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Malaysia The Malay Peninsula

UPDATED!  A 13-day, small group birdwatching tour to the Malay Peninsula

The Malay Peninsula offers a superb introduction to the amazing birdlife of Southeast Asia. Taking in three of the top birding sites, we begin at Shah Alam and the coastal mangroves of Kuala Selangor before moving up to the tropical montane forests that surround the old colonial hill stations of Fraser’s Hill and Bukit Tinggi - with chances of Mountain Peacock-pheasant and Ferruginous Partridge. The highlight of our holiday is a four-night stay amidst the pristine jungles of Taman Negara National Park, a vast tract of lowland rainforest and a treasurehouse of hornbills, trogons, broadbills and pittas.

Tour Dates

2019

Space
1

2020

Spaces
9

Leaders
Richard Thaxton
Lee Kok Chung

Max Group Size: 10
Duration: 13 Days

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Cost: £3795*

inc return flights from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur, nonstop with British Airways

Deposit: £500

Single Supp: £525*
Land Only: £3245

* Prices Provisional (tba)

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An exquisite Crested Fireback stalking the grounds of our hotel within Taman Negara National Park, on our February tour to the Malay Peninsula © Brian Small, Limosa Holidays

The tropical forests of the Malay Peninsula shelter one of the most exotic faunas on Earth: equatorial treasurehouses that resound to the unfamiliar cries of pheasants, barbets and pittas, and the maniacal whooping of gibbons. Add an astonishment of other birds and wildlife, good accommodations and the Malay Peninsula’s generally excellent tourist infrastructure, and there can be few more alluring birdwatching destinations. Our extended tour itinerary takes advantage of direct flights with British Airways for a more relaxed start to the trip - and the opportunity to visit Shah Alam next day, where the birding excitement really begins!

The botanical gardens at Shah Alam are home to some special winter migrants, including the exquisite Hooded and Blue-winged Pittas – we got superb views of both species here in 2018!

Not far away, the coastal mudflats and mangroves at Kuala Selangor provide a gentle introduction to some of the commoner Southeast Asian birds. This bird-rich area is also home to several localised species, including Buffy Fish Owl, Mangrove Whistler and Mangrove Blue Flycatcher.

As the coastal humidity begins to rise, we will escape inland to the cooler hill-forests of Fraser’s Hill, one of Malaysia’s attractive old ‘hill stations’. Here we shall search for some of the peninsula’s most enticing birds, from shy endemics like Malayan Laughingthrush and Malayan Whistling Thrush to upland specialities such as Mountain Scops Owl, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Mountain Bulbul, Blue Nuthatch, Red-bearded Bee-eater and Fire-tufted Barbet.

NEW to our itinerary for 2019, we will also enjoy one early morning at Bukit Tinggi, where we have a great chance of seeing two members of the ‘Old World’ Phasianidae: Mountain Peacock-Pheasant and the richly coloured Ferruginous Partridge. This is currently the best site to see these two species anywhere and with patience we should get super views!

Crowning it all, our tour concludes with a four-night stay at the heart of one of Southeast Asia’s finest national parks: Taman Negara. Set within a vast tract of pristine lowland rainforest, our splendid lodgings here give access to a network of forest trails and waterways, which offer a wealth of fabulous bird and wildlife experiences.

Although shy and elusive, it is at Taman Negara that we can hope to see the gorgeous Crested Fireback. The Great Argus is another thrilling pheasant possibility and as we search for them many more of Malaysia’s forest jewels will hopefully come our way: Malayan Banded and Garnet Pittas perhaps, Raffles’s Malkoha, up to four species of trogon, five kinds of broadbill and seven huge and impressive hornbills.

From time to time, a surge of excited calls signals the approach of a ‘bird wave’ and we will suddenly find ourselves surrounded by a frenzy of avian activity. With luck, we might even encounter the peculiar Rail-babbler, while a host of forest mammals and exotic butterflies - among them the spectacular Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing - contrive to distract us. And at the end of each day, we can relax in the comfort of our air-conditioned rooms, with welcoming showers and a delicious evening meal to look forward to.

Lee Kok Chung is our resident local expert in Malaysia, a talented and very experienced bird tour leader. His eyesight and hearing are astounding, as is his knowledge of good local restaurants – and you'll find he is good fun, too! Lee leads our tours to Malaysia and Borneo in conjuction with Limosa's own expert guides.

