement in Sabah.
Wed 28th March
6.20am KLM flight from Edinburgh arrived Schiphol at 9.50am. 12.15pm Malaysian flight to KL
Thurs 29th March
Arrived KL 6.00am, Malysian flight to KK left at 9.15am and arrived 12.05pm. Taxi to Trekkers Lodge. Checked in and then picked up a taxi to Likas Bay. Birded from 2.00pm to 5.30pm. Dinner in Chinese restaurant. Overnight at Trekkers Lodge.
Fri 30th March
Morning at Likas Bay where we eventually found White-browed Crake. Caught the local bus back to town. Taxi to Tanjung Aru, did some birding in the local park and checked out the American Golden Plover on the airfield. Birded along the waterfront in KK until dusk, picking up White-bellied Sea Eagle, Whiskered Tern and Little Swift among others. Dinner at the excellent Angs Hotel on Lrg Segama.
Sat 31st March
8.00 am air-con bus from the long-distance bus station on Jalan Tunku Abdul Raman - we bought our tickets in advance from Trekkers Lodge which saved us hassle from the ticket touts at the bus station. Arrived MKNP at 10.00am, checked in, walked to our chalet and out on the Silau-Silau trail by 11.00am. Birding was slow but we recorded Bornean Whistler, Yellow-breasted Warbler, Scarlet Minivet, Grey-throated Babbler, Golden-naped Barbet and Crimson Sunbird. Walked up the Bukit Tupai trail continuing on the Mempening Trail and back via Bukit Burung to Silau-Silau. Birding was very slow; heard Mountain Barbet. Dinner at the somewhat overpriced but adequate restaurant in the Admin Centre - the exhibition upstairs is worth a look. Mountain Scops Owl calling very close to the cabins.
Sun 1st April
Out at 6.00am, walked up the road to the junction of the Silau-Silau and the Kiau View trails- lots of birds calling including Whiteheads Broadbill and Crimson-headed Partridge but still too dark to see anything. Poor views of Temmincks Babbler which called here every morning and then immediately disappeared (we did eventually get decent views). Walked down Silau-Silau trail which yielded brief view of a female Black-breasted Fruithunter. The Admin Centre garden produced a few new birds including Indigo Flycatcher and Little Pied Flycatcher. Quick breakfast then walked along the road to the wooded area near the Manggilan Hostel where we looked in vain for the Whiteheads Trogon which had been reported here, but did see Sunda Whistling Thrush. Walked the Kiau View trail then continued up the Power Station Road to the 2K marker but again no sign or sound of Whiteheads Trogon. Around 15.30pm returned to the upper end of the Silau-Silau trail (our 5th traverse), we found Short-tailed Magpies and a pair of Whiteheads Broadbill! Dinner again at the Admin Centre restaurant.
Mon 2nd April
A windy, cool morning with markedly fewer birds calling than yesterday. Walked up the Power Station Road to the 2km marker to check out the site for Red-breasted Partridge but no luck. Walked down Silau-Silau and had a brief view of a White-browed Shortwing. Met Phil & Charlotte Benstead who told us about a Fruithunter nest further down the trail allowing great views of the female and later the male. Walked along the Mempenning trail finally seeing Mountain Barbet. Walked up the Pandanus trail to the junction with the Kiau View trail where we had great views of Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler, Chestnut-capped, Sunda and Black Laughing Thrush (the Bornean form surely must be a separate species). Returned once more to the upper end of the Silau-Silau trail where at last we had great views of a pair of the elusive Whiteheads Trogon. Dinner at the cafe near the entrance with Phil and Charlotte.
Tues 3rd April
Bus to the Power Station and started up the Summit Trail. Started off well with Mountain Black-eye and brief views of Crimson-headed Partridge. Walked up as far as the 3.5k marker heard one Friendly Bush Warbler but were unable to tape it in. Heard another Friendly Bush Warbler on the way down but again failed to see it. Hard work with little reward. Dinner at the cafe.
Wed 4th April
A slow day. Tried for Bornean Stubtail at various known locations but still no luck. A female Whiteheads Trogon and excellent views of the Fruithunter brightened up our day but heavy rain and a thunderstorm brought it to an early close.
