We've just returned from a trip to Sabah. A guest of the Sabah Tourism
Board I was invited to speak at the Borneo Bird Festival.
As an organiser said, myself and other speakers were there to help the
country with its avi/wildlife tourism. So I talked about birdwatching
facilities, my research on birding couples and experiences helping my
semi-traditional relatives set up tourism in Arnhem Land (a bottoms-up
Consequently much of my time was spent in viewing the facilities at Sepilok
and talking to people.
Michael and I stayed at the Sepilok Jungle Resort. Yes, it was a little
outdated, but I've stayed in much worse. The rooms were clean and tidy,
everything worked, the staff were wonderful and the grounds made for good
birding. And I've a lot of time for the owner, Datuk John Lim.
I saw two mosquitoes the whole time I was there and no leeches. The
temperature was milder than in the Top End. While there were chances for
serious birding, the festival was more family- and child-oriented than
anything I'd ever seen. It was a joy to be there. And I felt completely
safe wherever I walked (unlike Bali or other parts of Indonesia, and
Sabah is doing a lot of things right, and I'd encourage anyone to visit.
I'll be putting a trip report on my website soon.
Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow B.A. Grad.Dip.Arts
1/7 Songlark Street, Bakewell NT 0832, AUSTRALIA
Ph. 61 08 89 328306
Mobile: 04 386 50 835
Birdwatching and Indigenous tourism consultant
PhD Candidate (Southern Cross University, NSW)
Interpreter/transcriber, Lonely Planet Guide to Aboriginal Australia
Vice-chair, Wildlife Tourism Australia
For copies of Birds of Australia¹s Top End or Quiet Snake Dreaming, visit
"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him
to hold in higher regard those who think alike
than those who think differently."
on 24/10/11 10:37 AM, Greg Oakley at wrote:
> 1 Kota Kinabalu
> The capital of Sabah, KK (as it's known locally) is a vibrant, diverse and
> interesting city. We stayed at the comfortable Tanjung Aru Hotel which is
> right on the beach in KK. The common birds in the hotel grounds are Zebra
> (Peaceful) Dove, Spotted Dove, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Olive-backed Sunbird,
> Oriental Magpie-Robin, House Swift, Silver-rumped Needletail, Asian Glossy
> Starling, Common Myna, Chestnut Munia, Collared Kingfisher and Tree Sparrow.
> I went for a wander around the beach area (mainly mudflats) and picked up a
> few shorebirds such as Little Tern, Red Knot, Sanderling, Common Sandpiper,
> Lesser Sand-plover and Little (Striated) Heron. I also stumbled on the small
> feral population of Indian Ringneck Parakeet.
> 2 Sepilok
> We traveled by road across the breadth of Sabah to the eastern city of
> Sandakan and nearby Sepilok. Unfortunately most of this area is dominated by
> Palm Oil plantations although Sepilok is an oasis of rainforest with some
> sensational birding. In Sandakan the only bird of note was a White-breasted
> Waterhen wandering across the road just out of town.
> We stayed at the Sepilok Jungle Resort which was a little tired and shabby
> to be honest, although the food was pretty good. It is dominated by some
> large ponds and the birding around the grounds is very good, with Blue-eared
> Kingfisher, Oriental Pied, Asian Black and Bushy-crested Hornbill,
> Blue-eared Barbet, Cream-vented Bulbul, Brown-throated Sunbird,
> Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Long-tailed Parakeet and many others recorded.
> The main tourism drawcard in Sepilok is the excellent Orang-utan
> Rehabilitation Centre, which is a 40sqkm jungle sanctuary dedicated to the
> recovery and gradual release back into the wild of many Orang-utans that
> have been orphaned, injured or generally misplaced by the encroachment of
> It was a great experience for us to get close to some of these magnificent
> creatures (my son even got an unexpected grab from an inquisitive Orang
> which was approximately the same age!) and there are some interesting birds
> here as well.
> We also did an evening walk in here which was one of the best nocturnal
> experiences I've ever had! In the space of an hour we had seen some weird
> and wonderful critters such as Lesser Mouse-deer, Red Giant Flying Squirrel,
> Flying Lemur (Colugo), Slow Loris, Green Pit-viper, Hooded Pitta, Tiger
> Leach (!) and numerous frogs and insects.
> At Sepilok I hired a guide for a morning (a very good local guide, Mirwan
> Mustapha). We concentrated on the excellent Sepilok Rainforest Discovery
> Centre (RDC). There are 2 high towers perched amidst the rainforest canopy
> which is the place to be to observe all the canopy species. We managed to
> pick up a swag of great birds such as Red-naped Trogon, White-breasted,
> Buff-rumped, Buff-necked and Rufous Woodpecker, Black-capped and
> Chestnut-winged Babbler, Common Iora, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Spectacled
> and Little Spiderhunter, Rufous-tailed and Ashy Tailorbird, Brown Barbet,
> Green Broadbill, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Rufous-winged Philentoma,
> Rufous-backed Kingfisher and Black-naped Monarch.
> We frustratingly heard (the much sought after) Bornean Bristlehead call
> several times without actually getting on to it.
> 3 Kinabatangan River
> From Sandakan we then headed down to the Kinabatangan River for a week. This
> is a spectacular area, jam-packed with an array of wildlife. We stayed at a
> comfortable lodge (Myne) right on the river which had excellent food and
> accommodation. Built into the week's package were 2 cruises (every day) on a
> small boat (6am and 4:30pm) up and down this impressive river dedicated to
> wildlife spotting. This was a brilliant way of getting close to the myriad
> of monkey, bird, reptile and insect species, as well as fabulous experiences
> with wild Asian (Pygmy) Elephant. The number and diversity of primates was
> unbelievable! Long-tailed Macaque, Pig-tailed Macaque, Proboscis Monkey and
> Silvered Langur were all plentiful. Bornean Gibbon was heard often, but hard
> to see.
> The birdlife was brilliant, the highlights being 5 species of hornbill
> (including a tree full of around 20+ Rhinoceros Hornbill), Black-and-red
> Broadbill, several Storm's Stork, Purple Heron, Oriental Darter, Grey-headed
> and Lesser Fish-Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Hill
> Myna and Green Imperial Pigeon.
> Around the lodges I also recorded Yellow-breasted Prinia, Bold-striped
> Tit-babbler, White-crowned Shama, Orange-bellied and Scarlet-backed
> Flowerpecker, Dusky Munia, Striated Grassbird, Chestnut-breasted and Raffles
> Malkoha and Verditer Flycatcher.
> 4 Gomantong Caves
> We did a late afternoon trip to the famous Gomantong Caves where thousands
> of edible swiftlet nests are cultivated for the Chinese Restaurant trade.
> This is an amazing place - an enormous cavern where hundreds of thousands of
> Edible-nest, Moss-nest and Black-nest Swiftlet congregate to breed. The
> swiftlets also share the cave with hundreds of thousands of various spp of
> bats, which over many years, have deposited an enormous mound of guano,
> crawling with millions of red cockroaches! This, together with the stench of
> the guano in the humid air (plus numerous poisonous giant long-legged
> centipedes) makes for a memorable experience! We were also lucky to spot 2
> wild Orang-utan in the jungle on the walk to the cave, and a troupe of
> Maroon Langur near the car park.
> The visit was then topped off by the amazing spectacle of thousands of bats
> leaving the cave in vast waves at dusk, together with the endemic Bat Hawk
> scything through the bat flocks for it's daily feed!
> 5 Kinabalu Park
> After a short flight back to KK from Sandakan (internal flights in Sabah are
> extremely cheap and a great way to get around quickly), we then hired a car
> and drove up into the mountains and Kinabalu Park. The Park is a short loop
> road (a few kms) at the base of the impressive monolith that is Mount
> Kinabalu, with lodges scattered intermittently along the way.
