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Malaysia Travel Guide

Bizarre wildlife found in the jungles of exotic Borneo

Ask any Malaysian what is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Sarawak and we bet most of them would give you the same answer: Magnificent mountains, wildlife, age-old rainforests, beautiful beaches and colossal caves.

This natural landscape allows for extraordinary biodiversity to exist while nurturing some of the world’s best-kept secrets… Or should we say, creatures? Most people have heard stories about the ubiquitous Hornbill that’s emblemetic to Sarawak but what’s out there that maybe you haven’t heard about?

Read on and learn about some of the most exotic and adorable, (OK sometimes!) animals that call our beautiful jungle home. We’ll even tell you where you can find them so you can play your own fun game of “Where’s Waldo?” Malaysian Wildlife edition! Believe us, there is #MoreSarawak than you know!

Horsfield’s Tarsier

These adorable little critters look eerily similar to a particular character from Star Wars. If you’re guessing Yoda, you’re right! Except that they don’t talk in riddles or read your minds – their superpower lies in their excellent leaping and climbing skills.

They are nocturnal, but thankfully, their big eyes to help them manoeuvre in the dark. Interesting fact, the size of one eyeball of the Horsfield’s Tarsier is the same as their brain. This makes them the largest-eyed mammal in the world relative to their body size!

Tarsier clinging to a branch

Photo by Christine Wehrmeier on Unsplash

Don’t be fooled by their cute demeanour, though! They are the only living carnivorous primate species. They feed on insects and small invertebrates, using their sharp sense of hearing and their nifty hands to detect and ensnare their prey.

Where to find them: Mulu National Park

Sun Bear

Even though they’re small, they can be very aggressive so if you see one, don’t mistake it for a cuddly teddy bear! The sun bear is arboreal, so you’ll need to keep your eyes on the trees if you want to see one and you can only see them in our rain forests in Southeast Asia.

They are essential to our ecosystem because they help disperse seeds while also keeping pesky termites in check, which means there is less destruction of our tropical trees which in turn means our atmosphere is clean enough for us to live healthily.

When they do come down from the trees, they also dig for invertebrates in the soil, enhancing the forest’s nutrient cycle through the mixing of rich and poor soil. Unfortunately, their global population has declined 30% over the last few years, making them the second rarest bear species next to the Giant Panda.

wildlife in Borneo - sun bear

iStock: wrangel

Their tongues are up to 25 cm long and help them to satiate their voracious appetite for honey. Because of this, they are also sometimes known as “honey bears”. You can tell the Sun Bear apart from other bear species from the horseshoe marks on their chest. Fun fact: No two markings are the same!

Where to see them: Matang Wildlife Centre

Microhyla Nepenthicola

If that’s too much of a mouthful, you can call it the “Matang narrow-mouthed frog”. That’s only the easy part. Spotting one of these rare creatures in the wild is, well rare! This newly discovered species is the second smallest frog in the world, around the size of a pea, and they make their homes around pitcher plants. They can only be found near Mount Serapi which is located in Kubah National Park.

wildlife in Borneo - second smallest frog in the world

Source: Reuters

They were discovered after scientists tracked the unique and powerful croaks of the males. Talk about a little body with a big voice! Because they were only discovered recently, not much is known about them. However, if you are lucky enough to spot one, make sure you are wearing ear plugs!

Where to find them: Kubah National Park

Sambar Deer

Did you know that the heaviest recorded Sambar Deer weighed an eye watering 550kg?! That’s slightly more than half a ton! So if you do go looking for the Sambar deer, make sure you are wearing running shoes!

sambar deer at matang wildlife center

Source: Matang Widlife Center

Despite their relatively large stature, these animals are pretty elusive; They are only really active at dusk and at night. When disturbed, their first instinct is to freeze before responding to predators with loud barks and foot stomping.

If that isn’t enough to frighten anyone or anything, their mane will rise in a confrontational manner! Imagine this half-a-ton of muscle and jungle survivor towering over you! Like I said, make sure you are wearing running shoes.

