Bird Watching in Sabah Borneo

Sabah Bird Watching

The hobby of Bird Watching in Sabah Borneo has been actively promoted since 2008, and part of it is thanks to the publicity done by the Borneo Bird Festival.

Over the years, many locations around Sabah have been identified as birdwatching sites, and currently, there are more than 10 sites specialising in bird-watching in North Borneo.

Bird Watching in Sabah Borneo

With the growth of bird watching and bird photography in Sabah, many trained professional bird guides are found all over Sabah.

At some of the birding destinations in Sabah, the resorts provide professional birdwatching guides, making it extremely easy for birders and photographers. Below is a list of places around Sabah where you can do this hobby.

Birding at Maliau Basin
Maliau Basin is one of the lesser-visited birdwatching sites in Sabah.

Bird Watching Sites in Sabah;
  • Danum Valley
  • Tabin Wildlife Reserve
  • Maliau Basin
  • Kinabalu National Park
  • Crocker Range National Park
  • Kinabatangan River
  • Labuan Island
  • KK Wetlands
  • Imbak Canyon
  • Sepilok-Kabali Forest Reserve
  • Deramakot Forest Reserve
  • Mount Trusmadi

The Sabah birdwatching sites mentioned above are random and have been visited by me personally over the years. And to be honest, each of them provides a different birding experience.

However, if there is one birdwatching event you should attend, I highly recommend visiting Sandakan during the last quarter of the year, when the unique Borneo Bird Festival occurs.

Bird Festival Borneo
Part of the visitor engagement at the Borneo Bird Festival.

Borneo Bird Festival

With the growth of birding around Sabah, a unique and dedicated event called the Borneo Bird Festival was created by a local bird club called the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club.

The state government, the local council, and the Sabah Tourism Board support this special birding event to promote bird tourism in this part of Sabah.

After running for many years, this event has seen considerable growth in the birding industry for bird watchers, photographers, and nature lovers.

The Borneo Bird Festival is usually held at the Rainforest Discovery Center, or RDC, located just outside Sandakan city in East Coast Sabah.

Among the activities lined up yearly is a bird photography contest offering cash prizes, talks and workshops, exhibition booths, guided birdwatching walks, a bird race and more.

One of the main highlights of this event is to spot the famous and rare Bornean Bristlehead Bird, known to be around the RDC. 

Considering that I am an amateur in this field, I attempted bird photography at the Kinabatangan River in 2009. Do take a peek and let me know what you think.

That experience absolutely opened my eyes to bird watching, so I have constantly attended the Borneo Bird Festival to learn more about this unique and fascinating hobby.

Below are random photographs of the Borneo Bird Festival, the premier birdwatching event in Sabah. 

2nd Borneo Bird Festival
2nd Borneo Bird Festival 2010.

A poster from the Borneo Bird Festival in Sabah.

Borneo Bird Race 2010
Bird Race at the Borneo Bird Festival 2010.

Little Spiderhunter
Little Spiderhunter.

Oriental Darter
The Oriental Darter is one of the much-sought birds to be photographed.

All the pictures above are courtesy of Azahari Reyes, aka Jason, who is also one of the very active Birders in Sabah Borneo, and you will probably meet him at any of the Borneo Bird Festival events.

There are several other ways for those planning to head to this event to get here.

How to go to Sepilok in Sabah:
  • Located just out of Sandakan town, RDC Sepilok is about 23 kilometres away. Getting to RDC Sepilok is relatively simple, taking about 30 to 40 minutes by car or van. (Self-drive or tour company)
  • There is a public bus service from the Labuk Bus Company that departs from the Sandakan Town Council at RM2.10 one way. However, the bus stops at the junction of the main road, so you need to walk about 1.5km.
  • Taxi service from Sandakan is available. A return trip costs about RM100.00 (US$25). Negotiate the prices with your taxi.
  • Getting to Sepilok from Kota Kinabalu (KK) is also possible. A bus ride from KK to Sandakan would take about 7-8 hours and cost around RM30-50 one way.
  • A better option is to fly to Sandakan as direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching. AirAsia offers some cheap tickets if you book early. Malaysia Airlines also has reasonable ticket prices if you want to compare them.
Map to Sepilok
Map of Sepilok, Sandakan.

Getting to Sepilok via car or bus:
  1. Drive along Jalan Labuk from Sandakan Town
  2. Turn left at the Mile 14 roundabout (with a giant Orangutan statue)
  3. Drive along until you see the large, pictorial RDC sign and turn right
  4. Drive for about 500 meters to the RDC car park
  5. There is a public bus service from the Labuk Bus Company that departs from the Sandakan Town Council at RM2.10 (US$0.50) one way. However, the bus stops at the junction of the main road. You then need to walk about 2km or take a ride.

I also have a previous article titled Borneo Bird Festival, which I attended to see how it was organised and how birders and the birding industry participated. 
You can also follow Malaysia Asia on Facebook or Twitter for more information, pictures, and links about Sabah in general.

For those active in birding, you can also visit my other site, Bird Watching Asia, for more information on birding.

If you would like to learn more information, contact the Sabah Tourism Board below.

Sabah Borneo Bird Festival
At one of the events during the Borneo Bird Festival.

If you are avidly interested in this unique and exciting hobby, you are most welcome to attend any of the birding events held here in Sandakan or around Sabah.

Travel agencies or professional birders can arrange fours or packages if you want to do birdwatching in Sabah. Prices vary, and you can also seek freelance licensed bird guides.

Please ask in the comment form below, and I will try my best to help you. I hope this article on bird watching in Sabah has been helpful to you.

Malaysia Asia

Blogging since 2007, but writing online since 1997. I belong to the 1st generation of worldwide bloggers, which is of course old-school. Since 2008, I created Malaysia Asia and this travel, flood, gadget and lifestyle blog has won numerous physical awards from tourism boards around Malaysia. (Not those online awards). After 12 years of blogging, I have semi-retired and now blog about things I like, do product reviews and enjoy life. My work has been featured in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Wall Street Journal, and many other international publications. Find out more about me and thank you.


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