From the red-bearded Bee-eater, which holds the distinction of being the world’s largest Bee-eater to the shy and elusive Garnet Pitta, avid birdwatcher Richard Arnold has observed over 170 different bird species across the sultanate.
During the “Birdwatching in Brunei” talk held at the Collaboration Hub, RB Campus, Richard talked about how birdwatching became a central part of his life, his memorable feathered adventures in Brunei and its potential avitourism.
Attended by representatives from the Wildlife Division at the Forestry Department, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, local wildlife photographers, and local tour operators, the talk also aimed to further promote and develop birdwatching tour programmes in the country.
Holding a binocular in one hand and a local bird guide book in the other, Richard shared that one of the biggest appeals of birdwatching in Brunei is the sheer abundance and variety of birdlife.
On his bird-watching trips in the Labi area, the 70-year-old recalled that he was able to catch a glimpse of one of the rare birds he had been searching for: the beautiful yellow and red feathered, Bornean Bristlehead, one of the endemic birds in Borneo.
He also spoke about how Brunei has good government protection of wildlife, Birder-friendly accommodation establishments and easy accessibility to the bird sites.
“For example, the new Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Bridge, enables half-day trips from the capital to the pristine Temburong District,” he said, adding that Brunei’s generally good roads also make it possible to get from accommodation in Bandar Seri Begawan to birdwatching sites in Tutong and Belait districts.
During his five one-day bird-watching tours in the country, he would also share and record his discovery on eBird, a platform for bird enthusiasts which he personally recommends.
Also discussed during the talk was the potential for avitourism in the country.
Despite the rapid growth of birdwatching globally, avitourism in the sultanate is still in its infant stage. However, with its diverse ecosystems, Brunei boasts a remarkable range of avian species, making it a haven for birdwatchers and bird enthusiasts from around the world.
Whilst birdwatching has been gaining popularity in Brunei over the years, the lack of comprehensive guides presents an opportunity for growth and development.
Richard said that having professional bird guides is an invaluable and key asset when it comes to birding.
The seasoned birder also shared an insight into what they look for in a birdwatching guide: having the local knowledge – knowing where to find specific bird species, what sort of food are the birds eating, where are the tree and shrubs flowering or fruiting as well as the seasonal migration of birds.
“We are extremely grateful to Mr Arnold for taking the time to share his experiences and expertise with us. This event reflects Royal Brunei Airlines and Brunei Tourism’s commitment to promoting eco-tourism and efforts in the country,” said RB CEO, Captain Sabirin Hj Abd Hamid.
“By showcasing Brunei’s rich biodiversity, the collaboration seeks to draw attention to the country’s unique offerings and contribute to its growing reputation as a key destination for nature enthusiasts,” he added.
On her part, Acting Director of Tourism Development Salinah Haji Mohd Salleh said, “Brunei Tourism would like to encourage more avid bird-watchers interested in becoming guides to establish themselves as licensed tour guides since there is high potential for this niche segment.”
Currently, local tour operator Travelhub Tours and Travel offers varieties of bird-watching packages that cover birding areas in Bandar Seri Begawan, Temburong, Tutong and Kuala Belait.
Also present at the talk were Deputy Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism Hj Mohd Yusree Hj Junaidii and High Commissioner of Australia to Brunei Luke Arnold.
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN