Bird Watching in Borneo

Bird-Watching in Borneo

Bird Watching in Borneo or relatively Birding in Borneo is one of the up and coming and also growing hobbies in this region and one group to thank for is the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club who has brought birding to another level here. Ever since 2008, bird watching was considered a luxurious hobby in Sabah with the investment of expensive equipment used in this niche hobby. However, over the years as technology improved heaps, many products were manufactured at a slightly cheaper cost allowing more people to indulge in the birding hobby .

Sabah, a Malaysian state in North Borneo was one of the pioneers that invested by supporting birding to the next level where the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club organised their first ever Borneo Bird Festival in 2009 at the Rainforest Discovery Centre or RDC in Sepilok, Sandakan. This was fully supported by the Sabah Tourism Board's nature division and to everyone's surprise, the event went beyond expectations.

Bird Watching in Ulu Temburong National Park
Cede Prudente seen on one of the towers at Ulu Temburong National Park in Brunei
Overall, the man behind this all is no other than Cede Prudente, the president of the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club, who is also an avid nature and wildlife photographer for many years now. His passion in birding let to the creation of the Borneo Bird Festival where after five consecutive years, the idea of a an international bird race came about. 

In 2013, the inaugural Borneo Bird Race was born where 7 international teams from around the Asia region took part for a chance to win the prestigious Borneon Bristlehead Trophy, the ultimate prize in birding in Borneo. Planning and logistics were no easy task for the team but with a strong mindset and determination, the first ever bird race in Borneo took off with two states - Sabah and Brunei where sister state Sarawak could not commit when approached due to the short timing. 

The 2nd Borneo Bird Race 2014 was again held alongside with the 6th Borneo Bird Festival and this time around, 9 teams from around Asia participated in the race. But this time, Sarawak jumped on the bandwagon as the sport was growing fast in the region. Participants traveled over 1000 kilometres in 10 days around Borneo to strategic bird watching locations, namely Kinabalu Park and Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sabah, Borneo Highlands in Sarawak and Ulu Temburong National Park in Brunei which are mostly Endemic bird Areas or EDA's. For more information, here is a list of Endemic Birds of Borneo.

Bird Watching at the RDC in Sandakan, Sabah
Bird Watching at the RDC in Sandakan, Sabah
While bird watching in Borneo is still in its infancy, a number of groups and clubs have been formed over the last 5 years in each state. Some active while others are going through the learning curve. Bird photography in Borneo however is picking up as quite a number of birders or beginners seem to enjoy this hobby. Seminars and meetings have also been conducted in recent years here in Sabah where during the bird festival, renown speakers and bird book authors have been talking about conservation, poaching, migratory paths and even on a beginners level. 

Among the most efficient birding campaigns, many school children were introduced to bird watching and an overall understanding to birds of Borneo which is seeing a slight increase in the younger birders here. At the moment, the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club is in talks with neighbour, Kalimantan to take part in the next Borneo Bird Race 2015. A representative from Kalimantan attended the recent bird race as a observer too and was overall very impressed with how things were done here. This looked like a good start to a great partnership in all the three countries here.

Over the years since bird watching has been introduced to Borneo, there was impressive feedback and outcomes that helped awareness, conservation, and promotion for Borneo as birding destination. Currently, there is an encouraging growth of birdwatching activities and there were a number of bird races conducted separately all over the region. Special thanks goes out to the notable Borneo Bird Festival in Sabah which had a hand in creating the first ever Borneo Bird Race in 2013.

BirdWatching in Sabah Borneo
For a change, the 'Birds' are watching us
Borneo Bird Race Event Objectives
  1. To promote Borneo as one of the premier bird watching destination of the world.
  2. To Network with birdwatching fraternities around Asian region and to the world.
  3. To encourage travel within Asia.
  4. Create awareness and conservation of the bird species unique to Borneo to the local community and to the global birding fraternities.
  5. Foster closer integration and harmony through nature festival of the neighbouring States of Borneo, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia.
  6. Develop and improvement of infrastructure to wildlife watching tourism.
  7. To enhance and complement the “Heart of Borneo” initiative – Tourism Program.
  8. To increase arrival of eco-tourists and birdwatchers to Borneo.
  9. Further development of naturalist guide and birdwatching guide.
  10. Support good policies to improve nature tourism.
Here is an explanation on What is the Borneo Bird Race all about. 

Pygmy Woodpecker in Sabah
A pygmy woodpecker spotted
With the success of both events over the years, the organizers, committee and participants look forward to more participation from the many different government agencies, private sectors and anyone that would like to be a part of this unique niche.

Currently, the tourism boards of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei have committed to this sport while niche players like camera manufacturers and retailers, sporting equipment and other related brands have shown keen interest as well. Since the growth of bird watching in Sabah has been steadily rising, the demand for equipment has also grown along with the hobby.

Birding in Sabah Borneo
Birding at all places, here seen in a river
For more information, you can visit the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club website, the Borneo Bird Festival website or even the Sabah Tourism Board website.

The next Borneo Bird Festival 2015 will take place on the 18-19 September at the same venue, the RDC in Sepilok, Sandakan. On the Borneo Bird Race 2015, the dates have not been fixed but it should be out by early next year. You can also read my other article on Bird Watching in Kota Kinabalu city for those visiting KK on a short stay.

For any birders out there having an interest, you can always contact the mentioned websites above and hopefully to see you doing some bird watching in Borneo. 

1 comments: