Sunday, October 12, 2014

Borneo Bird Race 2014

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What is the Borneo Bird Race? It's a journey, It’s travelling, It’s a neck breaking challenge, but lots of fun! Nine team will land in Sabah of the Borneo island geared up for a 10 day bird hunt – on their mission to see as many bird species as possible.  On the surface, the motivation is to promote Birding in Borneo and along the way to draw worldwide attention to conserve the forests habitat of Borneo birds.
When is it?  24 September to 3 October 2014 rain or shine! Why a Borneo Bird Race? Borneo is a birder’s paradise. It’s an opportunity for birders to capitalize on this natural gift. Birders experience their greatest challenge to conquer Borneo’s tough environment, 90% humidity, rain! And the beautiful shine! Media has also taken a keen interest on this event and have also been given the opportunity to experience and understand, what birding is all about.
Where is it?  It’s here in Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak! Spectacular Island of Borneo…
How does it work? The team will travel more than 1000 kilometres in 10days, in search of more than 200 species of birds in a wide range of habitats from the coastal regions, freshwater swamps, and lowland forests, to the hills and mountain ranges of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei Brunei. At the end of the day, each team will enjoy the beauty of this Land as they count the numbers of recorded species, and the longest list shall earn the prestigious “Bornean Bristlehead Trophy”

Who organizes it? This event was founded by birders and naturalist! It is organised by Sandakan Borneo Bird Club and sponsored by the Tourism boards of Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak.
Mission Statement - To increase appreciation, understanding, and conservation of birds through education, recreation, nature tourism, and conservation fundraising.

The Borneo Bird Race 2014 Summary
After 7 days of intense traveling and bird watching, 9 teams from 7 countries explored over 1000 kilometers throughout Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei visiting national parks, highlands, forest reserves and mangroves to spot and identify the wide variety of bird species found in Borneo for the prestigious Borneo Bird Race 2014.

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Starting in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, international teams arrived here and put up at the cities Shangrila Hotel before being shuttled to the Sutera Harbour Resort for the overall bird race briefing and welcoming dinner hosted by the Sabah Tourism Board.




The Challenge trophy featuring a hand sculptured Bristlehead is crafted in fine pewter. This unique trophy sponsored and conceptualized by Royal Selangor captures in scale the Bristlehead in detail, resting on a branch. The sculptured piece is mounted on a wood base encased with engraved pewter plates.
The overall Champion will take home a specially engraved Royal Selangor Prestige trophy crafted in pewter.
Other category winners include Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei leg winners. Winners will be presented with Royal Selangor Prestige trophies featuring custom engraving commemorating the respective legs.
There will also be winning categories for “Most Endemic Sighting” & “Most Sporting Team”. Each category winner will receive a specially engraving Royal Selangor pewter plaque.  



Kinabalu Park, Sabah
The first day of race saw the entourage being shuttled at 4.00am to the Kinabalu National Park which is about two hours from Kota Kinabalu. Teams were assigned an official marshal during their race which started at 6.00am and at the Timpohon Gate, which is one of the main gateways to climbing Mount Kinabalu. From the gate, each team would make their way on foot downhill passing various check points while spotting the many montane birds here.





At 11.00an, the race ended where a lunch was hosted at the parks function room by the Sabah Parks. Birders gathered and shared experiences which included sightings and photographs. The cool and cold climate also offered an easy birding experience here.


Sandakan, Sabah
The next destination was Sandakan in the east coast of Sabah and all teams and officials were transferred overland by coaches there. Upon arrival, all teams were checked into the luxurious Four Points Hotel by the sea in town. A welcoming dinner was hosted by the Sandakan Municipal Council at popular Pasir Putih seafood restaurant.

Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC), Sepilok
The second day of race started at 6.00am at the RDC in Sepilok which is also home to the Borneo Bird Festival for the last 5 years. Teams arrived here just before 6.00am for a briefing and then starting the race which saw some teams heading to the popular main car park spot while first timers headed to the unique metal canopy walk and observation towers here. The Birstlehead Tower and Trogon Tower were filled with participants who were eager to spot the rare and beautiful Bornean Bristlehead bird which is often seen around here. However, lady luck did not quite show and other species were spotted instead.
The following day was met with talks and presentations on birds by various speakers at the auditorium here. An official launching and opening of the Borneo Bird Festival 2014 was also officiated by Sabah Tourism Board Chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai while special guests of honour Tun Ahmad Abdullah Badawi and Tun Jeanne Abdullah were there to launch the 3rd edition Birds of Borneo by Quentin Phillips.











The 1st leg of the Bird Race concluded here in Sandakan at an official dinner and prize presentation at the Four Points Hotel. Overall, a total of 103bird species was spotted at both locations of the bird race where team Bird Conservation Society of Thailand won the trophy. As a bonus for the evening, a special performance by one of the Japanese team members left a memorable experience in Sandakan, Sabah where Mr. Torikun of Wild Bird Society of Japan performed a self composed song about the Borneo Bird Race in Malay!

Stop-over at Tanjung Aru Beach and Sabah Museum in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
After concluding the Sarawak leg of the bird race, all teams traveled back to Kota Kinabalu to catch a connecting flight to Brunei. Due to the long transit time, a bonus was given to teams where everyone visited the Tanjung Rhu Beach, a notable spot for bird watching and only 10 minutes away from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
There was one hour of free and easy time here for the international teams to explore the area where they would spot local and also migratory birds here. After that, teams were shuttled to the Sabah State Museum for a hosted lunch by the museum authorities. At the museum, all teams were treated to a visit inside where a display of birds and mammals was the highlight of the museum here.
Another bonus was added where after lunch, a two hour free and easy time was again given to all teams at the Sabah Museum Botanical Gardens which is also a heaven for birds here. Team members explored the lush landscapes and gardens here to spot many species of birds before heading back to the airport to catch the connecting flight to Brunei.

Borneo Highlands, Kuching Sarawak
Catching a flight from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu and then to Kuching, the entourage arrived at the Borneo Highlands Resort which is about one hour away from Kuching city and elevate at about 1000 metres above sea level. This was the second leg of the Borneo Bird Race and Sarawak was participating as a destination for the first time too.




All teams checked in here to be welcomed by the resort general manager Mr. Shafiq and to a vegetarian dinner. Overall, this golf resort only serves vegetarian cuisine therefore it was a health detox for everyone here. At 6am the following day, all teams started from the amazing Kalimantan View Point, about 10 minutes drive from the main resort. Arriving here at 5.45am, the cool climate saw all teams in jackets and sweaters walking around as the heavy morning mist was a challenge to spot any birds. 










By an hours time, the mist had cleared a little but some teams had already made their way downhill to spot birds. At 9.00am the participants were welcomed by Mary Wan of the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak to formally flag-off the Bird Race Sarawak leg.




A lunch break saw all teams come back before heading out again, this time around the main golf course as many birds were seen at the forest edges. Hole 13 was the most popular as at least 5 of the teams were seen around there spotting birds. By 3.00pm, the weather had changed where light rain begin to fall. At 4.00pm, the rain was heavy and many teams had returned back to the main lobby of the resort. The race officially ended at 5.00pm here.



A dinner and prize giving ceremony was held at the main restaurant where guest of honour Datuk Ik Pahon, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak and Dato’ Rashid Khan, the CEO of Sarawak Tourism Board had arrived in the evening for this function.
A brief introduction about the Borneo Bird Race was given by race organiser Cede Prudente from the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club before announcing the second leg winner here. After race arbitrators calculated the points for each of the teams, the winning team which spotted 65 bird species by the Birdwatch Palawan Ornithological Society from the Philippines.




Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.
The final leg of the race was in Brunei and all teams traveled from Kota Kinabalu to Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei in the evening. Upon arrival, teams were treated to a hosted welcoming dinner by Brunei Tourism at the Portview Restaurant by the Brunei River overlooking the famous Kampung Air or Water Village in the city. After dinner, all teams checked into the Brunei Hotel in town.


Kampung Air and Mangrove the Brunei River
The following morning, an early start at 6.00am was flagged off at the main jetty area of town where each team got onto a boat to spot birds along Kampung Ayer and the mangroves of the Brunei River. An exciting experience, teams went on their own along the river trying to spot as many shore birds found here. Some headed upstream passing the Royal Palace of the Sultan while others stayed closer to the mangroves.








Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei

By 10.00am, the first leg of Brunei was concluded as teams were then transferred via boat toward the Ulu Temburong district which is the largest national park in Brunei. The boat journey was about an hour passing through deep mangroves before reaching a small town jetty and then transferred via small coach to another jetty for an hour. Reaching the second jetty, teams boarded individual long bots to be taken upstream into the heart of the Ulu Temburong National Park.
After about another hour, everyone arrived at the Ulu Ulu Resort, the second and final leg of the bird race in Brunei. Only accessible by boat, this very unique and green resort was the only resort inside the national park here. 


Everyone was treated to a welcoming speech and video presentation by the resort owner and Brunei Forestry Official before heading for dinner. The following day saw all teams starting on foot at 6.00am exploring the resort surroundings and also some of the trails here. As the resort is quite spacious and large, there was ample area for all 9 teams to bird watch. Some teams opted to take a long boat along the Temburong River to spot birds too. By 5.00pm, most of the teams were exhausted from their walks and were back to prepare for dinner.  




The next day, it was the last race in the morning before checking out and heading back to Brunei. This time, all teams made their way along a trek that headed uphill in the pristine rainforest here. At the top, a very unique canopy walk offered nature lovers and bird watchers an experience above the rainforest canopy. A stainless steel structure let each member climb to over 40 metres to a viewing point where you can have a 360 degrees view of the national park here. This structure also led to two other tower structures via a walkway. Birds were easily spotted for those with a sharp eye too. Along the way up and down, a number of endemic birds were also spotted and photographed by teams and also observing guests that followed along. Finally at 11.00am, the Borneo Bird Race 2014 was concluded at the resort and all teams had to submit their birding count book back to the official arbitrator.









Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei - Closing Ceremony
Teams packed up and headed back the same way to Bandar Seri Begawan to check into the Rizqun International Hotel in town. The official closing ceremony dinner and prize giving was held at the Songket Hall here with the attendance of His Excellency Pehin Yahya, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) as the Guest of Honor, Brunei Tourism, Foreign Dignitaries and other invited guests. In total, over 200 people came for this lavish official closing event.



After the opening speech, dinner was served where team Bird Conservation Society of  Thailand was invited on stage to give a presentation about birds in Thailand followed by team Natural Heritage Conservation Society, Gujarat, India who presented a talk about Birding in Gujaret, India. 






Just after dessert was served, an overview of the Borneo Bird Festival 2014 was given by Cede Prudente, the organizer of the race where he showed various photos of the teams in action during the race. After his overview, the race director Mr. Gary Albert was invited to announce the winners.
Two special prizes were awarded - The Most Endemic Birds Spotted went to team Wild Bird Society of Japan Ibaraki Branch and The Most Sporting Team award went to team Natural Heritage Conservation Society, Gujarat, India. This followed with the announcement of the winner of the Brunei leg with a total number of 92 bird species spotted which went to team Wild Bird Society of Japan, Ibaraki Branch, Japan. A loud applause was heard through the dinner hall as many did not expect the Japanese team to win this leg.

The Most Sporting Team award went to team Natural Heritage Conservation Society, Gujarat, India



Finally, the moment that all birders and guests had been waiting for, the overall champion of the Borneo Bird Race 2014 was announced, with a pause and drum roll....and the winner was Team Bird Society of Japan Ibaraki Branch from Japan! With an overall total of 169 bird species spotted and 18 Endemic bird species spotted, throughout the three states of Borneo.

The Most Endemic Birds Spotted and winner of the Brunei leg with a total number of 92 bird species, the Wild Bird Society of Japan Ibaraki Branch
The Champion! Overall total of 169 bird species spotted and 18 Endemic bird species spotted, throughout the three states of Borneo, the Wild Bird Society of Japan Ibaraki Branch
The dinner concluded with smiles all across, teams and guests networking before calling it a night. Overall, all teams, officials, marshals and media members travelled via coaches, buses, planes, boats and on foot in seek of the many birds found around the island of Borneo. This not only showcased that Borneo in general has over 680 bird species, but also opened up the eyes of the international participants as they explored the oldest rainforest in the world visiting cities, towns and villages and also indulging in the authentic Bornean cuisines from the many different cultures here. Upon speaking to some of the participants, they mentioned that for the 3rd Borneo Bird Race, they have already blocked off the dates so that they can come back here again.



For media info and media features on the Borneo Bird Race 2014, kindly contact Cede Prudente of the Borneo Bird Race. (http://www.borneobirdrace.com/)
The Borneo Bird Race is organised by Sandakan Borneo Bird Club, A Registered Club under Registrars of Society (ROS) of Malaysia, it aims to create the culture of appreciation to Birds of Borneo, to develop initiatives supporting the bird species conservation and encourage birdwatching travel.
The Borneo Bird Race is also sponsored by  Sabah Tourism Board - Sponsor
Sabah Tourism, is an agency of the Sabah State Government operating under the purview of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment. Sabah Tourism's primary responsibility is the marketing and promotion of tourism for the State.
Ministry of Tourism Sarawak Sponsor Sarawak Tourism Board was incorporated under the Sarawak Tourism Board (Incorporation) Ordinance, dated 12 November 1994. Among it;s objectives are to create awareness among the trade, media and public of the diversity of Sarawak in terms of tourism products, both on a regional and international basis.
Brunei Tourism – Sponsor Brunei Tourism is in charge of tourism development, marketing and promotion, as well as licensing of tour companies. The division has been actively engaged in the promotion of tourism to Brunei since the mid 1990s, standing its four pillars: culture, heritage, nature, and contemporary Asia.
Swarovski Optik – Collabrator Swarovski Optik is a division of the Swarovski group of companies, manufacturing High-quality optical instruments. Its headquarters are in Absam, Tyrol, Austria. Specialises in the development and manufacturing of long-range optical instruments in the premium segment of the market, including binoculars, telescopes (spotting scopes), rifle scopes, range finders and night sight devices.
Press and media contact:

Cede Prudente of the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club
Mailing Address: North Borneo Safari Sdn. Bhd. Lot 1, 2nd Floor, Block C, Jalan Megah Jaya 2, Bandar Megah Jaya Mile 7, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah Malaysia.
Email: borneobirdrace@gmail.com