Brunei Darussalam



With that comes the question, “How can you love or care for something you don’t know?” There’s much truth in this as I can personally attest to this. The chance encounter with Mark’s wife, Andrea, a committed naturalist herself changed the way I looked at my immediate surroundings and the ever changing environment that we live in. If I seemed a little obsessive about the number of hornbill photos that have appeared here ever since that fateful meeting and also the Seria Wetlands Outing, what more can I say about being positively inspired.

So who’s Mark, I hear you ask? Well, you may remember him from my Estuarine Crocodile encounter once assumed the identity of that “guy with big Nikon lens.” Here’s an unpublished photo of a great shot of the croc but we’ve had to tell people and reassured them that it looks much bigger than it really is!

© Mark Hessels

I’m tempted to make a corny remark about not judging a book by its cover but in this case, the cover of Mark’s long awaited book WINGING THE BORNEAN SKIES is about “various habitats found in Brunei … including an overview of some of the bird watching hot-spot in Brunei, Sabah & Sarawak” a definite boon for naturalists and avid bird watchers alike!

© Mark Hessels

© Mark Hessels

© Mark Hessels

© Mark Hessels

© Mark Hessels

Now that you have a taste of what the book entails (and I have seen an actual copy in print). I say that with a singular sense of the word because it was actually that—ONE copy—which Mark borrowed from a client (quite the irony) whom the published had earlier delivered to. The pictures and text are the result of many years of hard work and dedication and Mark’s presentation is one not to be missed!

Sept 9   Brunei Nature Society, UBD, Brunei Darussalam
Sept 11 Panaga Natural History Society, Panaga, Brunei Darussalam
Sept 19 The Sabah Society, Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia*
Sept 24 Malaysia Nature Society, Miri, East Malaysia**

* 1930 hrs at The Sabah Society, Lot 46, 1st Floor, Block E, Damai Plaza Phase 4, Luyang, 88300 Kota Kinabalu. ** 1900 hrs Kelab Rekreasi Petroliam (KRP), Lutong, Miri.

Those of you who cannot attend the presentation but wish to get a copy of the book can place their order via any one of the alternatives listed below:

▪ Direct order via publisher website (
▪ Panaga Natural History Society (
▪ Belle’s bookshop in Miri, Sarawak (

Availability of the book in a Brunei book store is something that has not yet been established. As soon as I get an update, I’ll post their name(s). One last word not from the author but from me: don’t take my word for it, get a copy and you be the judge of that cover! 🙂

Mark & Andrea, I am no biologist and have broken more rules in photography than I care to remember and I shall not hesitate to put my personal feelings where they’re due. Thank you very much for the time we shared together no matter how short. Experts claim success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration but I’m no expert either so who am I to judge! I wish you all the best and hope our paths cross again some day. — Jan Shim

Mark Hessels, born 1967 in the Netherlands, is a largely self-taught naturalist and nature photographer. After arriving in Brunei in 2004, on an assignment for Brunei LNG, he quickly became one of the drivers of the Panaga Natural History Society and started developing a range of nature education and conservation initiatives.

For almost 4 years, the author—usually loaded with well over 10 kg of photographic equipment—spent most of the weekends and holidays exploring and photographing the nature of northern Borneo and its inhabitants. His photographs have been used in various publications on Brunei’s environment.

RELATED LINKS (for those who cannot get enough of nature)


  1. Hi Hans,

    Now we’re even, somewhat! 🙂

    Could not resist forwarding a link to Jan Shim’s Blog where he discusses Marks “winging the Bornean Skies” book. Jan is a professional Brunei Photographer and accomplished Blogger has been a keen supporter of the PNHS since finding out about us. Here the calendar of events for Mark’s grand tour, shamelessly copied from Jan’s Blog. — Hans

    But seriously (quoting Phil Collin’s brilliant classic), many thanks for the shout-out and support. It’s much appreciated.

    With just under two weeks to go before Mark and Andrea are due to leave Brunei for good (shortly after their last gig in Miri on Sept 24), I’m certain that their personal belongings are packed, sealed and shipped and perhaps the only thing they have room for are well wishes and farewell messages. Feel free to post your thoughts here if you haven’t already done so!


  2. Jan, interesting blog.

    Mark and Andrea are inspirational naturalists and fantastic friends. They have helped me so much in my honors thesis about the hornbills in Panaga. Sad to see them leave. I wish both of them best of luck.



  3. Thank you for all the nice feedback, we are going to miss this place and all the people we got to know over the years so much.

    I am really happy that I managed to finish the book just before our departure. It just feels nice to leave something behind. I hope it may inspire many of the Bruneian photographers and act as an eye-opener for even more people in respect of the beauty of nature and the need to step up in conservation efforts in Brunei.

    At the rate that nature is vanishing as a result of unbalanced development plans I am afraid that we won’t recognise much if we come back here in a few years. The talking about nature and environment has increased over the last years, but unfortunately the real conservation effort is lagging far behind.

    But enough pessimistic thoughts. Thank you all for all the nice moments we shared and I sure hope we will meet again.

    In addition to Jan’s inspiration/perspiration theory, I would like to add one of my favourite quotes from, no one less than, Ansel Adams, one of the greatest photographers ever.

    It takes tremendous effort to make just 2 photos per year that matter…..”

    Photos that matter…. think about that when you go out next time.

    Enjoy the light !



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