Thursday, June 30, 2011

Imbak Canyon biodiversity must benefit people

KOTA KINABALU: Effort must be taken to ensure that exploitation and development of biodiversity resources at Imbak Canyon would directly benefit the local communities, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman.

As a government that cares about its people, he said the State Government would like to see that those living close to the protected area be roped in and be involved, especially in reserach activities.

“Our indigenous people have a wealth of knowledge on medicinal and healing properties of plants, and would serve as important information providers on the value of what our rainforest holds,” he said in his speech at the launch of Yayasan Sabah-Petronas Imbak Canyon Conservation Partnership here, yesterday.

His speech was delivered by Deputy Chief Minister cum Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Yahya Hussin who also officiated at the launch on behalf of the Chief Minister.

Musa said Imbak Canyon can play a globally recognized role in producing products that are crucial for medicinal and pharmaceutical advancements.

He pointed out that research done so far indicated that the area has the potential to offer a lot more than what is known now.

Realising this, he also urged scientists to conduct further investigations on commercializing biodiversity resources that exist in the reserved forest.

“This would fit in with one of the objectives of the National Biotechnology Policy, which is to extract greater value from agriculture and natural resources by leveraging on Malaysia’s unique biodiversity,” he said.

Havig gazzetted the Imbak Canyon as a Class I (Protection) Forest Reserve, he said the challenge now lies in the hand of the State Government and Yayasan Sabah in particular, to live up to the standards and responsibilities to fully protect the area.

Given its remote location, he said managing Imbak Canyon would not be easy but lessons can be drawn from the experiences in managing Maliau Basin and Danum Valley.

Continue reading at: Imbak Canyon biodiversity must benefit people
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

North Borneo Railway Going Full Steam Ahead on 4th July 2011

On 4th July 2011, the North Borneo Railway featuring the British ‘Vulcan’ Steam Engine will be making its 1st run.

Visitors to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia will be able to enjoy a nostalgic journey on this vintage steam locomotive, one of the few functional locomotives left in the world that is fueled by wood, in beautifully-restored, historic green carriages. This classic train is operated to the highest of international standards and is fully compliant with modern safety standards.

The North Borneo Railway is a joint project between the Sutera Harbour Resort and the Sabah State Railway Department to help enhance the existing infrastructure and to promote Sabah as a tourist destination. The North Borneo Railway was officially launched on 22nd January 2000 in honour of Kota Kinabalu achieving city status on 2nd February 2000 and it was temporarily closed due to the reconstruction of the track by the Sabah State Railway Department.

The steam locomotive, the last of a fleet of locomotives that once plied the tracks through Borneo since the late 1880s, was manufactured by the Vulcan Foundry Ltd in Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire, United Kingdom. In 1954, Vulcan Foundry received the final order from the North Borneo Railway for three locomotives that resulted in a neat 2-6-2 tender locomotive of 58’-0” length, weighing 85 tons.

Managed by Sutera Harbour Resort, the train has a capacity for 80 passengers accommodated in 5 colonial-period carriages, each with a capacity of 16 passengers, and is named after a town along the journey … Papar, Kinarut, Tanjung Aru, Putatan and Kawang. For special charter services, the passenger load may be increased up to 160 passengers.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: North Borneo Railway Going Full Steam Ahead on 4th July 2011
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Imbak Canyon Poised To Play Global Role In Medicinal, Pharmaceutical Fields

KOTA KINABALU -- Sabah's Imbak Canyon is poised to play an important role globally in the producation of beneficial products including those crucial for the advancement of the medicinal and pharmaceutical fields.

Expressing optimism over the future of the biodiversity conservation area, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said research done so far indicated that Imbak, a conservation area located over 300 kilometers south east of Kota Kinabalu in the heart of Sabah, had the potential to offer "a lot more than what we know at present".

In this respect, he urged scientists to conduct further investigations on commercializing biodiversity resources in the area.

"This move would fit in with one of the objectives of the National Biodiversity Policy, which is to extract greater value from agriculture and natural resources by leveraging on Malaysia's unique biodiversity," he said in his remarks at the launch of the Yayasan Sabah-Petronas Imbak Canyon conservation partnership, signing of MOU for promotion of reseach, training and education programme and opening of Imbak Canyon stakeholders workshop, here today.

