Saturday, September 30, 2006

Brunei's The Empire's grand welcome

Magnificent replica of the Jame' Asr Mosque at The Empire. - Huraizah Ahmad

By Huraizah Ahmad

An impressive replica of the Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque now stands in the Empire Hotel & Country Club Lobby to welcome guests to the upcoming Aidilfitri celebration in the country.

The replica which stands breath-takingly tall in its grandeur has been intricately detailed by the hotel's Engineering team in a splendid work of art.

The gold embossed dome highlights the luxurious details of the magnificent mosque in all its glory.

The model made mostly out of timber and Perspex with plaster for its domes will be on display until the end of the Aidilfitri festivities.

The luxurious chandelier that hangs right above it gives a soft glow to the creation, presenting a grand view of the coming festivities.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, September 29, 2006

Plants of Mount Kinabalu video

Below is a beautifully edited video by Ross Graham (aka ross1972) about the Plants of Mount Kinabalu, which should give you an interesting insight into the unique flora at Mount Kinabalu.

MATTA Travel Fair in Sabah nets RM2m sales

Kota Kinabalu: The Matta Travel Fair here attracted 5,000 visitors who snapped up flight tickets and holiday packages worth RM2mil.

Matta Sabah Chapter Chairman, David de La Harpe said the number of visitors and sales during the three-day event, which ended last Sunday, exceeded expectations.

"We expected about 4,000 visitors and RM1.2mil in sales," he said when contacted by Daily Express Thursday.

De la Harpe said most participants made lots of effort to promote local destinations in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

The most popular international holiday destinations were Hong Kong, China, Korea and Japan.

Continue reading at: MATTA Travel fair in Sabah nets RM2m sales

Delegates from nine nations ‘in love’ with Sarawak

KUCHING: Delegates to the East Asia Tourism Forum in Sibu were attracted to the tourism products offered by Sarawak, said state Tourism and Urban Development Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh.

He said they found, for example, their trip by an express boat along Lebaan River to an Iban longhouse in Bawang Assan a great experience.

“They said they had never experienced such a trip and were impressed with the traditional welcome at the longhouse,” he told reporters after officiating at the re-instatement of Malaysia Airlines’ Kuching-Bintulu daily fight service at the airport here recently.

He presented “privileged passenger” certificates to all the passengers on the “inaugural” flight.

The national carrier also re-started the Miri-Kota Kinbalu service .

Continue reading at: Delegates from nine nations ‘in love’ with Sarawak

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mount Kinabalu summit climb video

Below is a video posted by Ross Graham (aka ross1972) at YouTube.com, about the summit climb of Mount Kinabalu, which we hope you will find interesting.

316 to fight for Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon glory

Kota Kinabalu: A record 316 participants have signed up for the TM 20th Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon this weekend.

Billed the World's Toughest Mountain Race it has drawn the interest of top mountain runners from Britain, Italy, Czech Republic, Spain and also Nepal.

The race will take place over two days, with the women and men's veteran category being flagged on Sept 30 followed by the men's event the next day.

The race will see participants running up and down the 21km (4,095m) Mount Kinabalu.

Defending champion Anna Picthrova and Ricardo Mejia have confirmed their participation in the race that will also feature the final leg of the Buff Skyrunner World Series, organised by the World Federation of Sports at Altitude (FSA).

Mejia who won the event in 2001 and 2005 winner, is currently leading the Buff Skyrunner World Series. He will be pitting his skills against Robert Jebb of Britain who was last year's Buff Skyrunner champion, Spaniard Agusti Roc Amador (2002 Climbathon winner) and Italian Dapit Fulvio (currently ranked 3rd in the Buff Skyrunner World Series).

Picthrova who is a four-time champion from 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005 will be running against former champion Dr. Angela Mudge. She was climbathon champion from 1998 to 2000 and currently leading the Buff Skyrunner women's category.

She did not compete over the last five years as she was pursuing her studies then.

Apart from Mudge, other favourites include French runner, Corrine Favre who was last year's Buff Skyrunner World Series champion and Spain's Ester Hernandez Casahuga.

The Malaysia side, meanwhile, will feature men's all time favourite, Guianus Salagan, Madamin Ghun and Muis Balinting. Madamin finished 11th while Muis took 13th placing in the race last year.

As for the women's category, Malaysia's challenge will be led by Florinda Aku (fifth placing last year), Danny Kuilin Gongot, Muidah Bolinting and Domidah bte Lumbuting.

Among the participants for this year's race are Australia, China, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand and USA.

Source: Daily Express

No new US travel advisory for Sabah and Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu: The United States Government has not issued any new travel advisory especially for Sabah since last year and, instead, encourages its citizens to visit the State.

US Ambassador to Malaysia Christopher J. LaFleur said as far as the embassy was concerned they saw no problems encouraging Americans travelling to most parts of Sabah.

He was asked to comment on the status of a travel advisory issued by the US Government in the past urging its citizens to avoid visiting the eastern side of Sabah.

"It was only some coastal areas where from time to time we still get reports that people have become the targets of terrorists," he said after presenting a mock-cheque from the Ambassador's Cultural Preservation Fund worth RM63,000 to the Kadazandusun Language Foundation (KLF) at Magellan Sutera, Tuesday.

Member of KLF Board of Trustees, Philip Benedict Lasimbang, received the mock-cheque on behalf of the foundation. Also present was KLF Chief Executive Officer, Rita Lasimbang.

LaFleur said his government was monitoring the situation very carefully but noted that the Malaysian Government had made great effort to provide or enhance security in the area. Although there was still some concern about the coastal areas in eastern Sabah, he assured that "Éwe don't have a separate travel advisory just for Sabah.

"I can say that we do encourage Americans to come here (Sabah)Éit's a great place and I've been thrilled with what I have seen here, whether in Kota Kinabalu or over at the eastern side at Danum Valley," he said.

Americans, he said, would surely enjoy visiting Sabah adding that the State has wonderful places to visit.

LaFleur was also hopeful that eventually the US Government would be able to encourage its citizens to travel wherever they want in Sabah.

The US Department of State in its website said there were still indication of threats of kidnappings in eastern Sabah's coastal areas and offshore islands. It said the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group based in the southern Philippines has been responsible for the kidnapping incidents.

However, US Embassy Press Atache' to Malaysia, Kathryn Taylor said the US travel warning has already dropped Malaysia from its list some time ago. She said all that remains about travelling in Sabah is what exist in the website.

Meanwhile, the US will continue to cooperate with the three Borneo states of Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia on the "Heart of Borneo" project to preserve one of the oldest rainforests in the world.

LaFleur said the 220,000 square km rainforest spread across the three countries is important to the entire world because it is one of the very few that remain in pristine form.

He said that according to scientific estimates, it is older than the rainforest in the Amazon, South America.

The three Borneo states are also very important in Southeast Asia as key members of Asean and good friends of the US, he told reporters while visiting the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands Centre. Last month, US State Secretary Condoleeza Rice pledged US$100,000 (RM367,000) to support "Heart of Borneo" through the project initiator WWF Malaysia.

LaFleur said the US government had also contributed about US$217,000 in financial aid for the protection of elephants, gibbons, orang utan and rhinoceros in Sabah since 2005.

WWF Malaysia Vice President Tengku Datuk Seri Zainal Adlin Tengku Mahmood, who accompanied LaFleur on the visit, said Heart of Borneo is meant for the world and the commitment of the US is significant to the organisation.

However, he said, WWF Malaysia only acted as the catalyst and it was still up to the individual government to best manage forest sustainability in their own area. He said Heart of Borneo had not been officially accepted yet by the governments of the three countries.

Hopefully, the three countries would reach a consensus to launch the project during the Asean Summit in the Philippines this December, he added.

Source: Daily Express

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

US envoy says Sabah wonderful place to visit

KOTA KINABALU - The United States government has not issued any travel advisory especially for Sabah since last year and instead encourages its citizens to visit the state, US ambassador to Malaysia Christopher J. LaFleur said yesterday.

He said the US appreciated the Malaysian government's efforts in providing enhanced security, particularly in the eastern part of Sabah.

He said there was still some concern about the coastal areas in eastern Sabah but "we don't have a separate travel advisory (for Sabah) at this point.

"I can say that we do encourge Americans to come here (Sabah)... it's a great place and I've been thrilled with what I have seen here, whether in Kota Kinabalu or over the eastern side of Sabah," LaFleur said, adding that he had just returned from the Danum Valley in the east.

Continue reading at: US envoy says Sabah wonderful place to visit

Saving last of the Kadazandusun high priestesses "Bobohizan"

PENAMPANG: She is a woman of many skills — a high priestess, a herbalist and the community’s walking encyclopaedia.

The "Bobohizan", or ritual specialist, has long played a central role in Kadazandusun ceremonies and celebrations.

Once, every village had a Bobohizan; now, they appear to be a dying breed.

There are only seven left in the Kadazandusun heartland of Sabah. They may well be the last generation as all are now in their 70s and 80s.

The importance of the Bobohizan to the Kadazandusun culture could be seen during the annual Harvest Festival or "Tadau Kaamatan", the biggest cultural celebration, which is observed by the community in May.

The Bobohizan begins the celebration by performing several aspects of the Magavau, a thanksgiving ritual.

Continue reading (incl. photo) at: Saving last of the Kadazandusun high priestesses

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

MAS opens upgraded Golden Lounge in Kuching


KUCHING
: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) recently opened its upgraded Golden Lounge at Kuching International Airport with a bigger capacity and more facilities for passengers.

The new lounge, which cost RM1.45mil, can accommodate 58 passengers at any one time and is strategically located at the airport’s departure level.

MAS Golden Lounge senior manager Sabry Shariff said the lounge offers facilities such as a business centre, wireless Internet connection, manicure and pedicure, massage and shoe shine services, surau, showers, and food and beverage.

Continue reading at: MAS opens upgraded Golden Lounge in Kuching

Urgent push for corridors to save orang utan in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Plans to create forest corridors linking isolated habitats of orang utan in the Lower Kinabatangan region will get an urgent push.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Karim Bujang said the plans had been on the cards for several years but recent findings on inbreeding and the likelihood of extinction would serve as a “push” for their implementation.

The plan is to connect isolated pockets of orang utan habitats in the Lower Sungai Kinabatangan region by creating forest corridors.

“The Wildlife Department is looking at other short-term options including trans-locating some of the animals,” he said yesterday when asked of action to protect the1,000 or so primates.

Cardiff University conservation geneticist Dr Benoit Goossens said on Sunday that the primates were found in 11 isolated groups in the region leading to inbreeding among some.

Continue reading at: Urgent push for corridors to save orang utan in Sabah

Monday, September 25, 2006

Act now or OrangUtans go

All causes of further habitat fragmentation or reduction have to be
halted in the Kinabatangan, if we want to maintain a healthy
orangutan population, like this male orangutan (above).

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department said activities that cause further fragmentation or reduction of orangutan habitats must be stopped in Kinabatangan to ensure a healthy population for the primates.

Its director, Patrick Andau said there was already sufficient information to model the future survival of orangutans.

“The team has now gathered enough valuable scientific information on the demographics, genetics and density of the orangutan population in the Kinabatangan to be able to model its future in the short, mean and long-term,” he said after a half-day workshop recently.

It was organised by the Sabah Wildlife Department, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, the non-government organisation HUTAN and Cardiff University (UK), and funded by the Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species, UK.

“Furthermore, and most importantly, all causes of further habitat fragmentation or reduction have to be halted in the Kinabatangan, if we want to keep maintain a healthy orangutan population.

“While the Sabah Wildlife Department is looking at ways to connect the Lower Kinabatangan orangutan population to the populations of Segaliud Lokan/Deramakot (North) and Ulu Segama/Malua (South), it will, at the same time, conduct managed translocations,” added Andau.

Professor Michael Bruford, from Cardiff University, UK said they had specifically tested the potential effects of managed translocations and of establishing forest corridors along the northern and southern banks of the Kinabatangan river during a modelling exercise.

“Our models incorporated information on orangutan life history, the number of individuals estimated in each forest fragment by ground and helicopter surveys carried out by HUTAN and the Sabah Wildlife Department, the current genetic “health” of the population, and potentially catastrophic events such as severe drought and El Niño.

“Therefore, the model allows us to test the impact of different management actions and select those which will achieve a self-sustaining orangutan population,” he explained.

A conservation geneticist at Cardiff University, Dr Benoit Goossens said there are approximately 1,000 individuals in 11 genetically isolated sub-populations in the Lower Kinabatangan today.

“The model shows that if nothing is done, most of these sub-populations will be extinct in the short and medium terms (less than 50 years),” he said.

Co-director of the NGO HUTAN, based in Sukau, Kinabatangan, Dr Isabelle Lackman-Ancrenaz stressed on the need to reconnect sub-populations by creating forest corridors between existing forest fragments to avoid extinction.

“But establishing these corridors is a slow process and extinction may still occur in the meantime. Only a combination of forest corridors and translocations will succeed in eliminating all extinction risks and control inbreeding in the Kinabatangan orang-utan population,” she said.

“Another conclusion of the modelling exercise is that the size of the available habitat has to be increased to allow the overall population to grow to a viable size,” Dr Lackman-Ancrenaz added.

“The results presented by the team are very important if we want to seriously manage the orangutan population in the Kinabatangan, a top priority for the department”, says Laurentius Ambu, deputy director of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

Source:New Sabah Times

Kg Ayer in Brunei sees surge in foreign tourists

By Achong Tanjong

Dozens of foreign tourists were yesterday spotted riding water taxis along the Brunei River to take a closer look at Kampung Ayer, the world's largest water village, while taking the opportunity to experience the country amid Ramadhan.

Kampung Ayer, also hailed as the "Venice of the East", tops the list of interesting places in Brunei to visit among tourists.

A visitor from Kuching said, "I am very happy to have a chance to visit Kampung Ayer and witness the harmony among the villagers. I plan to visit the Brunei Museum and Royal Regalia to know more about the history of Brunei."

Another tourist from Australia said, "I love holidaying in Brunei with my friends as there are a lot of interesting places to visit and they are all within walking distance."

She also revealed her plan to visit neighbouring Sarawak, which is known for its rich cultural heritage.

Meanwhile, foreign tourists also flocked to the Ramadhan Stalls to taste the endless array of local cuisine.

Source:Borneo Bulletin

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sarawak Art Museum aims to be region’s best

KUCHING: The city, which is home to several museums, has added another feather to its cap with the opening of the Sarawak Art Museum.

The art museum is the seventh in the state capital and joins the Sarawak, Islamic, Textile, Cat, Timber and Police museums.

The Art Museum is destined to be one of the best in South-East Asia, said the state Museum Department.

Besides displaying primitive, contemporary and modern artworks, it also exhibits sculptures, ethnographic and traditional crafts.

