29th June – 5th July 2014: Borneo – Tabin and Danum Valley   Leave a comment


The final part of the Borneo account covers two lowland rainforest areas in eastern Sabah. Danum Valley is a superb area of virgin rainforest but it can be rather hard to bird; on the other hand Tabin has been selectively logged and much of it is secondary growth surrounded by oil palm, so although it does not have as many key species as Danum, a lot of them are easier to see. Tabin is particularly good for night drives as owls, civets and Leopard Cats leave the forest and go into the oil palm to hunt the many rats that occur there. We spent two nights at Tabin and four at Danum.


P1120019 Oriental Pied Hornbill

Our lodge at Tabin was right by a river and abutted the forest, various wildlife could be seen on the balcony such as these Oriental Pied Hornbills ……

P1110936 Pig-tailed Macaque

… and this male Pig-tailed Macaque

P1110949 Pig-tailed Macaque

A large troop of Pig-tailed Macaques patrolled the area behind the chalets. The females often took to sitting on the rocks mid-stream, keeping their youngsters out of trouble.

P1110930 Storm's Stork

Normally seen only in flight or perched high in a tree, we were amazed to see this Storm’s Stork walking around in the open near the lodge.

P1120029 Danum Valley

Early morning mist at Tabin

P1110967 Flying Squirrel

Flying Squirrels, including this Thomas’ Flying Squirrel were common at Tabin and Danum. We even got to see them in flight.

P1110941 Plain Pygmy Squirrel

Far smaller was this diminutive Plain Pygmy Squirrel, perhaps the smallest squirrel in the world.


One trail led to the ‘mud volcano’. Heat from volcanic action pushes mud to the surface like a slow motion geysir.

P1110881 Helmeted Hornbill

Of all the hornbills the Helmeted is the most spectacular, both visually and acoustically. This one flew over whilst we were at the mud volcano …

P1110895 Helmeted Hornbill

.. and perched up nicely for photos.

P1120047 Danum Valley lodge

Danum Valley Lodge gives great accommodation and superb food – at a price!

P1120063 aerial walkway

One of the features of Danum reserve is the canopy walkway …..

P1120183 from aerial walkway

… which allows you to get great views into the tree tops, although moving around a swaying bridge to get good views is fraught with difficulty.

P1120087 Danum Valley

One day we climbed the coffin cliff trail on the far side of the river, named as an ancient burial site of indigenous people was found there. Climbing several hundred metres of elevation in the near 100% humidity was exhausting but was most rewarding – see photo of Blue Banded Pitta below.

P1120083 Danum Valley

From here we could get a great view down onto the lodge

P1120162 Danum

In such a hot and humid environment the early morning mists produced spectacular effects.

P1120039 Danum Valley

Most days followed the same pattern, early morning along the roads then along the narrow trails once the birds became active.

P1120044 leech

Along with heat and humidity, Asian tropical forests have another unpleasant feature –  leechs. Initially they caused some consternation within the group but we soon got used to their presence and flicked most off before they could start blood sucking. I only got three leech bites but they took three or four weeks to completely heal.

P1120037 butterfly

As well as wonderful birds and mammals Danum has a range of exquisite butterflies, I’m afraid I don’t know their names.

P1120175 Ferruginous Babbler

We saw many birds and I photographed what I could. Here is a selection – Ferruginous Babbler

P1120032 Ruby-cheeked Sunbird

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird

P1120179 Whiskered Treeswift

Whiskered Treeswift

P1120232 Banded Broadbill

Banded Broadbill

P1110867 Grey & Buff Woodpecker female

Female Grey-and-Buff Woodpecker

P1120073 Banded Palm Civet

We did a night drive on each of our four nights at Danum. They weren’t as productive as at Tabin but we did come across this Banded Palm Civet.

P1120070 Rhino Hornbill at roost

… this huge roosting Rhinoceros Hornbill …

P1120218 YB Prinia

and a tiny roosting Yellow-bellied Prinia.

P1120091 Blue-banded Pitta2

But the best birds of Danum where the Pittas. Not needing to spend hours waiting for Bristleheads to appear gave us time to locate these mega elusive dwellers of the forest floor. Borneo has four endemic species of Pitta and either here or at Tabin and we saw them all. This Blue-banded Pitta required an exhausting hike up the coffin cliff trail but after a bit of effort we finally got great views of this seldom seen species.

P1120146 Blue-headed Pitta

Near the lodge we came across this Blue-headed Pitta but light levels were very low and this was the best I could do.

P1110912 Black-headed Pitta

This murky shot of the another endemic, the Black-headed Pitta, pushes the definition of a ‘record shot’ to its limits. The final endemic Pitta is Bornean Banded Pitta which we saw (but couldn’t photograph) at Tabin.

P1120311 Crested HB

One of the final birds of the trip was this Crested Honey-buzzard soaring over the lodge on our final morning.


And so concluded an excellent trip to Sabah in Borneo. I had about 50 life birds and 25 life mammals including some megas like Orang Utan, Bornean Gibbon, Proboscis Monkey, Colugo, Binturong, Leopard Cat, Bearded Pig. Of course on a trip like this you don’t see all the endemics, that would take multiple trips and require visits to the province of Sarawak and Indonesian Kalimantan, but we did very well indeed. Will I go back? I can’t say for sure as there are so many wonderful places in the tropics to visit, but I highly recommend it to anyone with a love of wildlife.

Posted August 11, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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