Friday, 23 May 2014

Kinabalu National Park, Sabah - May 2014 (Part 1)

Ever since I visited in July 2012, Sabah have always been at the back of my mind as a place to go back for more! The biodiversity is simply so vast that it will take a life time to get bored of the sheer number of species; both birds and other wildlife you can find here. As I didn't visit Mt. Kinabalu on my last visit, I thought it's only fair for me to visit this endemic rich mountain range in the North Western of Sabah. This was planned as a self driven leisure bird watching trip (on a budget), with no intention on hiring a guide. Therefore, a lot of pre-trip studies must be made before hand especially the bird calls...Though I am sure we still missed a ton of birds due to lack of knowledge of their habits and sounds, but overall we did fairly well, connecting with two of the main targets at Mt. Kinabalu and got a fairly good selection of lowland birds at Poring including two species of Trogons. With camera gears, photographing birds in tropical rain forest is never easy, it's nearly constantly dark and rains a lot, rain cover is highly recommended and a tripod comes in handy, but I do shoot hand held half the time since the trails are too narrow for tripods to stand straight. Expect ISO to be above 3200 a lot of the time!

Our itinerary are as follows:

11th May: Arrived > Tanjung Aru Beach - Kinabalu Park
12th May - 14th May: Kinabalu Park
15th May: Kinabalu Park - Poring Hot Spring
16th May: Poring Hot Spring
17th May: Poring Hot Spring - KKIA > Hong Kong

11th May: We took the 9:25am flight to KK, Air Asia flights can be very cheap if you look for them in the right time! We pre booked a car with "Extra Rent a Car", their online booking services was superb and their admin replied within hours. Their agents waited for us at the gate of KKIA terminal 2, the whole process was done on the bonnet of the car as they don't have a proper office at the airport, but everything went smoothly and you pay onsite. The car was a Proton Saga 1.3, fairly new and adequate even for going up hill at Mt. Kinabalu! We got our phone cards at the airport as well, the only telecom company at terminal 2 was DIGI so we went with it, the one week internet plan was fairly good, just 15RM for unlimited data and limited minutes, this proved very useful as our phones was served as our GPS as well! Reception was generally good and we even got 3G signals at Timpohon Gate.

Once we got kitted up and ready, we skipped lunch and drove straight to Tanjung Aru Beach for our first spot of birding. This is a popular tourist spot and the beach was packed with people on a Sunday afternoon, however a walk around Prince Philip Park gave us a good introduction into birds we won't find in "better" habitat later on. Plus this is a good place to see the Blue-naped Parrot, a bird difficult to see anywhere else on earth except here. Pink-necked Green Pigeon made a short appearance only, so did the Copper-throated Sunbird. Once the shower sets in we decided to eat at the food-court next to the beach, it's not the cleanest place but quite good value.

Pied Triller

Zebra Dove

White-breasted Woodswallow

Dollarbird

Asian Glossy Starling

Oriental Magpie Robin adamsi

Green Imperial Pigeon

Collard Kingfisher

Long-tailed Parakeet


Blue-naped Parrot




The drive to Kinabalu Park was longer then expected, it's about two hours to get from KKIA to the Park HQ, roads are generally good and traffic was not as bad as I expected. It was 6:30 by the time we arrived and was all dark. However we did got to stop by the roadside and got some species such as Grey-rumped Treeswift and Ashy Drongo. The scenery driving up the mountain was enjoyable as well, as we admired the sun setting and the lights turned Mt. Kinabalu red! We stayed at Tahubang Lodge, a budget hostel right outside the Park HQ main gate, a twin room is just 100RM per night, considerably cheaper then living inside the park. Rooms are clean and staffs are friendly, the only complain is that rats seems to run on the roof all night, other then that it's actually pretty acceptable. There's a small restaurant and store right next to the lodge.

Grey-rumped Treeswift


Mt. Kinabalu


To be continued...

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