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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

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Malaysia Travel Guide

10 Things To Do In and Around Miri

These are some of the top things to do in Miri. The city is Sarawak’s second largest city and the gateway to the state’s fascinating northeast region.

1.Meet The People

A short flight from Miri brings you to Bario, gateway to the Kelabit Highlands, home to the Kelabit people and their large, well preserved longhouses.  Miri is also connected by Twin Otter service to Ba’kelalan, a cluster of seven Lun Bawang villages famous for their orchards and organic vegetables.

things to do miri

Lun Bawang Festival (Irau Aco)

sarawak-borneo-people-lun-bawang-bamboo-band

2. Go For A Walk

Stroll through Miri Old Town, crammed with shops selling all manner of fascinating goods, taking in the Fish Market and the Tua Pek Kong Temple.  Visit Lambir Hills National Park, probably the world’s most complex and diverse forest ecosystem, for a selection of jungle trekking trails to suit every ability.

Gunung Mulu National Park, famous for its extensive cave systems also offers some spectacular trekking trails, including the demanding yet incredibly rewarding Summit Trek and Pinnacles Trail and the historic Headhunters Trail.

The remote Kelabit Highlands has a wide selection of trails, from half-day strolls in and around Bario to week-long expeditions, staying in remote longhouses, passing by ancient megaliths, camping out in the rainforest and ascending the rugged peaks of Pulong Tau National Park.

Sarawak Borneo Miri Lambir Hills National Park

Mulu Clear water cave

visit-2Bsarawak-2Bmalaysia-2Bborneo-2Bbario-2Bfood-2Bfestival-2B2014-2Bmisc-2BmikhaiLLU-2B-10-

3. Wildlife Encounters

Visit the caves of Niah National Park to view remarkable cave fauna, watch an amazing bat exodus and find your way back by the light of luminous mushrooms.  Head for Kuala Sibuti for an evening of crocodile spotting and firefly watching.

The Bat Observatory at Gunung Mulu National Park provides a grandstand view of one of nature’s natural wonders, while the world’s longest canopy walkway showcases the birds and plants of the rainforest canopy walkway showcases the birds and plants of the rainforest canopy.  Spend a night at Loagan Bunut National Park, with its incredible shrinking lake ecosystem and a resident population of Bornean gibbons, as well as hundreds of bird, reptile and small mammal species.

Niah National Park

a-u-bagly_hipposideros-diadema-with-pup_cave-roost-mulu-bat

mulu-frog

4. Take To The Water

Charter an express boat from Kuala Baram brings you to the upriver town of Marudi, gateway to Ulu Baram.  If you have the time, and weather conditions permitting, you can travel from Marudi by express boat and longboat to some of the remotest villages and longhouses in Sarawak, home to various Orang Ulu communities including Kayans, Kenyahs, and even nomadic Penans.

Things to do miri

The Panoramic view of Sela’an Kayan village, Ulu Baram

5. Underground Sarawak

Visit the caves of Niah National Park, settled by modern humans for over 40,000 years and one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.  The Great Cave has one of the world’s largest cave mouths, a fascinating cave ecosystem and you can watch the birds nest collectors at work.  The Padang, where a shaft of light pierces the rear of the cave, is perfect for photo ops.  The Adjacent Painted Cave is the site of Niah’s famous cave paintings.  Leave the Great Cave around sunset, to see the nightly “changing of the guard”.  Two great living clouds intermingle in the sky as hundreds of thousand of swiftlets return to their nests, whilst a similar number of bats fly out to forage in the forest.

Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is most famous for its limestone cave systems, including the world’s largest chamber, the world’s largest cave passsage and the longest cave in Southeast Asia.

Niah National Park

Mulu Sarawak | A World Heritage Site

DekatJe Mulu Puncak Borneo

6. Underwater Sarawak

Miri is fast becoming a popular dive destination, due to the 22 pristine patch reefs that make up the Miri-Sibuti Reef Marine Park, lying at depths from 7 to 30 metres.  The best time to dive is March to September, with average visibility around 30 metres, but you can expect at least 10 metres visibility all year round.  Hard and soft corals cover the entire reefs, with abundant gorgonians, sea-whips,  anemones, sponges and crinoids.  There are also some interesting wreck dives in quite shallow water, perfect for a first wreck diving experience.

Most of the best dive sites are at depths between 18 and 30 metres, so EANx Nitrox Diver and PADI advanced Open Water ratings are highly recommended.  Bonus activities include whale shark spotting (in season).

7. Food and Drink

Miri has similar culinary selection to Kuching, although with its seafront location the seafood is possibly even fresher.  Inland, be tempted by the fresh jungle produce and organically grown fruits and vegetables prepared by the Kelabit and Lun Bawang people of the northern highlands, served with the unique fine-grained Bario rice, In the upriver Orang Ulu longhouses, enjoy tasty wild boar, free range chicken and exotic river fish served with glass of borak (Orang Ulu rice wine)

visit-2Bsarawak-2Bmalaysia-2Bborneo-2Bbario-2Bfood-2Bfestival-2B2014-2B-2832-29

8. Culture Heritage

Canada Hill not only offers excellent views of Miri and the surrounding area, it is also home to Oil Well No. 1, known as the “grand old lady,”  the first well to strike oil in Sarawak in 1910.  The adjacent Petroleum Museum traces the history and development of the oil and gas industries in Malaysia.  Back in town, visit the impressive and atmospheric San Ching Tian Temple, the largest Taoist temple in Southeast Asia.  If you are heading for Niah National Park, make sure to visit the fascinating Niah Archaeological Museum, tracing 40,000 years of human settlement at Niah.

Canada Hill, Miri, Sarawak

Niah National Park

9. Shopping

Miri Handicraft Centre showcases the ethnic arts and crafts of northern Sarawak.  Stalls are run by the producers, and craftspeople can often be viewed at work here.  items on sale include Penan mats and basketry.  Orang Ulu beadwork and woodcravings.  Miri’s Tamu Muhibbah is a colourful native market selling exotic fruits and vegetables, handicrafts and produce from upriver areas, including fragrant Bario rice, and great photo opportunities.

Exhibitionhandicraft Miri

Exhibitionhandicraft Miri

sarawak-malaysia-borneo-limbang-Bisaya-Babulang-festival-handicraft-exhibition

10. Festivals Celebrations

Borneo Jazz: One of the top jazz festivals in the region, attracting top jazz and blues performers from around the world.

Pesta Nukenen Bario (Bario Food Festival): The world’s most exclusive food festival celebrates the unique food, farming, forest and cultural heritage of the Kelabut Highlands.

Exuberance festival goers posing for the photographer

visit sarawak malaysia borneo miri borneo jazz 2014 andy kho

 

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Last batch of reef balls in Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park

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Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

10 Things To Do In Miri

Miri  is Sarawak’s second largest city and the gateway to the state’s fascinating northeast region.

1.Meet The People

A short flight from Miri brings you to Bario, gateway to the Kelabit Highlands, home to the Kelabit people and their large, well preserved longhouses.  Miri is also connected by Twin Otter service to Ba’kelalan, a cluster of seven Lun Bawang villages famous for their orchards and organic vegetables.

Lun Bawang Festival (Irau Aco)

sarawak-borneo-people-lun-bawang-bamboo-band

2. Go For A Walk

Stroll through Miri Old Town, crammed with shops selling all manner of fascinating goods, taking in the Fish Market and the Tua Pek Kong Temple.  Visit Lambir Hills National Park, probably the world’s most complex and diverse forest ecosystem, for a selection of jungle trekking trails to suit every ability.

Gunung Mulu National Park, famous for its extensive cave systems also offers some spectacular trekking trails, including the demanding yet incredibly rewarding Summit Trek and Pinnacles Trail and the historic Headhunters Trail.

The remote Kelabit Highlands has a wide selection of trails, from half-day strolls in and around Bario to week-long expeditions, staying in remote longhouses, passing by ancient megaliths, camping out in the rainforest and ascending the rugged peaks of Pulong Tau National Park.

Sarawak Borneo Miri Lambir Hills National Park

Mulu Clear water cave

visit-2Bsarawak-2Bmalaysia-2Bborneo-2Bbario-2Bfood-2Bfestival-2B2014-2Bmisc-2BmikhaiLLU-2B-10-

3. Wildlife Encounters

Visit the caves of Niah National Park to view remarkable cave fauna, watch an amazing bat exodus and find your way back by the light of luminous mushrooms.  Head for Kuala Sibuti for an evening of crocodile spotting and firefly watching.

The Bat Observatory at Gunung Mulu National Park provides a grandstand view of one of nature’s natural wonders, while the world’s longest canopy walkway showcases the birds and plants of the rainforest canopy walkway showcases the birds and plants of the rainforest canopy.  Spend a night at Loagan Bunut National Park, with its incredible shrinking lake ecosystem and a resident population of Bornean gibbons, as well as hundreds of bird, reptile and small mammal species.

Niah National Park

a-u-bagly_hipposideros-diadema-with-pup_cave-roost-mulu-bat

mulu-frog

4. Take To The Water

Charter an express boat from Kuala Baram brings you to the upriver town of Marudi, gateway to Ulu Baram.  If you have the time, and weather conditions permitting, you can travel from Marudi by express boat and longboat to some of the remotest villages and longhouses in Sarawak, home to various Orang Ulu communities including Kayans, Kenyahs, and even nomadic Penans.

The Panoramic view of Sela'an Kayan village, Ulu Baram

5. Underground Sarawak

Visit the caves of Niah National Park, settled by modern humans for over 40,000 years and one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.  The Great Cave has one of the world’s largest cave mouths, a fascinating cave ecosystem and you can watch the birds nest collectors at work.  The Padang, where a shaft of light pierces the rear of the cave, is perfect for photo ops.  The Adjacent Painted Cave is the site of Niah’s famous cave paintings.  Leave the Great Cave around sunset, to see the nightly “changing of the guard”.  Two great living clouds intermingle in the sky as hundreds of thousand of swiftlets return to their nests, whilst a similar number of bats fly out to forage in the forest.

Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is most famous for its limestone cave systems, including the world’s largest chamber, the world’s largest cave passsage and the longest cave in Southeast Asia.

Niah National Park

Mulu Sarawak | A World Heritage Site

DekatJe Mulu Puncak Borneo

6. Underwater Sarawak

Miri is fast becoming a popular dive destination, due to the 22 pristine patch reefs that make up the Miri-Sibuti Reef Marine Park, lying at depths from 7 to 30 metres.  The best time to dive is March to September, with average visibility around 30 metres, but you can expect at least 10 metres visibility all year round.  Hard and soft corals cover the entire reefs, with abundant gorgonians, sea-whips,  anemones, sponges and crinoids.  There are also some interesting wreck dives in quite shallow water, perfect for a first wreck diving experience.

Most of the best dive sites are at depths between 18 and 30 metres, so EANx Nitrox Diver and PADI advanced Open Water ratings are highly recommended.  Bonus activities include whale shark spotting (in season).

7. Food and Drink

Miri has similar culinary selection to Kuching, although with its seafront location the seafood is possibly even fresher.  Inland, be tempted by the fresh jungle produce and organically grown fruits and vegetables prepared by the Kelabit and Lun Bawang people of the northern highlands, served with the unique fine-grained Bario rice, In the upriver Orang Ulu longhouses, enjoy tasty wild boar, free range chicken and exotic river fish served with glass of borak (Orang Ulu rice wine)

visit-2Bsarawak-2Bmalaysia-2Bborneo-2Bbario-2Bfood-2Bfestival-2B2014-2B-2832-29

8. Culture Heritage

Canada Hill not only offers excellent views of Miri and the surrounding area, it is also home to Oil Well No. 1, known as the “grand old lady,”  the first well to strike oil in Sarawak in 1910.  The adjacent Petroleum Museum traces the history and development of the oil and gas industries in Malaysia.  Back in town, visit the impressive and atmospheric San Ching Tian Temple, the largest Taoist temple in Southeast Asia.  If you are heading for Niah National Park, make sure to visit the fascinating Niah Archaeological Museum, tracing 40,000 years of human settlement at Niah.

Canada Hill, Miri, Sarawak

Niah National Park

9. Shopping

Miri Handicraft Centre showcases the ethnic arts and crafts of northern Sarawak.  Stalls are run by the producers, and craftspeople can often be viewed at work here.  items on sale include Penan mats and basketry.  Orang Ulu beadwork and woodcravings.  Miri’s Tamu Muhibbah is a colourful native market selling exotic fruits and vegetables, handicrafts and produce from upriver areas, including fragrant Bario rice, and great photo opportunities.

Exhibitionhandicraft Miri

Exhibitionhandicraft Miri

sarawak-malaysia-borneo-limbang-Bisaya-Babulang-festival-handicraft-exhibition

10. Festivals Celebrations

Borneo Jazz: One of the top jazz festivals in the region, attracting top jazz and blues performers from around the world.

Pesta Nukenen Bario (Bario Food Festival): The world’s most exclusive food festival celebrates the unique food, farming, forest and cultural heritage of the Kelabut Highlands.

Exuberance festival goers posing for the photographer

visit sarawak malaysia borneo miri borneo jazz 2014 andy kho

 

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