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12 Days Birding & Bird Photography Tours In Sabah, Borneo

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Ba'kelalan and Payeh Maha Highland Trip

 19-25th May 2022

Birding trip to Bakelalan and Payeh Maga was a blast despite not feeling quite well on the last leg of the journey. We got the Dulit Frogmouth with the helped from a local guide, Paulus arranged by Cikgu Sang at Bakelalan and then another 4 days at Tian Cool Homestay Enterprise runs by Pak Dawat family with excellent view of the hill forest.
The road from Bakelalan to Bario was in bad condition, so birding was limited up to the T-Junction around 5km from the airport. Quite productive with plenty of hill species such as Cinereous Bulbul, Bornean Barbet, Bornean Bulbul and Blyth's Paradise-Flycatcher.
The 3.9km uphill walk from the starting point at Payeh Maga quite moderate and recommended for beginners hikers. Good walking shoes especially the Adidas kampung and also hired porters makes walking cum birding easy and rewarding before reaching the jungle camp. 
Key birds recorded from the trip:
  1. Dulit Frogmouth (endemic)
  2. Black Eagle
  3. White-rumped Shama
  4. Gray-breasted Spiderhunter
  5. Cream-eyed Bulbul
  6. Black-tighed Falconet
  7. Bornean Ibon (endemic)
  8. Hose's Broadbill (endemic)(after 15 years!)
  9. Black Oriole (endemic)
  10. Ferrugenous Partridge (heard only)
I recorded around 124 birds in Lawas district and my current Sabah Big Year 2022 species stands at 411. I need another 89 birds for my quest in getting my first 500 species in 1 year 🤤
For info on trips to Bakelalan and Payeh Maga, please email me at or WhatsApp at +60178205098 
Images taken with Swarovski Optik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
At Merarap Hotspring around 2 hours drive from Lawas town

Sungai Trusan after the rain the night before

Half way to Bakelalan

At Bukit Dempering around 800m asl and quite cool here. Saw the Ashy Drongo, Gerygone and Malaysian Pied-Fantail

2 gazebos for visitors and campers

Another 1 hour drive to Bakelalan after descending down from the Dempiring Hill

At the homestay

Watching the Blue-eared Kingfisher while waiting for the Dulit Frogmouth

Halfway break for lunch on the way to Payeh Maga Highland

Excellent view of the highland from the restaurant cum homestay runs by Pak Dawat cum bird guide

Dormitory room 

The view of the hill rainforest of Payeh Maga and I have recorded around 25 birds here such as the Black-tighed Falconet, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Bold-striped Tit-Babbler, Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot and Crimson Sunbird

Shooting the Oriental Honey-Buzzard with my Swarovski Optik STX95 spotting scope at maximum 70x zoom!

Ron, myself, John, Pak Dawat and Albert before the 3 hours hike up to the jungle camp

One of the waterfalls along the trail


At last!

Birding along the matured secondary forest for the Black Oriole and Hose's Broadbill

Jungle camp with basic amenities 

With my trusted Swarovski Optik gear that survived the walk

Shoes got stuck on the mud

Sleeping area

I was looking at the Black Oriole (endemic), one of the bird species that were not found in Sabah

Whiskered Treeswift, one of the two species found in Borneo

Black Oriole, endemic to Borneo and surprisingly, not found in Sabah and Brunei.

Next trip would be at Mt. Tingkar in the middle of Sabah. Hope to get the Bornean Peacock-Pheasant plus the Malaysian Rail-Babbler too. Happy birding!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

 21-26th April 2022

The gang's next destinations were at Tabin Wildlife Reserve located around 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Lahad Datu town on the East Coast of Sabah. It is recommended to drive or hire 4x4 vehicles in case of bad weather while driving along the plantation road before entering the access road at Tabin.

During our trip there, we saw and heard some of the specialty birds and mammals such as Black Flying Squirrel, Leopard Cat, Orang Utan, a family of North Grey Gibbon and the rarest Hose's Langur! For avian life, Large Green Pigeon were seen daily on the fruiting trees, 7 Hornbills, 6 Pittas along the Mud Volcano and Core Area trails and the Striped with Black-throated Wren-Babbler. Blue-banded Kingfisher nowhere to be seen that time and hope I will be able to nail this elusive Kingfisher at Danum Valley

On our last minute detour to Kinabatangan River for the Bornean Pygmy Elephant, we got the Bat Hawk, Storm's Stork, Grey-headed Fish-Eagle and Wreathed Hornbill plus Proboscis Monkey and Silver Langur with 2 huge salt water Crocodiles! 6 White-bellied Munia was seen at Sukau Greenview Lodge including the uncommon Little Green Pigeon feeding on the fruiting trees nearby and John got the Grey Imperial Pigeon too!

Bird list:

  1. Great Argus
  2. Little Grebe
  3. Asian Emerald Dove
  4. Little Gren Pigeon
  5. Pink-necked Green Pigeon
  6. Large Green Pigeon 
  7. Green Imperial-Pigeon
  8. Short-toed Coucal
  9. Greater Coucal
  10. Raffles's Malkoha
  11. Violet Cuckoo
  12. Plaintive Cuckoo
  13. Moustached Hawk-Cuckoo
  14. Indian Cuckoo
  15. Blyth's Frogmouth
  16. Plume-toed Swiftlet
  17. Mossy-nest Swiftlet
  18. Black-nest Swiftlet
  19. White-nest Swiftlet
  20. Grey-rumped Treeswift
  21. Whiskered Treeswift
  22. Common Sandpiper
  23. Storm's Stork
  24. Lesser Adjutant
  25. Oriental Darter
  26. Purple Heron
  27. Cattle Egret
  28. Great Egret
  29. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  30. Oriental Honey-Buzzard
  31. Jerdon's Baza
  32. Crested Serpent Eagle
  33. Bat Hawk
  34. Wallace's Hawk-Eagle
  35. Rufous-bellied Eagle
  36. Black Eagle
  37. Crested Goshawk
  38. Japanese Sparrowhawk
  39. White-bellied Sea-Eagle
  40. Lesser Fish-Eagle
  41. Grey-headed Fish-Eagle
  42. Barred Eagle-Owl
  43. Brown Wood-Owl
  44. Red-naped Trogon
  45. Diard's Trogon
  46. Orange-breasted Trogon
  47. White-crowned Hornbill
  48. Helmeted Hornbill
  49. Rhinoceros Hornbill
  50. Bushy-crested Hornbill
  51. Black Hornbill
  52. Oriental Pied Hornbill
  53. Wreathed Hornbill
  54. Wrinkled Hornbill
  55. Blue-eared Kingfisher
  56. Stork-billed Kingfisher
  57. Collared Kingfisher
  58. Rufous-collared Kingfisher
  59. Blue-throated Bee-Eater
  60. Dollarbird
  61. Bornean Brown Barbet (endemic)
  62. Blue-eared Barbet
  63. Red-throated Barbet
  64. Rufous Piculet
  65. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
  66. Maroon Woodpecker
  67. Banded Woodpecker
  68. Great Slaty Woodpecker
  69. White-fronted Falconet (endemic)
  70. Long-tailed Parakeet
  71. Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot
  72. Black and Red Broadbill
  73. Black and Yellow Broadbill
  74. Black-crowned Pitta (endemic)
  75. Blue-banded Pitta (endemic)
  76. Giant Pitta
  77. Bornean-banded Pitta (endemic)
  78. Blue-headed Pitta (endemic)
  79. Hooded Pitta
  80. Fiery Minivet
  81. Scarlet Minivet
  82. Pied Triller
  83. Lesser Cuckooshrike
  84. White-bellied Erpornis
  85. Dark-throated Oriole
  86. White-breasted Woodswallow
  87. Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
  88. Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
  89. Rufous-winged Philentoma
  90. Common Iora
  91. Green Iora
  92. Spotted Fantail
  93. Malaysian Pied Fantail
  94. Bronzed Drongo
  95. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  96. Black-naped Monarch
  97. Slender-billed Crow
  98. Large-billed Crow
  99. Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher
  100. Dark-necked Tailorbird
  101. Ashy Tailorbird
  102. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird
  103. Yellow-bellied Prinia
  104. Pacific Swallow
  105. Spectacled Bulbul
  106. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  107. Olive-winged Bulbul
  108. Cream-vented Bulbul
  109. Red-eyed Bulbul
  110. Grey-cheeked Bulbul
  111. Charlotte's Bulbul
  112. Streaked Bulbul
  113. Yellow-bellied Warbler
  114. Bold-striped Tit-Babbler
  115. Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler
  116. Chestnut-winged Babbler
  117. Rufous-fronted Babbler
  118. Black-throated Babbler
  119. Chestnut-rumped Babbler
  120. Black-throated Wren-Babbler
  121. Sooty-capped Babbler
  122. Rufous-crowned Babbler
  123. Black-capped Babbler
  124. Short-tailed Babbler
  125. White-chested Babbler
  126. Ferruginous Babbler
  127. Striped Wren-Babbler
  128. Black-throated Wren-Babbler
  129. Brown Fulvetta
  130. Asian Glossy Starling
  131. Common Hill Myna
  132. Javan Mna
  133. Dark-sided Flycatcher
  134. Rufous-tailed Shama
  135. White-crowned Shama (endemic)
  136. Pale Blue Flycatcher
  137. Malaysian Blue Flycatcher
  138. Verditer Flycatcher
  139. White-crowned Forktail
  140. Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker
  141. Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker
  142. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
  143. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
  144. Brown-throated Sunbird
  145. Plain Sunbird
  146. Van Hasselt's Sunbird
  147. Purple-naped Spiderhunter
  148. Thick-billed Spiderhunter
  149. Little Spiderhunter
  150. Yellow-eared Spiderhunter
  151. Spectacled Spiderhunter
  152. Long-billed Spiderhunter
  153. Asian Fairy-Bluebird
  154. Lesser Green Leafbird
  155. Scaly-breasted Munia
  156. Dusky Munia (endemic)
  157. White-bellied Munia
  158. Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Images taken with Swarovski Optik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Road at Menara Kayangan, Silam

The famous tower on the far right. Opening hours from 8-5 PM daily

Silam Crab, endemic to the mountain itself


Darvel Bay, Celebes Sea from the viewing platform, Mt. Silam

Morning breakfast at Tabin Wildlife Lodge


One of the iconic Manggaris tree at Tabin and saw around 6 bee hives with the potential of Malaysian Honeyguide I saw in 2010.

Joe and Gary with Swarovski Optik and Nikon spotting scopes for the Thick-billed, Spectacled and Yellow-eared Spiderhunter

Best birding spot is along the road to Gomantong Cave. Here we saw 3 White-fronted Falconet (endemic) as well the Black-throated Babbler

Scanning the uncommon Little Grebe after the Kg. Bilit junction

Sukau Greenview Lodge, Kinabatangan River offers one of the best places to stay for your trip at the river. Sometimes in the morning, visitors can see the Red Langur and Oriental Pied Hornbill on the electric cables

On the way for the Bornean Pygmy Elephant which we missed even on the 84km return trip!

With John :D

Getting ready for some drone footage for the Giant Tabin Tree

Joe at Giant Tabin Tree

Possible to see the Blue-banded Kingfisher from this bridge

Hill Lodge

One of the hides built by the lodge for visitors

Looking for the resident Malaysian Blue Flycatcher from the Otter Deck and other birds can be seen here such as Plain Sunbird, Grey-cheeked Bulbul, White-crowned Hornbill and Buffy Fish Owl

Core area trail

Digiscoping the Rhinoceros Hornbill at one of the fruiting trees around the lodge with my Swarovski Optik STX95 spotting scope

Together with Maldin the in house bird guide next to me #yokoyokobirdteam

Birding from the tower at Mud Volcano and we got the Mossy-nest Swiftlet here

One of the biggest mud volcano in Sabah with 2 more sites in Tawau and also Pulau Tiga. It has medicinal value for human and this is one of the important source of salts for the wildlife.

Swarovski Optik...

We got the Striped Wren-Babbler and Black-crowned Pitta on the way to the Mud Volcano

To the Mud Volcano! 


Rhinoceros Hornbill

North Grey Gibbon, endemic to Sabah with 3 more subpecies found in Borneo Island

My lifer the rare Binturong!!!

Malaysian Blue Flycatcher female

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Little Grebe

Brown Wood-Owl

Another lifer of mine, Black Flying Squirrel during the night drive

Malay Civet, plenty seen at night time

Wallace's Hawk-Eagle

Striped Wren-Babbler

The endemic Black-crowned Pitta!

Quite lucky to see this Greater Mouse-Deer at daytime hehehe

Crested Serpent Eagle, the commonest raptors at Tabin

Racer Snake

Bat Hawk

Wreathed Hornbill at Kinabatangan River

Tabin Wildlife Reserve never disappoint me with the number of birds and mammals seen during my previous trips since 2008. It is a place for bird photographers because of the ample amount of light even when shooting along the Mud Volcano and other trails under the shades. Nothing beats this reserve in Sabah!

My next trip would be at Payeh Maga and Bakalalan, Sarawak. Hope I will be able to get around 450 birds soon :D

Happy birding!