Thurs 5th April
A most frustrating day - heard several Bornean Stubtail, taped them in fairly close but could not see any. Arranged for a minibus to take us to Poring Hot Springs next day at the reduced rate of 40RM (normal price 60RM). Met up with Joe Tobias & Natalie Seddon late in the afternoon - they had seen Whiteheads Spiderhunter a couple of days ago on Mempenning trail (the only report of a sighting so far). We headed off to try our luck and spent a couple of hours searching but with no success.
Fri 6th April
Went to Mempenning trail at first light but no sign of the Spiderhunter. Back to cabin at 09.00am to pack, minibus arrived at 9.35am; reached Poring by 10.30am. Spent most of the day around the Kipungit Waterfall area where amongst others we picked up a female Raffles Malkoha, Crested Jay, Chestnut-winged Babbler, Eye-browed Thrush, Yellow-eared Spiderhunter. Met up with Phil and Charlotte who said that birding was slow (!!) Ended the day relaxing in the hot springs. Dinner in the PHS restuarant.
Sat 7th April
Slow, wet morning with little activity until early afternoon. Saw Rufous and Banded Woodpecker on the way to the Kipungit Waterfall and followed the river downstream for excellent views of Oriental Cuckoo, brief views of Ruddy Cuckoo Dove, flight views of Gold-whiskered Barbet.
Sun 8th April
Set off for the Langannan Waterfall and joined up with Phil and Charlotte. We picked up Fluffy-backed Tit Babbler, White-crowned Forktail, Rufous-capped Babbler and Red-throated Barbet but unfortunately, no sight or sound of Blue-banded Pitta. Heard Yellow-crowned Barbet and Green Broadbill.
Mon 9th April
Birded around the gardens and hot springs at first light seeing Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, White-crowned Shama, Scaly-breasted Bulbul and Crested Jay. Checked out at 9.00am and got the minibus to Ranau arriving at 09.30am. Bus to Sandakan left at 10.00am and arrived at Jalan Sepilok road end at 13.15pm. Booked in to Sepilok Resthouse and arranged to meet up with Robert Chong (our guide for the Kinabatagan River) at 3pm. He introduced us to one of the rangers at the Sepilok Orangutan Centre, who agreed to meet us at 6am next day to let us in to the reserve (this appeared to be the only way to get in before the normal opening time). We then birded around the Centre and along the road until dusk adding Grey-throated Buzzard, Thick-billed Spiderhunter, Plain-throated and Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Grey-and-Buff Woodpecker and Short-toed Coucal to our list. Dinner at the Resthouse.
Tues 10th April
Entered the reserve at 6.00am and had great views of some inquisitive young Orang-utan. Heard Bristlehead calling and hurried to the feeding platform where we had fantastic, neck-breaking views of two birds as they hopped around the trees above our heads. Walked the Waterfall Trail to the Birder's Tower picking up Horsefields, White-chested, Scaly-crowned and Short-tailed Babblers en route and eventually getting excellent views of a calling Black-crowned Pitta. In the afternoon we birded the roads around Sepilok, seeing our first Hornbill of the trip with good flight views of an Oriental Pied Hornbill followed shortly afterwards by a massive and unexpected Lesser Adjutant. Birded the roads areound Sepilok where Grey and Buff Woodpecker, Scarlet-backed, Crimson-breasted, Orange-bellied and Scarlet-breasted Flowerpeckers, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Moustached Babbler and Black-winged Flycatcher Shrike were also added to the list. Dinner at the cafe near the guesthouse.
Wed 11th April
Entered the reserve at 6.15am and quickly had great views of a White-bellied Woodpecker. Walked the beginning of the Mangrove trail but very quiet so returned to the Waterfall Trail and had great views of a group of a group of 6 Bornean Bristleheads. Heavy rain curtailed birding but we later had Asian Black Hornbill and great scope views of Rufous-backed Kingfisher from our balcony. Dinner at the Resthouse.
