Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mount Kinabalu - A journey armed with courage

WHY do people climb mountains? Because it’s there, some would say. Mount Kinabalu in Sabah is no exception. Thousands climb it every year.

In his novel Maskerade, Terry Pratchett writes: “A huge mountain might be scaled by strong men only after many centuries of failed attempts, but a few decades later, grandmothers will be strolling up it for tea and then wandering back afterward to see where they left their glasses.”

It’s an overstatement for sure, but with the number of people that have scaled its heights of 4,095m, it can’t be that hard, no? Having been there over the Merdeka holiday, I’d say that it wasn’t difficult — at least in terms of hiking or mountaineering skills — but it certainly wasn’t easy either.

I made the trip with 20 others in a fundraising campaign called Klimb Kinabalu 2017, organised by the National Cancer Council (Makna). Our group comprised Makna staff, volunteers and individuals connected to the organisation, along with four employees of sponsor AirAsia.

The plan is to reach the summit a.k.a. Low’s Peak on Merdeka Day, Aug 31. Meanwhile, fundraising began on May 19 and will continue until Sept 16.

Unfortunately, I didn’t reach the peak. Despite my best effort I was still too much of a couch potato and I missed the 5am cut-off time at Sayat Sayat (the last checkpoint before the top) by five minutes. But I feel blessed to have made it that far, and I’m already planning to try again.


The Kadazan Dusun people of Sabah consider Mount Kinabalu sacred. And after the 2015 earthquake that took the lives of 18 mountain guides and climbers, I felt there was an extra sense of poignancy to the ascend, as well as wariness.

Death and disaster can strike anytime, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from living their best, healthiest lives.

Chan Chee Kun, 47, from Ipoh, Perak was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in August 2015. On the night prior to our climb, he told us: “I was feeling very low for about six months after that. But then I went through some things and I started to read.

“In one book, the author said, ‘I have this disease and it means I’m going to die. But everybody is going to die sooner or later. Just that my chances of dying may be faster than yours. But perhaps, also, your death may be faster than mine’.”

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Mantanani Island may become Sabah's next marine park

KOTA KINABALU: Mantanani Island, a well-known site for recreational diving off Kota Belud, and its surrounding areas have been identified as Sabah’s next potential marine park.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the state government aims to turn 10 per cent of Sabah’s waters into protected marine areas.

He said the government has identified several potential areas to achieve that goal.

“The United Nations has invited us to gazette at least 10 per cent of our ocean and we have gazetted 7.6 per cent, with the current size of protected marine parks in Sabah at two million hectares.

“I’ve asked my assistant minister (Datuk Pang Yuk Ming) to form a committee to look into the possibility of increasing the size of these marine parks so that we can comply with the 10 per cent requirement.

“We have ample amounts of areas that we can eventually turn into parks and we have identified several. This reflects the good conservation policies that the state government has started and continued to implement.

“We are actually looking at Mantanani and we are seriously considering turning (Mantanani) into a protected marine park,” he told reporters after launching the Maritime Environmental Security Workshop 2017 here, today.

Masidi, however, said this would take some time as the plan depends on the government’s engagement with local residents, district office, and other relevant quarters.

He said the ministry is in the midst of preparing the necessary technical requirements before bringing the proposal to the state government’s attention.


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Monday, September 11, 2017

UNESCO recognitions are catalysts for ecotourism in Sabah

KUNDASANG: The twin crown jewels of Sabah’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Kinabalu Park and the Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve, are catalysts for ecotourism for local communities and paves the way forward to building an environmentally sustainable future.

Minister of Sabah Tourism, Environment and Culture, Datuk Masidi Manjun said the two nature reserves, recognised as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO has enhanced the image of Sabah’s natural wonders which provided immense economic opportunities for local communities through ecotourism.

“The UNESCO status is global recognition for Sabah’s natural wonders and played a vital role in bringing socioeconomic growth for local communities, evident from the mushrooming number of small-scale homestays, handicraft stalls and cafes all along the road to Kinabalu Park,” beamed Masidi.

He said the recognition has placed Sabah on the world map, after Kinabalu Park was declared the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, while the second UNESCO Site named the Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve in 2014.

“The way forward to implement conservation frameworks is centred on sustainable development which provides the platform for alleviating poverty, enhancing the livelihood of local communities,” Masidi said during his address at the Malaysia UNESCO Day 2017, yesterday.

With tourist arrivals at all-time high, Masidi pointed out the state’s booming tourism industry continues to grow at 3.4 million tourist arrivals in 2016, generating RM7.25 billion tourism receipts from RM6.61 billion in the previous year.


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Sabah tourism grew 10%

RANAU: Tourist arrivals to Sabah grew about 10 per cent between 2015 and 2016, Minister of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun revealed.

He said arrivals grow from 3.176 million in 2015 to 3.427 million last year, and these figures came from the immigration authorities in Malaysia, Malaysia Airports Sdn Bhd and airlines such as AirAsia.

The figures showed that Sabah was a must-visit destination among tourists, he said when officiating Rhythms of Kinabalu @ Ranau at the tamu grounds here last Saturday evening.

His speech was delivered by his assistant Datuk Kamarlin Hj Ombi. The event was organized by the Department of Culture and Arts in collaboration with the State Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment.

Masidi said the state government will continue developing the tourism industry by introducing more tourism products especially those from the rural areas. One such effort is the Sabah Rural Tourism Roadshow which was launched in August 2017.

“Environment-based tourism products have been drawing tourists and we are looking forward to growth in the supporting businesses such as transportation, accommodation, food and others.

“The presence of the tourists has also indirectly contributed to improvements in elements of our lifestyle. We hope that elements of our culture will be able to draw more tourists to Sabah.”

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

RnC Dream: The Dayaks – Headhunters of Borneo

If you think of ‘Dayaks’, you might just picture a headhunter – and you’re not entirely wrong.

Before the heavy boots of traders and imperialists set foot on the immense tropical island of Borneo, the Dayak – or ‘Dyak’ or ‘Dayuh’ – tribesmen were the land’s original heirs. 

Traditionally slash-and-burn farmers or nomadic hunter-gatherers living next to rivers or on steamy mountainsides, the Dayak people deservedly acquired a fierce reputation for their head-hunting practices – or Ngayau.

What binds the Dayak tribes together is a collective belief in Semangat, a supernatural power that dictates the lives of humans, animals and plants. This invisible force is present everywhere: from cut toe-nails to strands of hair, to footprints left in the mud, in names, shadows and even in the water that a human or animal has bathed in.

It is also present in the souls of those who have passed away – and why ancestor-worship is so pivotal to Dayak culture.

Deeply animist before the waves of 19th-century Christianity and 20th-century Islam washed up on Borneo’s shores, the Dayaks also believed that their enemies’ heads held special supernatural powers that were needed to complete complex rituals – from guaranteeing a successful rice-harvest to planting the foundations of a new family longhouse.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: RnC Dream: The Dayaks – Headhunters of Borneo

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