Malaysia 2017.

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Malaysia 2017.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Tue May 16, 2017 11:41 am

My wife and I have recently returned from a visit to Malaysia. We flew out to KL on the 28th February and back to the UK on 10th April 2017. The trip was arranged to include locations that we had somehow failed to visit on previous trips, such as Taman Negara and Fraser’s Hill in Peninsular Malaysia, and some parks in Sarawak. Our itinerary changed frequently during the six weeks as we shuffled accommodation and dates on line. The joy of using a website such as Booking.com to reserve rooms meant we could cancel bookings at the last minute without losing a deposit. Our three internal flights were made with Air Asia and I recommend them highly – cheap, clean and punctual. The only criticism that the in-flight snack, marketed as a ‘Picnic pocket’, is basically mulched vegetable peel served in a lukewarm manila envelope.

The trip report follows in chronological order.

Kuala Lumpur

Three things are immediately apparent when arriving in KL.
1. Isn’t it busy
2. Isn’t it hot
3. The Petronas Towers are quite big.

To combat Points 1 & 2 we spent most of our first couple of days doing starfish impressions in the oversized hotel pool, only emerging onto the streets after dark to wander off in search of cheap food. In respect of Point 3 both Sue and I agreed that the Petronas Towers weren’t as tall as they used to be. However, that could be a result of the numerous new office blocks and cranes, which are now shouldering into view on a skyline that was once the sole domain of the lanky, silver twins.

Kuching

The City of Kuching is situated in the south-west corner of the state of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo. Since our last visit they had spruced the place up and built themselves an enormous State Assembly building on the north bank. It also seems the city had selflessly undertaken the storage of the whole regions used plastic bottle collection in the waters of the Sarawak river.

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Kuching State Assembly building – it’s huge.

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Keep the River Clean! – Bigger sign needed.

A glimpse of Kuching...

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Shoe Repairs.

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Flat-tailed house gecko (Hemidactylus platyurus) sneaking a fizzy drink in Kuching park.


We based ourselves a mile out of town at Basaga and it proved to be a good choice. Delighted to find we had been upgraded to ‘The Honeymoon Suite’ (38 years too late!) Even happier to discover the outdoor area had a resident Praying Mantis in one of the pot plants.

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Praying Mantis

Keen to try out my brand new LED Lenser head torch I spent time after dark stalking around the grounds blinding other guests and burning holes in the undergrowth. (Those torches are powerful.) I did turn up a couple of immature Toads which were coal black in colouring rather than the usual ‘toad colour’ found in the adults.

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Common Sunda Toad/Spectacled Toad/Asian Common Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)



Batang Ai
The National park at Batang Ai is around 250 Kms east of Kuching. We made the 4 hour road trip from Kuching in the hope of seeing some wildlife. The road was a little bumpy and some of the potholes were big enough to have an echo. Indeed, our hire car company tried (in vain) to double our security deposit and increase our insurance when they heard where we were heading. The closest we came to adding our own dents to the car was as I swerved into the path of oncoming traffic to circumnavigate a Spitting Cobra that was suddenly weaving over the road in front of us. With hood raised and angry expression, the big black snake turned back as it reached the centre of the road and was back into the long grass on the verge by the time we had pulled over to try for a photo.
Aiman Batang Ai was a disappointment. It was mainly geared for groups of travellers and sunk most of its time and resources into providing Longhouse Tours. No one on site could tell us anything about the wildlife surrounding our resort. When we asked where we could get into the forest on our own we were told we would have to hire a guide. Giving the organisation a chance we regretfully booked an afternoon jungle walk with a guide.

Norris – pronounced ‘Shnorrish’ – was clearly suffering the effects of his day spent leading a gaggle of Chinese tourists on a tuak embalming tour at a nearby longhouse. He unsteadily led us along a well trodden path into the forest. The chances of spotting anything were diminished by Norris’s loud conversations on his mobile phone and radio whilst he puffed frantically on a cigarette. When at one stage I asked what bird we could hear calling in the distance Norris squinted through his bloodshot eyes and after a few seconds thought replied – “In Iban we call this ‘tree bird.” It was a catch phrase we used for the remainder of our holiday.


