I was just there three weeks ago . For birding, the area around the Hill Lodge near the main gate is good. There are some trails that are good for certain species daw but I had several close encounters already on the one morning that I had near Hill Lodge. What you should not do is lug up a tele up the mountain as most of the birds are quite easy to see by the main gate areas.
Cool. Regarding the gate is that the Timpohon Gate?
I really don't want to bring my gear up the trail if I can help it. It will be difficult with lots of gear on the mountain trail if it rains. I've climbed mt.Kinabalu in the rain before...I think the hill lodge sounds good!
Timpohon is right. I saw the Bornean Treepie, Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, Mountain LWarbler, the Yuhina, etc by the parking lot of Hill Lodge in about an hour of early morning birding. There's also a trail where you can get a Pitta daw near there. You can go to the reception and ask for a guide, for the trails where the specialties are. I would assume that some of them will be quite used to birders. I lugged a 300mm 2.8 up to the summit and can say that it was pointless. I never even saw the Mountain Wren-Babbler which is the highland endemic. Climbing truly is separate from birding. My next visit should be the Kinabatangan area, where Prop went, the birds are even much easier, apparently. Mt. Kinabalu is an example of what the Philippines should be doing for its destinations. I am sure you will enjoy it again.
Thanks for the info Ivan. The 300 2.8 gets heavy during a climb, I did a 5 hour our climb recently with that lens, it just got heavier and heavier. I remember the top of Kinabalu as being all rocks with no plants, hard to imagine a bird wanting to live in such a barren place. Plus is super cold up there.
Pao. Mt. Kinabalu is pretty cool. The main entrance is at 5000ft. already. Baguio or Sagada weather. I think my biggest issue will be rain so it's cool that there are lots of birding opportunities near the buildings so I can take shelter quickly.
Great link Bob. So much info. I am just going for a few days so I think I have more than enough target areas now. They have recorded 326 species in the park. Pretty amazing. Hopefully some show up and pose for me.
Mt.Kinabalu park is a great place for birding. The climate is wonderful. Cold in the morning so you need a light jacket then just a t-shirt most of the day till late afternoon. Chilly at night. Fantastic.
I got 20+ species in one and a half days birding around the park area. I did not climb the difficult parts because there was enough action for myself since I had never seen any of these birds.
We took Air Asia from Clark. Then went to Mt.Kinabalu from the airport. Around 90km away or two hours. I hand carried my 500mm f4 connected to a 1.4x tc connected to my 5d in my lowepro knapsack. No problems at all. I guess they are used to the climbers and their knapsacks.
I put my tripod in my check in luggage. Oh they use a giant three prong electrical socket so bring adaptors.
I did not hire a guide and it was still good birding. I did not use flash. So I was shooting with available light and cranking up my ISO and slowing the speed down and shooting pretty wide open a lot of the time. There are lots and lots of trees, some fog, and clouds. Light was a challenge. But where is the fun if it's easy, haha.
Our cottage was great. Two bedrooms, a small kitchen with a dinning table, a family area with a fireplace (which we enjoyed at night!). Best of all birding right at your doorstep. Swifts nesting on our veranda, bird calls all over. I will post some pics later, I always get so lazy to process my pics.
It's a popular place for birders and I met a lot of birders and photographers. It's a very friendly international community, Malaysians, a couple from the netherlands, and lots of people from England. There seems to be a strong conservation and bird tracking community in the area. I saw several birds with bands. The other birders mentioned the same thing. I guess it's a sign that they are very concerned about the bird population.
Additional tips. Taxi ride to Mt. Kinabalu from Airport costs 180RM to 200RM. Try to get 180RM. Bus is much cheaper but it seemed like a hassle to go to town and grab a slow bus. Plus I did not want to put my bag in the bus luggage compartment. If you take Air Asia you might get there a bit late so the restaurants might be closed when you get to the park. You might want to get a bite to eat before going to the park. There is a McDo along the way or if your driver agrees there is a restaurant past the park called Fairy Garden Resort which probably serves the most decent food near the park. We liked the sizzling lamb ribs, sea cucumber with mushroom, salted fish fried rice and the noodles. Its around 5 min past the gate by car.
Food in the park is not the best. But its decent. A meal costs around 18rm plus tax and service charge. Try to buy water beforehand so you don't have to buy expensive water. Beer is super expensive in Kota. Costs more than the meal.
Going home to manila call the front desk (dial zero) (added that because there are no instructions on the phone hehe) and ask for a taxi to pick you up. I would give it 2 hours 30 min travel time to make sure. If you are paranoid 3 hours will be better so you are not worrying.
The money changer in the airport closes for lunch. So change your money back to US dollars or whatever when you arrive for your flight back. Or you won't get a chance. (We should know, haha).
My lowepro is the Lens trekker 600 AWII. I was planning to remove the body and tc and hang it on my neck if they complained about the size. But they did not both ways so that was cool.
Monica and Sylvia on their way to climb to the peak of Mt. Kinabalu. This was taken from our veranda. Note my camera on the left, haha, I had been birding since 5:40am and went back to wish the climbers good luck.
The peak of the Mountain is at the background its 13000 feet up. The cottage is at 5000 feet. Lots and lots of trees here.
View from the front door. Amazing.
This is the cottage. We had the left half. Two bedrooms, one had two double beds and one room had bunk beds. One bathroom. Small kitchen. Family room.
Super well maintained roads made it easy to carry the heavy rig around the park roads.
Wide walkways made of fibreglass. My tripod fit on these walkways. Very nice. If you go into the trails its dirt of course. But the main walkways were really nice. We could learn a lot from Kota.
I did not really take lots of these view shots as I was looking for birds!
To the guys who are interested in the rooms and the rates here is the info. Cheapest is just getting a bed if you are alone 130RM. But I think its dorm style not sure about security for all your expensive gear. Next step up if you want a room with two beds and a bathroom then thats Hill Lodge for 420RM. Slightly better is Liwagu Suite with a king size bed, family room 490RM. Liwagu is the better restaurant in the park so it saves walking time. If you have a family of 4 then the place we stayed in was 660RM. 2 bedrooms, family room, fireplace, kitchen etc.
There are more expensive places but we did not look at those anymore.
There are cheaper places outside the park if you have a car or want to walk in. But that means you need to rent a car or waste time walking to the park.