In February, we returned to India. Last time, we went looking for both Indian elephants and one horned rhino with very limited success! Dudhwa was a beatiful park, but we were unlucky with the ellies, and the rhino could only be seen from an elephant back within an area of the park where they are protected. This time we decided to try Kaziranga instead. This park in Assam is famous as a great reserve and the biggest stronghold for the rhinos.I can see why. Within a few minutes of entering the park we saw our first of many of these spectacular animals that are so prehistoric looking.

These animals are very special and thankfully doing well here with over 2000 animals in the park. The park also holds a good population of elephants and it never ceases to amaze me how hard it can be to find such a huge animal! We did find them though. This is a very large bull in musth, a very dangerous situation requiring considerable respect.

There are many other wonderful animals and birds in Kaziranga, including tigers, one of which we saw. However many of the smaller creatures are also really special, such as this giant black squirrel.

There were great birds here too, but for me, the most exciting was the great hornbill. This is another of the targets from my childhood when I had a Brooke Bond PG tips book of picture cards of Indian wildlife that I loved. This hornbill was amongst my favourite, and I have looked for them in the past without any joy. We found a pair feeding in a fruit tree.What a treat!

Another special encounter came in a sanctuary a few hours drive from Kaziranga where the rare Hoolock gibbons live. The amazing gymnasts are often relatively easy to hear in the early morning when their calls echo across the forest. Finding and photographing them is not so easy though! Luckily, a family eventually settled for a feed and I got some shots.

Kaziranga was wonderful, and I could have easily spent another week there, but our second week was back in Tadoba where we had some great tiger encounters in the previous trip. It is always fascinating going back to a place to see what has been happening to the animals that you met last time. On this occasion, we were lucky enough to have more fantastic tiger sightings and on these early mornings , it was the cubs of a very shy female that we saw last time that gave us such thrills. These two are both males and their sister, though nearby was much more cautious, like her mother had been three years ago. These guys were even stalking the vehicle!

So much wonderful wildlife to see , but the other highlight was the Indian wild dog, or dhole. We came across a pack early one morning, just minutes after seeing the tigers, a potentially very dangerous situation for the dogs.

The other sighting that took me back to the jungle book was the sloth bear. These guys are not always easy to photograph but great to see.

Tadoba also has loads of great birds such as the green bee eater.

and the lovely mottled wood owl.This is a female sitting on her nest.

Tadoba and Kaziranga are both fabulous national parks that I would recommend. Look forward to going back to both in the future.

We decided to break our journey home from Australia by spending a few days in Kuala Lumpur. We stayed in a very nice hotel which was very reasonably priced, but surrounded by motorways ! We were not really in the right frame of mind in a way as having been away for nearly 3 months, this felt like the end of the trip, and perhaps we didn’t do it justice, but I didn’t love KL. The centre was spectacular with the Petronas Towers but somehow it didnt really do it for me.

I managed to get out of the city for a day of bird photography and there were some great birds around. This is an orange bellied flowerpecker.

Great views of a blue eared kingfisher

Late in the day, during a huge rainstorm we found a family of Asias smallest bird of prey, the pygmy falconet.

On our last day, we visited the Batu caves in KL. A very spectacular site.

The stairs lead up to the great caves.

At the back of the caves, there is an opening with cliffs leading upto the jungle. I watched a family of macaques climbing down to the temples looking for food.

That was it. Time to go home! Great trip, over so soon! That’s life, so grateful to have had the chance to enjoy the great adventure!

I couldn’t believe it, but we had been away two and a half months, and we were now enjoying our last few days in Oz. We picked a great place to finish. Kangaroo Island was great. We initially stayed in American River, a small very quiet(!) town. It did have some very friendly Australian pelicans though.

From here we drove west to Flinders Chase at the far west end of the island. We stopped off to see the Australian sealion colony at Seal Bay. These animals are highly endangered but it was great to get a little time on the beach with them.

Contine along the coast and you reach Flinders Chase.Our lodge was really nice and we were surrounded by wildlife. There were plenty of the kangaroos that the island is named after, a variant of the grey kangaroo with darker thicker fur.

The highlight was the amazing Hanson Bay sanctuary where we got wonderful views of koalas, including a number of young joeys who were delightful.

The area has some spectacular scenery as well, including the huge ‘Remarkable Rocks’

And Admirals Arch.

The island was fantastic, and following our return to the UK, we were heartbroken to see the news showing the terrible damage caused by the fires which were all over South Australia but hit the Flinders Chase area very badly, even burning our lodge to the ground. We had been amazingly lucky throughout our trip to keep just ahead of the fires, but seeing the destruction and loss of life was awful. Hope it recovers soon.

It was time to leave. We drove back to Adelaide where we would get the plane. Our 10 weeks in Oz were absolutely fantastic. The animals were crazy and the birds stunning. The people were friendly throughout and the wine delicious! A huge variety of landscapes and scenery. Wow, what a country. Cant wait to come back! Thanks.

We loved Tasmania but we had to leave all too soon. So it was onto the Great Ocean Road. This magnificent road runs along the southern coast of Australia from just past Melbourne (actually the small town of Torquay!!) to Adelaide. The first day was the drive from Melbourne to Apollo Bay. This started with a very nice black shouldered kite sitting by the roadside. I have struggled to get good shots of this bird in Europe, but this was pretty relaxed.

We passed through the small town of Lorne which appeared to be a very pretty Victorian period seaside town. We proceeded to Apollo Bay where we had booked our accomodation. Big mistake! Apollo Bay is a bit of a dump compared to Lorne and given the choice, go to Lorne. Luckily there was a half decent pub in Apollo Bay where we got diner and watched a good rugby match on tv! One of the highlights of the area was our first good views of koalas at the famous Koala Cafe. Here , you can park the car and walk up the hill where there are a number of koalas in the trees.

The town itself had a nice little harbour with some nice crested terns which I enjoyed photographing in the late evening sunshine

The next day we visited the Great Ottway national park with it’s spectacular forest and some massive trees. There is a very steep narrow drive up the mountain to where the walkway is that gives an amazing view of the forest from below and at tree top level on the walkway.

From Port Apollo, the road turns north west towards Port Fairy. Along this part of the road, are some of the really stunning views including the famous 12 apostles. These were gorgeous but then when I saw a hunting peregrine, and was really hooked!

Quite soon after this was Loch Ard Gorge, below and London Bridge etc etc! Wonderful.

This part of the road the takes us to Port Fairy, a pretty little town where we stayed in a gorgeous boutique hotel. There was also a nice little Italian restaurant! We enjoyed our brief stay, which included a visit to a nearby nature reserve called Tower Hill. Here I managed to get my favourite emu picture of the trip.

After Port Fairy, the road turns inland and there follows a long drive of several hours through farm land towards Adelaide. Not quite so exciting! Eventually we reached Adelaide. We had a very nice apartment and really enjoyed the sights of the city including Port Adelaide. Some great museums and parks. I also had a great day out with Craig Greer. It was quite hard work but we got a few nice shots of some great birds like this red capped robin.

And the splendid mulga parrot that I had to crawl upto in the very hot middle of the day!

The afternoon involved a long and tricky search for crimson chats. Eventually , having given up, we found a couple!!

The city itself also provided me with some great views of the bird that I saw in the rain in Tasmania, the Eastern Rosella. These ones were very relaxed and allowed me to crawl up to them.

After a few days, we drove south to our last stop in Australia, Kangaroo Island.

From Melbourne, we hopped across the water to spend a little time exploring Tasmania. We started in Launceston, a nice little town with a great Peppers hotel in an old grain store! We enjoyed some nice walks but then left and drove to Cradle Mountain national park in the NW of the island. This is a little gem. Gorgeous scenery and we were very lucky to see it in sunshine and rain! We stayed at another great Peppers hotel which was a real treat as it had some wonderful wildlife on site! Having looked all over Australia for a wombat with no success, this female appeared within minutes of our arrival!

So cute! Right on the doorstep! There were also pademelons and wallabies on site! The hotel was on the edge of the national park and had some lovely walks such as to this pretty waterfall, called Pencil Pine Falls after the type of local pine tree.

The actual national park was spectacular and Cradle Mountain is it’s centrepiece. There is a lovely walk around the lakes perimeter.

