Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Finding Nemo Snorkeling Around Mamutik Island in Borneo


There are some adventures that stick with you for a lifetime. I’m sure that learning to snorkel at Mamutik Island off the coast of Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo is one of those for my daughter.

What I’m not sure about is how to top a snorkeling experience like this which included a private guided reef tour, loads of colorful fish even in shallow water and a picnic lunch on the private beach belonging to our host, Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa.

Anyone can visit Mamutik Island, but visiting as a guest of the resort is a different, more intimate experience. But if visiting Kota Kinabalu with kids, snorkeling here with them is easy due to calm and shallow water. And, you just might see clownfish, blacktip reef sharks, eels and so much more.

How to Get to Mamutik Island

At only 15 acres, Mamutik Island (or Pulau Mamutik) is the smallest of the five islands that make up Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. It’s a lovely place to spend a beach day and you can take a boat easily from Kota Kinabalu.

Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa’s STAR Marina—which was literally steps from our room—offers daily transport for resort guests to Mamutik and other islands as well as a wide range of water sports ranging from from diving to waterskiing. They have gear rentals, too.

Our first order of business before catching the first 9:00 a.m. boat out was to get outfitted with snorkeling gear and life vests.

Staff will help determine fit and give you a handy bag to carry everything in. Directly outside, we boarded our boat from the resort’s private jetty and set off on the quick trip to Mamutik Island.

I wasn’t counting but I would say it took about five awesome minutes at sea, maybe less. The short distance makes Mamutik Island an easy half-day trip, though a full day of leisure would be even better.

A Tranquil Private Beach

The water was so clear that we could see thousands of fish swarming between the underwater posts of the arrival jetty. After walking a minute or two through a public area—where locals and tourists gather at picnic tables to eat or prepare to swim—we arrived at Shangri-la's secluded private beach. A canopy of trees shade the provided lounge chairs which are located steps away from the designated area for snorkeling.

Hotel staff here make sure that guests are comfortable, assist with snorkel gear and point out where the fish are. Valuables can be placed in lockers onsite for safe-keeping. The resort was at fully-booked during our stay but there is so much to do on and off the property that the private beach here was still quiet.

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MySabah: Mamutik Island of Sabah, Malaysia


Tourists to Kota Kinabalu City (KK) always ask, out of the five islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP), which one is recommended. My answer is – if you expect a famous and exciting tourist destination, go for Sapi or Manukan. But if you only want a quiet beach to laze around and unwind, Mamutik Island (Pulau Mamutik) is for you.

People who want to avoid the crowd will love Mamutik Island, as it is less touristy than Sapi and Manukan, the islands where they would see more people than fishes, and human noise is louder than splashing waves.

Being the smallest island of TARP, Mamutik is like an unsophisticated child who doesn’t try to impress you, it may not have charming personality but you feel more open up and relax.

Mamutik is rated by some tourists as an average island because of three reasons. First, the sea there is quite rough and water turns murky sometimes. Second, the strong waves wash many coral fragments to the shore. Stepping on this jagged surface can be a discomfort to sensitive feet. Last, the density and variety of corals isn’t great. All of the above are true.

However, Mamutik still has one of the most beautiful beaches near KK and its photo is good enough to be used as postcard. Though lack of WOW factor, Mamutik isn’t lack of happy customers who appreciate the ambience of tranquillity and privacy offered by this less-crowded island.

The Beaches

Mamutik Island has long stretch of white sandy beach about 200 Meters in length. The sea can be choppy occassionally and the water is getting deep after 10 Meters from shore, so be careful if you don’t know how to swim.

Every visitor can get a big share of space, swim freely and won’t collide with others (but watch out for jellyfish). Without many eyes around, tourists here behave relatively more relax.

However, the visitors seem to congregate in one or two places. Probably they feel safer to stay near to one another, or these places are near to toilet. Anyway, there are some sections that has few or no tourist, so feel free to pick a zone as your “private beach”.

Move further away from people, you can find many good photography spots with clean background, as if you are on a remote island. Most coral fragments are concentrated in the water. The beach is still mainly fine sandy beach that is nice to walk on.

If you go to the east side of Mamutik, there is a more secluded area very well-shaded by tall casuarina trees. The beach chairs are reserved for the hotel guests from Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort. The place is quite cooling and suitable for chilling out after a swim under hot sun. You may walk or snorkel at the beach there but please keep your voice down. The staff would ask noisy outsiders to leave.

The sea waves at east side is even stronger because it is where open ocean current passing by the island. I call it a “Coral Beach” because the beach here is covered by bigger pieces of coral fragments. I even found giant clam shell once. Probably that’s how Mamutik got its name which means “shell collection”. (Note: collecting shell and anything is forbidden in this protected marine park)

Continue reading (Incl. Pics & Vid) at: MySabah: Mamutik Island of Sabah, Malaysia
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Art with Gawai touch


IN the spirit of Gawai this month, immerse in the culture of Sarawak’s ethnic groups at the Gawai Art Festival at Sarawak Plaza until Friday.

From afar, a soft tune of the sape can be heard all the way leading into the exhibition. The soothing music played by a talented musician named Sylvester resonates throughout the room, giving it a traditional ambience.

Brought to you by Galleria, this is the first art exhibition held outside the gallery.

“We want to bring the arts into the city rather than get people to come,” said Galleria owner Irene Lim.

She said the venue chosen also helped to attract tourists nearby to experience the art and culture of Sarawak.

Featuring 30 beautifully drawn pieces including crafts, the Gawai-themed gallery boasts different kinds of paintings for sale, including pastels, oil paintings and metal sculptures and locally-weaved baskets. Prices range from RM400 to RM4,000 for each piece.

All the artists are from Sarawak, including foreigners residing in the state. Coming from all walks of life and races, the gallery helps to unite them in the name of art. Lim said most of the works featured in the gallery were made by teachers and lecturers.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Art with Gawai touch
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Monday, May 18, 2015

Lots to do in Tamparuli


Pak pak kang ku doh, Sumunsui doh jambatan, Jambatan doh Tamparuli, Bakasut tinggi oku.

So goes the opening line of the Kadazandusun folk song called Jabatan Tamparuli.

The song dating back to the 1970s tells about how a young Kadazandusun lass garbed in her finest is heading to the weekly tamu at Tamparuli town on a Wednesday.

As she crosses the town’s suspension bridge, her high-heel shoes get stuck in the wooden planks and she can’t pull them out.

Left with her stockings, she can do little but to continue her trip to the tamu barefooted.

Like many Sabahans, veteran tour guide Daniel Doughty immediately thinks of that song whenever he hears the word Tamparuli, the name of a town about 35km from Kota Kinabalu.

The song brought fame to the town at the foothills of the Crocker Range.

Tamparuli is popular stop for travellers heading to the Kinabalu Park, Kundasang, Ranau and the east coast of Sabah as it is located along the Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan trunk road.

The suspension bridge has become an attraction in its own right as tourists love taking photographs of local folk using the swaying structure located about six metres above the Sungai Kiulu.

Just next to it is a low-lying bridge with vehicles crossing the river barely 0.3m above the waterline.

The normally quiet Tamparuli town is a hive of activity every Wednesday when the tamu or farmers’ market is held along the banks of the river.

There farmers from nearby villages bring their produce such as tuhau or wild ginger, local fruits such tarap and vegetables to be sold there.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Lots to do in Tamparuli
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Soaking In Sunsets In Kota Kinabalu


Why go to Kota Kinabalu? It’s not much of a destination in itself, but as a beginning or end point to Borneo, it does the trick! 

While it doesn’t boast too many sites outside of an airport, you can relax and enjoy spectacular sunsets, navigate your way through crowded fish markets, or plan the next leg of your trip.

For us, our Borneo adventure both started and ended here.

The handsdown highlight was the sunset.

We’d walk over to the water’s edge and find a front row seat (and usually a beer) to watch the sky change magnificent vibrant colours and the clouds create fantastical shapes. 

In fact, I am not sure KK has ever had a less than spectacular sunset (at least not during our time there)!

One of our frequented spots was a lively pier lined with restaurants.

Smack in the middle of here we found a tented massage area.

I treated myself to foot reflexology and one of the best back massages I’ve ever had while Matt was able to recline beside me with a large bottle of beer and take in either the busy boardwalk or the movie screening on the tent’s ceiling. (That’s what I call win-win!)

It was a little odd flipping over and taking off a shirt in the middle of a crowded area for the back portion, but it was so relaxing I couldn’t of cared less in the moment.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Soaking In Sunsets In Kota Kinabalu
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