Sabah, Borneo: Reptiles & Amphibians


Rainforests all around the world make perfect homes for many a reptile and amphibian, and the Bornean rainforests are no exception. In all the places we stayed, we saw at least one snake or frog. I have been fascinated by snakes and frogs since a very young age, so it was amazing to see such a variety of impressive examples of these animals. The reptile and amphibian list for the trip is as follows:

Mangrove Cat Snake, Bornean Keeled Pit Viper, Reticulated Python, Keeled Slug-eating Snake, Striped Bronzeback Treesnake, Crested Green Lizard, Water Monitor, Common Tree Frog, Dark-eared Tree Frog and Harlequin Flying Frog.

I’ll start with the frogs. There is something about frogs that I love. It could be their delicate look, their size or their strange feet; they’re definitely a personal favourite. The night walks have been the best opportunity to see frogs, especially after the rains in the late afternoon. My favourite frog species came on a short night walk in rainforest near the bank of the Kinabatangan River. In fact, we saw numerous individuals of this species on the walk, and we had no idea what they were. But when I looked it up, it turns out they were quite exciting. They were Harlequin Flying Frogs. I used the white spots scattered around on its back to identify it, as well as the colouring and the pattern along its side.

Harlequin Flying Frog
Frog showing the colouring on the side
A pair of Flying Frogs

It was awesome to see a flying frog species, as they have always amazed me. These frogs have evolved to have heavily webbed feet, which allows it to glide across the canopy, either to escape predators or simply just to move around.

Our next two frog species, the Four-lined and Dark-eared Tree Frogs, were both seen in the Danum Valley. The Four-lined Tree Frog was seen on the side of a path in the lodge we were staying at. These frogs are pretty plain, but still a treat to see.

Four-lined Tree Frog

The next frog was quite plain as well, but larger, and had more prominent markings, which similar to the Four-lined, give it its name. The Dark-eared Tree Frog, named after the dark patch close to the eye. This frog was spotted sat on a low branch whilst trekking through the rainforest at night. Another great frog spot!

Dark-eared Tree Frog

Snakes are a group of animals that have interested me for a very long time. I’ll start with my favourite snake from the trip: the Bornean Keeled Pit Viper. This snake was quite hard to identify, as it could well be a Wagler’s Pit Viper, but I’ve settled on Keeled. In fact, the Bornean Keeled Pit Viper used to be considered part of the Wagler’s Pit Viper species, but was made its own species in 2007. We saw this snake numerous times near Sepilok, sitting low in the trees. It has one of the most amazing heads on a snake I have ever seen, featuring heat sensing pits on the side. We saw two smaller ones, and then two much larger snakes, that were very impressive. This snake is definitely one of my favourites.

Bornean Keeled Pit Viper

The Kinabatangan River turned out to be a great place to see snakes. We spotted a very beautiful Mangrove Cat Snake sitting on a low tree over a tributary. We went almost right underneath it, and got great views of this beautiful snake. This snake was most likely asleep, as the species is mostly nocturnal. When active, they feed on lizards, rodents, birds and even other snakes. Another super snake species!

Mangrove Cat Snake

Also on the Kinabatangan River, we came across a non-venomous, but equally as impressive snake: a Reticulated Python. Its camouflage was serving it well, and I have no idea how the guides spotted it. It was coiled up near a fork in a low tree, and it took me a while to pick it out amongst the leaves. But once I had, you could tell it was a constrictor; you could see the strength in the muscles under the scales.

Blurry Reticulated Python

The final two snake species on the list were smaller than the ones already mentioned. The Keeled Slug-eating Snake was spotted on the night drive in the Danum Valley, moving across the track. It was very slender compared to other snakes, and understandably given they only feed on snails and slugs. The other species, the Striped Bronzeback Snake, was seen in the forests next to the Kinabatangan River, quite close to where we staying. It is a relatively small snake and feeds on frogs and lizards.

Striped Bronzeback

The two lizard species were both seen in forest next to the Kinabatangan River. The Water Monitor was seen walking around close to the river, and the stunning Crested Green Lizard was seen on a small tree close to the river as well. Both these lizards were very impressive. One of the great things about the lizards in Borneo is how colourful they are, and even the ones that lack vibrant colours have patterns of some sort on them.

Crested Green Lizard
Water Monitor

And finally onto the reptiles that were only actually seen very close to where we were staying, and not out in the forest; the geckos. The most commonly seen species, and the only one that I have properly identified, is the Frilly House Gecko. These geckos were seen in amazingly large numbers near lights, picking off insects who flew too close.

Frilly House Gecko

The Bornean rainforest, with its wet climate, and large array of tree species proved to be a brilliant place to see reptiles and amphibians, from ones that can fly, to ones that can kill. We saw just a tiny handful of the many reptiles and amphibians on offer, and there are probably still species hiding in Borneo, just waiting to be discovered.

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