Borneo Bird Festival 2019

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Borneo Bird Festival 2019

The Borneo Bird Festival 2019 will be taking place in Sandakan, Sabah Borneo, from the 26th and 27th of October 2019.

This will also be the 11th year that the bird festival in Sabah is taking place, and it will be at the home ground of the event, which is the Rainforest Discovery Center or RDC in Sepilok.

Borneo Bird Festival 2019

Borneo Bird Festival
The mascots during the last Borneo Bird Festival event in Sandakan, Sabah.

For this year’s bird festival, there will be the usual activities on going like the bird race, the main event and the bird photo race, which is gaining popularity among some bird photographers.

One the opening day, there will be the bird festival’s official opening done at the main stage area, where invited VIPs will officiate the event. Talks and workshops related to conservation, nature and also birding will be conducted at the seminar hall located in the RDC.

Borneo Bird Festival Launch
Visitors and VIPs at the launch of the 2018 Borneo Bird Festival in Sandakan, Sabah.

The Borneo Bird Festival has also been welcomed as one of the must-visit family events in Sandakan, attracting locals and also curious visitors from near and afar. While many may think this event only revolves around bird watching, you’re mistaken. Many other activities are related to nature and the outdoors.

There are also kid-related events; hence you will see many children of all ages visiting the event, including primary and secondary schools from around the greater Sandakan area, which is quite large.

Borneo Bird Fair Vendors
Some of the vendors and exhibitions at the Borneo Bird Festival.

Activities at the Borneo Bird Festival 2019;

  • Bird Race Open Category – Open to all teams.
  • Bird Race Student Category – For secondary school students.
  • Bird Photography Race – All classes, sponsored by Canon.
  • General Photography Contest – Open to all; register at the event.
  • Basic Photography Class – By Canon and Borneo Bird Club.
  • Explorace – An ‘amazing race’ concept in the rainforest, open to all.
2019 Borneo Bird Festival
Some of the bird watching trails at the Rainforest Discovery Center in Sepilok.

Student Bird Race – The objective of conducting the bird race for secondary students is to encourage nature appreciation through bird watching and bird photography.

To add on, the last Borneo Bird Festival 2018 saw over 200 participants and visitors attend the festival held at the RDC in Sepilok. This was also accompanied by the Borneo Bird Run, which takes place on Sunday morning.

Henry Goh Birding
Henry Goh, Sanjit and other birders at the RDC.

Participating in the Borneo Bird Festival

In the last 10 years, the Borneo Bird Festival has seen tens of thousands of people attending and participating in the many events held here.

International participants have been coming from the United States, South Africa and even from Japan. For locals, Sabahans make up the visitors’ bulk while visitors from neighbouring state Sarawak have visitors.

Visitors and participants from Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and all around Southeast Asia are no strangers to the bird festival in Sabah.

For the Borneo Bird Festival 2019, teams from Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Peninsular Malaysia have been confirmed to participate in the bird race and photo race.

Borneo Bird Festival Resistration
The registration hut at the Borneo Bird Festival.

Where is the Borneo Bird Festival held?

The bird festival originally started in the city of Sandakan at the RDC in Sepilok. Over the last 10 years, the festival has also moved to other cities around Sabah.

The festival was also held at Mount Kinabalu Park twice, and in 2017, the Borneo Bird Race was held in Kota Kinabalu City and the Crocker Range, which was a dual area event.

Sandakan to Rainforest Discovery Center Sepilok
The time it takes to travel from Sandakan to the Rainforest Discovery Center in Sepilok.

How to go to the Borneo Bird Festival?

For those who live in Sabah, you can self-drive to Sandakan from anywhere in Sabah. You should also make your accommodation bookings ahead to get a good deal from the lodges or hotels.

Those coming from out of Sabah, there are numerous flights to Sandakan with AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines. From the Sandakan airport, it takes only 20 minutes to get to Sepilok via vehicle.

From the city area of Sandakan, it will take around 40 minutes to drive one way. If there is heavy traffic, it could go up to 60 minutes one way. There is a ride-hailing service like Grab and general taxis from around Sandakan, but there is a bus service to the RDC.

Hotels Lodges In Sepilok Map
A map showing the hotels and lodges In the Sepilok area.

Where to Stay for the Borneo Bird Festival?

There are numerous accommodations that participants can choose from around the Rainforest Discovery Center or RDC in Sepilok. These accommodations range from budget lodges to nature resorts.

Obviously, most participants will want to stay closest to the RDC event; hence those places will be fully booked easily. You can always stay at some of the nice hotels located in Sandakan City for those visiting only as it is a 30-minute drive to the RDC.

My Nature Resort Sepilok
The swimming pool at My Nature Resort in Sepilok, Sandakan.

Hotels, Resorts and Lodges at Sepilok

Below is a list of all the lodges, hotels and resorts located around the main Sepilok area. Some of them are very close to the RDC, while others require a slight walk or a shuttle service provided by the resort or lodge.

  • Sepilok Bed and Breakfast is the closest accommodation to the RDC and highly popular among the local birders. Basic and comfortable accommodations.
  • My Nature Resort – One of the newer resorts that is more luxurious and premium. The resort is located about 20 minutes walk to the RDC.
  • Nature Lodge Sepilok – A short walk to the RDC and in the main Sepilok area.
  • Sepilok Forest Edge Resort – One of the further resorts from everything in Sepilok, but a nice and quiet place. You can take a slow long walk or use a shuttle service from the resort.
  • Sepilok Jungle Resort – Located very close to the Sepilok Orangutan Center and a 15 to 20-minute walk to the RDC.
  • Sepilok Nature Resort – One of the nicer places to stay while in Sepilok, and closer to the Orangutan Center.


Banded Kingfisher RDC Sabah
The beautiful Banded Kingfisher spotted at the RDC in Sepilok, Sabah.


Overall, Sabah is and has been the premier birding destination in Malaysia for two to three decades. This is due to the self-initiative of many bird guides and tour agents that made it possible.

Many in the region have also asked how Sabah became the top birding destination in Malaysia, and it goes to show that with passion comes determination and success. If you are a passionate birder, bird photographer or nature lover, the Borneo Bird Festival 2019 is the event to attend, and you will not regret it.

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