Thurs 12th April
Left for Kinabatangan at 6.00am with Robert Chong. Good views of Wallaces Hawk-Eagle and Rufous-bellied Eagle along the Sukau road. Reached Gomantong caves at 9.45am where we identified Glossy, Black-nest, Moss-nest and Edible-Nest Swiftlets at their nests. Apparently, the tender process awarding the contract to harvest the nests had been delayed which meant that instead of taking nests before the birds had laid, all nests now had eggs. As a result thousands of swiftlet eggs were being destroyed. Arrived at the Kinabatangan River at 10.45am where a boat was waiting to take us to the Proboscis Lodge. Excellent afternoon on the river including superb, close-up views of Rhinoceros Hornbill, scope views of White-fronted Falconet (Tenangan tributary), great views of Blue-eared Barbet, Black-and-red Broadbill, Green Imperial Pigeon, 2 wild Orang-utan, Silver Langur and several large, pot-bellied Proboscis monkeys. Back to the Lodge at 6.30, had a good dinner, several beers.
Fri 13th April
On the river by 6.15am and up a narrow tributary (Manangu River) just downstream from the Lodge. Quieter than the previous day but a few new birds including Blue-eared Kingfisher, Great Slaty Woodpecker and Cinnamon-rumped Trogon. Later that day we went far downstream and improved our hornbill list with flight views of Bushy-crested, good perched views of Asian Black and poor late-evening views of Wrinkled. However, no sign of Storms Stork which was slightly worrying. After dinner we went on a short, night boat trip which produced several Buffy Fish Owl and excellent views of 3 Black-and-red Broadbills snuggling up together on a branch!!
Sat 14th April
6.00am found us with our last morning on the river, this time going upstream to the Ox-bow Lake where we found Lesser, White-bellied and Grey-headed Fish Eagles and Brown Barbet. Mounting concern over missing Storms Stork. Left the Lake and continued on downstream but fairly quiet. However fate smiled on us because suddenly out of nowhere, there appeared a group of 5 Storms Storks circling low over the river behind us! We watched them for several minutes and then, amazingly, saw a further 5 birds (1 single and 2 pairs) on our way back to the Lodge. Breakfasted, packed and were heading back along the Sukau road by 10.30. Robert dropped us at the road end at 11.45 and negotiated a minibus at RM10 each to take us to Lahad Datu. Following a somewhat nerve-wracking drive we arrived at the Danum Valley Field Centre offices at 1.00pm. Pre-booked transport to take us to the Field Centre appeared on time at 2.00pm. Arrived at DVFC around 4.00pm, birded along the river and waited for the Bat Hawk which duly appeared on cue over the bridge at 6.30pm. Picked up Brown Wood Owl behind the basketball court. Spent the first night in the Resthouse as the hostel was full of Boy Scouts but this proved to be expensive and not worth it as the fan was useless and it was so hot we didnt get any sleep anyway!
Sun 15th April
Up and out on the grid by 6.00am. Birding was very slow all day and we only managed to add a female Red-naped Trogon, Orange-backed, Buff-naped and Crimson-winged Woodpeckers and a Scaly-crowned Babbler to our list. Heard one brief call from a Blue-headed Pitta at W2 around 3.30pm but it failed to respond to tape and did not call again.
Mon 16th April
Up and out again at 6am with much the same results as yesterday - very quiet. Black-headed Pitta was the only Pitta calling and we spent ages trying to tape a calling Bornean Wren- Babbler into view without success. Spent a couple of hours on the first platform of the Hurrel Tree tower but all this produced was good views of a tribe of Maroon Langurs.
Tues 17th April
A very misty morning out on the grid with not much happening. Walked back to the Field Centre and then up the first section of the Waterfall Trail but apart from Bornean Gibbon and Giant Squirrel, still very quiet. We decided to change our tactics and arranged with the office staff for transport next day to take us to the Bornean Rainforest Lodge to try our luck there. We did go back to the grid later in the afternoon but gave up in despair at 4.00pm.
Wed 18th April
Left DVFC at5.20am arrived BRL by 6.15am and went out to the canopy walkway. There appeared to be more activity than at DVFC and we managed to get good views of Banded Broadbill and Grey-chested Jungle Flycatcher amongst others. Walked the Hornbill trail seeing Bornean Blue Flycatcher and although there was quite a bit of general activity there was no sign of Blue-headed Pitta. Also walked the first part of the trail leading to the jacuzzi pool where Joe and Natalie had seen a Blue-headed Pitta the previous day but no luck. Returned to the canopy walkway later in the afternoon and then went back to DVFC about 5.30pm.
Thurs 19th April
Walked the DVFC Nature Trail in search of Great Argus (2 dancing grounds) and Crested Fireback but all was quiet. Torrential rain forced us back to the Centre where we arranged transport to take us to BRL the following morning as we had decided to give up on DVFC and move to the BRL for our last couple of days. We spent the rest of the day in the grid again seeing female Crested Fireback, good views of Bornean Blue Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Forktail and a few babblers and bulbuls.
Fri 20th April
Transport arrived at 5am to take us to BRL. We arrived at 6.10am and by 7.30am we had seen Helmeted Hornbill, Orangutan, Bornean Gibbon, White-crowned Forktail, Bornean Bristlehead, Rufous-breasted Philentoma and Green Broadbill - so there was life in the rainforest after all! We had a much more fruitful day and caught up with many of the species we had been missing at DVFC. Much to our surprise we even found Pygmy White-eye and Black-backed Kingfisher in the gardens of the Lodge where they were supposed to be!! We went out on a night drive at 8.30pm but it was fairly quiet and only produced a Buffy Fish Owl and a Banded Malay Civet.
Sat 21st April
Met Wang Kong (local guide) at 5.30am and picked up pre-arranged transport which dropped us off at the gate at the main entrance to BRL. Plan was to walk back along the road until it was light enough to go into the trails but heavy rain meant that the light remained poor and we got very wet. Had a very frustrating glimpse of a disappearing male Diards Trogon but had good views of Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler, Scarlet-rumped Trogon and Large Wood-shrike before giving up and returning to the Lodge. Back out at 10.30am and almost immediately heard and saw a male Diards Trogon fairly close to the road. Walked back to the canopy walkway and then returned for a late lunch as the day warmed up. Out again at 3.00pm on the Hornbill Trail where we had great views of a pair of Scarlet-rumped Trogon and a female Great Argus. Canopy walkway produced Red-bearded Bee-eater, better views of a Large Wood-shrike, Green Imperial Pigeon, a Prevosts Squirrel and some Gibbons. To end the day, the Helmeted and Rhinoceros Hornbill put on a good show in the fruiting tree at the Lodge.
Sun 22nd April
Out again with Wang, round the nature trail and then along the road. We spent ages trying to tape in a Striped Wren-Babbler but although very close we never saw it. Walked the Tekala Trail but it was very quiet with only a Black Magpie to add to our list. Back to the Lodge for breakfast and left BRL at 10am. Arrived Lahad Datu at mid-day and decided to get a taxi to Semporna rather than wait for the mini-bus. Arrived Semporna at 2.15pm, checked our booking to Sipadan on Monday with Borneo Divers and then checked in to the Dragon Inn. Had a relaxing afternoon and dinner at the Seafest Cafe.
Mon 23rd April
Left Semporna on a fast launch at 9.45am (you have to wait for the customers arriving on the first flight from KK to Tawau). Arrived Sipadan at 11.00am - not much chance to bird on the way. Walked one of the trails seeing several Grey Imperial Pigeon before lunch. At 2.30pm walked around the island and had excellent views of Black-naped Fruit Dove along with several more Grey Imperial Pigeon. At 3.30pm we went out snorkelling with one of the dive boats which was stunning - dont miss it. Back on land we walked to the ruined accommodation huts and listened for a while until we heard rustling in the bushes and obtained great views of Tabon Scrubfowl. From the beach we later had good flight views of a single female Christmas Frigatebird, Pacific Reef Egret and White-bellied Fish Eagle. No sign of Nicobar Pigeon
Tues 24th April
Spent the morning birding and snorkelling and left after lunch returning to Semporna at 2.00pm where the Borneo Divers minibus was waiting to take us to Tawau airport. Arrived in good time for our flight at 5.40pm and got back to KK at 6.20pm. Taxi to Trekkers Lodge where, despite our previous re-confirmation, they did not have a booking for us. Took one of the available rooms overlooking the main street and spent a sleepless night. Excellent dinner at Angs Hotel.
