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Day 1: Thu 12 Aug – UK – Kuala Lumpur
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly London to Kuala Lumpur, arriving in the early hours of Fri 13 Aug.
Day 2: Fri 13 Aug – Arrive Koto Kinabalu and birding at Tanjung Aru
After a little rest, we take the short (c2 hours) flight to Kota Kinabalu and will soon be enjoying our first birding at Tanjung Aru and Sembulan. A special target will be Blue-naped Parrot, which is found nowhere else in Borneo. Other species we may see early in our trip include Java Sparrow, Crested Myna, Green Imperial Pigeon, Pink-necked Green Pigeon and Brown throated Sunbird. Overnight Dreamtel Hotel.
Day 3: Sat 14 Aug – Koto Kinabalu – Tambunan – Kinabalu National Park
After breakfast we depart Kota Kinabula and head north east to Tambunan for birding in the Rafflesia Forest Reserve in the Crocker Mountains. Among possible endemics found here are Mountain and Borneo Barbet, Bornean Bulbul, Bornean Leafbird, Black-sided Flowerpecker and the highly sought after (Black-breasted) Fruit-hunter. We may also see Gold-whiskered Barbet, Long-tailed Broadbill, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Blyth’s Hawk Eagle and Pygmy White-eye and our visit may coincide with the flowering of the Rafflesia keithii, a parasitic flowering plant growing up to 1m in diameter, endemic to the Sabar region in Borneo and by which the reserve is named. Flowering only for six to seven days, and at no fixed time of year we will need to be very lucky to see this botanical wonder, though August is good time to try. Overnight Kinabula Park, Hill Lodge for three nights.
Day 4: Sun 15 Aug - Kinabalu National Park
A full day birding among the delights of the Kinabala National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where iconic Mount Kinabula, South-east Asia’s highest peak, towers above the rainforest. An abundance of trails and habitats range from lowland, rhododendron and coniferous forests to alpine meadows. The park is home to over half of the species ever recorded in Borneo, and our targets include Everett's Thrush, White-throated Fantail, Yellow-breasted and Kinabalu Friendly Warbler, Mountain Leaf-Warblers, Grey-throated Babbler, Golden-naped Barbet, Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch, Borneo and Sunda Whistling Thrush, Black and Chestnut-capped Laughing Thrush, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, Temminck's Sunbird, Black-breasted Triller, Indigo Flycatcher, Whitehead's Trogon, Streaky-breasted and Whitehead's Spiderhunter, Mountain Black-eye, Bornean Stubtail (endemic), Crimson-headed and Red-breasted Partridge, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Ochraceous Bulbul, White-browed Shortwing, Mountain Blackbird, Ashy Drongo, Short-tailed Magpie, Bar-winged Cuckoo-shrike, Whitehead's Broadbill, Blue-winged Leafbird and various other woodpeckers, warblers, trogons, bulbuls and flycatchers.
Day 5: Mon 16 Aug – Poring
Today we visit Poring Hot Springs, where jungle trails and the canopy walkway offer new opportunities. Possible species here include Hose’s Broadbill, Blue-banded Pitta and Dusky Munia (all endemic), plus Bornean Spiderhunter, Banded Broadbill, Diard's Trogon, Gold-whiskered Barbet, Pygmy and Everett’s White-eye, Bold-striped Tit-Babbler, Rufous and White-bellied Woodpecker, Brown Barbet, Thick-Billed Spiderhunter, White-browed Shama, Siberian Blue Robin, Crested Jay, Wreathed Hornbill, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Scally-breasted Bulbul, Banded Kingfisher and White-fronted Falconet.
Day 6: Tue 17 Aug – Kinabalu – Sandakan – Sepilok
In the morning we again explore the Kinabalu National Park, searching for any of its special birds we might have missed. After lunch, we transfer east overland with a few roadside birding stops on the way. We aim to reach Sandakran on Borneo’s north-east coast and the Sepilok Nature Resort in the afternoon, where we will be staying for the next three nights.
Days 7 & 8: Wed 18 & Thu 19 Aug – Sepilok Rainforest
There is much to see and do here, not least try for a glimpse of two very special mammals. Established by the Sabah Forestry department, Sepilok is famous for its successful Orang Utan rehabilitation project, and these protected lands are home to between 60 and 80 which live freely in the reserve. With two full days here, we have every chance of a memorable encounter and hope to see Sun Bear too, the smallest and notably reclusive of the world's eight Bear species. We visit the Sun Bear Conservation Centre during our time in the park, learning of their important work in protecting these rare mammals, and their habitat. We may also see Bornean Slow Loris, Malay Civet and some of Borneo’s fourteen species of Flying Squirrel.
Birdwatching from the reserve's impressive canopy walkway, spanning almost 350m through Sepilok’s lush rainforest, will be another highlight. From 25m above the ground, views are spectacular and among new species we seek are endemic Black-crowned Pitta and Bornean Bristlehead. Also present are Rufous-collared Kingfisher, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Green Iora , Scarlet Minivet, Red-bearded Bee-Eater, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, White-bellied Munia, Lesser Green Leafbird, Indian Cuckoo, Scarlet-rumped and Red-naped Trogon, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Great Slaty Woodpecker and more.
Days 9, 10 & 11: Fri 20, Sat 21 & Sun 22 Aug - Sukau
Following another morning birding at Sepilok we embark on a unique transfer to Sukau via Sabah's longest river, the Kinabatangan. A journey of around 2.5 hours, we make a few brief stops for birds and wildlife, perhaps seeing our first Mugger Crocodiles before arriving at the famous Rainforest Lodge where we stay for the next three nights.
The Lower Kinabatangan is home to 210 species of birds and during our stay we take two cruises down the Kinabatangan River, and also explore the forested habitats from the wonderful lodge. The diverse range of species include Bornean Ground-Cuckoo (endemic), White Bellied and Lesser Fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Wallace’s Hawk Eagle, Crested Goshawk, White Chested Babbler, Blue-eared, Black-eared, Stork Billed and Ruddy Kingfisher, Pied Fantail, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Great Egret, Oriental Darter, Jerdon's Baza, Brahminy Kite, Black and Yellow and Banded Broadbill, Bat Hawk, Oriental Buffy Fish Owl, Brown Wood and Bay Owl, Black-headed, Blue-headed, Blue-winged and Hooded Pitta, Common Iora, Fluffy backed Tit Babbler, Crested Fireback, Storm's Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Rhinoceros, Helmeted, Wrinkled, Wreathed, White Crowned, Oriental Pied, Bushy and Black Hornbill, Red-throated and Crimson Sunbird and many, many others.
Mammals will be searched for too, and here we have another good chance of Orang Utan. We may also see Asian Elephant (of the Bornean, Pygmy subspecies), Proboscis Monkey and Long-tailed Macaque. On one evening we visit the Gomantong Caves, where at dusk hundreds of thousands of Wrinkle-lipped Free-tailed Bats and four swiftlet species (Black-nest, White-nest, Mossy-nest and Plume-toed, distinguished from one another by different nest structures) undertake a mass exodus and run the gauntlet of waiting raptors!
Days 12 & 13: Mon 23 & Tue 24 Aug – Tabin Wildlife Reserve
After breakfast and birding near our lodge in Sukau, we drive overland to Lahad Datu for a lunchtime birding stop. In the afternoon we enter the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, bumping along the gravel track pausing for any roadside birds and mammals we might see. With over 220 species of birds recorded to date, Tabin offers some of the best birding in Borneo and we will have the afternoon and the entire next day to explore its trails. In our sights might be Black-backed Kingfisher, Pied Fantail, Storm's Stork, Blue-headed and Blue-banded Pitta, Black-throated and (endemic) Bornean Wren-babbler, Bulwer's Pheasant, Thick-billed, Long-billed and Grey-breasted Spiderhunter, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Purple-throated and Plain Sunbird, Black-naped Monarch, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Ashy Tailorbird and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch.
The reserve is also home to a large and diverse number of mammals, some of which are highly endangered. Specifically created in 1984 to protect its animals, the three largest mammals of Sabah occur here - Bornean Pygmy Elephant, a Bornean subspecies of Sumatran Rhinoceros and the Banteng, a species of wild Cattle. Among many others are nine species of primate and three cats, including Sundra Clouded Leopard and Leopard Cat, and we hope to encounter them on a nocturnal excursion. We stay at Tabin Wildlife Resort for two nights.
Days 14 & 15: Wed 25 & Thu 26 Aug – Danum Valley
After breakfast, we drive to Lahad Datu, and after a few wildlife stops will enter the Dunum Valley after lunch. With almost two days here, we explore the trails and canopy walkway in these rich, pristine rainforests. Among the species we seek are Great-billed Heron, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Bornean and Black-throated Babbler, six species of Pitta including Giant and Banded Pitta, the huge Great Argus Pheasant, Crested Fireback Pheasant, Crested Wood and Chestnut-necklaced Partridge, Jambu Fruit-dove, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Red-napped, Diard's and Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Plaintive and Violet Cuckoo, Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo, Raffles’s and Red-billed Malkoha, Blue-rumped Parrot, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Greater Coucal, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Brown-backed and Silver-rumped Needletail, Grey-rumped and Whiskered Treeswift, Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler, Fiery Minivet, Large-billed and Bornean Blue Flycatcher, Barred Eagle Owl, Buffy Fish Owl and Brown Wood-owl.
During our stay we hope to encounter Bornean Bearded Pig, and perhaps Orang Utan again, which have with protection, maintained a healthy population in Danum. Other possible mammals include Greater Mouse-deer, Sambar Deer, Malay, Common Palm, Banded Palm and Masked Palm Civet, Southern Pig-tail Macaque, Red Leaf Monkey, Binturong, Bornean Tarsier (tiny, rare and very shy!) and several species of flying squirrel. Our superb lodge is well positioned deep in the rainforest, and with quality birding and mammalian encounters on our doorstep, there’s no better place to conclude our Bornean adventure! Overnight Borneo Rainforest Lodge for two nights.
Day 16: Fri 27 Aug – Danum Valley – Lahad Datu - Kota Kinabalu
Some birding and mammal watching at Danum in the morning, before we depart for Lahad Datu, taking the afternoon flight back to Kota Kinabalu. Overnight Dreamtel Hotel.
Day 17: Sat 28 Aug – Koto Kinabalu - Kuala Lumpur - London
After the short (c2 hour) flight to Kuala Lumpur, we fly overnight to the UK arriving on Sun 29 Aug.