The next day was a little different with heavy rain all day. We did a different walk over the hills to the right of the above picture. It was a great walk, but much of the scenery was obscured by low cloud. Towards the end of the walk, we had another great highlight. I turned a corner along the path, and straight in front of me was a pair of gorgeous green rosellas.

This species is only found on Tasmania, so it was great to get some nice pictures before they flew away. We also saw some black currawongs, a corvid with a very characteristic haunting call.

The end of the walk passed through an area, that was very good for wombats, with plenty around in the heathland.

We left Cradle Mountain after a really enjoyable stay and headed south east towards Hobart and Bruny Island. This little island is really pretty.We were again very lucky with the weather. We stayed at the Inala private reserve in a nice little cottage in the forest.They have built a hide there for raptors and I was lucky enough to see grey and brown goshawks as well as a brown falcon. This is a white form of the grey goshawk.

The site is also well known for a very rare,tiny bird called the forty spotted pardalote. This bird is nearly extinct and they are doing a great job helping in its survival.

It was lovely staying on Bruny and I wish we had longer. There were some lovely spots on the island and I hope to go back again to enjoy more of them. We did have to leave so headed back to Hobart for our last couple of days. Another small but nice city, where we enjoyed a great view over the historic harbour, and some fantastic food! Like all the other Aussie cities, it has a great botanical garden, and her I found another wonderful parrot, the Eastern Rosella. Really spectacular colours even in the filthy weather on the day I found them!

We also visited the amazing historic site at Port Arthur. Well worth a day out. We really loved Tazzie and will go back.

From Sydney, we moved onto Melbourne. This is another very pleasant city, where we enjoyed the sights including the old prison, parks and botanical gardens. There is also an abundance of actual photographic equipment shops one of which has a great museum with some wonderful old cameras on display, including every model that I have ever owned in my lifelong photographic journey!

There was also some amazing food in Melbourne, including an absolutely amazing pizza at the 400Gradi restaurant where they have won the Pizza world championship on 3 occasions. Superb!

The wildlife wasnt bad either. I had a fantastic day with Jan who found some stunning birds. The first was this beautiful rose robin ‘singing in the rain’

That afternoon, we then found a couple of pairs of nesting parrots, which were only a few metres apart. First a pair of purple crowned lorikeets, with adults feeding their two chicks.


Nearby in the other tree were this pair of little lorikeets.

Back in town that evening I wandered into one of the parks where I was able to photograph some possums, like this common brushtail.

We spent our last day on an outing to the nearby Dandenong range of hills near Melbourne. This national park has some very spectacular old growth forest with massive trees. Here we found an abundance of cockatoos near a visitor centre. Although a common bird, its not easy to get a nice shot so I was pleased to get this picture showing a bird with an erect crest and a lovely dark background!

From Melbourne we flew to Tasmania, landing in Launceston.

From Brisbane, we flew to Sydney. Like so many of the great cities, you have seen it so many times, but it’s still very special in the flesh. The bridge and opera house are simply wonderful, and I am not really a city lover!

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Yet again, we found a lovely botanical garden with some great birds. This laughing kookaburra was so tame, that initially I wasn’t sure if it was real or a ‘model’! I went closer and closer then it moved! By then I was only a couple of metres from it, hence this portrait.

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There were many other birds, and again the rainbow lorikeet is very common, but you cant always get too close. Not this one  who ignored me completely.

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I had a fantastic day out with David Howe and saw some really spectacular birds. The first was a peregrine falcon. These guys are never in very accessible places, but David reassured me that this was fine. When we got there, we had to perch on the edge of a cliff to see the nest. He was like a mountain goat, but I hate heights so really didn’t enjoy it. I did however love the birds , both adults were present.

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The two chicks also made an appearance. Incredible.

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I really was so happy to get these shots having not really got many peregrines in the past. I also got some really nice flight shots before the sun got too high and spoilt the light. Sadly, I committed a major crime later in the day when shooting some other birds, and had to format my memory card in a rush. Tragically, I formatted the card with the flight shots by mistake and overwrote the images losing them forever. That was really hard to swallow as I couldn’t go back to get more.

We did move on in the afternoon to photograph some other great birds including a family of the massive and very impressive powerful owls. Again, adults and chicks were present.

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The chicks show the curiosity that many owls demonstrate with twisting their heads to size you up.

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The day ended with a visit to a great flying fox roost in Centennial Park. Love these guys. They have such interesting faces.

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The park also had some nice black swans which was where we had our closest views in lovely light.

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Our days in Sydney passed very quickly and before long, we were off to another beautiful spot, the Blue Mountains. Not far from Sydney, they are very attractive, but much more crowded than I expected. Don’t know why I expected that but anyhow, the little town of Leura was very pretty and had a garden festival. The main attraction were the pinnacles known as the three sisters. Very impressive.

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Another amazing part of the country that gave us so much. We started in Cairns which was great. We had a lovely apartment and the whole city had a ‘holiday’ feel about it. Clearly this is because it’s on the coast and like Darwin, it also has a great esplanade. The birds you can see on this walk are amazing including another gorgeous kingfisher, the sacred. Also some stunning waders. My favourite was this common but nonetheless spectacular rainbow lorikeet.

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There is also another really nice botanical gardens. Here I saw my first laughing kookaburra, frogmouth and this little kingfisher.

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Cairns was also where I ventured out to sea to the great barrier reef. If I am honest, I was a bit disappointed I took a day trip out to Michelmas Cay and Hastings reef. We did some snorkelling but I thought the coral was disappointing and looked quite unhealthy, tragic. There were some fish including this big guy.

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I was also keen to see the seabird colony on the island. It was fantastic, but again so frustrating as I didn’t arrive until quite late in the morning and had so little time there. Seabird colonies are always great, with so much action, everywhere.

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Inland was also very good for birds with a selection of stunners. This is a female eclectus parrot, a species that is getting established here form it’s natural home range further north.

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There were some nice ‘roos’ as well, the first eastern greys.

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At Mareeba, there is a small population of the endangered  and very cute Mareeba rock wallaby.

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From Cairns we drove inland to the Atherton tablelands to stay in the nice little town of Yungaburra. We actually stayed in a wonderful cabin in the dense forest near Crater Lakes. What a fantastic place, made all the better by the owners who have spent many years encouraging the local wildlife. This meant that one of the absolute highlights of the trip was possible when a Victoria’s riflebird, one of Australia’s birds of paradise and the only one I have seen, actually landed on my hand to take food from me. Astonishing. And as if that wasn’t enough, he then displayed in front of me. Wow. This was minutes before we left and was so amazing to see after waiting three days.

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There were other amazing highlights here, the first was the most bizarre creature, a kangaroo that lives in the trees! The Lumholtz tree kangaroo was weird,

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but of course the platypus must be the weirdest of them all!! They appeared every evening just before sunset in the little stream in town. Magic, and the only one we saw in the whole trip.Duck Billed Platypus__NZ73629

After sunset, there was still activity like this yellow bellied glider.

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It just went on and on, but sadly it was time to move on again to our next destination, Brisbane. Suddenly it felt like we had really returned to ‘civilisation’ though Brissie is a nice city. We had an apartment 30 floors up and there wasn’t much wildlife there though the suburbs and surrounds did provide many such as the scaly breasted lorikeet

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and the fearsome but fun Eastern water dragons in the cities parks!

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The parks also had some nice water birds such as this Australian grebe and chick

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I also found my first koala at last, but more of them later.

After a couple of days enjoying the city sights, we drove southwest to the amazing Lamington National Park. This was a great relief, as the week before we had read about bush fires in the park and one of the two lodges there had burnt to the ground. Luckily we were staying at O’Reillys and that part of the park was untouched.  That was lucky as this was another fantastic wildlife destination. It was a great drive up the mountain to the lodge where we found so many great birds. The two most obvious were the King parrot and crimson rosella, absolutely stunning parrots. The most famous however is the Regent bowerbird, which come to the lodge mainly in the early morning.

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I also loved the Eastern Spinebill that I found around the lodge.

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In the local forest was a satin bowerbird who had previously starred in a BBC documentary.

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We has another fairy wren, the splendid fairy wren nesting just outside our room.

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I just loved Lamington and would have spent much longer than the few days we had there.

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All good things …. and it was off soon, next stop Sydney.

