The Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

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June 13th 2018
Published: June 13th 2018
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I got up for dawn birding at the RDC and tiptoed past the guard again. There is a guard in there, but it's the same guy as starts his shift at 6 the night before and he doesn't seem very lively at 6 the next morning which is a very good thing. I also get the impression that they're not concerned about people going in early, and there were a couple of other birders about. It's just the night which is an issue.

I started the morning with a wonderfully showy endemic: Bornean Banded Kingfisher, and continued with a number of other nice birds including two massive White-bellied Woodpeckers on an emergent tree. I was hoping for some broadbills though which are supposed to be easier to see in Borneo but no luck yet (also no pygmy squirrels yet)

After breakfast, I got the taxi to Labuk Bay at about 9 and it turned out that the RM45 was not per taxi but per person and for a minimum of two so he wanted RM90. Sigh. Of course it is. So we agreed on RM70 which is a lot more than 45 but still acceptable and the sanctuary is a good 25 mins drive and quite a long way through oil palm plantations. The entry ticket was pricey too at RM60 + an RM10 fee for the camera. Not cheap but I need to remember that the most expensive things like intercontinental airfares and travel insurance are multiple orders of magnitude more and if I didn't do it, I'd have regretted it.

The sanctuary itself appears to be entirely unconnected to any habitat from the land side and inland is surrounded by oil palm plantations but I think is connected along the coast by mangroves which I believe are relatively intact in Sabah. The sanctuary itself is a moderately large patch of high quality mangrove habitat with two feeding stations and a population of proboscis monkeys that is probably slightly inflated above natural levels due to the feeding. They are wild though and apart from coming down to the feeding platforms twice a day at each of two platforms for feeding time, they just sat up in the mangroves behaving as wild.

It was great to watch the proboscis monkeys leaping and the group interactions and noises. There are Silvered Langurs too which I think have been split as Bornean Silvered Langurs and some interesting mangrovey birds like kingfishers and such. I didn't see the langurs at the feeding platforms at all but I saw a small troop crossing the road and foraging naturally in the mangrove. But there are Oriental Pied Hornbills at the feeding times too, as well as the Proboscis Monkeys, which come down for fruit put out for them.

The main problem, other than the price, is that it's very hot and shade is limited but I had rather expected that so was prepared. Had it been near the start of the trip, I would have been horrendously sunburnt because I do things like standing in the sun whenever I see a bird, but it's late enough in the trip now that I'm used to being in the sun so it was not too bad. You also can't get into the mangroves as much as I would have liked but the road between the two feeding stations goes along the edge of the mangroves and there is the boardwalk going up to the feeding platforms as well as a short concrete slab type path going into the mangrove which I don't think had been walked on for a while but that gives another bit of mangrove access.

There is accommodation at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary too but I'm not sure that there's much point in staying really and it's not cheap.

I watched the 9:30 feeding at the first platform and then walked around a bit along the road that runs along the edge of the mangrove before watching the 11:30 feeding at the second platform (which has a different troop of monkeys) and then had lunch at the restaurant which is, naturally, overpriced but is a proper restaurant. I had arranged for the taxi to come at 3 giving me time for a bit more birding, though it was quite slow going being very hot and mostly along the edge of the mangroves rather than in the mangrove itself. This is where I saw the silvered langurs though so that's good. I also watched the second feeding at the first platform just before it was time for the taxi pick up at 3. I liked the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary overall though and it is worth visiting in my opinion.

After a short bit of a sit down back at the B&B I went back to the RDC for the evening birds and then the spotlighting. It was still too hot at 4:30 when I got to the RDC so before starting the birding I went around their little 'Plant Discovery Garden's because I do like plants and they have a nice variety of interesting tropical plants.

There seem to be loads of Green Imperial Pigeons around now. There was a small flock this morning but now they seem to be everywhere. The spotlighting itself was pretty good given time limitations. Still no tarsiers though, but lots of Red Giant Flying Squirrels of course (so you'll never draw a complete blank spotlighting at Sepilok because of the squirrels) as well as a mouse deer, a roosting Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (a local subspecies), and most excitingly the other night primate species: a slow loris! With recent splitting, there are four different species of Slow Loris in Borneo and the one in Sabah is the Philippine Slow Loris. Not quite as good as a tarsier, but a great sighting. It was quite high in a tree so it took a little while for me to see it well enough and watch its behaviour for long enough that I was confident it was a loris and not an odd-behaving flying squirrel or civet of some kind so I had to interpret the 8PM restriction more liberally but the guard knows me now so it was fine and I wasn't that late anyway.

So quite a full-on day today, but lots of cool stuff seen!

New birds

Bornean Banded Kingfisher

Green Iora

White-bellied Woodpecker

Green Imperial-pigeon

Greater Green Leafbird

Chestnut-collared Kingfisher

Lesser Coucal

Ruddy Kingfisher

White-breasted Woodswallow

Mangrove Blue Flycatcher

Streaked Bulbul

Little Green Pigeon

Intermediate Egret

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher


Island Palm Civet (from last night, split from Common Palm Civet)

Proboscis Monkey

House Rat

Bornean Silvered Langur

Philippine (Bornean) Slow Loris

+microbat photographed clearly hanging from a branch close by so possibly identifiable

Additional photos below
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