Friday, June 30, 2006

Nature Tour and Eco Tour in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

If you fancy going on a fascinating nature tour or eco tour during your tropical vacation, then, Sabah is a perfect destination with a taste of nature and eco tourism. Where else can you:

  • Go Jungle Trekking through million years old rainforest
  • Be one with nature with unspoilt Flora and Fauna
  • Enjoy a soft adventure at top National Parks
  • Journey on a boat for a River Safari
  • Catch a glimpse of the Largest Flower on the Planet
  • Discover the rich and colourful multi-cultural Indigenous Peoples
The assorted nature tour attractions give you a wonderful opportunity to get close to the natural environment, unique wildlife and bio-diversified floras, as well as appreciate the culture of the colourful indigenous peoples.

You also have the choice to indulge in luxury and comfortable surrounding in a natural environment or exotic outdoor setting, or rough it out in controlled nature/eco tour environment.

For those who are looking for a new and fascinating place to visit, the following nature tour destinations are testament as to why Sabah is indeed an ideal setting for your dream tropical nature tour vacation.

Click here for Recommended Nature Tour and Eco Tour Destinations in Sabah

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Maliau Basin: At the heart of paradise

By LEE SUE CHIEN

A pristine forest. A journey of discovery and introspection. LEE SUE CHIEN braves long treks, wildlife and leeches for a rewarding sojourn at Maliau Basin in Sabah.

WHEN you yearn to touch the good earth and reawaken your senses to the wonders of Nature, where would you go? There is the formidable Gunung Nuang (used by many as a training ground for scaling Mount Kinabalu and Gunung Tahan), the rough and tumble mossy trail of Gunung Irau and Pine Tree Hill in Frazer’s Hill, to name a few.

But none so pristine and beautiful as an expedition to the Maliau Basin, reverently called the Lost World of Sabah and reputed to be one of the richest areas of one of the richest tropical islands on Earth.

The basin — 25km in diameter and measuring 390 sq km, with the highest point, Gunung Lotung, at about 1,600m above sea level — holds the highest number of waterfalls within an equivalent area in Malaysia.

Our group of 16 went on such a trip, organised by the Selangor Pathfinders group of the Malaysian Nature Society recently. It was one requiring meticulous preparation and training to gauge our stamina and group dynamics.

Kho Ju Ming, our lead ranger, his assistants Welly Frederik Tukin and Andy Bangilon and our porters were a godsend. They were ever so helpful and perceptive of our needs, pointing out indigenous plants and trees along the way.

The expedition took us from headquarters in Agathis camp on a 9km trek to Ginseng Camp, then onward to Lobah Camp, Camel Trophy Camp and back to Agathis, all in a 41km trek on undulating, sometimes near vertical terrain within the caldera-like basin.

En route, we were rewarded with the majestic sight of the seven-tier Maliau Falls, whose thunderous waters made it dangerous to swim in certain areas, and later, of Takob-Akob Falls.

On a long trip of nine days, with six actual days of trekking, feathers are bound to be ruffled and friendships forged. And so, trekking the pristine forest was a group of alpha and andropausal males, the three co-ordinators — Soong Wye Ping, Ashley Chow and Mok Kim Jin — and “saner” individuals.

Some had the objective of conquering the hills and vales, others simply wanted to embrace all that Nature has to offer.

It was a journey of outward discovery and introspection and, to quote a friend, a humbling experience, particularly on our trek to and from the spectacular Takob-Akob Falls cascading over three layers of sandstone.

The change of scenery to the lower montane forest corresponded to a steep descend of the trail — involving a vertical drop of 180m to Takob-Akob, which measures about 100m in height.

Erosion causes the softer siltstone and mudstone in between to recede, resulting in gorgeous horizontal layers flanking the falls.

I found a meditative moment behind the veil of the falls, resting on a mossy ledge as mist, foam and the thunderous waters crashed before me.

A few of us scaled the 33-metre-high canopy observation platform built on an Agathis borneensis tree at Camel Trophy Camp. Fear set in at the thought of climbing without a harness but the desire for a bird’s eye view of the area was stronger.

The logistics of feeding 16 people over the days was impressive. We had 40kg of rice, fried fish, mutton, chicken and plenty of dried shrimp and anchovies for carbo-loading and protein. Many of us helped in the preparation and cooking.

On the trails, it was sometimes a matter of relearning the basics of walking and climbing with a pole for support.

It was essential we protect our ankles, knees and musculature by walking efficiently, heels first in a zig-zagging fashion when heading downward, for example.

We had to read our bodies’ needs by eating and hydrating well before hunger and thirst set in, pace ourselves and avoid the desire to compete.

There were no lack of funny moments. Upon hearing the whooping sounds of a hornbill, Francisco Sendra, an Argentinian exchange student, froze in fear at the thought of a predator eyeing him as prey.

Canadian ‘Puteri’ Mia, so called because of her demeanour and perfect Bahasa Malaysia diction, was such a Mat Salleh — frank, with a fine sense of humour and morbid fear of chicken backsides and fish eyes.

Imagine her consternation while eating fried rice with tiny ikan bilis (heads included) when she realised dozens of fish eyes were on her!

Those walking at a more leisurely pace were rewarded with sightings of rarities such as blue mushrooms, a striking poisonous banded Malayan coral snake (Maticora intestinalis), the orb web spider and endemic species.

Orchids such as dendrobium cinnabarium and bulbophyllum spp., the ginger Hedychium spp. and Sonerilla spp., a white purplish flower, were spotted along the way.

The trail from Lobah camp to Camel Trophy camp yielded amazing sights. Ascending to an altitude above 1,000m, the trail became mossy and we passed through a heath forest where rhododendrons, orchids and pitcher plants thrived.

On a night drive, we saw the lesser mouse deer, Malay civet and a mongoose though I’m sure other creatures would have scampered away on hearing our intrusion.

Still, there were plenty of wild boar markings on a trail and a few of us picked up ticks. We had our fair share of leeches and the redoubtable tiger leech whose offensive can only be held off by tobacco juice, Mosi-guard Natural (a mosquito and leech spray) or minyak angin.

The seclusion of the forest led to a renewed appreciation of money and other trappings of civilisation.

Out of the basin, we spent, spent, spent on souvenirs, food and drink. Tawau town, planned and built in a grid-like manner, is easy to get around.

Head to Jalan Chester for a mean serving of seafood noodles and Mongolian chicken rice, then onward to the market for fresh ground coffee, dried and frozen seafood and local handicraft. At the airport, grab an avocado shake, sit back and relax for the journey home.

For information on the Maliau Basin, contact Yayasan Sabah at Tel: 6(088) 326-321, fax 6(088) 432-192 or e-mail maliau@icsb-sabah.com.my

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Baby rhino tracks found in Borneo

PETALING JAYA: Rhino conservationists have much to smile about – tracks of a baby rhino have been spotted in the heart of Borneo by a group of rangers.

“This finding suggests a healthy growing population of rhinos in the wild ... it is reason to celebrate,” said SOS Rhino in a statement.

“The sightings of the tracks of the baby rhino proves that there is hope once again for this once dwindling species to return from the brink of extinction.”

SOS Rhino is a non-profit international organisation committed to the conservation of the Sumatran Rhino, and has been assisting the Sabah government in the cause since 1998.

“The rare sighting happened when rangers from the Rhino Patrol Unit were trailing rhinos that had wandered away from the protection of the reserve and into a local palm oil plantation,” the statement said.

“As the rangers followed the animals, they gathered information on what they ate and their activities. During this research, they found the tracks of a baby rhino.”

They added that the Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is the smallest of the five species of rhinos left in the world.

It is also the only rhino species found in Malaysia.

“Arguably the most endangered of all five species, the Sumatran Rhino faces a bleak future, as unlike other rhinos, their biggest problem is that pockets of rhinos on reserves are too small and too far apart to create a productive population,” the statement added.

For more information, check SOS Rhino’s website at www.sosrhino.org

Source: The Star

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

MAS' Subsidised Domestic Fares End Aug 1

KUCHING -- Malaysia Airlines (MAS) passengers will no longer enjoy subsidised domestic fares for its 19 trunk routes from August 1 when the rationalisation of the domestic aviation sector comes into force.

MAS commercial director, Datuk Rashid Khan, said MAS, which presently offered various subsidised fares for senior citizens, students, children under 12 years old and the media, would stop the offers from August 1.