Wed 25th April
Flight left on time at 10.35am, arrived KK at 1.00pm and got a taxi to Frasers Hill. Stopped at the Gap en route and booked accommodation for Sat night then drove on to FH where we booked in to the Quest. Managed to get in an hours birding interspersed with heavy rain before it got too dark. Found out that Spices cafe is no longer operating and our choice of eating places therefore very limited. Ate in the golf club cafe where the karaoke was loud, food dreadful and the beer expensive.
Thur 26th April
Awoken by the Muslim call to prayers at 5.50. Walked up to the old zoo end of the Bishops Trail where we immediately heard Rusty-naped Pitta calling. Responded to tape and came closer but we were unable to get any sight of it. However, we did get excellent views of Fire-tufted and Black-browed Barbet in a fruiting tree close by and later on had good views of Golden Babbler, a pair of Red-headed Trogon and most surprisingly, a Blue-winged Pitta sitting in the middle of the Hemmant Trail. We tried again later in the day for the Rusty-naped Pitta and again heard it calling but this time could not bring it any closer. Dinner in the Chinese restaurant next to Puncak Inn - food and beer ok.
Fri 27th April
Back to the Bishops Trail at 6.30am but still no luck with the Pitta - it called briefly but was a good bit further away and didnt respond to the tape. Walked up to High Pines but saw little. Walked to the Dump in pouring rain; complete waste of time as the famed dump is now part of a building site. Skies cleared around 3.00pm and we went back out on the Bishops Trail. Rusty-naped Pitta calling and eventually seen briefly by one of us following which the bird promptly disappeared.
Sat 28th April
Had a last try for the Pitta but no luck. Walked to the 2nd shelter then back to the Quest via the golf course which produced a pair of Little Pied Flycatchers and a Brown Shrike as well as a small feeding flock. Checked out and caught the 10.15 bus to The Gap. Birded along the road and caught up with some Bulbuls - Black-crested, Black-headed, Ochraceous, Ashy, Scaly-breasted and Stripe-throated!! Walked the Raub road after lunch and had a great afternoon seeing Black-thighed Falconet, Scarlet-naped Trogon, Sultan Tit, Orange-breasted Trogon, Silver-breasted Broadbill and Gold-whiskered Barbet. Celebrated with dinner and a couple of beers at The Gap.
Sun 29th April
Couldnt really improve on yesterdays birding but found female Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike sitting on a nest. Otherwise things were a bit quieter with Drongo Cuckoo and Red-rumped Swallow being the only birds of note. Pre-arranged taxi arrived at 12.30pm to take us to the airport in KL for our flight to Phuket. Arrived Phuket 18.15 and picked up our hire car (Suzuki mini 4WD). However as it was pouring with rain decided to stay in Phuket and drive to Krabi next day - booked in to Crown Nang Yai which was only 5 minutes from the airport.
Mon 30th April
Left Phuket at 7.20am and arrived Krabi at 9.30am. Found Chan Phen Travel office on the waterfront and booked Mr Dai for Friday. We tried to get him to take us out to the river mouth there and then but he said it was too late. However, we decided to go out with another boatman and spent a couple of hours on the sandbanks before the tide came in with decent views of Lesser Sand Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Rufous-necked Stint, Great Knot and Common Greenshank amongst the waders. Not surprisingly at this late date no sign of Nordmanns Greenshank. Left Krabi around 1.00pm and drove to Khlong Thom and then to Arrived KNC 2.30pm to find that all cabins were booked, but the staff set up a tent for us. Went out to the U trail 0.22 stake-out around 3.30-6.30pm but with 14 people sitting and standing not surprisingly there was no sign of the bird. Did get good views of a Large Wren Babbler.
Tues 1st May
Breakfast at 6.00am and back along to U0.22 stake-out. Stayed 3 hours - nothing but we did hear Gurneys calling much further up the U trail and went off in search of it but without any luck. Headed off to the B trail to check out a fruiting tree - good views of Red-crowned and Red-throated Barbets, Red-eyed, Grey-bellied and Cream-vented Bulbuls and Thick-billed Flowerpecker. Poured with rain and the rest of the day washed out. Spoke to Yothin in the evening about help in finding Gurneys, he didnt seem very keen but said he might go out with us the next day.
Wed 2nd May
Yothin appeared at breakfast but then promptly disappeared. Set off on our own and then bumped into Yothin along the trail where he agreed to guide us for the morning. Set off along the U trail, past the U0.22 stake-out and almost immediately heard a distant Gurneys calling. Yothin, following the sound, took us quickly to around U0.45 where we could hear the bird very close. After some agonising moments we had great views of a male Gurneys calling from a fallen log before it hopped off. Soon afterwards had great views of a calling perched Hooded Pitta further along the U trail. Yothin, now very charged, decided it would be great to end the season by finding all 5 Pittas in one day! Headed off trail to a Giant Pitta site but after an hour and a half decided our luck had now run out. Headed back to the U trail, picking up a few more Babblers on the way and eventually returning to the Morakot at 11.30. In the afternoon we went back to the fruiting tree on the B trail but it was fairly quiet. Muted celebrations in the evening as the Dutch and Belgians had still not seen the Pitta.
Thurs 3rd May
Breakfast at 6.00am and out along the road to KNC plateau where we had excellent flight views of Blue-winged Pitta at the plantation just beyond the fork to the A Trail. Headed back to the B trail which was fairly quiet - heard Hooded Pitta and had good views of a Green Broadbill. Walked along the A trail to the Emerald Pool but not much happening there either. Went back to the Morakot and left around 2pm for Krabi. Checked in to the Meritime, and went to Krabi airport finding numerous Oriental Pratincole and our one and only Indian Roller of the trip.
Fri 4th May
Out with Mr Dai at 6.30am, misty morning. Good views of Brown-winged Kingfisher, heard Mangrove Pitta calling and managed to see 3 birds very well but no sign of Ruddy Kingfisher. Left the mangroves at 8.30 to go out to the river mouth where it was high tide and fairly quiet. Same waders as earlier in the week. Back to Krabi at 10.30am and arranged to go out with Mr Dai again the following morning to try again for Ruddy Kingfisher. Mid afternoon went to the Ban Nai Chong site mentioned in the Chris Goodie report however we found it difficult to get access to the forest area as the tracks were very overgrown and mosquito infested. Started raining very heavily - the rest of the day was a complete wash-out.
Sat 5th May
Met Mr Dai at 7am and went back to the mangroves. This time we heard the Kingfisher calling and headed off down one of the smaller channels with Mr Dai whistling and calling to try to attract the bird. It always seemed to be just out of sight and we thought we were never going to get it close enough when it eventually flew over our heads giving us reasonable flight views. We then had another couple of flight views but despite all Mr Dais hard work, we never managed to get the bird perched. We headed back around 9.30am picking up some Dusky Crag Martins on the limestone outcrops. Had a late breakfast, packed up and left Krabi around 1pm, drove to Phuket and checked in to the Crown Nai Yang hotel again at 3.30pm. Returned the hire car and went back to the hotel for a bit of relaxation, had a swim and birded around the hotel, adding Chinese Pond Heron to our list. Dinner in the hotel.
Sun 6th May
A relaxing morning starting with an early swim, birded around the hotel and along the road where we managed to add a couple of Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters to our list, had another swim and left the hotel at 1.30pm. Taxi to the airport, flight to KL left on time at 3.45pm and arrived at 6.00pm. Taxi to Hotel Istana, checked in and contacted our driver from the FH trip to arrange to go to Kuala Selangor early next morning. Dinner at Indian restaurant around the corner from the hotel.
Mon 7th May
Taxi picked us up at 5.30am, arrived in KS at 6.45am where we spent 3-4 hours birding. Failed to see Red Junglefowl again but had good views of Pink-necked Pigeon, Pied Triller, Flyeater and Plaintive Cuckoo. No sign of Mangrove Pitta or Mangrove Whistler. Headed back to KL when it became too hot for birding and spent the rest of the day being tourists haggling over the price of fake Rolex in Chinatown. Dinner again in the Indian restaurant.