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Batang Ai, Sarawak.

The hotel was arranged to resemble a native long house with vast wooden corridors and verandas. Gekko monarchus were common and grew fairly large. Their 'small yapping dog' call was frequently heard.

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Deserted corridor at the resort. Home to wildlife, mainly bats and geckos.

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Spotted House Gecko (Gekko monarchus)

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Flat-tailed house gecko (Hemidactylus platyurus)

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Sleepy Bat.
The open design of the buildings meant there were always bats present. Hanging asleep during the day and flying close enough to cause a draught on our faces every night. One evening, as we sat eating, a couple of bats continually swooped between us and just above the table top - it made for an interesting meal.

Some night time finds...
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Grass Frog (Fejervarya limnocharis)

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Amplectant Grass Frog (Fejervarya limnocharis)

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Corrugated Frog (Limnonectes laticeps)

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Four-clawed Gecko (Gehyra mutilate)

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Black Spider.


Kubah

The hardest thing about getting to Kubah National Park is trying to negotiate the confusingly complicated website to book accommodation. In the end our chalet was big enough to house several families and we rattled around inside on our own. In fact we stayed for two nights and in that time could count other visitors we saw on one hand. The man at the entrance booth was cheerful and gave us lots of information about where to spot wildlife and in particular frogs. Our days were spent hiking various trails and finding little. The forest is lovely here and the trails well marked.

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Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella). This lizard watched us from the bushes outside the hut.

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Malayan Soft-shell Turtle (Dogania subplana) Photographed during the day at the frog pond.

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Bats in the Pondok at the frog pond.

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Waterfall at Kubah National Park.

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Black Banded Ground Skink (Eutropis rudis) found near the waterfall.

The first of the two nights was virtually rained off. A storm moved in as it was getting dark and shook the windows in its intensity as it passed overhead. It stopped raining for about 20 minutes and then began again – a pattern that repeated itself throughout the night. We gamely struggled up to the famous frog pond but visibility was poor. Fair to say more was heard than seen. On our second night the storms stayed away and we enjoyed our night walk immensely.

Kubah night time sightings...
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Stick Insect.

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Millipede

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Orange Spider. Found at Frog Pond.

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Kuhl’s creek frog (Limnonectes kuhlii)
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Borneo eared frog (Polypedates otilophus)

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Borneo eared frog (Polypedates otilophus)

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Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)

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Harlequin Flying Frogs (Rhacophorus pardalis)

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Dark-eared Treefrog (Polypedates macrotis)

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Western Torrent Frog (Meristogenys jerboa)

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Giant River Frog (Limnonectes leporinus)

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Copper-cheeked Frog (Chalcorana raniceps)

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Matang narrow-mouthed frog (Microhyla borneensis). When photographing this tiny, triangular frog I didn’t immediately realise it was actually a pair in amplexus. This species lives much of it’s life cycle in and around a certain pitcher plant - Nepenthes ampullaria.

Another life form found around the clump of Nepenthes ampullaria...

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Red-bellied Keelback (Rhabdophis conspicillatus)

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Red-bellied Keelback (Rhabdophis conspicillatus)


Apart from the frog pond the highlight of the evening was watching a family of Civets (Small-toothed Civets I think), clambering about in the trees above the path. It appeared to be a mother and two cubs which she eventually carried to safety in her mouth, away from our torch beams. She even treated us to a spray of her delightful perfume which cleared every sinus for several days.


Borneo Highlands Resort
BHR came recommended so we altered plans and included a one night stay. In hindsight two or three nights would have been better. Situated at 1000 metres above sea level the extensive and stunning grounds hold some great wildlife spotting opportunities and possibly one of the most spectacular views I have ever witnessed. With a jungle and cloud covered Kalimantan stretching as far as the eye can see. Once again we appeared to be the only guests. Getting into the forest at night was not a problem.

