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Malaysia Travel Guide

Beautiful Birds Of The Blue Bornean Skies

The jungles of Borneo are a world like no other. Alive with a smorgasbord of magical wildflowers, exotic, wide-eyed creatures and a cacophony of noise. But what goes on above the dense, magical jungle that keeps our world alive? On a typical day, the skies over Borneo feature a breathtaking array of vibrant colours. Our beautiful birds feature remarkably vivid plumage that paint a delightful canvas against the baby blue tropical backdrop.

Surprisingly, while many people are aware of Sarawak’s diverse ecosystem, not many know we are also home to an array of stunning birds.

So whether you’re an avid birder or just love the site of magnificent creatures swooping effortlessly across the jungle canopy, when you come to Sarawak, don’t forget to look up!

To make it easier, we’ve created a compilation of some of the birds you can expect to see on your next visit. Oh and one other thing, just remember the best time to see these birds is at first light and for an hour or so afterwards.

The Bornean Banded Kingfisher

These skilful divers are rare in Java, scarcer in Sumatra, and extinct in Singapore! Luckily for you, they are flourishing in Sarawak. Although they are small and sometimes difficult to spot, they are strong, excitable and sometimes aggressive, especially when humans are around!

You should be able to recognise them from their sturdy red bills. Once you’ve spotted one, try to track it to a water source and watch it catch fish effortlessly.

All rights reserved by liewwk – www.liewwkphoto.com

You can differentiate males from females by their plumage: The male has a bright blue crown with black and blue banding on the back while the females are rufous with black banding on their head and upperparts.


The call of a Bornean Banded Kingfisher captured by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Where to spot them: These nifty hunters can be found in the lowland rainforests of Kubah National Park.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher

Sporting long fancy tails, these birds require a bit more effort to see but are definitely worth the investment. Especially the male as he struts about, flaunting his elegant tail. Chestnut, white or a mixture of both – The plumage of males come in several interesting variations depending on where they are from!

Source: Lawrence Neo 2015

The females look like their chestnut male counterparts, except they have significantly shorter tails and smaller crests.

The call of an Asian Paradise Flycatcher captured by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Where to spot them: They are mostly found in Northern Sarawak, especially in Gunung Mulu National Park and Pulong Tau National Park.

Banded Broadbill

This bird stands out because of their vibrant plumage – against their purplish-black plumage are yellow/lime green markings! They also have piercing blue eyes and a luminescent blue beak that looks like it has been been made-up with “black lipstick”.

Source: Lawrence Neo 2012

In photos, they may look canary-sized, but these birds are actually quite big! Measuring at 21.5cm to 23cm, they feast on insects, especially grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars and larvae.

The call of a Banded Broadbill captured by Tan Kok Hui

Where to spot them: The Banded Broadbill usually lurk in lowland forests, so you can expect to see them at Kubah National Park, Mulu National Park and Batang Ai National Park.

Bornean Bristlehead

This enigmatic bird gets its name from its crown, which are short projections that resemble bare feather shafts. They are often compared to crows wearing red muffler scarves!

In many parts of Borneo, the Bornean Bristlehead has had a tough time and its population has declined significantly. Amongst the birdwatching community, they are on the ‘most wanted’ list and some will even pay good money for local knowledge on where to see them!

Birds of Borneo - Bornean Bristlehead

Source: http://www.hkbws.org.hk (Godwin-C)

So if you are one of the lucky ones to see this beautiful native of Borneo, make sure you whip out your camera, take a picture and remember where you are because it might just be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you also get paid for!

The call of a Bornean Bristlehead captured by Marc Anderson

Where to spot the Bornean Bristlehead: These birds can be spotted in a few locations. Most recently, they have been sighted in Similajau National Park which is 25km northeast of Bintulu. They are also more regularly seen in Lambir Hills National Park.

Scarlet-rumped Trogon

Nope, these birds aren’t characters from Angry Birds, even though they look like one! The Scarlet-rumped Trogon sport a black hood and red body, along with white-black wings and tail. You can definitely tell them apart from their distinctive blue ‘eyebrow’, which gives them their grumpy look!

