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kittykat23uk

Sleepless in Borneo - 2019


I had been to Borneo twice before and seen a wealth of amazing wildlife, but after my first trip I really wanted to see The Big One, Sunda Clouded Leopard. We put in a lot of effort the second time around, but alas we were not fortunate with this species, despite seeing it’s smaller cousins, the marbled cat and leopard cats. 

So when Tomer mentioned that he was looking for people to join a trip  “looking for all the rare, bizarre and interesting mammals of Borneo”, I knew we’d be doing a lot of night drives in Deramakot (and elsewhere) which should have given us the best possible chance for this elusive cat. 

We were 6 participants and a guide. Our guides were: - 

  • Shavez at Tawau highlands – Tomer, Jason and Jens only  
  • Chun at Tawau lowland – Jo, Wendy and Phil only 
  • Mike at Danum Valley, Deramakot and at Kinabatangan river, where he was joined by Sukau Greenview’s guide  
  • Mac at Mt. Kinabalu 
  • The itinerary was put together by Tomer and was as follows:

Date

Day 

Stay

28/09/2019

0

Tawau (Jason, Tomer, Jens only) 

29/09/2019

1

Tawau 

30/09/2019

2

Tawau 

01/10/2019

3

Danum Valley (Infapro)

02/10/2019

4

Danum Valley (Infapro)

03/10/2019

5

Danum Valley (Infapro)

04/10/2019

6

Kinabatang – Sukau Greenview

05/10/2019

7

Deramakot

06/10/2019

8

Deramakot

07/10/2019

9

Deramakot

08/10/2019

10

Deramakot

09/10/2019

11

Deramakot

10/10/2019

12

Deramakot

11/10/2019

13

Deramakot

12/10/2019

14

Deramakot

13/10/2019

15

Deramakot

14/10/2019

16

Mount Kinabalu – Hill Lodge 

15/10/2019

17

Mount Kinabalu – Hill Lodge 

16/10/2019

18

Mount Kinabalu – Hill Lodge 

17/10/2019

19

Depart

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Tawau Hills    Our first stop was at Tawau Hills. Tomer had included initially two nights here to search for an even more elusive feline than Clouded Leopard, the Bay cat, two other targets,

Tawau Hills 30/09/2019   We headed to the staff quarters for breakfast at 0640. Our breakfast consisted of a bowl of noodles with a fried egg on top, it was actually very tasty, although a b

Deramakot 5/10/2019   Today was a bit different to most of our days in Deramakot because it would take time to sort out the second driver and vehicle. So this morning we were left to our own

kittykat23uk

Tawau Hills 

 

Our first stop was at Tawau Hills. Tomer had included initially two nights here to search for an even more elusive feline than Clouded Leopard, the Bay cat, two other targets, Hoses Civet and Tufted Ground Squirrel were also on the list for this site. 

 

What we had not been told, until after we all had signed up was that a) no one seems to have actually seen a bay cat in the park, and the only evidence of them has been via camera traps and b) the actual area where they had been recorded was up a mountain, which as I have stated previously, I don’t “do” and c) Bay cat had actually been seen this past year in Deramakot. 

 

This realisation was coupled with the fact that at the time that this particular bombshell had been dropped on us, I was also having a few problems with my knee. As such it was a pretty simple decision for me, I was not going to make a hard, sweaty, rain-soaked hike, risking life, limb and camera at the start of a nearly three week hard tour to look for a feline whose main defining quality is that it doesn’t follow any forest tracks or roads and is as rare as unicorn tears. 

 

Two other members of our group, Wendy and Phil also judiciously decided not to join the crazy climb and also stayed behind. This then presented the tour company with a problem, what to do with us. Well after a few dead ends as we explore options for other activities, we simply settled on exploring the lower reaches of the park whilst we waited for the three boys to have fun on the mountain. In the end, it was the right decision.   

 

29/09/2019 Tawau Hills Park

 

We all arrived on different flights, which cause a bit of confusion at Kuala Lumpur because Wendy and I thought we had booked the same flight and couldn’t find each other at the terminal, but it turned out we were on separate flights with very similar scheduled times. I arrived at Tawau airport at 10:25. The three of us met up and were transferred to the park with our guide Chun. 

 

We had lunch at the park canteen before dragging our bags to our accommodation, the kindest I could say about this was “rustic”. At least they had AC, they also had double doors opening onto a balcony. The only refreshments here were a hot and luke warm water machine, no tea or coffee. At least I have bought some teabags on my overnight stop in KL, but I mostly had to settle for drinking it without milk. 

 

The warbling sounds of gibbons could be heard in the surrounding forest. Little Spiderhunters and many different butterflies frequented the flowering trees as we got settled in. A few long-tailed macaques put in a brief appearance before the gibbons began feeding in the trees that our lodge backed onto. The gibbons stayed for quite a while, silent as the fed. A wreathed hornbill also fed in the tall trees before flying over our heads. 

 

49039790732_c177cd18c0_b.jpgP9290043 (2) Bornean Gibbon Hylobates muelleri by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039069893_7f64c6bbe4_b.jpgP9290136 (3) Bornean Gibbon Hylobates muelleri by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039575406_80b36c8a5f_b.jpgP9290165 (3) adj copy Bornean Gibbon Hylobates muelleri by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We took an afternoon walk to the river trail that goes all the way up the mountain. We covered the first 900 metres, seeing mostly small stuff, very few birds, which was disappointing. The park is open to the public and is quite busy during the day. However most people are daytrippers. So in the evening the park is a lot quieter. After most people had left and the light was fading a huge troop of long-tailed macaques came to clear up the picnickers’ leftovers. Some even played with discarded plastic rubbish a damning reflection of the times we sadly live in.

 

49039575201_794daafe48_b.jpgP9290226 Rajah Brooke's Birdwing Butterfly   (Trogonoptera brookiana) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039069053_d921a1d3f5_b.jpgP9290280 A nest of bees by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039574301_beb50a511d_b.jpgP9290303 adj White-lipped frog (Chalcorana raniceps) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039574186_fff9f40906_b.jpgP9290320 adj Asian water monitor (Varanus salvator) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039787877_b4585ae812_b.jpgP9290413 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039067523_ee88cd2083_b.jpgP9290463 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039787352_3617df4b8d_b.jpgP9290554 (2) long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We walked towards the staff quarters where a football game was going on. Three magnificent Rhinoceros Hornbills were feeding on some figs. We had dinner at 1840, chicken and rice, which we’d also had for lunch, although the chicken was done differently. 

 

After dinner we took a night walk with Chun, his specialities were with invertebrates and herps. We covered some of the river trail, bits of the tallest tree trail and some of the recreational paths near the river. 

 

Our highlights included two Colugos (Sunda Flying Lemurs), giant stick insects, Rufous-backed (Oriental Dwarf) Kingfisher, Swallowtail moth, Trefoil Horseshoe Bat, a variety of frogs, a spider that looked like it was made of fluffy white pipe-cleaners (thank goodness for long zoom lenses), fighting ants, a huge tarantula that did not want to be photographed and a rather nice little painted mock viper.   

 

49039066663_f48f9cbe72_b.jpgP9290638 Brown Bullfrog (Kaloula baleata) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039786532_1345114159_b.jpgP9290639  Dark-eared Treefrogs (Polypedates macrotis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039066113_908ce917cd_b.jpgP9290644 Harlequin tree frog, (Rhacophorus pardalis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039065283_f807a04d81_b.jpgP9290660 White-lipped frog (Chalcorana raniceps) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039065098_65193f8f69_b.jpgP9290662 Giant Thorny Stick Insect by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039570476_d205710ba7_b.jpgP9290665 Giant Thorny Stick Insect by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039570261_9ac8028f9d_b.jpgP9290679 Painted Mock Viper (Psammodynastes pictus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039570026_e92834930a_b.jpgP9290692 Painted Mock Viper (Psammodynastes pictus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039784412_b7ea6673ea_b.jpgP9290712 Colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039784112_7666fc0fbf_b.jpgP9290729 Oriental dwarf kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039783707_e7358efb08_b.jpgP9290739 Oriental dwarf kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039063153_a71687c7df_b.jpgP9290745 Giant River Frog   (Limnonectes leporinus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039568126_437a1aa473_b.jpgP9290755 Giant River Toad or Borneo river toad (Phrynoidis juxtasper) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039782342_53d18898c3_b.jpgP9290761  Tropical Swallowtail Moth (Lyssa zampa) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039061813_465803e04e_b.jpgP9290769 trefoil horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus trifoliatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039061563_aec4bb411a_b.jpgP9290776 trefoil horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus trifoliatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039061038_d3c8a04239_b.jpgP9290791 Heteropoda Davidbowie (or v similar) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039060218_4db522c37f_b.jpgP9290794 GIANT FOREST ANT (DINOMYRMEX GIGAS) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039059743_ee61e723cb_b.jpgP9290806 Heteropoda Sp. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039565181_2e7b62b86b_b.jpgP9290814 Cicada by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039059993_f288fe6627_b.jpgP9290819 Longhorn beetle by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

