Day 1: Mid-day/early afternoon pick up from Kota Kinabalu Airport and transfer to Kota Kinabalu Shangri-La City Center Hotel. Time depending, we will do some afternoon birding around the city center where we will get our first taste of lowland Bornean birds such as Green Imperial-Pigeon, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Nankeen Night-heron, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker and hopefully, a few species of sunbirds such as Olive-backed, Crimson and Brown-throated. If we are up for an evening excursion, we may opt to try for Sunda Frogmouth and maybe even Barred Eagle-owl and Reddish Scops Owl at a local city park.
Overnight Kota Kinabalu Shangri-La City Center Hotel
Day 2: We will get an early start in order to make the 2hrs transfer to Klias wetland in time for peak activity. This area will be our only chance to bird in the unique peat swamp forest and thus we will be on the lookout for specialties such as the Hook-billed Bulbul, Red-crowned Barbet, the stunning Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker and the scarce Black-throated and Grey-breasted Babblers. In the afternoon we will make the 2.5hr transfer to Tambunan in the foothills.
Overnight in the basic Tambunan 7 Lodge hotel or similar.
Day 3: We will have all day to spend birding the foothill forest around Tambunan. Among the star attractions for the area is the shy endemic Bulwer's Pheasant for which there is currently a hide where it can be seen with regularity. We will hope that the hide is still active during our visit. Regardless, the surrounding area holds many wonderful birds and among these are Bornean Banded-Pitta (our first of a few chances to see this stunner!), Dayak Blue Flycatcher and Bornean and Mountain Barbets. If we are up for an evening adventure, we can try for the scarce endemic Bornean Frogmouth.
Overnight in the basic Tambunan 7 Lodge hotel or similar.
Day 4: This morning we will spend birding the Crocker Range around Gunung Alab and the Rafflesia Centre. Hides here attract both endemic Red-breasted and Crimson-hooded Partridges. This area is good for the Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, another endemic that can be tricky to pin down depending on availability of flowering trees. Other endemics such as Bornean Bulbul, Bornean Leafbird, Mountain Blackeye and the highly localized Mountain Serpent-eagle will also be on the ticket for today. In the afternoon we will make the 3 hour transfer to Kundasang, near the entrance to Kinabalu National Park.
Overnight at the Pine Resort.
Days 5 and 6: We will have two full days to bird the humid montane forests of Mount Kinabalu National Park. Birding can be very productive and there are a whole suite of superb birds that we will be aiming to see here. Afternoons can be rather rainy and/or socked in with fog though and if this occurs we might spend an afternoon or two at somewhat lower elevations (perhaps around the Poring hot spring), or relax a bit around the hotel. In addition to the birds, this area has among the highest diversity of squirrels in the world including the adorable Tufted Pygmy Squirrel.
We will likely encounter several mixed species flocks and these usually come in two varieties. Those dominated by Laughingthrushes (Chestnut-hooded, Sunda and if we’re lucky Bare-headed) can also attract other larger birds such as the stunning Bornean Green Magpie, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Sunda Cuckooshrike and Checker-throated Woodpecker. The other type of mixed flock usually consists of smaller birds such as Chestnut-crowned Yuhina, Yellow-breasted and Mountain Leaf Warblers and White-throated Fantails. In these flocks one can often find White-browed (Blyth’s) Shrike-babbler, Bornean Whistler, Indigo Flycatcher and Temmink’s Sunbird.
Fruiting trees will be watched for carefully as these often attract goodies such as Fruithunter, Golden-naped Barbet and the extraordinary Whitehead’s Broadbill. Other top birds in the area include Whitehead’s Trogon (surely one of the more stunning species among a brilliant family of birds), Everett’s Thrush, Bornean Forktail, Bornean Stubtail, Black-sided Flowerpecker and Sunda Owlet.
Overnight at the Pine Resort
Day 7: Today we will decide if we want to bird some more in the park or drop down to the foothills in the Poring hot spring area. Birding around Poring hot spring can be very productive and we would be on the lookout for such beauties as Blue-banded Pitta, Rufous-collared Kingfisher and the elusive endemic Hose’s Broadbill. The sharp looking Scaly-breasted Bulbul is also possible here along with a suite of typical lowland species that will give us a taste of what the rest of the trip will hold.
Overnight Pine resort
Day 8: This will be a very early morning as we make the 2hr drive to the Telupid lowland forest, aiming to arrive not long after dawn. From here we will walk in ~45 minutes to a hide for the almost mythical Bornean Peacock-Pheasant. The day will be largely dedicated to this special bird but depending on our luck with it we should have the opportunity to do other birding in the area. In the afternoon we will continue driving another 2.5hrs to Sepilok.
If we are fortunate we might spot the endemic White-fronted Falconet near our hotel after we have checked in. This is the smallest falcon in the world at just 6 inches!
Overnight Sepilok Jungle Resort
Day 9: We will have all day to bird around the Sepilok Lowland forest. We will spend some time at the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) where there is a state-of-the-art canopy walkway with three towers. The area is good for Woodpeckers and we have a good chance of spotting White-bellied, Maroon and Buff-necked. Hornbills are also regular and we can expect to spot Oriental Pied and Rhinoceros as well as perhaps others. If we are very fortunate, we might come across a group of the bizarre Bornean Bristlehead, though we will have better chances later on in the Danum Valley.
