Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Sabah On a Shoestring 2: Pitta Lurer And Cave Dwellers

Bart, our guide was tip-toeing on the forest floor, whistling gently while tracking down on this elusive feathered winged creature. We followed along and with our cameras ready. Not long after I remembered that I had left my torchlight at our sleeping den. And so, I had to dash back to our campsite to grab my torchlight. 

On my way back to the position of Bart and Aida, a Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela) was up above me spreading its wings to dry. Wow!

That eagle was not what Bart was going after. Suddenly, I saw Bart's eyes went big and was signalling us to come quickly. He caught it!

We couldn't believe that Bart got this Black-Headed Pitta (Pitta ussheri)  to stay on as it was curious with Bart's whistling. We had almost 10 minutes to "drool on" this pretty Pitta until it realised that we were not the same feathered kind. Aida's and my lifer!! In that 10 minutes, we had totally ignored the mosquitoes around us and the high humidity of the forest.
 Some bug that looks like an UFO, hmm... a spaceship bug then??

As we continued on the trail, we found ourselves walking up a short steep slope and then scrambling up on rocky terrain. 

Hundreds of bats greeted us at the entrance of the cave.  The wind welcomed us and gave us a cooling effect on our bodies. The strong smell of guano tickled our nose as we walked on soft carpet of guanos. I was intrigued with the dung beetles (Scarabaeidae) that crawled out each time we lifted up our legs off the guanos. Unfortunately, I couldn't get to photograph them because when those beetles crawled out, they quickly dug themselves into the fresh guanos again.
This cave is Gua Batu Supu, according to Bart. Gua Batu Supu is one of sites in Sabah where the dead people were placed in log coffins and left in caves. Based on a writeup by Yunus Sauman on Cave Burials in Sabah, there are at least 13 sites with ancient log coffins in Sabah. The tradition is still being carried on today by some local tribes, including the Dusun Sungai community at Tongod and Ulu Kinabatangan and the Dusun Segama groups at Kampung Tawayari, Ulu Segama. 
 Bart showing the log coffin
 Log coffin but where are the remains??
Some log coffins are known to have craved designs like a buffalo, snake, crocodile, tongue, fish's tail or even a plant. These designs in places such as the Kinabatangan Basin reflect the close links of local folk with their natural surroundings.

Some strange lights?
Sunray puntured through the darkness

Amazing cave! I was reluctant to leave the cave but it was time to move on. We decamped and on board the boat down river back to the jetty in the pouring rain.
Rain clouds ahead of us before it started to pour

From Kampung Mengaris, Kinabatangan, where we waited by the road for our bus  ...

 The pictures above and below is a totem pole completed by venturers of Raleigh International

A species of stick insect picture was managed to be taken just in time before the bus arrived

to the place where the Man of the Forest gathers...

Many thanks to Bart for showing us around. He can be contacted at:, for request of a nature guide in Kinabatangan River.

1. Cave Burials in Sabah by Yunus Sauman


  1. Hi WChinner,

    That cave is sure a delight!-and what an interesting experience you've got while searching for the Pitta! :) Just goes to say that sometimes, the journey can be as exciting as the destination itself!

    Can't wait for the Orang Utans to enter the scene! :D

  2. By the way, WChinner, after consulting some reference books, I believe the "Spaceship bug" is known as a Tortoise shell beetle(Cassidinae).
    (I liked the name you've coined for the beetle,though! :D )

  3. Hi JK,
    Thank you for checking in.

    Org Utans will take for awhile to come in as my immune system "crashed" on new year eve. Slowly but surely.

    Happy New Year 2011 to you!

  4. Hi JK,
    Your second comment came in much later. I don't know why.

    Thank you so much for helping to id the "spaceship" bug... err.. i mean Tortoise shell beetle.

  5. No worries, WChinner! and Happy New Year to you too!

    As for the delayed second comment: Yes, it took some time after I've posted the first set of comments as I was busy flipping through some of my reference books, trying to dig out the bug's id (I remember seeing one such bug in a guide book). Sorry for the inconvenience caused...

    By the way, get well soon, mate!

  6. Hi JK,
    Always appreciate your effort in helping out to id the species for an amateur like me.

    Thanks, I am back on track. Is the bugs season now!


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