"This is the decision made by the Government under the domestic route rationalisation exercise," he said during MAS-Media Engagement held here Tuesday.

Also present at the talks were MAS senior general manager (transition management), Dr Amir Khan and MAS area manager Sarawak, Shauqi Ahmad.

Rashid said the subsidised domestic fare prices were mainly for the rural air service and part of the national carrier's social obligation.

He said MAS was still holding talks with AirAsia Bhd to ensure the smooth transition of the domestic routes.

"Under the rationalisation plan, MAS gets seven trunk routes in Peninsular Malaysia, seven in Sarawak and five in Sabah.

"AirAsia will operate the 19 as well as the other 99 non-trunk domestic routes," he said.

Amir said MAS has begun updating its computer reservations and global distribution systems as part of its plan to operate a restructured domestic network after August 1.

"Travel agents, tour operators and national tourist organisations had been told to cease accepting bookings from and beyond August 1 to ensure that there is no negative impact on tourist arrivals to the country.

"There are about 20,000 bookings made with the airline to travel to such routes with about 5,000 tickets issued.

"Full refunds have been made to such customers," he said.

Source: BERNAMA

Gawai Dayak Open House: Stage transformed into a longhouse

By SHARON LING

A CULTURAL festival was dished out by Sarawak’s Dayak communities at the national-level Gawai Dayak Open House at the Kuching Amphitheatre last Saturday.

The Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu communities feted the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Fauziah Tengku Abdul Rashid with traditional songs, music and dances.

Also present were Sarawak Governor Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng, his wife Toh Puan Norkiah, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu and other Federal and state dignitaries.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in his speech read out by Dr Rais, said the Government would continue to celebrate the festivals of the different races in the country.

“This doesn’t mean that we are sharing our beliefs or religions but is a sign of our tolerance for Malaysians of another race and religion.

“It proves that all Malaysians can live together in peace and harmony to achieve progress and development,” he said.

The King then pounded rice with a traditional pestle to launch the Open House.

For the event, which was broadcast live on RTM1, the main stage of the Amphi- theatre was transformed into an Iban longhouse, flanked on either side by a Bidayuh baruk (headhouse) and Orang Ulu longhouse.

The stage was lavishly decorated with native elements like pua kumbu hangings, woven mats, a notched-log staircase and a bamboo bridge.

It was the perfect setting for the night’s highlight, a musical drama about an Iban warrior who seeks fame, fortune and adventure to win the heart and hand of his love.

Called Penatai Petara or “Coming of the Gods”, the drama was specially created for the King and Queen and featured over 200 dancers and musicians from the Sarawak Cultural Village and the Dayak Cultural Foundation.

The Bidayuh, Orang Ulu and Iban communities then performed their traditional dances as well as modern pop songs in their own languages.

A fashion parade by 12 beauties from each ethnic group dressed in their traditional costumes was also featured.

Well-known singers including the Kuching-born artiste Deja Moss, Malay- sian Idol finalist Saiful and Bob from Akademi Fantasia also entertained the 10,000-strong crowd.

Source: The Star

Monday, June 26, 2006

Maliau: Sabah’s Lost World

By Jaswinder Kaur

TAWAU: Until two decades ago, the mysterious allure of the Maliau Basin was pure conjecture as no one had dared to set foot in it, not even the indigenous tribes living on the fringes.

It was not until a group of researchers braved the unknown almost 20 years ago that its natural wonders have slowly been unveiled.

And what amazing treasures they have turned out to be, with what is believed to be 10 new species of flora and fauna discovered on the latest expedition.

If all goes well, future generations will be able to discover for themselves the richness of "Sabah’s Lost World".

Efforts are now under way to have it recognised as a World Heritage Site. However, the process is long and arduous as scientific data will have to be compiled and presented to reflect its universal value.

The recent 10-day expedition, jointly organised by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) and Yayasan Sabah, hopes to help achieve this aim.

The expedition, which ended on Saturday, could be considered historic as it not only brought together the largest group of researchers but it also covered the northwestern part of the basin which has never been studied.

Expedition leader Prof Ibrahim Komoo of ASM said the expedition aims to come up with several books on its findings, which could be used in proposals to get the basin listed as a World Heritage Site.

"To get Maliau Basin listed as a World Heritage Site, we not only need a lot of scientific information but we must package the information in such a way that it reflects the basin’s universal value, and not just its national value," he said at the Belian Camp at the Maliau Basin Conservation Area.

Belian Camp is about six hours by road from Tawau.

Since 1998, Yayasan Sabah has been carrying out the day-to-day management of Maliau Basin on behalf of an inter-agency Maliau Basin Management Committee.

The committee was established in April 1998 to advise the State Government on policies regarding all aspects of the management of the Maliau Basin Conservation Area.

Ibrahim said laboratory and comparative work would have to be done to verify the 10 new species of flora and fauna that were discovered during the expedition.

"Researchers discovered what they believe to be new gingers, orchids, mosses and some invertebrates.

"This is based on preliminary findings and it can take from several weeks to a year to confirm if these species are new."

The latest expedition covered four areas — flora, fauna, physical and landscape, and water and aquatic life — the first time diverse topics were explored within a single outing.

"Normally, expeditions focus on flora and fauna but we decided to expand the field of study to include water and aquatic life and the physical aspects so that we can better understand the basin.

"Geologically, this is a unique basin in terms of formation, as it is relatively sheltered from the surrounding areas.

"The physical barrier and difficulty in accessing the basin makes the flora and fauna there unique.

"Physical landscape and biological diversity are closely linked," Ibrahim said.

He said the ASM chose Maliau Basin for the first leg of its series of expeditions over the next five years as it is still relatively unknown.

"It is one of the best places for an expedition because it is isolated and requires thorough logistics.

"We picked an area never studied before and this allowed scientists to discover new things. It took us three years to plan the trip," he said.

Expedition co-head Dr Waidi Sinun of Yayasan Sabah said unlike Mount Kinabalu, which had been studied extensively since the 1950s, there was still a lot to be learned about Maliau Basin.

"When we say the basin is unique, we need to back it up with scientific data.

"We still lack knowledge on the basin so that is why this expedition has been so significant. This is also the first time we have covered montane forest within the basin."

Waidi, who is Yayasan Sabah Research and Development group general manager, said only one-sixth of the 390 square kilometre basin had been studied.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Labuan Birds Park to showcase 580 bird species in Borneo

By Achong Tanjong

Bird lovers can now head to the Labuan Birds Park - home to exotic collection of Borneo birds. There are plans to collect a good percentage of the 580 species of birds found in Borneo's diverse habitats, from mangroves along coastal areas to forests in the mountains.

The Labuan Birds Park is located near the Chimney at Tanjung Kubong about 20 minutes drive from Labuan Town.

It exhibits a large variety of tropical birds from around the region such as hornbills, kingfishers, sharmas, mynas, herons and even ostriches and peacocks.

It has three large dome-shaped cages and the entrance to the parks is free of charge. On arrival at the entrance of the cages, you will be greeted "Selamat Datang" or welcome by a "Burong Tiong" bird, an ever-popular speaking bird of Malaysia.

You can enjoy and learn about the bird species inside the cages, as there are a lot of different types of birds.

You can also ask the park management for assistance in identifying the birds.

At the park, there is also a Birds Park Museum that showcases the activities at the park as well as types of bird species found in Borneo.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Miri as northern gateway for Sarawak

By George Francis

MIRI - Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and the tourism industry players would persuade their argument to the federal authority for the Malaysia Airline System (MAS) as a national carrier with established international air-connectivity to continue servicing Miri as northern gateway of Sarawak.

Assistant Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications, Lee Kim Shin, said the group put up a strong petition for MAS to have direct international flights coming to Miri sector from Kota Kinabalu that has already established a systematic inter-airline connectivity.

By August, budget airline, AirAsia will take over 99 domestic or non-trunk routes from MAS, while its subsidiary newly-formed Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) takes over from MAS all the rural air service (RAS) operations, including to the Mulu sector. MAS service between Kota Kinabalu and Miri were also to be terminated.

The industry players and consumers feel that MAS should continue its services for international connections especially to Miri as a new emerging tourist destination and for those wishing to travel first class, while AirAsia can fly with different operation and cheaper airfare.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Sarawak Tourism Board aims to work with Fly Asian Xpress

By STEPHEN THEN

MIRI: The Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) wants to liaise with new airline Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) to comprehensively tap the huge potential of tourism in the interior jungles and mountain regions of northern Sarawak.

