Borneo Aug 07—27, 2008
Posted by David Bishop
I sometimes have to pinch myself to realize just how fortunate I am to return each year to this extraordinary island. VENT's tour of Borneo is without doubt one of the finest natural history trips anywhere, not least because Borneo is one of the most exciting, vibrant, and biologically diverse places on our planet. The combination of 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 and this continues to be underscored by new discoveries. Recent genetic studies have now shown that the Bornean pygmy elephant is indeed a very distinct taxon; the Borneo population of orangutans should be treated as a separate species; and, most recently, studies of the Bornean clouded leopard show that it too is a completely separate species from all other populations. And so it is with birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates too.
Clearly, Borneo exhibits more than its share of weird and wonderful creatures, and our experiences exemplify what a wonderful tour this is. Merely listing totals of 302 species of birds and 40+ species of mammals, in addition to a plethora of reptiles, invertebrates, and flowering plants, barely does justice to what was a truly delightful experience. It was a real joy to share a place we love so much with such an appreciative group. Our aim, as always, is for each and every client to see each and every species well and, ideally, on more than one occasion, and in this I believe we were very successful. Possessing an intimate knowledge of the calls of the birds and where to find them is a key to our success and has been built on many years of studying the birds of Borneo and the surrounding regions of Asia. We cannot wait until next year!
Some of this year's highlights included:
* A morning I shall never forget as, escorted by the Kinabalu Park chief ranger, we explored the world of pitcher plants and orchids on the mid-slopes of this remarkable mountain. I never thought to actually see the world's largest pitcher-plant in situ—quite extraordinary! Add to this our encounter, in the Crocker Range, with a classic example of Rafflesia, the world's largest flowering plant—just a five-minute walk from our vehicle (but an interesting climb), and you have just some of the many examples of why Borneo's nature is so fascinating;
* Borneo hosts some of the world's most spectacular and colorful birds. We enjoyed:
A fruiting fig tree alive with pigeons, bulbuls, hornbills, and gibbons—the views of a pair of very confiding Rhinoceros Hornbills were especially exciting;
Scintillating views of Hooded, Black-and-crimson, and Blue-headed pittas;
Innumerable scenes of seven of Borneo's eight species of hornbills including repeated close studies of two wonderful pairs of the rare White-crowned Hornbill;
Great studies of a pair of Bornean Ground-Cuckoos as they growled and swore at us from the forested edge of the lovely Menangal River;
Four species of trogons (including fabulous views of a male of the rarely encountered Whitehead's) and five species of gorgeous broadbills;
Two exceptional encounters with small groups of Bornean Bristleheads.
* VENT's Borneo tours regularly garner an enviable array of exciting mammals. Species we saw on this tour included:
Numerous encounters with wild orangutans including endearing scenes of a mother and young as she fed at a fruiting tree;
A fabulous encounter with an exquisite leopard cat at night within Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary;
Troop after cheeky troop of proboscis monkeys along the mighty Kinabatangan River;
Fabulous and fun encounters with a herd of Bornean pygmy elephants and a very truculent "teenager"!
Evocative sounding and looking Bornean gibbons around our lodge;
A delightfully confiding group of Bornean red leaf monkeys at very close range;
* 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. The overall hospitality of the staff at Borneo Rainforest Lodge and their cheerful provision of superb early breakfasts, plus the knowledge that after a sweaty morning in the field you can return to the luxury of a lovely room and good shower, all adds immeasurably to the special enjoyment of staying at this facility.
Thanks to you all for helping to make this tour such a great success! Borneo is 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 such a superbly friendly and fun group was truly wonderful.
Thanks again to all our various boatmen, drivers, local guides, and the many others who made our stay in Borneo so safe, friendly, and fulfilling.