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Belated Borneo Bemusings


shazdwn

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shazdwn

Moving on...

 

I chose Myne Resort for our Kinabatangan River accommodation and it was fine.  It is located on a U bend in the river so you get a great view from the bar/dining area.  There are lots of long-tailed macaques around, so you need to keep your rooms locked up tight when you are not in them - hubby thought the signs in the room saying this were exaggerating and left the window partly opened one day figuring they wouldn't get through the flyscreen - wrong.  Turns out they love chocolate chip biscuits (oops).  

 

There was only one other couple staying our first night, who had hired a private guide, so once again we found ourselves on our own with our guide  (Jonah or Noah - something biblical) and boat driver.  Our first afternoon we had a three hour boat trip where we headed downstream from Myne.  Unfortunately it quickly became apparent our 'bonus' private guide experience wasn't to be so much of a bonus.  Call me boring but my main target at Kinabatangan was the Proboscis Monkey (I had also hoped for elephant but were quickly told there were none in the area at the time) - we very quickly came upon the first troop and then started the trend that was to continue throughout our time with Jonah (let's go with that).  Basically our driver would quietly spot the wildlife, head in that direction, then I would spot it and bring up my camera, then Jonah would spot it and yell "look there's a monkey, can you see it, can you see it, can you see it, can you see it, can you see it?".  Well yes I can see it I would think, why else to you think this giant camera lens is pointed right at it?  At first we responded politely that yes we could see it, but after a while we just started ignoring him.  On top of this he could id the most common species, but didn't add a lot in terms of information on top of it.  He did tell us later that he was still basically in training.  He wasn't based at Myne Resort though, so I never did quite work out if he was hired by Myne or by AAB.  

 

But here is what we saw on our first outing

Proboscis monkeys (backlit of course)

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Silver leaf monkeys

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At one point we turned off the main river into a tributary.  There was an orangutan crossing strung across the creek - no orangutans today but both a silver leaf money and long tailed macaques were making use of it

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Wrinkled Hornbill - perfectly lit (if you like back-lighting :P - thank goodness for raw files)

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Blue-eared Kingfisher

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We also saw a troop of long tailed macaques swimming across the stream - I had no idea they could swim.  This one was holding a seed in its mouth while it did it.

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While we were in the stream we came across boats from a couple of other resorts - and I noticed that they were a couple of the more budget resorts that I had considered booking.  All of the boats were completely full and it looked very cosy - making me very glad I had chosen the mid-range Myne Resort (even if we were just lucky it was quiet while we were there).  

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shazdwn

That night we did a night walk in the forest reserve that surrounds Myne Resort for about an hour.  Whenever you are in the reserve you need to take a local guide/ranger - which was good as while he didn't say a word the entire time he did most of the spotting.  The path was a bit steep and slippery in places, but mostly easy walking.  

 

Bearded Pig - I think these are seen around the resort every night as they come in for the scraps

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"Look its a stick insect, its green, can you see it, can you see it, can you see it?"

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"Look another stick insect, this one's brown, can you see it, can you see it, can you see it?"

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Grasshopper

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Leech

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Frog

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The biggest ant I have ever seen - seriously this thing was HUGE

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The highlight of the walk was right when we got back to the resort - a really good look at a Philippine Slow Loris.  Jonah said it was spotted frequently in the particular tree.

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When Jonah said we were doing a night walk I remember thinking "I don't remember that being on the itinerary - must be a bonus activity".  I should have checked straight away because the night walk turned out to be a substitute for our night boat trip which I would have preferred and had been quite looking forward to.  Another reminder that you need to ask for what you want (I tend to be quite go with the flow which has its advantages and disadvantages).  

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The light the day before had been very dull and flat, so I was hoping the morning boat trip would provide some better Proboscis Monkey photo ops - plus watching them leaping around the trees I had by now become obsessed with getting a good, sharp and clean photo of one in mid jump.  

 

When we headed down to the boat ramp we spotted what we had missed the day before - cushions for the seats.  I don't know why they weren't always just put in the boats but we asked our driver if we could grab a couple and he nodded yes (wasn't much of a talker).  This made ride a lot more comfortable.  

 

As we took off we headed not downstream, as I was expecting, but upstream.  Oh well, go with the flow I thought (no, I hadn't yet learnt my lesson).  The day started out quite misty.

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Blue-throated Bee-eaters in the mist

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But it soon cleared up

Red and Black Broadbills - the scraggly looking material is the start of a nest.  These birds are stunning.

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Bat Hawk

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After about an hour or so I asked where all the monkeys were - we hadn't even seen a macaque.  "Oh there are no monkeys in this stretch of the river" says Jonah.  What??? They were everywhere the day before, I figured they would be all the way along the river.  Oh well it was too late to turn around so we kept going.  We did see some more cool birds.

 

Stork-billed Kingfisher

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Pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills

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White-crowned Hornbill - we never did get a really clear look as they were back in the trees a bit but an fantastic bird.  

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We also had distance glimpses of Black and Rhinoceros Hornbills, but no good photos.  

 

During the day we went on a walk in the forest reserve to a lookout and then to a 100 year old Merbau Tree.  We didn't see a lot along the way but it was still worth the walk.

View from the lookout

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Lantern bugs

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There were bats inside the tree - does anyone know what they might be (Jonah didn't)

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That afternoon we were meant to have our last boat ride, but the heavens opened - it was pouring down.  Jonah was ready to go, but as we were not being picked up until 10am the following morning I asked if we could postpone it until the morning.  Apparently Jonah had to leave that night for another job - he might be able to arrange it but we would have to go without him (oh I think we'll cope).  Another group had arrived that afternoon so he arranged for us to go with them and their guide, which seemed like a better  plan than going in torrential rain.  

 

By the way, I have just realised that it probably sounds like it rained a lot on our trip.  Actually it wasn't that bad.  We had a bit of rain but not every day and a lot of the time it was short showers during the middle of the day so didn't disrupt our activities.  The couple of times it did rain heavily when we were meant to be doing something we were able to reschedule so we didn't miss out on anything.  

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shazdwn

Next morning the rain had cleared for our last boat trip.  I forgot to mention but before I had agreed to the plan I had made sure (twice) that the other group would be going downstream.  

 

I had long ago figured that it was our quiet but competent boat driver who was in charge, not Jonah, and it was no different this morning (in fact I don't really remember the new guide talking at all). 

 

Our first sighting was this orangutan

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Now our driver had clearly heard my conversation with Jonah the night before and was determined that today I would see Proboscis Monkeys - in fact he pretty much didn't stop for anything else the whole morning - I hope the other group liked monkeys :P

 

We got a good look at a large male - they tend to make a lot of noise and act aggressive when you first arrive, but calm down after a bit

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Mother and baby

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Young ones

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This looks tasty

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Despite the abundance of monkeys I never did get that flying through the air shot - what might have been :lol:

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On the way back to the resort we did stop for this monitor lizard

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and this saltwater crocodile

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shazdwn

Our driver arrived on to take us to Lahad Datu for our transfer to Borneo Rainforest Lodge.  No bling this time but a mini van to ourselves so plenty of room.

 

We found a supermarket to stock up on beer and snacks and then went to find the Borneo Rainforest Lodge office - at first it looked closed and I wondered if we were late, but then we realised we were parked outside the wrong building.  Doh.  That fixed we had a warm reception in the office and were sent off to get lunch before our transfer.  

 

I thought long and hard whether to include the Danum Valley into our itinerary.  I wanted to go, but the logistics of the Field Centre seemed a bit daunting as did the cost of Borneo Rainforest Lodge.  In the end I was happy with my decision to splurge on the lodge.  

 

The drive into the lodge was rough.  There was a lot of elephant dung along the road so I was keeping my eyes peeled, but no large grey beasts were sighted.  We did see this tortoise though.