STB chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said the two parties would be effective partners in developing the state’s untapped tourism potential if FAX could provide the cheap rates that Air Asia was providing in its regional and national flight services.

FAX was set up last month to handle the rural air services in Sarawak and Sabah following the route rationalisation programme between Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia.

MAS will hand over 99 non-trunk routes to Air Asia, including Sarawak’s rural air services to destinations like Mulu, Bario, Ba’Kelalan, Limbang and Lawas.

Air Asia formed it subsidiary FAX to handle the rural sector.

“Northern Sarawak still has enormous potential tourists spots that have yet to be marketed extensively to the rest of the world.

“Not many people outside the state have been to places like the Bario and Ba’Kelalan highlands.

“These highland villages make excellent getaways for urban folks who wants to experience life in the mountains and highlands.

“They are also excellent venues for companies which want to conduct meetings, incentive tours or conventions in remote destinations far from the hectic life of urban centres,” Geikie said when interviewed.

She noted that MAS had for decades served the rural sector because the national carrier was fulfilling its social obligation.

Now that FAX has taken over, she hoped the airline would not only play a social role but also consider playing a supplementary role in promoting tourism in the rural destinations.

“If FAX can offer cheap air fares like Air Asia, the number of people visiting rural destinations will increase many times.

“The rural regions have not been highlighted prominently as tourism spots. STB would like to work with FAX and come up with comprehensive tour packages for these rural places,” she said.

FAX opened its online ticket booking on June 12, seven weeks ahead of its official operations opening date of Aug 1, when MAS will officially hand over all the 99 routes to Air Asia.

Source: The Star

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Getting more Sabahans to visit rest of Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu: Tourism Malaysia aims to encourage more domestic travel and vacationing among the people in Sabah through its three-day Cuti-Cuti Malaysia Travel Fair at the Centre Point here from today.

Its Sabah Director, Iskandar Mirza Mohd Yusof, said 24 organisations including travel agencies, operators of tourist attraction and hotels are taking part in this year's fair to offer special and exclusive packages. It is open from 10.30am to 9.30pm.

"The fair is especially aimed at encouraging people in Sabah to systematically make or plan a vacation domestically. The special packages offered are suitable for all walks of life, either for a vacation with family members or friends," he said.

He was speaking at a joint press conferences with Tourism Malaysia Kelantan in conjunction with the Cuti-Cuti Malaysia Travel Fair and the Kelantan Food & Cultural Promotion at Promenade Hotel, Thursday.

Also present were Tourism Malaysia Kelantan Director, Hajah Lijah Othman, Tourism Malaysia Deputy Director of Domestic Promotion Division, Zarina Dolah Judin, and management representatives from Promenade Hotel and Centre Point.

The fair, which is part of a nationwide roadshow, also involves local artistes Abu Bakar Ellah and Pija, the winner of television reality show Mentor, as well as Azizi of Akademi Fantasia (AF) 1 and a dikir barat and wayang kulit group from Kelantan which would be performing at the event's venue throughout the three-day period.

The fair held here in May last year managed to sell 185 special travel packages worth RM72,348.

Meanwhile, Iskandar Mirza said a 25-member delegation from Kelantan is in town to promote the State among the people in Sabah.

Iskandar Mirza said besides introducing the uniqueness of traditional food and culture of the Kelantanese, it also hopes to attract more people in Sabah to visit the state.

Besides two chefs from Hotel Perdana who will display their skills in preparing various Kelantan traditional cuisine like Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Dagang, Laksam, Kuih Jala Emas and others, the delegation also includes 12 Kelantan wayang kulit and dikir barat mambers, two gasing (top) demonstrators and one wau (traditional kite) demonstrator, among others.

As to why they picked Sabah as a venue for the programme, Lijah said generally there are many visitors from the peninsula coming to Sabah for either business or vacation.

"We find there is little movement from Sabah to Kelantan. This is although there are people from Sabah coming for business purposes like to buy kain songket or batik in Kelantan," she said.

"Probably Kelantan is still less known among the people in Sabah, so we hope to attract more people here to go to the peninsula and up to Kelantan," she added.

"Kelantan received about 600,000 domestic and 74,000 foreign visitors in 2005 which is far below than the 2.6 million domestic and 2.1 million foreign visitors received by the hotels and resorts in Sabah the same year," she said.

This was despite an increase of about 10 per cent compared to the 2004 figure, she added.

"Sabah is very advanced in terms of tourism compared to Kelantan, based on its approach and products and can cater to a much bigger number," said delegation leader, Lijah.

Source: Daily Express

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sabah scraps plan to build resthouse on Mount Kinabalu

By Jaswinder Kaur

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is keeping to its word on conserving eco-sensitive areas. Yesterday, the State Cabinet scrapped plans to proceed with the construction of a resthouse at Layang-Layang on Mount Kinabalu, about 2,700 metres above sea level.

And, the State Federal Development Department, which implements Federal-funded projects in Sabah, has been instructed to clean up debris left by a contractor that abandoned the project.

The department had issued a fresh tender to complete the construction of a two-and-a-half storey resthouse at the time the matter was highlighted by the media a couple of weeks ago.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the Cabinet deliberated on the matter before coming to its decision.

"Mount Kinabalu is a World Heritage Site and we don't need anymore buildings there, especially those that require rock blasting methods before they can be built.”

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sipadan to be left untouched, says divers

By Julia Chan

SEMPORNA, SABAH: Keep Sipadan pristine!

This was the unanimous vote among international divers when asked to comment on plans to build tourist facilities on the island, renowned as a marine wonderland.

Mellisa Bunyan from Britain said, facilities need not be built on the island, as it is not far from the mainland.

“It is quite enough for most people to bring simple packed lunches over to the island, so a big restaurant or clubhouse is really not necessary.

“Keen divers will always come back to Sipadan even without proper tourist facilities,” said the 34-year-old former sales director, who was on a diving holiday to the island.

The State Government is reviewing plans for tourist facilities on the island, after a barge laden with construction material damaged 372 square metres of coral in the area.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat had said that the construction material was for a RM5 million project on the island, which would include the building of a restaurant-cum-clubhouse, scuba shop and quarters for the army and Sabah Parks staff.

While the contractor was not fined for the damage and the contract was not terminated, the design of the building is said to have gone back to the drawing board to reduce its environmental impact.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

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Facelift for Borneo's only railway system

By Jaswinder Kaur

Kota Kinabalu - BORNEO’S only railway system is getting a facelift and it is not coming to the end of the line as some may have thought.

After five years of studies, it has been found that the 134km track that runs from Tanjung Aru to Tenom on the western part of Sabah, is still needed for some 500,000 commuters, a bulk of whom are from rural areas.

With RM334.8 million in federal funding, the Sabah Railway Department is upgrading tracks, buying new trains and more importantly setting up 22 level crossings.

Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Raymond Tan who made the announcement yesterday said there were 149 level crossings, including a number of illegal ones, which had led to fatalities.

"We are going to have 22 level crossings along the line which will either have gates or traffic lights to warn motorists. This is all part of upgrading work which will be done in the short term of about three years," he said.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tropical Vacation Getaway: Kampung Resort/Mimpian Jadi, Tuaran

Sabah, Malaysia Borneo, have numerous tropical vacation getaways locations where you can stay at quaint seaside accommodations or chalets, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

One such location is the budget-typed tropical seaside getaway called Kampung Resort (i.e., Mimpian Jadi Resort).

Kampung Resort (formerly Club Sabah) in Tuaran, about 1.5 hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, is a perfect lower cost alternative for a tropical vacation getaway compared to its other neighboring 5-star resorts (i.e., Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort and Nexus Karambunai Resort).

More popularly known and refereed to as Mimpian Jadi Resort, there are about 48 rooms at Kampung Resort chalet-type accommodation.

The furthest from Kota Kinabalu among all the tropical resorts in Tuaran, Kampung Resort is rather secluded and a good location for a a sun-filled leisure, luxury, romantic, and family tropical vacation getaway.

More Tropical Vacation Getaways in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo


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Sipadan being closely monitored

DIVING haven Sipadan Island, which made the news across the globe following the destruction of some of its pristine corals, is being closely monitored by the authorities.

According to Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Karim Bujang, a team of senior officials from the Ministry had gone to the island in the wake of a controversy stemming from the damage to the corals at its Drop-Off Point.

But he said he could not tell offhand whether the proposed construction of amenities on the island, which was suspended, has been reviewed yet. "But I think the Ministry, through our senior officers, is monitoring the situation closely," said Karim, who has just returned from a working visit to Japan.

Last month, a barge found beached at Sipadan off-loading gravel, sand, steel tubes, iron mesh and bulldozer using a giant crane scraped off the corals at the famous Drop-Off Point.

The incident, which was posted in the Internet by bloggers, drew reactions from people concerned that the environment at the world-famous diving site would be destroyed.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, in an immediate reaction, ordered the suspension of all construction activities on Pulau Sipadan until further notice.

He also ordered a full probe on the destruction of corals there by the barge. Meanwhile, Karim said tourist arrivals in Sabah have remained positive despite the Fifa World Cup 2006.

"I see the hospitality industry in Sabah has been playing a very proactive role like having counters for guests to watch live telecasts of World Cup matchesŠ feel that with this, there will be no changes in the present trend," he said.

Source: Daily Express

Sunday, June 18, 2006

'Rentap' comes alive at World Harvest Fest

By Mohd Fadzli Fadhilah

KUCHING - It was about an hour after daybreak and many in the Iban village of Bukit Sadok were still in their slumber.

The village's women were washing clothes while several men were seen spearing the fish at the idyllic Batang Skrang river, oblivious to a flotilla of sampan, junks and barges that moved quietly but swiftly upstream.

Minutes later the village's serene and tranquil atmosphere were rudely disrupted from the cracks of musket fire and cannon blasts.

The cannon balls tore and ripped through the Iban longhouses, wreaking havoc and leaving the wooden structures in smouldering ruins while the musket shots left many villagers bloodied and dead.

The year was 1857, during the reign of James Brooke, known as the Sarawak 'White Rajah.'

Brooke had sent his expeditionary forces to wipe out villages of natives who had refused to bow to his rule.

But the Iban warriors of Bukit Sadok fought back.

Despite being taken by surprise, the Iban warriors fought gallantly. Led by their chief 'Rentap,' they inflicted a heavy toll among the invaders.

However this was only a re-enactment of Rentap's bravery in the struggle of the Iban against colonial rule.

Last May 27, the lakeside at the Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) in Santubong, 40 km from here, was turned into a battle field where a diorama, aptly titled 'Rentap - The Battle of Bukit Sadok' was staged.

The 45-minute show was held in conjunction with the World Harvest Festival 2006 (WHF 2006).

In the diorama, actor Desmond Jumek played Rentap and stood on a 15m-high platform to symbolise the warrior-chief valiant efforts in rallying his warriors to fight against the White Rajah's mercenaries in defence of Bukit Sadok.

The lightings and the background music captivated the audience, making them feel as if they were on the actual battlefield.

This event was among the highlights of the festival, held for three days and two nights and organised by the SCV in collaboration with the Sarawak Urban Development and Tourism Ministry.

Rentap was one of the great Iban chiefs in the 19th century. In the Iban language, Rentap means 'one who makes the world shake.'

Directed by SCV's choreographer Ramli Ali, the 45-minute show took more than one month to prepare and involved 135 actors.

There were also cultural performances from different ethnic groups including the Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu.

The Iban with their Selampai dress - a pua kumbu attire where the cloth was weaved in a traditional way, performed the "Ngajat" to welcome the audience.

The male dancers wore hornbill feathers as their headgear to signify their warrior hood. The bigger the feathers, the stronger they are according to the Iban belief. Members of the audience were invited on stage to dance the Ngajat.

The gentle and soothing sound of the traditional Borneo flute, the "sape", accompanied the dance of the Orang Ulu. The performers were clad in beaded attires including colourful headbands, necklaces and wristbands.

The WHF 2006 also drew participation from rice-farming communities in Thailand, China and Indonesia who performed their respective cultural dances.

Source: BERNAMA

Friday, June 16, 2006

Tropical Vacation Getaway: Tempurung Seaside Lodge, Kuala Penyu

Sabah, Malaysia Borneo, have numerous tropical vacation getaways locations where you can stay at quaint seaside accommodations or chalets, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

One such location is the budget-typed tropical seaside getaway called Tempurung Seaside Lodge.

Located in the district of Kuala Penyu, about 135 km to the Southwest of Kota Kinabalu, the 20-room Tempurung Seaside Lodge is built on a hilltop amidst natural surroundings and overlooking sandy beaches fronting the South China Sea.

With a long stretch of sandy beaches, the lodge is a perfect setting to a relaxing and mind soothing experience.

Given the unobstructed view of the South China Sea and the sun setting in the west, Tempurung Seaside Lodge offers spectacular sunset with myriad of colours on a clear day.

Combine with it's rustic and homely feel and an authentic Malaysian Borneo meals on offered served by friendly staffs, Tempurung Seaside Lodge is a perfect tropical vacation getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.

More Tropical Vacation Getaways in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo


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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sabah's Dragon boat race on Sunday

KOTA KINABALU: The 21st annual Sabah Dragon Boat Race will be held on Sunday, June 18, at Likas Bay from 7.30am to 1pm.

Jointly organised by the Sabah Tourism Board with its subsidiary Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd and the Sabah Chinese Cultural Association (SCCA), the race, the biggest of its kind in Sabah, will feature six trophy events with a total of RM32,500 in cash prizes.

Organising Secretary Zachary Mobijohn said that this year, the organisers have received applications from five international teams with one each from Japan and China, and three from Brunei Darussalam as well as a total of 42 local teams.

The Isokaze Aioi Peiron Dragon Boat team, from Osaka, Japan, won the Kansai-Dragon Boat Race and was placed second in Japan’s prestigious International Dragon Boat Championship last year. It is expected to be one of the strongest contenders for the Sabah Head of State’s Trophy.

The team from Guandong, China and one of the teams from Brunei Darussalam, too, will be vying for this prestigious trophy.

Top Malaysian teams expected to give the international teams a run for their money include last year’s winner, Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Team 1, and runner-up, the Maju Oriental Dragon Boat team.

The event will start at 7.30am with the Sportsman’s Oath Ceremony witnessed by Sabah Tourism Board Chairman Dato’ Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin, President of the Sabah Chinese Cultural Association Datuk Chau Tet On, and Vice-Chairman of the Organising Committee Sitti B. Damsal who is also General Manager for Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn. Bhd. This will be followed by the heat races that start at 8am and race finals at 11am.

Sabah’s Head of State, Tuan Yang Terutama Yang Dipertua Negeri Sabah, Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah and his consort will launch the event with the rice dumpling or Zong Zi Offering ceremony at 10.25am.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman, and Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat will also be present.

Members of the public are invited to attend the Duan Wu or Dragon Boat festival. For more information, please contact the Organising Secretary, Zachary Mobijohn, at 088-232121 or 013-8504007.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Expedition to Sabah's 'lost world'

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) - A team of Malaysian scientists on Tuesday left from Kuala Lumpur for a scientific expedition to the Maliau Basin in Sabah.

The scientific expedition entitled, the Maliau Expedition, it will take place between 15 and 24 June. It is jointly organised by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) and Sabah Foundation and conducted in collaboration with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), and Sabah Parks, with support from Universiti Malaya (UM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

Professor Dr Ibrahim Komoo FASc of Fellow of ASM is heading the team of 70 Malaysian scientists comprising academicians, doctorates and researchers from local higher learning and research institutions.

Its main objectives are to enhance knowledge of the Maliau Basin as well as to build capacity and capability of local scientists to carry out expedition in the tropical region. In addition, it is also aimed at developing long-term research co-operation at both national and international levels.

The expedition is divided into four scientific teams namely Flora Biodiversity, Fauna Biodiversity, Physical and Landscape Diversity and Water and Aquatic Life.

"The expedition is also expected to galvanize scientists to help develop capacity and understanding to determine measures for the sustainable use of the abundant natural resources available in the area.

The Maliau Basin is a 25km diameter basin that resembles a volcanic caldera and is a sedimentary formation comprising mainly of gently inclined beds of sandstone and mudstone.

It is situated in the south central region of Sabah, covering an area of about 390 square kilometers.

`It is also known as Sabah's Lost World as the Basin is hidden from inhabited coastal areas and sits approximately 600km upriver from Sabah's east coast.

The area is mostly inaccessible due to its extremely rugged landscape rimmed by steep slopes and cliffs.

