From 15-17th October 2023, I had the privilege of attending the 12th Asian Bird Fair (ABF) 2023 held at the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. It was a special visit for me as it was my first time participating in an International Bird Fair.
The Asian Bird Fair 2023 Vendors Overview
As I entered the exhibition hall where the ABF was being held, I was amazed at the numerous booths and vendors at the fair. Being a passionate birder, I was even more excited to see that this whole event catered to individuals like me who are passionate about birds and the avian industry.
This event gives birdwatchers and photographers something memorable to take back. The vendors of the Asian Bird Fair 2023 included Bird Tour Companies and Bird Societies from both Malaysia and Overseas. It also included Camera and Optics Companies, Tourism Agencies, Wildlife Tour Companies and Environmental NGOs.
International and Local Vendors
Being an international event, one of the attractive aspects of the Bird Fair was the presence of many international vendors. I had the opportunity to visit some of these vendors, including Bird Conservation Nepal, Cambodia Bird Guide Association, Cun Cao Xin Rural Environment Protection Association, Mongolian Ornithological Society, and Odisha Ecotourism Foundation, among many others.
Special mention to Inala Nature Tours, coming from Australia and Costa Rica Birding & Photography Expeditions, coming from Central America. These two vendors were the only international vendors from outside of Asia, and they definitely made an impression during the Bird Fair.
Most of the international vendors at the Fair were promoting their tour packages, which are custom-made tours for birders and bird photographers. The tours were designed in such a way they provide the highest chances of viewing exciting and rare birds when visiting the respective countries.
Apart from the International vendors, there were also many local vendors, tour companies, and hotel and tourism agencies who had booths at the bird fair. These include companies and organizations such as Sabah Tourism Board, Shangrila Rasa Ria, Tabin Wildlife Holidays Sdn Bhd, Sticky Rice Travel, Tourism Malaysia and many others. The tour packages offered during the fair were pretty impressive and attracted many visitors to their booths.
Bird Conservation Efforts
Some of the vendors present at the Fair were NGOs who were there to share information regarding their bird conservation efforts in their respective countries. It was very interesting to talk to some of them and learn about their conservation efforts. Examples include the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, which promotes birdwatching activities to their community, including children and youth.
Odisha Ecotourism Foundation is another organization which focuses on educating the people around Chilika Lake, which is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and promotes sustainable eco-tourism together with their community.
The Royal Society for Protection of Nature from Bhutan engages in bird conservation efforts in their country. Their current project is to protect the globally threatened White-bellied Heron. The White-bellied Heron has the largest population in Bhutan, and I hope that the efforts by this organization will help to save this species and prevent them from extinction.
Throughout the Bird Fair, there were a series of panel discussions and interesting talks given by guest speakers. Some of the vendors also had the opportunity to share about birds from their home country during the talks. One example of this was that the vendor from Inala Tours shared about Australian Birds in one of the sessions. The vendor from Odisha Ecotourism Foundation also shared regarding their bird conservation efforts in India.
Entering the exhibition hall, Kadaiku Sabah Souvenirs and Handicrafts stood out as they were situated very near the entrance. They were one of the main vendors selling merchandise. They had some interesting merchandise for sale, including bird-related merchandise related to many of Sabah’s unique birds.
Another vendor selling merchandise that caught my attention was the Philippines-based vendor Haring Ibon. ‘Haring Ibon’ is the Filipino name for the Philippine Eagle, a unique and rare eagle found in the Philippines.
I was very impressed with the quality of the merchandise they were selling, and I bought their long sleeve t-shirt. This vendor also sold high-quality caps and trading cards related to birds! I feel that companies from other countries, including Malaysia, can learn about building a nature-based brand from them.
Apart from that, many international vendors sold simple merchandise such as t-shirts, pins, badges, books, etc. Most of these merchandise are related to birds and are very attractive. The presence of many vendors selling merchandise gives visitors something to take back if they can’t afford to go on a birdwatching tour. I got some T-shirts and caps to bring back as souvenirs.
Camera and Optics
Last but not least, the Asian Bird Fair will not be complete without the presence of optics and camera companies. The notable vendors for cameras include Sony and Canon. Participants of the Bird Fair tried out some of the new cameras and lenses during the event. There is an option to loan some of the camera gear at discounted prices as well.
I was very impressed with the units being promoted during the fair by both camera companies. Although I did not personally purchase or loan any new camera models during the event, a number of my friends who were photographers did and were very impressed with the results.
As for optics, Optisan Optics were present to promote their products. I was personally impressed with their 10×42 ED binoculars, which they allowed me to try out. Coming all the way from Taiwan, Optisan Optics did not have a Malaysian dealer before coming to the Fair. However, I feel that eventually, more people will start using some of their products after this.
The Asian Bird Fair 2023 was a total success. Kudos to the Sabah Birdwatchers Association (SBWA) for organizing the event and bringing in many vendors and exhibitors. The presence of the different vendors made the event very eventful. It was wonderful to meet many bird and tourism-related organizations to exchange information and make many friends.
A big thank you to the sponsors who made the event possible. Sabah Tourism Board was the main supporter, and Sony Malaysia was the main camera sponsor. Other sponsors and partners for this event are Place Borneo Sdn Bhd, Amptitude PLT, ibis Styles Kota Kinabalu, Bird Watching Asia, Shangri La Rasa Ria, Optisan Optic, Sticky Rice Travel, and Life Water Industries Sdn Bhd.
Henceforth, I am looking forward to the 13th Asian Bird Fair that will be held in Manila next year. We can also expect to see many vendors appear for next year’s edition of the Asian Bird Fair.