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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!

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