27/08 - 06/09/2018
Hans Matheve & Lieven De Temmerman
With only limited traveling/birding time available, Peninsular Malaysia came into our mind. Clearly, it wasn't sufficient to cover all areas and see all specialties. Luckiliy, it is an easy stopover option when coming from further East.
Departure from Brussels Airport.
Arrival at Kuala Lumpur Airport Airport + drive to Bukit Tinggi (1u40). Night in Colmar Tropicale Hotel, Bukit Tinggi.
Birding Bukit Tinggi + drive to Bukit Fraser (2u20) + birding Fraser's Hill. Night in Fraser's Hill.
Birding Fraser's Hill. Night in Fraser's Hill.
Birding Fraser's Hill. Night in Fraser's Hill.
Birding Fraser's Hill + drive to Taman Negara (4u) + birding Taman Negara. Night in Taman Negara.
Birding Taman Negara. Night in Taman Negara.
Birding Taman Negara. Night in Taman Negara.
Birding Taman Negara. Night in Taman Negara.
Birding Taman Negara + drive to Kuala Lumpur Airport (4u30).
Departure from Kuala Lumpur Airport + arrival at Brussels Airport.
Download kml file with all gps coordinates
We rented a reliable Proton Saga from Paradise Cars for 170 euro / 8 days, unlimited kilometers, 2 drivers and full-full, all through rentalcars.com. Driving is on the left. Most drivers respect traffic rules but expect some speeding vehicles on the highways. Roads are generally in good condition but beware for blind curves + overtaking vehicles. Petrol is cheap. Important to know is that you need to buy a Touch'nGo card to pay toll on the highways as soon as you hit the road. You can buy them in petrol stations. You load some money on the card and scan them at the checkpoints. Mostly the amount is around 1-5 MYR. We did not spend more than 70-80 MYR in total so do not put too much money on the card.
Accommodation & food
Bukit Tinggi: Colmar Tropicale - the only hotel around. A bit expensive but good value. 24hr reception and food available through room service). We didn't try to find beer and didn't use the breakfast voucher...
Bukit Fraser: Shahzan Inn - many options but the Shahzan is centrally located for birding, and has a buffet breakfast. Dinner options are, surprisingly, not as good. Beer can be found in Scott's pub and restaurant, in the little shop on the right side when coming up on the old road just before the clock tower, and in some restaurants near Arzed (number 3 or 4?). Probably the better places to eat are around Arzed, but maybe Scott's pub should be OK, too.
Kuala Tahan: Tebing Guest House - many lodging options as many Malay and foreign people stay here. The only beer in town can be had at the Wild lodge for 12 MYR.
Taman Negara: Mutiara Taman Negara Resort - only hotel / lodge across the river. It is possible to stay in cheaper places on the other side of the river as well and make day trips. We stayed at the resort to be more flexible at night birding as river crossings only start at around 7 AM and go until 22 PM. The Mutiara serves beer for 15 MYR (ordering 5 at the same time)
The official currency of Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit. ATM's were easily found throughout the country. Paying with credit cards is commonly used.
We experienced dry weather at Bukit Tinggi and Fraser's Hill. Sometimes, it was a bit cloudy / misty at Fraser's hill (especially at night). At Taman Negara, we had a thunderstorm every night starting around dusk for at least 3-4 hours. Mornings and daytime in TN were without rain but very humid. Read more at the Climates to Travel website.
Health, safety and annoyances
Leeches. They were abundant in Taman Negara, especially when going off trail. Boardwalks were pretty leech-free but can be unstable / broken and are annoying to walk on (especially at dark). There is no real malaria risk on this tour, so no profylaxis needed. Read more at the site of Institute of Tropical Medecine.
We obtained our tourist visa upon arrival in the airport. Read more at the Embassey of Malaysia website.
240V, 50Hz, type G plug. Read more at the Worldstandards website.
© Lieven De Temmerman
(mainly written by Lieven De Temmerman)
Below is a list of the sites we birded. Observado and eBird were scrutinized thoroughly. More up-to-date logistical information came from various trip reports on www.cloudbirders.com. These were the most useful reports:
Bukit Tinggi is, ignoring rush hour delays, less than 2 hrs drive from KLIAS airport. We got into contact with Adrian Lim through Whatsapp before visiting the place, as we wanted to be sure about the exact location and found it customary to let Adrian know we were visiting. Adrian was quick and very generous with information, and even though he could not be present, his help and advice was greatly appreciated.
Shortly after the turn off from the main highway, there is a road barrier at 3.372132, 101.854247. We could only pass the barrier late night when we told we had a reservation in Colmar Tropicale hotel. Without reservation, it seems impossible to be allowed to pass the barrier. There is a second barrier just before the Colmar Tropicale at 3.406501, 101.838419. That barrier was also only opened late night by showing our reservation for Colmar Tropicale hotel.
The third barrier is between the Hotel and the Japanese tea garden at 3.408728, 101.839108. This barrier will be opened by someone early in the morning if you let the reception desk of Colmar know you want to go up early (6AM in our case). If there is no one, the barrier can be opened as there should not be be a lock. We parked at the obvious parking lot on the right: 3.417729, 101.843104. We won't give the exact details for the feeding area, as it is requested by the local birders. Adrian Lim is a local birder/photographer and can be contacted in order to pay a visit to the feeder: +60 12-339 9980. He is happy to show you around or give details on how to get there.
Until early light (7.15AM), we birded between the parking lot and the way down (only some 2-300m) and got calling Mountain Scops owl and Blyth's Frogmouth.
Highlights: Mountain Peacock-Pheasant, Ferruginous Partridge (both at the Peacock feeding area), Blyth's Frogmouth (just below the large parking lot). We didn't hear / see Rail-babbler (probably seasonal).
Bukit Fraser (Fraser's Hill) and The Gap
Bukit Fraser is a well-known hill resort with pristine forest and good trails, and a convenient stop to or from Taman Negara. There is plenty of accomodation at Fraser, but during our stay the weekend was fully booked as it was a national holiday.
The Gap is located down the mountain at around 1000 MASL at 3.6928863, 101.74846. The bird composition is different here, with some birds shared with Taman Negara (e.g. some malkohas, broadbills, bee-eater, barbets, hornbills,...). From the Gap it's about 8 kms up to Fraser's hill along the Old road (uphill only). The New road can only be used for going down (both roads are one-way).
Almost within the village, there are some well-known trails cutting through very good forest. Down near the mosque, the Hemmant Trail (3.71394920244, 101.735272064) is fairly flat and easy to walk. At the end, one can continue down the Bishop's trail (start at 3.71680037375, 101.737667854) and further on to the Maxwell trail. Some smaller trails like Richmond can be handy shortcuts while walking in between birding areas. We mainly birded the Bishop's trail, the Pine trail (starts at 3.7117969, 101.72754), the Whistling Thrush stake-out on top of the Old road (3.7097828, 101.7359) and the Richmond road stake-out for the partridges (3.7117277, 101.74144). At the time of writing, there were no known worm-fed Whistling-thrush stake-outs, and the only reliable spot seemed to be on top of the Old road (but there must be other places). We shortly visited the Hemmant trail, the road down to the Jeriau waterfall and the Telekom loop (at night) but we found these places less productive. We also spent considerable time near the Gap and on the Old road going up, in search for some birds of lower elevation.
We birded the Pine trail (start at 3.7117969, 101.72754) as far as there were sightings of Cutia but didn't find one, and we also didn't hear any Long-billed Partridges during our afternoon visit.
Highlights: Malayan Whistling-thrush (stake-out at the top of the old road), Malaysian Partridge (at the stake-out), Malayan Laughingthrush (at the same partridge stake-out on the Richmond road), Rusty-naped Pitta (several heard and briefly seen along Bishop's trail + a very cooperative bird on the Pine trail at 3.7079621, 101.71877), Marbled Wren-Babbler (in a gully along the Old Road at 3.6955653, 101.73859), Rufous-bellied Swallow, Black Laughingthrush, Bamboo Woodpecker (all down at the gap or on the way up the old road). Night birds were not very active.
There are two entrances for the national park. The main one at Kuala Tahan (4.38514444038, 102.401708877) and a secondary one at Merapoh (4.67964, 102.0571). The Kuala Tahan entrance is closer to Kuala Lumpur, but of course also busier. It seems that lots of birds (especially ground birds) are shy / taped out / pushed further from the trails as there is more disturbance. The trails close to the HQ are turned into boardwalks. Walking on these is a bit noisy and due to bad maintenance, some parts are are getting a bit tricky. Still, the birding can be rewarding.
Practical info: There is only one shop/bar selling beer in Kuala Tahan (Wild Lodge). The Mutiara resort also sells beer but it's a bit more expensive. There is a shop selling some food (fruits, water, cookies, ice coffee, ...) near the Mutiara. We stayed at the Kuala Tahan side for one night as the Mutiara was fully booked on our first night (a saturday night during national holidays), after that first night we spent 3 more nights at the Mutiara. The advantages staying at the Mutiara are no time constraints while night (or early morning) birding. In hindsight, the night birding was not very productive and we probably wouldn't have missed any species if we commuted with the boats from Kuala Tahan every day. First boat leaves at 7.00AM, last boat around 10.30PM (1 ringgit/person, 2 minutes).
Trails: There are only 2 trails starting at the HQ / Mutiara: the Tahan River Trail and the trail towards the canopy tower (). The first trail connects with the second through the Jenut Muda trail about here 4.3916, 102.3997. Starting either clockwise or counterclockwise, it takes a full day just walking the river trail + Jenut Muda trail + back to the Mutiara at birding pace. We never reached the Tabing Hide (4.4090816, 102.40384) further along the River Trail. The Kumbang trail and other trails are at least 2-3 hrs walking at birding pace, or one should take a boat (e.g. for the Kumbang hide at 4.4471997, 102.43694, the Bunbun Blau trail). One can also bird around the Mutiara + the Tahan hide (4.3868287, 102.40396) and the Swamp Loop trail (4.38688, 102.40248).
We birded the Jenut Muda trail, the Tahan River trail, the Bumbun Blau trail (only for one hour until a treefall blocked our path, we were droppe at the jetty 4.38475998755, 102.399402217), the Swamp loop, the Tahan Hide and the Lubok Simpon beach (4.3913416, 102.3993) at the river trail. Besides the official trails, we found two smaller trails branching off the Jenut Muda trail: the first one follows a ridge and ends at a small (research?) house. It almost connects with the Swamp Loop but one needs to do a little bit of bush whacking. The best (and one of the only) birds found was a (young?) male Malayan Peacock pheasant. The second one branches off to the canopy trail. Along this trail, we found Rail Babbler and Rufous-collared Kingfisher. Birding was slow but activity was OK throughout the day. Dusk and dawn were less productive than hoped / expected. Night birding was hampered by daily rain in the evenings.
Highlights: Rail-Babbler (4.3901005, 102.4063566), Garnet Pitta (at 4.395189, 102.40235), Rufous-collared Kingfisher (both at the shortcut between the canopy trail and the Jenut Muda trail), Large Wren-Babbler (at a gully on the river trail near 4.3962001, 102.4030014), Malayan Crested Fireback (Canopy trail), Large Frogmouth (Tahan hide), Gould's Frogmouth, Straw-headed Bulbul, Blue-banded Kingfisher (Lubok Simpon beach), White-crowned Hornbill (Swamp loop). We saw a Malayan Peacock-pheasant, a male that has been released approx. 5 years ago but refuses to moult into adult plumage. We didn't hear any Reddish Scops-owls.
FULL TRIP LIST
Taxonomy strictly follows the IOC checklist version 8.2.
Malaysian Partridge Arborophila campbelli Country endemic
Ferruginous Partridge Caloperdix oculeus Near-threatened (NT)
Crested Fireback Lophura ignita Near-threatened (NT)
Mountain Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron inopinatum Vulnerable (VU) Country endemic
Malayan Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron malacense Vulnerable (VU)
Great Argus Argusianus argus Near-threatened (NT)
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus
Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela
Blyth's Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus alboniger
Black Eagle Ictinaetus malaiensis
Little Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia ruficeps
Common Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
Little Green Pigeon Treron olax
Mountain Imperial Pigeon Ducula badia
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
Raffles's Malkoha Rhinortha chlorophaea
Chestnut-breasted Malkoha Phaenicophaeus curvirostris
Black-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus diardi Near-threatened (NT)
Green-billed Malkoha Phaenicophaeus tristis
Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus
Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii
Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris
Mountain Scops Owl Otus spilocephalus
Collared Scops Owl Otus lettia
Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji
Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei
Large Frogmouth Batrachostomus auritus Near-threatened (NT)
Gould's Frogmouth Batrachostomus stellatus Near-threatened (NT)
Blyth's Frogmouth Batrachostomus affinis
Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis
Plume-toed Swiftlet Collocalia affinis
Edible-nest Swiftlet Aerodramus fuciphagus
Germain's Swiftlet Aerodramus germani
Silver-rumped Spinetail Rhaphidura leucopygialis
Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus
House Swift Apus nipalensis
Red-naped Trogon Harpactes kasumba Near-threatened (NT)
Scarlet-rumped Trogon Harpactes duvaucelii Near-threatened (NT)
Orange-breasted Trogon Harpactes oreskios
Red-headed Trogon Harpactes erythrocephalus
Rufous-collared Kingfisher Actenoides concretus Near-threatened (NT)
Banded Kingfisher Lacedo pulchella
Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
Blue-banded Kingfisher Alcedo euryzona Critically Endangered (CR)
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca
Red-bearded Bee-eater Nyctyornis amictus
Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis
White-crowned Hornbill Berenicornis comatus Near-threatened (NT)
Rhinoceros Hornbill Buceros rhinoceros Near-threatened (NT)
Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil Critically Endangered (CR)
Black Hornbill Anthracoceros malayanus Near-threatened (NT)
Wreathed Hornbill Rhyticeros undulatus
Fire-tufted Barbet Psilopogon pyrolophus
Golden-whiskered Barbet Psilopogon chrysopogon
Red-throated Barbet Psilopogon mystacophanos Near-threatened (NT)
Black-browed Barbet Psilopogon oorti
Yellow-crowned Barbet Psilopogon henricii Near-threatened (NT)
Blue-eared Barbet Psilopogon duvaucelii
Sooty Barbet Caloramphus hayii Near-threatened (NT)
Banded Woodpecker Chrysophlegma miniaceum
Greater Yellownape Chrysophlegma flavinucha
Lesser Yellownape Picus chlorolophus
Crimson-winged Woodpecker Picus puniceus
Bamboo Woodpecker Gecinulus viridis
Maroon Woodpecker Blythipicus rubiginosus
Orange-backed Woodpecker Reinwardtipicus validus
Rufous Woodpecker Micropternus brachyurus
Buff-rumped Woodpecker Meiglyptes tristis
Buff-necked Woodpecker Meiglyptes tukki Near-threatened (NT)
Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Blue-rumped Parrot Psittinus cyanurus Near-threatened (NT)
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus
Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis Near-threatened (NT)
Black-and-red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos
Banded Broadbill Eurylaimus javanicus
Black-and-yellow Broadbill Eurylaimus ochromalus Near-threatened (NT)
Dusky Broadbill Corydon sumatranus
Rusty-naped Pitta Hydrornis oatesi
Garnet Pitta Erythropitta granatina Near-threatened (NT)
Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus
Rufous-winged Philentoma Philentoma pyrhoptera
Green Iora Aegithina viridissima Near-threatened (NT)
Fiery Minivet Pericrocotus igneus Near-threatened (NT)
Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris
Large Cuckooshrike Coracina macei
White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca
Blyth's Shrike-babbler Pteruthius aeralatus
Black-eared Shrike-babbler Pteruthius melanotis
Dark-throated Oriole Oriolus xanthonotus Near-threatened (NT)
Black-and-crimson Oriole Oriolus cruentus
Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus remifer
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus
White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
Crested Jay Platylophus galericulatus Near-threatened (NT)
Common Green Magpie Cissa chinensis
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Rail-babbler Eupetes macrocerus Near-threatened (NT)
Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis
Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea
Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus Endangered (EN)
Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus flaviventris
Grey-bellied Bulbul Pycnonotus cyaniventris Near-threatened (NT)
Stripe-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus finlaysoni
Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier
Olive-winged Bulbul Pycnonotus plumosus
Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex
Asian Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnonotus brunneus
Finsch's Bulbul Alophoixus finschii Near-threatened (NT)
Ochraceous Bulbul Alophoixus ochraceus
Grey-cheeked Bulbul Alophoixus bres
Yellow-bellied Bulbul Alophoixus phaeocephalus
Hairy-backed Bulbul Tricholestes criniger
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii
Streaked Bulbul Ixos malaccensis Near-threatened (NT)
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus
Rufous-bellied Swallow Cecropis badia
Pygmy Cupwing Pnoepyga pusilla
Yellow-bellied Warbler Abroscopus superciliaris
Mountain Tailorbird Phyllergates cucullatus
Chestnut-crowned Warbler Phylloscopus castaniceps
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius
Dark-necked Tailorbird Orthotomus atrogularis
Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus
Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus montanus
Grey-throated Babbler Stachyris nigriceps
Grey-headed Babbler Stachyris poliocephala
Chestnut-rumped Babbler Stachyris maculata Near-threatened (NT)
Black-throated Babbler Stachyris nigricollis Near-threatened (NT)
Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera
Golden Babbler Stachyridopsis chrysaea
Pin-striped Tit-Babbler Macronus gularis
Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler Macronus ptilosus Near-threatened (NT)
Brown Fulvetta Alcippe brunneicauda Near-threatened (NT)
Mountain Fulvetta Alcippe peracensis
Large Wren-Babbler Napothera macrodactyla Near-threatened (NT)
Marbled Wren-Babbler Napothera marmorata
Streaked Wren-Babbler Napothera brevicaudata
Abbott's Babbler Malacocincla abbotti
Short-tailed Babbler Malacocincla malaccensis Near-threatened (NT)
Moustached Babbler Malacopteron magnirostre
Sooty-capped Babbler Malacopteron affine Near-threatened (NT)
Scaly-crowned Babbler Malacopteron cinereum
White-chested Babbler Trichastoma rostratum Near-threatened (NT)
Ferruginous Babbler Trichastoma bicolor
Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum tickelli
Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush Garrulax mitratus
Black Laughingthrush Garrulax lugubris
Malayan Laughingthrush Trochalopteron peninsulae
Silver-eared Mesia Leiothrix argentauris
Long-tailed Sibia Heterophasia picaoides
Everett's White-eye Zosterops everetti
Asian Fairy-bluebird Irena puella
Blue Nuthatch Sitta azurea
Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis
White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus
Rufous-browed Flycatcher Anthipes solitaris
Hill Blue Flycatcher Cyornis banyumas
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae
Malaysian Blue Flycatcher Cyornis turcosus Near-threatened (NT)
White-tailed Flycatcher Cyornis concretus
Large Niltava Niltava grandis
Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus
Lesser Shortwing Brachypteryx leucophris
White-tailed Robin Myiomela leucura
Chestnut-naped Forktail Enicurus ruficapillus Near-threatened (NT)
Slaty-backed Forktail Enicurus schistaceus
Malayan Whistling Thrush Myophonus robinsoni Near-threatened (NT) Country endemic
Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis
Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii
Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus maculatus
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum ignipectus
Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
Purple-naped Sunbird Hypogramma hypogrammicum
Black-throated Sunbird Aethopyga saturata
Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra
Spectacled Spiderhunter Arachnothera flavigaster
Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera modesta
Streaked Spiderhunter Arachnothera magna
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus