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Birdwatching in Sepilok

Listed under Birdwatching in Sandakan, Malaysia.

  • Photo of Birdwatching in Sepilok
  • Photo of Birdwatching in Sepilok
  • Photo of Birdwatching in Sepilok
  • Photo of Birdwatching in Sepilok
  • Photo of Birdwatching in Sepilok
  • Sepilok Jungle Resort: Air-condition room
  • Sepilok Jungle Resort: Poolside
  • Sepilok Jungle Resort: Garden
Photo of Birdwatching in Sepilok
Photo by Alan McBride
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Sandakan is the main entry point in Sabah, Island of Borneo, East Malaysia for Sepilok and the Bornean jungle. Around a 30 minute drive from Sandakan, Sepilok is famous for the Orang utan Rehabilitation Centre, well worth a visit around feeding time for Orang utan as well as some good birding is to be had here. A little touristy but then the element is on knowing that some of the Orang utan have come in from “the wild” for the free food frenzy that takes place daily. Likewise, rehabilitated Orang utan may wander off at their leisure back to the wild so it’s a big bonus for the species. Really close views and great photo opportunities abound (as long as you tear yourself away from the new birds all around you)!

A raised boardwalk also keeps you well above the rainforest floor which allows a quiet approach: if you manage to get there early and be one of the first out to the platforms you will hopefully come across birds such as Chestnut-winged Babbler, Diard’s Trogon as well as a macaque or two. To be fair though the birds are still around with all the people there. Orang utan was seen at Sukau on the lower Kinabatanangang River and Dannum Valley on the trip for the purists among us too. Other birds here included: Little Spiderhunter, Indian Cuckoo, Fiery Minivet, Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker and Large Woodshrike.

Great birding though happens with an early start to visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) at Sepilok, situated a few hundred metres from the Orang rehab centre. Looking over the large lake our first birds at dawn were two Bat Hawk which flew over calling excitedly, albeit somewhat strangely for a hawk: no doubt eyeing the three or four swift / swiftlet species, hawking and drinking above the lake with interest.

Walking alongside the lake brings you to the highlight of RDC (and indeed Dannum Valley) which are the canopy walkways. Here, you can climb Bristlehead Tower and at 17 metre find yourself at eye-level with Black & Yellow Broadbill, Little Green Pigeon, Rufous Woodpecker and Violet Cuckoo among other Asian gems while you nestle comfortably alongside in their canopy world. We were told the Bornean Bristlehead here were nesting and hence very quiet for our visit with none being seen by us although on this visit we weren’t here long enough to give them a chance. There was a picture of them on the tower, I suppose as some sort of compensation! Endemic to Borneo and in a family all by itself, this strange beast is a must-see bird for birders everywhere! Also here were Rufous-collared Kingfisher, the large and raucous White-bellied Woodpecker, Jerdon’s Baza, Rhinoceros Hornbill and the local version of White-rumped Sharma; White crowned.

We stayed in town at the Sabah Hotel but if you’re here for birds and animals I’d suggest staying in Sepilok. Try Sepilok Jungle Resort for ease of location and a wide range of room types or if going to the Kinabatanangang River they have Bilit Adventure Lodge where “jungle cruises” are the order of the day and well worth a couple of nights. If birding at Sepilok you could do four days easily just going round and round the RDC.

Sepilok Jungle Resort.

Written by  Alan McBride.

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