Our plane landed at the Kota Kinabalu airport a little after one in the morning. Cynthia was able to doze for a few moments while aboard the airplane but somehow I could not get any shut-eye while in any mode of transportation, especially airborne ones.
But there's more. Our connecting flight to Sandakan does not leave until 7 am which means we had to spend the next five hours at the small airport terminal. Again, my wife was able to get some sleep while sprawled across several chairs. I, of course, had to keep watch over our luggage.
The flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan was mercifully short. Despite that Cynthia still managed to get some forty winks. I was wide-eyed and fully awake as I looked at the peak of Mt. Kinabalu as we flew over it.
Another hour later and we were checking in at the Sepilok Jungle Resort. Except that it was still early (it was a little before nine in the morning) and our room wasn't ready yet! So we decided to use that time to explore the surroundings of the resort. "There are plenty of birds around" the staff assured us.
It was not a very auspicious first encounter because the first birds we saw were female Brown-throated Sunbirds.
However, that was soon followed by our first lifer of the trip, and I might add, quite appropriate considering the sleepless state we were in: the Red-eyed Bulbul.
Behind the swimming pool area, bright Crimson Sunbirds greeted us.
Little Spiderhunters were plenty!
We also saw what we assumed to be an Oriental Magpie Robin, except that this one does not have the usual white belly. A Bornean subspecies, perhaps?
At around 11 am we were informed that our room was ready. We hurriedly brought our baggage in and plopped on the warm welcoming bed. We were in the land of Nod in an instant.
We woke up at two in the afternoon and proceeded to the restaurant for a really late lunch. The owner, Mr. John Lim, noticing that we were birders (the cameras and the binoculars were a dead give-away, I'm sure), pointed at the lagoon next to the restaurant.
"Kingfisher" he said tersely.
We looked and voila! A Stork-billed Kingfisher was patiently waiting for an unwary fish. Forget lunch for now. Cynthia and I took shot after shot of the insouciant bird. When Jason, Mr. Lim's son, threw some tidbits to lure out the fish, the kingfisher knew it will soon be getting its own lunch. In an instant it dove to the waters and grabbed a humongous fish and then flew to the tiny island in the middle of the pond. Jason and I ran to the edge of the restaurant to get better views. My wife, in the meantime, took a hint and ordered lunch for ourselves.
After a really good meal, we once again explored the resort's vicinity. Not finding anything new, Cynthia suggested we go to the street in front. A surprise was a Mom and a juvenile White-breasted Waterhen walking nonchalantly ahead of us. While I was taking their picture, we heard a loud cry and a whoosh. We saw something huge drop on the palm tree before us. We looked and couldn't believe our eyes. Oriental Pied Hornbills! An adult and a young one even! What a great sighting for Cynthia's birthday!
That capped our first day in Sepilok. We hoped that it would augur well for the rest of our stay in Sabah.