Friday, September 30, 2016

ThePlanetD: Sabah Diving Guide - Beyond Sipadan

If I sum up Sabah diving in one word, it is diversity. Whether you are into muck diving or colorful coral, this region of Malaysian Borneo will leave you speechless.

The uniqueness of Sabah dive sites lie in that you can see both sea fans, large pelagics and say, pygmy seahorses and frogfish, in a single dive. It’s truly one of the most complete diving holidays in the world.

Yet, most travelers have only heard about Sipadan Island and its resident barracuda tornado. While that is reason enough to visit, the state of Sabah has many other gems. In fact, some of my favorites lie outside Sipadan! Read up for a brief guide.

Si Amil Island, Sipadan Barrier Reef

Diving Season: Mar. to Oct. for best visibility

What if I told you there’s an unspoiled island, filled with a resident school of Devil Rays that far of numbers any rays seen at Sipadan Island itself? Not only that, but that it’s also sprinkled with abandoned World War II buildings and a hilly rainforest to marvel at during your surface intervals?

Welcome to Si Amil!

Only an hour away by speedboat from Semporna, Si Amil’s nine dive sites have everything from big pelagics and fantastic variety of sea fans and hard coral to colorful macro and World War II wrecks.

Night dives are quite special here as well, with sightings of bamboo sharks and rainbow runners being a common occurrence. Better yet? With all eyes on Sipadan, Si Amil remains one of the last frontiers of Sabah diving.

Insider tip: make sure you ask for a Si Amil Island boat trip at the time of booking, as many dive resorts only plan trips there upon request. I can confirm this from my experience at Borneo Divers Mabul Resort. Speaking of which, if you still want to dive Sipadan, Borneo Divers is one of the few resorts that offer you not two, but four boat dives on a single Sipadan trip for no extra charge.

Seaventures House Reef

Diving Season: Apr. to Dec.; best in Jul. and Aug.

During my stay at the Seaventures Dive Resort, I was marveled at the incredible marine life and artificial reefs right underneath it. Large schools of yellowtail trevally, tiny cuttlefish, cute juvenile yellow box fish, and giant groupers are some of the daytime residents of this converted oil rig.

You can even see schools of glassfish feeding by the surface from the highest platform of the rig!

At night, a whole new world is unveiled: from elusive red orange/blue spotted flamboyant cuttlefish and schooling pipefish to Chevron barracudas and fat moray eels grace you with their presence. It was fascinating to see such a volume of macro and schooling fish in a single dive.

As I enjoyed unlimited house reef dives during my stay, I can assure you Seaventures is one of the best dive sites in Sabah. Don’t miss it!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: ThePlanetD: Sabah Diving Guide - Beyond Sipadan

Labels: , , ,

Developing tourism in cradle of ethnic and racial diversity in Miri

MIRI: Miri or the northern region is known as the cradle of ethnic and racial diversity in the country.

“We have over 30 tribes and ethnic groups that can easily reach 48 if we include the sub-groups.

“I have been thinking about how to further develop tourism in Miri,” Mayor Adam Yii said during a courtesy call paid by Federation of Orang Ulu Associations Sarawak Malaysia (Forum) recently.

The entourage was led by Forum president Antonio Kahti Galis who is also Miri Resident.

Yii said Miri should start thinking how to promote and showcase local or native cultures, traditions and heritage through dance and music.

“I think showcasing our diversity would be interesting and attractive for tourists and visitors. Forum comprises nine Orang Ulu ethnic groups under one umbrella provide a good platform to work on with the Resident’s Office.”

Saying tourism development would uplift the local economy, Yii urged Forum and the Orang Ulu community to look into how to leverage tourism development.

“Let’s see how to use the beautiful and unique culture, tradition and heritage of the community as part of tourism development.”

Yii invited the Orang Ulu and other communities to work together with Miri City Council.

“Come to us if you have any ideas or suggestion and we will help promote them. We could package them to promote Miri to help our local economy.”


Labels: ,

Sabah tourism guide for visitors from China

Kota Kinabalu: A compilation of photos of places around the State to promote places of interest with explanation in Chinese and translation in English is available in view of the rising Chinese tourist arrivals to Sabah.

Its objective is to secure as easy reference for the Chinese tourists they know what Sabah could offer with the explanation given in Chinese language.

According to Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Satta) Chairman Datuk Winston Liaw, the book was first launched in Chongqing city in China on March 3, 2016 and thereafter again launched in Kota Kinabalu on June 18 by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.

"We see the need for such a book as the arrival of tourists from China keeps increasing.

"To make it convenient for them, this book is appropriate as guidelines and explanation are given in Chinese characters about interesting places in our beautiful state. It is also added with English translation," said Winston.

He said it took four months to compile the 205-page book and credited photographer Peter Kwan and his team who managed to gather everything within the stint period.

"I must say it has not been easy to gather all the information as we made enquiries and references to many other parties concerned as well as tourism industry players to get the accurate information," said Winston, stressing that Sabah needs tourism to boost its economy.



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Adventures of JPE: Borneo 2016 - Brunei Darussalam

I had a great experience in the islands of Kota Kinabalu. I enjoyed the city as well, with its laid-back atmosphere and natural ambiance despite some big establishments. It was my time then to leave the place and head to my next destination, which just lies near Sabah; I was bound for the oil-rich country of Brunei.

Situated at the northwestern coast of Borneo, this tiny nation is divided into two sections by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Its capital is Bandar Seri Begawan, which spans an area of 100 square kilometres. Travel between Kota Kinabalu and Brunei is easy, with a lot of options either by land, water, or air.

Just like Singapore, the city can be explored in a short period of time and the sights here mainly includes mosques, parks, and shopping areas. On my one (and a half) day trip in Bandar, I saw most of its notable landmarks.

Kota Kinabalu to Brunei:

I woke up on my third day in Borneo at the same hostel in Kota Kinabalu. I got up at five in the morning, took a shower, packed up and head to the city park where the long-distance buses were lined up.

At seven I bought my ticket to Brunei and wait for the bus to leave the city in an hour. It was a long journey of nine hours until I arrived in the waterfront of Bandar Seri Begawan at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. I alighted from the bus and walked a short distance to Jubilee Hotel and there I checked in. I got the keys in Room 513.

After I unload my backpack, I took a short rest before going out to change money. I asked the hotel receptionist about the location of the nearest money changer and he handed me a photocopied map of the vicinity where I would find them. I stumbled upon a shopping mall, which turned out to be the famous Yayasan Complex and there I found what I was looking for.

After receiving my Brunei Dollars I walked around the mall and found a familiar face. Guess what? It’s the happy and smiling Jollibee, a fastfood chain loved by Filipinos back home. I ordered chicken strips and it really tastes like the local fried chicken.

After dining, I headed to the magnificent Sultan Omar Ali Saiffudien Mosque, the famous icon of Brunei. Somewhere on its parking area I found the perfect location to take its photo, and after taking too many shots, I went inside and looked around. I really appreciated its beauty and the ambiance of solemnity was present.

There were not so many tourists inside, and I could count them with my fingers. As the dusk approached, I went back to the same spot  where I took pictures and captured a better image of the mosque. Then their prayers began, as I could hear the song through its speakers.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Adventures of JPE: Borneo 2016 - Brunei Darussalam

Labels: ,

Borneo International Kite Festival 2016: Kite flyers from 21 countries to lift the sky of Bintulu

BINTULU: The sky here will be a collage of colourful kites of all sizes and shapes during the 12th Borneo International Kite Festival 2016 from Sept 28-Oct 2.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem is scheduled to declare open this spectacular event at the old Bintulu airport site.

Yesterday, several kite flyers took their giant and colourful kites for wind test.

This year’s edition has attracted participants from 21 countries: China, England, Japan, Vietnam, Italy, Sweden, Australia, Turkey, India, France, Kuwait, Taiwan, Singapore, Belgium, Germany, Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand, Brunei, Colombia and Malaysia.

Local participants include those from Johor, Sarawak, Pulau Pinang, Terengganu, Putrajaya, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Perlis and Kedah.

Participating teams include Team Impian and De Junction Kite from Malacca, Kelab Pelayang Pasir Gudang (Johor), and also Windancer, Layang King, and Fly N Smile from Kuala Lumpur.

Planned activities include the 3rd Asia Pacific Sport Kite Championship, modern and traditional kite-flying performances, kite-flying performances by international kite flyers, a kite-making workshop, stunt kite performances, synchronised revolution kite performance, a cooking contest, a drawing and colouring contest for children, karaoke, cultural performances and more.


Labels: ,