SABAH 27 – 30 MAY 2023

It has been 18 years since I visited the Land above the clouds. Mount Kinabalu stands majestic when viewed from Tambunan. I was also fortunate that a Rafflesia had recently bloomed. My target was to document the birds of Mount Trusmadi. Over the years this mountain was heavily logged and I was still able to see some of the remaining avian life.

Mount Kinabalu at sunrise

Rafflesia pricei – just 2 days old. I was told by a forestry staff that the blooms are quite frequent at the forest in Tambunan.

Temminsk’s Sunbird (Gunong Alab), Hooded Pitta (Kiamsom), Emerald Dove (Gunong Alab)

Clockwise – Crested Partridge, female and male, Bulwers Pheasant (Mount Trusmadi, KK Lee hide)

(26 March – 7 May 2023)

Best of Costa Rica
The last leg of the journey was the best. Costa Rica has a well developed tourism sector including health and education. She does not have a military outfit and hence money can be channelled to the necessary sectors unlike its poorer neighbours.

Found in limited ranges in Costa Rica (we were at Guapiles region) and the rest of Latin America, this tiny Snowcap hummingbird is unique. Body has the colour of red wine and capped in white. The female is a sharp contrast with a green/ emerald body sans a snow cap.

A scintillating hummingbird, the Fiery-throated Hummingbird is endemic to the mountains of Costa Rica and Panama. In good light, the colours of the rainbow sparkle from its throat and breast. (Los Quetzales National Park).

The highlight in Costa Rica was the Resplendent Quetzal – a member of the trogon family. Its iridescent green body and head, red belly and long tail feathers makes it one of the most sought after birds among photographers and birders. It is not surprising that it is the national emblem of Guatemala. The bird is also found in Mexico and Central America.

Best of Equador
The highlight was a trip to the Amazon forest where we flew in to Coca from Quito (30 minutes). It was a 2 hour boat ride (Napo River) to the Napo Wildlife Center where we stayed among the Kichwa Ariangu tribe.

Ladder-tailed Nightjar, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Orange-breasted Falcon(Coca, Ecuador)

Mealy Parrots congregating on salt-licks. Often the parrots screeched away in fright in the presence of the predatory Orange-breasted Falcon.

A traditional meal with the local tribe. Plantain soup, local doughy bread, and steamed tilapia with palm shoots on banana leaf, and grilled sago beetle larvae for the brave hearts

Best of Peru
Peru’s tourism sector is most underdeveloped. Locals rarely speak English. The country is also poor and strikes on the southern part curtailed part of our travel plans

Amethyst- throated Sunagel, Little Woodstart

The Star bird in Peru was at the Huembo Lodge – the Marvellous Spatuletail. Endemic and endangered, the bird is much sought after as it is believed that the tiny bird’s heart has aphrodisiac properties

Most common hummingbird is the medium sized White-necked Jacobin (also known as Great Jacobin and Collared Hummingbird). Do note the white nape and the brilliant contrasty blue head

White-chinned Sapphire, Female and male Rufous -crested Coquette at Waqanki

Black bellied Thornbill and Rusty breasted Hermit at Tarapoto, Lima

Green Hermit, Peruvian Racket-tail female and male

Fork-tailed Woodnymph. Its iridescent breast and violet belly stands out in this small hummingbird. Its bluish tail is forked (hence the name).

In the morning, we had an eventful day by the road for the Burrowing Owl. Meals are usually accompanied by rice or chips or fried plantain (a kind of banana) and cassava (at Yacumama). We saw the Ringed Kingfisher- the largest Kf in the world, the Amazon Kf, Capped Heron, Red-capped Cardinal, the White-fronted Capucchine Monkey and Saddleback Tamarin

Ring Kf, Amazon Kf, White-fronted Capucchine Monkeys

The friendly folks at El Eden (restaurant cum hotel). Basic hotel but unfortunately no hot water there. Hotels in rural areas have no lifts and the folks there will help carry our luggage.

A breakfast dish called Tamal or Humita – corn-filled with chicken and olive – a must-try Peruvian dish

Day 1

The flight to Paris was nearly 14 hours with transit time of 3 hours and another 12 hours to Lima, Peru. The food on Air France was not great and in both the legs we had to wait for 10 hours for the next meal – certainly to their convenience and not to ours. Nine of us started this odyssey since April 2022 when we all agreed to go. All for the first time except our leader, Lim Ser Chai.

We stayed at Limao Hotel for the night to prepare for a 4am domestic flight the following day. Ours bazookas had not fired a single shot and yet there were several vultures circling over our hotel. We had a quick dinner at Vienna cafe and was briefed by tour guide Freddy Madrigal.

Day 2

Golden tailed Sapphire, Fork-tailed Wood Nymph

We were at a Aconabikh Reservation area (a private forest reserve) – a 45 min away from our hotel; we encountered eight species of hummingbirds but the rain increased our image noise level quite dramatically. Hope for better weather the next day.

At the Cumbaza hotel in Tarapoto for lodging and meals. We also went to the Mono la Gata for some tree-top views of the avian wildlife.

KRABI (5 March – 7 March 2023)

Just an hour 40 minutes away from Changi, Krabi was a welcome change from the torrential rain for the past week in Singapore. Bright sunshine and heavenly blue skies greeted me as I touched down at Krabi. No time was wasted and a boat was hired (2000 bahts) at Chao Fah Pier to the mangroves to look for the Brown-winged Kf. My previous shot of this bird was a dismal encounter at Phuket.

Brown-winged Kingfisher

I stayed at the Cliff Elegance Resort – a clean abode smack in the centre of the vibrant hub – yet away from the noise. For meals you may try Takola Restaurant (Ms Snon (0756209872) – a Thai – Chinese fusion to whet your appetite. I had succulent clams, minced pork soup infused with 5 spice powder, fried fish slices and cabbage and the delectable mango-sticky rice as dessert. The restaurant is situated in town (away from the beach).

the Clift Elegant Resort

The ponds near the Andaman Cultural Study Centre diving spots for birds of prey. Ospreys, Brahminy Kites and White -bellied Sea Eagles often take a dip into the ponds that were teeming with fish. Egrets, Grey Herons, Javan Pond Herons, Darters and Egrets too spend time in the ponds.

White-bellied ‘Sea Eagle, Javan Pond Heron, Little Cormorant

LIttle Egret, Javan Pond Heron, Little Cormorant

Dim sum breakfast at market area


Leave a Reply

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: