Category Archives: Travelog

A Wondrous Insect Feast at Trus Madi.

By Alan OwYong.

Hillside Montane forest of the Trus Madi Range

The Trus Madi Conservation Area at the Crocker Range in Sabah is well known among insect and moth lovers as the place to go and see the hundreds of insects of the tropical montane hill forests. The Trus Madi Entomology Camp, better known as the Borneo Girl Jungle Camp was set up in the conservation area primarily to study the insect life there.

The Enotomolgy Camp at Trus Madi

Insect screens with special lights to attract the insects were erected at the both sides of a ridge near the camp. On most nights, these screens were swamped with insects, mainly moths of all shapes and sizes, cicadas, beetles, cricket and wasps. April I was told is the peak month.

Insects screen at both sides of the ridge
David Tseu and Theresa Ng shooting moths with their hand phones at one of the screens.

Every morning the resident Pig-tailed Macaque will make its way to the ridge and pick out the biggest and juiciest cicadas that are still on the screen. It will tear away the wings before biting off its head and then the body. These fruit eating monkeys would not pass off a chance of tasty snack that is rich in proteins as well. We saw some squirrels around but did not see them taking any of the insects.

Robin, the Pig-tailed Macaque looking for the juiciest cicada for breakfast every morning
Tearing off the wings before eating
A big fat Cicada the favourite snack of the Pig-tailed Macaque

During the night, another opportunistic raider was on standby. The Barred Eagle-Owl waits patiently at the near-by tree for some of the larger moths and cicadas to fly by before swooping down to pick it up. These insects will supplement their usual diet of rodents and squirrels.

The Barred Eagle Owl taking off to catch the larger flying moths.
Like this Hawk Moth
Another favorite is this Attacus staudingeri , less brown and larger than the Attacus atlas.

When dawn breaks, the rest of the insectivorous birds would gather at the trees on both side of the ridge to start their day with easy pickings. The Ashy Drongos and the White-throated Fantails will sally out for the smaller flying moths. Flocks of the endemic Chestnut-crested Yuhinas will flush out the rest of the insects for a quick meal.  While the Black-bellied Malkohas and the Red-bearded Bee-eaters wait for the larger ones. Even the small tailorbirds were able to pick and choose their food from the buffet in front of them. 

Black-bellied Malkoha looking for Katydids and crickets for breakfast
The Bornean race of Ashy Drongo with its moth
Red Bearded Bee-eater will take other insects if there are no bees around.

This feasting must be a ritual for these birds every morning. Free and easy food in the cool montane air. For the bird watchers and photographers, it is an opportunity not to be missed.

With Wilson Leung, Theresa Ng and David Tseu ( Nature guide).

Wild Sandakan. Night Beauties.

A night walk in the rain forests of Borneo is an unforgettable experience. Many of the mammals, insects and reptiles are nocturnal and are hard to find during the day.  We joined a night walk at The Rainforest Discovery Centre at Sepilok. These walks lasting two hours, start at 6 pm covering the Canopy Walkway and the forest trails. The guides have an amazing ability to spot these night creatures and are very knowledgeable about the wildlife there. In fact without their sharp eyes we will not be able to see the rare and well hidden Western Tarsiers. We came across a roosting Wallace’s Hawk Eagle as well but was too far for any photos.


Tarsiers are primates, found only in SEA. This Western Tarsier is one of the three species that lives in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra. We found two foraging close to the ground.

Rufous Backed KF

The jewel of the forest, a roosting Rufous-backed Kingfisher. This was a former resident of Singapore.

Giant Red Flying Squirrel

The Giant Flying Squirrel peeping out of their man-made homes. They move out close to dusk to join their fellow squirrels in the night hunt.

Peter's Bent-toed Gecko

Peter’s Bent-toed Gecko with its white bands on its body and tail. Inhabits mature forest and hunt along tree for insects. 

Tokay Gecko

Tokay Geckos, a large gecko are arboreal and solitary. Frequent homes and building near forest where they hunt for insects. Can be rather loud and noisy. 

Golden-eared Rough-sided Frog

Golden-eared Rough-sided Frog is a terrestrial frog preferring to hunt at night near swampy forest floor.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis can be brown in color as well.


We found lots of Stick insects during the night walks including a mating pair.

Ref: Nick Baker & Kelvin Lim. Wild Animals of Singapore. 2008.

Of Pho and Rice Paper Rolls

Of Pho and Rice Paper Rolls, a travelog for a change.

The port city of Danang is a convenient stop for groups touring between Hanoi and Ho Chi Ming City. But it can be a worthwhile destination by itself if you include visits to the World Heritage town of Hoi An and the ancient city of Hue. Hoi An is just a 30 minutes drive south of Danang while Hue in the north takes a good 2 hours to get there. Bach Ma National Park an hour inland is a great birding destination for highland species.

Went there to jiak hong for a week early last month and was surprised by the temperate weather (read cold), rich historical and natural diversity there. Here are some snapshots of the people and places from the trip. Our thanks to Dang Tien Hy for showing us around Hoi An and Hue.

Dragon Bridge

We chose the 3 star Vanda Hotel right next to the iconic Dragon Bridge. This area is lined with hipster cafes, pastry shops and the in place for the young. The surprise was the $3 taxi transfer from the airport. the cheapest ever!


Entrance to Thien Phuoc Dia Cave, next to the Marble Mountains, a must visit in Danang. The vast interior houses the deities, statues of Buddha and shrines.


This simple BBQ place is voted as one of the top ten places to eat in Danang. A fresh seafood and meat meal with beers for under $10 per person. Unfortunately your hair and clothes smell like smoked chicken after the meal.


Not only you can buy and eat just about everything at the Han Market, you can also get a shampoo and blow dry.


They have elevated the Civet or Luwak coffee to Weasel grades 1,2,3.


The Thu Bon River that runs through the Unesco town of Hoi An. Across the waters is the landmark 18th century Japanese Bridge built to connect the different communities on both sides.


A photo of a photo of Hoi An under water. This happens almost every year. The waters can reach up to the first storey.


Front paddle drive, a Vietnamese woman at home on the river.


Homes transformed into quaint rustic cafes in Hoi An.


Up market Vedana Resort and Spa with lagoon view backed by a green hillside is half way between Danang and Hue. Good Feng Shui!


Tourist enjoying a photo opportunity moment at the sand spit a the Dam Ha lagoon.


Walkway into the classy Pilgrimage Hotel and Spa at Hue. It’s ancient wooden architecture is set against lush greenery. My kind of stay.


Hue has one of the smallest Botanic Gardens I know.  Even the taxi drivers cannot find it.


View of the Perfume River from top of the pine forested hill. Plans are in place to build proper tourist facilities to turn this into a tourist spot.


Rice fields dominate much of the countryside around Hue. Vietnam is one of the rice bowls of Asia.

Olive-backed Pipit

Olive-backed Pipit, a common winter visitor to Vietnam, one of the few birds I managed to get on the sensors.


A popular seafood restaurant with the locals and tourists by the side of the Dam Ha lagoon. The prices here is a fraction of what you pay in Danang.