Source: BERNAMA

New airline heads off Mulu crisis

MIRI: Starting its flight bookings seven weeks ahead of schedule, newly-formed airline Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) has helped Sarawak earn more than RM30mil in tourism revenue.

Of the 18,000-plus tourists who had served notice that they might have to cancel their confirmed tours to Mulu National Park because of teething flight arrangement complications last month, only about 400 actually cancelled their bookings.

The rest have seemingly maintained their tours to Mulu and are in the process of arranging with travel agents here and their agents abroad to get confirmed tickets to this world heritage site, said Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geikie yesterday.

If each of these tourists spend the projected RM1,800 per person in Malaysia as calculated based on previous tourism statistics, it would mean that some RM31.5mil would be brought into the state.

“The tourism industry players in Sarawak are very grateful to FAX and AirAsia for their very proactive and swift response to our plight,” Geikie said.

“They have responded by taking bookings way ahead of schedule to head off potential cancellations from the 18,000-plus tourists. It has worked.

“Based on feedback from our tour agents over the past two days, it seems that almost all the bookings could be saved.

“So far, we have recorded about 400 cancellations by those who could not wait any longer for their Mulu tickets to be issued because they had started their tours. The rest of the bookings are still in place and our agents are in the process of issuing the tickets,” she added.

Late last month, the board raised the alarm when Malaysia Airlines cancelled flight bookings to Mulu that were scheduled for after Aug 1.

MAS will hand over 99 non-trunk routes to AirAsia on Aug 1, including the Mulu sector, and has decided not to take any more bookings.

The 18,000-plus tourists, mostly from overseas, needed to get confirmed tickets now because they have to arrange months ahead.

AirAsia last week responded to the board's SOS by asking FAX (its sub-contractor for the rural air service sector) to start accepting bookings on June 12, seven weeks ahead of the Aug 1 official operation date.

Source: The Star

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New ruling on eco projects in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Two bungled development projects at Sabah’s top tourism attractions – Mount Kinabalu and Pulau Sipadan – have prompted the state to order all works in tourism and eco-sensitive areas to be referred to the state Cabinet.

Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman, who put a stop yesterday to attempts to revive the abandoned restaurant-cum-rest house project on Mount Kinabalu, said the state Cabinet was not aware of the projects in both Kinabalu and Sipadan, which are under the jurisdiction of Sabah Parks.

“I have ordered that all projects undertaken in tourist and eco-sensitive areas be referred to the Cabinet for approval, even if it costs just a few million ringgit,” he told reporters after chairing the Sabah Development Action Council meeting here.

“We (the state Cabinet) want to know what the project is about, how it will be done and the capability of contractors before any approval is given in areas that are ecologically sensitive.

“We do not want irreparable damage to our heritage sites,” he said when commenting on the abandoned RM4.35mil project near Carson’s Camp on Mount Kinabalu.

The project, which started in 2003, was approved by the federal Tourism Ministry and implemented by the Federal Development Department in Sabah.

The contractor was sacked after failing to complete the project within the two-year period given.

Musa said he had asked the parties involved to brief the state Cabinet on the matter so that a decision could be made whether to go ahead or scrap the project.

He said if such projects had been referred to the Cabinet, incidents like that in Sipadan where a barge carrying construction material for a RM5mil toilet and sewage project damaged coral reefs off the eco-sensitive island last month could have been avoided.

Source: The Star

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First pic of rhino in Sabah's wild

Kota Kinabalu: A motion-triggered camera trap set up in a remote jungle has captured the first-ever photo of a rhino in the wild in Sabah, the State Wildlife Department and WWF-Malaysia announced Tuesday.

The camera trapping activity was part of rhino conservation efforts, which include the "Rhino Rescue" project funded by Honda Malaysia with key input from WWF-Malaysia. It was launched earlier this year in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia.

This project aims to boost Sumatran rhino protection through activities such as studies on the animal's needs, preventing poaching and habitat conservation.

The rhino photographed in the wild is believed to be one of a population of as few as 13 whose existence was confirmed during a field survey last year in the interior forests of Sabah, part of an area known as the "Heart of Borneo." A handful of rhinos are thought to survive in addition to the 13, scattered across Sabah but isolated from each other.

The rhinos found on Borneo are regarded as a subspecies of the Sumatran rhinoceros, which means they have different physical characteristics from rhinos found in Sumatra (Indonesia) and Peninsular Malaysia.

"This is an encouraging sign for the future of rhinoceros conservation work in Sabah," said Mahedi Andau, Director of the State Wildlife Department.

"While the total number of Borneo rhinos remaining is uncertain, we do know there are very, very few. To capture a photo of one just a few months after placing camera traps in the area is extraordinary."

The rhinos in Sabah spend their lives in dense jungle where they are rarely seen, which accounts for the lack of any previous photographs of them in the wild.

Conservationists hope the population of at least 13 found last year is viable and would be able to reproduce if protected from poaching.

A full-time rhino monitoring team, funded by Honda Malaysia, was established at the end of 2005 in Sabah to monitor the rhinos and their habitat and keep poachers away. The team set up the camera traps in February. Camera traps are remotely activated by infrared triggers when animals walk by.

"These are very shy animals that are almost never seen alive in the wild," said Raymond Alfred, WWF-Malaysia's Asian Rhinoceros and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS) Project Manager.

"Based on the photo, we can tell this is a mature and healthy individual thanks to the availability of plentiful, good-quality forage in the forest. We hope to take more photos over the coming months of other rhinos so we can piece together clues about this tiny, precarious population."

The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the world's most critically endangered species. In Borneo, there have been no confirmed reports of the species apart from those in Sabah for almost 20 years, leading experts to fear that rhinos may now be extinct on the rest of the island.

The main threats to the last rhinos in Sabah are poaching - its horn and virtually all of its body parts are valuable on the black market - and loss of its forested habitat due to conversion of the land to other uses.

WWF-Malaysia is working with the Sabah Foundation and the State Wildlife Department to establish a "Rhinoceros and Orang-utan Research Programme Centre" in the Heart of Borneo forest area to bolster the rhino monitoring and research work in that area. Supporters of WWF-Malaysia's rhino conservation work include Honda Malaysia and US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Source: Daily Express

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Royal Brunei Airlines office takes off in Ho Chi Minh City

By Lyna Mohamad in Ho Chi Minh City

With the inauguration of Royal Brunei Airlines' (RBA) new services to Ho Chi Minh City, the national carrier officially opened its office there over the weekend.

The Minister of Communications flew in to inaugurate the thrice-weekly services to the city. Pehin Dato Seri Setia Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong cut a ribbon to mark the official opening of the RBA Office at 3rd Floor, Capital Place in Thai Van Lung Strict, District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City.

To bless the ceremony, a doa was read by a Vietnamese imam from the Jame Islamiah Mosque, Ho Chi Minh city, Hj Omar Hj Mohd.

Present to witness the event were Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources cum Chairman of the Brunei Tourism Board, Dato Paduka Hj Hamdillah Hj Wahab, Permanent Secretary at Home Affairs Ministry, Dato Paduka Hj Adnan Hj Hanafiah, Brunei Ambassador to Vietnam, Hj Mahadi POKDGSDRDLU Hj Abd Rahman and Vietnamese Ambassador to Brunei, Mr Ha Hong Hai.

Others present were Vice Chairman of RBA, Pg Dato Paduka Hj Abu Bakar PSI Pg Hj Ismail, MD of GHK Motors Pehin Goh King Chin, Dato Paduka Hj Kani Hj Mohd Salleh, a member of RBA Board of Directors, Acting CEO of RBA Pg Md Yussof Pg Hj Jeludin and RBA management and officers.

Following the opening, the minister and other guests were taken on a tour of the new office. The airline's Sales Manager Vietnam Office, Mr Kevin Thong, briefed the guests on the office operational system.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sarawak in bid to save Mulu bookings

BY STEPHEN THEN

MIRI: A full-scale effort has been launched via cyberspace to salvage more than 18,000 tour bookings to Mulu that are in danger of being cancelled due to earlier uncertainties over flight bookings.

The Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) has gone all-out on the Internet, contacting overseas tour agents, telling them to convince tourists with confirmed bookings to the Mulu World Heritage Site to hold onto their bookings, after more than 200 cancellations were recorded over the past few days.

STB chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said the board became worried after finding out that the 200-plus foreign tourists had already cancelled their tour packages to Mulu.

“These cancellations included tourists from Italy. They cancelled their tours over the past few days while MAS and AirAsia were sorting out some of the earlier problems that had arisen from the handing over of the flight services by MAS to AirAsia.

“These cancellations were from tour groups that had to be issued confirmed tickets because they are travelling on tour packages starting early July.

“These 200-plus tourists had planned to visit Mulu and other parts of Borneo after going to several Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia and states in (peninsular) Malaysia. They had to cancel their Mulu trip because they cannot wait any longer for their tickets to be issued.

“However, we are very confident we can salvage the rest of the 18,000 other tour bookings to Mulu. AirAsia has announced that it will open booking for flights this Monday to the rural service destinations in Sarawak.

“We are trying to reach all the confirmed tourists and to urge them to wait until Monday so that our overseas agents can issue them confirmed tickets to Mulu,” Geikie said.

AirAsia has subcontracted the rural air service, to destinations like Mulu, to new airline Fly Asian Xpress (FAX). AirAsia will take over 99 non-trunk routes including the rural services from MAS beginning Aug 1.

FAX will open its bookings tomorrow, seven weeks ahead of schedule, after The Star highlighted the problem last week.

The long-haul tourists, from Europe and the Far East, have to plan their tour months ahead and make confirmed payments for air tickets, hotels and ground tour arrangements.

“After Monday, we will be able to tell how many of the 18,000-plus tourists to Mulu we can salvage. Hopefully, we can even get more bookings,” Geikie said.

Source: The Star

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Lots to see and do at Sarawak World Harvest Festival

By SHARON LING

KUCHING: The second World Harvest Festival was celebrated at the Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) near here with cultural workshops, concerts, food and crafts exhibitions and competitions.

The main attraction of the day was the first round of tasks set for contestants battling it out for the title of Iron Man.

In the tasks, designed to test their strength and skill, the 10 contestants competed in carting 50kg gunny sacks of rice in wheelbarrows across a lawn.

Each contestant had to wheel 10 sacks, two at a time.

They were then tested on their blowpipe shooting skills before having to roll a 160kg tyre across a certain distance.

Over the next two days of the festival, the contestants competed in other feats of strength including carrying containers filled with water, throwing gunny sacks of rice, water rafting, dehusking coconuts and chopping wood.

Other highlights of the festival included the Miss Fair and Lovely beauty pageant, a theme play based on the legendary Iban hero Rentap and international cultural concerts featuring artistes from Malaysia, China, Indonesia and Thailand.

The three-day festival last week was organised by the SCV and the state Urban Development and Tourism Ministry to celebrate the traditions of rice harvesting in the region.

Source: The Star

Friday, June 09, 2006

Sarawak World Harvest Festival features regional rice-harvesting traditions

By SHARON LING

Rice-harvesting traditions in the region were brought to life as the Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) celebrated its second World Harvest festival.

Formerly known as Gawai Tourism Night, the festival was expanded last year to include troupes from neighbouring countries that share similar cultures of planting and harvesting rice.

This year’s edition of the festival saw groups from China, Indonesia and Thailand come together with a group from the National Arts Academy in Kedah and three Sarawak groups to conduct workshops and perform in concerts.

One of the festival highlights was a play on legendary Iban warrior Rentap and his battles against the White Rajah’s troops at his fortress on Bukit Sadok.

For the play, the lake area at SCV was transformed into a vast open-air stage, with longhouses built along its banks and the lake itself representing the river on which villagers travelled and battles fought.

A tall bamboo platform represented Bukit Sadok and on it, perched precariously, the actor playing Rentap performed a series of rituals and war dances.

Although the final battle ended in defeat for Rentap and his warriors, the play concluded on a celebratory note with all the actors singing and dancing together in the final scene.

The play was the prelude to the finale of the Miss Fair and Lovely pageant held in conjunction with the festival, which featured 13 finalists dressed in full Iban traditional attire.

Student Raden Ira Faraniza Mohd Iskandar, 23, was crow-ned Miss Fair and Lovely,.

She won RM3,000, a scholarship for a diploma programme at a local college and various other prizes.

It was a doubly successful night for the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) student as she also won the Miss SMS Vo-ters’ Favourite subsidiary title.

First runner-up was 18-year-old radio deejay Siti Khalizah Alihan, who also picked up the Miss Hollywood Personality subsidiary title, while Martina Justine Rajang, 23, was second runner-up.

Two other subsidiary titles of Miss Beautiful Skin and Miss Top Photo Photogenic both went to Lucy John Chan, 22.

Source: The Star

Sarawak's rural air services halted by MAS due to 'practical reasons'

By Magdalene Rogers

KUCHING - The Malaysia Airlines (MAS) which has been criticised for halting the Rural Air Services (RAS) particularly to renowned destination such as Mulu was acting on "practical reasons."

A MAS employee, who prefers to remain anonymous, told the Bulletin that the move by MAS in stopping the RAS was not purely out of losing profits but also for "practical reasons such as the weather that if it rains heavily, the airstrip would be flooded."

"Therefore, to say that MAS is doing this and this because it is losing money is not really the factor here. Moreover, there are times when there are not sufficient passengers for the destination," she said.

Meanwhile, it was reported that some 31,000 cancellations have been recorded by travellers to destinations in Sarawak.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said that the figure was a cause of alarm to the travel industry here.

She added that, nonetheless, STB is issuing travel advisory to all inbound tour operators and their representatives overseas "to inform them that all previous rural flight bookings made through them through MAS would be honoured."

This was made possible as all RAS flights would be taken over by FAX airlines seven weeks ahead of schedule on next Monday.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fiasco at World Heritage site, Mount Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu: It seems there is no end to damage being inflicted on Sabah's popular tourism spots. Recently, it was damage to corals by a barge at Sipadan. Now, Daily Express can reveal that even Mt Kinabalu - Sabah's first World Heritage site - has not been spared.

A RM5.3 million four-storey concrete and steel resthouse-cum-restaurant project at Layang-Layang, 9,000 feet above sea level, has been abandoned by the contractor.

Not only were Sabahans not told what was being built there, just like in Sipadan. The abandoned site is now one of carnage, raising doubts as to whether serious consideration was given to the fact that it would be a herculean task to build a four-storey structure hugging a mountainside without carrying out blasting at the World Heritage Site that is already known to be a geologically unstable area.

The project funded and supervised by the Federal Development Department Sabah (JPPS) was supposed to accommodate 70 climbers and scheduled for completion last month. It is situated at the junction of the main South-ridge Tourist Trail and Mesilan Trail, near Carsons Camp.

The project is in response to the often heavy bookings at Kinabalu Park. However, although the need for such accommodation is not doubted, what appears to have been ignored are safety (since it is four-storeys) and environmental considerations.

According to one tourism player, the project would suit a three day-two night package for the elderly and would be in demand but not if several storeys high.

"The present capacity at Panar Laban (11,000ft) is 120 people and is always booked under the management of Sutera Harbour Resort. This is rather unfair to tour operators because they always say it is full house," said Tham.

JPPS appointed a contractor connected to a former Deputy Chief Minister to do the job but it was farmed out to another contractor that abandoned it after blasting the granite mountainsides and leaving a mess of stones, sand, steel and other building materials.

A developer who climbed Kinabalu recently alerted the situation to Daily Express. He said JPPS should have built a single storey environmental-friendly structure instead.

"Common sense dictates that since the site is at 9,000ft above sea level and likely designed using heavy "I" beam sections, it will require costly helicopter cargo-lifts to the construction site.

"To make the construction possible, the use of tower crane is mandatory, adding costs in the transportation of the crane by helicopter as well as the costs in installing and dismantling the crane so high up the mountain," he said.

He said construction using reinforced concrete materials is very heavy, requires blasting, casting and curing and both the low temperature and high altitude would affect concrete strength.

"The design of the external works requires excavation into the rock which means further blasting is necessary.

"Blasting of the original granite rock is ecologically unfriendly given the fact that this is a World Heritage Site. It is also very costly and time consuming to implement," he said.

Daily Express reliably learnt that the contractor abandoned the project after having already blasted 19 foundation posts with another 21 more to be blasted.

"A single-storey structure inter-linked to one another would only require anchoring into the hard rock using high-tension expansion bolts. No blasting is necessary and is a non-invasive method of construction," he said.

There is no doubt that additional accommodation is welcome in view of the mountain's popularity and the fact that some climbers do not wish to hurry to the top.