Where to find them: Mulu National Park and Matang Wildlife Center

Lesser Mouse Deer

Don’t be fooled by its name! Even though they look like a combination of a mouse and a cute deer, the mouse deer is neither a mouse nor a deer! Confusing I know but you can’t blame us for its name!

These shy, mysterious little critters are less than 50cm long and can be found on forest floors feeding on leaves, shoots, fruits and sometimes even fungi. With round bodies and spindly legs, they look almost like plush toys!

lesser mouse deer

Source: critterfacts.com

But while they may look like toys, peek inside a Mouse Deer’s mouth (we don’t recommend you do so), and you’ll find long fangs that give Dracula a run for his money!

Despite being land mammals, they can also hold their breath for up to four minutes and to escape prey, they’ll often leap into water and actually scurry across river beds to avoid getting caught! Yes, they can even hold their breath for 4 minutes underwater!

Due to their small size, they are commonly preyed upon by other animals, so they have to live quiet and secluded lives. However, a male will angrily beat his hooves when agitated or to ward off predators and warn other Mouse Deer of danger.

Where to find them: Lambir Hills National Park

Hornbill

There are so many things to be said about our state mascot. Sporting majestic beaks, Hornbills have impressive neck muscles (to support the weight of their regal bills) and are incredibly loyal to their families. They mate for life and will bond to defend each other against predators!

These beautiful feathered creatures also have their own ‘language’ – They speak to each other in a sort of morse code! It’s been said that the noise resembles that of a steam engine. This form of ‘communication’ is especially important and it’s how a male Hornbill sends messages to his mate through the barricade she makes during her nesting period.

rhinocerous hornbill

Source: Casper1774 Studio/Shutterstock

Hornbills have a great significance in Dayak culture. For them, Hornbills signify the spirit of God, and they have to be treated with respect. It is said that if a Hornbill is sighted flying over their residences, good luck will be granted to the whole community!

Altogether there are 54 species of Hornbills in the world, 8 of which are found in Sarawak! No wonder Sarawak is known as the “Land of the Hornbills”.

Where to find them: Piasau Nature Reserve, Mulu National Park, Tanjung Datu National Park and Batang Ai National Park

Slow Loris

Tiny, cute, big eyes… But not cuddly! Although they look adorable, these nocturnal creatures are one of the few venomous mammals in the world.

slow lorris clinging to tree branch

Source: wordatlas.com

Surf the internet long enough and you might recall watching a video of a Slow Loris getting tickled. What many people don’t know is that the pose of the Slow Loris of its arms raised is a defensive pose and not one of enjoyment.

Unfortunately, not many people knew this, and when this video gained traction, many people wanted to own Slow Lorises as pets because of how ‘cute’ it looked.

As slow lorises are venomous with a potentially deadly bite, their sharp pointed teeth are often clipped with nail cutters without anaesthesia for the pet trade.

This makes the pet trade one of the greatest threats to the survival of this species, which places them as vulnerable on the IUCN red list. Here in Sarawak we’re protecting all our Slow Loris as best we can. Have fun looking for them but don’t try and tickle them!

Where to find them: Bako National Park

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Tourism Malaysia

UNIQUE BIRDS IN MALAYSIA

According to the Lonely Planet alone, there are over 750 bird species in Malaysia, and some of which are amongst the “coolest” of species.

If you love nature, and are fond of travelling to the many nature parks and reserves of Malaysia, chances are, you would have come across at least one of these precious feathered creatures.

The popular birding sites in Peninsula Malaysia such as Taman Negara Pahang, Fraser’s Hill, Royal Belum Forest in Perak, Kinabatangan River and Kinabatangan Park, both located in Sabah, and Bako National Park in Sarawak are also home to some unique and endemic birds, specific to Malaysia.

Read on, and perhaps on your next trip, you can keep your eyes peeled for any one of the species listed here.

The Rhinocerous Hornbill

 

While any hornbill is worth watching out for, the rhinoceros hornbill is probably the most majestic-looking of them all, with its horn-like crown and mighty stature. Because hornbills generally require larger trees for building nests in, they are most commonly found in the forests of Temenggor Lake, Perak and Kenyir Lake, Terengganu.

Mountain Peacock Pheasant

This medium-sized, elusive, endemic bird to the Peninsula Malaysia can be found in the mountainous region of Pahang namely Fraser’s Hill and Cameron Highlands. The male and female have the same colour, and as the name would suggest, they do have a rather impressive tail plumage as well!

Malaysian Hill Partridge

Another bird endemic to Malaysia is the ground-dwelling Malaysian Hill Partridge, which can be spotted in the rain forest of Fraser’s Hill, Pahang as well as other highlands forests in Peninsula Malaysia.

Black Crimson Pitta

This brightly-coloured, ground-dweller is endemic to Borneo, and can be found in the Danum Valley in Sabah. The black crimson pitta prefers dark and damp places, which is prime condition to feast on its diet which includes spiders, ants, cockroaches, beetles and snails.

Malayan Laughingthrush

 

 And finally, the Malayan Laughingthrush which can be sighted in Taman Negara National Park and the forest of Fraser’s Hill, and is recognisable from its maroon-chestnut head. It prefers shrubs, and its diet of choice is mainly insectivorous.

 

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Malaysia Travel Guide

STB Celebrates CNY by Promoting Iconic Sarawak Animals

STB Celebrates CNY by Promoting Iconic Sarawak Animals

Kuching, Tuesday – Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) celebrates this Chinese New Year by promoting Sarawak’s iconic animal, the Bornean Bearded Pig.

Around 24% of Sarawak’s population are of Chinese descent, making the lunar New Year a big celebration throughout the state every year.

The use of the ang pau is a tradition celebrated by Chinese communities throughout Sarawak and the world, where the elders give red packets to children on the Lunar New Year for good fortune.

In more modern renditions of the red packet, the animal of the Chinese zodiac for that year is often featured on the front.

As the Visit Sarawak Campaign continues, STB used this opportunity to celebrate the local cultural tradition of celebrating the lunar New Year by printing red packets for their partners in tourism, as well as promoting Sarawak’s distinct nature, this year being the Bornean Bearded Pig.

Bako National Park’s Bornean Bearded Pig is one of the most popular animals in the park, second only to the proboscis monkey, it became the perfect option for the “red packet”.

The ang pau packets will be shared with STB’s tourism industry partners and visitors, as well as Tourism Malaysia offices in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to promote Sarawak to the China market.

“For our Visit Sarawak Campaign, we are using every opportunity to highlight Sarawak’s unique features, in this case our rich Chinese culture as well as our unique endemic fauna, such as the bearded pig which can be found in Bako National Park,” said CEO of Sarawak Tourism Board, Sharzede Datu Haji Salleh Askor.

Visitors to Sarawak can find these red packets after January 21st at the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) in Kuching, Miri and Sibu.

The VICs are located at the Sarawak Tourism Complex at the Old Court House in Kuching, Lot 452 at Jalan Melayu in Miri, and at the Sibu Heritage Centre in Sibu.

STB has already expressed plans on continuing the use of indigenous animals in their Chinese New Year ang paus.

Bako National Park is Sarawak’s oldest and most visited national park, located a 45 minute drive and 15 minute boat ride away from Kuching city, with a population of endemic animals, with the bearded pig as one of them.

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Malaysia Travel Guide

Exploring Sarawak, Borneo: Kuching, Mulu caves & Bako National Park

If you want to explore Sarawak, you’ll typically fly into Kuching, which is easily accessible from elsewhere in Borneo, cities in peninsula Malaysia and also Singapore. We always recommend staying a night or two in Kuching to experience this small city before you head further inland and discover Sarawak.

I stayed in 5-star accommodation throughout this trip, so I have experienced some fantastic hotels which we can offer you if you visit Sarawak. We made Kuching our base and did most of our exploring as day trips out of the city.

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Categories
Tourism Malaysia

MALAYSIA’S 8 BEST KEPT SECRETS FOR BIRD LOVERS!

If you’ve watched animation movie Rio (2011) or The Big Year (2011) played by Steve Martin and Owen Wilson, you might have changed your perception about the winged animals prominently featured in these films. Yes, birds are actually one interesting type of reptile, attracting the attention of ornithologists and the casual nature lover alike.