Trails in the area can be good for species such as Rufous-backed Dwarf Kingfisher, Black-crowned Pitta and a variety of Babblers. The peculiar looking Treeshrews, of a couple species, are fairly common here and it is likely we will run into a few. We can also hope to encounter our first wild Orangutans here and there is also a rehabilitation centre for them nearby.
We may opt to do a night walk at the RDC to look for Giant Flying Squirrels and a couple species of Owl such as Sunda and Reddish Scops-owl and Barred Eagle-owl.
Overnight at Sepilok Jungle resort.
Day 10: We will have another opportunity to bird the area around Sepilok in the morning. If we didn’t already the previous day, we might decide to stake out a particular fruiting tree near the parking area of the Rainforest Discovery Centre where a variety of Bulbuls (including the scarce Grey-bellied) and Flowerpeckers (including scarce Yellow-vented and Brown-backed) can show up. Around midday we will make the 2hr transfer to the Kinabatangan River where we will do our first afternoon river cruise.
The Kinabatangan River is famous as the best spot to see the bizarre Proboscis Monkey and we can expect to encounter a few troupes over our day and a half here. Other mammals such as Sunda Colugo, Long-tailed and Pig-tailed Macaques, and Silvered and Maroon Leaf Monkeys and perhaps even wild Bornean Orangutans and Bornean Pygmy Elephant can be found here as well.
On one of our two nights here we will have the option of doing a nocturnal excursion to look for Buffy Fish Owl, Oriental Bay Owl, Brown Wood Owl, Large Frogmouth and mammals such as a few species of Civet (Palm and Malay being the commonest) and Sunda Colugo.
Overnight at the Borneo Nature Lodge/Similar
Day 11: We will have all day to explore the Kinabatangan and will take full advantage with both morning and afternoon boat cruises, exploring the main river and a couple tributaries. This is a great area for Hornbills and we can expect to encounter at least 6 species including the stunning Rhinoceros and Wrinkled as well as the endangered White-crowned Hornbill.
Along the tributaries we have opportunities to spot several stunning species such as Hooded and Black-crowned Pittas, Black-and-yellow and Red-and-Black Broadbills, Malaysian Blue Flycatcher, Diard’s Trogon, Blue-eared and Stork-billed Kingfisher, malkohas, sunbirds and more.
In the undergrowth we will hope to spot the endemic Sabah (formerly Chestnut-necklaced) Partridge and if we are very fortunate, the elusive Bornean Ground-cuckoo.
The riverside is great for raptors and Crested Serpent-eagles are common while we will have good chance of spotting other raptors such as Wallace’s Hawk-eagle, Jerdon’s Baza, Bat Hawk and both Lesser and Grey-headed Fish-eagle. This is the principal stronghold of the endangered Storm’s Stork and we have a good chance of connecting with this species as they often perch prominently atop riverside trees.
Overnight at Borneo Nature Lodge/Similar
Day 12: We will have a final morning to bird in the Kinabatangan area and we will make a decision whether to do another boat cruise or visit the nearby Gomantong Caves. If we opt for the latter, we will spend a few hours birding on foot through mature lowland forest that lines the access road. Here we will have an opportunity to spot Rufous-collared Kingfisher, Black-crowned Pitta, Chestnut-rumped Babbler and much more.
We will then transfer two hours to Lahad Datu, before continuing on a further 2.5-3hrs to the famous Danum Valley. We will aim to break up the afternoon drive with some birding along the way and along with the birding potential, we might get lucky and spot Bornean Pymy Elephants on the drive. By late afternoon we will get settled in to one of most renowned nature lodges in the world, the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Overnight Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Day 13 and 14: We will have two full days of birding in the Danum Valley. Along with a network of trails, there is a canopy walkway and viewing towers while birding the access road can be highly rewarding.
There a list as long as ones arm of special birds in the Danum Valley and these include stunning gems such as Great Argus Pheasant, Bornean Banded, Blue-headed, Giant and Blue-banded Pittas, Green Broadbill, Banded Broadbill, Blue-banded and Rufous-collared Kingfishers. This will be our best chance at the bizarre endemic Bornean Bristlehead as well as the endangered Helmeted Hornbill.
Among the more subtle specialties we will look for skulkers such as Black-throated, Striped and Bornean Wren-babblers. Mixed flocks will hold a variety of Babblers and Bulbuls as well as perhaps White-bellied Erpornis and both Maroon-breasted and Rufous-winged Philentoma. If we are fortunate, we might spot Crested Shrike-jay.
Around the lodge itself we can look for a variety of Spiderhunters, Flowerpeckers and Bulbuls attracted to the flowering and fruiting plants.
Danum Valley is excellent for mammals and we will fancy our chances of spotting a few Orangutans, several species of squirrels and with some luck Bornean Gibbons. Night excursions could provide us with encounters with Civets, Flying Squirrels, Slow Loris and Horsfield’s Tarsier among the more likely. While very rare, this is one of the better spots for Clouded Leopard. On the nocturnal bird front, a few species of Frogmouth are possible including Large, Gould’s and Blyth’s.
Overnight Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Day 15: We will have a final morning of birding around the Danum Valley before we transfer to Lahad Datu airport for our flight at 4:15pm back to Kota Kinabalu. This will be the end of the tour and participants may decide to continue onwards on their homeward flight or stay another night in Kota Kinabalu at your own cost.