The recent 11th Borneo Bird Festival, which was held at the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC), Sepilok from 26 October 2019 to 27 October 2019 was a weekend packed with lots of fun and excitement, and not forgetting- birds, birds and more birds! The Borneo Bird Festival is a collective effort organised by key players in the industry; Borneo Bird Club Sandakan, Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Tourism Board.
The birding event which is held annually in Sabah attracted many visitors and participants from near and far, including participating teams from countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and others.
The Rainforest Discovery Centre has been the usual home ground for the annual birding event in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo as it is normally held there. The centre is situated within the 4,300-hectare Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve, complete with a romantic lake setting that can be seen upon entering the centre.
Back in 2017, the Borneo Bird Festival was held at Crocker Range National Park and Kinabalu National park in 2014. Of course, the different locations with their different terrains and landscapes all offer a unique and special experience of their own, including varying bird species.
However, Rainforest Discovery Centre has been a favourite location for returning participants of the Borneo Bird Festival because of its accessibility and offering more opportunities to see different birds on different occasions. Some even say it’s the premier location to hold the Borneo Bird Festival because of its rich ecosystem. Over 300 bird species have been recorded at RDC and 63 of them are said to be endemic. Some of the feathered-beauties that can be found at RDC are the Bornean Bristlehead, Banded Broadbill, eight different species of hornbills including the Rhinoceros hornbill and Bushy Crested Hornbill, Black & Crimson Pitta, various species of Kingfishers such as the Stork Billed Kingfisher and Rufous-backed Kingfisher and so many others!
Likewise, it’s not just a location suitable for bird watching but RDC is a truly ideal site to discover many wildlife and flora wonders too! It’s really a mesmerising place to explore whether you are into birdlife, wildlife, plants or the great outdoors in general. If visitors are lucky, they may just spot a wild orangutan swinging in the trees above them or even sight the Sabah Grey Langur- The list just goes on!
Now, let’s get back to the Borneo Bird Festival. The MAIN HIGHLIGHTS of the Borneo Bird Festival are of course the Bird Photography Contest, Bird Photo Race and the Sabah Bird Race. Here’s a breakdown of what these activities are all about:
The Bird Photography Contest is where participants submit their best photo according to the theme “Birds of Borneo” and entries are limited to two submissions per participant.
The Bird Photo Race on the other hand, is where participants of all ages go around Rainforest Discovery Centre to photograph as many bird species as they can within the time given. This contest is more towards quantity rather than the quality of bird photos participants manage to take.
Finally, the Sabah Bird Race calls for a more technical approach, whereby teams of 3 head out and compete to watch, identify and record as many bird species as possible within the limited time frame at Rainforest Discovery Centre. This year, there are two categories; one for groups are 18 and above and another is a category for students age 17 years and below.
This year, there were about 12 groups participating in the Sabah Bird Race, and it’s refreshing to see that more and more youths are starting to get involved and participate in the event. Even the marshals for each team are from the junior group that have been guided and trained by their senior birders!
With that said, Borneo Bird Festival is an event that provides just the right kind of exposure to the younger generation who are interested to pursue birding or wildlife photography as a hobby. It’s also a great platform to ignite new passions and interests towards nature and the environment. This also means that Borneo Bird Festival has the potential to impact more individuals to be more aware and concerned towards the need to protect and care for the environment, which is a huge deal in this day and age.
Another great thing about the Borneo Bird Festival is that it’s an event suitable for all ages. It’s definitely a family-friendly event, which has a little something for everyone. The recent two-day Borneo Bird Festival had activities such as a drawing and colouring competition for students, artsy workshops like Basic Doodle with Impressions, Bird Mask-Making and even a Basic Photography workshop with CANON. There was even a Beyblade Competition going on!
Besides that, CANON also set up a booth during the event as a way to create awareness for the public by showcasing the unmatched beauty of Borneo’s nature and wildlife wonders through breath-taking photographs taken by numerous photographers using Canon’s camera.
Other exciting activities during the event also included the flying fox or zipline as well as tree climbing for those who want to experience a little thrill and adventure. Visitors can also explore the trails and elevated walkways as well as observation towers at Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC). That’s definitely a must-do at RDC and a highlight for visitors as it gives them a chance to immerse themselves in the tranquil and beauty of nature that’s bound to give surprises along the way.
There were also interesting talks and sharing by Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Borneo Refugia Adventure, Alexander John, Birdlife International, 1Stop Borneo Wildlife, Nature Society Singapore, Wildtour Vietnam, Dongshi Forest District Taiwan and Raptor Research Group, Taiwan- Just to name a few. These talks and sharing were truly informative, inspirational and insightful, and visitors do learn a lot from the talks.
If you’ve never been to the Borneo Bird Festival, then you need to make sure that you do next year because it’s an event not to be missed! Dates for Borneo Bird Festival 2020 will be announced early next year, so stay tuned for more details!