Birds of Borneo

Source: Ryan Maigan Birds

The call of the Scarlet-rumped Trogon has been used in many Hollywood films that feature lush green jungles! Many people have associated this bird’s call with the tropics of the southern Pacific Ocean. It’s interesting to think that even though most of the world has heard their voice, they belong to our very own forests!

The call of a Scarlet-rumped Trogon captured by Mike Nelson

Where to spot the Helmeted Hornbill: These birds can be found chirping their days away in lowland primary forests like Kubah National Park, Mulu National Park, and Batang Ai National Park.

Peregrine Falcon

If you think the cheetah is the fastest animal on earth, think again! OK, well technically it is but in the sky, you’ll find a bird that can glide effortlessly past a cheetah in full flight. The peregrine falcon has no problem cruising at speeds of 40-60 mph, but when in pursuit of their prey, they can reach up to 200 mph. That’s 293 feet per second and almost 3 times as fast as a cheetah!

© Jesse Gibson

At one stage on the verge of extinction, thanks to robust recovery efforts in North America, the Peregrine Falcon population has now recovered. However, only a lucky few spot them in Sarawak, and with their their bullet-train like speeds, you need to be extra observant when trying to spot one!

The call of a Peregrine Falcon captured by Lard Edenius

Where to spot the Peregrine Falcon: Peregrine Falcons are an elusive species in Sarawak but the best place to spot them is at the peak of Batu Lawi Hill, which now serves as an extension to Pulong Tau National Park.

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Delving into Sarawak’s Magnificent Caves

Bizarre wildlife found in the jungles of exotic Borneo

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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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Little Known Secrets of the Beads of Borneo

Meeting Borneo’s Majestic Orangutans

Cycling for Charity in Sarawak

Kuching Caving | Gua Sireh  Broken Jar

Seeing Green in Bario

Fine tradition of longevity noodle making kept alive

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Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

Iban Animal Tracking &Traditional Fishing Skills at Batang Ai

Iban Animal Tracking Traditional Fishing Skills at Batang Ai

Batang Ai National Park is part of the region’s largest trans-national protected area for tropical rainforest conservation. Home to some Iban longhouses, there are animal tracking and traditional fishing expeditions to be had, where you can follow and learn from the local Iban tribe on their methods and skill.

The itinerary spans three days and two nights of roughing it and catching your own meal, and it became a trip to remember for the group sent by the Tourism Board.

Day 1 – The Journey Begins!

The group departed Kuching at 8.00AM, and arrived in Serian Town by 8.45AM, where they got to try out local snacks and food, and explore the local market. This is their chance to buy some ingredients that they can’t do without, seeing as they will be catching and cooking their own food once they reach Batang Ai.

Serian Town Market

Around 11.30AM, they group stopped for an early lunch at the Pusat Perniagaan Peladang Temudok rest stop at the Sri Aman Junction.


From here, the group moved on and reached Batang Ai Resort Jetty by 2.40PM, and from there they will take a longboat journey upriver. (2 images)

Loading the cargo into the longboats for the trip

By 3.00PM, they depart to Nanga Jengin, Ulu Batang Ai, on an upriver journey. The boatman had to change to the smallest propeller available because the river was now far shallower as they got further upstream.

The river gets shallow

Changing the propeller size for shallower waters

By 5.30PM the group reached the Nanga Jengin longhouse. The village guides stopped by their longhouse to pick up the camping and fishing equipment. It was a nice reprieve in the boatride and rather exciting as everyone anticipated and discussed the camping trip to come! And it is wonderful to see a traditional style Iban Longhouse.

Traditional Iban longhouse

Ready to fish!

The longboats on the banks of Nanga Jengin

The expedition continued within 15 minutes, and they continue upriver to Nanga Chapan. The water level was shallow in some areas, and they had to push the longboat and walk along the riverbank. This is a common practice and has been since the days of the headhunters.

Dragging the boats upriver or walking along to relieve the load for the boatman to steer it upstream.

By 6.30pm they reached the camping grounds at Nanga Chapan, in Ulu Jegin. The boat-ride and walk took nearly one hour thanks to the shallow river, but the guides assured the group that this was a relatively good outcome. During the dry season, the river can be shallow enough to make the boat-ride more like a boat-walk that lasts 2 hours, due to having to pull the boats the entire way upstream.

Arriving at the camp site

Setting up camp

Finishing the camp set up

While the camp was being set up, a hearty jungle dinner was prepared. One the menu? Vegetables, fish and frogs!

Preparing food by headlights


A hearty dinner

Once dinner is cleaned up, its time for bed. Everyone is out like a light! Sleep, hope the bedbugs don’t bite. (Unlikely, considering the mosquito net everyone was provided with)


Day 2 – Fishing and Tracking Beginners’ Course Begins

Bright and early with a jungle breakfast.

The fishing adventure begins! The group got to learn how to ‘menjala’ or to fish using a net, as well as the perfect places to set up the ‘bubu’, a traditional bamboo trap that works by tempting fish into it using bait, which the fish can easily swim into but cannot swim out of.




If the group had stayed longer, for four days and three nights alternatively, they could have caught even more fish in different ways. As it were, the catch they got was pretty impressive regardless.





They got to prepare their catches over the open fire using whatever ingredients they brought along or found in the jungle. A catch well-earned must taste all the better!




After a satisfying lunch, they went off to learn animal tracking from the Iban guides. They found wild boar tracks, an area where some Argus Pheasants had performed a mating dance, a porcupine feeding trail and even an Orangutan nest high in the trees! Not all tracks are on the ground, after all.

Wild Boar trail

Porcupine tracks

Orangutan nest

Pheasant mating area

Since there is no Argust Pheasant to be found, one of the expedition participants was kind enough to demonstrate the mating dance. I suppose sometimes, this is as close as you can get to the real thing.


The group learned some valuable survival lessons from the guides, such as how to set traps for small animals….


…and how to peel off the bark from the Penduk tree and create rope.

They also taught the group how to recognize the Daun Perangcang or “Family Planning Plant”.  Though its safe to say when in doubt, a pharmacy is likely still a better option in this case.

Family Planning Plant

After a long day in the jungle the group packs up the camp by 5.45PM and prepares to move downriver back to Nang Jengin where they will be staying at a Jungle Lodge for the second night. The trip was much easier on the way down than on the way up, as often is the case. While the river was too shallow for engines, it was deep enough that the current and bamboo poles brought them down with ease.

On the way down, the group by chance ran into a group of Iban men that had been tracking a wild boar. They were successful in shooting it and were bringing it back to their longhouse.

The intrepid hunters and their game

They reached the Jungle Lodge Nanga Jengin Longhouse by 6.00PM. Here, thye stayed the night at the Lodge and enjoyed a nice village dinner.






Day 3 – Good bye, Batang Ai

At 11.45AM the next day, it is time to say goodbye to Batang Ai. The group reached Batang Ai Resort Jetty by 2.30PM

At 3.40PM they  stopped over at the Jetty and Suspension Bridge of “Batang Ai Recreation Park.”

 

By 4.00PM the group departed from Batang Ai Recreation Park to Lachau for tea, before heading back to Kuching by 8.00PM.

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Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

Aiman Batang Ai Longhouse Resort

Aiman Batang Ai Longhouse Resort

aimanbatangai

One of the most unique and exclusive resorts found in Sarawak is no other than the Aiman Batang Air Longhouse Resort, which is located at the Batang Ai National Park. This special resort Is one of a kind, as it emulates the traditional Iban longhouse.

The beautiful thing is that there are no other resorts found in the national park, making this the only luxurious resort here. Those looking for a pure nature and adventure getaway, this resort is one of the best to experience in Sarawak, Malaysia Borneo.

aimanbatangai

One of the rooms at Aiman Batang Ai Resort

Activities at the Aiman Batang Ai Resort include nature walks, hiking, a canopy walk, visiting an authentic Iban longhouse, bird watching, kayaking, traditional spa treatments and even learning how to use a traditional blow pipe. The rustic yet contemporary designed rooms complete your staying experience in a peaceful and quiet environment surrounded by pure nature and the centuries old rainforest.

___________________
Photos by David Hogan Jr

 

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