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Advice for Malaysia itinerary (1 Viewer)


missing the neotropics
Hello all,

A planned trip to Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia has unfortunately been postponed. In the meanwhile I am going to have about 3 weeks to bird in peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo before my partner joins me and we do some less intense birding and more general ecotourism in Malaysian Borneo and then in Indonesia.

I plan on birding entirely or nearly entirely independently, and am planning out days / time. I've not birded in this region previously but will make a good effort to see as many endemics and specials as possible, knowing I won't clean up. As my partner and I are going to visit Sepilok, Kinabatangan, and Danum together I am not going to those sites prior and instead will focus on other sites.

I would love feedback on the following schedule for a reasonably hardcore but not batshit insane independent birder:

Day 1 - 1/2 Day Kuala Selangor then to Fraser's Hill
Day 2 - Fraser's Hill
Day 3 - Morning Fraser's Hill, afternoon Krau, then to Taman Negara.
Day 4 - TN
Day 5 - TN
Day 6 - TN
Day 7 - TN
Day 8 - TN
Day 9 - TN in the morning, afternoon Tinggi
Day 10 - morning Tinggi if necessary, then on to Kota Kinabalu (Sabah)
Day 11 - morning Klias then to Paya Maga
Day 12 - hike up to and bird at Paya Maga
Day 13 - Paya Maga
Day 14 - hike out, transfer to Bakelalan
Day 15 - Bakelalan
Day 16 - Morning Bakelalan then back to Kota Kinabalu
Day 17 - Crocker Range
Day 18 - Mt Kinabalu
Day 19 - Mt Kinabalu
Day 20 - Mt Kinabalu or a general slop day

A few questions:
-Would people recommend pre-booking transfers / taxis in Peninsular Malaysia or just renting a car?
-For Sarawak, I was planning on booking transport. I assume Paya Maga can be visited independently, or is it necessary to go with a guide?
-For Crocker Range/Kinabalu I am planning on renting a car, I understand this is cheap and straightforward in Sabah?

Many thanks in advance, I'm doing a lot of last minute planning :)

Hi Josh,
Hopefully you will get some more up to date advice, but based on my experience a few years ago, I think your Sarawak itinerary might be very ambitious unless you hire a vehicle. Perhaps things have changed, but the road to Bakelelan and Paya Maga was very bad, and required a very expensive 4wd. The cheapest way to do this was to fly from Lawas to Bakelelan, then fly back to Lawas and take a vehicle from there to Paya Maga, and return the same way. This might not seem logical, but was the cheapest way when we did it.
There was a single morning bus from KK to Lawas, and another option might be to fly KL to Miri, then Miri to Bakelean via Lawas.

It certainly was possible to visit Paya Maga without a guide, but if you plan to hike up and stay in the huts, you will probably need to hire porters, who are quite expensive. Basically the villagers are trying to keep there forest, but need to make money from it, so it seems fair enough for them to require you to employ them.

In the peninsula, I would be inclined to maybe hire a car to do Fraser's Hill and Bukit Tinggi, then take a taxi or bus to TN. Otherwise you are paying to park for a car for several days.

Kinabalu is easy to reach by bus, and just birding on foot. I've never missed having a car here.

One final observation is that you have a lot of days at TN for such a compressed itinerary, which has a big overlap with Danum. I would maybe think about losing a day and adding it to Sarawak.

Another point, Bakelelan can get expensive. I would be careful about hiring anything through the "usual" homestay. Meals are much cheaper in the village canteen, and cars to take you up the Bario road also much cheaper if hired direct.
I really appreciate the thoughts so far. Andy I was already thinking that Fraser should perhaps get one more day, I think I will take your advice. As well I am now thinking of using a car for the first part of the trip and doing Selangor/Fraser/Tinggi/Krau all with a car. Is it a rational idea to do Krau in an afternoon and Tinggi in a morning or is that a recipe for disappointment vis-a-vis the specials?
Thank you for the Sarawak tips Duncan. I have no qualms supporting the locals at Paya, in fact I would prefer to. I just don't know if I am going to need to hire a "birding guide" to arrange 4WD, porters, book the hut (if needed?) etc. While I don't tend to travel in luxury I am not a cheapskate either, I sort of just like birding and travelling with friends/on my own rather than guided, when possible. It sounds like the best plan might be something like:

- Book a vehicle (or combo of vehicles) from Klias to the trailhead, and from the trailhead to Lawas
- Hire a porter to carry stuff up, might as well enjoy the birding and carry less and support them a bit, but I doubt I'll need numerous porters and a guide, it doesn't sound like.
- Do Bakelalan via flights from Lawas
- Use a vehicle or bus to get from Lawas back to KK depending on my schedule

Do an afternoon/day/morning at Paya Maga, and a day + a morning at Bakelalan seem like they should be enough time or am I shortchanging myself given the logistics involved in getting to the sites?

