Borneo Sep 01—20, 2010
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 on our planet, not least because Borneo is one of the most exciting, vibrant, and biologically diverse places on earth. The combination of immense forests replete with a fabulous array of towering trees, 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 orangutan 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 298 species of birds and 45 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 I love so much with such an appreciative group. My 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. I cannot wait until my next trip!
Some of this year's highlights included:
Borneo hosts some of the world's most spectacular and colorful birds, and this tour was no exception. We enjoyed:
• 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;
• Unforgettable time with a very confiding pair of Bornean Wren-Babblers;
• A male Great Argus (Pheasant) that approached to within two meters of our group.
VENT's Borneo tours regularly garner an enviable array of exciting mammals. Species we saw on this tour included:
• A memorable encounter with a truly wild female orangutan;
• A series of unforgettable night drives during which we saw the exquisitely marked banded linsang, common banded civet, small-toothed palm civet, numerous large red and Thomas's flying-squirrels, slow loris, a pair of colugos AND a very impressive Barred Eagle-Owl.
• Troop after cheeky troop of proboscis monkeys along the mighty Kinabatangan River;
• Fabulous and fun encounters with several 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.
Of Borneo's approximately 6,000 species of orchids, we encountered several species in flower including:
• The tiny terrestrial orchid—Polochilus tenius;
• rabbit orchid—Lipais sp;
• necklaced orchid—Coelogyne sp;
• and a large and very attractive terrestrial orchid—Aria sp.
Our food and accommodations:
• Those sumptuous meals at the Tanjung Aru Beach Resort were arguably the finest breakfast anywhere in Asia, while at our friendly Fairy Garden accommodations we have rarely tasted better dinners anywhere. Nevertheless, the food nowadays and the overall hospitality of the staff at Borneo Rainforest Lodge and their cheerful provision of superb early breakfast, 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 we have at staying at this facility.
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.
Thanks to you all 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 such a superbly friendly fun group was truly wonderful. It was a pleasure traveling and birding with you, and I look forward to traveling with you again soon.