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Published: June 25th 2018
My morning birding at Danum was quite productive and the French guys also found it more productive than usual completely independent of me. This seemed to be a common trend with occasional days of great birding and others with almost nothing in the same areas. I added quite a few new species actually, see the list below which were all from only a couple of hours this morning, as well as a great and first-photo view of a Large Green Pigeon being worth noting.
I've refined my breakfast strategy by this point too so I don't miss out on birding. Breakfast is officially 7-8:30 but if you're not there at 7 on the dot there will be no food left and you'll be stuck behind a long queue and waste loads of birding time so the best technique is to go in quickly, grab the food and be out within 10 minutes so no problem with birding time. If it's a boiled egg day then that's even better because you can just grab some eggs, bread, and bananas and not waste any morning birding at all.
The scheduled transfer left at 8:30 (it's 3x a week, otherwise you have
to spend a fortune on a private transfer) and it was rather full. And by rather full, I mean 11 people (including the French guys leaving that day) + luggage in a 9 seater minibus for 2 and a half hours on dirt tracks. The minibus was riding quite low to the ground. We did see an orangutan in a moderately distant emergent tree though which was nice.
We got back to Lahad Datu around 11 as expected and looking at my bus options, the best thing seemed to be a bus direct to Kota Kinabalu (and they would drop me off at the park on the way - the highway goes right past the entrance and it's about 2 hours before the city) leaving at 3:30. I could have left for Sandakan at 1 and changed to a KK bus from there, but with the extra distance back and forth and potentially time waiting in Sandakan, I decided that waiting in Lahad Datu for 4 and a half hours in a restaurant and going straight to Kinabalu was my best option.
The bus is more expensive than I was expecting: RM52 per person. And that's the real
price which all the locals (i.e. everyone else on the bus apart from me) were paying too and what it said on the ticket. Not expensive in absolute terms for me, but it must be a decent amount of money for many lower-to-middle income locals and is only a little less than a quarter of the price of the 55min flight from LD to KK. The coach was absolutely full too and they had some extra cargo they were carrying. The bus operator must make quite a bit of money off this
I will get to Mt Kinabalu quite late, it's 6-7 hours I think by bus but I don't think that number includes the regular toilet/refuelling/buying food/extremely long for reasons entirely unknown stops, but I've called ahead to the accommodation so hopefully it will be fine (I'm writing this on the bus on my phone). It's palm oil plantations all the way it seems with sunset over the palms as far as the eye can see. I did see a storms stork from the road though in the palm fields which was quite surprising though looking on Google maps, we were just passing the Kinabatangan then which was
about 5km away as the crow flies or as the stork flies. Occasional SFM (Sustainable Forest Management) reserves and selectively logged areas too though, which is a reminder that Sabah isn't doing a bad job at preserving forest. Better than Sarawak or Kalimantan I believe.
After quite a long drive in the dark, the bus dropped me off at Kinabalu Park just before 11 and a few hundred metres down the road in pleasingly cool temperatures was my accommodation, a place called the Mountain Resthouse with RM30 dorms, which I got to just after. Given that I started the journey at 8:30 this morning with the transfer out or Danum (and woke up at 5:30 for sunrise birding) that's a long travel day. Much longer than I'd ideally like and I would rather arrive at places in the day, but this day was always going to be a really long day of travel across Sabah.
I won't make it up for sunrise birding tomorrow because I got in far too late and am rather in need of a proper nights sleep, but I was half expecting not to make it to Kinabalu tonight anyway and stay a night in Sandakan or somewhere on the way so I'll still get to the birds earlier than I would have and I'm pleased I made it here from Danum in a single day.
New birds: Moustached Hawk Cuckoo
Red Throated Barbet
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