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Our first port of call on this trip will be to try for the brilliant Hooded Pitta - one of several beautiful pitta species to look for on our tour © Brian Small, Limosa Holidays

Days 1 - 2                                                 
FLY TO KUALA LUMPUR

Our birdwatching tour to the Malay Peninsula begins with a non-stop British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur, where we arrive on the afternoon of day two.

Our local guide Lee will be waiting to welcome us and we make a short journey to our hotel at Shah Alam. Night Shah Alam

Day 3
SHAH ALAM & KUALA SELANGOR

At the nearby gardens at Shah Alam and in the botanical gardens there we will have a gentle introduction to some of the bulbuls and munias, including White-headed Munia in the cultivated fields. Our 'target bird' here is the fine Hooded Pitta that winters in the gardens, and we might also find a Blue-winged Pitta if we are very lucky - we were in 2018! In local parks, we have a chance of the noble Barred Eagle Owl.

After lunch we head for the coast at Kuala Selangor, where after checking in at our hotel and perhaps a brief siesta, we will visit local rice fields that host hundreds of egrets and swarms of swiftlets. For those with energy and enthusiasm to spare there will be the option of a short outing after dinner this evening in hopes of finding Buffy Fish Owl or Large-tailed Nightjar. Night Kuala Selangor

Day 4                                                            
KUALA SELANGOR TO FRASER’S HILL

The heat and humidity builds rapidly on the Malaysian coast so we will want to make the most of the cool hours of the early morning for a return visit to Kuala Selangor. With its extensive mangroves and brackish swamps, this pleasant coastal wetland is home to a very different range of birds and mammals than we are likely to see elsewhere. Our first Pink-necked Green Pigeons, Coppersmith Barbets, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Asian Glossy Starlings await at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park - a splendid mangrove reserve at the mouth of the Selangor River. The large and imposing Buffy Fish Owl occurs in the area – but we will have to get there early!

Brahminy Kites and White-bellied Sea Eagles soar in the skies above the fishing village, where an excellent boardwalk leads out through the mangroves. From here we have chances of seeing several specialist mangrove feeders, including Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, the lovely Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and the more sombre Mangrove Whistler - along with the big Black-capped and Stork-billed Kingfishers, Common Flameback, Laced Woodpecker and Brown-throated Sunbird. Smooth-coated Otters and Long-tailed Macaques, as well as the much scarcer Silvered Leaf Monkey can sometimes be seen. If our visit coincides with low tide, there may be waders on the mud along with gesturing Fiddler Crabs and several kinds of mudskipper.         

After a lovely lunch on the banks of the river, we will take a brief look at the local mudflats – hoping that the tide is not too far out – in search of a wonderment of waders, including Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers. Our journey northeast heads past Selangor Dam, where we stop to look for the ‘beefy’ Rufous-bellied Swallow. By late afternoon, we should be climbing up into the Genting Highlands to arrive at one of Malaysia’s best-loved birding spots - Fraser’s Hill - at the start of a three-night stay. Night Fraser’s Hill

Days 5 - 6                 
FRASER’S HILL

Fraser’s Hill is a former tin mine and colonial hill station, established by the British to escape the stifling heat of Malaysia's coastal lowlands. Set amidst the Peninsula’s cooler montane forest and with magnificent views into the surrounding hills, it’s a delightful location in which to seek out a wealth of bird species restricted to Malaysia’s central highlands.         

Lured into the forest by the ‘Siren songs’ of Siamangs and White-handed Gibbons, the range of species to be found here is indeed impressive! We will bird at a leisurely pace along roadsides and forest trails at elevations between ca. 820 and 1320 metres. Especially at the higher levels, birds tend to remain active throughout the day and our time will be filled with such treats as Dark Hawk-cuckoo, Collared Owlet, Fire-tufted and Black-browed Barbets, Greater Yellownape, Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Common Green Magpie, Golden Babbler, Chestnut-capped and endemic Malayan Laughingthrushes, Silver-eared Mesia, Blyth's and Black-eared Shrike-babblers, Chestnut-crowned and Yellow-bellied Warblers, Little Pied and Rufous-browed Flycatchers, and the energetic Streaked Spiderhunter... With luck, and an early start, we might also come across Malayan Whistling Thrush, a scarce and retiring endemic.

