Sarawak is one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. Known as Bumi Kenyalang (‘Land of the Hornbills’), it is situated on the north-west of the island. It is the largest state in Malaysia; the second largest, Sabah, lies to the northeast. The administrative capital is Kuchin.
Having land area of 124,450 km² spreading between latitude 0° 50′ and 5°N and longitude 109° 36′ and 115° 40′ E, it makes up 37.5% of the land of Malaysia. Sarawak also contains large tracts of tropical rain forest home to an abundance of plant and animal species.
The state stretches for some 750 km along the north east coastline of Borneo, interrupted in the north by about 150 km of Brunei coast. Sarawak is separated from the Indonesian part of Borneo (Kalimantan) by ranges of high hills and mountains that are part of the central mountain range of Borneo. These get higher to the north and culminate near the source of the Baram River with the steep Mount Batu Lawi, Mount Mulu in the Park of the same name and Mount Murud with the highest peak in Sarawak.
The major rivers from the south to the north include Sarawak River, the Lupar River, the Saribas River, the Rajang River with 563 km the longest river in Malaysia with the Baleh River branch, the Baram River, the Limbang River that drains into the Brunei Bay as it divides the two parts of Brunei and the Trusan River that also flows into the Brunei Bay.
Sarawak can be divided into three natural regions. The coastal region is rather low lying flat country with large extents of swamps and other wet environments. The hill region provides most of the easily inhabited land. Most of the larger cities and towns have been built in this region. As the swamps make up much of the coast, the ports of Kuching and Sibu have been built some distance from the coast on rivers, while Bintulu and Miri are close to the coast at the only places that the hills stretch right to the China Sea. The third region is the mountain region along the border and with the Kelabit and Murut highlands in the north.
Sarawak features vast areas of both lowland and highland rainforest. However, Sarawak has been hit hard by the logging industry and the expansion of monoculture tree plantations and oil palm plantations. Malaysia's deforestation rate is increasing faster than anywhere else in the world. Statistics estimate Sarawak's primary forest has been depleted by around 90%. Malaysia's rates of deforestation are among the highest in Asia, jumping almost 86 percent between the 1990-2000 period and 2000-2005. In total, Malaysia lost an average of 1,402 km² —0.65 percent of its forest area—per year since 2000. By comparison, South East Asian countries lost an average of 0.35% of their forest per annum during the 1990s.
Sarawak's rainforests have been gradually depleted by the demand driven by the logging industry and the following introduction of palm oil plantations. Many of Sarawak's rural communities have felt changes affected by the economic activity of these industries. Peaceful protests and timber blockades between native communities and logging companies are common, often resulting in preventive police action. The Penan, Borneo's nomadic hunter gatherers have been most affected by these changes, complaining of illness through polluted rivers, game depletion resulting in widespread hunger and loss of traditional medicines and forest products.
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Number of endemics: 51
There are 53 birds endemic to the island of Borneo. of these, 51 occur in Sarawak
*Field Guides & Bird Song
For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering Malaysia as a whole - please see the Malaysia page of Fatbirder
A Photographic Guide to Birds of Borneo, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan
by G.W.H. Davison and Chew Yen Fook New Holland due May 2007
ISBN: 9780713676006Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of Borneo
By Susan Myers| Christopher Helm | Paperback | March 2016 | 336 Pages | many Colour Plates and Distribution Maps | Edition 2 | I
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 9781472924445Buy this book from NHBS.com
Facts - Borneo
601 Bird Species; 31 Endemics.
Bako National Park
The Bako National Park covers 2,742 hectares of a rugged sand stone peninsula to the east of the Bako River near Kuching, the capital of Sarawak.
Bako National Park
Bako is a great place for bird watching whether you are a serious bird watcher or a curious nature lover. Over 150 species of birds have been recorded at Bako…
Gunung Mulu National Park
Within the boundaries of Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak is one of the most extensive and spectacular limestone cave systems on earth, as well as the second highest mountain peak in the state. Gunung also enjoys unusually high rainfall.
Lambir Hills National Park & Loagan Benut Park
Its forest is home to gibbons, tarsiers, bearded pigs, flying squirrels, deer and 157 types of bird…
Mount Kinabalu National Park
New arrivals at the park headquarters might wonder where Borneo`s famed birdlife is hiding. The forest initially seems quiet and devoid of birds. Patience, however, will be rewarded when flocks of mixed species swoop down from the upper canopy to feed in the lower canopy. These are the famous bird-waves in which a diverse range of species act in unison to flush out insects and other prey. The bird photographer, having waiting patiently with his camera and tripod for hours, suddenly has roving bands of Flycatchers, Whistlers, Tailorbirds, Warblers and Fantails chaotically feeding a few yards from where he stands…
National Parks of Sarawak
Malaysia's Sarawak State on the island of Borneo is, compared to much of the world, untouched by development: two-thirds of Sarawak is rainforest, and a sizeable part of it is protected in the form of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries…
Guides & Tour Operators
Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is one of two known places in the world to be inhabited by ten species of primates four of which are endemic to Borneo. It is also one of two places in the world where four colobines inhabit the same place - namely proboscis monkey, silvered langur, maroon langur and Hose`s or grey langur. It has the highest concentration of proboscis monkeys and orang utans in Malaysia. Other wildlifes include long-tailed macaque, pig-tailed macaque, Bornean gibbon, two nocturnal primates namely western tarsier and slow loris and other mammals including Asian elephant and Sumatran rhinoceros.
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2009 [07 July] - Keith Barnes
This was the best ever Tropical Birding tour to Borneo, and probably one of the best ever set departure birding tours run by any company to the island. If you include all the potentially split taxa we recorded 40 of the 43 Bornean endemics that were available on this trip (missing only the unpredictable Mountain Serpent Eagle and Hose’s Broadbill, and more regrettably the endemic race of Black Magpie)…
2011 [08 August] - Oscar Campbell - Western Sarawak
…We visited three national parks, all of which are documented in any travel guide: Bako, Gunung Gading and Khubah. We stayed one night in each, using National Park Service accommodation (the only practical option at any of them). Staying overnight is essential to get a proper feel for the place and to enjoy some peace and quiet…
2012 [08 August] - Dave Sergeant
…a feeding flock that held endemic Bornean Whistlers, Bornean Treepie, Chestnut-crested Yuhinas, Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrushes, a Bornean Spiderhunter for some plus Black-capped White- eyes, Temminck's Sunbirds, Mountain Tailorbirds, Yellow-breasted Warblers, Grey-throated Babblers, Indigo Flycatchers, Little Pied Flycatcher and White-throated Fantails…
2013 [06 June] - Dion Hobcroft - Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan
…After a pleasant siesta we spent a relaxing afternoon birding the hotel grounds, enjoying numerous Green Imperial- Pigeons, Pink-necked Green-Pigeon, Collared Kingfisher, the all black local population of Oriental Magpie-Robin, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, a family of Blue-naped Parrots, and a flock of Little Terns too mention some…
2013 [07 July] - Chris Kehoe
…Later on we enjoyed improved views of Chestnut- hooded Laughingthrushes along with our first Sunda Laughingthrushes and a couple of stunning Bornean Green Magpies from the road before visiting the Silau Silau Trail where Grey-throated Babblers and Snowy- browed Flycatchers showed well along with a few previously seen species…
2014 [11 November] - Dave Bakewell - Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia
...Thus it was with these chiefly in mind that this custom tour was arranged as a follow-on from the scheduled Sabah, Borneo October 2014 tour. Additionally, a few days in Peninsular Malaysia had as their main target another country endemic, Mountain Peacock-Pheasant....
2015 [06 June] - Erik Forsyth
...in Kota Kinabalu, we took a quick walk around the hotel grounds, picking up several of the commoner city birds including confiding Pink-necked Green Pigeons sunning in the early sunlight, Peaceful Dove, Glossy Swiftlet, a calling Asian Koel, Collared Kingfisher, Asian Glossy Starling and Yellow-vented Bulbul.
2015 [07 July] - Dave Bakewell
...Highlights of the tour were many, and included Black Oriole, Dulit, Bornean and Sunda Frogmouths, Bornean Banded and Bluebanded Pittas, Hose’s and Whitehead’s Broadbills, Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, Rail-Babbler, Mountain HawkEagle, Ferruginous Partridge, Rufous-tailed Jungle-Flycatcher, Pygmy Ibon, Hook-billed and Black-andWhite Bulbuls, Fruithunter and Everett’s Thrush, the latter possibly the first recent record for the area.
