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Malaysia: Fascinating (and cute) mammals, beautiful birds.


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Asian Glossy Starling


Olive-backed Sunbird









We were very happy with our visit to Penang - it gave us a good mix of cultural activities (eating sounds good when described in that way!) and some interesting birds. The trip overall also gave us this mix, and although we didn't like Taman Negara very much we greatly enjoyed all the other places we visited


Our trip to Malaysia finished with a taxi to Penang Airport and a short flight to Kuala Lumpur. This flight wa on Malaysia Airways and the person checking us in said she could check our baggage through to London on our BA flight - and this worked well.


Before getting on our flight to London we were handed a leaflet telling us what to do if we got Covid symptoms when getting back in the UK. We arrived back to different world to that we had left.

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brilliant shots of the pitta! and the chestnut-headed bee-eater.


I never thought of Penang as a birding area, but i suppose I never thought Singapore could be a birding haven as well!


Thanks for sharing a most enjoyable trip through Malaysia. It was a very refreshing one seeing the country and its birding spots through your (and @Thursday's Child) eyes. I'm glad you managed the trip before the entire world shut down! 

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Baby colugo - awwww :wub:

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  • 5 months later...

I only came across your trip report today @TonyQand although I had of course admired your Malaysia birds in de Big Year thread, there was so much more to enjoy here! We have been thinking about a visit to Malaysia sometime in the future and it looks even more inviting now. Apart from one rather disappointing area, you appear to have enjoyed it very much. And you certainly got a host of beautiful photos!

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10 hours ago, PeterHG said:

I only came across your trip report today @TonyQand although I had of course admired your Malaysia birds in de Big Year thread, there was so much more to enjoy here! We have been thinking about a visit to Malaysia sometime in the future and it looks even more inviting now. Apart from one rather disappointing area, you appear to have enjoyed it very much. And you certainly got a host of beautiful photos!


agreed. It made me seriously re-evaluate Malaysia as a destination. My only previous visit had been KL and Langkawi which bored me silly.

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I’ve just re-read this great report since it has reappeared, I thought I should say what I meant to say when I this report the first time, in defence of Taman Negara, which I visited back in 01, because I wouldn’t want people to be entirely put off going there. I also went on my own without a guide and would agree that the birding is difficult, although I did see some great birds, I heard but didn’t see white-handed gibbons and saw no monkeys, except for the ubiquitous troublesome long-tailed macaques, so for wildlife viewing my visit might have been equally disappointing, but for one star animal, that made going to the park, a major highlight of my trip around Malaysia. Taman Negara is the best place that I know of, to see the Malayan Tapir in the wild, this was really why I visited the park, to try and see a tapir. 


You have to hike out to a hide called Bumbun Kumbang and stay the night there, the Kumbang hide overlooks a saltlick in a tiny clearing. It was quite a long hike to get there about 11 kms, I set off on my own, but met up with a group of Germans on the way, they had a bit of trouble finding the trail at one point, they’d walked exactly the right way in the first place as directed by the signs, but had somehow failed to see where the path went, decided it wasn’t that way and came back saying there was no trail that way, rather than look myself,  I made the mistake of following them, so we briefly got a bit lost, which wasted a fair bit of time, as we needed to get there before dark and it was getting slightly late. When I then did go and look. where they had tried to go in the first place, it didn’t take me too long to find the trail again, I just walked around a bush and there it was, a big relief. At one point we had to wade across a river, which was about waste deep at the deepest point, but it was not very wide and not at all difficult, we eventually arrived at the hide just before dusk, probably 20 – 30 minutes later. than I would ideally have wanted to get there, you want to get in a little early, you don’t want to risk spooking the animals on the way in, or upset anyone else who might already be in the hide, that wasn’t an issue in my case, as we all arrived at the same time. Although we were in fact joined later by a Japanese woman, who came by boat up the Tembelling river and hiked in via a far shorter and easier route.  I was astonished, when a tapir appeared at the salt lick only about ten minutes after getting to the hide, it was quite dark and at the time I was still using a Canon 35mm camera with a 70-300mm lens, so regrettably I didn’t get great shots, but I took a couple and was pleased to at least get something. To my amazement the tapir returned again at dawn, so I had two great views of it.


I posted the photos in this thread Show us your Tapirs


I don’t know what if anything has changed, at the time Bumbun Kumbang was very basic, it is after all just a hide, it had from memory 3 double bunkbeds, without mattresses, I’d brought a roll mat that I’d hired back at the HQ, and there was some sort of bathroom down below, I didn't sleep much, but I didn't care having seen a Malayan Tapir.    


I would therefore definitely recommend visiting Taman Negara, if you want to try and see a tapir, again I don’t know what may have changed, but you do have to book your night in the hide, I was very lucky, perhaps because I was on my own, that I was able to book a bed. I would guess that lot of people who go to Taman Negara don’t go to Kumbang hide to look for the tapir, because they are part of group and there aren’t enough beds, or maybe it was already fully booked I don’t know. Certainly, birding trip reports on Malaysia that I’ve read don’t mention seeing tapirs.


I did also go to the park for the birds and did see some great species including an argus pheasant, but I would say that the park is probably somewhere that you really need to go to with a really good bird guide, who knows Taman Negara. I had assumed that the park would be a good place to look for primates, maybe I was unlucky, but that proved not to be the case, so for other wildlife besides the tapir and birds, it was disappointing, so if you are not going, in order to try for a tapir or for some serious rainforest birding, then likely you wouldn’t miss a lot by not including Taman Negara.


I have to say, I would be very tempted to go back, in the hope of getting much better photos of a tapir with a DSLR and my 100-400mm, if I could be sure of seeing one again.

Edited by inyathi
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  • 4 months later...

Took me many months to read the end tail of your trip. Malaysia remained as colorful as it was 20 years ago, and a worthy destination when travel gets back to some sort of normal. Thank you for sharing its splendors. 

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