From the extensive network of forest trails we have chances of finding the elusive Malaysian Partridge, Rusty-naped Pitta, Yellow-vented Pigeon and Blue Nuthatch. All forest birding requires a combination of skill, patience and luck, but with Lee’s local expertise and amazing hearing our chances of success are greatly increased. One evening we will head out hoping to see Brown Wood Owl, Grey Nightjar and perhaps a Mountain Scops Owl calling - though actually getting to see one is rather more of a challenge! Nights Fraser’s Hill

Day 7
FRASER’S HILL TO BUKIT TINGGI

We’ll spend a final morning at Fraser’s Hill, picking off some of the few remaining new birds. Local feeding stations are often frequented by Rufous-browed and Mugimaki Flycatchers, and Large Niltavas - the males brilliant in their cobalt-blue plumage. Understated Buff-breasted Babblers sneak out from the vegetation, but Streaked and Pygmy Wren-babblers are rather more loathe to do so.

After lunch, we return to the hotel and load up for a two-hour drive to another hilltop resort - Bukit Tinggi. This will be our base for one night in readiness for an early morning start tomorrow near the Japanese Garden. Night Bukit Tinggi

Day 8                                                      
BUKIT TINGGI TO TAMAN NEGARA

Rising early we'll have a quick snack and drive to an area near the Japanese Garden, then walk out to a viewing area in readiness for two ‘five-star’ birds. Over the past two years at Bukit Tinggi, birders have been able to see the highly sought-after Mountain Peacock-pheasant and richly coloured Ferruginous Partridge. Both are normally very elusive and hardly ever seen, but they come each morning to a feeding area here and show off their splendour! We have a good chance of seeing them today before returning for a late breakfast in readiness for our drive to Taman Negara.

We head first towards Krau Forest Reserve and nearby wetlands. The sedge-fringed lakes may hold Yellow Bittern, and the surrounding trees offer the huge-billed Golden-whiskered Barbet and Oriental Pied Hornbill. In the forest we also have our first chance of Garnet and Malayan Banded Pittas, plus many bulbuls and Whiskered Treeswifts.

We'll aim to arrive at Kuala Tahan, headquarters of the Taman Negara National Park, late in the afternoon and in good time to settle into our comfortable air-conditioned chalets at Taman Negara Mutiara Resort, which will be our base for the next four nights. Night Taman Negara

Days 9 - 11                                                             
TAMAN NEGARA NATIONAL PARK

Each day we will set off to explore the excellent system of forest trails close to our lodgings, or take short boat rides out along the Sungei Tahan. If we can locate a fruiting tree, we’ll find this welcome but short-lived food supply draws innumerable frugivores such as pigeons, hornbills, barbets and bulbuls. While many of the park’s birds and mammals can be difficult to observe in the depths of the forest, our extended stay at Taman Negara allows ample time to try for them. Whatever we see, birding here is always exciting and over the coming days we are in for a real treat!

Walking within Taman Negara’s immense, timeless forests is a humbling experience. Largely unchanged for millions of years, the forest giants - towering up to 50 metres above our heads - dominate this environment. Birds are everywhere in the forest, but often occurring at surprisingly low densities or roving in mixed feeding flocks - so we may go some time before actually seeing one!

As we gradually become accustomed to birding within the forest however we will start to realise that there is always something to watch - from the endless processions of termites to a plethora of beautiful butterflies. We should also come across a fascinating range of mammals, among them perhaps Dusky Leaf Monkey, Greater Treeshrew and the beautiful Prevost’s Squirrel. Taman Negara is home to many of Malaysia’s larger mammals too, but the likes of Asian Elephant, Tiger and Malayan Tapir are retiring and only rarely observed.

Despite the many distractions, birds will always be uppermost in our minds. Lesser Fish Eagle, Black-thighed Falconet, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, the amusing Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Plaintive Cuckoo, Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo, Raffles’s, Black-bellied and Red-billed Malkohas, the outsize Malaysian Eared Nightjar, Silver-rumped Spinetail, Brown-backed Needletail and the lovely Blue-banded Kingfisher are among the many species we could see. As emerald Red-throated and Golden-whiskered Barbets ‘chok’ monotonously away from the lofty forest canopy, there are also more than fifteen different woodpeckers to watch for - including the huge Great Slaty and White-bellied, Crimson-winged and the amazing Orange-backed. Then there are all those fabulous broadbills to enjoy: Black-and-yellow, Black-and-red, Banded and Green.

