Bird Photography in Malaysia

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Malaysia Bird Photography

The rise of bird photography in Malaysia has been steady in recent years, and this is all thanks to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where many go to show their prized photos.

And if you have done a quick search on Google for bird photography, you will see that there is not much information on this subject; hence I have taken the opportunity to provide essential information here.

Bird Photography in Malaysia

Bird Photography Malaysia
A bird photographer on a boat in Malaysia.

Malaysia is one of the more sought-after locations for bird photography for several reasons, making this hobby an easy experience. The country sits just above the equator and under Thailand, with two main seasons – rainy and dry.

An estimated 814 bird species are found in Malaysia (According to MNS) and spread generously throughout the 15 states, including Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island. But if you check Wikipedia, it lists 834 species of birds in Malaysia recorded to date.

More importantly, Malaysia’s infrastructure is quite well developed, providing easy access to most birding destinations by air, sea, rail or overland by car, bike and even 4×4.

Due to the demand for bird photography before the Covid 19 pandemic, various locations around the country had seen an increase in avian tourism, which saw a small opportunity to capitalise on this unique market.

However, you do not create overnight bird guides hoping to be ready to lead potential photographers into the rainforest in a few months. This takes a lot of experience and time, resulting in months or even years.

But one state in Malaysia has seen the future, and they have already trained their guides from decades ago until this very day. And the most important is knowing and understanding what the photographer wants during their trip.

Many bird guides in Malaysia speak excellent English, and some even speak a second or third language. Still, the ultimate concern is the superb birding ethics that are practised and shared.

One of the worst ethics in bird photography is feeding the birds for the shot, and most bird guides in Malaysia highly tolerate this. If you are the type that feeds the birds to get the shot, you won’t get a good bird guide.

And if you do bird feeding on your trip, some bird guides will cancel the tour and refund your fees as they do not support this non-ethical practice of bird feeding.

Best Place for Bird Photography in Malaysia

Bird Photography Sabah
Bird photographers at the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) in Sabah.

This is the most popular question asked by bird photographers who plan to visit here, and for this answer, there are two recommended places for bird photography in Malaysia which are;

1. Bird Photography in Sabah

Sabah is hands down the number one location for birdwatching photography, which is not plucked from the sky. The reason is that Sabah has been a pioneer in bird watching for over three decades. Read this article about how Sabah became the top birding destination in Malaysia.

The bird guides in Sabah are all well-trained to handle all kinds of international bird tourists, and you can even find specific language-speaking guides in Sabah. Sabah excels in this also thanks to the Sabah Tourism Board, which has supported and promoted bird tourism at various bird fairs worldwide.

And to top it off, Sabah also has its own unique Borne Bird Festival annually at the Rainforest Discovery Centre or RDC, which is also an Important Birding Area or IDC since 2009.

I will also compile a list of places to do bird photography in Sabah; they are probably the best locations. The main reasons are the places’ overall infrastructure, accommodation, roads, guides, services, etc.

Places to do bird photography in Sabah;

  • Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDS) at Sepilok, Sandakan
  • Danum Valley Conservation Area, Lahad Datu
  • Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lahad Datu
  • Kinabalu National Park, Ranau

The best time to do bird photography in Sabah is around August to September due to the general fruiting season, which attracts a lot of birds to certain fruiting trees. One of the best trees to look out for is the fig tree, which attracts many species of birds.

2. Bird Photography in Langkawi

Langkawi Bird Photography
An endemic Brown-winged Kingfisher was photographed by me in Langkawi.

In Peninsular Malaysia, there are numerous locations available, but the most convenient place would be Langkawi’s Island in Northern Malaysia. Here, you can get some great photos of the various Hornbills.

Langkawi is selected because of the entire island’s complete infrastructure. Overall, Pulau Langkawi is well-known as a vacation getaway destination that caters to all walks of life.

The balance of nature and beach is perfect, providing an abundance of flora and fauna that impresses nature lovers and bird watchers. A few reputable bird guides are available on the island and can be booked in advance.

Overall, I recommend visiting Langkawi from around October to March, as this is the dry season. Be cautious about booking trips during December and the Chinese New Year because of the super-peak holiday season.

Any other time is excellent, but you should expect rain from April to October, which is not the major monsoon and has fewer visitors to the island. One of the places I love to stay is the Tanjung Rhu Resort because of the privacy and natural area for bird watching.

Other Places for Bird Photography in Malaysia

Malays
A Hornbill photo is seen in one of the cameras.

There are many other places where you can do bird photography in Malaysia, but one needs to travel or book a guide to bring you around. At the end of the day, it also depends on the bird photographer and what they want to shoot.

If you only want to photograph the Dulit Frogmouth, you must travel to Sarawak’s highlands, as that endemic bird has only been spotted there. Also, you will need a local guide to bring you to the specific place where the Frogmouth is seen.

If you want to photograph specific shorebirds, you may need to explore areas that are well known, namely the Ash Pond in Kuching, Sarawak or Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary in the state of Perak.

It is subjective and up to the bird photographer what they want to achieve at the end of the day. But if you are a first-time bird photographer in Malaysia, the above locations are probably the best.

Bird Photography Equipment in Malaysia

Because of the tropical climate, bird photographers in Malaysia must come prepared, and I have narrowed down a list of what you can bring or prepare for your trip;

  • Raincoat of Poncho – Highly important as it can rain in the rainforest anytime, and you will want to protect yourself.
  • Camera and Lens Raincoat – These are also important for your gear as they can be quite heavy when it rains.
  • Leech Socks – These are compulsory to wear for anyone heading into the rainforest.
  • Insect Repellent – I know every country has its brands, but here in Malaysia, you need a local one that suits our climate.
  • Local Bird Book – If you want to know the local bird names and other information, you can buy them here.

If you are booking a specialised bird photography guide for your trip, I would advise that you ask them what is needed for your trip. If you go deep into the rainforest, bringing along your hard cases would be impractical.

To buy some of these bird photography equipment, you may need to pre-buy them in our country if you are a visiting traveller. If you are local, you can also look for some of these products at the Bird Watching Malaysia online shop soon.

How to Book a Bird Photography Guide in Malaysia?

For now, I am working on compiling a list of the Malaysia bird guides for photography, and once I get the detailed information, I will post them on this site or this article.

If you are planning to visit Malaysia soon for birding or need a bird photography guide, you can contact me from here, and I will get back to you.

Conclusion

I hope this article on bird photography in Malaysia has provided you with much-needed information. If you enjoyed reading this, please follow me on my Bird Watching Malaysia Facebook Group.

I created this article because of the rise of bird photographers in Malaysia and worldwide in the last five years alone. Before this, there were many bird watchers compared to photographers.

About Bird Watching Asia

Bird Watching Asia is a self-funded project to promote bird watching in Malaysia and around Asia.

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