As soon as we arrived at the Tanjung Aru Shangri La hotel on the Monday afternoon, we toured the hotel, and stumbled across the jetty from which the boat tours left. We decided there and then to book the shuttle to Gaya and Sapi islands the next day, which are two of the five islands in the National Park situated just off the hotel. We left at 9am, and a very short boat ride found us on Gaya, which is the largest island of the group. Of the five tourists on the boat, we were the only ones who left to tackle the forest walk. As we were docking at the jetty, a Rhinoceros Hornbill was seen flying across the forest canopy. As soon as we emerged from the jetty, a small flycatcher was seen, and was most likely Asian Brown Flycatcher. We completed the 1.9km of the walk in just over an hour, and although this was very interesting with bats, skinks, and exotic vegetation, no more birds were seen.
We then made the short crossing to Sapi Island, which was the main target for snorkelling and some relaxation. This only covered a tiny area, and we were located on the beach along with the usual toilets, souvenir shops, café, etc. The small beach is well shaded by trees, and is backed by the hill of the island, with wall to wall trees. This seemed at first to be fairly quiet, but a little exploration to the rear of the food area, while avoiding the stench of discarded food which the only Long-tailed Macaque on the island like to pick its way through, birds started to appear, adding up to a nice little selection. First to be seen above the recliner mats and beach towels was a small group of Olive-winged Bulbuls, which often came down to the rubbish bins to feed, and a few pairs of Plain-throated Sunbirds. Best spot of all was the base of the trees to the rear, and birds included foraging White-chested Babbler, Pechora Pipit, Rufous- or Scaly-crowned Babbler, and a pair of Mangrove Blue-flycatchers, with the female clinching identification. An Oriental Magpie-robin was also in this area, and a single Rufous-tailed Taylorbird put in a late appearance. At least 2-3 Arctic Warblers were busying themselves feeding low down in the leaf litter and trees overhead. On the offshore rocks, a dark phase Pacific Reef-heron sat motionless for at least half an hour.