Sounds from Tawau Hills

Located near the east coast of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo, Tawau Hills Park protects almost 300 km² of primary lowland and hill forest along with an incredible variety of flora and fauna. While not as well-known as the nearby Danum Valley Conservation Area, Tawau Hills holds much of the same biodiversity and has the advantage of being easily accessible and more affordable in terms of accommodation options.

In September 2019 I had the opportunity to spend six days recording sounds in the forests of Tawau Hills. I spent about half of the time in the lowland forest near park headquarters and the other half based deeper in the reserve at Mount Lucia lodge. A big thanks to Shavez Cheema from 1StopBorneo Wildlife for helping organize the trip and sharing his knowledge of the forest!

Listen to Recordings

Helmeted Hornbill

The critically endangered Helmeted Hornbill can still be found in the forests of Tawau Hills. This species has a wild, unique call consisting of a series of accelerating whoops building to a crescendo of maniacal laughter.

Bornean Gibbon

North Borneo Gibbons (Hylobates funereus) are still quite common in Tawau Hills and their calls are a feature of the dawn chorus each morning. Pairs and small family groups sing loudly to mark territory boundaries, with the adult female of each group making the distinctive accelerating bubbly call know as the ‘great call’.

Thunder in the Forest

The air is heavy and still as a morning thunderstorm builds. Common Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica) & Great Argus (Argusianus argus) call from the surrounding forest.

Dusk Chorus

Cicadas, frogs and birds calling at dusk in Tawau’s hill forest.

Night Soundscape

A rich night soundscape from hill forest near Mount Lucia lodge, Tawau Hills. Tiny Bornean Treehole Frogs (Metaphrynella sundana) make the melodic notes, the variety of pitches coming from different individual male frogs calling from small crevices in the trunks of trees. Each male tunes his call to the pitch which resonates best in his individual chamber, so that the call is naturally amplified and gives him a better chance of attracting a female!

Heart of Borneo: Tawau Hills - AUD$12.95

Download a relaxing 56 minute natural soundscape recorded in undisturbed tropical rainforest in Tawau Hills, Sabah.

Tawau Hills Rainforest
Map - Tawau Hills, Borneo

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Conservation Issues

Although the protected forests of Tawau Hills themselves are pristine, the reserve is surrounded on all sides by a sea of oil palm plantations, inhibiting the natural dispersal and movement of species which would normally travel long distances in search of food and new territory. Without forest corridors connecting the reserve to other areas of suitable habitat, Tawau Hills has become an ‘island’ which limits the movement of its local wildlife populations, creating potential problems with lack of genetic diversity, especially for predators such as the Clouded Leopard.

Rainforest in Ulu Muda, Malaysia

Pristine hill forest along the trail to Mount Lucia.