Thursday, January 15, 2015

Expect the unexpected in Borneo

Did I expect to be able to climb Mt Kinabalu to watch the sun rise? Never.

Was I planning on joining orangutans for breakfast? Probably not.

But then these experiences and more were typical of my unexpected highlights in Borneo.

I chose Borneo for my next Intrepid trip because I loved the thought of seeing amazing wildlife, staying in traditional villages and I was prepared to give the mountain climb a go, but what I didn’t anticipate was just how much of a buzz I would get from exploring this fascinating land.

Getting to know the local people was a real privilege. We stayed in a Dusun village near the base of Mt Kinabalu and were warmly welcomed into the community.

It was such fun to learn how to cook regional specialities in their family kitchen and thanks to a colourful cultural show we got to understand more about the proud Dusun heritage.

On Turtle Island we could kick back after our Kinabalu challenge with plenty of swimming and sunning time, but the real thrills came after dark.

Each night green turtles come ashore and we got to watch quietly as mums dug their sandy nests for their precious eggs.

The Turtle Island Marine Park researchers also released a group of hatchlings and like little wind up toys with their flippers flapping they made their frantic scramble to the water’s edge.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Expect the unexpected in Borneo

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sabah tourism players told to grab a bigger slice of Muslim tourism market

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism industry players need to enhance the quality of their products and service delivery to grab a bigger slice of the burgeoning, lucrative global Muslim travel market.

In the year 2013 alone, the value of the Muslim tourism market peaked USD 140 billion, according to the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF).

Sabah Tourism Board Chairman, Datuk Joniston Bangkuai noted Sabah holds great potential to become a world-class destination which offers quality halal vacation packages which can be enjoyed by visitors from around the world.

“The vast prospect of the Muslim tourism market provides a bright opportunity for local industry players to develop new, improved halal holiday packages, quality services and products at the highest standard which can be enjoyed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after officiating the closing ceremony of the regional seminar on Islamic tourism (RESIT 2015), Joniston believed that local industry players need to continue improving their products and services to tap into the vast potential of the global Muslim tourism market.

The explosive rise of halal tourism, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) accounts for 13 per cent of the total global travel expenditure and is expected to reach USD 200 billion by the year 2020.

Malaysia remains a top holiday destination for Muslim travellers around the world, having been rated as the most Muslim-friendly tourist destination for four consecutive years since 2011.

Director-General of the Islamic Tourism Centre, Zulkifli Md Said said travel packages for Malaysia offering halal food, products, Muslim-friendly services and facilities find approval with Muslim travellers from the Middle East and non-Muslim countries.

“Muslim tourists have religious obligations which need to be performed even while travelling and local industry players, including resorts and hotels ensure that certain conditions are fulfilled such as halal food and prayer rooms,” he said.

Held for the first time in Borneo, the annual RESIT seminar was organised by the Islamic Tourism Center (ITC) to promote greater awareness and educate local tourism industry players on Islamic tourism.

This year, the two-day programme from Jan 12 to Jan 13 at the Pacific Sutera Harbour Resort was attended by 63 members throughout the country, including international participants from Brunei, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.


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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MAS Offers Discounts On International, Domestic Flights

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is offering low all-inclusive return tickets to London, Paris or Istanbul at RM2,499 as well as to Sydney or Melbourne at RM1,450 for travel from Jan 17 or March 1 until Nov 30, 2015.

The sale, which runs from tomorrow until Jan 24, 2015, will enable travelers to plan their travel for the entire year, MAS Regional Senior Vice-President for Malaysia Datuk Muzammil Mohamad said in a statement today.

He said other international destinations up for grab were all-inclusive fares to Shanghai (from RM999), Singapore (from RM250), and Denpasar and Ho Chi Minh (from RM450).

Great deals are also being offered on business class (from RM699) to both domestic and international destinations, he added.

"Incredible promotions from as low as RM129 return all-inclusive tickets for domestic destinations and RM199 (return all-inclusive) for international routes on economy class are also available," he said.



Monday, January 12, 2015

Hopes for Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre to be declared a Ramsar Site

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wetland Conservation Society (SWCS) is hoping to get the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre (KKWC) declared a Ramsar Site at the Ramsar Convention Day this year.

“The convention is expected to be held in Uruguay in June this year,” said society president, Datuk Zainie Abdul Aucasa.

The 24-hectare KKWC has been nominated to be declared a Ramsar Site since 2012. However, since a new procedure was introduced by the Ramsar headquarters, SWCS had no choice but to abide by it.

“We have already submitted the nomination manually through the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry in Europe last year but the procedure has changed which requires the submission to be made online,” he said. The online system is still new to many, including the SWCS members, he told reporters when met at the Jesselton Point Jetty last Saturday evening.

“To be familiar with the system, the federal ministry has sent one representative to Cambodia for training recently,” he added.

SWCS is currently working closely with the Sabah Biodiversity Centre (SBC) to do the filing for the online nomination.

Zainie told reporters that SWCS will try to expedite the process and hopefully by June, KKWC will be declared a Ramsar Site.

It will be a great achievement to SWCS as the KKWC is located within a 10-kilometre radius of the city centre, thus making it as one of the few urban Ramsar Sites in the world.

Zainie said if everything went according to plan, SWCS will hold double celebrations in one ceremony.

“One is for when KKWC is declared a Ramsar site and the other is to launch a book,” he said, adding that the book is now close to completion with only an official write-up and some photographs of KKWC that are pending.

Ramsar Site is a recognition given to a wetland area for the purpose of global biological diversity conservation through ecological and hydrological functions.


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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Biking through Borneo

Over two days in July I attempted to carve up around 70km of regional links to a number of disconnected Bornean towns by means of bus, bike and boot. Let it be said, however, that it’s a region of Asia which encompasses every facet of the simple life that ‘ruffians’ Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie would deem untameable.

Detached from the wider world by walls of dense ancient jungle that limit a community’s movement to walking, unless they willingly drive over several mountains to reach the nearest grocery store, adventure company Bike Borneo have packaged up the local life in the Malaysian state of Sabah and successfully sold it to daredevils and fitness-junkies alike.

Unbeknownst to us non-Olympians however is that a large proportion of the severely steep and rocky inclines are almost unsurpassable, lest you bust a lung or die trying. This might be the kind of adventure Lance Armstrong deems a cinch compared to the Tour de France, but for people like myself who barely know how to do a push-up, cycling over mountaintops sounds worse than white-water rafting down the river Styx for all eternity.

To be fair, I was completely aware of the distance I would be undertaking for the sake of exploration and exercise (I’m still convinced that a look into the mirror pre-departure was what got me in the mood initially). However, it didn’t exactly dawn on me just how difficult the task was until I was pedalling first-gear more than 500 metres uphill, heaven most certainly within reach if I were forty years older and diagnosed with an ill-fated heart condition.


Undertaking the journey was certainly a challenge.

There was blood (I managed to snag my useless limbs in the spikes of the tyres numerous times), sweat and tears – mostly in response to high humidity and temperatures soaring above 35 degrees celsius. What I didn’t see coming my way were the moments of utter magic; for despite every minute of wishing my legs would go numb and the pain would no longer be unbearable, I knew that this battle with my bicycle placed me in a position of the world that was still, in comparison to mainland Asia, largely unexplored.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Biking through Borneo

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