These creatures – some of them rare, nomadic, mysterious, and beautiful – occupy a variety of habitats. They nest in urban parks, while some others hide away in forests. There have been stories of people venturing deep into the jungles of continents for a single satisfying glimpse of these feathered friends.

We may observe them, but they remain “untouchable.” Perhaps that is what makes them such fascinating creatures to us all, and the reason why birdwatching is a passionate pursuit for many, especially among the hipster generation now.

Malaysia, blessed with its tropical nature and greenery, is certainly one of the best bird-watching destinations in the world, with many species easily observable.

 

Let’s see why Malaysia should be your next birdwatching destination!

  1. After South America, Asia has the second largest concentration of birds in the world, and Malaysia boasts a total of 790 species nationwide in both Peninsular and East Malaysia, plus over 100 species of migratory birds.
  2. Malaysia has 55 Important Birds Area (IBA) covering a total of 5.1 million hectares of mangroves land, forests and parks (www.birdinginmalaysia.com). There are 63 species of endemic birds in Malaysia (nowhere else in the world can you find them but here) along with other rare and endangered species such as Silvery Pigeons, Christmas Frigatebirds, Spoon-billed Sandpipes and Helmeted Hornbills.
  3. The migration season for birds coming from Siberia, Manchuria and China to Malaysia starts around September annually, up until early April when it’s time to return to the north. This is the perfect time to observe the arrival of Oriental Honey buzzard, Siberian Thrush and Yellow-rumped Flycatcher after a long flight from home.
  4. The well-known birding sites in Peninsular Malaysia are Fraser’s Hill and Taman Negara which are easily accessible over a 2 or 3 hours’ drive respectively from the nation’s capital of Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile, over in Sabah, Kinabalu Park, Kinabatangan River and Danum Valley are well known birding destinations. In Sarawak, there are 20 IBAs which are home to 500 species of birds, especially in Bako National Park. Good transport infrastructure allows quick and easy travel between the different birding sites. 

  5. There are several interesting birding routes in Malaysia that each offer different experiences and allow birdwatchers to observe different species of birds. In Peninsular Malaysia there are the Central Route, Central Route Plus and the captivating Northern (Hornbill) Route. These routes cover the crowd–favourite venues such as Taman Negara, home to 350 bird species including Hornbills, Trogons, Barbets and Great Argus. Migratory birds also can be viewed in Langkawi, Kedah and Tg. Tuan, Melaka.
  6. Up north in the state of Perak and just a 2-hour drive from Penang is The Royal Belum Park. The Royal Belum Park is home to an impressive 10 species of hornbills. Some even call it the Hornbill Capital of the World! There is no other place on the planet relative to the size of the area where tourists can find that many number of species of hornbills.
  7. Meanwhile, in East Malaysia there are two well-known routes, namely Borneo (Sabah) Route and Borneo (Sarawak) Route – that covers lowland forest to montane and lower montane which promise many species – such as Malaysian Treepies, Ashy Drongos, Mountain Leaf Warblers or bulbuls.
  8. In the care of skilled and experienced Malaysian birdwatching guides, your chances of seeing your target birds are greatly enhanced. With the right equipment such as potable blinds (camouflage tents), the guide can bring you up close to view the beautiful and vulnerable Malayan Peacock Pheasant and – when the timing is right – even to witness its behaviour during the courtship season!  A well organised birdwatching tour, lasting approximately 14 days, may result in an impressive 200 to 230 species of birds!

 

Contacts:

Tour Agency: Natural History Tours (bird-malaysia.com or junglewalla.com)
Address:        1C, Lot 1392 Jalan Tanjung Rhu, 07000 Langkawi
Website:        www.jungewalla.com
Email:             [email protected] or [email protected]
Contact:         + 6019 5902 300 or + 6012 4870 600

Tour Agency: Ecotourism Conservation Society (ECOMY)

Address:        28, Jalan Spektrum U16/21, Taman Bukit Subang, 40160 Shah Alam, Selangor
Website:        www.ecomy.org
Email:             [email protected]
Contact:         +6019 3745246

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