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Zooboy28 Goes to Borneo

Discussion in 'Malaysia' started by zooboy28, 29 Feb 2016.

  1. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Now for something completely different. Those of you who have followed my various trip reports will have realised that when I travel it is primarily to visit zoos, and any wildlife spotting is only an added bonus. But this wasn’t a typical holiday (partially because it wasn’t just me traveling, and also because it was our honeymoon) and we decided to go explore the jungles of South-East Asia. We had never visited tropical rainforest before, so were excited to experience that habitat first-hand. Our initial plan was to visit Vietnam, but after further investigation we decided against that, as wildlife appears to be quite hard to see there. Instead we decided on Malaysia, which we had never previously visited (except transiting through Kuala Lumpur), and spent several months planning (and saving for) the best holiday ever!

    So here I will write up a review of our trip to Malaysia, which started on the 1st of January 2016, following a week in Singapore (see this thread: http://www.zoochat.com/266/zooboy28-returns-singapore-435462/).
     
  2. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Day One:

    We departed Singapore’s Changi Airport on an Air Asia flight to Kota Kinabalu, the state capital of Sabah. Sabah is one of two Malaysian states that together occupy around a quarter of the island of Borneo (the remainder of which is part of Indonesia, except for the small nation of Brunei). Sabah covers the north-east tip of the island, and Kota Kinabalu is on the eastern coast. It isn’t a huge city, with a population of almost 500,000, but is rather spread out, as we saw as we descended after the 2.5 hour flight over the South China Sea. It was about 8pm when we arrived, and after going through immigration, getting our bags and clearing customs, we took a taxi to our hotel.

    While the airport was rather basic and looked a bit unloved, our first impressions of Malaysia were excellent. The people were incredibly friendly, from fellow passengers to the immigration guy, which was great. After a quick taxi ride, we arrived at the fantastic Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu, a waterfront hotel and our first ever 5-star accommodation. Again super friendly people, who opened all the doors and carried our bags, as we checked in and received a welcome pack from the tour company we had organised a few day trips through. Our first trip was the following day, with an early departure, so we got organised for that and hit the hay.
     
  3. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Wow - sounds fancy! Was it particularly affordable to stay in the Hyatt or did you just have to save up?

    I look forward to hearing what made it the best holiday ever :)
     
  4. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I enjoyed your Singapore thread, and I'm looking forward to hearing about this part of your trip too! :)
     
  5. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks devilfish!

    We got relatively cheap rates through expedia (booked well in advance), certainly much cheaper than similar accommodation in Australia, which made it affordable (although there were many cheaper options available). But it did require a lot of saving!
     
  6. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    cough...western coast. Where you looking at your map in a mirror? :p
     
  7. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Western coast is correct :eek:

    Starting to think this commenting thing is overrated... :D
     
  8. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Interesting so far. Where is the rest of the report?
     
  9. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    you want more? :eek:

    But it was such a concise trip report!
     
  10. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Unlikely to be super soon sorry AD, next installment probably another few days away... :eek:
     
  11. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Another great thread. I will be reading with interest as I try to decide whether to visit Borneo or Sumatra this summer :)
     
  12. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Borneo is way cheaper, it is much easier to find wildlife, you don't need guides in the national parks, travel is much easier, English is much more widely spoken.
     
  13. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Seems like an easy decision then. And this is true of Kalimantan as well as the Malaysian provinces?
     
  14. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I've never been to Kalimantan, but I would assume that would be more like the rest of Indonesia rather than like the Malaysian side of the island.
     
  15. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Day Two:

    For anyone who hasn’t experienced a Bornean buffet breakfast, I cannot recommend it enough. The hotel restaurant was amazing, so much food, and wonderful staff who cooked eggs and pancakes to order. Awesome way to start the day! After eating, we discovered that our tour shuttle had arrived 30 minutes early, so we raced to get our gear, and joined our guide and driver. Both were very friendly guys, and our guide pointed out some of sites as we headed north out of the city. Notably, we passed a number of coastal mangrove wetlands, which contained large numbers of white egrets, I think Great and Intermediate.

    As January is the rainy season in Borneo, we were not expecting the best weather, but it turned out to be surprisingly dry, which was excellent. El Nino might have helped. Another bonus of the supposed rainy season, is that there are relatively few tourists around, and so most of our tours were just with one other party or just us, rather than the 12-20 people we had expected. Today we were being joined by a family of four that were staying at Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort, which was almost an hour from KK. However, the shuttle was 30 minutes early for them too, so we had a bit of time to hang around and explore. This resort looked incredible, and I’d have loved to have been able to stay here, although it is far from the city. They have a small orangutan rehabilitation centre here and deer too apparently, but I only saw the entrance area, and another new bird for the year – Tree Sparrow.

