Borneo Jun 24—Jul 13, 2006

Posted by David Bishop


David Bishop

David Bishop loves his vocation and cannot imagine anything better than exploring wild and beautiful places in Asia and the Pacific in the company of friends and clients. H...

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Our tour of Borneo is, without doubt, one of the finest natural history trips anywhere on our planet. The combination of wondrously immense forests replete with a fabulous array of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates serviced by some of the most comfortable and attractive accommodations to be enjoyed anywhere in the tropics, together with some truly sumptuous meals, guarantees an unforgettable experience.

Borneo is indisputably an extraordinary place with more than its share of the weird and wonderful, and our experiences exemplify what a marvelous tour this is. Consider the following:

On our first morning in the Crocker Range we encountered a classic example of a gigantic rafflesia, the world's largest flowering plant.

In Borneo it's not only birds and bats that "fly." On this tour we soon learned that there are:

— gliding squirrels—we enjoyed superlative, close views of lovely, ginger-colored Thomas' giant flying squirrel (14 species occur in Borneo);

— "flying lemurs"—actually a colugo, a rather unusual and highly specialized arboreal mammal that glides on huge membranes attached to its wrist and ankles (there are only two species in the family);

— flying lizards or dracos—ranging in size from a few inches to one-and-one-half-feet in length, they glide between trees on their expanded rib cages;

— flying geckos—they look more like a praying mantis or peculiar orchid;

— gliding frogs—not only do they glide on expanded webbed feet, but they use those same feet to display streamside;

— flying snakes—paradise tree snake is arguably one of the loveliest snakes in the world, and it, too, glides on its expanded rib cage.

Borneo hosts some of the world's most spectacular and colorful birds:

— Scintillating views of both Black-and-crimson and Blue-headed pittas;

— We exulted in seeing seven of Borneo's eight species of hornbills, all within one 24-hour period;

— Exceptional views of the most difficult and peculiar-looking species—White-crowned Hornbill;

— An unforgettable duel with a pair of very vocal and territorial Helmeted Hornbills;

— Repeated studies of incomparable Rhinoceros Hornbills;

— A rare perched view of gaudy Wrinkled Hornbills;

— Best ever studies of the much sought after Bornean Bristlehead;

— Four species of wren-babbler (THE ultimate in real birds) including both Black-throated and Bornean;

— And three species of trogons and five species of broadbills, including that incomparable Bornean endemic—Whitehead's Broadbill.

VENT's Borneo tours regularly garner an enviable array of exciting mammals. Species we saw on this and previous tours include:

— Close encounters with bathing and feeding herds of Bornean pygmy elephants;

— Numerous encounters with truly wild orangutans: a mother with juvenile and young; a huge male lumbering across a trail; and a group of three fighting with hornbills for rights to a fruiting tree;

— Leopard cat hunting at night along the lovely Menanggal River;

— Troop after cheeky troop of proboscis monkeys along the mighty Kinabatangan River;

— Evocative sounding and looking Bornean gibbons, all around our lodge.

VENT's Borneo tour regularly records 260 to 290 species of birds and 30 to 40 species of mammals. Nevertheless, our aim is for each and every client to see each and every species well, and, ideally, on more than one occasion. Possessing an intimate knowledge of the calls of the birds and where to find them is a key to our success, which is built on many years of studying the birds of Borneo and surrounding regions of Asia.

And what of those sumptuous meals at the Tanjung Aru Beach Hotel—arguably the finest breakfast anywhere in Asia, while at our friendly Fairy Garden accommodations we have rarely tasted better dinners anywhere.

Thanks to all of the participants for helping to make this tour such a great success! Borneo is, without doubt, one of the best and most enjoyable birding destinations in the world. There were many, many other birding and wildlife highlights, of course, but to be shared in the company of an excellent and lively group greatly enhances the experience.

Thanks again to all, especially to Osman and Remi for their good company and hard work; our various boatmen, drivers, and local guides; and the many others who made our stay in Borneo so safe, friendly, and fulfilling.