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Kalimantan view.

A couple of strange daytime finds...

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Planarian Flatworm

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Stick Insect (Orthonecroscia pulcherrima) a couple of these flew onto the grass as we were out wandering around the grounds.

And some nightime creatures...

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Green Paddy Frog (Hylarana erythraea)

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Lowland Dwarf Toad (Pelophryne signata)

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Lowland Dwarf Toad (Pelophryne signata)

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Cat Gecko (Aeluroscalabotes felines), strange creature.

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Dwarf Slender Toad (Ansonia minuta)

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Dwarf Slender Toad (Ansonia minuta)

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Large White-Lipped Frog (Chalcorana megalonesa)

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Marbled Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus)

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Brown Tree Frog (Rhacophorus harrissoni)

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(Epidares nolimetangere)

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Giant Stick Insect.

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Stick Insect .

I try not to have specific targets when away but I dreamt often of finding Megophrys nasuta. After missing it at Kubah I thought the best chance had passed. When a single round eye shone in the undergrowth I couldn’t quite work out the owner. The closer we got, the more confusing the thing became. Not until I was virtually nose to nose with the frog did I realise I had been looking at a profile view of Megophrys. It was probably my favourite find of the whole six weeks. Sue said she couldn’t remember me being that happy when our children were born!

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Long-nosed Horned Frog (Megophrys nasuta)

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Long-nosed Horned Frog (Megophrys nasuta)


Finally a couple of Borneo Highlands frogs I am having trouble identifying.
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Frog One

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Frog Two

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Frog Two again.

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Frog Three.


Permai Rainforest Resort at Santubong.

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A Hidden Danger – Crocodiles. We didn’t find any but local’s told us they haul up onto the mud at the mouth to the inlet at Santubong.

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Santubong Beach at low tide.

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Common Sunda Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) displaying more toad like colouring.

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Bearded Pig on the Beach at Bako NP.


Although we had stayed here previously, the thought of another couple of nights in a tree house were too much to resist. It proved to be the most productive of sites with a total of 11 different snakes sighted in the first 24 hours. It mattered little that 5 were Vine Snakes and 4 Keeled Pit Vipers. Night time jungle walking was easy and there is plenty to do and see during the day.

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Waterfall at Permai.

Home to...
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Black-spotted Rock Skipper (Staurois guttatus)

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Colugo – one of three individuals seen at Permai.

Pit Viper number one turned up within 20 metres of our tree house steps. Coiled within striking distance of a path handrail it was in this location for hours before one of the staff gently moved it to a quieter area.
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Bornean Keeled Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number one

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Bornean Keeled Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number one.

Pit Viper two was also found within 20 metres of our steps but in the other direction. We noticed a German lady crouched over with her camera trying to get a photograph. When we went to look it was a small snake about six inches off the ground. We must have walked past it several times without spotting it.

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Bornean Keeled Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number two.

Pit Viper three’s location was passed by a staff member who knew of our interests. It had been coiled in the same location for three days, next to a notice board. It took a couple of minutes for us to find it with directions.

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Bornean Keeled Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number three.

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Bornean Keeled Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number three.


The final Pit Viper came at breakfast. Sue found it only seconds after grumbling that she hadn’t found a viper yet. It was coiled in the centre of a leafy plant next to the restaurant balcony.

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Bornean Keeled Green Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number four.

One of the Whip Snakes found was quite different to the others. It had a pale blue nose and chin. Not colouring I had seen before.
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Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina)

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Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina)

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Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina)

A Keel-bellied Whip Snake was also spotted from the restaurant balcony. Unfortunately it was some way into the bushes and I could only get a couple of quick photos before we lost sight of it. This was a new species for me.
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Keel-bellied Whip Snake (Dryophiops rubescens)

Some of the Permai night time finds...

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Blue-eyed Angle-headed Lizard (Gonocephalus liogaster)

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I think this is an adult Gonocephalus liogaster.

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Blue-eyed Angle-headed Lizard (Gonocephalus liogaster)

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Not sure yet on this one.

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Marbled Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus)

This Keelback was found next to a stream on a nightime search. Clearly having just taken its supper.
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Spotted Keelback (Xenochrophis maculates)

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Spotted Keelback (Xenochrophis maculates)

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Spotted Keelback (Xenochrophis maculatus)

Sabah – Kota Kinabalu

We diverted north to Sabah and spent a few days in and around Kota Kinabalu.
Most of our time in Sabah was spent around the city, a place we knew well from previous visits. Lots had changed – including a huge new airport terminal, new shopping malls and office blocks. Worst of all the bar that had previously supplied us with cheap Tiger Beer and a seat with a cool ocean breeze, had been pulled down and replaced with nothing.
It was quite something to see how the place had grown but in hindsight we probably should have remained in Sarawak and explored up towards some of the more northerly national parks.

Some of the sights from Sabah.

Large Varanus salvator still busy on Sapi island scavenging around the bins and barbeque area.
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When are we lighting the Barbie?

We did a little night time road cruising around the airport and first beach. The only snake that turned up was a four foot Reticulated Python.
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Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)

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Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)

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Jungle View from the canopy walkway at Poring Hot Springs.

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Tiger Leech in waiting.

Some forms of hunting still a problem at Lok Kawi...
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No Hunting.


Peninsular Malaysia

Taman Negara National Park comes in for a fair bit of criticism. It was consistently the busiest place we visited over all four nights. Our choice was to hire a car at KLIA and drive up to Kuala Tahan for the short boat trip over to Mutiara Taman Negara, rather than the usual long ferry ride. The chalet was comfortable and food good. Getting into the jungle at night was easy and offered the luxury of wooden boardwalks. On the downside, if your timing was out, the chances of bumping into several guided night walks was high. Reptiles were not plentiful but other wildlife was. We both enjoyed the experience of the place.

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Reclaimed. Abandoned car on route to Kuala Tahan.


White-handed Gibbons were heard every morning calling in the distance. We managed to see Slow Loris, Long-tailed Macaque, Wild Boar, Mouse Deer, Giant Red Flying Squirrel, Masked Palm Civet, Hornbills, Broadbills and Fish Eagles amongst others. The weather followed a similar pattern with heavy night time storms. One of which resulted in a hefty tree crashing noisily to earth not 100 yards from our chalet.

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Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) as seen from the bird hide.

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Clouded Monitor (Varanus nebulosus), common around the grounds.

Some night time finds...

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Lichen Huntsman (Heteropoda boiei)

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Lichen Huntsman (Pandercetes sp.)

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Green Tree Snail.

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Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)

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Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)

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Giant Gecko or Green-eyed Gecko (Gekko smithii)

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Giant Gecko or Green-eyed Gecko (Gekko smithii)

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Spotted House Gecko (Gekko monarchus) – three footed variety.

There is opportunity to get out onto the rivers and we spent a great morning cruising up one of the tributaries with a boatman. On the return he cut the engine and drifted down with the current, it was very relaxing and the scenery from the river was stunning.

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Jungle Backwater.

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Tembeling River.



Fraser’s Hill

We arranged two nights at the end of our holiday to include a stay at ‘Stephen’s Place’ on Fraser’s Hill. It simply wasn’t long enough. Both our planned night walks were halted by storms. However, this is clearly one of Malaysia’s top wildlife spots. The whole experience was improved by our hosts and their obvious passion for the area and the wildlife.

Found on the road at night...
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Vertebral Slug Snake (Asthenodipsas vertebralis) Juvenile.

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Vertebral Slug Snake (Asthenodipsas vertebralis) Juvenile

Finally, the inevitable Fraser’s Hill spiders to finish with...

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Coremiocnemis hoggi.

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Behind the Trapdoor.


There is much to see here and, in my opinion, Fraser’s Hill should be one of the first destinations included on any wildlife itinerary. Strange then that it should eventually come as probably our final ever location visited on what we have agreed will be our ultimate visit to this beautiful country.

Special thanks to Hans Breuer and Neil Rowntree for their advice and information.

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Thanks for looking – Ray Hamilton.
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Re: Malaysia 2017.

Postby Niklas Ban » Tue May 16, 2017 12:12 pm

So great, sounds weird but the Heteropoda boiei is my absolutely favorite! Do you have more images of him? Thanks for sharing this!
Are you sure with Pandercetes? I had young H. boiei which looked very similar.
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Re: Malaysia 2017.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Tue May 16, 2017 1:09 pm

Thanks Niklas.

Heteropoda boiei was found and photographed in situ at night. I didn't disturb him, so only have the one pose. It was the only one we found too.

Spiders certainly aren't my strong point but re Pandercetes. I purchased a book in Fraser's Hill called "Spiders of Borneo" by Joseph K.H.Koh and Leong Tzi Ming. Almost the same spider as mine appears on page 244 and is identified as Pandercetes sp. - Lichen Huntsman. That is what I based the ID on. I could be persuaded otherwise...

Do you have any idea on the orange spider from Kubah?

When I found it I was hoping it could have been Heteropoda davidbowie but I've since learnt the distribution doesn't include Borneo.
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Re: Malaysia 2017.

Postby Niklas Ban » Tue May 16, 2017 6:33 pm

In my opinion the most Pandercetes are a little bit more hairy or have longer hair. But I am not an expert just a fan of Sparassidae. The yellow one might be davidbowie, I found something about findings from borneo highlands. The habitus of this individual is a little bit weird for me and honestly I wouldn't try to identify the most spiders without seen it by myself. Especially the Sparassidae have so much unknown/unnamed species (one point which makes them so great). :)
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Re: Malaysia 2017.

Postby Evgeny Kotelevsky » Tue May 16, 2017 8:26 pm

Wonderful photos! Thanks for sharing :)
Welcome to my web site - Herpetology
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Re: Malaysia 2017.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Wed May 17, 2017 3:32 pm

Hi Niklas,

Someone has forwarded an article concerning H.davidbowie being found in Sabah. I have also found a book listing it's distribution in Brunei. Looks like you may be right.


Evgeny Kotelevsky - Thanks for the comments.
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Re: Malaysia 2017.

Postby Michal Szkudlarek » Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:39 pm

Ray, your photos are so wonderfully saturated, how do you do it?
PS. Please reply my PM.
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Re: Malaysia 2017.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:35 pm

Hi Michal,

Thanks for your comments. I have no training in 'saturating' - it's my camera that does it all on it's own. I think the colour richness intensified with the use of a new Sigma 105mm lens. Unfortunately, I now may never know, as some bastard stole my camera bag from the boot of our hire car at Malaga airport!

I have replied to your PM. Have a great time in Asia and look forward to seeing what you find.
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Re: Malaysia 2017.

Postby Michal Szkudlarek » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:30 pm

Ray, what primates have you seen in Sarawak?
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Re: Malaysia 2017.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:55 am

There are great opportunities for primate watching in Sarawak, you'll see plenty.

Semenggoh Nature Reserve in Siburan, not too far from Kuching, is a 'primate rehabilitation centre' which will be your best bet for photographing Orangutans which come to feeding platforms a couple of times a day.

Bako National Park is a good destination for spotting Proboscis Monkey, Silver Leaf Monkey and bands of delinquent Long-tailed Macaques. Also a good chance of photographing the Bearded Pigs which sometimes forage on the beach. Watch out though, Bako can feel like a blast furnace during certain times of the year.
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