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Bird Watching in Sabah Borneo

Sabah Bird Watching

The hobby of Bird Watching in Sabah Borneo has been actively promoted since 2008 and due to the publicity over the years, the Borneo Bird Festival was created to cater to this nature hobby.

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

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

At some of the birding destinations in Sabah, the resorts provide professional bird watching guides which make it extremely easy for bird watchers and photographers. Below is the list of places around Sabah where you can do this hobby.

Birding at Maliau Basin
Maliau Basin is one of the lesser visited bird watching sites in Sabah
Bird Watching Sites in Sabah;

1. Danum Valley
2. Tabin Wildlife Reserve
3. Maliau Basin
4. Kinabalu National Park
5. Crocker Range National Park
6. Kinabatangan River
7. Labuan Island
8. KK Wetlands
9. Imbak Canyon
10 Sepilok-Kabali Forest Reserve

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

However, if there is one bird watching event to attend, I would highly recommend you visit Sandakan during the last quarter of the year, where the unique Borneo Bird Festival happens.

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

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

This special birding event is supported by the state government, the local council and also the Sabah Tourism Board in order to promote bird tourism in this part of Sabah.

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

Sabah Blue-throated Bee Eater
Blue-throated Bee Eater
The Borneo Bird Festival is usually held at the Rainforest Discovery Center or simply known as the RDC which is located just out of Sandakan city in East Coast Sabah.

Among the activities lined up on a yearly basis 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, which is known to be around the RDC. 

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

That experience absolutely opened up my eyes to bird watching so I have constantly been attending the Borneo Bird Festival to learn a lot more about this unique and fascinating hobby.

Below are random photographs about the Borneo Bird Festival, which is the premier bird watching event in Sabah. 

A poster from the Borneo Bird Festival in Sabaj

Event list at the festival

Bird Race at the Borneo Bird Festival 2010

Little Spiderhunter

Oriental Darter, one of the much-sought birds to be photographed

Bird Watching Tuaran Paddy Fields
Birdwatchers at the Tuaran Paddy Fields

All the pictures above are courtesy of Azahari Reyes aka Jason and for more interesting pictures and information on birding around Sabah, visit his amazing website on Birds of Sabah Borneo Island.

Jason 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.

For those planning to head to this event, there are several other ways to get here.

How to go to Sepilok in Sabah:
  • Located just out of Sandakan town, RDC Sepilok is about 23 kilometers from town. Getting to RDC Sepilok is fairly simple as it takes 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 but the bus stops at the junction of the main road. You then need to walk in about 1.5km.
  • Taxi service from Sandakan is available with a return trip costing about RM100.00 (US$25). Do negotiate with your taxi about the prices.
  • Getting to Sepilok from Kota Kinabalu (KK) is also possible. A bus ride would take about 7-8 hours from KK to Sandakan and would cost around RM30-50 one way. Visit this site for Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan bus fares and tickets.
  • A better option is to fly to Sandakan as there are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching. AirAsia offers some cheap tickets if you book early. Malaysia Airlines also has some decent ticket prices if you want to compare it.
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 large 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 but the bus stops at the junction of the main road. You then need to walk in about 2km or thumb a ride.
Telephoto Lens Sabah
A telephoto lens on one of the bird watchers camera
I also have a previous article titled Borneo Bird Festival which I attended to see how it was organized, and also how birders and the birding industry participated. 
You can also follow Malaysia Asia on Facebook or on Twitter for more information, pictures, and links about Sabah in general.

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

If you would like to find out a little more information or you can also contact the Sabah Tourism Board below.

Borneo Bird Festival Organiser: Sabah Tourism Board
Contact Person: Noredah Othman (Sabah Tourism Board)
Telephone : +6088 212121
Fax : +6088 212075
Email Contact: noredah@sabahtourism.com

Sabah Borneo Bird Festival
At one of the events during the Borneo Bird Festival
Final Thoughts to Bird Watching in Sabah

If you have an avid interest in this unique and interesting hobby, you are most welcome to join any of the birding events that are held here in Sandakan or around Sabah.

There are travel agencies or professional birders that can arrange for tours or packages if you want to do bird watching in Sabah. Prices also vary from one another, and you can also seek the freelance licensed guides for this.

Any questions, please do ask below in the comment form and I will try my best to help you. I hope this article on birding in Sabah has come in hand for you. 


Anonymous said...

Lovely pics there, I'd love to do a bird watching holiday one day. You have such amazingly colourful birds there too.

Malaysia Asia said...

Thank you very much Jools, I hope that when you do, you make a trip to Sabah for some Birdwatching here.


Unknown said...

Your Kinabatangan River Night Cruise article and photos are very informative, and reading this article it's obvious that you are a really good writer. The info is wonderful. I'm in Sabah but won't be able to attend the event, and I hope you will have a marvelous time there. Keep writing!

NZ Car Hire New Zealand said...

I like your post very much.
It is very interesting.I wish to visit Sabah Borneo to see various bird.

Thanks a lot sharing this information with us.

Malaysia Asia said...

Dina, thank you for your kind words. Which part of Sabah are you now?

Thanks also NZcarhire.