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SUNDA LEOPARD CAT. Deramakot Forest Reserve.


There can be little doubt that over the years Safaritalk trip reports have had a significant impact on our wildlife travel plans.  A visit to Zakouma N.P. (Chad) in 2018 being one such example. However two trip reports that I particularly enjoyed resulted in Sabah, Borneo going onto our wildlife travel wish list several years ago. The reports both by @kittykat23uk, "Sleepless in Borneo 2019" and "Bornean Mammal  Tour 2017 - A Quest for the Elusive Mammals of the Bornean Rainforest", are both exceptional reports, very detailed and highly informative. So it was only a matter of time before we visited Borneo (Sabah), Malaysia. Problems with a proposed trip to Mongolia in January 2024 left us without our customary early year trip, a time of year we like to travel, to escape from some of the ravages of the  Scottish Winter. This meant that planning for any trip would be much shorter than usual, I had always been clear in my mind that I would only consider Borneo if we were able to get the services of one particular guide and that as a wild cat enthusiast, the itinerary would allow a significant amount of time to specifically look for the islands five species of Cat. Since our wildlife adventures began, we have so far applied a golden rule not to return to an already visited location, so a Borneo trip would be ideal, we were also strongly drawn by the diversity of wildlife found in several locations in Sabah. I was however concerned that we may be visiting at the wrong time of year. I had read numerous trip reports (group and private) and all appeared to indicate that the best time to visit was from September to around the end of December, before the prolonged rains begin. Flat-headed Cats in particular are seen more frequently when the river levels are low, which is usually not in early April when our trip would be scheduled. In fact I only found one report for a Borneo trip in April and the results were not encouraging. So we had a decision to make did we go or not, other possible alternatives were understandably booked up, so after a great deal of deliberation we decided to proceed, which turned out to be a great decision. I already had a basic itinerary on the computer so our UK operator in conjunction with AAB in Borneo sprang into action. Securing our chosen guide was problematic due to availability, eventually it became clear he would be with us for most of the trip but the only available date was early April.


The agreed itinerary was as follows:


2nd April 2024. Depart Newcastle (UK) 17.15 arrive Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) 22.40 on the 3rd, via Heathrow and Kula Lumpur. Taxi to hotel, 10 minutes, very cheap.


3rd - 5th. Tanjung Art Resort, KK.  The 2 nights here were to allow us to recover from the long flight out. On a trip like this which would be reasonably challenging we would recommend doing this.


TANJUNG ARU RESORT, great place to unwind and recover from the flight before we started the trip in earnest. It was busy but a very pleasant hotel, great staff and the food was excellent. The view from our balcony across the South China Sea was quite impressive.


Sunset view from our balcony.


5th. Internal flight to Sandakan. Transfer to Sepilok Forest Edge Resort for one night to visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre, etc.  We met our main guide here.


6th - 13th. Transfer to Deramakot Forest Reserve. (forestry chalet), 7 nights.


13th - 15th. Transfer Kinabatangan River, Osman's Homestay, 2 nights.


15th - 18th. Transfer to Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Tabin Wildlife Lodge, 3 nights.


18th - 20th. Transfer Danum Valley Conservation Area, Borneo Rainforest Lodge, 2 nights.


20th - 21st. Travel back to the UK (Newcastle) from Lahad Datu, via Kota Kinabalu, Kula Lumpur and Heathrow. I made the total time for the return journey 37 hours from lodge to home.


The itinerary included private transport and guiding throughout. (Borneo Rainforest Lodge different arrangements).The trip represented excellent value for money particularly in the present climate of greatly inflated wildlife travel costs.


WEATHER:  30º+C (hot , sunny) everyday, slightly cooler at night but still pleasantly warm. At Deramakot, one afternoon heavy rain, two heavy showers before the evening drives. Tabin, two afternoon heavy showers. Danum, two very heavy prolonged afternoon periods of rain. Humidity very high, every day. Overall significantly drier at the time of our visit than it should have been.


FOOD: Excellent throughout. Local food delicious, very subtle use of spices. No 'tummy' problems at all. We both loved Malayan food.


INSECTS: Amazingly very few insect bites, those few received did respond to bite cream etc. and healed quickly. Leech socks worn on walks, probably unnecessary, only one leech seen all trip and I did lots of walking in both wet forest and grassy areas. Bites not an issue at all on this trip.


MEDICATION: Generic malarone taken.


At Sepilok we met our main guide who would be with us until we left for Tabin. We had been lucky to secure the services of the infamous Mike Gordon. His reputation as one of the most effective wildlife guides in the world, is factual and well deserved. The quality of guiding he provided was outstanding. The fact that he grew up in the Scottish Borders, 10 miles from where we live no doubt broke the ice, but throughout we got on very well with him, enjoyed his company very much and appreciated that he gave everything to try to secure sightings of our target species. He is a very unique individual.


At Sepilok we decided to give the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre a miss and spend most of our time around the Rainforest Discovery Centre and in the evening do a private guided night walk in the forest. In the morning we reluctantly visited the Sun Bear Centre, we find these sorts of places quite depressing, but obviously applaud the work they do and whilst there we donated to both projects. Around 10.00 we left for Derakamot  a journey of around 4 hours, 2 on tarmac and 2 on dirt roads.


404A27672.JPG.1eac25da20decbe329e6e1dffb716873.JPGSepilok Rainforest Discovery Centre (rigid) walkway, most sections are mid forest height although there is at least one tower giving access to the top of the canopy. Several Squirrel species are readily seen here . The walkway gets very busy around dusk as crowds gather to observe Red Giant Flying Squirrels departing from their manmade nest boxes to hunt at night. (Images impossible). There were quite a few reptiles about which is always great to see and we recorded 3 species of Hornbills here.


BORNEAN KEELED PIT VIPER. Juvenile. Very close to the walkway.




PREVOST'S SQUIRREL, very common at all locations on this trip. They have a very attractive red under belly, not visible on this image.


GIANT SQUIRREL. Ratufa affines ssp. baramensis (Sandakan race, the ones found in the Danum Valley are lighter in colour, we saw both races). Same family as Giant Squirrels found in India and Sri Lanka. Image below as above.



One of our main primate targets, on this trip was a Tarsier. The poster is of a Loris.


Despite making lousy pets thousands of Tarsiers and Lorises are taken from the wild throughout Asia every year to satisfy the growing pet trade, most die of stress or starvation or both. However on this night walk we saw two Tarsiers, one extremely well. The night walk lasted about 2 hours and was conducted on the forest floor.


WESTERN TARSIER. Located by white light eyeshine, then observed as in this image by red light. More on this later.


The same animal as above taken during a brief exposure to white light. An absolutely beautiful miniature primate. Several were seen on this trip, this was the best sighting.


The following day we visited the Sun Bear Centre (SBC), we found it very hard, but it was we knew, unless we were very lucky and we weren't, our only chance of seeing this magnificent Bear.


SUN BEAR, taken at the Sun Bear Centre (Rehabilitation), very few are released back into the wild. Significantly more successful are the Orangutan releases.

Whilst at the SBC we came across this female Orangutan with her youngster.


The adult female is an escapee from the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, note she is with her 2 year old youngster. Whilst she is now living wild she does tend to gravitate apparently to areas where there are humans. The area where this image was taken is wild secondary rainforest not part of any of the rehab projects.


Close up of the 2 year old youngster. He/She was conceived and born in the wild, the father was a totally wild Orangutan. I suppose this was our first sighting of a truly wild Orangutan.



This was us arriving at the entrance to the Dermakot Forest Reserve, where the real adventure would begin. The vehicle is the one we would use during our 8 days in the forest.At this stage our driver, Mike and ourselves were using the main cab, our luggage is in the pickup section. Once we got to our accommodation seats were fitted in the pickup section. Mike stood in the pickup section spotlighting with us, it worked well and the vehicle proved to be comfortable and reliable .The only drawback was when it rained, basically you got wet or soaked, we only retreated to the cab once. We would recommend taking decent waterproofs when visiting this region which we had, 'Mac in a Sac' as good as they are, not quite up to the job.


NEXT: Going nocturnal in Deramakot Forest.

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Looking forward to reading more! I'm glad my trip reports inspired you rather than putting you off! 😂😂😂

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Thanks so much for posting this! It looks like a fascinating trip!


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I'm so sorry we missed each other! the day you arrived in Deramakot was our first day at RDC Sepilok. We had a very fruitful birding trip, with some super mammal experiences as well. 

That first photo of the small cat has informed me that I must do a mammal trip with some birding involved, rather than a birding trip with some mammals involved!


Very much looking forward to more from you here!

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Posted (edited)

As a number of our trips in recent years have involved extended night drives, I decided for this trip to buy a thermal imaging monocular.  It had been on my mind for a while, I had borrowed other peoples in the past and found them to be very useful. It was between Pulsar and Zeiss so when Zeiss offered a special offer, I decided to go with them, also this model got very favourable reviews.


ZEISS DTI 3/35 G2, I have not been disappointed, it is an excellent bit of kit. Briefly it is very light, will go round your neck or in a pocket, the controls are very easy to manage in the dark, it is good for birds in bushes during the day and has a number of palettes, I tend to use it on white hot. It is ergonomically very well designed and feels comfortable in your hand when using. As we have a couple of trips coming up with extended night drives it will certainly get plenty of use. It records both images and video. I use it a lot in the garden for bats, I can recommend most highly. P.S. It is pretty good at helping to determine the age of Elephant poo! Thus avoiding human wildlife conflict.


Back to Deramakot, the large forest is described as a sustainably managed secondary rainforest. Basically what this means is it is divided up into 100+ compartments which are logged around every 40 years. However they only take out trees which have an agreed trunk diameter. The logs are FSC certified (the world's most trusted mark for sustainable forestry) and are sold at auction, apparently not many go to China, they are too expensive. Agree with the practice or not the forest is at least still there and in good shape, providing excellent habitat for a vast array of wildlife. The forest attracts a significant number of wildlife tourists which in turn provide employment. Probably the fact that the forest is managed also improves the chance of sightings for visitors, more open in places.


When we booked the trip the accommodation was listed as basic, whoever made that judgement has never stayed at Kirindy Lodge in Madagascar.  If they had they would know what basic is all about. We thought the accommodation was good  and the food was excellent. There are four chalets each with 3 guest rooms, they can be configured to suit, double, twin or single. The air conditioning worked very well and each room  had an en-suite shower with constant hot water available 24 hours per day. Meals were taken in a separate cafeteria, with our own group. Whilst we were there a group tour from the UK and several  couples (like us, private) were staying. The UK group seemed to spend most of their down time arguing over priorities, we thought thank goodness we are not with them. Therefore Deramakot in our opinion is best done privately, the cost is not that much more than a group tour and allows you to manage your own trip in conjunction with your guide.


Reception and the cafeteria.


Our chalet, our room, front left. Laundry is available (no ironing), soft drinks and beer can be bought. Fresh sheets and towels are available on request. We took in some snacks bought en-route. So generally far from basic.


Rather than do a diary I will give a detailed overview of our time in Deramakot, as each day very much followed the same routine. In discussion with Mike, because of our target species, Cats, we would do mainly extended night drives. I  would point out that we are interested in all wildlife and initially stopped at all sightings. We did 6 extended night drives, one early morning, one afternoon and one afternoon (evening meal in the field) early finish night driver. (23.00). The drivers employed by the forest management have a 7 hour driving limit which  they stick to rigidly, ours (private) was thankfully more than happy to exceed that.


Typical day:

12.00 (noon) Wakeup, shower. No breakfast.

13.00 Lunch, a big one.

14.00 - 16.00 I went for a walk daily, my wife rested , read etc. Afternoon tea on my return.

16.00 - 18.00 Rest, another shower.

18.00 Evening meal. An even bigger one.

19.00 Depart for extended night drive.

02.00 - 03.30 Return.

03.30- 04.00 Beer Time.

04.00 Bedtime.

We both adapted surprisingly well to this regime, for us it was not an issue.

If you want to get the most out of a visit to Deramakot I think it is vital that you maximise the length of your night drives, in order to improve your chances of meaningful sightings. Day drives in the main produce very little, with the exception of admittedly good primate sightings. Therefore I would recommend doing a morning and late afternoon at some stage in your visit, but not everyday.  Some enthusiasts we met were doing a 3, 4 split daily and seeing far less than us. So long night drives we feel are essential.


Mike throughout our time with him produced a masterclass on how to spotlight effectively, his skill at locating mammals, reptiles, sleeping  birds, amphibians and invertebrates was unbelievable. This is how it worked, silence would be observed at all sightings and ID issues would be addressed once we had  driven away. White light would be used to locate a mammal (mainly by eyeshine, some just by visual), once located immediately we would change to red-light. The vehicle stopped as soon as red  light was used. We would then approach slowly and a short window of white light would be made available to take images. We would cause as little stress as possible to the animal or bird. Boy (that was the name he wanted to be called by, I found it a bit colonial) was our driver, Mike's preferred driver, they were a fantastic team, as soon as the light went red we immediately stopped every time. Boy was a very good spotter in his own right and a great guy to be with, he tended to spot mammals on the track first, he was also very good at spotting snakes. Definitely a dream team.



SUNDA LEOPARD CAT. This was our first Cat sighting (CAT 1) around 21.15 on our first night drive. They are quite common, we saw 16+ on this trip, most well. We saw them here, at Kinabatangan and Tabin. Because they are relatively common, I feel they are often under appreciated, they are however simply beautiful small Cats, we were always pleased to see one.  They don't look anything like a scaled down Leopard, they are about the size of a medium sized domestic Cat.  Domestic Cat fans will know that the Mainland Leopard Cat crossed with a domestic Cat gives us the highly desirable and expensive Bengal Cat. Most Sunda Leopard Cats are quite inquisitive and respond to distress calls, they often sit down close to safari vehicles for lengthy periods, whilst some are very shy and disappear quickly. The Sunda Leopard Cat is a species in its own right  with 2 subspecies, the one found on Borneo being Prionailurus javanensis sumatranus.



FILE-EARED TREE FROG, (BORNEO EARED FROG). Very common on all night drives at most locations.



MALAY CIVET. Common at most locations. Several Civet species were seen on this trip. Civet taxonomy remains fluid at the moment so in this report some common and scientific Civet names may not  tally with those in earlier trip reports.


BUFFY FISH OWL, the most commonly seen Owl on this trip. Very common.



SUNDA LEOPARD CAT. #3, on night drive 2. This one sat on the track for 15 minutes. They particularly seem to hang around the forest tracks after heavy rain when frogs are easily caught.




RED GIANT FLYING SQUIRREL. this is the species I was unable to take images of at night in Sepilok. If you are interested in Squirrels Borneo will deliver, there are lots of different species, large and small, flying and non-flying.



This is the same squirrel as above, from the side they are very attractively marked.



BORNEAN STRIPED PALM CIVET. Very common throughout the trip.






SUNDA LEOPARD CAT. #5 on night drive 2.



# 6 on night drive 3.



BLACK FLYING SQUIRREL. Relatively common in Deramakot.



MALAYAN PORCUPINE. Least common of the 3 porcupine species found in Borneo.



SUNDA LEOPARD CAT. This individual was hunting behind a pile of rocks. I was taking some images of a snake when my wife whispered "Isn't the Cat more interesting"? I turned my head and I could virtually have touched this Cat. The same Cat as on the title page. #8.


THOMAS'S FLYING SQUIRREL. A very common species throughout the trip.



The dream team. Boy left and Mike remove a fallen tree from the track (23.45) following a downpour. When it rains in the rainforest trees tend to come down!



ISLAND PALM CIVET. Crossing the track just as the rain stopped.  This species would previously have been called the Common Palm Civet. Very common at most locations.



First photo disaster of the trip. Centre right of the image, 2 PHILIPPINE LORISES are mating. AF refused to work on fully extended zoom, manual no better. A lost opportunity. The issue was fortunately resolved later.


Next: More from Deramakot.

Edited by johnweir
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@johnweirI have been waiting for this TR! I am following avidly and am impressed with the number of sightings you enjoyed at the outset of the Borneo safari.

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I love reading reports from Sabah.  It's truly an amazing place.  @johnweiryou are off to a great start.  I am already REALLY jealous on your Tarsier sightings since we struck out on both our trips.  You have some really nice night shots which I know are very hard to get.  I agree, the leopard cat is gorgeous.   


Glad to hear the Mike is still the best spotter in the business.


Looking forward to more.



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An amazing start to your report. You and your driver and guide worked hard. The photos are beautiful.

The Sunda Leopard cat is stunning 

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On 5/23/2024 at 3:25 AM, Kitsafari said:

I'm so sorry we missed each other! the day you arrived in Deramakot was our first day at RDC Sepilok. We had a very fruitful birding trip, with some super mammal experiences as well. 

That first photo of the small cat has informed me that I must do a mammal trip with some birding involved, rather than a birding trip with some mammals involved!


Very much looking forward to more from you here!

Well @Kitsafarilet me know if you fancy doing something like this as its really hard to find people who aren't either just into birds or just into mammals 😂😂

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Posted (edited)

In Deramakot Forest the various compartments all have signage giving details of when they were last logged.


 Compartment 51 signage, size 315 hectares and was last logged in 1999.


This is how the compartment looks now with still approximately 20 years to go before it is thinned out. The fact the forest is continually being thinned out does aid sightings and is to the liking of some species.


This is further down the track in the same compartment and is fairly typical of the track we drove down repeatedly during our visit, mainly at night. (Road 2).


Still in the same compartment with more dense forest close to the track. The Forest Management HQ / visitor accommodation is basically in the middle of the forest with just one main track used by visitors for wildlife viewing. The track (road) is basically split into two. Road 1 is 30km from the forest entrance to the HQ and road 2 goes east beyond the HQ for an additional 30km where the track ends at Balat, which is a small forestry station on the banks of the Kinabatangan River.  We spent most of our night drives on road 2, although  a couple of drives on road 1 did produce some good sightings.

Edited by johnweir
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The following images were taken during our final 3 days (nights) in Deramakot and appear in chronological order of the sightings.


BORNEAN STRIPED PALM CIVET, this is a typical individual see later in this report for a very rare sighting of an unusual colour morph of this commonly seen Civet. (ex. Small-toothed Palm Civet)



ISLAND PALM CIVET (ex. Common Palm Civet), very common throughout the trip at most locations, the most frequently recorded Civet on the trip. (35+).



WHITE-BELLIED RATSNAKE,  this is a juvenile, they can grow to 3m.


Never having visited Borneo or S. E. Asia before every mammal species we recorded was new to us, with the exception of the Sambar (Deer), which we saw commonly every night. We had seen lots in India and Sri Lanka, it turned out however that the subspecies found in Borneo is different to those seen elsewhere.


SAMBAR (DEER), ssp. brookei, we saw many, all however were significantly smaller than those seen in India and Sri Lanka, presumably an adaptation to living in dense forest. 



MALAY CIVET, scent marking. A beautifully marked species, not very common.



BORNEAN COLUGO.  (Often referred to in Borneo as a Flying Lemur). A very unusual mammal. I thought they would probably be related to Squirrels (Flying), but apparently they are most closely related to Treeshrews and more distantly to Primates! We recorded many but mostly at a distance.



GREATER MOUSEDEER. (Chevrotain). This species came as a shock to us, just how small they are, we had seen them again in India and Sri Lanka, but in Borneo they were much smaller, this particular individual was not much bigger than a large domestic kitten and was fully grown. Borneo certainly has some wonderfully interesting fauna. We saw several including the Lesser Mousedeer which is even smaller. They would certainly fit in your jacket pocket.



BINTURONG (locally referred to as the Bearcat), they are the largest Civet on the island and are becoming quite rare, this was the only one we saw during the trip. They are approximately twice the weight when fully grown of a Bornean Striped Palm Civet. Very impressive.


404A4618.JPG.3eaff5dee27fa4ad41ffe149ba69e556.JPGROUGH-NECKED (TREE) MONITOR. This was the only one we saw, it was very high up in a tree. Not quite fully grown can reach 1.5m in length.



DIADEM ROUNDLEAF BAT. At night we are used to seeing insectivorous bats flying around feeding on the wing, this particular species in Deramakot has adopted an unusual feeding strategy in that they hang from branches and wait for their prey to come to them, we witnessed lots doing this in the forest throughout the night.



PREVOST'S SQUIRREL, species previously posted, this is a better image . Sabah race ssp. pluto.



EMERALD DOVE, predominantly a forest / woodland pigeon.  Whilst this was mainly a mammal trip we did record lots of birds. Rainforest habitat can be difficult for serious birdwatching, but several people at the lodge seemed to be doing well. We are novice birders, just not our priority.



A young female totally wild ORANGUTAN  spotted as we drove down road 2 on our only late afternoon drive towards Balat, see below. There were lots of Orangutan sleeping nests in the area but this was the only individual we saw reasonably well. 



This is Balat at the far end of road 2. The river is the Kinabatangan which we would spend some time on further downriver, at our next location. We ate our evening meal here before returning in the dark.


At the far side of the river we were lucky to observe a troop of PROBOSCIS MONKEYS in the distance, Mike had not seen any here for a long time.



BLACK FLYING SQUIRREL, possibly with a kit.


404A4735.JPG.b772269952a1f405f48d3d6601414a0f.JPGBLACK-CROWNED PITTA, sleeping, it was not disturbed.


As previously mentioned one of our main targets was the island's Cats. Five species are found there, Leopard Cat (small and common), Marbled Cat (small to medium, larger than the Leopard Cat, not commonly seen), Flat-headed Cat (small, possible under the right circumstances but far from easy), Sunda Clouded Leopard (medium to large, not commonly seen but possible) and the Bay Cat (medium, extremely rare). We would be happy with 2 species.


As we left Balat in the dark heading back to HQ at 20.45, the vehicle suddenly stopped Mike was pointing to a tree about 15 metres away from the track in red light a Cat was clearly visible sleeping between the fork of two branches. This incidentally was our last night drive.


As initially seen, the Cat is centre of the image. Off red light, very low white light, the Cat is not asleep but dozing.


MARBLED CAT (CAT 2), our second Cat species. Mike was saying sightings of Marbled Cats are not common and getting rarer. He thought this was a particularly good sighting as the Cat stayed in situ and was still there when we left. Usually when they are disturbed they take cover. Normally I wouldn't post multiple images of the same animal but this was a very special sighting, so forgive my indulgence.












What a Cat. We watched it for around 20 minutes mainly on red light, with a few white light interludes to take images. The Cat was not spotted by eyeshine just excellent guiding skills and species knowledge. This is the nominate subspecies marmorata. Mike's spotting capacity is just as good at the end of an 8 hour session as it was at the beginning, his concentration span was unbelievable.


Several hours later we had yet another sighting of a Sunda Leopard Cat, our last in Deramakot, we would leave the forest the following morning.


This Cat was particularly obliging, however there was another vehicle in front of us on the track, with space along side it, I wanted our driver to move forward but Mike said "No, it is their sighting", can you imagine that happening in India or Africa, he was totally right. Leopard Cats are one species that appear to thrive in areas close to oil plantations as they are thought to find hunting rodents easier. (#11).



The following morning as we left the forest, in the transition zone, this WRINKLED HORNBILL was spotted at distance. Hornbills were on our target species list. This is one of the less common Hornbill species found in Borneo.



Typical track leaving Deramakot, palm oil plantations starting to appear, they are simply everywhere, the island must have been even more wonderful before the OP boom.



Palm oil plantations as far as the eye can see, image taken from the moving vehicle.  Sadly we would lose Boy our fantastic driver once we hit the main road and transfer to a taxi which would take us down to 'The River' our next location on the trip. Mike would however stay with us.

Sadly also we had not seen a Sunda Clouded Leopard, it was certainly not for the lack of trying, one had been seen the week before we arrived on a standard night drive. Pre-covid you could guarantee Bearded Pig sightings in Deramakot but that has now changed since an outbreak of African Swine Fever which has decimated the population and made the Bearded Pig harder to locate than a Clouded Leopard apparently! As the Pigs were a major food item for the Leopards has this impacted negatively on sightings and numbers? I was also surprised not to have seen a Muntjac as was Mike, however overall we were both very satisfied with our sightings and enjoyed every minute of our time in Deramakot.

Although this is possibly not the platform to get excited about smaller mammals, one that we saw but unfortunately got no images of, but it fascinated us was the Moonrat, it is not a rat or rodent, on Borneo it is pure white and they are real characters. Mike could smell them before we got close. If you are not familiar with Moonrats, check them out, they look like a very large shrew, I guarantee they will 'float your boat'.


Finally for this section I would reiterate if you want to make a success of your visit to Deramakot Forest do as much night driving as possible.


Next:  Down on the River.

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Great report so far @johnweirI think you do have to be really lucky to see clouded leopard. I know they are still being seen but it doesn't seem to be all that frequently. I think Mike said there were maybe one or two sightings a month when we were there and as you will have read, someone I know saw one only a couple of days after we left!  I think you did well, in three trips to Borneo I only saw marbled cat twice I think and binturong once. Obviously no clouded leopard either. 

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@kittykat23ukYou might be jumping the gun, no Clouded Leopard at Deramakot yes. I am glad you are enjoying the report so far.

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Great time in Deramakot @johnweir.  It is a special place for sure.

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17 minutes ago, johnweir said:

@kittykat23ukYou might be jumping the gun, no Clouded Leopard at Deramakot yes. I am glad you are enjoying the report so far.

Well I might not enjoy the rest of it then by the sounds of it 😂😂😂

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, johnweir said:

@kittykat23ukYou might be jumping the gun, no Clouded Leopard at Deramakot yes. I am glad you are enjoying the report so far.




a query - did the thermal help a  lot in locating the animals in the night? We were told by Singapore's customs/Police that thermal equipment is not allowed into the country, which is bizarre.   

Edited by Kitsafari
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Amazing sightings and photos. The Marbled Cat is really beautiful 

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@KitsafariYes I used it throughout the trip, as you will find out it really came into it's own whilst at Kinabatangan River. If you have a top guide they are possibly not that vital. I think if you are considering getting one you need to weigh up how much night driving you intend to do in the future. The very cheap models are not very good. I believe there is an app you can get for smart phones that works OK, not sure which one. We have a few trips in the planning stage that involve long night drives, so now was the time to take the plunge. I don't think I would use one on say a standard safari to Africa or India, unless the itinerary involved extended night drives. The model I chose is very good, no regrets and as they were on offer now was the time to take the plunge! Hope this helps? One night whilst in Deramakot we came across lots of Elephant poo on the track, on the thermal it was showing red hot, so we proceeded with caution, 200 yards further on we came across a small heard of Bornean Pygmy Elephants, who were not that happy to see us, it was 01.00, we stayed well back and moved on when they had moved off well into the forest. 

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Really interesting sightings, following this with interest as I feel drawn to a Borneo trip more and more. 

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The drive out of Deramakot to the jetty on the Kinabatangan River (hereafter referred to as 'The River') took around 3.5 hours, the boat ride up the river to the lodge took about 10 minutes. Although there are some quite comfortable lodges on 'The River', we chose  Osman's Homestay, mainly because of Osman (the owner), who like Mike has a very good reputation in locating wildlife, in particular Flat-headed Cats. The lodge was described in our itinerary as basic with no hot water, it was certainly better than that, the air conditioning worked well and the rooms had en-suite facilities. I thought that the lack of hot water would be a problem but the weather was so hot the shower ran warm anyway and I did manage a good shave also. The food was acceptable and everyone was very friendly and helpful. We would stay here for only 2 nights that was a big mistake 3 or 4 would have been better, if we returned to this area we would certainly stay here again and for longer. Osman is a  real character and often guides wildlife photography teams from around the world. In the dining area he has several images of himself on the wall with his 'friend' David Attenborough! At the start of the trip in Sepilok we met a wildlife camera team who had been staying with Osman and they had enjoyed a very good wildlife experience. If you like luxury this is possibly however not the place to stay.  We would do 2 afternoon, 2 night and 1 morning boat rides here, all activities are done on 'The River' by boat, all our boat rides were private, which is essential, each ride lasted around 2 to 3 hours. Our main target here apart from Primates was the Flat-headed Cat which is seen here occasionally but mainly in the dry season (Oct- Dec) when  the river is low, thus exposing the riverbanks which the Cats capitalise on to hunt for crabs and rodents, thus making them more visible.  If 'The River" is high the Cats hunt further back in the fringe forest and are virtually impossible to see  unless you are very lucky. So on arrival we were certainly not expecting a sighting. However what I hadn't factored in was the El Nino weather effect which around every seven years produces very extreme weather conditions in Borneo. 2023-2024 thankfully turned out to be one such year, very low average rainfall and very high temperatures, thus 'The River' was relatively low, conditions were good for a possible sighting. A real bonus and totally unexpected, but we still had to find a Cat, that would only happen at night as they are nocturnal hunters and it would be far from easy, we would need to be very lucky.


Osman's Homestay, 6 sleeping rooms with en-suite facilities, in the grey block. To the left the dining / social area. My wife entering our room.


'The River' directly outside our room, despite being low this is still a very imposing river.

The next 5 images were taken on our first afternoon boat ride.


WATER MONITORS were very common in all sizes including several at the top end of their recorded maximum length. They were sighted in trees and on the ground.


404A5029.JPG.f0221c96b341aeeb1fffb590198942ac.JPGPIG-TAILED MACAQUE (SUNDA), very common. ssp. the nominate form.



PROBOSCIS MONKEY, very common, clearly a dominant male, quite an impressive individual. 


Another alpha male, not the same individual as above.



BORNEAN PYGMY ELEPHANT, swimming across the river.  We certainly weren't expecting this, it was sighted about 600 metres up the river from our position. It was out of the river and gone before we caught up with its exact location. We saw a few Elephants on the trip, but I wouldn't say we had a great sighting.


1st Night Boat Ride.

We went out at 21.00 until around 23.30. My wife and I and two of the best wildlife guides in the world, together in a boat, something special was bound to happen or not!  We headed down river and hung a left into River Menangul (a tributary), we had only been out 40 minutes when Osman shouted "A Cat", Mike got it in his red light whilst Osman was using low level white light, it was moving quickly away from us on the exposed riverbank obscured by mangrove roots.



FLAT-HEADED CAT (CAT 3), the images are not too good but record the sighting of a very rare Cat and one I did not expect to see, certainly at this time of year. It vanished into the greenery for a while and Osman managed to reposition the boat just as it re-appeared again further down the bank. Mike who had seen several over the years said it was one of the best sightings he had enjoyed. Once disturbed Flat-headed Cats usually vanish for good. I have imposed a mark on the image where the river height at this time of year would normally have been.


Unfortunately It didn't turn so I couldn't get a facial shot. It was darker than I expected and about the size of a large domestic Cat, bigger than the Leopard Cats we had seen.


The sighting lasted for several minutes and the night boat ride had only just started, this was the sighting of the trip so far, I never expected this.


Yet another record shot, photography hindered by poor light and vegetation, being on a moving boat doesn't help either, who cares I have the perfect image firmly locked in my memory. 3 out of 5 Cat species now recorded and above all, enjoyed.



Watching on in a nearby tree was a beautiful BLUE-EARED KINGFISHER.



and a BUFFY FISH OWL, as previously mentioned very common on this trip in all locations.


The following morning we went out early 05.30 this was our only morning boat ride, the river was shrouded in a mist and was very atmospheric, I remember thinking as we drove up the river, "Does life get any better than this", it felt quite spiritual and magical. 


The mist quickly cleared as the sun made it's presence felt.


404A5113.JPG.e4f80a073f4205446fd52445cd260d87.JPGSeveral large SALTWATER (ESTUARINE) CROCODILES were spotted on the exposed banks, (6+m), this is definitely not the river to capsize in, particularly at night when lots of large Crocodiles were seen in the water.



WATER MONITOR, this relatively small one was very high up in tree.



SILVERED LANGUR, we saw a small troop just for a few seconds, this female was carrying her young, interesting colour. This was our only sighting of this species.



Yet another WATER MONITOR, this individual was huge, nearly in the Komodo Dragon league.






LONG-TAILED MACAQUE. Very common. ssp. the nominate form.



Not at all endangered in this area, they were everywhere. Usually seen in harem groups several females, many with young and one alpha male.  A juvenile male group was also noted but was more fragmented.



One of several tributaries of 'The River', on this particular morning some Elephants had been sighted up river so most of the (tourist) boats had gone to the sighting, for 2 hours we had a large tract of 'The River' to ourselves.



PLANTAIN SQUIRREL, one of the most common Squirrels in Borneo we saw them everywhere, this was the only chance we got of an image, like all Squirrels they are very quick.






Yet another Squirrel species. BORNEAN PYGMY SQUIRREL, around 12cm in length (head to tip of tail) and around 16 grams in weight.





Very tiring work this mating, the same male as above a few seconds later, in need of a lie down.





LONG-TAILED MACAQUE, female with youngster, taken well back in the forest.




STORM'S STORK, Endangered. We saw several fly over from a distance. Mike said it was pretty rare to see one on the forest floor well back from the riverbank.





Next:  'The River'  2, can things get any better?

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"Can things get better?" Lol I suspect they can if your above posts are anything to go by! Flat headed cat! Wow!!

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On our 2nd afternoon boat ride only one new mammal species was sighted, there were however lots of Primates and Birds about. Late afternoon the Primates seemed to congregate in the taller trees on the edge of the river in significant numbers. The most common species on this boat ride were again Proboscis Monkeys, there were literally hundreds about.



PROBOSCIS MONKEY. Yet another male, the mature males all have fat bellies.


Female with her youngster.



BLACK HORNBILL. Hornbills were very much on our target list, several species had already been seen but not particularly well. This was a good sighting, more to follow.



RED LANGUR. ssp. ignita, just a few individuals were spotted making preparations for settling down for the night, this image was taken late afternoon and was our only new species of the day so far.


2nd Night Boat Ride.

In the evening we went out at 21.00, Osman was keen to explore an area up river where he had seen a Sunda Clouded Leopard a few days earlier, in fact he was saying that sightings on 'The River'  of this elusive Cat had in recent months been good. The Sunda Clouded Leopard, one of the most beautiful Cat species in the world had been our number one target right from the planning stages of this trip, we knew we would need to be very lucky however, but so far luck had been on our side. On the night boat ride we got off to a very good start, with another possible Flat-headed Cat sighting, spotted very briefly just 5 minutes from the lodge, I saw the eye-shine but nothing else. No one was prepared to say definitely that it was a Cat so it was not included in our sightings data. A Tarsier was briefly picked up and several Lorises, most from a considerable distance. Our night vision camera was really coming in to it's own here.


PHILIPPINE SLOW LORIS. Four species of Slow Loris are found on the main island of Borneo, this being the most common. We have seen Lorises in both India and Sri Lanka, this was however the first full body image secured. Like Tarsiers it is difficult to believe they are Primates.


The same individual as above.


404A6070.JPG.b0e7faecc11d67ace398e2bbcf5d51f6.JPGBUFFY FISH OWL (Yet again!), ready to pounce on the river's edge.

As the evening progressed we saw 2 Leopard Cats hunting well back in the fringe forest and had a good sightings of several Civet sp. 


This was a particularly well marked example of the ISLAND PALM CIVET.


The same individual as above.


RETICULATED PYTHON. This was a small one about 3m's long but still quite thick bodied, how this was picked up by eye-shine I will never know, unbelievable guiding Mike and Osman.


ORIENTAL BAY OWL, spotted well back in the forest.


At 20.20 as we rounded a bend in the river I got the heat signature of a large mammal in my thermal image camera , it was glowing red (very strong) and was definitely a medium sized Cat, significantly larger than the 3 species we had already seen. Virtually at the same time Osman called out "Leopard" and also slowed the boat quickly to a virtual standstill. Initially I saw the Cat before we started to slow down, but now it was behind some mangrove branches and roots on the riverbank.  I could however clearly see a grey Cat with the dark characteristic markings of a SUNDA CLOUDED LEOPARD (CAT 4). Osman tried to turn the boat so we could get some images but the noise disturbed the Cat and it moved further back into a forested area and was much more difficult to see. By now the boat was positioned on the bank. Mike got off the boat and from the bank watched the Cat which now was in a crouched position about 10 metres in front of him, it was actually watching him. I saw the Cat stand and then bolt into the forest. There was little doubt what species we had briefly observed, Mike was 100% sure also, absolutely no doubt, he has probably seen more Clouded Leopards in the wild than anyone so he should know. He is also very particular on what species are included in a trip report, quite rightly if unsure it does not get included, I am very much of the same opinion. Mike said it was certainly one of his better Clouded Leopard sightings.Unfortunately no images were possible mainly due to very poor lighting and the erratic movement of our boat. I'm very happy to include the species in my Wild Cat species sightings but have a good excuse now to return at some stage to Borneo in the future to secure an image, this really was turning into a fantastic wildlife trip.

I have a theory why Clouded Leopards are being seen more regularly around 'The River'. At night using the thermal camera there were literally hundreds of primates (several species) sleeping in the trees next to the river. Since the virtual extinction of the Bearded Pig (due to swine flu) which was one of the Cat's main prey items, increasingly the Cats are turning to hunting primates (plenty of images on the internet), thus they are hunting more regularly around 'The River' area. I think this area will become more popular with Clouded Leopard fans in the future.


We returned to the Homestay at 23.45 obviously in a very excited mood and celebrated with a beer. I would point out Osman only sells soft drinks, no beer, we had taken a few cans in, which he allowed us to keep in his fridge.


In the morning (no boat ride) we left at 10.00 for Tabin Wildlife Reserve. A 2.5 hour journey by car. Mike left at 09.30 to head home, we would have a new guide at Tabin. I have a very real sense that we will see Mike again, he is simply an extraordinary and highly effective wildlife guide, we enjoyed being in his company and enjoyed a very good client / guide relationship. He certainly helped us to realise some dreams.

At Tabin we stayed at Tabin Wildlife Resort which is really the only lodge to stay at in this location. The chalets are very comfortable with all the expected amenities and the food (buffet) was excellent. Our new guide was Lance (AAB) he was very good and on each drive we were also accompanied by a guide from the resort. We had 3 nights here and did 3 extended night drives (21.00- 24.00), one early morning walk, one morning drive and one afternoon drive. 


General view of Tabin Wildlife Resort, restaurant, administration and social area.


The resort comprises of 10 riverside chalets and 10 hillside chalets, for anyone with mobility issues some of the hillside chalets could pose an issue, we stayed in chalet 2 (marked with a blue arrow) access was OK but the steps are clearly visible, the red arrow indicates chalet 6 which to be honest would challenge a mountaineer in their prime.


A very interesting river flows in front of the lodge, this footbridge gives access to a self guiding walk, into interesting forest habitat which was visited by a troop of Gibbons each morning.


Further up the river there was a series of rapids which attracted lots of birds, the one flying in the centre of the image is an Oriental Darter.


Our chalet had a resident BORNEAN PYGMY SQUIRREL which we saw several times each day from our balcony.



CRESTED SERPENT EAGLE, they were commonly seen around the lodge. ssp. pallidus, a new ssp. for us having seen several other ssp. in India and Sri Lanka.

On our first afternoon in Tabin we walked out to the Lipad Mud Volcano, which is a walk of about 1km, it was muddy, slippery and relatively steep. The heat and humidity made sure your clothes were soaking wet by the time you got there. It was very interesting and regularly attracts Elephants and other mammals but there were none present during our visit.


Lipad mud Volcano, a very unusual feature in the middle of a rainforest. My wife with our resort guide. Wildlife is attracted to the salt in the mud, this volcano erupted violently in recent months with mud showering down on the adjacent forest. Rubber boots provided by the lodge.


Hardly Yellowstone!, but still very interesting. 7,800 square metres of mud. The mud is apparently good for the complexion.


NEXT: The Wildlife of Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Edited by johnweir
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wow a glimpse of the elusive mighty cat! your thermal camera came in extremely useful at the river! we didn't have this equipment and saw zilch mammals on the night ride, which was really not surprising as it's pitch black in there.  

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Wow, what a trip this is turning out to be!

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Wow, wow, wow! Now you’ve got me hatching plans too & @owenshafferon the prowl for a Borneo trip 😁 
We are already following you into Emas next year!

super report so far, @johnweirthis makes for fantastic reading!👏👏

Edited by Sangeeta
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