    Once the others joined us, we drove further north to a rural area with farms, plantations and a little remaining forest. Our destination was Borneo Bikes, a company that runs a variety of biking tours around KK. Their premises were basically a shipping container in a rural backyard in the Kiulu Valley, with a water buffalo grazing nearby. Our local guides there were excellent, very friendly and helpful, and the bikes ideal. We rode initially along a road, before heading up along a dirt track that led past farms and small settlements. There was little wildlife around here that I saw (it’s not the best way to spot birds), although Spotted Doves were ubiquitous.

    It got quite warm, and we cycled up into some hills covered in rubber plantations, and got our first views of Mount Kinabalu, South-East Asia’s tallest peak. We then headed downhill, and through several villages and towns, before re-entering a more rural area, where small groups of horses, cattle and goats grazed on the roadside. There were dogs too, often sleeping on the road, and they were all friendly. The people were also very friendly, many of them waving to us, or stopping to let us through. We also crossed a couple of long, narrow suspension bridges, the first of which was busy with chickens and motorcyclists, so we dismounted. The other was older, with ominous signs banning heavy loads, and we cycled across that individually. Apart from egrets and doves, I also saw my first Bornean lifer: Oriental Magpie Robin.

    After 27km, we arrived back at the base. It was now noon, and time for the shuttle to take us to our second destination, the Riverbug Rafting Centre. Here we had a BBQ lunch (surrounded by scrounging dogs and their puppies) before driving upstream to the white-water rafting launch point, in the town of Kiulu. The lack of recent rain meant the water levels were quite low, so the water was only white in a few small areas. We rafted past farmland and rainforest, as well as small settlements. We didn’t take cameras, so I have no record of the wildlife spotted, but again we weren’t able to see much - a few Water Monitors, a Striated Heron, many unidentifiable swifts and plenty of fish. There were a few deeper stretches where some people got out and swam, and we also saw some locals swimming as we passed a wedding. After 15km we were back at the Centre, and the shuttle returned us to KK.

    On the way back we got our first experience of Malaysian traffic, which was diabolical. It took about twice as long to get back to the hotel as it had taken in the morning. By now it was late afternoon, and we decided to visit the mall (Wisma Merdeka) adjacent to our hotel. My planned destination here was The Borneo Shop, which stocks a large range of natural history publications. Online there are various statements about the bookshop having closed down and moved online only, but there is certainly an excellent replacement store operating. I had perused the hotel lobby library earlier and decided on a number of books I wanted, although these were not all available. In the end I picked up field guides of South-East Asian birds, Bornean mammals, and Bornean amphibians & reptiles, as well as a small book about Tabin Wildlife Reserve. We then had a drink by the hotel pool and watched the sunset, before dining at the buffet restaurant (which was as fantastic as the breakfast!).

    Borneo Wildlife Species Lists:

    Birds:

    1 Great Egret Ardea alba
    2 Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
    3 Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
    4 Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
    5 Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
    6 Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis adamsi *
    7 Striated Heron Butorides striata *


    Reptiles:
    1 Water Monitor Varanus salvator

    Photos below show: Borneo Bikes premises in Kiulu Valley; having a rest in the shade before heading up that hill on the bikes; view from the top of the hill, of plantations and Mount Kinabalu in the background; cycling past a rubber plantation; a suspension bridge over the Kiulu River in a small town (with large temple); and finally the rafting start point on the Kiulu River.
     

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  16. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Moderator Staff Member

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    "Breakfast Buffets of Borneo" sounds like a travel book that you must write, Zooboy.
     
  17. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    great, intermediate and little egrets are all common in the wetlands around the city as well as eastern reef herons (white morphs) and sometimes Chinese egrets.

    is the Tabin book the one by Wendy Hutton and Cede Prudente? I've got that one on my shelf here. It's a nice book indeed.
     
  18. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm salivating at the thought of the in-depth research that would require... :D:cool:
     
  19. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks, I'll go through the photos and see if I can spot any other egret species, Little seems likely to have been there.

    That's the book, I haven't gotten around to reading through it in detail but I've flicked through it and it looked great. I picked up a few other books on this trip, and will mention these in appropriate order.
     
  20. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    Was this at the Hyatt? If so, the breakfast is legendary.

    I look forward to hearing what you saw at Tabin. I don't suppose you'll spoil the surprise and reveal where else you went?