AT A GLANCE
Selamat datang! Welcome to Borneo! A very memorable birding experience awaits you! The island of Borneo, in southeast Asia, is the third largest island in the world, and is located north of Java, west of Sulawesi, and east of Sumatra.Almost three-quarters of the island is Indonesian territory, with the rest divided between Malaysia and Brunei. A little more than half of the island is in the Northern Hemisphere including Brunei and the Malaysian portion, while the Indonesian portion spans both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. This Nature Travel Birding trip visits the eastern side of the island and takes place entirely in the Malaysian portion.Borneo island is a region that is very rich in biodiversity. It has about 15,000 species of flowering plants (including Rafflesia, the largest flowering plant in the world) along with 3,000 species of trees, 440 species of freshwater fish, 221 species of terrestrial mammals and almost 700 species of resident and migratory birds (including 60 endemic and range-restricted species)
Borneo covers an area of 743,330 square kilometres (287,000 sq mi) with many different biomes. The WWF has classified the island into seven distinct ecoregions, including montane and lowland rainforests, as well as peat swamp forests.
Borneo is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world. It is at the centre of the evolution and distribution of many endemic species of plants and animals of Borneo. It is an important refuge for many endemic forest species, including the Bornean Orangutan, Sumatran Elephant, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Bornean Clouded Leopard, the Hose’s Civet and the Dayak Fruit Bat.
The island’s entire coastline is occupied by peat swamp forests and is home to various bird species such as the Hook-billed Bulbul, Helmeted Hornbill and Rhinoceros Hornbill.
From unique wildlife to untouched jungle, few attractions can match the natural drama of Borneo. With breathtaking natural attractions, friendly people and great food, Borneo is a favourite for everyone who visits it. We will explore the best areas of the east of Borneo in search of our target birds including Kinabalu Park, Poring, Sepilok, Sukau, Tabin and Danum Valley. We will be staying in top-notch locations along the way such as Borneo Rainforest Lodge and a recently recognized National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World – Sukau Rainforest Lodge. Get ready for a birding trip of a lifetime!
Our company representative will meet you at Kota Kinabalu International Airport in Kota Kinabalu, the state capital of Sabah province, Malaysia, in northeastern Borneo. From here you will be transferred to your overnight accommodation.
Depending on your arrival time, there might be time to explore the city of Kota Kinabalu. It is a major tourist destination and a popular gateway for travellers visiting Sabah and the rest of Borneo. There are many tourist attractions in and around the city. One of them being the beautiful Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, often called the “Floating Mosque” due to it being partially surrounded by a man-made lagoon. Kota Kinabalu is also one of the major industrial and commercial centres of East Malaysia, and one of the fastest growing cities in southeast Asia.
Kota Kinabalu is named after the mythical Mount Kinabalu (4,095 metres (13,435 ft) above sea level), which is situated about 50 kilometres (30 miles) northeast of the city.
We will overnight in a comfortable city hotel in Kota Kinabalu.
Please note: If you arrive in Kota Kinabalu early enough, you could transfer to Kundasang on this day of the trip already. This is entirely dependent on your incoming international flight arrival time.
ITINERARY – BORNEO BIRDING TOUR
Kinabalu National Park
We will have an early start and drive about 100 km (60 miles) to Kinabalu National Park.The park is one of the most important biological sites in the world, with more than 4,500 species of flora and fauna, including 326 bird and around 100 mammal species, and over 110 land snail species. The park is located at 1,585 metres (5200 feet) above sea level and is the main starting point for the summit trail that leads to the top of Mount Kinabalu. Mount Kinabalu is one of the youngest non-volcanic mountains in the world. It was formed within the last 10 to 35 million years. The mountain still grows at a rate of 5 millimetres a year.
The park covers an area of 75,370 hectares surrounding Mount Kinabalu and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, the first in Malaysia.
A variety of flora and fauna that ranges over 4 climate zones can be found here. From rich lowland dipterocarp forest through the montane oak, rhododendron, the coniferous forests, the alpine meadow plants and the stunted bushes of summit zone. The mountain is also known for its many carnivorous plant and orchid species. It is also home to a multitude of endemic animal species, including the Kinabalu Giant Red Leech and Kinabalu Giant Earthworm.
From a birding point of view we will look for White-throated Fantail, Yellow-breasted Warbler, Grey-throated Babbler, Everett’s Thrush, Bornean Whistling Thrush, Chestnut-hooded, Sunda and Black Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, Temminck’s Sunbird, Black-breasted Triller, Indigo Flycatcher, Golden-naped Barbet, Whitehead’s Trogon, Checker-throated and Maroon Woodpecker, Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, Fruithunter, Mountain Leaf Warbler, Black Eagle, Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle, Little Cuckoo-Dove, Sunda Cuckoo, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Pied Shrike-Babbler and many others.
We will stay overnight in the town of Kundasang, just outside the park. It is renowned for its vegetable market which is open seven days a week. It is the closest town to Mount Kinabalu and has a panoramic view of the mountain. At an elevation of almost 1,900m (6,200ft), it is the highest settlement in Malaysia.
Kinabalu National Park
We have a full day to further explore magical Kinabalu National Park, making sure we get all our target species.
Today we will search for Friendly Bush Warbler, Bornean Whistler, Black-sided Flowerpecker, Black-capped White-eye, Mountain Blackeye, Mountain Wren-Babbler, Bare-headed Laughingthrush, Sunda Cuckooshrike, Bornean Stubtail, Crimson-headed and Red-breasted Partridge, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Ochraceous Bulbul, White-browed Shortwing, Mountain Blackbird, Eyebrowed Jungle Flycatcher, Ashy and Hair-crested Drongo, Bornean Treepie, Short-tailed Magpie, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, White-crowned Forktail, Bar-winged Cuckooshrike, Whitehead’s Broadbill, Blue-winged Leafbird, Bornean Barbet, various other woodpeckers, warblers, trogons, bulbuls, and flycatchers, and many more.
We hope to add the Whitehead’s Pygmy Squirrel, a tiny creature with long ear tufts, to our list, along with some other squirrels and tree shrews. If we are extremely lucky, we might see a Moonrat or even a Sunda Pangolin!
Poring & Sepilok
We will enjoy some morning birdwatching at Poring after breakfast. Poring is a small tourist resort, known for its hot springs, 40 km southeast of the Kinabalu National Park.
Poring is situated in lowland rainforest, contrasting with the montane and submontane rainforest of Kinabalu National Park, and therefore has other species we will look out for. These include the very difficult to see Hose’s Broadbill, Diard’s Trogon, Chestnut-capped Thrush, White-tailed Flycatcher, White-necked, Moustached and Grey-headed Babbler, Pygmy White-eye, Bornean Banded and Blue-banded Pitta, Bold-strip Tit-Babbler, White-bellied Woodpecker, Red-throated, Golden-naped and Bornean Barbet, Thick-billed Spiderhunter, Purple-naped Sunbird, Chestnut-naped Forktail, White-crowned Shama, Dusky Munia, Siberian Blue Robin, Crested Jay, Wreathed Hornbill, Scaly-breasted Bulbul, Banded Kingfisher, White-fronted Falconet, and various others.
If we are very lucky, we might hear about a flowering Rafflesia from the locals, allowing us to witness this (smelly) floral wonder.
After birding at Poring we will depart for Sepilok, approximately 4 hours away to the east. Sepilok is famous for its Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The centre is located about 25 kilometres west of Sandakan within the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, which covers an area of 4,294 ha (10,610 acres), much of which is virgin rainforest. It was opened in 1964 and today around 60 to 80 orangutans are living free in the reserve. It has become one of Sabah’s top tourist attractions.
We will enjoy a night walk in the evening, with a fair chance of encountering the incredibly cute Bornean Tarsier, the goggle-eyed Bornean Slow Loris, Lesser Oriental Chevrotain and Malay Civet.
We will overnight at Sepilok.
Note on camera use at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre:
For any camera with a zoom lens from 100 to 400mm, video camera or other video recording equipment for personal use are chargeable at RM10.00 per unit. For any camera (fixed-lens – 400mm and above ) or any film-making equipment are chargeable at RM1,000.00 per unit. Mode of payment is cash only.
Rainforest Discovery Centre
We will enjoy a full day of birdwatching in the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) closeby. The RDC is also in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, and the highlight is a truly impressive canopy walkway that spans hundreds of metres, and up to 25 metres above the ground in places! It offers excellent canopy birding here we hope to see the truly bizarre Bornean Bristlehead, a regal species in its own family. Other species to be found from the canopy walkway are Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, Banded and Black-and-yellow Broadbill, White-bellied Woodpecker, Lesser and Greater Green Leafbird, Rhinoceros, Bushy-crested and White-crowned Hornbill, and Spectacled Spiderhunter.
There is also a good trail system at RDC and we are going to see many lowland species for the first time. We will search for Rufous-collared and Banded Kingfisher, Crested Jay, Black Magpie, Diard’s Trogon, Giant, Blue-headed, Hooded and Black-crowned Pitta, Scarlet Minivet, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dusky and Chestnut Munia, Indian Cuckoo, White-fronted Falconet , Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Scarlet-rumped and Red-naped Trogon, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Great Slaty Woodpecker, White-bellied Woodpecker, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, various other bee-eaters, babblers, bulbuls, flowerpeckers, sunbirds, drongos, hornbills and others.
We will again overnight at Sepilok.
Sepilok to Sukau
We will enjoy some more Sepilok birdwatching in the morning, picking up some tricky-to-find species that we might still need for our lists.
At noon, we will depart for Sukau by boat on Malaysia’ second longest river, the Kinabatangan. Kinabatangan is known for its remarkable wildlife and varied habitats, such as limestone caves at Gomantong hill, dryland dipterocarp forests, riverine forest, freshwater swamp forest, oxbow lakes and salty mangrove swamps near the coast. Some superb rainforest birding is to be had along the Kinabatangan River at Sukau.
Upon arrival we will check into the award winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge, our accommodation for the next two nights. The lodge is built on stilts using Borneo hardwood species and is completely self-sufficient in water (harvesting rainwater) and solar energy for hot water heating. Electric motors are used for river safari tours to wildlife areas to minimise air and noise pollution and reduce stress to the wildlife.
We will have our first cruise on the river for birdwatching in the afternoon, and look for the rare Bornean Ground Cuckoo, Grey-headed and Lesser Fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle, White-chested Babbler, Brown Barbet, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Stork-billed and Rufous-collared Kingfisher, Pied Fantail, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Oriental Darter, Jerdon’s Baza, Buffy Fish Owl, Brahminy Kite, White-fronted Falconet, Great Egret, Storm’s Stork, Blue-throated Bee-eater, and many others.
Some good mammals can also be found along the river and these include Maroon and Silvered Langur, Long-tailed and Pig-tailed Macaque, and the highly endangered Bornean Orangutan.
Note : Due to the boat cruise, please make sure that you travel light to Sukau Rainforest Lodge.
Sukau (Kinabatangan River)
Today we will enjoy early dawn and late afternoon river cruises. These boat trips are simply amazing, allowing us to get very close to both birds and mammals.
Birding wise, we will search for Bornean Bristlehead, Black-and-Yellow Broadbill, Oriental Bay Owl, Brown Wood Owl, Great-billed Heron, Blue-headed, Blue-winged, Hooded and Black-crowned Pitta, Crested Fireback, Lesser Adjutant, Scarlet-rumped and Red-naped Trogon, Rhinoceros, Helmeted, Wrinkled, Wreathed, White-crowned and Oriental Pied Hornbill, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Great Slaty Woodpecker, White-bellied Woodpecker, and many others.
From a mammal perspective, we have a great chance to see 10 primate species, including Proboscis Monkeys and Muller’s Gibbon, as well as other mammals like Bornean Pygmy Elephant and Bearded Pig.
Tonight we will visit the Gomantong Caves. Hundreds of thousands of bats (mostly Wrinkle-lipped Free-tailed Bats) and swiftlets of four different species make their home in the limestone caves. At night their mass exodus from the caves is a spectacular sight. There is the added spectacle of seeing several raptors including Bat Hawks, Peregrine Falcon, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Rufous-bellied Eagle coming in for an easy meal.
Sukau to Tabin Wildlife Reserve
On our way to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve we will proceed past many Oil Palm plantations via the town of Lahad Datu. This is another haven for bird watching enthusiasts which boasts approximately 220 species of birds in 42 different families.
Tabin Wildlife Reserve comprises a rectangular area of approximately 122,539 hectares in the centre of the Dent Peninsula, northeast of Lahad Datu town. Created in 1984, Tabin has been declared a Wildlife Reserve primarily on account of the large number of animals inhabiting its forests, some of which are highly endangered. Borneo Pygmy Elephant, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Banteng are all found within the reserve. We will also look for nine species of primate and three species of cats, all of which are on the protected wildlife list.
Covered in euryspecies lowland rainforest, Tabin nurtures a colossal number of tropical plants; some of which are rich in medicinal and therapeutic values.
From a birding perspective, we will look for Blue-eared and Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pied Fantail, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Storm’s Stork, Bornean Bristlehead, Blue-headed, Blue-banded, Bornean Banded and Black-crowned Pitta, Dusky Munia, Black-throated and Bornean Wren-babbler, Bulwer’s Pheasant, Rufous-tailed Shama, Brown Fulvetta, White-bellied Erpornis, Chestnut-necklaced Partridge, Rufous Piculet, Thick-billed, Long-billed and Grey-breasted Spiderhunter, Fiery Minivet, Green Iora, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Orange-bellied and Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, and many others.
Tabin Wildlife Reserve
We will enjoy a full day of birdwatching in Tabin.
We will look for species we may have missed yesterday, but also try to add Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Purple-throated and Plain Sunbird, Black-naped Monarch, Buff-rumped and Buff-necked Woodpecker, Red-naped and Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Black-bellied and Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Maroon-breasted Philentoma, Ashy Tailorbird, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Stork-billed and Black- backed Kingfisher, Rhinoceros, Helmeted, Wrinkled, Wreathed and White-crowned Hornbill, White-fronted Falconet, Crested Fireback, raptors and various others species.
Optional night drives through the reserve often produce Leopard Cat, Sunda Flying Lemur, Asian Palm, Small-toothed Palm and Malayan Civets, and both Red Giant and Black Giant Flying Squirrels.
Buffy Fish Owl and Brown Wood Owl are also often seen on these nocturnal excursions, while even the rare and elusive Bornean Clouded Leopard occasionally appears!
Tabin to Danum Valley
This morning we will drive through Lahad Datu town and continue westwards into the Danum Valley. The Danum Valley Conservation Area is a 438 square kilometres tract of relatively undisturbed lowland dipterocarp forest, with the forest canopy reaching a height of over 70 metres in some places! The area holds unique status in the sense that before it became a conservation area there were no human settlements within the area. Hunting, logging and other human interference was non-existent, making the area almost unique. There have been proposals to nominate the site as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Danum has an extensive diversity of tropical flora and fauna, including such species as the rare Sumatran Rhinoceros, Bornean Orangutan, gibbons, mouse deer, and over 270 bird species. The rich insect fauna has been one of the main areas of research in which the Danum Valley Field Centre has been active. The land snail fauna is also considered one of the richest in the world, with at least 61 species recorded from a 1-km-plot.
Here we will look for Bornean Wren-Babbler, Black-throated Babbler, Giant, Blue-headed, Black-crowned and Banded Pitta, Bornean Bristlehead, Great Argus, Crested Fireback, Chestnut-necklaced Partridge, Buff-rumped, Buff-necked, Grey-capped and Orange-backed Woodpecker, Red-billed Malkoha, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Oriental Dollarbird, Brown, Red-throated, Yellow-crowned and Blue-eared Barbet, Black-and-yellow, Banded and Green Broadbill, Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Large Woodshrike, Fiery and Scarlet Minivet, Green Iora, Lesser Green and Greater Green Leafbird, Grey-bellied, Spectacled, Puff-backed, Grey-cheeked, Yellow-bellied, Hairy-backed , Streaked and Buff-vented Bulbul, Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Greater Racket-tailed and Bronzed Drongo, Dark-throated Oriole, Crested Jay, Slender-billed Crow, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Red-naped, Diard’s and Scarlet-rumped Trogon, and many more.
Upon arrival we will check into Borneo Rainforest Lodge, our home for the next two nights, before continuing bird watching. Set amidst some beautiful scenery, the stunning Borneo Rainforest Lodge has a charmingly rustic feel about it, with a proud focus on sustainability.
We will enjoy a full day’s birdwatching in Danum.
The most spectacular of Danum’s birds are surely the hornbills, and the raucous trumpeting of Rhinoceros Hornbills should become a familiar sound. We will also target Helmeted, Bushy-crested, Wreathed and Asian Black Hornbills.
Other birds to look for will include Bornean Bristlehead, Great Argus, Blue-rumped Parrot, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots, Crested Honey Buzzard, Plaintive Cuckoo, Raffle’s Malkoha, Greater Coucal, Brown-backed Needletail, Silver-rumped Spinetail, Whiskered Treeswift, Fiery Minivet, Black Magpie, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, Large-billed Flycatchers, Malaysian Blue Flycatcher, Buffy Fish Owl, Brown Wood Owl, Barred Eagle-Owl, White-fronted Falconet, Crested Wood Partridge, Bornean Ground Cuckoo, Rufous-fronted, Black-capped, Short-tailed, Ferruginous, Horsfield’s, Sooty-capped, Moustached, Rufous-crowned, Scaly-crowned, Chestnut-rumped and Chestnut-winged Babbler, Striped Wren-Babbler, Bold-striped and Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler, Brown Fulvetta, White-bellied Yuhina, Rufous-tailed Shama, White-crowned Forktail, Dark-necked, Ashy and Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, and many others.
Many mammals inhabit Danum Valley. Some of the species that we could see during optional night excursions are Greater and Lesser Oriental Chevrotain, Sambar Deer, Thomas’s and Red Giant Flying Squirrels, Common Giant Squirrel, Black Flying Squirrel, Bornean Pygmy Elephant, Common Palm, Masked Palm, Banded Palm and Malay Civets, Binturong, Leopard Cat and Malay Weasel.
The valley also has one of the largest populations of Bornean Orangutans in Borneo and we should see these magnificent apes in their forest kingdom, a truly thrilling sight. Other regularly seen primates include Southern Pig-tailed Macaque, Maroon Langur and Muller’s Gibbon.
Danum to Kota Kinabalu (flight from Lahad Datu)
We will enjoy some more Danum Valley birdwatching in the morning, making sure we see all the local specials we need to. This could include Black-naped Monarch, Maroon-breasted and Rufous-winged Philentoma, Spotted Fantail, Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker, Plain, Plain-throated, Red-throated, Ruby-cheeked and Purple-naped Sunbird, Little, Spectacled and Yellow-eared Spiderhunter, Common Hill Myna, Chestnut-necklaced Partridge, Crested Fireback, Jambu Fruit Dove, Banded Bay and Drongo Cuckoo, Blue-banded and Banded Kingfisher, Olive-backed Woodpecker, White-crowned Hornbill, Dusky Broadbill, Black-and-white and Finsch’s Bulbul, Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler, Chestnut-naped Forktail, Rufous-chested Flycatcher, Thick-billed Spiderhunter, and Thick-billed and Yellow-vented Flowerpecker.
We will then drive to Lahad Datu (3 hours) and fly from Lahad Datu Airport to Kota Kinabalu (1 hour). It will then be a short drive to the Promenade Hotel, for dinner and our last night together as a group.
Departure from Borneo
After breakfast in the hotel, you will be transferred to the Kota Kinabalu International Aiport for your homeward flight after an unforgettable Borneo birding experience.
Do you have a quick question about this birding tour? Speak to a specialist at