After leaving Borneo, we flew to Australia, a continent that I have long dreamed of visiting, but never did as time was such an issue. Now we had 10 weeks to play with so really felt we were able to have a good crack at it!  We started in Darwin, a nice little city. It was amazing that within minutes of leaving the airport, we were already seeing a load of new birds like the very common black kites and masked lapwings that seemed to be everywhere! It was so exciting to finally be in this amazing place and I was delighted to start seeing some wonderful marsupials as well as birds. There are no kangaroos up there but the agile wallaby was fairly easy to see and a real treat, even though the background didn’t make for the best picture. This was near the fascinating war museum which told the history of how the area was involved in WW2.

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This area proved to be very fruitful for birds as well, with my first of the stunning Ozzie kingfishers on day one  and beautiful red headed honeyeater. The city also has a wonderful esplanade along which one can take a pleasant walk and again see some fantastic birds like my first parrot, the red collared lorikeet.

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There is also a great botanical garden, one of the many that we visited in Australia. This one is quite well known for the pair of massive rufous owls that can be seen quite easily.

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The only outing that I did from Darwin before leaving was to Fogg Dam. Thanks to Guide Luke, after a few hours of creeping around the forest trying to photograph the rainbow pitta. These birds can be very shy, and I struggled for hours just getting the odd glimpse in the undergrowth. Finally, this one just jumped up onto a perch and posed. Ridiculous!

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After a few enjoyable days in the city we drove south to Katherine to see the spectacular gorge. Its a great boat ride starting early in the morning and gently floating down the beautiful gorge. Birds too, such as our first bower bird. It was a short but expensive visit as someone drove into our car! Wasn’t going to let a bent car spoil things so we drove on to Kakadu. En route however, we stopped at Pine Creek where I had been told that we might see the rare hooded parrot. They come into drink in the afternoon from the water sprinkler outside the Lazy Lizard pub. We arrived and had a drink before I set up near the sprinkler. While I was waiting,I was accosted by an old boy and his dog and told how awful birdwatchers were as there was such a severe water shortage and to hell with the parrots. He went on at me for a while then finally wandered off to the pub for a drink. I was amused to note that the pub had a pool with about a billion gallons of water in it, but that didn’t count!!!! A hooded parrot pair did come in, fantastic , even though the male was in mid moult and really didn’t do his species justice!

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From here , we drove onto to Jabiru, ‘capital’ of the Kakadu national park to stay in the amusing but basic crocodile hotel. Kakadu was of course made famous by Crocodile Dundee and is an amazing place. The Yellow waters billabong cruise is a must, but is of course a general tourist cruise so is quite frustrating for a photographer. It was still wonderful with loads of good sizes saltwater crocs.

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There were also some nice walks in the area such as the one at Ubir where we climbed up to a lovely viewpoint, passing a selection of breathtaking aboriginal rock art. There were lots of very good birds  including a few more parrots and kingfishers. The only problem with Kakadu is the heat. 40c every day makes walking hard work after about 9am but at least we could enjoy eating outside in the evenings.

From Kakadu we headed west back towards Darwin but we spent one night at Mary River national park. This was well worth the stop as we got some fantastic shots of agile wallabies at sunset.

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The next day we drove back to Darwin and the flew south to Alice Springs. This city is really in the middle of nowhere but I loved it. The town is small but interesting with a nice museum about the flying doctor service and another at the old Telegraph station.  There is also a small zoo which has a selection of local wildlife. I was moire interested in the wild birds living around the park though. Amongst these was one of my top targets, the splendid fairy wren. This little bird is supposedly quite easy to see in the spring but after spending hours looking for it at the Telegraph station, I found one in the gardens. Finding it was one thing, but getting as decent picture was quite different. I got a few, but not what I really wanted, but I was asked to leave at closing time and that was that.

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Our hotel was also quite good for birds , especially in the morning. This is an Australian ring neck helping himself to a croissant near the rubbish at the back of the hotel.

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The local desert birds were good and at Simpson’s Gap, I found surely one of the most spectacular pigeons, the spinifex pigeon. Great crest!!

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The most surprising birds to be found here were waders! In the middle of thousands of square miles of desert! The water treatment area attracts birds from all over, such as the lovely red necked avocet.

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From here , it was onto  Uluru.  Words cannot adequately describe this amazing lump of rock in the middle of the desert. If you ever get the chance, go there. Kata tjuta nearby is another stunning rock formation which has to be seen.  The area has been photographed so much that its not easy to get an original shot. Still great. This was after sunset with the moon coming up, one of the many I took.

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Birds were pretty elusive at Uluru, too many people perhaps, but we were soon off again. Next stop Cairns.

After leaving Singapore we travelled to Borneo. This is one of those amazing wildlife destinations that I have always dreamed of visiting. We flew into KK then onto Sepilok, famous for its Orangutan centre. We visited this centre to see the work that they do with tragically orphaned young orangutans. To be honest, it was quite disappointing. We saw the nursery area, a small garden where some youngsters were playing, but sadly we had to be enclosed in a ‘theatre’ watching through glass. I was eager to visit the surrounding forest where the older animals are able to wander freely. Unfortunately for me, there had recently been a mass fruiting in the forest so none of the orangutans were coming to the feeding stations. Disappointing but great that they were able to feed themselves and live quite independently. We did see a couple of teenagers like this one.

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We also visited another sanctuary devoted to protecting the endangered Malaysian sun bear. Here we did see some individuals and were able to enjoy their amazing tree climbing skills.

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The following day we drove away from Sepilok to another area where we were able to see two amazing monkeys, the proboscis monkey and the silver leaf monkey. Proboscis monkeys are really weird and only found in Borneo. The males have the amazing proboscis after which they are named. It was great fun watching Mr Nosey and his family as well the silver leaf monkeys with their stunning orange youngsters.

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The lodge itself also had some great birds including my first rhinoceros hornbill, really spectacular.

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From Sepilok, we went on to the Kinabatangan river. We travelled along the river to our lodge. It was a lovely journey and we were able to enjoy some great birds from the boat. The lodge was very nice, accommodation in wooden cottages made of spectacular timber. Our safaris over the next few days consisted of morning and evening boat trips enjoying the wildlife along the river. This is where we saw our best views of orangutans in the high trees along the river. For animals with such large abdomens, they are remarkably agile, moving around the branches looking for fruit.

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There were also many amazing birds including hornbills, kingfishers and smaller like this olive backed sunbird.

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It was lovely on the river, but it soon became clear that all we could see was a very narrow strip of forest along the river bank, immediately behind the trees, farm land started, mainly the dreaded palm oil. This then went on forever! I spoke to all our guides about this and although I understand that the population needs to make a living somehow, it was sad to hear them trot out the official answer about how much forest remained in Borneo and how carefully palm oil was controlled etc etc etc.

We left the river and move to our final destination, Danum Valley. This is a truly spectacular valley covered in magnificent primary rainforest. The lodge was amazing and from it, we walked into the forest to find more spectacular wildlife. We looked for orangutans but they were not the only red monkeys in the forest. We found these rather sad looking red leaf monkeys!

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Even though we were in the forest, there were still kingfishers like the oriental dwarf kingfisher.

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Some great insects and reptiles live in the forest. Although some of them look a bit scary, if given respect, they are fine. This is an oriental vine snake.

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At night, some spectacular scorpions appear which glow under UV light.

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The local pond also provided great viewing for other insects, frogs, big hairy spiders and snakes.

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When walking through the forest, there was one peril that was ever present, leeches. These creatures were everywhere on leaves waiting to try and latch on to a passing animal/tourist! The idea was worse than the reality of course, but nobody really loves a leech.

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Walking through the forest is fascinating as you never know what you may find when you turn the corner past another tree. This is a wild durian, the much loved but disgusting fruit favoured by the local people and orangutans.

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Looking up in the canopy also revealed another primate, the Borneo gibbon. These animals are incredibly agile and move through the forest at an amazing speed making them very hard to keep up with. It is often much easier to hear them than see them.

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Our last afternoon gave us a final treat when we saw a pair of orangutans at a relatively lower height. It involved running off piste through the forest to keep up with them.  Slightly unnerving as I had no idea what I was going to stand on etc! Worth it to get these views.

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So, then it was all over! Borneo was wonderful and heart breaking. The massive palm oil plantations were awful and I cant see how things will get better while logging continues. Please beware when you buy wooden furniture to make sure you know where it has come from. The orangutans and all their friends need our help.