The forests of Borneo contain the largest and most spectacular rainforest trees found anywhere in the tropics; they are also the oldest rainforests on earth. The diversity of life in these forests is as dazzling as the trees are gigantic. This is a tour of the Malaysian province of Sabah in northern Borneo, a highly prosperous state with a good infrastructure and an excellent national parks system. We will be focusing on the lowland dipterocarp forests of the Danum Valley, and the montane forests of Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain between the Himalaya and New Guinea.
Following our arrival in Kota Kinabalu, the bustling and affluent capital of Sabah, we will take a short flight to the frontier town of Lahad Datu in the east of the province. From here we will take a 4-wheel drive vehicle to the Danum Valley Conservation Area, one of only two substantial areas of protected primary forest remaining in Sabah. Our luxury lodge is scenically located in the heart of hundreds of square kilometres of this primary forest, and will be our base for the next six nights. During our stay we will explore the forest, making full use of the excellent network of trails.
The forests of the Danum Valley provide an unrivalled opportunity for observing a wide range of lowland forest birds and mammals. During our extended stay we will see some of Sabah’s most spectacular birds, including Great Argus Pheasant, several species of hornbill, including the largest and most spectacular of all—the Rhinoceros and Helmeted Hornbills. We may also see three species of pitta, including the endemic Black-and-crimson, Blue-headed, and the diminutive Blue-banded, plus the endemic Bornean and Black-throated Wren-babblers. After dark we will search for the mysterious nocturnal frogmouths, one of the least known bird families on earth. If we are very fortunate, we may see the enigmatic Large Frogmouth during our stay, and its smaller relative, the Javan Frogmouth. Amongst the wide range of forest mammals here, we will hope to see a good selection of primates, including Bornean Gibbon, Red Leaf Monkey and Orang-utan. If we are particularly fortunate, we may also see the endemic Hose’s Langur. Regular nocturnal forays by jeep should allow us to glimpse some larger game, such as Elephant and Banteng and, perhaps, even Clouded Leopard or Flat-headed Cat! Larger forest mammals are never easy to see, but we are sure to see such smaller mammals as the nomadic Bearded Pig, Yellow Muntjac and Red Giant Flying Squirrel.
From the Danum Valley we will move on to the Kinabatangan River, which drains an extensive area of northern Borneo. We will travel along this major watercourse by motorised canoe, hoping to see some of the wildlife along its banks. The riverine forest is quite different in character to the lowland dipterocarp forest at Danum Valley, and it will provide us with an opportunity of seeing species seldom encountered elsewhere. We will be looking particularly for the remarkable Proboscis Monkey, and the handsome, and now sadly much depleted, Wrinkled Hornbill. From our lodge in the forest we will explore a series of ox-bow lakes that are home to the little known Storm’s Stork and the Jerdon’s Baza, and also visit nesting colonies of Black-nest and Mossy-nest Swiftlets located in the dramatic Gomantong Caves. Moving on, we will break our long journey west with a night at Sepilok and a visit to the Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre for a fascinating insight into the conservation of these endearing apes.
Our next destination is Mount Kinabalu National Park. This magnificent park of about 77,000 hectares was established in 1964 to protect the massif of Mount Kinabalu, and the surrounding area. The montane forests of Mount Kinabalu provide an unrivalled opportunity of seeing most of Borneo’s montane birds and some equally impressive pitcher plants. At lower elevations we will hope to find Whitehead’s Trogon and Whitehead’s Broadbill, whilst at higher elevations we will look for the Friendly Warbler, Black-breasted Triller, Kinabalu Serpent Eagle and Mountain Blackbird. For those really adventurous among the group, there will be the opportunity to climb to the summit of this 4,101-metre mountain, which at dawn provides unforgettable views across northern Sabah.
From our comfortable base at the headquarters of Kinabalu National Park, we will visit the forest around the Poring Hot Springs. Here, we will look for sub-montane forest birds, and the world’s largest flower, the massive and astonishing Rafflesia. Of the world’s dozen species, the flower of the largest, which is found on Sumatra, grows up to one metre across!
Finally, before our return flight to London, we will visit one of the small islands lying off Kota Kinabalu, in search of the Philippine Scrubfowl. Like all scrubfowl, this remarkable bird buries its eggs in a large mound of vegetation, and the heat generated by this fermenting mass of vegetation actually incubates the eggs!
In all I loved the trip, very enjoyable. Overall Satisfaction: First Class.
The wildlife watching was extraordinary and exceeded my expectations.
Haswan clearly had outstanding knowledge and experience of the Bornean avifauna and was dedicated to finding and showing as many species as possible to his clients.
Terry did an excellent job of managing the very varied interests and physical abilities of this group, with patience and good humour. As a mammalogist, I very much appreciated his excellent spot-lighting skills which helped to maximise the number of mammals we saw on this trip. As a lone traveller, I am grateful for his company between scheduled activities and as a fellow biologist enjoyed sharing our wildlife experiences of other countries.
Both Nick and Osman made a great effort to see that on the days where it would have been difficult for me to take part I was helped by Osman, often on a one to one basis, to be able to cover as much as was possible...it made my holiday a very pleasing experience.
We saw the Orang-utans very well in the wild which was my main reason for joining this trip...the extension to Taman Negara was great...this is where I had my most memorable birding highlight.
I have done several previous trips, a number of which have been with Naturetrek, but, whilst they have all been exceptionally enjoyable, the Borneo trip from which I have just returned really blew me away. Being a primarily a mammal enthusiast, although also having a keen interest in birds, I was just overawed by being able to see Orang-utans in the wild. We had absolutely fantastic sightings and I was lucky enough to get some fabulous DVD footage and stills. Whilst our wildlife sightings really made for a fantastic trip, I think what made it really special was the quality of our guides. Wang, our local guide in Danum valley was amazing, finding us some really difficult stuff, but I want to give special mention to Osman and Chris. Osman was a fabulous personality and his knowledge was exceptional. As for Chris, what can I say, he was the most professional, knowledgeable, likeable guide I have ever had the privilege of travelling with. Not only were his spotting skills out of this world, he also showed real care for his clients and enthusiasm for getting them to see as much as possible. The trip would have been enjoyable anyway but with Chris as our leader our trip was absolutely fantastic. I hope that I get to travel with him in the future. He should be cloned and offered on every trip!!! Thanks again to Naturetrek for giving us yet another extremely enjoyable holiday.
D.B. & T.L.
What a tour!!! Thanks so much. Chris Kehoe, the best, fantastic guy, great leader. Osman, brilliant, wonderful person. Accommodation, food, itinerary, ground agents, organisation, flights, birds, mammals, flora, all of the highest quality. It made for the best trip we have ever had the pleasure of participating in with Naturetrek. Chris is the ultimate professional and we look forward to travelling with him again in the future.
J.H. & C.S.
This holiday far exceeded my expectations and this was primarily due to the enthusiasm and incredible expert knowledge of the two trip leaders Chris and Osman. This holiday has personally changed our outlook on the future, something for which we are immensely grateful.