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Malaysia 2014 Part IV: Kubah National Park (Sarawak, Borneo)

In the summer of 2014 I went to Malaysia. The trip brought me to beautiful places on Borneo, Pulau Tioman and the Malay Peninsula. The places I have visited on Borneo are: Mount Kinabalu National ParkCrocker RangeGunung Mulu National Park, Bako National Park, and Kubah National Park. On Pulau Tioman I stayed in the Paya Beach Resort. On the Malay Peninsula we just visited Kuala Lumpur.
I was not alone. I went there with my traveling buddies Jasper Boldingh, Jorg Schagen, Sander Schagen, Bart Misana, and Dieuwertje Smolenaars. I want to thank them all for the good company, finding animals and assisting with some photographs.
Part I was about Mount Kinabalu National Park and Crocker Range, part II about Gunung Mulu National Park and the third part about Bako National Park. The fourth part of my report is about Kubah National Park (Sarawak, Borneo). 

Bornean Keeled Green Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) Bornean Keeled Green Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus)

 Kubah National Park

Kubah National Park is not as famous as Bako National Park, but it is also close to Kuching. When telling other tourists that we were going to visit Kubah National Park, they responded like: ‘Wow Cuba, that is far away!’. Kubah is a small park (2,230 ha.) and mostly covered by mixed dipterocarp forest, but there are also a lot of palms and orchids. Kubah’s wildlife tends to stay deep in the forest, so it is hard to see wildlife. Should you skip this national park if you want to see wildlife? No, absolutely not! This national park is a true ‘frog paradise’! There are a lot of reptiles here as well, but frogs are the main ‘dish’.
Sander (birder) told me that this national park is also great for birding.
During the day there is not a lot of visible amphibian and reptile activity. Most herpers know that you have to search during nighttime. That is also true for Kubah National Park.

Kubah by day

As I mentioned before the amphibians and reptiles in Kubah are not very active during daytime. From our rest house we could walk up on the Gunung Serapi Road (a concrete road) or choose the main trail. It was a long and steep climb to reach the start of most trails. The ‘Frog Pond’ was near the start of the trails. With 8kg on my back steep climb was a very good workout.

Next to the road, in a beautiful rocky stream, we already found the first beautiful frog specie. It was a Black-spotted Rock Frog (Staurois guttatus). This frog is very small, but a great jumper. Not very easy to photograph. I almost broke my ankle when my foot slipped between two slippery rocks. I was lucky that the rocks had enough space in between. Photography is not always without risk.
Another great frog species is the Mahogany Frog (Rana lactuosa). The description in ‘A Field Guide To The Frogs Of Borneo’ says: ‘The top of the head and back are rich chocolate’. That was also what I was thinking! Sander found this frog after a long vocal search at the Frog Pond.
The Brooke’s Water Skink (Tropidophorus brookei) was also on the side of this road in the rocky streams. This lizard is a remarkably good and fast swimmer. Very useful to escape dangers and for hunting aquatic arthropods. It was very fascinating to see this lizard swim and on the last day I finally got the photograph I wanted.

The Waterfall trail is also a recommendation during daytime. The waterfall was very idilic, but I did not make a good photograph. When I reached the waterfall a large group of other hikers appeared and the place was not so idilic anymore. 

Black-spotted Rock Frog (Staurois guttatus) Black-spotted Rock Frog (Staurois guttatus) Black-spotted Rock Frog (Staurois guttatus) Black-spotted Rock Frog (Staurois guttatus) Black-spotted Rock Frog (Staurois guttatus) Maleisie2014KubahNationalPark140807-16 Mahogany Frog (Rana lactuosa) Brooke's Water Skink (Tropidophorus brookei)

 

Paradise by night

If you visit Kubah for amphibians and reptiles, you should save energy for the night. As soon it was dark, Kubah became a true ‘frog paradise’. Prepare for a night of hard work. Not because the frogs are hard to find, but you have to work hard to photograph all the frogs you see. I am not exaggerating!
Two times we had rainfall during daytime and sunny (and hot) weather afterwards. I was told that this is the perfect weather, because it is moist, the animals had a period of inactivity and heated up afterwards. It was true. During the night a lot of frogs were very active!
The night trips started along the Gunung Serapi Road. The park rangers told us that you can find horned frogs next to the road early in the night. The road to the Frog Pond was already a good place to find frogs. Searching around the Frog Pond was even better. The pond was very small surrounded with a lot of mud and trees. A good alibi for dirty clothes. On all nights we found special frogs.

File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus) Lowland Litter Frog (Leptobrachium abbotti) Smooth Guardian Frog (Limnonectes palavanensis) File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus) Brown Slender Toad (Ansonia leptopus) Bornean Narrow-mounted Frog (Microhyla borneensis) File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus) White-lipped Frog (Rana chalconota)
The first time I saw a female Dark-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates macrotis) I was impressed by the size of the tree frog. I had never seen a big tree frog like that before.  This beauty escaped before I could make a very good photo. A little later after this escape I found two Dark-eared Tree Frogs in amplexus on a tree. That was even better and the highlight of the first night.

Dark-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates macrotis)
At the Frog Pond we found two gliders (flying frogs). We saw small brown tree frogs on the balustrade, but after picking them up we discovered that they were gliders because of the flaps between the fingers. The flaps between the fingers are an adaptation to their life in trees and gives them the ability to achieve gliding flight. The name of the specie is Harlequin Tree Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis). They turned out to be there every night.
The other glider we saw was a Wallace’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus). This is the original ‘Flying Frog of Borneo’! This specimen came down from the canopy, where they live, to breed. I feel very lucky!

Harlequin Tree Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis) Harlequin Tree Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis) Harlequin Tree Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis) Harlequin Tree Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis) Harlequin Tree Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis) Harlequin Tree Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis) Harlequin Tree Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis) Wallace's Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus)

Another great surprise was on the last night in this park. Dieuwertje found a Bornean Horned Frog  (Megophrys nasuta). She told me that she saw the reflection of frog eyes (eye shine). That is a great way to find frogs during the night. Frog eyes give red eye shine when you aim your light on them. After seeing the eye shine she went looking for the frog, but she did not see a frog. She moved away, knowing that there had to be a frog. When the frog moved she was sure and found the horned frog.

Bornean Horned Frog / Bornean Horned Toad (Megophrys nasuta) Bornean Horned Frog / Bornean Horned Toad (Megophrys nasuta)
The Frilled Tree Frog (Rhacophorus appendiculatus) was also a highlight. The name is because of the frills of skin at the outer edges of the forearms and legs. The shape is really stunning.

Frilled Tree Frog (Rhacophorus appendiculatus) Frilled Tree Frog (Rhacophorus appendiculatus) Frilled Tree Frog (Rhacophorus appendiculatus)

The Malaysian Cat Gecko (Aeluroscalabotes felinus) was also a great new specie for us. This is a gecko that lives in the trees most of the time and is active by night. They retain fat in the tail as a means of survival. A fat tail means a well-fed and healthy gecko. The gecko is called cat gecko because of the habit of curling up with its tail around itself when it sleeps, similar to cats. Be careful when picking them up, because they bite and hang on your finger like a pitbull. A good defense, because I should not have picked him up in the first place. 

Malaysian Cat Gecko (Aeluroscalabotes felinus) Malaysian Cat Gecko (Aeluroscalabotes felinus)

The Malaysian Cat Gecko (Aeluroscalabotes felinus) was not the only reptile I saw during night time. As you can see on the photos, there was more.

Giant Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus consobrinus) Maleisie2014KubahNationalPark140806-11 Bornean Angle-headed Lizard (Gonocephalus bornensis) Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella)

Although the accommodations are not on the same level as Mulu National Park and Bako National Park I really recommend this national park. There is not a restaurant in Kubah and also not close to the park. You will have to bring your own food and you will have to cook yourself. Not a five star kitchen, but enough to make something. The beauty around you is a great compensation. For amphibians and reptiles lovers this is the park you should not miss!

List

Chelonians

  • Asian Softshell Turtle (Dogania subplana)

Frogs

  • Black-spotted Rock Frog (Staurois guttatus)
  • Bornean Horned Frog / Bornean Horned Toad (Megophrys nasuta)
  • Bornean Narrow-mounted Frog (Microhyla borneensis)
  • Brown Slender Toad (Ansonia leptopus)
  • Dark-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates macrotis)
  • File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus)
  • Frilled Tree Frog (Rhacophorus appendiculatus)
  • Harlequin Tree Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
  • Lowland Litter Frog (Leptobrachium abbotti)
  • Lesser Swamp Frog (Limnonectes paramacrodon)
  • Mahogany Frog (Rana lactuosa)
  • Peat Swamp Frog (Limnoncetes malesianus)
  • Rough-backed River Frog (Limnoncetes ibanorum)
  • Rough-sided frog (Rana glandulosa)
  • Smooth Guardian Frog (Limnonectes palavanensis)
  • Wallace’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus)
  • White-lipped Frog (Rana chalconota)

I found more frogs, but I am still busy with the IDs.

Lizards

  • Bornean Angle-headed Lizard (Gonocephalus bornensis)
  • Brooke’s Water Skink (Tropidophorus brookei)
  • Malaysian Cat Gecko (Aeluroscalabotes felinus)
  • Common Ground Skink (Mabuya multifasciata)
  • Giant Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus consobrinus)
  • Green Crested Lizard  (Bronchocela cristatella)
  • Kendall’s Rock Gecko (Cnemaspis kendallii)

Snakes

  • Bornean Keeled Green Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus)
  • Speckle-bellied Keelback Snake (Rhabdophis chrysargos)

 This was my last trip report about Borneo for now. My next trip report will be about Pulau Tioman.

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© 2017 Nature & Wildlife Photography by Ronald Zimmerman

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