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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

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  • Photograph of Bornean Bristlehead

    The unique endemic Bornean Bristlehead at Sepilok by David Beadle.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in
  • Sabah, BORNEO

    Photograph of Blue-headed Pitta

    The proverbial 'jewel in the rainforest', the Blue-headed Pitta, captured here by Nigel Voaden, is one of Danum Valley's specialities.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in Sabah, Borneo


    White-fronted Falconet, Bornean Swiftlet, Whitehead's Trogon, Bornean, Golden-naped and Mountain Barbets, (Bornean) Banded, Black-and-crimson (Black-headed), Blue-banded and Blue-headed Pittas, Whitehead's Broadbill, Bornean Leafbird, Bornean and Pale-faced (Flavescent) Bulbuls, Bornean (Sunda) Treepie, Bornean (Black) Magpie, Bornean (Short-tailed Green) Magpie, Bornean Whistler, Bornean Bristlehead, (Black-breasted) Fruit-hunter, Eye-browed Jungle Flycatcher, Bornean Blue Flycatcher, White-crowned Shama, Pygmy White-eye, Mountain Black-eye, Bornean Stubtail, Friendly Bush Warbler, Bornean Forktail, Bornean (Sunda) Whistling Thrush, Bare-headed (Black) and Chestnut-hooded (-crowned) Laughingthrushes, Black-throated, Bornean and Mountain Wren Babblers, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, Black-sided and Yellow-rumped Flowerpeckers, Bornean and Whitehead's Spiderhunters, and Dusky Munia. Also a chance of Red-breasted and Crimson-headed Partridges, Bornean Ground Cuckoo, Hose's Broadbill and Everett's Thrush.

    Mantanani Scops Owl occurs on Mantanani Island, 45 minutes out of Kota Kinabalu; Mountain Serpent Eagle, the very rare Bornean and Dulit Frogmouths, and Black Oriole, occur in the Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak, with Dulit Frogmouth at Ba'Kelalan, and Bornean Frogmouth and Black Oriole at Paya Maga. Also in Sarawak there is a good chance of seeing Hose's Broadbill in Bario National Park. Bulwer's Pheasant is an outside possibility there and more likely but still very difficult in Gunung Mulu National Park where other species include Whitehead's Trogon, Hose's and Whitehead's Broadbills, Blue-headed Pitta, Fruit-hunter, Black Oriole and Whitehead's Spiderhunter.

    Other Specialities
    Tabon Scrubfowl, Great Argus, Storm's Stork, Sunda Frogmouth, Waterfall (Giant) Swiftlet and Temminck's Sunbird. Also a chance of Christmas and Great Frigatebirds, Chinese Egret (Nov-Mar) and Giant Pitta.

    Crested Fireback, Lesser Frigatebird, Oriental Darter, Javan Pond Heron, Great-billed Heron, Cinnamon and Yellow (mostly Nov-Mar) Bitterns, Brahminy Kite, Lesser Fish Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Bat Hawk, Watercock, Black-naped and Jambu Fruit Doves, Metallic and Nicobar Pigeons, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Violet Cuckoo, malkohas, Buffy Fish Owl, Whiskered Treeswift, swiftlets, Diard's, Red-naped and Scarlet-rumped Trogons, Banded and Rufous-collared Kingfishers, Blue-throated and Red-bearded Bee-eaters, Helmeted, Rhinoceros, White-crowned and Wrinkled Hornbills, woodpeckers, Banded, Black-and-red, Black-and-yellow, Dusky and Green Broadbills, Hooded Pitta, White-breasted Woodswallow, Maroon-breasted and Rufous-winged Philentomas, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Green Iora, cuckoo-shrikes, minivets, Black-and-crimson Oriole, drongos, fantails, Crested Jay, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, bulbuls, tailorbirds, flycatchers, Chestnut-naped and White-crowned Forktails, White-browed Shortwing, laughingthrushes, lots of babblers, Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler, White-browed Shrike Babbler, Asian Glossy Starling, Hill Myna, leafbirds, flowerpeckers, sunbirds including Crimson, and spiderhunters.

    (Bornean) Orang-utan, Proboscis Monkey, (Northern) Bornean Gibbon, Red and Silvered Leaf Monkeys, Hose's Langur, Long-tailed (Crab-eating) and (Sunda) Pig-tailed Macaques, Asian (Bornean Pygmy) Elephant, Western Tarsier, Bornean Colugo (Flying Lemur), (Philippine) Slow Loris, Leopard Cat, Binturong, Banded, Malay, Common Palm, Masked Palm and Small-toothed Civets, Sunda Stink Badger (Skunk), Greater and Lesser Mouse Deer, (Bornean) Yellow Muntjac, Sambar, Large, Red Giant, Spotted Giant and Thomas's Giant Flying Squirrels, Prevost's Squirrel, pygmy squirrels and tree shrews. Also a chance of Marbled Cat, Bearded Pig and Yellow-throated Marten, and an outside chance of (Bornean) Clouded Leopard, Sun Bear, Sunda Pangolin, Malayan Porcupine and Flat-headed Cat.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Saltwater Crocodile, Whale Shark (mostly Mar-May at Lankayan Island), Manta and Eagle Rays, Green and Hawksbill Turtles (mostly Jul-Sep at Selingan and Sipadan), Draco flying lizards (usually most active Dec-Jan), Kuhl's Flying Gecko and Wallace's Flying Frog.

    Many amazing insects including Lantern Bugs, Rhinoceros Beetles, moths such as Atlas and birdwing butterflies including Rajah Brooke's.

    An extraordinary flora which includes hundreds of orchids, several pitcher plants and Rafflesia arnoldii, the largest flowering plant in the world.

    Other Natural Wonders of Sabah, Borneo

    Mount Kinabalu The highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea, rising to 4095 m (13,435 ft), which can be climbed without the aid of mountaineering equipment.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Sabah, Borneo

    Photograph of Proboscis Monkey

    The extraordinary big-nosed, pot-bellied and long-tailed Proboscis Monkey by Coke & Som Smith.

    Photograph of Colugo (Sunda Flying Lemur)

    Colugo or Sunda Flying Lemur by Simon Colenutt. Young Colugos spend the first six months or so of life clinging to the mother.

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Sabah, Borneo

    Rain usually falls year round on the equator but April to October is usually drier than November to March in north Borneo and the driest period, especially late June to early August, is the best time to look for mammals and particularly birds, with August usually being the best time to see turtles nesting. The best scuba-diving and snorkeling conditions are also usually during the dry season.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Sabah, Borneo

    A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by S Myers. Helm, 2016 (Second Edition).

    Phillipps' Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Q and K Phillipps. PUP, 2014 (Third Edition).

    The Birds of Borneo by B Smythies. Sabah and Malayan Nature Societies, 1981 (Third Edition).

    Phillipps' Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo by Q and K Phillipps. John Beaufoy, 2016.

    A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo by J Payne and C M Francis. Sabah Society, 2007 (Revised Edition).

    Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Sabah, Borneo

    Many trip reports, some for Borneo, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Borneo. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Borneo' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Sabah, Borneo

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in Sabah, Borneo

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Sabah, Borneo

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Borneo include the following.