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BORNEO: SABAH & SARAWAK

Borneo Birding Tours in Malaysia: our Borneo bird watching holiday is a classic bird watching experience in by far the richest part of this huge island for Bornean endemics. Our Borneo birding tour has the most comprehensive coverage of the Malaysian province of Sabah, including the Crocker Range, Mount Kinabalu (the highest mountain in Southeast Asia), the Kinabatangan River, Tabin and Danum Valley Nature Reserves. During the tour extension there is a great opportunity to explore eastern Sarawak, another Malaysian province with yet more specialities. This exciting adventure produces a rich bird list, including a remarkable number of Bornean endemics.

Thursday 28th March — Thursday 11th April 2019
(15 days)


Sarawak Extension: Thursday 11th April — Wednesday 17th April (7 days)

Leaders: a Birdquest leader and local bird guides

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations on the main tour, more varied walking conditions and mostly simple guesthouses and camping during the extension

Borneo is packed full of superb sundaic species that are shared with mainland Malaysia and Sumatra. It also has a number of unique endemics, amongst which, the most highly-prized, is the stunning Bornean Bristlehead, a species that is generally regarded as being in a family of its own (Simon Harrap)

Borneo is packed full of superb sundaic species that are shared with mainland Malaysia and Sumatra. It also has a number of unique endemics, amongst which, the most highly-prized, is the stunning Bornean Bristlehead, a species that is generally regarded as being in a family of its own (Simon Harrap)

Borneo – island of head-hunters, orang-utans and mighty Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea. For several centuries after its discovery by Europeans this great equatorial island remained shrouded in mystery. Fables grew up about the ‘Wild Men of Borneo’, the fearsome Dyaks who brought the heads of their enemies back to their longhouses. In the 19th century the island came under British and Dutch colonial rule, passing later, with the exception of the tiny sultanate of Brunei, to newly independent Malaysia and Indonesia. Even today settlement is largely confined to coastal areas and much of the interior remains remote.

From a wildlife viewpoint Borneo is one of the richest places on earth. Tropical rainforests originally covered almost the entire island and, although widespread felling is now seriously shrinking the forest, vast tracts remain and support an exotic profusion of flora and fauna. A visit to Borneo, a classic Asian bird tour if ever there was one, offers the chance to see the island’s rich and varied birdlife, which includes many endemic species, ranging from trogons to broadbills and from black-eyes to bristleheads, and also numerous other species restricted to the Indo-Malayan faunal subregion. Indeed, Bornean Bristlehead is now considered a monotypic bird family, so for anyone interested in seeing all the bird families of the world, Borneo is a key destination.

During this exciting journey we shall explore the state of Sabah in northern Borneo, which is politically part of Malaysia, visiting several very different areas in which the great majority of Borneo’s 52 avian endemics can be found.

Our journey commences at Kota Kinabalu, the provincial capital, where we shall explore some areas of wetland and grassland, but we shall pause only briefly at the coast before heading off into the interior, first visiting the Crocker Range and then Kinabalu Park. Here we have our first chances for such endemics as Bornean and Mountain Barbets, Whitehead’s Broadbill, Bornean Leafbird, Bornean Bulbul, Bare-headed Laughingthrush, the miniscule Pygmy White-eye (or Pygmy Ibon) and Whitehead’s Spiderhunter.

The majestic, rugged massif of Mount Kinabalu rises to 4101m, towering above the surrounding lowlands. Kinabalu dwarfs all other mountains in Borneo and the temperate climate at higher levels has resulted in the evolution of many endemic plants and animals. We should see many of Borneo’s endemics here, including Crimson-headed and Red-breasted Partridges, Bornean Swiftlet, the Whitehead’s Trogon, Golden-naped Barbet, the vivid Whitehead’s Broadbill, Fruit-hunter, Bornean Green Magpie, Bornean Treepie, Mountain Wren-Babbler, Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, and the diminutive Bornean Stubtail, Kinabalu Friendly Warbler, Bornean Whistling-Thrush, Bornean Forktail, Bornean Whistler, Eyebrowed Jungle Flycatcher, Black-sided Flowerpecker, Mountain Black-eye and Black-capped White-eye.

After descending to the lowlands, our adventure continues as we explore the huge caves at Gomantong, home of literally millions of bats and swiftlets. We will then move on to the Lower Kinabatangan Conservation Area, where we will look for the rare Storm’s Stork, Wrinkled Hornbill, the shy endemic Bornean Ground-Cuckoo and the endemic Dusky Munia, as well as the curious and fascinating Proboscis Monkey along the forest-fringed Kinabatangan River. This fine area also offers us our first chance for the charismatic Bornean Bristlehead, as well as many other lowland species.

The high points of our journey through the eastern lowlands will be our stays at Tabin Wildlife Reserve and finally the beautiful Danum Valley Conservation Area. Here we will visit both primary and secondary lowland rainforest with its rich avifauna, and we should see wild Bornean Orang-utans, the kings of the Bornean jungle, moving through this superb forest.

Notable birds we will be looking for at Danum and Tabin include White-fronted Falconet, the gorgeous Blue-headed Pitta, Black-crowned Pitta, the stunning Blue-banded Pitta, Bornean Banded Pitta, Bornean Black Magpie, the strange Bornean Wren-Babbler, Black-throated Wren-Babbler, Bornean Blue Flycatcher, Bornean Spiderhunter and Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker. We also have a high chance for Bornean Bristlehead during our explorations at Danum.

By the end of our travels through Sabah we will certainly appreciate why Borneo is considered such an important area by conservationists, for its fauna and flora are remarkable indeed.

During the optional extension we shall explore the neighbouring state of Sarawak in northern Borneo, which is also politically part of Malaysia, visiting a selection of mainly upland areas in which some of the most localized and little-known Bornean endemics can be found, along with many more widespread Bornean and Sundaic specialities, several of which are easier to find in Sarawak than elsewhere.

Our journey commences at Kota Kinabalu, the provincial capital of neighbouring Sabah, from where we will travel towards the Sarawak border and visit Klias Peatswamp in search of several notable localised species such as Hook-billed Bulbul, Grey-breasted Babbler and Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker. From here we will cross the border into Sarawak for an overnight stay before venturing into the highlands.

The Kelabit Highlands of Eastern Sarawak are home to several species that are either very difficult or impossible to find elsewhere, indeed two of these, Black Oriole and Dulit Frogmouth, have only been rediscovered by ornithologists within the last decade. The spectacular Hose’s Broadbill and diminutive Bornean Frogmouth are also present in this area and very rarely seen elsewhere, while species such as Mountain Serpent Eagle, Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, Blue-banded Pitta and Pygmy White-eye are generally easier to find in Sarawak than elsewhere in their range.

We will use two bases in the highlands in order to access a variety of upland forest habitats. At Ba’kelalan, where Dulit Frogmouth and Hose’s Broadbill are our top targets, we will stay in a simple but comfortable guesthouse from which we can access forests at varying altitudes along newly constructed but little used roads. At Paya Maga we will be camping at two sites, one of which is frequented by the almost unknown Black Oriole.

Birdquest has operated tours to Borneo since 1987.

Sarawak-only Option: You may opt to take just the Sarawak section as a stand-alone tour.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are of good standard throughout the main tour and for some of the Sarawak extension. During the Sarawak extension we will use simple homestay accommodation at Ba’kelalan, while at Paya Maga we will stay for two nights in simple camps set up by our local outfitters. Road transport is by small coach or minibus (or 4x4 vehicles in some parts of Sarawak) and roads are good in Sabah, much more variable in Sarawak.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, sometimes moderate, but there will be one optional fairly demanding walk on Mount Kinabalu. The hike up to our campsite at Paya Maga in Sarawak is mostly moderate but a bit more demanding at times.

Climate: At low altitudes mostly hot, dry and sunny, but overcast and rainy weather is not infrequent. On Mount Kinabalu conditions are similar but temperatures range from warm to cool (even fairly cold early in the morning high on Mount Kinabalu). It is often very humid.

Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Can be taken together with: TAIWAN

Borneo Tour Prices: Prices in the Malaysian state of Sabah are high by Asian standards, but there are good reasons for this. In the first place Malaysia is a surprisingly modern and well-developed country, and its tourism sector in Sabah is highly developed and comfortable. In the second place there is now a lot of demand, including from Asian visitors as well as those from outside, for a very small number of jungle lodges in Sabah. Finally, there are only a very limited number of local agents that specialize in eco-tourism. This combination makes for high prices.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £4990, €5690, $6540 Kota Kinabalu/Kota Kinabalu. Single Room Supplement: £616, €702, $807. Deposit: £600, €720, $780.

Sarawak Extension: £1750, €1990, $2290 Kota Kinabalu/Kota Kinabalu. Single Room/Tent Supplement: £91, €103, $119. Deposit: £300, €360, $390.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes this flight: Lahad Datu-Kota Kinabalu.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.150.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

A number of nightbirds are often seen including the fabulous Buffy Fish Owl which seems particularly easy to see at Danum Valley (Simon Harrap)

A number of nightbirds are often seen including the fabulous Buffy Fish Owl which seems particularly easy to see at Danum Valley (Simon Harrap)

Borneo is one of the best countries in Asia for seeing mammals. This small form of Asian Elephant found in Borneo is sometimes referred to as Bornean Pygmy Elephant (Simon Harrap)

Borneo is one of the best countries in Asia for seeing mammals. This small form of Asian Elephant found in Borneo is sometimes referred to as Bornean Pygmy Elephant (Simon Harrap)

Other highly-sought endemics include Whitehead's Trogon (Simon Harrap)

Other highly-sought endemics include Whitehead's Trogon (Simon Harrap)

... and the unique Fruit-hunter (Simon Harrap)

... and the unique Fruit-hunter (Simon Harrap)

It's a good country for hornbills; these are Bushy-crested Hornbills (Simon Harrap)

It's a good country for hornbills; these are Bushy-crested Hornbills (Simon Harrap)

Large-billed Blue Flycatcher is confined to the lowlands of Borneo and Sumatra (Simon Harrap)

Large-billed Blue Flycatcher is confined to the lowlands of Borneo and Sumatra (Simon Harrap)

Other interesting Sundaic species include Striped Wren-Babbler (Simon Harrap)

Other interesting Sundaic species include Striped Wren-Babbler (Simon Harrap)

... the delightful Red-bearded Bee-eater (Pete Morris)

... the delightful Red-bearded Bee-eater (Pete Morris)

... and the rare Wallace's Hawk-Eagle (Simon Harrap)

... and the rare Wallace's Hawk-Eagle (Simon Harrap)

Amazing Proboscis Monkeys are always a firm favourite (Simon Harrap)

Amazing Proboscis Monkeys are always a firm favourite (Simon Harrap)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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