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It was raining on check in but had cleared in time for dinner and our first activity, a night drive.  First though, we had a pre-dinner briefing with our guide, Oscar, who discussed our itinerary for the stay and we met the other four people who were to be in our group.  Night drives in at the lodge are done in what looks like a large golf cart and just go along the main road - not the most adventurous thing after Deramakot.  We didn't see  much that night either there were some Samba Deer, then we stopped and debated for a bit what this fluff in the top of the tree might be - was is a civet or a binturong?  We never did decide.

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This is my only other photo from the night

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There are a number of walking trails around the lodge, but the nature trail is the only one you are allowed on without a guide.  The next morning we did took the trail to Coffin Cliff (an ancient burial ground) and the lookout, then back via the Jacuzzi Pool (which unfortunately after a landslide is not much of a pool anymore, you used to be able to swim in it but now you can just paddle your feet).  

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Wallace's Hawk Eagle spotted through a gap in the trees

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Bones at Coffin Cliff

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View of Borneo Rainforest Lodge from the lookout

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Rainforest

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Flying lizard on the way back down

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Crested lizard (?)

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As we got back towards the lodge Oscar got word there was an orangutan near the workshop.  He told us that he wasn't meant to take tourist to that area but did we want to go anyway?  Well of course we did.

 

Why you don't stand directly under and orangutan in a tree

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Pondering the meaning of life?

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Back near reception there was a row of young banana palms and inside one was a roosting bat.  How cool.  I couldn't get a great look at it though so after lunch I went searching  the grounds for one that was in a leaf that wasn't so tightly curled.  I found several and finally found one I could get a photo of without disturbing it - only to find that they all roost head down so all I managed was a bum shot.  

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The Lodge timed departures about 15-20 min apart to try and keep the different groups spaced out along the tracks.  Our afternoon walk was just along the main road and after about half an hour it became apparent that staggering the starts didn't work when something exciting was spotted.  For that reason there were already two or three groups there when we came across a mother orangutan with a baby.  We could only catch glimpses of them amongst the vegetation and this is the only photo I managed.

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We saw a few other birds at a distance, and at one stage Oscar took off up a steep muddy track (while we waited on the road) to see if he could spot a pitta he thought he heard (he didn't) but nothing else to report. 

 

I had read that blue-throated bee-eaters bred on the grass in front of the riverside rooms so popped over to have a look before dinner.  There were plenty of pairs there, but I couldn't get very close, and it was getting a bit dark so the images are grainy.

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That night we had a night walk after dinner, we went along the nature trail and then to the frog pond.  Not much along the trail but the  frog pond was hopping (sorry, bad pun).

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If you don't like spiders look away now - this tarantula was enormous

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If you are ok with spiders but don't like snakes it's your turn to look away.

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Next morning was the canopy walk on a suspended walkway.  Unfortunately you can only do half of it at the moment as lightning struck one of the tree holding the second half up - this was the result.  

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I suspect at times you could get some great sightings from the canopy, but we only saw two birds of note.

Black and Yellow Broadbill

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An uncooperative Scarlet-rumped Trogon

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The Lodge give a certificate to anyone who gets bitten by a tiger leech.  My crazy husband was quite keen to get one :o.  Unfortunately we never saw one, but that didn't stop him from playing with the little ones.  At this point a couple of the members of the group thought he had lost his mind :lol:

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On the way back I asked if they often saw red leaf monkeys (maroon languors) as I really wanted to see one as we had only a very distant glimpse at Deramakot. Oscar said they were often spotted right around the Lodge but hadn't been seen for a couple of weeks.  Bugger.

 

Resting in our room before dinner I started hearing things dropping on the roof.  As the noise became more frequent I went outside to see what was going on - and it was a troop of red leaf monkeys in the tree right outside our room - hurrah.  

 

These guys are adorable - I think they are my favourite monkey now.  Be prepared for red leaf monkey overload.

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What a position to sleep in

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Yawning

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shazdwn

The Lodge has a platform down by the river that also overlooks the lawn where the bee-eaters nest.  This became my favourite spot to hang out between activities, there was always something to see (although once again the light was invariably sh&@!!t). 

 

Blue-throated bee-eaters flittered around, most didn't get too close but this pair was too busy to notice me 

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When they had finished he flew away but  then came back with a butterfly for her

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On several occasions I spotted pygmy squirrel

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Crested lizard - green on green

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At one stage a flying lizard flew straight over my head and landed on a tree.  Then another one followed it - it was a pair.  Then the male lizard started chasing the female around and displaying - amazing.  It would puff out its throat flap, then circle her displaying its "wing" flaps, then she would run away and he would chase her and start  all over again.  It was dark, and they were up the tree (I know - excuses, excuses) but here are some super grainy record shots to give you an idea (taken at 600mm, 5.6, ISO  10000 and then cropped)

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A Prevost Squirrel came to lunch (always take your camera to meals)

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Our afternoon activity was a river float - the water level was only just high enough to allow it so we "bottomed out" a couple of times but it was relaxing and fun (at least once you had carried your tyre along the track to the starting point).  I forgot to mention I also carried a compact waterproof Olympus Tough  TG4 which is how I got this shot. 

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After dinner we did another night walk - it started in a different direction where Oscar took us into the bush and then told us to turn off our torches.  Wow - there in front of us was some luminous fungi - something I had always wanted to see.  Apparently it had only been discovered by Lodge staff a couple of months earlier, even though it was only a 5 min walk.  Wandering back towards the frog pond we saw this moth

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As had been my habit on previous night activities I took a shot with my flash, only to be told by Oscar that flash photography was not allowed in Danum Valley.  I think he  only said it because there was another guide there as well - he hadn't mentioned it earlier.  A bit of a rule breaker our Oscar.  

 

As a result I have only one more image from the walk - taken by torchlight.  

Mating File-Eared Frogs

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kittykat23uk

Wow @shazdwn even ignoring sepilok, you had so many great orangutan sightings! The white crested hornbill is very difficult to see so great that you saw that (I still haven't after 3 trips).

 

I didn't see any cats in danum on my first trip and I think all of my sightings of cats have been at night. 

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shazdwn

@kittykat23uk yes we were very lucky with the orangutans

 

Our last morning at Danum Valley was another misty one

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Too soon it was time to start our drive back to Lahad Datu, where another driver was waiting to take us to Semporna.  Once there we rocked up to the Scuba Junkie office to check in and had time for lunch before our transfer out to Pulau Mabul (Mabul Island).

 

Semporna is dirty, and as we left the harbour there was so much rubbish in the water we had to stop the engine several time as it kept blocking up.  It was horrible to see.  As we headed further out though we left the rubbish behind.

 

Colourful villages on the shore

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We stayed at the Scuba Junkie Resort on Palau Mabul and went diving in several locations over the next three days.  The main attraction in the area is Sipidan Island, permits to dive at Sipidan are limited to 100 per day and all the dive resorts in the area have a minimum 3 night stay to guarantee you get a permit on one of the days.  Sipidan is famous for its pelagics and large schools of barracuda - neither of which we saw on our day :(.  However a bad day diving at Sipidan is still a good day's diving as the area is just alive with fish.  

 

Sipidan Island

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Some images from under the sea (Pulau Sipidan, Pulau Mabul and Pulau Kapalai) - taken with the Olympus Tough with dive housing

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Did you know there was more than one type of orangutan in Borneo?  This is an Orangutan Crab

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shazdwn

On the beach at Pulau Mabul

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Next to Scuba Junkie was a Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsy) village.  Bajau Luat are a stateless people who traditionally lived solely on the sea,  rarely setting foot on land. These days more and more are moving to seaside villages in Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, however they are not considered citizens of these countries and cannot access services like schooling.  

 

Bajau Luat village

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And that's pretty much it.  We had an afternoon transfer back to Semporna where we spent the night, then flew Tawau to Kota Kinabalu to Singapore and back to Darwin.  

 

What a great trip :)

 

 

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offshorebirder

Thanks  @shazdwn those Op Tech rain sleeves look nice - I could have used one at a few points during our Zambia safari.   

 

Do you think the 14 inch version would cover a camera body and a 400mm f/4 with lens hood?   Or should I get the larger 18 inch version?

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inyathi

@shazdwn

 

Fantastic report, another good advert for Borneo.

 

I thought I might offer my opinion on some of the birds

 

Post 7 I’ll take a punt on the swallow and say it’s Pacific, it’s clearly not an Asian house martin as it doesn’t have a white rump and it’s not a barn swallow as it doesn’t have tail streamers, nor is it red-rumped or striated so that only leaves Pacific.

 

Post 9 the sleeping bird is I think a yellow-bellied prinia, on the assumption that the yellow belly is hidden from view, that would be my best guess.

The boobook is a brown boobook or brown hawk owl is I think the more common name.

The hornbill is not an oriental pied, it’s an Asian black hornbill, these birds are usual all black, but they do sometimes have a broad white stripe over the eye which your bird has. You can see it looks quite different to the pied hornbills in Post 28

Nightjar my guess grey nightjar.

 

Post 11 night time bird white-crowned shama

 

Post 12 Pacific swallows

Female blue-winged leafbird

House sparrow

Olive-backed tailorbird

 

Post 26 common kingfisher, it’s paler blue and doesn’t have blue-ear coverts so it can’t be blue-eared, I have common in my backyard, so I thought your bird is surely a common when I first saw the photos.

 

Post 30 white-crowned shama again

 

Post 35 Nankeen night heron

Edited by inyathi
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shazdwn
12 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

Thanks  @shazdwn those Op Tech rain sleeves look nice - I could have used one at a few points during our Zambia safari.   

 

Do you think the 14 inch version would cover a camera body and a 400mm f/4 with lens hood?   Or should I get the larger 18 inch version?

 

@offshorebirder I would probably go with the 18 inch.  The plastic is quite thin so its easy to bunch up any excess in the middle if its a bit too big without it getting in the way.  

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shazdwn
9 hours ago, inyathi said:

@shazdwn

 

Fantastic report, another good advert for Borneo.

 

I thought I might offer my opinion on some of the birds

 

Post 7 I’ll take a punt on the swallow and say it’s Pacific, it’s clearly not an Asian house martin as it doesn’t have a white rump and it’s not a barn swallow as it doesn’t have tail streamers, nor is it red-rumped or striated so that only leaves Pacific.

 

Post 9 the sleeping bird is I think a yellow-bellied prinia, on the assumption that the yellow belly is hidden from view, that would be my best guess.

The boobook is a brown boobook or brown hawk owl is I think the more common name.

The hornbill is not an oriental pied, it’s an Asian black hornbill, these birds are usual all black, but they do sometimes have a broad white stripe over the eye which your bird has. You can see it looks quite different to the pied hornbills in Post 28

Nightjar my guess grey nightjar.

 

Post 11 night time bird white-crowned shama

 

Post 12 Pacific swallows

Female blue-winged leafbird

House sparrow

Olive-backed tailorbird

 

Post 26 common kingfisher, it’s paler blue and doesn’t have blue-ear coverts so it can’t be blue-eared, I have common in my backyard, so I thought your bird is surely a common when I first saw the photos.

 

Post 30 white-crowned shama again

 

Post 35 Nankeen night heron

 

Outstanding - thanks for taking the time to id these for me.  Yes that black hornbill had me fooled.  Jonah said the kingfisher was a blue-eared - but after my experience with him I definitely trust your knowledge more!  

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Thanks @shazdwn for the entertaining and informative trip report! And the variety of photos - the orangutans and angry male probiscus monkey of post #29 are excellent!

Thanks for including the underwater shots too - hubby and I are looking at Borneo or Sulawesi for September 2020, mostly because of the excellent diving both offer. "They" say Sipidan is some of the best diving in the world. Now that you've been, would you agree?

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shazdwn

Hi @Dawnvip thanks for your comments

 

Sipidan - well its hard to say.  The sheer abundance of fish is mindboggling.  That said, Sipidan is most famous for its sharks (of which we saw a few but not the schools of hammerheads that are sometimes seen), rays (we saw the usual bottom dwelling kind but no mantas, devil rays, eagle rays) and huge barracuda schools (which had moved offshore while we were there).  So if you got all of that (and talking to the dive masters it does happen and quite regularly) then it would be awesome.  While we were there several other groups spotted a whale shark that had been hanging around the area too (not us of course). As for the best in the world, well I would say that from my own experience it ranks highly, but on the same level as places like Flores/Komodo and Conflict Islands in PNG.  

 

As I you pretty much have to sign up to a 3 day package to get one day at Sipidan.  A lot of the other sites are muck dives - good muck dives with plenty of weird creatures and variety - but not everyone likes the small stuff.  

 

Unfortunately I haven't been to Sulawesi so I can't compare the two.  It might depend on whether this is a diving holiday, or a holiday where you will do some diving and some other stuff.  If its the latter I doubt Sulawesi can provide 'other stuff' to the same standard as Borneo.  

 

Have you looked at Raja Ampat for diving?   

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xelas

Fabulous trip report, @shazdwn, and fascinating underwater photography, a genre which is rarely seen on Safaritalk. 

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Alexander33

Thanks for sharing this report with us, @shazdwn .  I really enjoyed it, and I think you should give yourself more credit for the photography than you did at the outset. Nicely done under very difficult circumstances. 

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shazdwn

Thanks @Alexander33 I'm glad you enjoyed it.  I do tend to be quite critical of my own photography - but that's ok because it helps me to keep improving.  

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On 1/6/2020 at 9:04 PM, shazdwn said:

Unfortunately I haven't been to Sulawesi so I can't compare the two.  It might depend on whether this is a diving holiday, or a holiday where you will do some diving and some other stuff.  If its the latter I doubt Sulawesi can provide 'other stuff' to the same standard as Borneo.  

 

Have you looked at Raja Ampat for diving?   

Its been too long since we've had a proper "dive holiday" so that is the main focus for September. We can do 16 days of all-inclusive diving in Sulewesi ( Manado, Lembeh and Bangka) for the same price of 7 in Borneo, so that's a significant difference. That said, we do enjoy topside activities too (you can only spend so much time underwater!) and you are right, Sulawesi probably won't match Borneo on that front. 

 

Haven't been to Raja Ampat, but have done alot of other SEA like Similians in Thailand, Bali, Philipines and Fiji. We also considered Komodo/Flores but much more of a pain to get to/from unless one takes a liveaboard dive trip out of Bali. 

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shazdwn

@Dawnvip keep in mind that the topside activities in Borneo are not near the better diving sites.  If you wanted to do a combo of land based wildlife viewing and diving I would recommend having at least a week for the land based activities, split over a couple of locations.  So if you really want to focus on diving this trip, Sulewesi might be the better bet, especially given the price difference.  Borneo will still be there for the next trip. But of course its your holiday so go with what feels right to you. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've been to both Borneo and Sulawesi (most recently) and the land-based stuff can be quite good in Sulawesi -- you could see a lot just going to Tangkoko NP with a a good guide (though the lodging options are very simple there).  Nothing compares with the diversity of what you see in a trip to Borneo, but there are some amazing birds, the black-crested macaques (of selfie fame), a great tarsier, and bear cuscus.  So some terrific mammals.  We spent 3 days snorkeling on Siladen Island and the reef was stunning.  Most people there were divers, many repeat visitors, and they were very happy. I wish we had booked another day or two there, it was lovely.

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shazdwn

Thanks @jmharack. Sound like it is worth putting Sulawesi on my wish list. I had to google bear cuscus - I’ve never heard of it before 

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I finished this a while ago but didn't have time to comment then. 

 

Great end to this at BRL and under the water. What luck with those red leaf monkeys!

 

 

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