> We stayed at the Peak Lodges which were basic and a bit tired, but clean and
> serviceable. It's also a great spot with fabulous views of nearby Mount
> The temperature up here is relatively cool (16-24C) which was a pleasant
> break from the heat in the lowlands.
> I hired the second guide of the trip, (just for the morning) - a local
> Kinabalu Park Ranger - Halim, who is an excellent birder.
> While waiting for him to pick me up at 6am, I wandered up and down the road
> and saw Chestnut-hooded Laughing-thrush, Ochraceous Bulbul, Black-capped
> White-eye and Chestnut-crested Yuhina. Halim picked me up and minutes later
> we had a pair of Grey Wagtail on the road.
> Our first stop was Timpohon Gate, and here we picked up Mountain Blackeye,
> Golden-naped Barbet, Ashy Drongo and Mountain Leaf-warbler, Bornean
> Swiftlet, Eyebrowed Jungle-flycatcher and White-browed Shrike-Babbler.
> Unfortunately Halim then had to leave and one of his staff Benedict took
> over the guide duties. Benedict's english was poor but his birding skills
> were exemplary!
> We walked many trails over the next 4 hours in this impressive park and we
> witnessed several of the famous "bird waves", with sometimes 8 spp recorded
> in mixed feeding flocks.
> Over this period the highlights were Whitehead's Broadbill, Indigo
> Flycatcher, Bornean Whistler, Little Pied Flycatcher, White-browed
> Shortwing, Sunda Laughing-thrush, Grey-chinned Minivet, Bornean Treepie,
> Mountain Tailorbird, Hair-crested Drongo and many others. Unfortunately we
> only heard Crimson-headed and Red-breasted Partridge despite much searching.
> It was a brilliant morning's birding!
> Around the lodge I also managed to see Sunda Cuckoo-shrike, Malaysian
> Hawk-cuckoo, Bornean Whistling-thrush and Temmink's Sunbird.
> 6 Poring Hot Springs
> Poring is a local tourist area about 40km from Kinabalu Park. It has a
> nature reserve with pools and hot springs, a restaurant and a few lodges. We
> stayed in a lodge (River Lodge) right outside the park entrance which was
> excellent. From here you could explore the many trails in the area, the
> highlight being the Poring Canopy Walkway which is a series of superb
> suspension bridges (over 150m in length) with intermittent towers where you
> can stop and birdwatch.
> The highlights here were Golden-whiskered Barbet, Greater Green Leafbird,
> Little Cuckoo-dove, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Dark-throated Oriole, Crimson
> Sunbird and Little Spiderhunter.
> 7 Kota Kinabalu (Penampang paddy fields, coastal mud flats, Sutera Harbour
> The final guide for the trip was CK Leong, one of the doyens of Bornean
> birding. He picked me up from the Rasa Ria resort at 5:45am and we headed
> back through KK checking out a number of CK's local haunts. The highlight
> was the impressive Penampang paddy fields south-east of the airport. We had
> a fantastic morning's birding here with some really good birds, the
> highlight being a pair of Black-collared Starling, a rare vagrant. The great
> birds continued with several Oriental Pratincole (very uncommon), Paddyfield
> Pipit, Little-ringed Plover, Chinese Egret, Wandering Whistling-duck,
> White-winged Black Tern, Lesser Coucal, Yellow and Cinnamon Bittern, Dusky,
> Chestnut and Scaly-breasted Munia, many Wood Sandpipers and Crested Myna.
> We stopped several times along the coast to check out the shorebirds and saw
> Kentish Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Lesser and Greater Sand-plover, Marsh
> Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler and Intermediate Egret.
> CK is an excellent birder and I felt fortunate to spend a morning with
> A complete birdlist with comments is on Part3
> I also have a couple of galleries of pics on Photoshop.com and if anyone is
> interested I can send a link.
> If anyone requires further info, please contact me directly,
> Greg Oakley
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