Spectacular pheasants are well represented at Taman Negara. Daily, we will hear the loud resonant calls of Great Argus. Yet despite this bird's enormous size, actually seeing one is remarkably difficult! Exquisite Crested Firebacks are usually a little easier, with small parties emerging to feed on the trails in the early mornings. Trogons invariably feature high on everyone’s list of personal favourites, a sudden burst of vivid colour bringing the middle storey to life and betraying the presence of Scarlet-rumped, Diard’s and Red-naped. Above them, parties of hornbills crash through the upper branches in search of fruiting figs; Black, Rhinoceros, Helmeted and White-crowned Hornbills are among eight species present at Taman Negara.

This is one of the best places to hear the loud and beautiful song of the Straw-headed Bulbul, a now rare riverine species threatened by the cage-bird trade.

Down on the shady forest floor - though like the pheasants, always difficult to see - handsome Garnet and Malayan Banded Pittas are among several of these jewel-like terrestrial species to watch for during our stay. Dressed in more subtle shades, Taman Negara’s babblers include Abbott’s and Chestnut-winged, Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler and Pin-striped Wren-babbler... And we haven’t even started on the plethora of sunbirds, bulbuls and other small birds that await us! While an evening’s 'owling' adds the prospect of Brown Hawk Owl, along with Gould’s and Blyth’s Frogmouths. Three nights Taman Negara

Day 12                                  
KUALA LUMPUR, FLY LONDON

We'll enjoy a final morningofbirding followed bylunch at Taman Negara before leaving this wonderful National Park and travelling back to Kuala Lumpur. After an evening meal at a superb local restaurant, we return to the airport, say farewell to our local guide and board our British Airways late evening flight home.

Day 13
ARRIVAL LONDON

Morning arrival in London, where our birding tour to the Malay Peninsula concludes.

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You’re nicked me beauty!... Malayan Laughingthrush at Fraser’s Hill police station © Brian Small, Limosa Holidays

What To Expect

A 13-day, small group birdwatching tour to the Malay Peninsula visiting three top sites: coastal Kuala Selangor, the highland forests at Fraser’s Hill / Bukit Tinggi and the pristine tropical rainforests of Taman Negara National Park.

As with all wildlife tours to the tropics, be prepared for early starts, getting out in the field at daybreak, typically followed by a siesta during the hottest and least ‘birdy’ part of the day before venturing out again mid-late afternoon. This is primarily a birding tour but with good all-round wildlife interest, including several primates and an array of butterflies.

Tropical climate. Although hot and humid (28-35°C/ 82-95F) in the lowlands, for much of the time we will be in the shade of the forest. Generally cooler and more pleasant early and late in the day, and in the highlands at Fraser’s Hill (15-25°C/59-77F, falling to below 10°C/50F at night). February/March is the 'dry season' here, but rainfall can and does occur year round in the rainforest of course, particularly during the afternoons at Fraser’s Hill.

Birds

275-325 species

Mammals

10-20 species

Accommodation

10 nights accommodation in Malaysia staying in good tourist hotels at Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor, Fraser’s Hill and Bukit Tinggi, and in comfortable air-conditioned chalets at Taman Negara. All rooms with private facilities.

Meals

All main meals (and drinking water provided during the day) are included in the tour price, commencing with dinner in Malaysia on Day 2 and concluding with a sit-down evening meal on Day 12 prior to the flight home. Meals at Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor and Fraser’s Hill will usually be taken at local restaurants; meals at Taman Negara will be taken at the hotel. The food on this tour is delicious – for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike!

Walking

Walks are taken at a gentle pace, mostly along quiet roadsides and forest trails – at Taman Negara these are on slightly raised boardwalks, with stepped sections in places. One forest trail is accessed by a steep path that can be muddy underfoot. Some mornings we will be on our feet for up to 4.5 hours, so you might find a walking stick seat handy. At Taman Negara, some of our birding is by boat along forested waterways. Comfortable shoes or walking boots with corrugated soles for grip recommended.

Travel

Return flights London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur, nonstop with British Airways.

Ground Transport  By air-conditioned minibus. At Taman Negara National Park (where there are no roads) we travel by boat and on foot.  

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A gorgeous Orange-bellied Leafbird at Fraser's Hill © Brian Small, Limosa Holidays

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