The construction of the four-storey structure would require airlifting some 500 tonnes of building materials to Layang-Layang.

"The airlift cost of RM1.2 million was budgeted into the total project cost. Therefore no one should blame airlift cost as cause of the abandonement," the source said.

The airlift job was awarded to Baltic Pacific, a Latvian company using Russian Kamov KA32 helicopters capable of maximum load of 3.5 tonnes at sea level and about 2.2 tonnes at 9,000 ft.

The source said the helicopter airlift pilots are trained to do precision work.

"They are experts in lowering load right on the dot using long line. They may hover 100 metres above the site so that they don't need to cut trees and the downwash also would not disturb the forest canopy.

"Still, in one of these flights up to Layang-Layang, the pilot reportedly "ditched" to avert a potential crash by jettisoning loads of metal pieces in to the valley.

"Fortunately, it did not hit any tourists or people on the ground," said the source.

Daily Express also learnt that JPPS has called for new tenders for the project - ironically using the same design. Talk that the earlier contractors are being sued by JPPS could also not be confirmed as none of its officials could be reached.

Last year, some Members of Parliament have called for JPPS to close shop as the State is no longer under the opposition and Federal funds should be channelled direct to the State Government to implement the various projects.

The MPs also said they do not know what are the projects going on in their areas as they were never consulted by JPPS.

Source: Daily Express

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AirAsia spreads its wings to Brunei

Beginning July 11, 2006 Asia's largest and low fare airline, AirAsia, will commence a daily direct service between Kuala Lumpur and Bandar Seri Begawan, becoming the first low fare airline to gain entry into Brunei, a press release stated.

Brunei is the seventh country in Asean to be included in the airline's growing route network in the region following the launch of destinations in Thailand, Indonesia, Macau, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Singapore and the Philippines.

AirAsia's promotional launch fares for this new service start from RM 89.99/$39.99 one way, and is available for sale since June 2.

"We are thrilled to welcome Brunei to AirAsia's growing flight network in the region. The addition of Brunei underscores our commitment to become the low fare air travel provider servicing every city in the region, while bridging people, cultures, and countries together in Asean," said Tony Fernandes, Group Chief Executive Officer, AirAsia Berhad.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sarawak To Host Merdeka Celebrations This Year

KUCHING -- After 13 long years, Sarawak has once again been picked to host the national level Merdeka (Independence) Day celebrations this year.

The 49th National Day celebrations will be held in Kuching.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu on Tuesday said a special programme had been drawn up for the occasion, the highlight of which would be a parade at Padang Merdeka in the city on August 31.

About 6,000 members of various organisations and agencies would participate in the parade which would be witnessed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Fauziah Tengku Abdul Rashid and other dignitaries, he said after chairing a meeting of the organising committee for the event.

Jabu said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would launch Merdeka Eve celebrations on the night of Aug 30 at Tebingan Kuching here where various events would be showcased.

Source: BERNAMA

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

9-Hole Night Golf at Empire Country Club, Brunei

By P Marilyn & Huraizah Ahmad

The Empire Country Club in Brunei Darussalam is featuring a special 9-Hole Night Golf promotion every Monday and Wednesday throughout the months of June and July 2006 from 5.30pm to 8.00pm.

The promotion is also open to non-members of the Empire Country Club, where guests can enjoy the unique experience of a round of 9-Hole Night Golf for only B$65 per person inclusive of buggy fee.

During an interview with golf professional, Allen Kelly, he said the Empire Country Club has received tremendous response from both children and adults on golfing lessons.

"It's never too young to start golf. Children as young as six have approached us for golfing lessons," said Allen Kelly.

Allen is also currently working on an exclusive column every Weekend and Sunday in the Borneo Bulletin where golfers can gain extra knowledge with tips and techniques on golfing.

To give golfers a different feel and experience, a different area of the golf course at The Empire Country Club will be open every night throughout the 9-Hole Night Golf promotion.

Located beside the South China Sea, the 18-hole championship course at The Empire Hotel & Country Club is designed by one of the world's golfing greats.

Its breathtaking location is rated among the best in Asia with lush, scenic fairways catering for golfers at every level.

Last year it was the venue for the inaugural Brunei Golf Open and subsequently voted "Best Host Venue" by the region's top golfers on the 2005 Asian Tour.

The resort topped a poll of 28 other venues on its debut as a host of the Asia's premier professional golf tournament.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

ED: This is the second Night Golf course in Borneo after Sutera Harbour Resort in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo.

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Sabah will continue to give top priority to tourism sector

By Arman Gunsika

KOTA KINABALU - Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said the tourism sector will continue to receive priority in generating the State's economic growth in line with the Sabah's development direction and the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Launching the Sandakan Festival 2006 at the Sandakan Padang Bandaran on Sunday, Musa said from year to year, the significance of the tourism sector is becoming more glaring and will always be given emphasis in whatever policies and planning of the government.

He said this is clearly reflected when tourism had been identified as one of the main development strategies in the state's economic development plan and the Ninth Malaysia Plan. The call by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to attract 2.7 million tourist arrivals annually in five years was given attention by the State government.

Tourist arrivals to Sabah as of March this year was already 420,293, while last year the total arrivals were 1,829 million indicating that Sabah is becoming a main destination for Malaysia.

This is a result of the efforts, initiatives and cooperation between the government, private sector, NGOs and the people of Sabah, he said.

Hoping that such a strong cooperation will continue to be forged, Musa said that the smart partnership concept that involved the active participation from the community was capable in making a programme successful without depending on the government.

The State government had marked up the arrivals' target to Sabah from 2.7 million in 2007 to four million by the end of the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

In this respect, among the positive steps taken by the government was to encourage the private sectors to get involved in hotel industry, enhancement of the existing tourism facilities and improvement of the sector's quality and professionalism.

Apart from that, he said involvement of the community homestay, bed and breakfast sundry businesses, transportation, food and handicraft industries also were taken into account.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New AirAsia's rural airline to take flight bookings in Borneo from Monday

By FLORENCE A.SAMY

PETALING JAYA: The problem of tourists not being able to get confirmed tickets on the rural air services in Sabah and Sarawak has been resolved as the new airline will open for flight bookings from Monday, seven weeks ahead of schedule.

Initially, FAX, the new airline contracted to manage AirAsia's rural service, set a July 1 target for ticket bookings on the 99 non-trunk domestic routes.

Flight bookings for FAX would be available on its website www.flyasianexpress.com from Monday and in the interim, a temporary helpdesk has been set up at 03-866-04-399 and travel agents could submit manual booking requests to groupbooking@airasia.com.

“FAX has also enlisted assistance from AirAsia to enable flight bookings at all existing distribution channels including AirAsia call centres (1 300 88 9933 or 03-8660 4343), airport sales counters and sales offices nationwide,” AirAsia said in a statement yesterday.

It is learnt that FAX is also negotiating with operators of computer booking systems used by travel agents worldwide to enable ticket purchases to be made.

Yesterday, The Star reported that thousands of foreign tourists could change their plans to travel here if glitches in the handover of key local routes from Malaysia Airlines to AirAsia were not resolved quickly. The country also stands to lose substantially in revenue.

The report highlighted concerns by travel agents and said Mulu National Park would be hardest hit as some 18,000 foreign tourists who booked their trip to the park, would cancel if their flights were not confirmed.

From Aug 1, AirAsia will take over the 99 routes from Malaysian Airlines as part of the Government's rationalisation of the domestic air services sector. Both MAS and AirAsia will also take on 19 trunk routes each.

FAX would first be operating in 39 destinations in Sabah and Sarawak and would fly from Miri to Mulu 14 times a week and to Lahad Datu, another popular eco-tourism spot, 35 times a week from Kota Kinabalu.

General manager Mohamad Zahari assured the public that there would be little disruptions to existing bookings and that routes would not be cut as a result of this exercise.

He said AirAsia, on behalf of FAX, had appealed to MAS to withhold cancellations, which was two months ahead of schedule, until the details were announced as they needed more time.

“We believe the situation in Sarawak and concerns from travel and tour operators could have been avoided if MAS informed the affected parties about the new airline taking over from its operations and made a decision to postpone its cancellation exercise for another two weeks,” he said, adding that current flight schedules and connectivity would be enhanced.

MAS in a statement yesterday defended its move to immediately cancel bookings for travel on the 99 non-trunk domestic routes.

The national carrier said travel agents, tour operators, national tourist organisations and other relevant bodies, were informed of the intention early on to ensure that foreign tourist arrivals were not negatively impacted and flights were not disrupted.

Long haul tourists, travel agents and tour operators required a minimum of three months lead-time before they committed to a particular package, MAS said.

“It will be irresponsible on our part to sell tickets on flights that we will no longer operate from Aug 1,” said MAS managing director Idris Jala in a statement yesterday.

“Some tour operators put out their promotional material a year in advance, having negotiated packages, which involve not only airlines but also hotels and ground operators.

“Despite the minimum three months' notice, we have only put the forward bookings into play on May 27, which is two months ahead of the Aug 1 deadline.

“This was only done after we and the Government received reassurances from AirAsia that it would be ready to take on operations from Aug 1.”

Source: The Star

Double harvest fest treat for Sabah

By RUBEN SARIO

Sabah’s month-long Kaamatan or Harvest Festival celebrations ended with a double cultural extravaganza last week.

For the first time ever, the annual festivities at the Hong-kod Koisaan hall in Penampang near here were followed thr-ough with the national level Kaamatan celebrations at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) campus.

The marathon of festivities that kicked off at 8am in the Hongkod hall continued until midnight at the UMS Chancel-lor’s hall where thousands came as early as 3pm to catch in the celebrations.

The Yang DiPertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail launched the national level Kaamatan celebrations by cutting seven padi stalks along with Sabah Yang DiPertua Negri Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah.

The”harvesting” that was broadcast live over RTM1 was witnessed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman as well as Huguan Siou or Kadazandusun paramount leader Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

Pairin, the Deputy Chief Minister, had earlier presented the king with a sigah or Kada-zandusun fabric headgear wo-ven with traditional ethnic patterns.

After handing donations to several welfare homes here, the King and other dignitaries were entertained to various traditional ethnic dances during a musical depicting the Kada-zandusun folklore of Humi-nodun.

(According to the legend, humankind was facing starvation and the Creator God Kino-ingan sacrificed his daughter Huminodun from whose body emerged seeds of the padi plant).

In his speech at the national-level celebrations, Abdullah said strong unity among Ma-laysia’s multi racial communities would propel the country towards achieving Vision 2020’s developed nation status in 14 years.

He said Malaysia was unique in that all communities respected each other’s cultural practices and religious beliefs enabling live in harmony.

“Despite the many differences, we don’t fight each other. Instead we are united,” Abdul-lah said, adding that this was the right circumstance for the Gov-ernment to develop the country even further.

Capping off the festivities were appearances by Malaysian diva Siti Nurhaliza and Akademi Fantasia stars Felix and Marsha apart from various local singers including Abu Bakar Ellah.

Earlier in the day, Tun Ahmadshah marked the end of the month-long state level Kaa-matan celebration by symbolically cutting padi stalks at the Hongkod Koisaan hall that was followed by the magavau or rice spirit appeasing ceremony by a dozen Kadazandusun priestesses from the Kota Marudu district.

The event ended with the crowning of this year’s Unduk Ngadau or Harvest Queen with the title going to 17-year-old Devenna Jaikob of Sulaman, near Kota Kinabalu.

Source: The Star

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sabah To Complete Management Plan For Huge Marine Park This Year

KOTA KINABALU -- The Sabah state government hopes to have ready this year a plan to manage a proposed 1.1-million hectare marine park that is said to host more coral and fish species than the Great Barrier Reef or the Caribbean Sea.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said protection of what had been named as the Tun Mustapha Park, located in the northern part of Sabah, would provide for conservation of various marine species and the marine environment including reefs, as well as ensure everlasting fish supply for the people of the state.

"The principal beneficiaries of the park will ultimately be the people of Sabah, especially those living in the Kudat, Pitas and Marudu districts as well as those living in the vicinity of the islands. They can enjoy the benefits of a better and healthier marine environment.

"(They too) will have better and continued access to abundant supplies of fish for food and for their livelihood and to have an opportunity to tap various economic potentials through the anticipated increase in tourism-related activities," he said.

Chong, who is also deputy chief minister, was launching the maiden voyage of the Mameng, a boat based in Kudat under the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) programme to facilitate a marine team of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia to conduct marine conservation activities.

The boat will also be used to ferry goods and project staff between the mainland and islands offshore Kudat as well as to enable the team to meet communities living in the proposed park and impress upon them the importance of marine conservation to the environment and people.

The boat has been named after a local fish of that name, otherwise known as the humphead wrasse, an exceptional fish that lives among coral reefs and also one of the most threatened fishes in the world.

Chong said the marine park was threatened with overfishing for years and the use of destructive fishing practices such as bombing and use of cyanide, and the reefs had undergone degradation.

He said that in addition to the reefs, the park would protect important habitats of the rare sea turtles and even the rare dugong.

"A park as big as the proposed Tun Mustapha is necessary to maintain the important ecolological linkages between seagrasses, mangroves, forests, coral reefs, dugongs, turtles and fishes," he added.

Source: BERNAMA

Transfer of local routes may lead to massive tourist cancellations to Mulu and Danum

By STEPHEN THEN

MIRI: The handover of 99 local routes to AirAsia by Malaysia Airlines from Aug 1 has put many travel agents here in a bind as up to 18,000 foreign tourists, who have confirmed their trip to the Mulu National Park, are threatening to cancel their bookings.

The tourists want confirmed air tickets but local agents here, the gateway to Mulu, are unable to do so because MAS

has instructed them to cancel their bookings as the national carrier was handing over its rural flight services to AirAsia.

However, AirAsia will only be able to handle bookings on July 1 at the earliest, provided the new airline it had contracted to operate the rural air services gets the regulatory approval.

If the Mulu-bound tourists cancel their bookings, the country stands to lose more than RM34mil in foreign exchange. Each tourist to Malaysia is estimated to spend about RM1,900 per trip per person.

The travel agents here convened an emergency meeting with Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geikie, seeking the board's help to avert what could be a blow to the state's tourism industry.

Tourists, about 80% of them foreigners, had given notices to travel agents, saying that they would have to cancel their bookings if the agents could not issue them confirmed flight tickets soon.

“STB has contacted AirAsia's management and was informed that the budget airline is still in the process of working out the arrangements.

“These tourists cannot wait because they are long-haul passengers and they need to confirm their travel plan months ahead,” said Geikie after the meeting.

She said the STB had highlighted the problem to the state government and the two airlines,

“We are not just talking about Mulu. These foreigners coming to Mulu will come through KLIA or Kuching or Kota Kinabalu, and then fly from Miri to Mulu. They usually will visit other destinations in Malaysia before or after they come to Mulu,” she said.

Another popular eco-tourism spot that could be affected by the same problem is the Danum Valley in Sabah as the flight to Lahad Datu from Kota Kinabalu will also be handed over to AirAsia.

Besides the Danum Valley, Lahad Datu is also the gateway to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, which is home to the Borneo pigmy elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros and orang-utan. It is also a popular tourist destination.

An AirAsia spokesman appealed to all tour operators and travel agents to hold on to their bookings.

She said AirAsia had announced that it had subcontracted the rural air service to a new airline – Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) and was now obtaining regulatory approval to commence operations on Aug 1.

“The decision by MAS to close these bookings at such short notice before the new airline is ready to begin sales has affected many parties.

“There will be minimal changes to the new flight schedules for pending bookings for the rural air services,” she said, adding that tourists with confirmed bookings must not cancel their bookings but wait until July 1 so that FAX can open its seats for sale.

MAS said the airline needed to give early notice to travel agents so that the passengers could make alternative plans as the change of routes affected the whole country.

From Aug 1, MAS will only fly to 19 local destinations deemed trunk routes while AirAsia will fly to 99 others, including Mulu.

“All bookings for travel on the 99 non-trunk domestic routes on and after Aug 1 will be cancelled,” MAS said, adding that the airline's Mulu, Limbang and Lahad Datu stations would also be closed.

As at mid-May, 33,280 bookings have been made and a total of 13,085 tickets have been issued on these non-trunk routes for travel beyond Aug 1.

FLORENCE A. SAMY reports that Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Donald Lim has assured that foreign tourists would get flight tickets to local destinations during the transition period.

Lim said the Government would ensure that tourists would not be left in the lurch during the transition and would come up with a solution soon.

“Even if these tourists can't get online flight tickets during the transition, we will make sure they get paper tickets so that they can fly here,” he said.

Source: The Star