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Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah)

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Old Monday 6th February 2017, 13:34   #1
Nohatch
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Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah)

Hey everyone, I'm looking for a bit of advice for an upcoming trip to Malaysian Borneo next month. The main purpose of the trip is a hydrology field campaign in Sarawak (on small rivers between Kuching and Maludam NP), but I'll have a day or two at the start in the Kuching area, plus 3-4 days in Sabah at the end. This will be my first visit to the island and in fact the region - I enjoy striking out on my own and am happy to drive myself, so I won't be getting a guide.

My planned itinerary is roughly as follows:

05/03 Arrive, visit Semenggoh with colleagues in the afternoon
06/03 Birding Kubah NP (lowland dipterocarp forest) + Bako bay late afternoon (shorebirds)
07/03-14/03 Field campaign on lowland rivers (mainly peat swamp forests) and one offshore transect (seabirds)
15/03 Transfer to Sabah, later afternoon visit to Penampang paddy fields
16/03 Rafflesia Forest Reserve in the morning, drive to Poring Hot Springs
17/03 All day at Mt Kinabalu NP
18/03 All day at Mt Kinabalu NP, late afternoon drive back to KK

Any thoughts on this schedule? My main 'worry' is balancing Mt Kinabalu versus the other sites. I can't really find any alternatives to Poring Hot Springs, which looks very touristic (although I'll be there on a weekday out of season), so is it worth spending half a day there? I was also looking at Inobong sub-station in Crocker Range NP (elevation 500 m), the Kota Belud wetlands and even Manukan island (anything else there than the flycatcher and the scrubfowl?).
Heck, is it even worth driving all the way over to Sepilok and flying back to KK?

Thanks for the advice!
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Old Monday 6th February 2017, 16:41   #2
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My suggestion would be to drive staight to Mt Kinabalu on the 15th and spend all your time there. With a few exceptions, the birds at the Rafflesia Centre are also on Kinabalu, and I'm not sure a single afternoon at Poring is likely to be very productive. That way you get 3 full days of excellent birding, and don't spend time in transit.
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Old Monday 6th February 2017, 17:25   #3
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My suggestion would be to drive staight to Mt Kinabalu on the 15th and spend all your time there. With a few exceptions, the birds at the Rafflesia Centre are also on Kinabalu, and I'm not sure a single afternoon at Poring is likely to be very productive. That way you get 3 full days of excellent birding, and don't spend time in transit.
The birds easier at the rafflesia centre are tough at Kinabalu, Mountain and Bornean Barbet, Whiteheads Spidehunter, Pygmy White-eye.....


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Old Monday 6th February 2017, 20:22   #4
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Thanks for the advice gents :) I appreciate I'll have to make some compromises since I only have a couple of days available on this trip. I know from the Neotropics that altitude is everything, is that less so on Borneo?
Also, is it worthwhile actually staying in Kinabalu NP or does it open early enough to be up-and-birding before dawn? And can you get up to Timpohon gate in your own car?
Thanks again,
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Old Monday 6th February 2017, 20:59   #5
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I would actually spend more time in the lowland rainforest, but don't know the good site around Kota Kinabalu - people do it is Sepilok and Danum, but it is too far to drive.

My advice: if it is your first trip to the region, get to the Poring hot springs, it is lower elevation forest for sort-of lowland species. Try if there are fruiting trees around the springs themselves, or walk leisurely the path.

In the Kinabalu and Poring, the weather is usually clear at dawn, and during the day fog and rain descend progressively down the mountain. So get up as high as possible at dawn, and when you see the mist or clouds rolling down the hillsides, pack up and head lower down.
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Old Monday 6th February 2017, 21:54   #6
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Thanks Jurek, I'll keep your weather advice in mind :) I was considering accessing the 2000-2200m elevation species at Mesilau (by car) then do the 1500-2000m elevations in the main park. The Crocker Range looks good too with accommodation at Inobong (400-800m) and Gunung Alab (1400-1900m) stations - does anyone have experience with these?

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Old Monday 6th February 2017, 22:41   #7
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Thanks for the advice gents :) I appreciate I'll have to make some compromises since I only have a couple of days available on this trip. I know from the Neotropics that altitude is everything, is that less so on Borneo?
Also, is it worthwhile actually staying in Kinabalu NP or does it open early enough to be up-and-birding before dawn? And can you get up to Timpohon gate in your own car?
Thanks again,
Joost
The NP gate is open 24hrs every day. Accommodation inside the park is expensive, and there are plenty of private lodges to suit all budgets close to the entrance. You can indeed drive up to the Timpohon Gate in your own car.

Altitude is perhaps not as critical as in the neotropics, although obviously it does affect bird distributions. There is good birding all the way up the road from the entrance to the Timpohon Gate.
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Old Monday 6th February 2017, 22:46   #8
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Thanks Jurek, I'll keep your weather advice in mind :) I was considering accessing the 2000-2200m elevation species at Mesilau (by car) then do the 1500-2000m elevations in the main park. The Crocker Range looks good too with accommodation at Inobong (400-800m) and Gunung Alab (1400-1900m) stations - does anyone have experience with these?

J
I'm not sure, but I think the Mesilau entrance might be closed due to earthquake damage... haven't been there myself, but vaguely recall seeing a notice to that effect in September. Hopefully somebody else can confirm or deny.
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 02:07   #9
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Mesilau is indeed closed.

I wouldn't bother so much with Boring Poring to be honest, especially with it being your first visit to the region as it's such slow birding. Concentrate on Mt Kinabalu and the Rafflesia Reserve, including a day at Inobong too. Inobong and lower slopes of Rafflesia offer much the same as Poring.

Skip Manukan, though it is quite birdy, logistically it's not much fun with no early morning boats unless you hire an expensive early morning one (or late afternoon is ok).
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 10:57   #10
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I'd second James's advice. If you want to stay in cheaper accom just outside the Kinabalu park gates, you prob won't get your car in before the gates open, but it's less than an hour walk up to the Timpohon gate, if you wanted to do that for dawn.
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 11:48   #11
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Thanks once again for your input guys! I may play it by ear a bit with the time spent in the lowland areas - hopefully I'll be able to cover many of those species during my week in Sarawak.
So it's a general no vote for including some wetland/paddy field areas in Sabah?
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 13:31   #12
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So it's a general no vote for including some wetland/paddy field areas in Sabah?
Why would you do that when you've got endemics and mega forest species to seek?? Never understood why any visiting birder would want to visit the wetland when there are so much to see in the rich forests Borneo is so famous for!
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 13:49   #13
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Because Nankeen Night Heron and Striated Grassbird would be lifers too! Or simply because I'm Dutch and naturally drawn to swamps... :)
Point taken though James!
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 14:18   #14
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Because Nankeen Night Heron and Striated Grassbird would be lifers too! Or simply because I'm Dutch and naturally drawn to swamps... :)
Exactly my point - one occurs commonly through to Australia, the other through to India. Whether to spend extra time looking for Bornean endemics or widespread species?!
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 14:24   #15
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one occurs commonly through to Australia, the other through to India
...which I visit all the time! Jokes aside you're right of course and I should not get sidetracked but focus on the Bornean specialties.
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 14:30   #16
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Although I'd be grateful for directions to the Penampang paddy fields - if I pass close by there anyway I might as well stop for an hour and get a few common bonus species :)

Thanks,
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 15:47   #17
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Because Nankeen Night Heron and Striated Grassbird would be lifers too! Or simply because I'm Dutch and naturally drawn to swamps... :)
Point taken though James!
Keep an eye out for the grassbird on wires in transit in general.
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 16:22   #18
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Agreed re: Grassbird - didn't target Paddyfields, but did get this species. Tried Rafflesia Centre for species missed at Kinabalu but not at all successfully - for just a couple of days I'd concentrate on Kinabalu, or add in Sepilok for quality night mammals and birds.
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2017, 16:30   #19
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You can see Nankeen Night Heron right in the middle of Kota Kinabalu. They roost in Taman Tun Fuad Stephen near the Sabah Golf and Country Club.
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Old Wednesday 8th February 2017, 16:13   #20
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Looks like I may be travelling up on the 14th, so an extra day to play with :)
Thanks for all the advice, it's been very helpful in pointing me in the right directions - I'll do a little report when I get back!

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Old Monday 20th February 2017, 11:14   #21
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Update: the finalized itinerary :)

05/03 Mid-morning arrival & Semenggoh wildlife centre in the afternoon
06/03 Full day at Kubah NP (lowland dipterocarp forest)
07/03 Field work prep & travel
08/03 Sampling Maludam NP (peat swamp & riverine forest)
09/03 Sampling Sebuyau river (peat swamp & riverine forest)
10/03 Offshore transect (seabirds)
11/03 Sampling Simunjan river (peat swamp & riverine forest)
12/03 Travel & lab work
13/03 Lab work
14/03 Hike Santubong NP (lowland dipterocarp forest); Buntal-Bako Bay early afternoon (shorebirds); Chupak paddy fields late afternoon; evening flight to KK
15/03 Manukan Island in the morning; drive to Kundasang via Kota Belud (paddy fields)
16/03 All day at Mt Kinabalu NP
17/03 Most of the day at Mt Kinabalu NP; late afternoon drive to Mahua (Crocker Range mid-elevation forest)
18/03 All day in the Crocker Range: Gunung Alab substation & Rafflesia FR in the morning (1300-1900 m), Inobong substation in the afternoon (400-700 m); evening flight out of KK

Cheers,
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