As the sun sets and the light of the day surrenders to the darkness of night, many creatures of the rainforest, withdrawn from view during daylight, stir from their slumber and set out to patrol their territories and search for food. Concealed by the darkness to the naked eye, these animals often pass unnoticed, unseen by naturalists. Yet with the aid of a spotlight, the shine from their reflective eyes is revealed and a little-known world of night wildlife is unveiled.
Unlike most nature tours, which operate by day with occasional night sorties, on this new tour we have turned the whole model on its head. We ourselves become largely nocturnal and, spotlight in hand, we undertake lengthy night safaris, affording us excellent chances of seeing many beautiful night animals of the Bornean forest.
Our tour begins with a night in Sepilok, in north-east Borneo, in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Sepilok is famous for its Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre where more than 700 animals have been returned to the forest; the centre offers a chance to see and photograph these wonderful animals at close quarters. A short walk away is the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre which holds many rescued animals in large naturalistic enclosures and, in addition to advocating the species’ conservation, is beginning to release carefully selected bears into the wild.
From Sepilok we move to the beautiful Kinabatangan River, for a 3-night stay at the delightful Sukau Rainforest Lodge. It is here that our nocturnal safaris truly begin and we will enjoy cruising the river and its tributary creeks at night. Here, in a world of mud and tidal forest, we will search for the distinctive eye-shine of such charismatic animals as Reticulated Python, Saltwater Crocodile and the rare Flat-headed Cat. We will also take day cruises along the river in the hope of seeing Storm’s Stork, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Long-tailed Macaque, Bornean Pygmy Elephant, Proboscis Monkey, Rhinoceros and Wrinkled Hornbills, and the beautiful Silvered Langur.
From Sukau we travel by land to Tabin, via the dramatic Gomantong Caves, where we are able to enjoy the spectacle of thousands of nesting swiftlets and several million roosting bats. The area is also excellent for wild Bornean Orang-utans and the lovely Maroon Langur, both of which we will search for before continuing our journey to Tabin Wildlife Resort, our base for the next six nights of nocturnal exploration.
Tabin is unique in that it has, in the core of the reserve, virgin rainforest, surrounded by regenerating secondary forest, which itself is surrounded by plantations of oil palm. Though oil palm is a serious problem in Borneo, with huge areas of native forest destroyed for its cultivation, in Tabin it (counterintuitively) makes many mammal species easier to observe. Oil palm plantations have a year-round supply of food for small mammals which cross from the secondary forest to feed by night. This in turn means that many predators patrol the roads between the forest and plantations, leading to quite remarkable mammal-watching for those prepared to patrol Tabin’s roads for long hours by night.
On the entrance road to the resort, between forest and plantation, we have an excellent chance of encountering a fabulous array of species. The yellow-white eye-shine of both Common Palm and Malay Civets is very commonly seen in the road ahead, while Bearded Pigs bolt at our vehicle’s approach. The bright green eyes of Red Giant Flying and Black Flying Squirrels are often found in the forest edge and, with luck, we will catch sight of flying squirrels as they plane over the road into the plantations. Leopard Cats, hunting in the verges, may turn to stare at us with their large moon-like eyes. Delving further into the forest our spotlights may fall on the enormous eyes of a Bornean Slow Loris, the tiny specks of reflected light in a Western Tarsier’s eyes, or perhaps the ungainly form of a Colugo wrapping a tree in its great dermal flap. With very good luck our efforts might be repaid with a sighting of Sunda Clouded Leopard or a Marbled Cat. As dawn begins to break and we return to our comfortable lodge we shall listen for the beautiful sobbing call of the Bornean Gibbon and stop at sites to look for both Helmeted Hornbill and Hose’s Langur.
This remarkable new tour offers you the chance to experience Borneo as never before and to witness a world of night wildlife open to only a privileged few.
Mr & Mrs R
Nick Acheson is splendid and amazingly knowledgeable re all parts of the world. This was very helpful to ask about future trips we might book. He was always cheerful though he must have been very tired at times. He and the local guide Mohammed went to a lot of trouble to alter the schedules to give the best opportunity for sightings. Another excellent group - the right size and good dynamics plus amazing leader who was very helpful to impose discipline without it appearing to be more than leadership. Many sightings, albeit it many a good distance. Flying squirrel and swimming pygmy elephants were a treat, lots of small cats and terrific hornbills.
Nick, as always was great, extremely knowledgeable and helpful and caring but also good fun.
The large amount of night drives in search of the Clouded Leopard were the best part of this trip and although we didn't find it, we saw some great nocturnal mammals and got great views of everything.
The high number of night drives at Tabin was excellent as was the fact that all participants were in one vehicle. Nick Acheson is an outstanding leader.
Nick was as usual excellent! Local guide and drivers in Tabin Mohammed and Jusrin were excellent – worked really hard and were really nice. Loved the night drives.
Nick is an excellent leader being inspirational, amusing, knowledgeable and diplomatic. The group got on really well with both him and each other. The accommodation was good, all the travel arrangements and other services worked faultlessly. The wildlife and forest were just mind-blowing. An unplanned privately arranged visit to the Rhino facility at Tabin was a brilliant ‘extra’.