Many thanks for the advice. As mentioned, I'm going to enjoy and I know I can't clean up in one trip, so I'm not sweating it too much, but would still like to make a better plan than worse.

Apologies, this will be in September.

OK, thanks. I doubt I can add anything to the above. I've made recent visits to Taman Negara and Mount Kinanbalu, though not in that season. Anything specific to those two sites, I'll happily answer any queries.
I’d think carefully about not taking a car to Kinabalu. Opinions seem divided. If you want to be highish for dawn for example, it’s a long walk in the dark. Completely agree about taxi to TN, no need for a car there at all. And yes to an extra day at FH...
I would spend less time at Kuala Tahan and try to visit the Northern entrance first. I would do Tinggi before Fraser’s, as it is closer to KL and you could have a second shot if the first try fails to deliver.
I would rent a car around fraser’s, tinggi and maybe even taman negara. You wont need it at TN but it is very convenient and car rental was like 10 euro a day. You save max 50 euro (not counting the extra cost for a taxi), but can decide every minute to go out.
Thanks as well Lieven for the thoughts. I'm going to look in more details at the N entrance to TN. Off the top of your head, are there key species that are better sought there than elsewhere?

As well I think I'm going to do it all with a car, it's easier and more flexible, and it gives me more chances to return more readily to Krau or Tinggi on the way back to KL if need be.
When I did Peninsular Malaysia the car rental company were fine with sending someone to relieve me of it (after I'd done Panti, Fraser's, Tinggi and Selangor) at the bus station, from where I caught the bus to Jerantut for a week at TN.
Hi Josh, out itinerary was confined in time, but through some communication with eg James eaton, it seems the Northern entrance is better for more undisturbed birding. A much better quality experience it seems, without going into details of species at one site or another, as I havent been at the Northern entrance.
Hi Josh,

In 2016 I visited Klias, Paya Maga and Bakelalan independently without arranging anything in advance (except for my flight from Bakelalan).

21-06-2016 Early morning bus to Beaufort from Kota Kinabalu. Taxi to Klias Peat Swamp. Arrive 10 am. Taxi in evening back to Beaufort.
22-06 Early morning bus Beaufort to Sipitang. Taxi Sipitang to Lawas. Seat in shared 4wd to Long Tuyo. Arrive Long Tuyo, arrange visit to Paya Maga. Half hour? moto ride then 3 hrs hike to huts arriving around 6.30 pm.
23-06 Paya Maga
24-06 Paya Maga
25-06 Paya Maga
26-06 Morning Paya Maga, walk down then moto ride to Long Tuyo arriving at c.11.30 am. Waited by the road until until I got a lift in a 4wd going to Bakelalan. Arrived late afternoon and stayed the next 3 nights at the Julia Sang homestay.
27-06 Bakelalan
28-06 Bakelalan
29-06 Morning Bakelalan, flight to Kuala Lumpur via Lawas. I think flights to/from Bakelalan might only be one some days of the week?

I think I found the shared 4wd in Lawas by asking my taxi driver and/or the locals about it. I had to wait hours for the shared 4wd to leave and go around picking up/waiting for other passengers. The 4wd was going all the way to Bakelalan but I got off at Long Tuyo.

At Long Tuyo I asked about going to Paya Maga and was soon shown to the house of the extremely hospitable Mr and Mrs Dawat who quickly made arrangements for my visit to Paya Maga. This included a small fee to stay at the hut there, hiring one porter, and motocycle rides to/from the start of the hike to Paya Maga.
I think hiring a porter might be compulsory in order to visit, but I am not sure.
The trail to Paya Maga was fairly muddy in places. My boots got soaked but that might have been because they were already falling apart!

I was told that getting a lift from Long Tuyo to Bakelalan in a passing vehicle was reliable on weekdays but not always possible on weekends. I got a lift on a Sunday afternoon within an hour or so.

If I remember correctly I tried to contact the homestay in advance but didn't succeed.
I did pay for 4wd transport and a guide for most of my time there, but this was expensive and in hindsight not necessary to do for more than half a day (to get shown the spots for a couple of the key species).
I doubt it would be necessary at all now since the exact spots for all the species should be on ebird (though I haven't checked in case there have been changes since I visited).
The homestay itself didn't seem too overpriced and if staying there would probably be good for finding out the latest birding info for the area. No idea if there are any cheaper options available.
On my last morning the homestay arranged a motorcycle to take me to the Bario rd. This was much cheaper but not as quick as the car since I had to walk the steep bits of the Bario rd since the motorcycle couldn't make it up.

Some costs (all in MYR):
12 Bus KK to Beaufort.
50 Taxi to Klias Peat Swamp
86 Klias Peat Swamp field center entry fee and camera fee
50 Taxi Klias to Beaufort
5 Bus Beaufort to Sipitang
70 Taxi Sipitang to Lawas. No idea if I was overpaying for these taxis or not.
100 Seat in 4wd Lawas to Long Tuyo. Overpaid - see below.
50 Entry fee and 4 nights stay at Paya Maga
500. Porter 100/day x 5
200. Moto 100 each way to/from starting point for Paya Maga hike
38 extra food for stay at Paya Maga bought in Long Tuyo (mostly ate rice already stored in the hut at Paya Maga)
50 Lift in 4wd from Long Tuyo to Bakelalan. (I was told that the standard price for a seat in a 4wd going from Lawas to Bakelalan or vise versa is 70).
240. 80 x 3 nights. Julia Sang homestay. Included all meals.
* 4wd transport plus guide fee. Censored out of embarrassment at how much money I wasted!
50. Motorcycle for 3 hrs along Bario rd on my last morning.

Just send me a message if there are any more details you want to know - hopefully I will be able to remember some useful info.

Hi Michael,

Thank you for the fantastically detailed information. I tremendously appreciate it!

One question if you don't mind: How far are the distances to walk at Bakelalan if you don't pay for a vehicle? I don't mind walking, say, 5-10km a couple times, but more than about 10k is just too much sleep/birding lost if it can be avoided, at least for me when I'm on a fixed schedule.

The distance to the usual site for Dulit Frogmouth isn't far, an easy walk along a level road. The top of the Bario Road isn't a great distance, maybe 10-12km from memory, but it's really steep. We got lifts up and walked back.
The distance to the usual site for Dulit Frogmouth isn't far, an easy walk along a level road. The top of the Bario Road isn't a great distance, maybe 10-12km from memory, but it's really steep. We got lifts up and walked back.


Yeo is quite slow in responding to me, and it appears my prospect of joining an existing group has disappeared, so I might well just do it on my own in the end. It doesn't sound too bad, particularly with the wealth of information everyone has so generously shared.

Cheers to all who've contributed again!
Just adding this here for future folks' knowledge: Yeo Siew Teck is the "default" contact to fix logistics and guide for Paya Maga and Bakelalan. He initially told me he might have another couple clients and we could combine itinerary for a lower price, but that did not pan out. He just now finally responded to me with a price for his services: Basically 6D/5N that yields 2 nights each in Paya Maga and Bakelalan. His quoted price was 2350 USD.

Makes the decision to do it on my own easier!
Here is my fairly final schedule taking into account all of the greatly appreciated advice I've gotten thus far and the rest of my research:

30-Aug 15:00 arrive Kuala Lumpur, get car, drive to Tinggi
31-Aug morning Tinggi afternoon Fraser
1-Sep Fraser
2-Sep Fraser
3-Sep Fraser morning, to TN Merapoh in afternoon
4-Sep TN Merapoh
5-Sep TN Merapoh, to Kuala Tahan in afternoon
6-Sep TN
7-Sep TN
8-Sep TN or return to KL via Krau / Tinggi / Selangor
9-Sep another day for Krau / Tinggi / Selangor depending
10-Sep fly to Kota Kinabalu and transfer to Beaufort
11-Sep morning Klias afternoon travel to Lawas and on to Long Tuyo
12-Sep hike into Paya
13-Sep Paya full day
14-Sep Paya full day
15-Sep Paya morning and descend, transfer to Bakelalan
16-Sep Bakelalan
17-Sep Bakelalan
18-Sep early Bakelalan then fly to Lawas, transfer Lawas - KK, get car
19-Sep Crocker
20-Sep Kinabalu
21-Sep Kinabalu
22-Sep morning Kinabalu, back to Kota Kinabalu by evening to return car

Even if the logistics of getting 4WD's from Lawas to Long Tuyo, and from Long Tuyo to Bakelalan slow me down, I now have a full two extra days in that area so I should be fine with some slop in the schedule.

I've also taken advice to do Tinggi first then on to Fraser, and to visit both entrances to TN. Then as I get to my last two days in peninsular Malaysia I can go about deciding if I will go to Krau and/or Selangor, and if I will revisit Tinggi.
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