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Wow, great stuff already...lots of frogs and cool insects! Following with interest as we are looking into Borneo for 2021 (but certainly not the way you do it ;)

 

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A great start.

I have just checked and you are not making up “Heteropodia DavidBowie”:)

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mapumbo
2 hours ago, TonyQ said:

A great start.

I have just checked and you are not making up “Heteropodia DavidBowie”:)

Thanks for checking that out, I was wondering as well.

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kittykat23uk
6 hours ago, mapumbo said:

Thanks for checking that out, I was wondering as well.

Thanks, as I said, I don't think it's the David Bowie spider as that one is orange and fluffy but it's very similar, and not all bornean spiders have been described. 

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kittykat23uk
9 hours ago, janzin said:

Wow, great stuff already...lots of frogs and cool insects! Following with interest as we are looking into Borneo for 2021 (but certainly not the way you do it ;)

 

 

Probably very wise, if I were you I'd go at a better time of year for birds, as the birding was rather disappointing at this time of the year. 

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Ah, great start @kittykat23uk.  Love the gibbon photos.  They are so cool to hear and watch.  Also, digging all the "little" critters.

 

Is it just me or does that trefoil horseshoe bat look a bit like The Predator with it's helmet off?  Maybe I watch too many movies?...:)

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Great start considering you’re just hanging around without a plan at the moment. Of course , you probably put in the hours for all this.

 

Just like last time you wrote a report (your dedication and success - I know you are going to succeed - inspires!) I checked the flights from Bangkok after starting your report. Seemed 10 hours is currently quickest, with layover... sigh... but then I checked drier season times and the direct flights are back. 100 dollars return too!
Sorry, that is deeply irrelevant...., but exciting. 


What was the weather like @kittykat23uk? Hot, humid, mostly cloudy and sometimes wet? Is that a good time to go for the cats? I kind of get the idea (and of course I get the tropical weather uncertainty and that Borneo is a bit back to front weather-wise compared to most of South East Asia) but it is still a bit confusing. 
 

No need to answer the weather question if it’s coming anyway. 

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kittykat23uk

Well @pault if you fancy some company then let me know, I am not done with Borneo yet, or maybe Borneo is not done with me yet..  

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kittykat23uk

Tawau Hills 30/09/2019

 

We headed to the staff quarters for breakfast at 0640. Our breakfast consisted of a bowl of noodles with a fried egg on top, it was actually very tasty, although a bit of an odd choice for breakfast.  

 

48840243658_0f07b5ba36_b.jpgIMG_20190930_071238 Breakfast at Tawau Hills Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48840607066_d40e53eccc_b.jpgIMG_20190930_062751 Moth Sp. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We went for a walk around the park with Chun.  We crossed a stream on a wooden bridge, on which was sat a praying mantis that was pretending to be a twig. Very odd-looking little critter it was. There was also an actual stick insect. Our walks again focused on the smaller denizens of the park, butterflies and other invertebrates, and of course herps. 

 

49039604626_e1afe1ae34_b.jpgP9300002 A praying mantis trying to look like a stick by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48840615866_2f02a346ca_b.jpgIMG_20190930_073406  A praying mantis trying to look like a stick by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

A few birds were also seen, including a family of Crested Goshawks. We took in the Tallest tree at the end of the aptly-named, although now sadly inaccurate “tallest tree trail”. This tree used to be the world’s tallest tropical tree but scientists have since discovered one in the Danum Valley that has since surpassed this one. 

 

48840798902_d0d8dc797f_b.jpgIMG_20190930_074107 Some kind of orchid by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039098918_bd029de359_b.jpgP9300068 A stick insect- also trying to look like a stick by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039604076_69b4924abd_b.jpgP9300103 adj crested goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039603561_be15af81f6_b.jpgP9300178  Laxita teneta - one of the harlequin butterflies by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48840258293_94ef4138a8_b.jpgIMG_20190930_085745 Laxita teneta - one of the harlequin butterflies by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48895619967_2574e409a2_b.jpgIMG_20190930_090356 THis used to be the world's tallest tree by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039818062_ac90af67da_b.jpgP9300270 Litter skink (Lygisaurus sp.) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039602621_d366fd378d_b.jpgP9300302 Asian Giant Millipede Thyropygus spirobolinae sp. by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We were forced to retreat to cover around 11 am when it started to rain heavily.

 

48924728323_4f74fd05e7_b.jpgVID_20190930_105833 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

After the rain stopped I passed some time chasing butterflies and spiderhunters. 

 

49039816877_f35ddbf1e1_b.jpgP9300436 Ciliate Blue (Anthene emolus goberus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039601251_45ac2e62f7_b.jpgP9300439 Brown Pansy (Junonia hedonia) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039600876_b447e55848_b.jpgP9300459 Skipper? by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039599946_fa8e7d1dea_b.jpgP9300523 Dot-dash Seargent by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039599111_d18c503c16_b.jpgP9300570 Female scarlet-breasted flowerpecker (Prionochilus thoracicus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039813497_0533482dd0_b.jpgP9300694 Common Birdwing (Troides helena) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039092483_526f12542a_c.jpgP9300747 maroon langur AKA  red leaf monkey (Presbytis rubicunda) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Some of the trees were pretty impressive:

 

48913239251_d166f91ec5_c.jpgIMG_20190930_164036 Trees in Tawau Hills Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48913251496_66c52e125b_c.jpgIMG_20190930_165749 River in Tawau Hills Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48913256596_a767f64f67_c.jpgIMG_20190930_165753 River in Tawau Hills Park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

I tried to do an arty shot:

 

49039812857_522095a433_b.jpgP9300783 rapids by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Later on we had lunch at the cafeteria, where I spotted a female Scarlet-Breasted Flowerpecker taking a bath in a leaf.   Chun then took us on an afternoon walk around the paths and along the river. We were pleased to see our first Maroon Langurs (Red Leaf Monkeys). A Wreathed Hornbill was also seen well. 

 

49039090493_979d99fa5b_b.jpgP9300869 adj  Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We had a further night walk after dinner. Again this focused on the herps and invertebrates. Highlights included numerous frogs and toads, a vampire crab, a rare lantern bug and a more accommodating tarantula. We also briefly saw our first Bornean Striped Palm Civet (Small-toothed Palm Civet).  

 

49039595676_b9f2caa100_b.jpgP9300954 (2) Vampire Crab Genus Geosesarma by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039595506_6d6fcbe617_b.jpgP9300967 Crested Toad (Ingerophrynus divergens) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039089733_8ff6d2134a_b.jpgP9300974 Spiny Slender Toad Ansonia spinulifer by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039810177_e14bb3872d_b.jpgP9300975   File-eared Tree Frog Polypedates otilophus by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039594706_88203a3649_b.jpgP9300978 some kind of cricket by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039593891_16b825f255_b.jpgP9300980 some kind of cricket by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039593561_8466ef559c_b.jpgP9300983 Dead leaf grasshopper (Caelifera) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039593216_8c2df18e7f_b.jpgP9300987 Lantern bug (Pyrops sidereus) with ant that is feeding off the honeydew that the bug secretes by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039592966_244c3f47a5_c.jpgP9301001 Giant snail by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039087188_2420d0e130_b.jpgP9301004 Black-femur tarantula (cf. Coremiocnemis sp.) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039086418_629664272b_c.jpgP9301005 Black-femur tarantula (cf. Coremiocnemis sp.) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039591576_32cd7f893a_c.jpgP9301008 Cicada by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk
4 hours ago, Atdahl said:

Ah, great start @kittykat23uk.  Love the gibbon photos.  They are so cool to hear and watch.  Also, digging all the "little" critters.

