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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Borneo: Sarawak Endemics

Black Oriole, Hose's Broadbill and Dulit Frogmouth

Tour Information

Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour.  It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space.   The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course, supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office. 

ENTERING MALAYSIA:  U.S. citizens are required to have a passport valid for at least six months after the date of entry and with at least one blank page for an entry stamp. Visas are not required for a pleasure or business trip of 90 days or less. 

Proof of yellow fever immunization is required for people coming from countries where the disease is endemic.  No other immunizations are required for entry. 

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at , and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Malaysia at


The average distance covered during our days in the field is around 1 - 2 miles per “birding period.” Our pace is very slow, of course, and while not overly strenuous you will be on your feet for long periods. A lightweight, foldable stool may come in handy. In order to get to the remote field camp at Paya Maga (where we will spend two nights) you will be required to hike a 4-mile uphill stretch of trail.  We’ll start the hike in the morning and with birding stops it will take us roughly 3 hours. The hike is mostly on a moderate grade, but participants should have a reasonable level of fitness. We’ll hope to reach camp before the heat of midday. Since there is a lull in the bird activity in the middle of the afternoon, midday breaks are usually scheduled.  The mornings will be early (as early as 5:30 AM departures from the accommodations in some places).  Most of our birding during this tour will be on foot and away from vehicles. Our birding at Ba’kelalan will involve some roadside birding, while at Paya Maga we’ll be on fairly wide forest trails. In order to find the more skulking birds such as pittas, partridges, babblers and so on we will also be birding on narrow forest trails and sometimes even off trail. These trails are oftentimes freshly cut and may be slippery or “rooty.” Where possible we will be walking on a downhill trend but of course, the trails undulate and since we’ll oftentimes need to return the way we came, some uphill walking is required. Susan will inform the group of trail conditions ahead of time so that anyone who wishes to opt-out has that opportunity.

The proximity to the equator means the days are 12 hours long year-round so dawn and dusk are around 6 am/pm respectively. Evening or early morning owling is offered where possible for those who want to participate. 

HEALTH:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

Malaria: The CDC recommends a malaria prophylaxis.  

Yellow Fever: Yellow Fever protection is not recommended by the CDC but is required for entry into Malaysia if you’re coming from a country where the disease is endemic. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s  Travel Health website at . 

Elevation: The maximum elevation we will bird is not high; at Paya Maga it is approximately 985ft/300m to 1970ft/600m; our accommodation there is at approximately 1640ft/500m. Bakalalan village is located at 2985ft/910m above sea level.

Smoking:  Smoking is prohibited in vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Miscellaneous:  Malaysia is remarkably free of intestinal complaints.  Malaysians are very particular about their drinking water and drinking water in a restaurant or cafe will have already been boiled. 

It is likely that we will find mosquitoes in some forest areas. We recommend using insect repellents with a high concentration of DEET. 

CLIMATE:  Both Bakalalan and Paya Maga enjoy tropical climates that are a bit cooler than in the lowlands. The nights are fresh but usually not cold, although a jacket is advisable just in case.  The temperature ranges from about 31C (mid-day) to the low-20sC at night, although the averages are cooler in the mid-20s. Paya Maga is usually marginally warmer. The humidity is quite high, averaging about 80% year-round, which may make it seem hotter.  Rainfall can be expected at any time in brief, heavy downpours.  Total annual rainfall averages between 200 and 260 cm (between 77-100 inches), the wet season typically runs from October to March, while the “not so wet” season is from April to September. There is always the chance of rain on any given day at any given time in Borneo.

ACCOMMODATIONS: As this tour visits a rather remote region of Borneo that lacks the tourist infrastructure and luxuries of Sabah, a sense of adventure and a decent amount of preparation will ensure you have a great trip. Our tour begins and ends in Kota Kinabalu, and while there we stay in a fairly typical, well-appointed, western-style hotel with private bathrooms.  While in Bakalalan we will stay in the local “homestay” which is quite simple, with shared bathrooms, but clean and comfortable. The homestay is run by a charming local family in their very large house (they live out the back). In the living areas you will find an endless supply of snacks and hot drinks, comfortable seating, and a well-stocked library of natural history books. It is likely to be a memorable stay in a busy little village with no roads. Bathing here will either be through an overhead faucet or mandi style, which involves using a small container to scoop water out of a large container and pouring water over the body, in such a way that this water does not go back into the large container. Our two nights in Paya Maga, which is basically a remote campsite, will be much more basic. The campsite here is comprised of a small primitive wooden building with three separate rooms. One of the rooms is the kitchen and the two are for sleeping. Mattresses (3-inch foam) will be laid out on the floor and tent-like mosquito nets & light sleeping bags will be provided. You may consider bringing a sheet along with you for these nights and you may also consider bringing a travel pillow. If you are a light sleeper you may also consider bringing ear plugs.  Behind the wooden building is a large outhouse with 5 simple pit style toilets (no seat) and bathing stalls (mandi).  Once we leave Kota Kinabalu we may not have hot water for bathing for most of the trip.   

WiFi, Internet and Cell Phones:  In the hotels in the main towns free wifi is generally available. Most require a password, which we’ll receive on check-in. Neither a signal nor Wifi are available at Paya Maga. A signal is available at Bakalalan but it is weak.

Cell phones can be useful while on tour but keep in mind that many countries operate on a different cellular technology than US or Canadian carriers. Your phone may be incompatible with the local system, so please check with your local carrier.  

FOOD:  The food in this part of Malaysia is generally delicious and varied with a combination of Chinese, Western and local Malaysian and Sabahan dishes. At the lodges the evening meals are in the form of buffets. The food in this part of the world has a reputation for being spicy but in Malaysian cuisine, chili or “sambal” (similar in some ways to salsa) is usually added to the meal at the table and is thus optional. 

Drinks: Water will be available in the field and we’ll have a large bottle for refills. We ask that bring a large, good quality water bottle and keep this topped up. Juices and carbonated beverages will not be available at some locations.  At meals either bottled or filtered water will be available.

Food Allergies / Requirements:  We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

TRANSPORTATION: During the tour we’ll travel primarily in four-wheel drive vehicles.  Most of the roads used will not be paved, and depending on how recent it’s rained the roads can be quite dusty so be prepared. You should have protective coverings for cameras, lenses, and binoculars.

Updated: 08 August 2023