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10th Borneo Bird Festival 2018 - What Can You Expect

Sabah Borneo Bird Festival

The 10th Borneo Bird Festival 2018 will be held in Sandakan, Sabah on 1st and 2nd December, and many are happy to know that the decade long birding event is now coming back to its home ground.

Since the conceptualization of this unique bird-watching festival which started back in 2009, the Borneo Bird Festival has seen huge changes in the last 10 years and is also known as the largest bird watching and nature festival in Malaysia. 

The event has also brought together bird watchers from all over Sabah, Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia and also from around the world to this event.

The very unique RDC steel canopy walk is one of the areas for the bird festival

Borneo Bird Festival 2018 Highlights

While the regulars may know what happens during this bird festival in Sabah, it is also important to keep the awareness going, namely to the overall population.

The theme for this year Borneo Bird Festival 2018 is 'Born To Be Wild', where the strong emphasis has been put on not caging the birds, and letting them be in their natural habitat.

The theme also focuses on forest conservation all over Sabah and Malaysia, plus the main highlight is to be able to stop the legal and illegal bird trade which has shocked the world in recent years.

Bird watching at RDC, Sepilok

Many birds have been trapped and hunted to be sold in the black markets, and some of these birds are poached and hunted for their natural beaks, like in the hornbills.

Bird and wildlife education is a never-ending process, and the best that people can do is by constantly educating the public about this.

Another highlight of the event is also to promote nature and bird watching as a hobby, as this is one of the growing trends in experiential tourism.

Photographing the animals and birds is also one of the growing hobbies by locals and also many foreigners who come here to experience Sabah's beautiful wildlife. 

Awareness is never enough, and it is an event like these where you can get more information from the organizers and even the participating vendors.

Pesta Burung Borneo 2018
The official banner for the 10th Borneo Bird Festival 2018

Activities At The Borneo Bird Festival

Throughout the two days, several activities going on during the festival, and they are broken into different areas. 

Depending on what you or your family want to participate in, the list of events is below, and you can choose. 

Sabah Bird Race - This is the most popular event where teams need to register and go on a bird-watching race around the RDC. 

Bird Photo Race - Similar to the bird race, but this event is done in a photography style race, where participants photograph the most number of birds during the race. 

Bird Photography Contest - This contest is open to everyone and is submitted before the festival, and photos are judged during the festival, where the winners are selected and announced on the final day.

Workshop at Borneo Bird Festival
A talk going on inside the air-conditioned hall at RDC

Talks - Without fail, there will be some talks by local and international speakers in regards to bird watching, migrations, conservations and techniques. Several NGOs will also give talks on conservation and ecotourism. 

Workshops - These are specialized workshops dedicated to bird watching and conservation, done by professionals in the respective fields. Some include 

Borneo Bird Run - A unique marathon around Sepilok that is fun for the family, and takes the bird theme. Participants have a best-dressed category in this fun run, and over 2000 people will be seen taking part on the final day morning.

Sabah Bird Watching Equipment
Some of the bird watching equipment on display at the festival

Exhibitions - Various exhibitions take place around the event, which will suit all walks of life. Some exhibits display conservation efforts by the wildlife department, WWF and even MNS. Others will be on books, paintings and photography. 

Bird Watching Equipment - Several vendors from renown brands will be seen displaying their latest equipment that ranges from binoculars, cameras, telephoto lenses, field scopes, bird and nature book and many other interesting items.

2019 Borneo Bird Run Sandakan
At the start of the Borneo Bird Run

Guided Nature Walks - Special timed nature walks by volunteer guides will take place on both days where it is free. Interested parties need to just sign up for the guided walks around the RDC. 

Food and Drinks - There will be a section dedicated to food and drinks at the event where you will find local food like bites, burgers and snacks among cold drinks and juices. 

Games and Quiz - There will also be a series of games and quizzes held throughout the event, and these are very suitable for both adults and kids.

The scene at the Borneo Bird Festival at RDC, Sepilok

Who Should Go To The Borneo Bird Festival?

This is a popular bird watching event in Sabah that attracts all walks of life. The main purpose of this event is to create awareness of the importance of birds and the environment. 

If you are a nature lover, or even a beginner bird watcher or photographer, this is the perfect place to start. At the event, you will see a lot of beginners, amateurs and even professionals participating.

At the RDC, there is also an amazing steel canopy walk that stretches about one kilometre long, and it is a modern design type that can accommodate hundreds of people at any time. 

For those who live out of Sabah, this event could be something very different compared to other events you may have attended.

Personally, I easily recommend attending this, namely because it is in Sandakan, on the east coast of Sabah Borneo.

