At the end of June, I was fortunate to join a group from Malaysia and Singapore on a 9 day visit to the Maliau Basin. This is better known as Sabah’s Lost World. It was first discovered, by accident in 1947, and only first partially explored in 1988. It is still only 50% explored.
Access to the site is very strictly controlled, and getting there is not for the frail. It is a 5 hour journey from Tawau by 4X4 vehicle, and after only 1 hour the road stops, to be replaced by rutted, pot-holed track, not perfect if travelling with a broken collar bone and two broken ribs, as I was.
The main restcamp is spacious and comfortable, with a separate dining room and rest area, away from the rooms. There is also a small library and scientists working area. The satellite treking camps are less well appointed. In the morning, you are awoken by the sound of gibbons calling as well as various birdsongs, including several species of hornbills.
As a group, because this was a first time for all of us, we stayed arround the main camp, except for a single day trip to the Agathis Camp. Also, owing to a motorcycle accident the week before, I was not able to walk far into the jungle. However, the other members of the group were, so I know I missed some great rarities such as Graphium empedovana empodovana, Drina coweni, Sinthusa privata, Drupadia cindi and the Glorious Begum (Agatasa calydonia mahasthama).
Nevertheless, some lovely species did find their way into my camera. Pick of the bunch was Drina mariae, a Bornean endemic, described as a great rarity. There is a very similar species also to be found in Borneo, but we were fortunate that one member of the group managed an upperside shot which confirmed its identity.
Although the Island belongs to the same faunal area as West (Mainland) Malaysia and Southern Peninsular Thailand (known as Sundaland or Neomalaya), and it shares many species with the Peninsular, it does have many species unique to it, and many of the shared species are found as different subspecies. We did come across several other species endemic to Borneo. The majority of these were to be found in the Rainforest or on its borders.
In total, we came across 132 species of butterfly and managed to photograph all but 19 of them. Most of the unphotographed species were those found commonly on the mainland, though it was a great pity that the few specimens that we saw of the nominate form of the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana brookiana) never settled to allow a photo.
However, butterflies were not the only insects we photographed. The forests of Borneo are full of the oddest insects you could wish to think of.
At night, when the lights were switched on, you did not know where to look next, so many different insects were attracted to them. These included Moths, Cicadas, Beetles and Praying Mantids.
This was a wonderful exploratory trip, and I, for one, have every intention of returning, hopefully to investigate further into this remarkable place.