Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Borneo 2018: Part 5 (Sepilok)

Part 1: Fly to Borneo, Kota Kinabalu (September 30 - October 2, 2018)
Part 2: Kota Kinabalu to Mount Kinabalu (October 3, 2018)
Part 3: Full day at Mount Kinabalu (October 4, 2018)
Part 4: Mount Kinabalu to Sepilok (October 5, 2018)
Part 5: Sepilok (October 6, 2018)
Part 6: Kinabatangan River (October 6-7, 2018)
Part 7: Kinabatangan River, Gomantong Caves (October 7-8, 2018)
Part 8: Tabin Wildlife Reserve (October 8-9, 2018)
Part 9: Tabin Wildlife Reserve (October 9-10, 2018)
Part 10: Danum Valley (October 11-12, 2018)
Part 11: Danum Valley (October 13-14, 2018)


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October 6, 2018

We were up early for a pre-breakfast walk at the Rainforest Discovery Center. The highlight here is the 347 m long canopy walkway which provides amazing views of the forest from a unique vantage point. Even before leaving the resort I spotted a few new bird species in front of my cabin - a Van Hesseldt's Sunbird and Red-legged Crake.

View from canopy walkway - Rainforest Discovery Center, Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Canopy walkway - Rainforest Discovery Center, Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

The canopy walkway at Sepilok rises 25 m above the forest floor and is constructed with steel beams, providing ample stability to those using it. At certain times of the year the birding can be rather dynamic, especially if certain nearby trees are fruiting. Much like during my visit in 2017, there were no fruiting trees near the walkway which made the birding a little bit slow. But over time we slowly added species here and there. A major non-avian highlight for many was viewing a Pale Giant Squirrel at close range and being treated to its bizarre vocalizations.

Pale Giant Squirrel - Rainforest Discovery Center, Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia


The North Philippine Temple Pitviper was still present in exactly the same ambush position!

North Philippine Temple Pitviper - Rainforest Discovery Center, Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Some of the highlights from an hour and a half on the walkway included a perched Wallace's Hawk-Eagle, a pair of impressive White-bellied Woodpeckers, several Brown Barbets, a flock of Blue-throated Bee-eaters sallying for insects, and a Black Hornbill that flew right over our heads several times.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater - Rainforest Discovery Center, Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Brown Barbet - Rainforest Discovery Center, Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Black Hornbill - Rainforest Discovery Center, Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Black Hornbill - Rainforest Discovery Center, Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

We returned to the resort for breakfast, then walked over to the nearby Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.

Clipper - Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Established in 1964, the center houses up to 80 orphaned or confiscated Bornean Orangutans in a nursery or in the nearby Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Many of the orangutans are roaming free in the forest reserve around the center, though they are given supplemental feedings. The ultimate goal is to wean the orangutans off of human reliance so that they can survive on their own in the wild. In part because Bornean Orangutans are not necessarily easy to find and were not "guaranteed' on our tour, our group would be visiting the center to give us a chance to observe the semi-wild individuals. As you will read later on, this was not really necessary given the views we had of wild Bornean Orangutans - more on that later!

Bornean Orangutan (captive) - Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

A Gray-tailed Racer was roosting in a tree directly above where our bus was parked at the Center. Clearly this is a popular hangout, since in 2017 we saw several individuals in these trees as well.

Gray-tailed Racer (Gonyosoma oxycephalum) - Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

We also stopped briefly at the Sun Bear Rehabilitation Center where several youngsters were scratching for insects, climbing trees, or resting in the shade.

Sun Bear (captive) - Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Sun Bear (captive) - Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Sun Bear (captive) - Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

A nice surprise was a family group of Pig-tailed Macaques that passed through and lingered for several minutes near the Sun Bear enclosure. This was our first encounter with Pig-tailed Macaques on the trip and it was a great chance to observe the group dynamics.

Southern Pig-tailed Macaque - Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Southern Pig-tailed Macaque - Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia

Our home base for the next two nights was the Borneo Nature Lodge located on the Kinabatangan River. This lodge is accessible only by water and is approximately 3 hours from the docks in Sandakan. Our bus driver dropped us off at the docks and we bid farewell, transferring our gear onto the boat waiting for us. Several Striated Herons were well camouflaged on the rocks at the jetty while several Asian Water Monitors cruised around the shoreline as well. They are quite adept at traveling by water, as expected given their name.

Striated Heron - Sandakan jetty, Sabah, Malaysia

With the sun beating down on us we left the docks behind, heading out to the open water and eventually, the mouth of the Kinabatangan River.

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Part 1: Fly to Borneo, Kota Kinabalu (September 30 - October 2, 2018)
Part 2: Kota Kinabalu to Mount Kinabalu (October 3, 2018)
Part 3: Full day at Mount Kinabalu (October 4, 2018)
Part 4: Mount Kinabalu to Sepilok (October 5, 2018)
Part 5: Sepilok (October 6, 2018)
Part 6: Kinabatangan River (October 6-7, 2018)
Part 7: Kinabatangan River, Gomantong Caves (October 7-8, 2018)
Part 8: Tabin Wildlife Reserve (October 8-9, 2018)
Part 9: Tabin Wildlife Reserve (October 9-10, 2018)
Part 10: Danum Valley (October 11-12, 2018)
Part 11: Danum Valley (October 13-14, 2018)

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