Birdwatching at Maliau Basin

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Maliau Basin Bird Watching

Maliau Basin Conservation area, also known as Sabah’s Lost World, is 58,840 hectares of untouched primary rainforest. It is claimed to be one of the few remaining pristine rainforests globally.

The whole Basin is a single huge water catchment resourced by only one river, the Maliau River, which flows out through a canyon southeast of the Basin, joining the Kuamut River and eventually the Kinabatangan, Sabah’s largest and most important river.

Birdwatching at Maliau Basin

Maliau Basin Bornean Bristlehead
The much sought after Bornean Bristlehead is endemic to Borneo.

Known as Sabah’s Lost World, Maliau is loaded with activities to do there; the famous five days trek to Maliau’s 7 tier waterfall is a must-do for hiking enthusiasts. Shorter trails around the study centre are also available, and these trails are perfect for bird watchers and bird photographers.

You can take a night safari to explore the nightlife in this untouched primary rainforest at night. Accommodation is available at the study centre with comfortable rooms, and if you are more adventurous, you can camp at the Belian Camp to fully experience the jungle escapade.

For birding in Maliau Basin, a total of over 270 species of birds and an array of mammals, reptiles, and insects have been recorded here. Maliau Basin also attracts a lot of bird watchers, photographers and nature lovers from all around the globe.

One of the star birds found here is the iconic Bornean Bristlehead. It is also home to all eight species of hornbills found in Borneo, including the critically endangered Helmeted Hornbill.

Not to forget, Maliau is home to many of the star mammals such as the Bornean Orangutan, Bornean Pygmy Elephant, and the rare and elusive Bornean Clouded Leopard.

Birds of Maliau Basin

Below are random photographs during my birdwatching trip to Maliau Basin in January 2022.

Bird Watching Maliau Basin
One of the many Broadbills spotted in the primary forest.
Crested Fireback Pheasant Maliau Basin
A Bornean Crested Fireback Pheasant.
Maliau Basin Helmeted Hornbill
A Helmeted Hornbill at Maliau Basin, which is currently critically endangered.
Wildlife Photography Maliau Basin
Apart from birding, other wildlife can also be sighted here.

How to Go to Maliau Basin?

Maliau is a region in the Tongod district, located around the centre of Sabah in the Sandakan division. The easiest way to get to Maliau Basin is by car, and it takes approximately 5 hours 30 minutes ( 310 KM ) to get there using the Keningau – Tawau road.

The road has been improved over the years, although potholes and partly gravel roads still occur. If you plan to head to Maliau Basin on a self visit, you would need to get a permit from Yayasan Sabah, and for those who would like to go through a tour company, several specialised tour companies offer packages here.

Alexander John Kota Kinabalu
Alexander John.


While you’re here, check out this photo of the Blue-headed Pitta that was photographed at Agathis Camp in Maliau Basin, also known as one of the top birdwatching places in Malaysia.

Maliau should be on all nature enthusiasts’ bucket lists, and it is a simply beautiful destination. With the abundance of flora and fauna in this sacred and untouched primary rainforest, there is no better place to plan your next trip than to do some birdwatching at Maliau Basin.

This article is written by Alexander John, the founding member of Sabah Young Birder Club and a native of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. You can connect with him on Instagram or Facebook as I regularly move around Sabah for birding.

About Bird Watching Asia

Bird Watching Asia is a self-funded project to promote bird watching in Malaysia and around Asia.

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