Read more at: Sarawak Art Museum aims to be region’s best

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sarawak gearing up for tourism year

KUCHING - Sarawak, "Land of the Hornbills", which has targeted six million tourist arrivals this year is all geared up to welcome tourists during Visit Malaysia Year 2007 (VMY 2007).

State Assistant Tourism Minister, Hamden Ahmad said this followed a series of roadshows throughout Sarawak to get all parties involved to be prepared to welcome tourists during VMY 2007.

"They include activities like the Sarawak Regatta Sarawak, Benak Festival, Borneo Cultural Festival and programmes like home-stay and other festivals at Kampung Budaya Sarawak," he told the media after opening the Sarawak Cultural Museum here yesterday.

Hamden added efforts were also being made to improve the air transportation system, the pulse of Sarawak tourism, in stages.

He added several routes popular among tourists would be given priority and that the problems were being resolved by the airlines concerned namely Malaysia Airline, AirAsia and Fly Asian Xpress (FAX).

He said other than focusing on Sarawak's eco-tourism and cultural products, the state government also strove to make Sarawak a centre for world-class conventions.

In this respect, Sarawak may soon have a convention centre capable of hosting large number of delegates to international conferences, Hamden said.

"Making available adequate hotel rooms is another immediate concern. There is simply not enough rooms for guests when the festivals are held," Hamden added.

Last year Sarawak attracted 4.5 million tourists of whom 2.3 million were mostly from Australia, Europe and the United States while the remainder were from Brunei and Singapore.

Meanwhile, in Kota Baharu, Tourism Ministry deputy secretary-general Patimah Zohro Hassan said the ministry was making preparation to welcome tourists during VMY 2007 and asked the media to assist by painting a positive picture of the country.

She added promotion efforts were in the final stages and that the ministry had lined up 50 mega activities for VMY 2007.

"The media has a major role to play in promoting Malaysia to tourists. As such, stories about the spread of diseases must not exaggerated as it can adversely affect tourist arrivals," Patimah said when opening a journalism and writing seminar in conjunction with VMY 2007.

The country hosted some 8.6 million tourists in the first six months of the year, an increase of 4.7 per cent compared with the corresponding period last year.

Source: BERNAMA

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Bizzare Proboscis monkeys an asset for Sabah

BEAUFORT: The endangered Proboscis monkey has now joined the ranks of its popular cousin the Orang Utan as another tourism asset for Sabah.

Known locally as the orang belanda, the bizarre looking primate is now enjoying `celebrity’ status with tourists as far as Australia, Japan, Taiwan, China and Europe flocking to take a closer look.

The Proboscis was initially thought to be confined to the mangrove forests in Sukau, Sandakan. It was feared that they are in the verge of extinction with only about 3,000 remaining. However, of late they were also found in the Klias Wetland some 120km from Kota Kinabalu.

The discovery led to a sudden surge in ecotourism activities in the Klias Wetland located in the Beaufort district. After all Klias is just a two-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu and tourists no longer have to go as far as Sukau in Sandakan to watch them.

It now appears that the popularity of the Klias Proboscis has gradually surpassed that of the Orang Utan in Sepilok, Sandakan.

Continue reading (incl. photos) at: Bizzare Proboscis monkeys an asset for Sabah

Kuching has another museum

KUCHING: The city, which is home to several museums, has added another feather to its cap with the opening of the Sarawak Art Museum on Wednesday.

The art museum is the seventh in the state capital.

The others are the Sarawak Museum, Islamic Museum, Textile Museum, Cat Museum, Timber Museum and Police Museum.

The art museum is destined to be one of the best in South-East Asia, said the state Museum Department.

Continue reading at: Kuching has another museum

FAX to fly daily to Mulu from KK

KUCHING: The Mulu National Park, a world heritage site in northern Sarawak, will be made more accessible to international tourists when Fly Asia Xpress (FAX) mounts daily flights to Mulu from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, from Oct 29.

FAX now operates three times a week on that sector.

“The added frequencies will contribute greatly towards local tourism efforts in promoting Mulu as a key tourist attraction to the international market,” said FAX chief executive officer Raja Mohd Azmi Raja Razali in a press statement yesterday.

FAX, which now also operates two daily flights on the Miri-Mulu sector, is introducing its first ever low fare promotions called super duper deal, from as low as RM1.88 (excluding airport tax and fees) for one-way travel on several domestic routes.

Continue reading at: FAX to fly daily to Mulu from KK

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mulu National Park to be more accessible

KUCHING: The Mulu National Park, a world heritage site in northern Sarawak, will be made more accessible to international tourists when Fly Asia Xpress (FAX) mounts daily flights to Mulu from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah from Oct 29.

FAX now operates three times a week on that sector.

“The added frequencies will contribute greatly towards local tourism efforts in promoting Mulu as a key tourist attraction to the international market,” said FAX’s chief executive officer Raja Mohd Azmi Raja Razali in a press statement on Tuesday.

Continue reading at: Mulu National Park to be more accessible

All winners in eco-tourism project in Sabah

KINABATANGAN: An eco-tourism project launched five years ago in Kampung Sukau is helping villagers in more ways than one.

It has put food on the table for some 600 villagers who realised that farming and fishing were not enough to make ends meet.

Now, the project has come up with enough money for an electric fence to protect a communal graveyard from elephant encroachment.

Villagers have learned to live side-by-side with elephants and other wildlife, including orang utan, for the sake of conservation, after they were convinced that tourists would pay to see the animals.

Red Ape Encounters and Adventures Sdn Bhd, which is the community-based eco- tourism company that the villagers run, launched a conservation fund yesterday. It will receive 10 per cent of all gross earnings from tourism.

Continue reading (incl. photo) at: All winners in eco-tourism project in Sabah

Life of adventure

FOR the greater part of the past 32 months, June Rubis has been rambling in the forests of south-western Sarawak.

Muscle aches, leech bites and walking in sweat-soaked clothes day-in and day-out are all part of the job in her search for the elusive orang utan.

She has also had some dangerous encounters, such as crossing paths with a Malayan sun bear, being bitten by fire ants in her hammock and her boat capsizing in rapids, plus the fear of being mistaken for an animal by hunters.

She sometimes spends as long as three weeks in the field but the Bidayuh lass is not complaining. “I feel very lucky to be paid to do what I do ... camp in the jungle and look for orang utans! Lots of people would pay for that opportunity. I can’t think of doing anything else that doesn’t contribute to wildlife conservation,” says Rubis, a biological science graduate of Simon Fraser University of Canada.

Upon graduation six years ago, Rubis landed a job as researcher with the New York-headquartered Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia Programme.

The field researcher for the Batang Ai-Lanjak Entimau orang utan project is conducting a population re-survey of the Bornean sub-species Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus in the region that hosts the most viable population of the endangered Asian great ape.

Continue reading (incl. photo) at: Life of adventure

Orang utan head count

A survey to find out the number of orang utans in Sarawak is under way, writes HILARY CHIEW.

MENTION Batang Ai, Sarawak, and chances are people will visualise a certain five-star resort and hydroelectric dam. Few would know that the forested area is the last stronghold of the endangered orang utan in Sarawak.

Batang Ai National Park (24,040ha) and the adjacent Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (168,758ha) constitute 98% of the Sarawak range of Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, one of three sub-species found in Borneo.

Last surveyed in 1992 by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the then Sarawak Forestry Department, the Batang Ai park is estimated to host between 62 and 824 orang utans.