Tues 8th May
Up at 6.30am, had breakfast and checked out. Taxi picked us up at 7.20am and arrived at KLIA at 8.30am in plenty of time for our 10.50am flight back to the UK
Arrangements and Costs
At the time of our travel currency rates were 5.25Maysian Ringgit/£1 and 58Thai Baht/£1. All cost shown are stated in the currency in which we paid for them.
Travel - Flights
All our flight arrangements were made by Wildwings (Tel. 0117 9658 333) who were efficient and responsive. Return flights with KLM/Malaysian from Edinburgh to Kota Kinabalu via Amsterdam and Kulau Lumpur cost £613 per person. The single leg flight from Tawau to KK cost £20per person and the return flight from Kualu Lumpur to Phuket £121per person
Through Wildwings we hired a 4WD Suzuki jeep for 7 days from Budget at Phuket Airport. This cost £155 including insurance.
Listed below in chronological order are the other principal travel modes and costs.
Taxi from KK airport to Trekkers Lodge RM13
Taxi from KK to LB (2 trips @ RM6 per trip)
Bus from LB to KK (2 trips at RM0.50per person per trip)
Taxi from KK toTanjung Aru RM20 return
Aircon bus KK to MKNP RM 9.35 per person (pre-booked through Trekkers Lodge)
Minibus MKNP-PHS RM40
Minibus PHS-Ranau RM15
Aircon bus Ranau- Sepilok RM25 per person
Minibus Sukau Rd Junction-Lahad Datu RM10 per person
Minivan Lahad Datu-DVFC RM200
Minivan DVFC-BRL RM60 return (day visit)
Minivan DVFC-BRL RM30
Minivan BRL-Lahad Datu RM200
Taxi Lahad Datu-Semporna RM120
Taxi KK-Trekkers Lodge RM13
Taxi KL Domestic Airport (Subang)-FH RM130
Bus FH-TG RM0.90
Taxi TG-KLIA RM180
Taxi KLIA-Hotel Istana RM66 (Budget taxi at Gate 3)
Taxi Hotel Istana-KS RM150 return
Taxi hotel Istana-KLIA RM66
KK Trekkers Lodge aircon double room RM43 per night inc. breakfast
Trekkers Lodge fan cooled double room RM37 per night inc. breakfast.
MKNP Twin bed cabin RM92 per night
PHS Twin bed cabin (Tempua cabin) RM92 per night
SEP Sepilok Resthouse fan double room RM45 per night
R.Kinabatangan All in cost of 3 day trip with R Chong RM740 per person
DVFC DVFC Resthouse twin bed room RM80 per person per night
DVFC Bunk bed in Hostel RM43 per person per night
BRL Twin bed chalet RM450 per person per day inc. all meals
SEM Dragon Inn aircon double RM66.
Sipadan All in cost of 2day/1night trip
FH Quest Resort aircon double RM99 per night inc.breakfast
TG The Gap Resthouse fan cooled twin RM45 per night inc.breakfast
Phuket Crown Nai Yang aircon twin bedroom suite 2300 Thai Baht inc. breakfast
KNC Morakot resort two bed tent 120 Thai baht per night
Morakot resort fan cooled twin bed cabin 400 Thai baht per night inc. breakfast
Krabi Krabi Meretime Hotel suite 3148 Thai baht per night inc. breakfast
KL Hotel Istana deluxe aircon double RM235 per night.
Food Drinks and Sundries
Cost of meals and beers generally inexpensive
but with some variation. Very cheap in Thailand, inexpensive in KK and
Semporna and a bit pricier at MKNP, PHS and DVFC. On average about £6
per person per day will provide for food and a couple of beers.
The services of MrYothin Meekao cost $75 per half day.
The services of Mr Dai when hired through Chan Pen Cafe cost 500 Baht per hour.
Negotiated directly Mr Dai seemed happy with 400 Baht per hour. Other fishermen charge 150 Baht per hour.