Restaurant Cafe at RDC Sepilok
The open-aired restaurant at the RDC in Sepilok

Sandakan is also known as the nature city of Sabah Borneo, where there is an abundance of nature to be discovered.

There is, of course, the world-famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation, Labuk Bay and many other places for wildlife and nature watching. 

Even around Sepilok, there are some nature resorts available for guests to stay at, which is also walking distance to the Rainforest Discovery Center or RDC as it is commonly called.

On one of my previous trips, I had the pleasure of staying at the popular Sepilok Nature Resort, which is perfect for any kind of traveller.

Bird Festival 2018
Bird watchers in full attire for the event

What to Bring to the Borneo Bird Festival?

As this is an outdoors event at the RDC, you will be walking around most of the time. A majority of the events take place outdoors, hence you should be prepared for any weather changes.

In a rainforest, it can also get hot and humid, so here is a list of what you can bring to the RDC for the Borneo Bird Festival;
  • Mosquito or insect repellent
  • Poncho, raincoat or umbrella in case it rains as the walkways are not covered
  • Bottled water and snacks
  • A pair of binoculars are worth bringing if you want to see birds
  • Proper trekking or sports shoes here as some of the walkways can be slippery

RDC Bornean Bristlehead Spot
The Bornean Bristlehead lookout point at the RDC

Tickets / Entrance Fees for the RDC

Malaysian Resident 
  • RM 7.00: Adults 
  • RM 3.00: Children 5-17 years old 
  • Free: Children below 5 years old 
Non-Malaysian (Foreigners)
  • RM 15.00: Adults 
  • RM 7.00: Children 5-17 years old
  • Free: Children below 5 years old
Opening Hours for the RDC:
  • Daily 8.00 am to 5.00 pm (Daily)
  • Birders start as early as 6.00 am at the car park area 
Rainforest Discovery Centre Address and Contact;
PO Box 1407
90715 Sandakan
Sabah, Malaysia.
Telephone: + 60 089 533780 / 781
Website: Rainforest Discovery Center Sepilok

Photos of Borneo Birds
A list of birds of Borneo

Sandakan Oriental Pied Hornbills
A couple of Pied Hornbills spotted at the RDC

How To Go To RDC In Sepilok? 

The Rainforest Discovery Center or RDC is located just out of Sandakan city and is about 23 kilometres away.

To get here, you have a few options which include taking a taxi, Grab or renting your own car. For locals, it is a 30-minute drive without any traffic jams.

Driving Directions To RDC
  • Drive along Jalan Labuk from Sandakan Town
  • Turn left at the Mile 14 roundabout (with a large Orangutan statue)
  • Drive along until you see the large, pictorial RDC sign and turn right
  • Drive for about 500m to the RDC car park
Taking A Bus From Sandakan To Sepilok - There is a public bus service from Labuk Bus Company that departs from the Sandakan Town Council, and the timings are not as frequent.

The bus stops at the junction of the main road of the Sepilok entrance and you then need to walk in about 1.5km. This is not recommended unless you are doing budget travel around this part of Sabah. 

Flying To Sandakan - There are a few airlines that fly from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan, where AirAsia has the most flights a day. Malaysia Airlines has two direct flights into Sandakan from KL. 

AirAsia also connects from Kota Kinabalu and some other cities to Sandakan for those travelling locally. 

Taxi or Grab Ride-Hailing Service - Taxis and Grab is available, but you need to weigh the pros and cons of this, as you know Grab is the cheaper alternative. 

10th Borneo Bird Festival in Sandakan Information
Date: 1st and 2nd December 2018 (Sat & Sun)
Venue: Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC), Sepilok, Sandakan
Time: 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM
Official Website: Borneo Bird Festival

Sabah IBA Important Bird Area
The Kabili-Sepilok rainforest has been recognized as an Important Bird Area or IBA

Kelab Burung Sandakan Borneo
The Sandakan Borneo Bird Club (SBBC) home at RDC

The incredible team of organizers and bird marshall's for the Borneo Bird Festival


If you love birds and nature, this is one birding event you should consider attending. Even though it is located in Sandakan, Sabah, it is very well organized and truly an eye-opener for many. 

For me, I live in Semenangjung Malaysia, and in the fast city life of Kuala Lumpur, and I have attended quite some bird events around Malaysia.

But on my first event trip to Sandakan to witness the second Borneo Bird Festival in 2010, I was taken aback with the overall organization done by the local bird club called Sandakan Borneo Bird Club. 

Never did I expect that a locally organized bird festival could have been done in such international standards, attracting people from all over the region. 

Therefore, I would easily state that the Borneo Bird Festival 2018 is something you may not want to miss if you have been planning to visit this part of Sabah.

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