Bird Watching Events Cancelled in Malaysia

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Malaysia Bird Watching Events Cancelled

For all the birders out there, with the Covid-19 pandemic happening in 2020, all bird watching events and festivals in Malaysia have been cancelled indefinitely or turned into a digital or online event.

If you had plans to visit Malaysia in 2020 for any bird watching event or festival-related, please note that this is all cancelled by Malaysia’s government. Currently, only bird watching is allowed for locals around Malaysia at National Parks that have recently opened in mid-June of 2020.

Bird Watching Events Cancelled in Malaysia

Most of the birding events and festival around Malaysia occur after March, but because the pandemic started in February till March, some early events were cancelled.

The bigger festivals and events were usually held in May, June and October in Peninsular and Sabah and Sarawak. However, it was instructed by the Malaysian Government that all events were to be cancelled.

Since the Corona-virus or Covid-19 pandemic went widespread in March of 2020, the Malaysian Government has imposed a Movement Control Order or MCO for Malaysia’s people.

Not only that, but all inbound visitors have also been banned until the lifting of the MCO. This means any tourists planning to visit Malaysia from March, April and May are not allowed to enter the country.

What is the Movement Control Order or MCO?

It is an order to control the citizens’ movement in Malaysia, where certain rules and regulations were set by the government locking down people in their own homes and individual states.

This meant no interstate travel, and all non-essential businesses were ordered closed until the MCO was lifted. This affected the travel and tourism industry pretty hard as they were instructed to seize operations.

Airlines, cruises and bus services were ordered to stop service, which crippled the entire tourism industry in Malaysia and worldwide.

Movement Control Order 3.0
The Movement Control Order or MCO has been around for over a year in Malaysia. Pic: The Star.

Movement Control Order (MCO) Phases

To date, there has been multiple phases of the MCO in Malaysia, but no one is sure when it will completely end. As of the government’s last public announcement, the current MCO is scheduled to end on the 4th of March, 2021.

However, due to Covid19 cases and hotspots appearing randomly in certain states of Malaysia, some of these states are undergoing an MCO extension. In contrast, other not-so-severe states will observe CMCO and RMCO.

Below are the dates of the Movement Control Order in Malaysia.

  • MCO Phase 1 – March 18 to March 31, 2020
  • MCO Phase 2 – April 1 to April 14, 2020
  • MCO Phase 3 – April 15 to April 28, 2020
  • MCO Phase 4 – April 20 to May 12, 2020
  • CMCO Phase 5 – May 13 to June 9, 2020
  • RMCO Phase 6 – June 9 to July 12, 2020
  • RMCO Phase 7 – July 13 to Aug 31, 2020
  • RMCO Phase 8 – Sept 1 to Dec 31, 2020
  • RMCO Phase 9 – Jan 1 to 31 March 2021
  • MCO Phase 10 – 13 Jan to 4 March 2021

What are the Birding Festivals and Events Cancelled or Turned into A Digital Online Event?

In Malaysia, there are several birding and bird watching events throughout the year, some big and most of them are medium or small scale.

Below is a list of the birding events in Malaysia that have been cancelled indefinitely or made into a digital or online event;

  • Raptor Watch Tanjung Tuan – March (Turned into a Digital Online Event)
  • Taman Negara Bird Count – March
  • Kenyir Bird and Nature Quest – March
  • Wings of KKB – April
  • Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race – June
  • Sarawak International Bird Race – August
  • Borneo Bird Festival – October
  • Taiping Raptor Watch – October or Early November
  • Putrajaya Bird Race – November


2021 Bird Watching Events Cancelled in Malaysia
Almost all of the bird watching events and festivals have been cancelled in Malaysia.

What if you Booked a Bird Watching Tour in Malaysia for 2021?

Anyone who has booked any bird watching tours in Malaysia will have to either reschedule your bookings or possibly cancel them and get a refund from your bird guide or tour operator.

There is no way that immediately after the MCO is lifted in Malaysia, things will get back to normal. It will take a lot of time for this to happen.

How bird watching tours in Malaysia work is that the bird watcher will book their own flights into the country and connect flights to the birding destination.

The bird guide or tour company will usually include the pickup, lodging, meals and transport for the customer. This means your bird guide will only pick up the birder from the respective destination airport.

From there, you will be sent to your hotel or resort, where your birding adventure begins. All meals, transportation at the destination is usually included in your bird watching package.

If you have booked any flights, you might as well cancel them or reschedule them to year-end or, even better, next year in 2022. Most airlines are providing the option of a 365-day credit, and some may even do a full refund.

You need to contact your airline about this as most bird watchers to Malaysia will usually book their own flights and other connecting flights. If you booked any transit hotel accommodations, you might also need to cancel the bookings.

What can a Bird Watcher do next?

With what is going on around the world, the only thing you can do is sit back home and wait for this Covid-19 pandemic to end. Make sure you get in touch with your bird guide or tour company to re-arrange your trip.

The birds will still be there, so there is no worry. The great thing about all of this is that all of nature and the birds have a chance to populate during this time.

The Reality of Bird Watching in Malaysia Post-Covid-19

Let us be very honest here as no one knows when this pandemic will end or what will happen in the months to come. Right now, the Covid19 vaccine seems to be the solution for everyone around the world.

Even if Malaysia flattens the curve, the government has already mentioned that they will not be immediately opening up for international travellers into the country.

For example, when the Movement Control Order is lifted, it will be a crucial period for the country as there will be a lot of monitoring to be done by the government and the frontliners.

If things work out well, the tourism industry will most likely open up in Q4 of 2021. We are looking at maybe after December or most likely in early 2022. Again, this is entirely up to the Malaysian government.


I would easily say that it would be risky for foreigners to plan any bird watching trips to Malaysia in 2021, but if you ask me, I would rather recommend the next year for any birding trips or vacations.

The best is to take a break for 2021 and let the pandemic issue be cleared before making any plans. Right now, with the closure of the national parks, sanctuaries and other bird watching locations, nature has a huge win.

We, humans, have been taking everything for granted, and nature has been on the losing end for the last few decades. Now that this pandemic happened and humankind has been instructed to stay home, the birds have some peace.

So, with all the bird watching events cancelled in Malaysia for 2020 and 2021, we can at least start planning for the following years and hoping that the Covid19 vaccine comes true for everyone.

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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