2015 [09 September] - Mike Nelson - Sarawak & Sabah
...We managed 50 endemics, three heard only, from stunning Bristlehead, Crimson-headed Partridge and Bornean Ground Cuckoo to the less known but equally desired Black Oriole and Dulit Frogmouth.
2016 [03 March] - Rob Hutchinson
The Sarawak extension began with a morning in peat-swamp forest which got us off to a flying start with Redcrowned Barbet, Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker, Grey-breasted Babbler and Hook-billed Bulbul all found. From here we headed up into the Kelabit Highlands to cover two separate sites. At the first we found the rare Black Oriole, a colourful Hose’s Broadbill, Rufous-tailed Jungle Flycatcher, Bornean Banded and Blue-banded Pitta, Bornean Bulbul, Bornean Leafbird, Bornean Barbet and fabulous views of Bornean Frogmouth. At the last site we eventually had point-blank views of Dulit Frogmouth with Barred Eagle Owl as night-time bonus, and during the day Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, another Mountain Serpent Eagle, Sunda Cuckoo, Bock’s Hawk Cuckoo and Fruithunter.
2016 [04 April] - Dave Stejskal
...We finished the trip up in the cool highlands of Crocker Range National Park and Kinabalu National Park. What a wonderful difference in temperatures to wind up this fabulous trip! The numbers of tourists in the park has yet to rebound to levels like those seen before last year's tragic earthquake, but we didn't mind the diminished activity on our full days of birding here. Every day we were there held numerous surprises for us, like our cooperative trio of Whitehead's Broadbills, a gorgeous adult male Whitehead's Trogon, incredible Rafflesia keithii in full bloom near Poring Hot Springs, a female Fruit-hunter sitting on a nest and being fed infrequently by her mate, a 'frozen' Crimson-headed Partridge right next to the trail, calling Bornean Collared Owlet at a curve in the road, and a rare decent look at the poorly-known Waterfall Swift at the mountain overlook. And that's just the start! It was a super conclusion to our time together...
2016 [05 May] - Arjan Brenkman & Jan van der Laan - Ba’kelalan, Payeh Maga, Klias Peat Swamp and Danum Valley
In 2016 we had our five-year lustrum of the Virtual Birders® and we thought Borneo would be a good idea to celebrate. Dulit Frogmouth was high on our priority list followed by Hose’s Broadbill, all endemic pitta’s, Black Oriole plus Bornean Bristlehead and Bornean Ground Cuckoo. Arjan had visited Mount Kinabalu and the Kinabatangan River already in 2003, but missed some species. James Eaton advised us to do the Bornean Rain Forest Lodge as the best chance to see the Bristlehead and also we had a reasonable chance to see the Ground Cuckoo. For the Payeh Maga part we decided to contact Yeo Siew Teck, a Malaysian based birder with good organization and birding skills. James Eaton made the contact for us with Sang Sigar, owner of a homestay and the person who rediscovered the Dulit Frogmouth in 2013.
2016 [05 May] - Mike Nelson - Sarawak and Sabah
Our Borneo tour is always a hit and with the regular inclusion of Sarawak there is a real chance for some once only dreamt of megas like Dulit Frogmouth, Black Oriole and Hose’s Broadbill. Sarawak also affords the opportunity at several more species more difficult in Sabah...
2016 [06 June] - Rob Hutchinson
Our pioneering Sarawak trips have proved very popular, not only with first time visitors hoping to enjoy something different to the ‘usual’ Borneo birding circuit but also return visitors hoping to catch up with several endemics which are difficult to find in Sabah. This trip began with a morning in peat-swamp forest where we found Redcrowned Barbet and Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker in spite of the rain, and on a return visit at the end of the week we also caught up with Hook-billed Bulbul. Our two higher altitude birding sites on the trip proved successful with most of the hoped-for Sarawak species found including excellent views of both Dulit and Bornean Frogmouths, and Black Oriole. There was of course a fine supporting cast which included Bornean and Mountain Barbets, Bornean Bulbul, Pygmy White-eye, Bornean Leafbird, Fruit-hunter and Hose’s Broadbill.
Sarawak National Parks
Sarawak has one of most extensive protected area networks in Malaysia. The State's protected area network includes 18 national parks, 4 wildlife sanctuaries and 5 nature reserves. These protected areas cover a total area 512, 387.47 ha (land area and water body)…