Borneo: Bristleheads and Orangutans July 2022

Focussing on the magnificent rainforests of Sabah, this birdwatching tour to Northern Borneo allows us to look for a fabulous array of birds and mammals among some of the oldest and richest forests on earth.

The avifauna of Borneo parallels that of the bountiful Malay Peninsula, however, there are numerous species that do not occur there including more than 50 endemics. For sheer diversity, these ancient rainforests are unsurpassed, containing more tree species than Amazonia along with a fantastic range of birds: from hornbills, barbets and minivets to kingfishers, broadbills and trogons.


This remarkable trip will take you from the tropical montane forests of Mount Kinabalu (southeast Asia’s highest peak) via the world famous Sepilok Reserve and Kinabatangan River, to the pristine lowland rainforests of Danum Valley and along the way, we hope to find the majority of Borneo’s weird and wonderful endemic birds and see some of its extraordinary mammals including Bornean Orang-utan, Bornean Gibbon and the peculiar Proboscis Monkey.


Our tour begins in the Crocker Range at the Rafflesia Forest Reserve which is named after the world’s largest flower and for which the reserve is rightly famous. A visit here gives us access to a range of mid-elevation specialities such as Bornean and Mountain Barbets, Bornean Bulbul and Bornean Leafbird, before we travel on for a four-night stay at the Kinabalu National Park. Elusive and sought-after endemic birds here include Fruithunter, Crimson-headed Partridge and the fabulous trio of Whitehead’s Trogon, Whitehead’s Broadbill and Whitehead’s Spiderhunter. The park is also home to more than 700 species of orchid, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. Perhaps most intriguing amongst the plants are the park’s eight species of Nepenthes pitcher plants with their intricate insect traps.


During our stay, we will enjoy a day trip to Poring Hot Springs, an area with a strikingly different avifauna. Possibilities include a bewildering array of barbets and bulbuls, as well as Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Red-bearded Bee-eater and Grey-headed Babbler.


Leaving Kinabalu, we head East to the Sepilok Reserve where we hope to see the extraordinary Bornean Bristlehead, before moving to the Kinabatangan River. The peculiar Proboscis Monkey, rare Storm’s Stork, up to eight species of hornbill, Hooded Pitta, the tiny endemic White-fronted Falconet and the seldom seen Bornean Ground Cuckoo are among a long list of possible highlights. Bornean Pygmy Elephants and wild Orang-utans are also to be found amongst the trees fringing the river.


To complete a fabulous adventure, we travel South for a four-night stay at the excellent Borneo Rainforest Lodge, set deep within primary rainforest above a bend on the Danum River. The Danum Valley Conservation Area safeguards one of the world’s oldest and richest lowland rainforests and boasts a huge list of species. Gigantic trees, some towering more than 80 metres above our heads, create the tallest canopy of any rainforest on Earth and the prospect of looking for five-star residents such as Great Argus (largest of all the pheasants), the spectacular Rhinoceros Hornbill, four species of endemic pittas and the furtive Bornean Wren-Babbler can’t fail to excite!


Danum is probably the best place in the world to encounter a wild Orang-utan and other mammals we could see include Bornean Gibbon and the shy Bornean Pygmy Elephant. A nocturnal excursion could reward us with Buffy Fish Owl or Brown Wood Owl, as well as mammals such as Bornean Loris, several species of flying squirrels and perhaps even the diminutive Western Tarsier which is one of the smallest of all the primates.


Our 2022 tour will be led by our highly rated English-speaking Malaysian bird expert, Lee Kok Chung and working alongside him is Limosa guide Colin Bushell.

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