Together with the Bentuang-Karimun Nature Reserve across the border in Kalimantan, Indonesia, the forest complex in the south-west corner of Sarawak forms the largest protected area where the orang utan is found, and is recognised as a key area for survival of the species.

Continue reading (incl. photo) at: Orang utan head count

MAS applauded for reinstating Miri-KK flights

By George Francis

MIRI - Sarawakians let out a sigh of relief when Malaysian Airlines' reinstatement of the Miri-Kota Kinabalu route that was scrapped August 1 under the domestic route rationalisation exercise.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Dr George Chan applauded MAS for solving the problems of insufficient flights faced by air travellers.

"The missing link is now to ensure a win-win situation for all parties. It can't be chopped off, as it is life or death as far as tourism is concerned," he said.

He also thanked the federal government for understanding the state's problems after the air route revamp, splitting the routes between MAS and AirAsia, and with Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) operating all rural air services in the northern region.

Air travellers and tourism players, including those in the Miri oil and gas industry, such as Shell Lutong office, had complained of insufficient flights and breakdown of connectivity to overseas destinations via Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

He said foreign tourists would shy away from Miri if there were no international flight connectivity from Kota Kinabalu to Miri because for holidaymakers, it must be easy travelling, assured luggage transfers and reliable flights.

He also said flight connectivity to Miri from overseas via Kota Kinabalu is very important to the tourism sector as it has planned for 20 years to tap into the potential of Mulu caves as a tourist destination.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, September 18, 2006

Miri-KK, Kuching flights resumed

KUCHING: Malaysia Airlines will resume its Kuching-Bintulu and Miri-Kota Kinabalu flights today.

The flights were cancelled on Aug 1 following the domestic route rationalisation exercise.

MAS general manager for Sarawak and West Kalimantan Shauqi Ahmad said the national carrier would be operating daily flights on the Kuching-Bintulu sector and twice daily between Miri and Kota Kinabalu.

Read more at: Miri-KK, Kuching flights resumed

Colourful ending to Borneo cultural fest

SIBU: The Borneo Cultural Festival culminated colourfully on Saturday night with “exotic” international performances and fireworks display.

Two arts troupes from South Korea performed traditional dances while a Japanese group entertained with a dragon-lion dance.

The highlight was provided by performers from Mongolia, who treated the 30,000-strong audience to their renowned khoomi (overtone) singing and music performed with traditional instruments such as the horse-head violin.

An acrobat from the Mongolian troupe also thrilled the packed crowd at the Town Square here with her agile performance.

Musicians, dancers and singers from Vietnam also took to the stage to perform folk songs and dances as part of the finale.

Read more (Incl. Photo) at: Colourful ending to Borneo cultural fest

Labuan - Land of History and Heritage

The Labuan Square beckons visitors.
Labuan Birds' Park is home to many Borneo bird species.
The historic site of Surrender Point.
Visitors at the war memorial.
The Peace Park, a stark reminder of the war.

Photos by Catharine Goh ; Copyright © 2006 and courtesy of Brunei Press Sdn Bhd.

By Catharine Goh

Only eight kilometres or a twenty minute boat ride from Menumbok, a small fishing town in Sabah is the Federal Territory of Labuan.

Located off the northwest coast of Borneo, north of Brunei Bay and facing the South China Sea, it comprises the main island of Pulau Labuan and six smaller islands - Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Daat, Pulau Rusukan Besar, Pulau Rusukan Kecil, Pulau Papan and Pulau Burung.

Travellers intending to shop for duty free items on the island can also use high speed air-conditioned ferries plying daily to Labuan from Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei Darussalam.

The trip from Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah, takes about three hours while the trip from Brunei takes about an hour.

Each year around November, scores of veterans from the Second World War and their family members will usually make a pilgrimage of sorts to Labuan's historic Memorial at Jalan Tanjung Batu.

Apart from the memorial, the Labuan War Cemetery is also visited very regularly by War Veteran groups, especially from Australia, who have included Labuan as an important destination on their battlefield tours circuit.

On the first Sunday of November every year, a service to mark Remembrance Day is held there and is attended by locals and foreign visitors.

The place was constructed, and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, where 3,908 graves of soldiers who either died in battle or captivity lie there.

Most of the soldiers were Australians and British with some from the Punjab Signal Corp, New Zealand as well as a few locals.

In February 1945, the Japanese, apprehending an Allied landing in the Sandakan area in Sabah, started to force prisoners to march on to Ranau, in what has come to be known as the infamous Ranau Death March.

Hundreds perished along the way and those who were left behind at the Sandakan POW camp died or were killed, with many of the dead reburied at Labuan.

On June 10, 1945 Allied troops landed at Brown Beach at Tanjung Purun to begin the liberalisation of Borneo from the Japanese.

Prior to this, Labuan town was heavily bombed aerially to flush out the enemies, with most of the buildings destroyed.

The remains of the Allied troops were gathered from all over Borneo to be interred at the cemetery. The graves lie in long neat rows all bearing a plaque, mostly identified, many not, but 'known unto God'.

The lawns are beautifully kept and visitors will appreciate the peace and tranquillity of the place as they seek to understand the untimely deaths of so many brave young men.

Next to the Peace Park is Surrender Point, another historical place of interest, where the 32nd Japanese Southern Army surrendered to the 9th Division Australian Imperial Forces on September 9, 1945. This led to the end of World War II in Borneo.

The Japanese arrived at Labuan on January 1, 1942, less than a month after they had started their campaign in Malaya at Kota Baru and took formal possession of the island on the January 3, after facing no resistance.

They occupied Labuan for four years, even renaming it Pulau Maida, or Maidashima after General Maida, the Chief Commander of the Japanese forces in Borneo. He was on his way to Labuan from Sarawak to open the airstrip there when he died in an air crash at Bintulu.

The airstrip was built by the Japanese who found it was a good location for their operations in North Borneo.

And for Labuan, the end of the Japanese Occupation came abruptly with the retaking of the island by the Allied forces.

The capture of Labuan was seen as essential for recovering supplies of oil, rubber and timber from the mainland of Borneo besides serving as a base to help the Allies recapture Singapore. These days, downtown Labuan are pedestrian areas to relax.

Wrought iron seats and ornamental lamp posts, together with flowering plants and shrubs make a pretty sight while there are many eating places which specialise in Malay, Chinese or Indian food, as well as popular fast food outlets.

The busy waterfront area is always a hive of activity serving as landing berths, as well as the Customs and Immigration departments.

The barter trade is carried out in this area and glass noodles seem to be a very popular item with the Filipino barter traders.

The main thoroughfare in downtown Labuan is Jalan Merdeka. At the eastern end of this main road are the Sheraton Hotel, Waterfront Financial hotels and the soaring Financial Park complex.

Sharing the downtown Labuan skyline is the Masjid Jamek An'nur, a huge Muslim mosque of futuristic design with two minarets reaching for the skies.

There are a few houses of colonial design fronting the Town Padang, with one of them featuring a high gabled roof of orange tiles with eaves and cool recesses.

Four old Flame of the Forest trees stand in a square area, casting a shade over park benches and commemorative stones.

They were planted by the Chinese, Malay, Indian and European communities in Labuan in 1953 to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11.

There is an interesting granite slab with inscriptions done by sailors on Captain Rodney Mundy's ship 'Iris' on route to Labuan from Hong Kong. It was intended for the handing over ceremony of Labuan by Bruneians.

During the Japanese Occupation, it was tossed aside by the Japanese but was later retrieved and remounted but is amazingly in good condition despite all this.

Located near the Chimney at Tanjung Kubong is the Labuan Birds Park, with three large dome-shaped cages surrounded by beautiful landscaping. The park is home to many species of Borneo birds most likely to be encountered by bird watchers.

There are plans to collect a good percentage of the 580 species of birds found in Borneo's diverse habitats, from mangroves along the coast to forest in the mountains.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sabahans brave heavy rain for Merdeka fiesta

KOTA KINABALU: A downpour and a brief blackout failed to deter the patriotic fervour of Malaysians who braved the elements to usher a spectacular end to the month long 49th Merdeka celebrations.

Malaysians from all walks of life led by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak ensured a memorable end to the celebrations held here last night.

Undeterred by flash floods in parts of the city and a blackout in the vicinity of Likas Sports Stadium, people streamed to the venue to join the colourful show that coincides with Malaysia Day.

With shouts of Merdeka led by Najib echoing seven times in the stadium, the crowd then sang the Negara Ku while the Jalur Gemilang was raised to mark the culmination of the festivities. This was followed by a 10-minute fireworks show.

Read more (Incl. Photos) at: Sabahans brave heavy rain for Merdeka fiesta

Saturday, September 16, 2006

MAS reinstates two domestic routes in Sabah and Sarawak

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is reinstating two domestic non-trunk routes in Sabah and Sarawak and increasing four domestic flights from Monday.

The reinstated flights are the Kota Kinabalu-Miri and Kuching-Bintulu sectors.

There will be two daily flights between Kota Kinabalu and Miri and a daily flight between Kuching and Bintulu.

There is also an additional daily flight for the Kota Kinabalu-Tawau, Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu-Labuan and Kuala Lumpur-Labuan routes.

Read more (Incl. Photos) at: MAS reinstates two domestic routes in Sabah and Sarawak

Friday, September 15, 2006

Adventure Vacation Article: WhiteWater Rafting Adventure

Sabah is possibly the only destination in Borneo that offers the best and well-packaged WhiteWater Rafting adventure vacation experience. There are two excellent locations at Padas (Grade 3-4) and Kiulu (Grade 1-3).

Padas, near a town called Beaufort, is about 3-4 hours drive and train ride from Kota Kinabalu city.

Enjoy the exhilarating ride down the Padas River rapids and get to know the various points like Head Hunter Point, Scooby Doo Point, Cobra Point, Lambada Point till the ending point. More for the adventurous type and not recommended for small children.

Although graded 3-4, the grade is a point lower during dry spell (not predictable anymore nowadays but normally mid-year).


Continue reading at: WhiteWater Rafting Adventure

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Flight cuts came at wrong time for Sabah

Kota Kinabalu: Flight frequencies and seat capacities in Sabah are not only rising but rising above previous highs, said Datuk Karim Bujang, Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment.

Flight reductions which went down from 580 to 500 per week has now shot up to 640 - a net increase of 140 flights which also generates an additional 16,400 seats per week, he told the Sabah Wanita Umno Sabah workshop on Tourism at Sutera Pacific.

"The reduction definitely came at a wrong time, from 64,780 seats to 55,869 but now they are giving back to us at 72,277," Karim said, hoping that Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia would work hand in hand.

The KK-Sandakan flights which plunged to 35 flights per week have risen to 63 while KK-Tawau which dropped from 35 to 28 flights per week is now up to 42 flights.

"Hopefully, the introduction of increased flight frequencies and seats will be good for us," Karim said. Between 40 to 50 Wanita members from all over Sabah took part in the workshop.

Continue reading at: Flight cuts came at wrong time for Sabah

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Family Vacation Article: Kota Belud Tamu - Sabah's Most Vibrant Market

The Weekly Tamu or Sunday Market of Kota Belud, near Kota Kinabalu, is an interesting family vacation event not to be missed while in Sabah. The Tamu was originally known as Tamu Darat (Land Market).

It was held on neutral ground where the indigenous Dusun meet the other indigenous groups such as Bajau, Irranun and Obian Muslims, as well as the Chinese traders, to barter or purchase goods.

The Tamu offers unrivalled opportunity for discovering some of Sabah's many different ethnic groups as well as exploring an astonishing variety of products such as herbal medicine, mountain-grown vegetables, wild orchids, chili-laced dried fish, luscious tropical fruits, edible seaweed and much more.

Continue Reading: Family Vacation Article: Kota Belud Tamu - Sabah's Most Vibrant Market

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Two more airlines to fly into KLIA by November 2006

PETALING JAYA: Two international airlines – Kuwait Airlines and Cebu Pacific – are expected to fly into KL International Airport (KLIA) by November, making them the first two new passenger carriers to fly into the airport this year.

For next year, talks are under way for at least four new airlines – Finnair, Ethihad Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Hainan Airlines – to fly into KLIA.

“We are continuously working towards getting more airlines to fly into KLIA and getting the existing carriers to increase their frequencies so as to ensure KLIA offers greater connectivity and higher passenger traffic volumes,” a Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said several existing airlines had or would be increasing their frequencies this year and some others were expected to do so next year. This year’s list includes Saudi Arabian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific (which began plying the Hong Kong-Penang route in April) and Emirates.

Read more at: Two more airlines to fly into KLIA by November 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Kota Kinabalu ready for National Day climax

KOTA KINABALU: The Likas Stadium will be filled with colour, dance and music when 49,000 youths from all over Sabah gather there for the climax of the month-long National Day celebrations.

The organising committee had been preparing for the event since the past three months and is all set to give “something for everyone”.

State Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Masidi Manjum, who is also the organising chairman, visited the site to see the fine-tuning on the preparations and was happy with the job.

Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will be among the 30,000 visitors who are expected to throng the stadium from about 4pm on Sept 16.

Read more: Kota Kinabalu ready for National Day climax

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sabah Tourism industry pleased with tax incentive extension

KOTA KINABALU: Many in the Sabah tourism sector are heaving sighs of relief over a decision to extend an existing income tax incentive for another five years.

Sabah Tourist Association Clement Lee said tourism industry players in the state were pleased when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced a continuation of income tax exemptions for tour operators, in his Budget Speech.

The exemptions would be for tour packages with at least 500 inbound tourists or 1,200 local tourists per year for another five years.

Lee said the exemptions would be important in ensuring the continued growth of tourism industry.

Read more: Sabah Tourism industry pleased with tax incentive extension

Monday, September 11, 2006

Brunei hot destination for affluent

By Ignatius Stephen

Bangkok has hit Brunei, in tourism that is.

A group of 100 Thai tourists arrived here during the weekend as part of a growing group of affluent Thai travellers who are now on the go in increasing numbers.

Leading the group is Mr Pichai Suwan, Manager, Four Seasons Service, which is a large travel agency in Bangkok.

The agency has strong Japanese links and handles groups out of Tokyo and provides other related travel services.

Previously, Brunei has seen groups from Taiwan, Korea and China. Thailand is a welcome addition, said Brunei Tourism Chief Sheik Jamaluddin. "It will help provide jobs," he added.

"Brunei is a new destination," Mr Pichai said. "It is not familiar to Thai travellers.

"The sultanate will have to tell more about itself to Thai people who are always looking out for new places to go," he told the Borneo Bulletin.

Meanwhile, Royal Brunei Airline's travel packages are bringing in independent travellers and small family groups in its highly successful stopover programmes.

Australian, British and European travellers are increasingly using Brunei as a welcome and interesting stopover point.

For example, Australians on their way to London stop in Brunei for a refreshing two to three-day break.

The airline is also developing Brunei as a hub for tourists to fan out to other Southeast Asian destinations.

"I find Brunei fascinating. It is so peaceful and its culture so unique," Mr Christian Huber, an Internal Audit Specialist with BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany said.

He used Brunei as a focal point in travelling to Kota Kinabalu and Kuching recently.

However, Brunei's tourist industry is still at its infancy. Hotels need increased occupancy as only occasional international conventions fill them.

The owners of one well-known hotel would want to sell it. "Business is sluggish and it is not worth it," said one of the owners.

However, new hotels are coming up. The one taking shape in Kiulap will add to the more than 10 hotels that already exist in the country.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tiger Airways set to fly to Sarawak

SIBU: Singapore’s budget carrier, Tiger Airways, is set to fly to Sarawak.

State Tourism and Urban Development Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh said the Transport Ministry has given the green light to Tiger Airways to fly to Kuching, Miri and Sibu.

He said the service would be a boost to Sarawak’s tourism industry as lower airfares would attract more Singaporeans and foreign tourists in the island republic to visit the Land of the Hornbills.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with AirAsia officials and local tour operators here on Saturday, Wong said the present high airfares had discouraged many Singaporeans from visiting the state.

Read More: Tiger Airways set to fly to Sarawak

Evolution in action at Kinabatangan valley

KOTA KINABALU: The Kinabatangan valley is not just a haven for wildlife but is also a valuable natural laboratory of evolution, a team of Universiti Malaysia Sabah scientists found.

“If Charles Darwin had not gone to the Galápagos Islands, his theory on the origin of the species could have been born in the Kinabatangan valley itself,” said Dr Menno Schilthuizen, an associate professor at UMS Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation.

The Lower Kinabatangan region has long been known as one of the few remaining places in Sabah teeming with wildlife such as pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys and orang utans.

Read More: Evolution in action at Kinabatangan valley

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Solo sailing trip aboard Ulu Mulu

MIRI: Sarawak, in an effort to promote itself to the sailing world, will launch a round-the-world solo sailing trip using its champion yacht – the Ulu Mulu.

A Terengganu-born sailor, who is a member of the yacht’s sailing team, has been identified as the person who will sail on this arduous journey.

This attempt will be the second round-the-world sailing trip by a Malaysian after Datuk Azhar Mansor's feat five years ago.

Read More: Solo sailing trip aboard Ulu Mulu

Saturday, September 09, 2006

MAS passengers to UK can now carry liquid-based items

Kuala Lumpur: With immediate effect, passengers on direct flights from Malaysia to the United Kingdom are allowed to carry liquid or gel-based items on board aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) said in a statement here today that the decision was made following a revision by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) on the guidelines on cabin baggage contents for the route.

Passengers and items brought into the aircraft will, however, remain subject to a high level of checks at departure gates and passengers are thus advised to report early for check-in to complete the security screening and to ensure on-time flights departure, the statement says.

Passengers connecting to other flights or departing out of London Heathrow or any other United Kingdom airport are still subject to the British Airport Authority (BAA) security measures, it adds.

The BAA had, among others, strictly prohibited all liquid or gel-based items except baby formula or milk or baby food (subjected to testing), or essential medicines up to 50ml.

Each passenger is allowed one carry-on baggage no larger than 45cm (17.7in) x 35 cm (13.7in) x 16cm (6.2in), while laptops and electical items are required to be removed from carry-on bags for screening.

The statement says the DCA has also confirmed that the existing cabin guidelines for flights to the United States will continue to apply.

MAS passengers to Los Angeles and New York have been advised to remove liquids or gels of any size from their hand baggage before check-in.

This includes beverages, shampoo, suntan lotion, creams, toothpaste, hair gel, and other items of similar consistency, which should be transported in checked baggage, which otherwise would be confiscated at the point of boarding.

Further security screening is also being enforced at Stockholm before onward journey to New York and also at Taipei before the onward journey to Los Angeles.

Passengers can contact MAS' 24-hour toll-free line 1300 88 3000 for further details on this.

MAS currently operates 18 weekly flights between KLIA and London, five weekly flights between KLIA and Los Angeles via Taipei and three weekly flights between KLIA and New York via Stockholm.

Source: Daily Express

Airlines commit to ensure flight frequency in Sabah, Sarawak

By George Francis

MIRI - All three airlines - MAS, Air Asia and FAX - have committed to take pragmatic steps respectively to ensure flight frequency servicing the air routes in Sabah and Sarawak to ensure passengers' connectivity to their destinations, Transport Minister said here yesterday.

On flights delay, the airlines had also been directed to take remedial actions to avoid such incidents unless due to circumstances beyond their controls, Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy told reporters here.

He was on a working visit to know more about the new carrier Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) operating the Rural Air Services (RAS) that took over from MAS, since the government's rationalisation of domestic routes.

He said his Ministry and Civil Aviation Department would evaluate the achievement of the airlines and to take appropriate action to ensure they offer satisfactory level of services.

The minister, accompanied by Datuk Peter Chin, Minister of Plantation Enterprises and Commodities, also Miri MP, said since Aug 1 of the rationalisation policy enforced, a lot of complaints and grievances had been hurled at FAX on some teething problems and inconveniences faced by the consumers, especially rural hinterland folks whose accessibility to the outside world are only by airplanes.

According to him, among the issues are lack of flight frequency in numerous sectors of Sabah and Sarawak as compared to before the rationalisation, problems of connectivity and flights delay.

The minister held a close-door dialogue with representatives from hinterland and tourism industry related players.

Chan said, however, a task force under his ministry had given order to address the flights delay for MAS to reinstate the flight sectors such as Miri-Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to Bintulu.

Also, MAS will fly daily to the two sectors from Sept 18, making a total flight of 14 per week.

The national airline will also increase flights for Kuala Lumpur-Labuan from seven to 14 flights per week, and Kota Kinabalu-Labuan from 14 to 21 flights per week beginning the end of this month, but will be subjected to availability of lease for Boeing 737.

MAS also is in the planning process to increase services on sectors for Kota Kinabalu-Tawau, Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan and Kuching-Sibu but much will depend on the demands, said Chan.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sipadan Facilities will be environment-friendly: Sabah CM

By BARTHOLOMEW CHONG

SEMPORNA: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman has given an assurance that the basic facilities earmarked for Sipadan Island such as staff quarters, rest-houses, toilets and showers will be built according to the recommendations of an appointed consultant.

During a working visit to the island yesterday, Musa told reporters that the consultant would make recommendations on such things as the materials to be used in the buildings as well as their location in an effort to keep the facilities environmentally friendly.

“When I came, I had a chat with a group of guests and they said there were no basic facilities such as toilets on this island,” he said.

Musa added the consultant will present a number of options for the State Government before submitting the proposals for reconsideration to a joint committee comprising the Chief Secretary to the Government and the State Secretary.

“After all this we will appoint the contractor for the work which is estimated to take four to five months to complete,” he said.

Musa stressed that the basic facilities would have to be simple, made from low-cost materials, have minimal environmental impact and most of all be needed by the guests.

He also said the present structures on the island will either be demolished or retained as recommended by the consultant, adding: “This will solve the problem once and for all.”

He said total estimated cost for the construction of the facilities is less than RM1.5 million, and the island now hosts some 30 people, including staff of Sabah Parks and General Operations Force, police and army personnel.

Also present were Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran, Gum-Gum assemblyman Datuk Zakaria Edris, Sulabayan assemblyman Datuk Mohd Lan Alani and government officials.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

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More MAS and AirAsia flights to Sabah and Sarawak soon

KUALA KUBU BARU: Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia will soon make a substantial increase to flights to Sabah and Sarawak, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said.

Details, including the specific routes and frequencies, will be announced during Chan’s visit to Miri today.

Chan said the decision was made following a report by a committee, headed by the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Muhd Safaruddin Muhd Sidek, to look into the reduced frequency of flights to Sabah and Sarawak following the flight rationalisation plan between MAS and Air Asia.

“The committee will meet every fortnight to review the situation and report back to me. However, we will keep monitoring, to ensure that flights take off on time,” he said.

On the Cabinet decision to reverse the move by the police to slash traffic fines, Chan said he would call for a meeting of the police, and of officials of the Transport Ministry, Road Transport Department, Road Safety Department, Internal Security Ministry and other related agencies early next week.

“Efforts between the relevant agencies should be coordinated and concerted. Let us work closely together to bring down the number of road accidents,” he said after launching the Rawang-Rasa KTM Komuter safety campaign at the Batang Kali community hall near here yesterday.

Source: The Star

AirAsia boosts flight frequency to Sabah and Sarawak

Due to strong demand, AirAsia Berhad (AirAsia) will be doubling its capacity for East Malaysia routes including introducing new routes periodically to meet the demand from these sectors.

With two hubs in place in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, the leading low fare airline is set to take on an aggressive role in pursuing route network expansion within the region out of these two hubs, a press release from the company stated.

With the government-initiated domestic rationalisation in place, the airline is on track to support efforts to develop the aviation industry and the East Malaysia hubs can be utilised to closely monitor the capacity to better respond to market demand and to further stimulate inter- and intra-state travels. A second aircraft will be placed in Kuching hub from September 18, while the Kota Kinabalu hub will receive its second aircraft on September 22.

In line with the expansion plan, AirAsia will service new flights to Sandakan twice daily from its Kota Kinabalu hub effective September 22.

Kathleen Tan, Executive Vice President - Commercial said, "Increased frequencies mean providing travellers with more flight options and to stimulate market growth. We believe this is just as important as connecting people from one point to another.

"Allow us to assure the people of Sabah and Sarawak that we are looking into all the possibilities of introducing more new routes and we urge the public to bear with us while we continue to strengthen our East Malaysia route network and operations."

"With the year end festivities coming up, our hubs hope to cater to greater demand from families travelling together for holidays, students travelling home as well as foreign tourists. Now with AirAsia's low fare, there are no more excuses not to fly," she added.

As a celebration of the new Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan route, AirAsia is offering promotional fare starting from RM9.99 and members of the public are encouraged to book early. The sale of tickets is now available for travel period between September 22 and March 24, 2007 and bookings can be done through AirAsia.com.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Royal Brunei Airlines hikes fuel, insurance surcharges

By Lyna Mohamad

Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA), Brunei's national carrier, yesterday announced a rise in fuel and insurance surcharges as a result of a continuous rise in jet fuel prices.

RBA, in a press release, said as of September 1, 2006, the airline will impose the following rates to all tickets issued or reissued on or after September 1, 2006 based on per way of travel.

The new surcharge, all in Brunei dollars, applies for tickets issued and commencing in Brunei to travel to the respective destinations unless otherwise stated as follows:

Kota Kinabalu - $30

Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Ho Chi Minh City - $40

Brisbane to Auckland - $40

Hong Kong and Shanghai - $50

(RBA's destination in Australia) & Auckland - $55

Dubai, Sharjah and Jeddah - $70

Dubai to London or Bangkok to Frankfurt - $70

London and Frankfurt - $110

RBA apologised for any inconvenience caused.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sipadan club dilemma

Sipadan ChaletsHIDEAWAY: Some divers say these empty chalets could
be rehabilitated and used by divers and day-trippers.

Sipadan Chart
Note: Photos Copyright © 1995-2006 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd


BY MUGUNTAN VANAR

KOTA KINABALU: Should the RM5mil clubhouse project on Pulau Sipadan be allowed to continue?

This is a decision that Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman, who is scheduled to visit the diving haven today, will have to make soon.

Last month, the state government came under fire, after the Prime Minister voiced his anger over the recent destruction of the island’s corals.

On May 14, a contractor’s barge carrying building materials ran aground on the reef flat during a storm, sparking off an outcry by divers who questioned the rationale for a concrete project on the eco-sensitive island.

This was echoed by a Semporna-based senior security officer and others who felt that the wooden structures abandoned by resort operators on Jan 1, 2004 could be rehabilitated and used by Sipadan divers and visitors.

The officer said the existing facilities on the island should be upgraded for divers, day visitors and Sabah Park and security personnel stationed on the island or alternatively boats with toilet and washing facilities could be used to minimise any danger to the island.

“Instead of spending the money on structures, it could be put to better use to keep the island in its pristine natural state,” said a university lecturer, who lamented that in most instances, tourism promotion was centred on projects and not the upkeep of nature.

However, several divers and dive operators said the now empty resort chalets could no longer be used as toilet and sanitation facilities were beyond repair.

Favouring the clubhouse construction, a consultancy report in June argued that the clubhouse connecting to the Drop-Off Point Jetty in Sipadan would be uncluttered and have adequate chalets or pondok (shelters) for resting.

It said all supporting facilities such as quarters, public health amenities and water supply would be situated behind the clubhouse. The report stated that care would be taken to preserve all trees and vegetation, with up-to-date sewage treatment technology incorporated.

It said no ground water would be extracted from the island and only environment-friendly materials would be used for the clubhouse.

No heavy machinery was also to be used on the island and the tide levels had to be observed for the appropriate timing of unloading of building materials.

Divers who witnessed the May 14 barge saga said that without adequate supervision by Sabah Parks and other competent authorities, any construction work on Sipadan could lead to another round of coral and marine life destruction.

If a decision was made to resume work on a modified clubhouse project, they said, the project should be monitored by an independent environment group and heavy penalties imposed for any possible damage to the eco-system.

Source: The Star

Sabah CM gives go-ahead for tourist facilities on Sipadan

SEMPORNA: Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman has given the go-ahead for the construction of tourist facilities on the eco-sensitive diving haven of Sipadan.

However, the project will be scaled down.

Instead of a RM5mil clubhouse, he said the state government has decided to only provide basic facilities like rest huts, a sewage system, showers, toilets and staff quarters for 30 Sabah Parks and security personnel based on the island.

This would all cost not more than RM2mil.

“If possible, we would want the entire project to cost less than RM1.5mil,” Musa told reporters after a 45-minute visit to the internationally renowned island on Thursday.

He said these facilities were necessary as there were currently no proper resting areas for divers and visitors to Sipadan.

“The materials to be used must be light and environmentally friendly,” he said, adding that a consultant was drawing up various options for the project.

"The state government would seek feedback from the joint committee on the management and supervision of Sipadan and from the Prime Minister,” he said.

Musa said once the Prime Minister gives his approval for the tourism facilities the state government would appoint a contractor to carry out the job that would take about four to six months to complete.

He said a consultant would also decide which of the existing dilapidated buildings on the island could be demolished.

However, usable materials from these structures would be reused for the tourist facility project.

Musa said no other structures would be built on Sipadan once the project was completed.

On the illegal divers entering Sipadan – on an average of 200 to 230 daily – Musa said Sabah Parks was entrusted with managing the island.

“Sabah Parks must take the necessary action to ensure that they maintain the 120 daily visitor-diver quota that had been enforced,” he said.

On his walk around the island, Musa said there were other improvements that were needed to be carried out on Sipadan, such as improving the cleanliness of the area.

Source: The Star

Rhino in the wild caught on video in Sabah

Borneo Sumatran RhinoThe first picture of the reclusive Sumatran rhino taken in the wild here in Sabah.
Photo Copright to
New Sabah Times.


By PAUL MU

KOTA KINABALU: A Sumatran rhinoceros was sighted and photographed in its natural habitat for the first time in Sabah, heartening rhino conservationists in the state.

Rangers from SOS Rhino patrol unit were out tracking the animals when they came across a healthy male rhino in the wild and managed to capture it on digital camera using the video mode.

The exciting news was announced by Sabah Wildlife Department deputy director Laurentius Ambu during a press conference jointly attended by Sabah Energy Corporation (SEC), general manager Margaret Fung and SOS Rhino president Dr Nan Schaffer at SEC office yesterday

Members of the media were given the opportunity to view the video clip, which lasted less than 10 seconds. The visual shows the young rhino scurrying away, seeing the rangers.

This is the first time in Malaysia that we managed the capture the rhino on video. Meaning to say that, they are not really wild now because they are coming out to occupy more areas in the forest,” he said.

To ensure the safety of the rhino especially from poachers the location of the sighting will not be disclosed to the readers.

On the significance of the discovery, he said the department had just finished its task of surveying the rhino population in Danum Valley and they had found at least 17 rhinos in the area.

“Now, we are planning to conduct a full-scale survey in Tabin Wildlife Reserve in November this year,” Laurentius said.

In the past, he said, there was plenty of skepticism about the rhino programme, as the only evidence that trackers and conservationists had were footprints and dung.

“Now, since we have recorded one on video, we have something to prove to the people,” he said. “We reckon from the sighting of the young rhino that they are now breeding. However, we can only determine the actual number when we conduct the survey. The prospects for the rhino are quite positive in Tabin because you can see them running around, which is a good indicator.”

SOS Rhino programme officer Dr MS Thayaparan said the sighting, along with rare photos and video documentation of the rhino in its natural habitat, are indeed very encouraging.

“We have been tracking these animals here in Sabah for almost 10 years now, and although we have seen tracks and signs of the rhino, this is the actual first sighting of a rhino in the wild. We are excited about the photos and video clip as it also helps us determine the sex of the animal and its health condition in its natural habitat, something that we could only guess at before,” he said.

“This is the good news… we can receive more funding from Save the Rhino International to pursue our programme,” he added.

Dr Schaffer concurred, saying that the video means there is hope for the species—and returns for the initial investment that the organisation made in it.

“The Sabah Wildlife Department has made a significant investment in the rhino since the ’80s. The animal is so special and so unique that it took millions of ringgit and years to understand,” she said.

She said the department built sophisticated facilities for the study of the rhino: They were the first to develop breeding techniques that ultimately resulted in the birth of the first rhino calf born in captivity in 100 years.

“But now,” she said, “it will take another substantial long-term investment to continue to sustain and promote the initial investment. (It will take) commitment, not just by the government, but also by the public, business and education sectors—commitment by everyone—to not let a world heritage species become extinct in our lifetime. It will take funds, it will take materials, and it will take determination.”

She added, “This is a viable fight even for the burgeoning tourist industry—with no promotion, this animal has brought RM24 million to the economy of Sabah. It is an untapped economic resource as an awe-inspiring experience.”

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sipadan under siege by illegal divers

KOTA KINABALU: More divers are illegally going to the environmentally-sensitive diving haven of Pulau Sipadan in the east coast of Sabah.

The stipulated number of divers a day is 120 but dive operators have been taking as many 200.

This led to friction between the operators and Sabah Parks officials when divers without a proper permit were stopped from entering the diving haven, according to a recent consultant’s report.

In January, a daily average of 141 divers visited the island, with the number going up to 159 in February.

It was 219 in March, 235 in April and 201 in May.

In April, 12 dive operators took 4,999 people with permits and 2,095 more without permits to Sipadan.

In May, 3,975 people with permits and 2,353 without permits went there.

Sabah Parks, which took over the management of the island's facilities in April, is responsible for issuing permits to the dive operators.

Source: The Star

Brunei, China tourism pact

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Brunei's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with his Chinese counterpart on tourism cooperation.

HRH Prince Mohamed and China's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Li Zhaoxing, exchanged documents during the signing ceremony that took place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.

HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah and HRH Pengiran Anak Isteri Pg Anak Hjh Zariah are on an eight-day visit to China at the invitation of China's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Earlier, both the ministers discussed bilateral and regional cooperation during which they highlighted the existing close relations between Brunei and China.

Li spoke highly of the remarkable achievements scored in various fields in China-Brunei cooperation since the two nations forged diplomatic ties, saying China would make joint efforts with Brunei to push forward the bilateral ties.

HRH Prince Mohamed also hailed the relations between the two nations and reaffirmed Brunei's adherence to the one-China principle, Xinhua reported.

He said the development of the bilateral ties is not only in the interest of both nations and peoples, but also beneficial to the peace and development of the region.

The two sides exchanged views on cooperation in many fields, including economy and trade, and other international and regional issues of common concern.

After the MoU was signed, HRH Prince Mohamed and his Chinese counterpart officially launched "A Collection of Historical Documents Related to Bilateral Relations Between China and Brunei Darussalam".

His Royal Highness presented Li with a pictorial book commemorating the "15th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations, Brunei Darussalam and the People's Republic of China".

Later, His Royal Highness attended a welcoming luncheon given in honour of his visit by Li.

In the afternoon, His Royal Highness called on Premier Wen Jiabao at The Great Hall of the People.

His Royal Highness and the Chinese premier exchanged views on ways to enhance bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

Diplomatic relations between Brunei Darussalam and the People's Republic of China were established on September 30, 1991.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Philippines-based airline to start service from Sandakan, Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: An air link has been established between the Sabah east coast town of Sandakan and the southern Philippine city Zamboanga.

Philippines-based Mosphil Aero Inc is operating the service using a Russian made Antonov 24B aircraft from October.

The airline conducted a test flight from Zamboanga City to Sandakan on Aug 30.

Among those on board were Mosphil officials led by president Ibragim Sharifkulov and Zamboanga City government representatives.

They were received by Sandakan Municipal Council president Yeo Boon Hai and officials from the various government departments and representatives from local travel agencies.

Mosphil Aero will be operating a thrice-weekly flight between Zam-boanga City and Sandakan sfrom next month.

Yeo congratulated Ibragim for making the bold decision to consider Sandakan as his airline’s first East Asean Growth Area destination.

“We are very proud of his action in putting Sandakan on the world map, which I consider very timely as 2007 is already earmarked as “Visit Malaysia Year- Malaysia Welcomes the World,” he said.

Yeo said Sandakan, in fact has a very long history with Zamboanga especially in the Mindanao region which dates back to the 18th century.

Before the air service, the only transportation between the two places was by kumpit or ferry and the journey took more than 18 hours, he added.

He said Mosphil would initially use the Russsian made Antonov 24B which was quite similar to the normal Fokker F50. The flying time between Sandakan and Zamboanga City is only an hour and 10 minutes which is even nearer than traveling from Zamboanga City to Manila.

“I hope there will be more traders or tourists from the Mindanao region as well as other parts of the Philippines using Sandakan as the gateway to the rest of the world,” Yeo said.

Source: The Star