Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Birding Borneo with Non Birders


When you read trip reports of birders going to remote and interesting locations to see interesting (and not so interesting birds, I’m looking at you LBJs), these accounts are typically written by people who have either gone with  groups of like-minded people or those that have gone it alone. This is just as well, because there is nothing more prone to ruining a holiday (other than the outbreak of war or an unpleasant tropical malady) than subjecting people uninterested in birds to the lengths that birders go to seeing birds.

Most normal people, having flown around the world to a tropical location, would understandably choose to head straight for the beach where outlandish alcoholic drinks are brought to your chair. There is some variation in this, of course, with some preferring a seat by the pool. What they don’t fancy is standing in a stinking sewer ditch flowing into a nasty swamp being bitten by hordes of disease carrying mosquitos at five in the morning because this is the place to see a small migratory reed warbler that only turns up here.

This is not to say, however, that birders on holiday are, should they choose to travel with family, friends or other assorted loved ones, resigned to seeing nothing, or even nothing except the common stuff. I’ve done a lot of birding with non birders, and while you may not see as much as you would on a dedicated trip, you can still see a lot. Often with a great deal more comfort than hard-core birding. And Borneo, I can report, is a particularly good place to travel with non birders and still see an awful lot (in comfort!).

The reason Borneo lends itself to this type of birding holiday is that tourism in Borneo leans towards outdoorsy, wildlife based tourism anyway. People go to Borneo to hike the spectacular mountains, cruise down wild rivers, seek out exciting creatures and dive spectacular reefs. Contrast this in Asia to, say, Singapore, Hong Kong or Bangkok, all of which have great birding nearby but are destinations people go to for reasons other than wildlife.

While Borneo is certainly sought out by birders, its tourism sector is broader than just that and thus can cater to and entertain people who may enjoy David Attenborough but don’t care about the difference between a White-rumped and White-crowned Shama, or to put it another way, keep my family happy.

I was thus able to pick an off-the-shelf ecotourism route and, having selected a company, customise it to my family’s needs. My mother is a keen horticulturist and gardener, so locations with interesting plants were a must, happily these happen to coincide with some of Borneo’s best birding.

My brother, who works in outdoor environmental education and is happiest kicking over rotting logs to inspect insects was also easy enough to keep happy. My Dad is less of a biologist and more interested in history, but is also laid back and happy enough watching us have fun, but we even managed to find some historical sites to investigate.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Birding Borneo with Non Birders
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