Skip to navigation, or go to main content.

WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Borneo: Sabah

Mount Kinabalu, Kinabatangan River, Tabin Reserve, and the Danum Valley

2019 Narrative

As we’ve come to expect over many years of experience in Borneo, our tour was full of fabulous bird sightings, as well as amazing mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants. In this incredibly biodiverse part of the world, it’s very difficult to choose highlights - there are just too many to list here. What a great problem to have! We divided our time on this fourth largest island between four main sites: the montane forests of Mount Kinabalu, the lowland swamp and riparian forests of the Kinabatangan River and lastly in the hill forests of Tabin and the Danum Valley.

On Mount Kinabalu, we sort of managed the Whitehead’s hat trick, although one of them, the spiderhunter, was a brief flyover. But the Whitehead’s Trogon and Broadbill more than made up for that minor disappointment!  We encountered most of the montane endemics as well. Birds with evocative names such as Golden-naped Barbet, Bornean Stubtail, Mountain Wren-Babbler, and Crimson-headed Partridge, to name but a few.

Moving on to our next site on the Kinabatangan, we made a detour to check out the three species of swiftlet nesting in the Gomantong Caves. We waited until dusk to see the incredible spectacle of thousands and thousands of bats exiting the caves for their nocturnal forays only to be preyed upon by the waiting Bat Hawks.

During our two days on the river, we birded by boat and found healthy numbers of the extraordinary Proboscis Monkeys, endemic to the swamp forests of Borneo. Of course, there were many birds, too and standouts amongst them were the crazy-looking White-crowned Hornbills, a very lovely Hooded Pitta and gem-like Blue-eared Kingfishers. On top of that, we had fantastic views, for the first time in a few years, of a Bornean Pygmy Elephant as she fed and then swam across the river. A very memorable experience indeed!

In the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, we spent two days exploring the excellent forest and found much excitement in the form of Red-naped Trogon, Blue-headed Pitta and multiple species of spiderhunter - Thick-billed, Long-billed, Yellow-eared and Spectacled. A big highlight was a beautiful female Bornean Keeled Pit Viper.

Our last destination was the incomparable Danum Valley, where we enjoyed a number of night drives the highlight of which was a Sunda Frogmouth, surely one of the world’s weirdest group of birds.  During our daytime birding, we had pheasants, pittas, wren-babblers, barbets, woodpeckers and so much more. And that’s just the birds - we also had an array of frogs, reptiles, insects (especially butterflies) and mammals. This area is surely one of the best places to be a naturalist anywhere - I wish I could spend a year here!

Borneo is an unforgettable experience and there is literally never a dull moment. There really are very few places in the world that can match the extraordinary biodiversity of this amazing island!

Updated: n/a