 

Is it just me or does that trefoil horseshoe bat look a bit like The Predator with it's helmet off?  Maybe I watch too many movies?...:)

 

Yes I can see the resemblance @Atdahl

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Towlersonsafari

There are some mighty strange creatures  there @kittykat23uk and that spider was clearly a space oddity. ( sorry)

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offshorebirder

Very nice TR so far @kittykat23uk.

 

The moth sp. in post #12 looks extremely similar to Tersa sphinx (Xylophanes tersa) in the Americas.   I am sure  it is a sphinx moth of some kind.  

 

 

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Great read so far, thanks! Love the Mantis!

 

Following along closely - we're trying to decide between Borneo and Sulewesi in Sept 2020. I'd pick Borneo without hesitation except its sooo much more expensive than the rest of SE Asia. 

 

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13 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

There are some mighty strange creatures  there @kittykat23uk and that spider was clearly a space oddity. ( sorry)


Duh .. of course it’s a space oddity. It’s a Spider from Mars.
 

(double sorry)

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kittykat23uk
7 hours ago, Dawnvip said:

Great read so far, thanks! Love the Mantis!

 

Following along closely - we're trying to decide between Borneo and Sulewesi in Sept 2020. I'd pick Borneo without hesitation except its sooo much more expensive than the rest of SE Asia. 

 

 

@Dawnvip yes compared to my second trip, the cost for 18 nights split between six people was nearly double what I paid in 2017 for 15 nights split between four people. We used the same company both times. The first time I went we just booked the accommodation separately, without using a tour company, but we were not specifically targeting clouded leopard that time around. 

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Towlersonsafari

It is clearly covered in stardust @pault perhaps it will start a fashion

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27 minutes ago, Towlersonsafari said:

It is clearly covered in stardust @pault perhaps it will start a fashion

 
Pretty things, aren’t they? But ch-ch-changes like that ain’t e.asy. Can take time - five years I heard. 
 

But we better heed the spider himself and keep in mind that in this thread, just like suffragette city......

There's only room for one and here she comes, here she comes.....

 

 

(Japanese level sorry)

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3 hours ago, kittykat23uk said:

 

@Dawnvip yes compared to my second trip, the cost for 18 nights split between six people was nearly double what I paid in 2017 for 15 nights split between four people. We used the same company both times. The first time I went we just booked the accommodation separately, without using a tour company, but we were not specifically targeting clouded leopard that time around. 

@kittykat23uk I really appreciate your description of little creepy crawlies , sometimes overlooked by mammal watchers. 

Just couple of queries about Mike Gordon and  Deramakot. Is it correct that Adventure Alternative Borneo holds exclusive safari rights for Deramakot and does Mike only work for them or does he do freelancing as well ? I can see you spent a number of nights at Deramakot. Must be quite tiring to go on night drives and stay up late on all those nights.

Looking forward to more. I had made concrete plans for Borneo next year but unfortunately change in personal circumstances forced me to abandon Borneo. 

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kittykat23uk

@Chakra thanks, yes Mike Gordon only works for AABorneo Tours. The number of companies taking tours there has increased a lot.

 

I know that naturetrek, Audley Travel and Wildlife worldwide all go there now doing similar activities to us and we saw several groups when we were there--more on that later. I can't imagine that they all use AAB for the logistics. 

 

I believe Sticky rice travel also do trips and there were other independent groups like ours.

 

 

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@kittykat23uk,  when we were there I thought Mike said that AAB has exclusive use of the dining/kitchen area and that other tours had to prepare food for guests elsewhere.  One guide was doing it in their rooms apparently.  

 

But that was almost two years ago.  Do you know if that exclusive use is still true? 

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kittykat23uk

Hi @Atdahl everyone seemed to eat in the dining hall. I believe that naturetrek and Wildlife worldwide used the same cooks as us. Perhaps that means they work through AAB?

 

Audley Travel seemed to have their own caterers and it was quite amusing to see how pretentious they were with their little "reserved" sign on one of the dining tables and silver service. The dining room was hardly heaving most nights, except when a group of forest officials decided to bunk down there for the night! 

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