The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Asia (and its islands)


Thursday 1st August – Sunday 11th August 2024

Leader: Yeo Siew Teck

11 Days Group Size Limit 6
Bornean Peacock-Pheasant Extension

Tuesday 30th July – Thursday 1st August 2024

3 Days Group Size Limit 7
Friendly Bush Warbler Extension

Monday 29th July – Tuesday 30th July 2024

2 Days Group Size Limit 7
Thursday 17th July – Sunday 27th July 2025

Leader: Yeo Siew Teck

11 Days Group Size Limit 7
Bornean Peacock-Pheasant Extension

Tuesday 15th July – Thursday 17th July 2025

3 Days Group Size Limit 7
Friendly Bush Warbler Extension

Monday 14th July – Tuesday 15th July 2025

2 Days Group Size Limit 7


Birdquest’s Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Specialities of Sarawak birding tours to the Sabah and Sarawak States in East Malaysia are definitely ‘Borneo with a Difference’ in that they seek out most of the endemics that are not possible on the classic Sabah itinerary that has been operating for so many years!

This very different birding tour combines the Klias wetlands and the Ba’kalalan highlands and Paya Maga in Sarawak with the amazing Bulwer’s Pheasants of Trus Madi! There are even extensions to take in Bornean Peacock-Pheasant and the very range-restricted Friendly Bush Warbler elsewhere in Sabah.

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 Malaysia’s Sarawak province and to Trus Madi in Sabah in northern Borneo offers the keen birder the opportunity to see some little-known and still relatively seldom observed endemic specialities.

Our Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak birding tour commences at Kota Kinabalu, the provincial capital of Sabah.

We will initially travel southwards from Kota Kinabalu to the Trus Madi region, where the much sought-after but until recently rarely-observed Bulwer’s Pheasant has taken to coming regularly to photo hides/blinds. Well, who knows how long this wonderful bird will continue to do so? Hopefully for years and years, but going quickly could be a good move. Many other birds visit the blinds in the area, including the shy, zany-looking Crested Partridge so it is quite an experience!

Afterwards, we head towards the Sarawak border and visit Klias Peatswamp not far from Beaufort in search of several notable localised species such as Red-crowned Barbet, Hook-billed Bulbul, Grey-breasted Babbler and Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker. From here we will cross the border into Sarawak and start our exciting venture into the interior highlands.

Next, we explore a selection of mainly upland areas in Sarawak in which some of the most localized and little-known Bornean endemic birds can be found, along with many more widespread Bornean and Sundaic specialities, some of which are easier to find in Sarawak than elsewhere.

The Kelabit Highlands of Eastern Sarawak are home to several Bornean endemic 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 (or Pygmy Ibon) are generally easier to find in Sarawak than elsewhere in their range.

We will use two bases in the highlands to access a variety of upland forest habitats. At Ba’kalalan, Dulit Frogmouth and Hose’s Broadbill are our top targets, while at Paya Maga we will be in search of the almost unknown Black Oriole at its only known reliable site.

The rare and elusive endemic Bornean Peacock-Pheasant has taken to regularly appearing at a photo hide/blind in the Telupid region of Sabah. If you would like to try your luck with this amazingly beautiful bird, you can take our special extension before the main tour. The peacock-pheasant is not as reliable as the Bulwer’s Pheasants have become, so is more of a lottery, but most of the time it turns up!

And for those who are prepared for a short but steep hike, there is a further pre-tour extension available to see the extremely range-restricted Friendly Bush Warbler (or Kinabalu Friendly Warbler)

This tour can be taken together with CLASSIC BORNEO: SABAH

Birdquest has operated Borneo birding tours in Malaysia since 1987.

Why camp inside the cabins at Paya Maga? The problem with staying in a guesthouse at Long Tuyo is that it is a three-hour hike up to Paya Maga so it is not only a long return hike in a single day but you cannot get up to Paya Maga for the key early morning hours. If you miss Black Oriole or any other key species the only solution is to do it all again the following day! For those over 50, this is not a good option. In addition, staying at Paya Maga benefits the local community who act as porters and camp crew, and also promotes the conservation of the forest.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotel at Kota Kinabalu is of good quality. At Trus Madi the lodge is surprisingly good for such a remote accommodation, being simple but comfortable accommodation with shared bathrooms. The hotel and guesthouse accommodation at Ranau, Tambunan and Beaufort is comfortable medium grade. At Telupid the hotel is rather simple. In Sarawak, we will mostly use simple but comfortable homestay accommodation, while at Paya Maga we will stay overnight in a simple but quite comfortable camp set up by our local outfitters (the tents are actually pitched inside cabins and are available for either twin or single occupancy). Road transport is by small coach or minibus/passenger van and by 4×4 vehicles in some areas. Roads range from good to bad.

Walking: The walking effort during our Sabah Pheasants and Sarawak birding tour is mostly easy, occasionally moderate. The hike up to our campsite at Paya Maga is mostly moderate grade, but a bit more demanding in places. There will be plenty of time to cover the ground. Those taking the Friendly Bush Warbler extension have to contend with a relatively short (one hour plus) but steep hike on a trail with large natural steps up and down in the dwarf forest. You will need a trekking pole unless you are unusually fit.

Climate: At low altitudes, mostly hot, dry and sunny, but overcast and rainy weather is not infrequent. At higher altitudes conditions are similar but temperatures range from warm to cool. It is often very humid.

Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities during our Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak birding tour are worthwhile.


  • Exploring the more remote corners of Borneo for some of the scarcest, most sought-after of the island's endemics
  • A dream encounter with Bulwer's Pheasant from a photo hide/blind in the Trus Madi area of Sabah
  • Threatened peat swamp forest holds the interesting Hook-billed Bulbul, Red-crowned Barbet, and with luck the stunning Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker
  • Visit the Kelabit Highlands, where Dulit Frogmouth and Black Oriole are big targets
  • The beautiful Hose’s Broadbill and diminutive Bornean Frogmouth are regular in the hills, as is Mountain Serpent Eagle
  • The skulking Black-throated Wren-Babbler is much easier to see in Sarawak than elsewhere
  • Both Blue-banded Pitta and Bornean Banded Pitta are hit-and-miss in Sabah, but we should find both in Sarawak
  • Watching the sought after endemic Bornean Peacock-Pheasant at another hide/blind in a little-visited part of Sabah


  • Day 1: Midday extension start at Kota Kinabalu airport, Sabah, Malaysia. Drive to Mount Kinabalu for overnight.
  • Day 2: Morning hike for Friendly Bush Warbler. After lunch meet up with those taking the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant Extension.
  • Day 1: Midday tour start at Kota Kinabalu airport, Sabah, Malaysia. Drive to Telupid via Mount Kinabalu.
  • Day 2: Full day at the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant hide/blind.
  • Day 3: Second session at the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant hide/blind. Transfer to Ranau to meet up with main tour arrivals.
  • Day 1: Midday tour start at Kota Kinabalu airport, Sabah, Malaysia. Drive to Ranau.
  • Day 2: Crocker Range, then drive to Trus Madi. First hide visit.
  • Day 3: Trus Madi including Bulwer's Pheasant and Crested Partridge Hides/Blinds.
  • Day 4: Trus Madi including hide/blind if need be, then drive to Beaufort.
  • Day 5: Klias Wetland Reserve, then cross into Sarawak and continue via Lawas to Ba'kalalan.
  • Day 6: Ba’kalalan area.
  • Day 7: Ba’kalalan area, then drive to Long Tuyo.
  • Day 8: Long Tuyo, then travel to Paya Maga.
  • Day 9: Paya Maga, then return to Long Tuyo.
  • Day 10: Long Tuyo area, then drive to Beaufort.
  • Day 11: Transfer to Kota Kinabalu airport to arrive around midday.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.


Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers, boatmen and accommodation/restaurant staff.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

2024: confirmed £3030, $3890, €3530, AUD5870. Kota Kinabalu/Kota Kinabalu.
Bornean Peacock-Pheasant Extension: £690, $890, €800, AUD1340. Kota Kinabalu/Ranau.
Kinabalu Bush Warbler Extension £350, $450, €400, AUD670. Kota Kinabalu/Ranau.
2025: provisional £3030, $3890, €3530, AUD5870. Kota Kinabalu/Kota Kinabalu.
Bornean Peacock-Pheasant Extension: £690, $890, €800, AUD1340. Kota Kinabalu/Ranau.
Friendly Bush Warbler Extension: £350, $450, €400, AUD670. Kota Kinabalu/Ranau.

Single Supplement: 2024: £230, $300, €270, AUD450.
Bornean Peacock-Pheasant Extension: £60, $80, €70, AUD120.
Kinabalu Bush Warbler Extension £40, $60, €50, AUD90.
Single Supplement: 2025: £230, $300, €270, AUD450.
Bornean Peacock-Pheasant Extension: £60, $80, €70, AUD120.
Friendly Bush Warbler Extension: £40, $60, €50, AUD90.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

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.


Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: Day 1  Our tour starts around midday at Kota Kinabalu airport in Malaysia’s Sabah state in northern Borneo.

(It is generally easy to incorporate Kota Kinabalu into your international tickets if you are flying with Malaysian Airlines, but if you are arranging your international flights yourself and would find it easier if we arranged your regional flights for you, we will be pleased to assist.)

From Kota Kinabalu, we will transfer to the town of Ranau, situated to the east of Mount Kinabalu, for an overnight stay.

Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: Day 2  This morning we will set out early and visit an area in the Crocker Range where we have a good chance of seeing both Crimson-headed Partridge (or Bloodhead) and Red-breasted Partridge.

Afterwards, we will continue to the Trus Madi area for a two nights stay. In the late afternoon, we will have our first hide/blind session, hoping to see the wonderful but shy Crested Partridge come to a feeder.

Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: Day 3  Today should be something extraordinary as we visit one or two hides/blinds where the rarely observed endemic Bulwer’s Pheasant regularly comes to feed. Quite often multiple individuals are present! Needless to say, encountering this amazing bird is going to be one of those ‘memories of a lifetime’!

Another amazing visitor to the hides is the spectacular Great Argus pheasant with its enormous tail!

Other species that regularly occur at the hides/blinds include such Bornean endemics as the dazzling Bornean Banded Pitta and Dayak Blue Flycatcher, plus the perky Short-tailed Babbler.

While at Trus Madi we also have chances for Blue-banded Pitta, the monotypic Rail-babbler, Bornean Bulbul, Bornean Leafbird, Pygmy White-eye (or Pygmy Helaeia) and Bornean Spiderhunter.

After dark, we will be seeking the impressive Barred Eagle-Owl and Bornean Frogmouth.

Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: Day 4  After a final morning (perhaps at one of the hides) we will transfer to Beaufort for an overnight stay. We may arrive in time for an initial visit to Klias Wetland.

Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: Day 5  This morning we will reach the Klias Wetland Reserve near the Sarawak border by first light. The lowland peat-swamp forest here is a rare habitat nowadays in the Malaysian parts of Borneo and the protected fragment at Klias is home to several localized, habitat-specific species. We will be searching in particular for Hook-billed Bulbul, Red-crowned Barbet, Grey-breasted Babbler and Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker.

Additional species we are likely to encounter today include the near-endemic Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, Black-bellied Malkoha, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Long-tailed Parakeet, Common Hill Myna, Grey-and-buff Woodpecker, Diard’s Trogon, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Glossy Swiftlet, Oriental Magpie-Robin, House Swift, Asian Palm Swift, Collared Kingfisher, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Pacific and Barn Swallows, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Ashy Tailorbird, Chestnut-rumped, Fluffy-backed and Chestnut-winged Babblers,  Yellow-vented Bulbul, Pied Triller, Malaysian Pied Fantail, White-breasted Wood Swallow, Black Hornbill,  Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Olive-winged Bulbul, Asian Glossy Starling, Olive-backed Sunbird, Eurasian Tree Sparrow Spotted and Zebra (or Peaceful) Doves, Greater Green Leafbird,  Ruby-cheeked, Copper-throated, Olive-backed and Brown-throated Sunbirds, the near-endemic Dusky Munia and Chestnut Munia.

Afterwards, we will cross the border into Malaysia’s Sarawak province. At Lawas we will change to 4×4 vehicles for our journey to the remote settlement of Ba’kalalan, situated at 975m (3200ft) in the Kelabit Highlands, close to the border with Kalimantan, where we will stay for two nights.

Stops along the way could well produce Red-bearded Bee-eater, Yellow-crowned Barbet, Dark Hawk-Cuckoo and Brown-backed Needletail among others.

Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: Day 6  Large tracts of excellent submontane forest are a feature of the Ba’kalalan area and these are now accessible along recently constructed but little-used roads that span a wide altitudinal range.

The forests around and above Ba’kalalan are home to such specialities as Dulit and Bornean Frogmouths and Hose’s Broadbill and we will be concentrating on these Bornean endemics as they are either very difficult or impossible to see in other areas in Borneo that are visited by birders.

In addition, an excellent variety of other Bornean specialities occur in the area, including Bornean Banded and Blue-banded Pittas, Whitehead’s Broadbill, Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, Pygmy White-eye (or Pygmy Ibon), Bornean and Mountain Barbets, Bornean Leafbird, Bornean Bulbul, Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush, Bornean Spiderhunter, Bornean Treepie, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, Golden-naped Barbet, Black-throated Wren-babbler and Mountain Serpent Eagle, several of which are easier to see in Sarawak than elsewhere.

In addition to the endemic frogmouths, other nightbirds present include Malaysian Eared Nightjar, Sunda Scops Owl, Bar-bellied Eagle-Owl and Brown Hawk-Owl, though a certain element of luck is required with some of these species.

Red-breasted, Crimson-headed and Ferruginous Partridges all occur but are hard to see in the impenetrable forest. There is even a slim chance of coming across the extremely rare Bulwer’s Pheasant in the hills around Ba’kalalan.

More widespread species that we are likely to encounter here include Crested Honey Buzzard, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Black-bellied Malkoha, Giant Swiftlet, Orange-breasted Trogon, Banded Kingfisher (the Bornean form is sometimes split as Black-faced Kingfisher), Philippine and Little Cuckoo-Doves, Golden-whiskered and Blue-eared Barbets (the Bornean and Malay Peninsula forms of the latter are sometimes split as Black-eared Barbet), Banded, Olive-backed and Orange-backed Woodpeckers, Green, Banded and Black-and-yellow Broadbills, Black-thighed Falconet, Cinereous Bulbul (the form here, connectens, is sometimes split as Green-winged Bulbul), Black-headed Bulbuls, Lesser Green Leafbird, Large Woodshrike, Sunda Cuckooshrike, Scarlet Minivet, Rufous-tailed Jungle Flycatcher, Indigo and Hill Blue Flycatchers (plus Dark-sided and Asian Brown Flycatchers at times when these migrants are present), Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Rufous-fronted and Temminck’s Babblers, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Ashy and Hair-crested Drongos, Crested Jay, Slender-billed Crow, Temminck’s Sunbird, Plain Flowerpecker, Little Spiderhunter and Paddyfield Pipit.

Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: Day 7  After a final morning in the Ba’kalalan region we will return northwards until we reach Long Tuyo where we will spend the night.

Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: Day 8  After some early morning birding around Long Tuyo we will drive along a long-disused logging track to the vicinity of Paya Maga. From the end of the drivable track, we have a two-hour walk higher into the hills. We should arrive in time for lunch and we will have the rest of the afternoon to explore the Paya Maga area.

It is around our camp at approximately 1700m (5578ft) that we expect to find the recently rediscovered endemic Black Oriole, which is a regular visitor to the area.

Being at a generally lower elevation than Ba’kalalan and with higher rainfall, the forest at Paya Maga contains a subtly different avifauna, including a higher volume of fruit-eating species. There is much overlap in species, however, so we will have second chances for some of the trickier species, such as Blue-banded Pitta and Dulit and Bornean Frogmouths.

With a bit of good fortune, we will also encounter one or more of the scarcer or shyer species of the area such as Crested Partridge, Great Argus (usually only heard), White-crowned Hornbill, the rare endemic Hose’s Broadbill, White-necked Babbler or even the monotypic Rail-babbler.

Additional species we may expect to encounter at Paya Maga include Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Common Emerald Dove, Raffles’s and Red-billed Malkohas, Banded Bay and Plaintive Cuckoos, Whiskered Treeswift, Rhinoceros, Wreathed and Helmeted Hornbills, Brown Barbet, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Maroon-breasted Philentoma, Bar-winged and Black-winged Flycatcher-shrikes, Black-naped Monarch, Slender-billed Crow, Scaly-breasted, Cream-vented, Asian Red-eyed, Spectacled, Finsch’s, Yellow-bellied, Buff-vented and Streaked Bulbuls, Grey-headed and Black-capped Babblers, Bold-striped Tit-Babbler, Everett’s White-eye, White-rumped Shama, Yellow-eared Spiderhunter and Grey-breasted Spiderhunter.

Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: Day 9  After some final birding at Paya Maga we will descend to the road and transfer to Long Tuyo for an overnight stay.

Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: 10  The lower altitude forests around Long Tuyo hold a wide selection of widespread Bornean birds and there is also another chance of the elusive Rail-babbler in this area.

Later we will return to Beaufort for an overnight stay.

Borneo: Sabah Pheasants & Sarawak: Day 11  This morning we will return to Kota Kinabalu airport, arriving around midday.



Bornean Peacock-Pheasant: Day 1  The extension starts around midday at Kota Kinabalu airport. Transfer to Telupid via Ranau for a two nights stay.

Bornean Peacock-Pheasant: Day 2  The wonderful Bornean Peacock-Pheasant has taken to visiting a hide/blind in this part of Sabah, although not as reliably as the Bulwer’s Pheasants at Trus Madi. Even so, the chances over two days are very good.

Other birds turn up at the hide. The spectacular Bornean Crested Fireback is fairly regular and other visitors have, on rare occasions, included Giant Pitta!

Bornean Peacock-Pheasant: Day 3  We will return to the peacock-pheasant hide today and then transfer to Ranau to join up with those arriving for the main tour.



Friendly Bush Warbler: Day 1  The extension starts around midday at Kota Kinabalu airport. Transfer to Mount Kinabalu for an overnight stay.

Friendly Bush Warbler: Day 2  Once upon a time the endemic and very range-restricted Friendly Bush Warbler, also known as Kinabalu Friendly Warbler or Kinabalu Grasshopper Warbler, was relatively simple to see. You just hiked along the first part of the trail up Mount Kinabalu beyond the roadhead. Sadly, not in recent times as the park closed off the trail to all but those heading for the summit of the mountain. The summit trail is now strictly regulated.

Luckily there is another locality where the species is relatively straightforward to see and access only requires a relatively short (1 hour) but steep walk. This morning we will be visiting the area and we have a very high chance of good views of this fairly shy warbler that does not really live up to its name!

After lunch we will meet up with those arriving for the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant extension and head for the town of Telupid.




by Dáni Balla

View Report


by Dáni Balla

View Report


View Report

Other tours focusing on Asian islands, excluding Indonesia, include: