Wildlife Around Kuala Tahan at Taman Negara

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June 3rd 2018
Published: June 3rd 2018
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I got the first boat across the river to go into the national park at 7. Around the headquarters there was a tame argus pheasant roaming around. It would be really cool to see a wild one and I’ve heard the calls around, but this one doesn’t count. I also found out that I had forgotten to get my camera battery out of the charger. I have a spare non-official one which I put in and the camera didn’t really like it very much and wouldn’t stay on for very long and then decided to die completely which was annoying. It wasn’t too long after walking around that I found another of the big targets for the area, a Crested Fireback Pheasant. This was an absolutely stunning male so I was really kicking myself for not getting the camera battery out of the charger. I birder around in the morning a bit, but decided that I wanted to go back and get my camera battery because you never know what you will see. It doesn’t take long to get across, but it is a waste or two ringgit.

There actually seemed to be a slightly higher level of bird activity a little later in the morning and I re-found the fireback. They seem to be really quite common around actually and there is a very brazen pair around near the swamp loop. There were quite a few interesting birds seen including nesting Black-and-red Broadbills, a Raffles’ Malkoha, and Jambu Fruit Dove. A little later I bumped into the same birder from yesterday again having a last look around before leaving and he had not seen a Jambu Fruit Dove so we went around to a fruiting tree where I had seen it along with lots of bulbuls although they all seemed to have left since.

I stayed around birding until almost 1PM when it started to get too hot to do anything. It’s a really hot day today with completely clear skies during the day. I decided that I would organize the Kumbang Hide stay and I’ve confirmed for the nights of the 4th and the 5th staying at the hide (that’s tomorrow night and the night after) and got the boat sorted as well. I tried to see if I could find anyone at all interested in doing the hide to split the boat cost but the only people at all interested wanted to do a hike instead so I’ve had to pay the full RM240 for the return myself. I think I should still have enough money to last me this whole time until I get back to KL anyway. And while I was sorting the boat I decided I might as well spend more money and book a night drive as well which is RM40 for two hours starting at 8:30 which isn’t bad. I had lunch and sat around a bit in the afternoon because there wasn’t too much point walking around in the forest in the heat and then in the early afternoon, I headed back across for another bit of birding.

The thing I like about Taman Negara is that all you have to do is walk around very slowly on board walks and your list very slowly but surely increases and although you don't see many birds, when you do see one it seems to be different quite often. Unlike at Bukit Fraser where birds are numerous but there are large flocks of the same species. I know I've just arrived at Taman Negara but I do think this is generally true and based on the guide book for potential species that I could see, there's certainly a lot of diversity.

A bit later I found two people who were very interested in the Kumbang hide and would have split the cost with me if I had found them and done it earlier but they were leaving today. That's the difficulty with being a solo traveller, although it is nice not to be waiting for anyone and not to have anyone waiting for you.

The afternoon birding was quite successful and I added a number of new species. There's a really nice quiet peaceful spot not too far from the entrance with a bench overlooking the river surrounded by rainforest and I really like it there. I can just sit and relax looking out onto the river and wait for birds to show up. I stayed until dusk then headed back across for dinner and then went up to the night Safari pick up area. I didn't have my hopes too high based on what I had heard and the generally seeming scammyness of all the mainstream tour operations but if I didn't try it once I would regret it.

All around the village are odd mural things with clichéd things written on them like 'no pain no gain' and 'be the solution not the problem' and so just thought to myself: if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate. It's been far too long since I've had the chance to make any science jokes and that's a nice classic.

Anyway, the Night Safari itself wasn’t bad. The spotlighter was a small boy about 8 years old at most and he actually knew what he was doing and was actually spotlighting for eyeshine and not just shining a torch around randomly. The night safari goes through the plantain habitat and then into what is almost proper forest but isn’t actually part of the national park and doesn’t have the massive old trees but is slightly newer growth. There was a reasonable amount seen, starting with an as yet unidentified black snake which the driver (not the boy spotlighting – he didn’t speak English) claimed was a cobra. Also seen were a number of massive scorpions and on the mammal front a large number of Red Giant Flying Squirrels, a Leopard Cat, and, most surprisingly, two Slow Lorises. Though not nearly as nice of a view as at Bukit Fraser as these were high in trees. Also in the same night safari vehicle was a group of French speakers and I can understand and speak some French but they assumed I couldn’t. Which was amusing because they were complaining about me also spotlighting and identifying things without waiting for the driver to say (although I didn’t correct the driver’s misidentifications, that sort of thing is rarely worth doing) and thought the small child should do it on his own. I found both the lorises anyway, although the child found the leopard cat. Just to be annoying, right at the end of the drive as it was ending I made a final remark in French as I was leaving, just complex enough that they would know I understood everything they had been saying. Necessary? No. Amusing? Yes.

So the night safari wasn’t as poorly run as I was expecting. I have arranged my boat for tomorrow to leaving in the early afternoon to take me to the drop of point for the Kumbang Hide. The hide itself is a couple of kms up from the drop off so I’m going try and leave some of the things I don’t need somewhere around here if I can find anyone who works here as I’ve not seen them around at all. And then I’ll be picked up on the 6th after two nights in the hide. I highly doubt there will be any phone connection, and there’s no food, water, or electricity so I’m taking stuff with me. So obviously this will be it until after I’m back.

New birds:

Horsfield’s Babbler

Crested Fireback

Asian paradise flycatcher

Jungle Myna

Jambu Fruit Dove

Black-and-red Broadbill

White-rumped Munia

Raffles’ Malkoha

Black-winged Flycatcher Shrike

Lesser Shortwing

Purple-naped Sunbird

Thick-billed Flowerpecker

Sooty-capped Babbler

Buff-vented Bulbul

Crested Jay

Checkered-throated Woodpecker

Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker

Short-toed Coucal

Black-bellied Malkoha

Black-naped Monarch

Rufous-collared Kingfisher

Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker

Stork-billed Kingfisher


Sunda Black-banded Squirrel

Lesser Treeshrew

Leopard Cat

+Unidentified snake claimed by the night driver to be a ‘deadly black cobra’ but it’s not.

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


4th June 2018

Great time William!
Sounds like real fun William. Would have loved to see the expressions on the French family's faces! You sure are having an amazing experience. Have a great time in the hide!

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