The text of his speech was read out by Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin.

Under the Yayasan Sabah-Petronas Imbak Canyon conservation partnership, PETRONAS has contributed a grant of RM6 million to the Yayasan Sabah Group to carry out public awareness, environmental education and community outreach programmes related to the Imbak Canyon Conservation Area for three years, from 2010 to 2012.

These initiatives are designed not only to increase the awareness on the Imbak Canyon but also to educate the public and the communities living in the surrounding areas on how to preserve and protect this natural treasure.

Musa said hoped to see communities who live close to this protected area roped in so that they too could benefit from research activities.

"Our indigenous people have a wealth of knowledge on medicinal and healing properties of plants, and would serve as important information providers on the values of what our rainforests hold," he said.

Musa said it was frequently reported that tropical rainforests were disappearing at an alarming rate in different parts of the world.

"In Sabah, we still have the opportunity to fix things, and to do what is right. Having gazetted the Imbak Canyon conservation area as a Class I forest reserve, the challenge is now in the hands of the Sabah government and Yayasan Sabah to live up to standards and responsibilities that fully protected areas require," he said.

Continue reading at: Imbak Canyon Poised To Play Global Role In Medicinal, Pharmaceutical Fields
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Culture, Adventure and Nature (CAN) as main attraction in Sarawak tourism

CULTURE, adventure and nature (CAN) products continue to be Sarawak’s main tourism attractions said Tourism and Heritage Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg in his winding up speech yesterday.

He also informed the august house that the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia had approved the homestay programme application for Uma balor, Sungai Asap involving 12 participants.

“In an effort to engage and diversify the income of our rural communities, the ministry has put emphasis on building community-based eco-tourism activities and programmes,” said Abang Johari.

He added it augurs well for the ministry’s plan to do a thorough study to catalogue and audit the attractions of the area, including the identification of required tourism infrastructure and support services for the purpose of construction and upgrading.

Abang Johari added the ministry will also work closely with Pelagus, Bekenu and Lingga members to develop the tourism potential in their respective areas.

Continue reading at: Culture, Adventure and Nature (CAN) as main attraction in Sarawak tourism
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Good news for orangutan and pygmy elephants in the Heart of Borneo

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Orang-utan and Pygmy Elephant survival in the Heart of Borneo has received a major boost with the certification of nearly 300,000 hectares of important habitat in the forest reserves of Ulu Segama-Malua and Tangkulap-Pinangah, in the Malaysian state of Sabah, Borneo.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified sites are considered to have the highest density in the world of Orangutan sub-species, Pongo pygmaeus morio, and the Borneo pygmy elephant. The area also includes the 34,000 hectare Malua Biobank, an innovative public-private financial partnership pioneered by the Sabah government and its Forestry Department that brings business investment into conservation management.

FSC certification is considered the most credible global sustainable forest management standard that harnesses social and environmental as well as economic benefits.

The announcement was made on June 28, as part of the largest ever tri-annual FSC General Assembly, held for the first time in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

All Sabah forestry consessions certified by 2014

Sabah’s Forestry Department (SFD) has been recognised by WWF as a leader in the pursuit of sustainable forestry in the Heart of Borneo and has imposed a deadline of 2014 for certification of all forestry concessions in the state.

SFD director, Datuk Sam Mannan, said the announcement quadrupled the area of land under FSC certification in Sabah and he hoped it would encourage other concession holders to pursue certification based on an internationally recognized standard such as the FSC, before its 2014 deadline.

WWF Malaysia CEO Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, congratulated SFD on this remarkable achievement.

“FSC certification is a crucial part of independent third party verification of sustainable forest management and its critical role in sustaining viable populations of some of the world’s most endangered wildlife here in the Heart of Borneo, one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Good news for orangutan and pygmy elephants in the Heart of Borneo
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Japanese etches four routes for rock climbers on Mount Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU: International free climber, 42-year-old Yuji Hirayama, has created four routes for rock climbers on Mount Kinabalu.

The routes, two of which are located on the Donkey’s West Ear, were named Mista Misty and Sunset Cafe, while the remaining two were on the Oyayubi peak.

Hirayama called the other two routes as ‘Kouhian do Sunduvan’ (translated ‘the return of the spirit’) and ‘Poingion Tawan’ (translated ‘living in the sky’).

“Mista Misty was named such because the route we took was always shrouded with mist, while Sunset Cafe derived its name from the sunrays that followed us throughout the route. It was very romantic,” he explained at a press conference yesterday.

The two other routes got their Dusunic names with the help of local porters who accompanied Hirayama in the climbs.

“I hung out with the locals a lot during my trip here and as a result, learned about the cultures and traditions of the people. I was told that the mountain is the place where the spirits of the dead return to, thus, the name ‘Kouhian do sunduvan’. The name ‘Poingion Tawan’ also came from them. I liked the names of the routes,” he said.

He described the route or line on the Oyayubi peak as beautiful, adding that he had fallen 80 meters down while attemping the route recently.

Had it not been for the safety rope attached to his body, that fall would have been fatal.

As a free climber, Hirayama uses his hands and legs to support and hoist himself up. However, he still fixed nettle pieces that were hooked on suitable surfaces of the granite walls and attached these to his safety rope. These safety features would become crucial just in case of a fall.

Continue reading at: Japanese etches four routes for rock climbers on Mount Kinabalu
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Sarawak Wants MASWings To Fly To Selected BIMB-EAGA Destinations

KUCHING -- Sarawak wants the federal government to allow MASWings to fly to selected destinations in Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei on its Sarawak routes under the BIMP-EAGA air connectivity expansion initiative, state Tourism and Heritage Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said.

He was optimistic that the positive trend in tourist arrivals would continue this year with improved connectivity coupled with joint strategic marketing and promotional plans.

Following the promotional tourism rebranding as "Equator Asia" the BIMP-EAGA Joint Tourism Development (JTD) Cluster successfully launched an "Equator Asia" website, which hyper-links its tourism packages under its logo as part of the strategic initiatives being taken, he said in his winding-up speech at the state legislative assembly sitting here.

He said the BIMP-EAGA Tourism Centre for Development also successfully supported and strengthened sub-regional cooperation in tourism development by building knowledge and information through joint tourism research activites.

The ministry would also focus on chartered operations during peak demand in selected markets like North Asia and Western Europe besides engaging with other carriers on the possibility of opening up new routes from Europe, Australia and New Zealand, he said.

Abang Johari said the total visitor arrivals to Sarawak had shown a positive growth of 15.6 per cent recording 1,158,994 arrivals in the first four months of this year, including 62.3 per cent foreigners and 37.7 per cent domestic tourists.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Wants MASWings To Fly To Selected BIMB-EAGA Destinations
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Monday, June 27, 2011

Unique carnivores of Borneo

KOTA KINABALU: Twenty-four carnivore species are unique to the Borneo island, international conservation experts gathered here confirmed.

They have also got a better understanding of the carnivores found in the world's third biggest island and have taken moves to classify some of these carnivores as “critically endangered” species.

This came about at the three-day brainstorming session of the first Borneo Carnivore Symposium that ended here on Saturday.

Almost 200 delegates from 15 countries presented and discussed the diverse range of carnivore species on the island, which included cats such as the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), civets such as the Malay civet (Viverra tangalunga), known locally as tangalunga, Sunda stink badger (Mydaus javanensis), also referred to as the Malay badger or teledu, and the playful otters.

The findings at the symposium will determine priorities for Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, the countries sharing Borneo island, to take steps to preserve the carnivores, many of which are rare and some thought to be extinct only until a few years ago.

“Coming together of scientists, conservationists and government agencies is the first step towards efforts to ensure the survival of all our carnivores,” said Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu.

“One of our goals was to establish a knowledge base for the priority areas and threats faced by these unique carnivore species,” said Dr Laurentius, the organising chairman of the symposium.

He said like other species of wildlife, the carnivores need adequate and different types of forests to support the wildlife and plant life diversity.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Unique carnivores of Borneo
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Sabah in Malaysia Becoming Favourite Diving Destination for People

As per the reports of diving experts, Sabah in Malaysia is the territory which is best known in the world for the adventure sport of scuba diving.

Most of the people like to visit Sabah during their diving Malaysia tour; however facility of diving is available in Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak also.

Palau Sipadan which is supposed to be number one diving site the world is also located in Sabah.

Perhaps Sipadan plays major role in attracting the divers towards Sabah. Sipadan is the island and its waters contain wonderful marine life.

Large number of green and hawksbill turtles are found underneath the water in Sipadan and “Turtle Tomb” is the unique thing available which is an underwater limestone cave.

This cave boasts of labyrinth of tunnels and chambers in which you find skeletal remains of turtles.

Another destination to dive in Sabah is Palau Mabul which has the distance of 20 minutes from Sipadan if you go through boat.

This is the small island which is surrounded by sandy beaches. It is an ideal destination for those divers who want to see exotic small marine life.

Mimic octopus, bobtail squids, Flamboyant cuttlefish and blue-ringed octopus are some perfect examples of marine life available here.

Moreover, some wonderful diving resorts are also available in Mabul.

Continue reading at: Sabah in Malaysia Becoming Favourite Diving Destination for People
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Sharks are Sabah's tourism asset

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah earned RM192.5 million from the diving industry last year, said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun.

He said people from the world over come to Sabah to dive and admire Sabah’s rich marine life, including sharks that are facing the threat of fast dwindling population.

“Tourism, one of the fastest growing industries in the world, is going to be our major revenue earner in the coming years,” he said.

The sector is already one of the state’s biggest providers of employment, directly or indirectly, he said.

“As such, it makes economic sense to conserve our sharks because they are one of the reasons why international divers prefer to come to Sabah to dive.

“The sharks are indeed our tourism asset. Divers by the umpteen thousands fly all the way to Sabah to see them in their natural habitat,” he added.

Masidi had disclosed on Saturday that the State Government’s decision to impose a total ban on shark fins in Sabah next year.

He said his ministry was currently looking into a suitable buffer period to allow traders and food operators to clear their stocks before introducing the new law.

Yesterday, he pointed out that shark fining or shark fishing is not sustainable simply because shark is an endangered species. When the last shark is caught it will be the end of this industry.

He said it would be the reason many divers start avoiding Sabah as we would have killed the very reason they come to dive here.

According to him, 42,693 divers came to Sabah last year and 66.7 percent of them are international visitors.

“Imagine how much revenue we are going to lose if just half of them decided not to dive in Sabah if our sharks become extinct.

Continue reading at: Sharks are Sabah's tourism asset
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Firefly to take over KL-Sibu route from MAS

Firefly will gradually take over the Kuala Lumpur-Sibu route from MAS from July 1.

The airline will continue to offer the same twice-daily flight services as MAS, which will withdraw from the route effective Aug 1.

“We have an agreement with our code share partner, Malaysia Airlines, that we will operate this route using our B737-800 aircraft and will continue to provide connectivity to other MAS' routes and services,” said Firefly managing director Datuk Eddy Leong in a statement yesterday.

Leong said they were fully aware of the concerns of travellers and travel agents from Sibu on the inavailability of passenger and baggage through-check for those with onward journey on MAS and vice versa.

“On Sept 1, our departure control system upgrade, which will allow passengers to through-check their baggage on multiple flights to their final destination, will be operational.”

Until then, he said, passengers on the Kuala Lumpur-Sibu flight would have to bear the inconvenience of checking out and re-checking-in.

Continue reading at: Firefly to take over KL-Sibu route from MAS
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Agung Beat to represent Sabah at Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival

One of Malaysia's two representatives performing at the 2011 Rainforest World Music Festival in the Malaysian state of Sabah is Agung Beat, a nineteen-member gamelan ensemble covering new arrangements of traditional Sabahan music, as well as their own contemporary compositions.

Led by composer and lecturer, Roslee Haji Wahid, the ensemble's members are from a variety of ethnic backgrounds that include Kadazan, Dusun, Chinese and Malay, all majoring in music performance at University Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

Agung Beat actively performs in numerous festivals and events in the region such as the Festival Gamelan IPTA, and the Festival Gamelan Sedunia. This is the first performance of gamelan at the Rainforest World Music Festival.

The gamelan is an ensemble of metallophones, xylophones, drums, and gongs native to Malaysia and Indonesia. Each region has its own particular style and repertoire, with gamelan ensembles ranging in size from five or six persons to more than two-dozen performers. Depending on the region, style, and function, gamelan music can range from trance inducing floating melodies, to fiery displays of virtuosity.

Agung Beat is scheduled to heat up the Rainforest World Music Festival stage by being the first performing act on the first night (July 8). Agung Beat will also perform at the daily Musical Workshop at Dewan Lagenda within the festival site and will involve drummers and dancers. This unique 'Drum Dance' session will comprise a mix of musical performances by musicians from Canada, Georgia, Kenya, UK and USA.

The Rainforest World Music Festival has been voted for the second consecutive year as one of the 'Top 25 Best International Festivals' by renowned world music magazine, Songlines, elevating its status in the international music scene as a festival, which has well and truly put Sarawak on the world tourism map and extends its appeal to the shores of neighbouring countries.

Special promotional tickets are currently on offer at the Sarawak Tourism Board's Visitors Information Centres (VIC) in Kuching (082-410944) located at the Sarawak Tourism Complex, Sibu (084-340980) located at Jalan Tukang Besi and Miri (085-434180) located at Jalan Melayu. A three-day ticket will cost RM180 and is only valid between June 20 and 26. The ticket price will return to its original RM300 price once the promotional period is over.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend
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Symposium reveals Borneo carnivore conservation needs urgent

TUARAN: Very little is known of Bornean carnivores.

According to Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu at the closing of the first Borneo Carnivore Symposium at a resort near here yesterday, this fact had surprised even experts in the field.

“It was only in 2002 that the first photograph ever taken of a free-ranging Borneo Bay Cat, a species exclusive to this island,” he told the conference participants.

And while a lot has been achieved since then, the seven-day conference also revealed that there was still so much to do and to find out, Ambu said.

“In particular, research with a focus on conservation management is more necessary than ever. But the conservation needs of Bornean carnivores are urgent and cannot wait until we know everything that we need to know of,” he stressed.

Therefore, practical consideration of conservation issues and evaluation of key landscapes and areas for carnivore conservation were at the centre of the discussion during the conference, he said.

“I believe that these discussions have been very helpful in that they are a first, huge step on the road towards co-ordinated action in implementing carnivore conservation.

“This is important for our stated aim to achieve the conservation of carnivores and other flagship animals whilst at the same time following the path of sustainable development in each of our three countries (which are Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia),” he said.

Commenting on the symposium, Ambu said carnivores have neither been at the forefront of interest nor of conservation concern in Borneo.

Nevertheless, the time came that carnivores became the centre of attention and a whole week was spent by the participants and delegates to assess their distribution, habitat requirements and their conservation status and priorities.

He also expressed pleasure that Sabah could host the symposium as a tri-nation event involving Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia.

“Like other animals, carnivores do not know when they cross borders or trans-national boundaries,” he said.

Continue reading at: Symposium reveals Borneo carnivore conservation needs urgent
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Sabah to seek joint World Heritage Status for Maliau Basin, Danum Valley and Imbak Canyon

Tuaran: The Sabah Government is taking steps to secure Maliau Basin, and Danum Valley and Imbak Canyon in perpetuity by applying for joint World Heritage Status for all three conservation areas.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, when disclosing the State Cabinet's decision at the 1st Borneo Carnivore Symposium (BCS) here, Thursday, said this was to ensure that nothing would disrupt the ecosystems in these areas in the long run.

"The reason behind this is simple; we want to protect our forests so no future corrupted politician can take it away."

He said it was crucial to protect Sabah's forests and wildlife to benefit future generations and to ensure its position as a tourism destination.

"Eventually, tourism will be the number one earner for Sabah and people will come from all over the world to see Sabah's nature and it makes business sense to protect our jungles," Masidi added.

This first ever symposium on Borneo's carnivores was organised by the Sabah Wildlife Department, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research of Germany, and attended by delegates from 15 countries comprising scientists, conservationists and representatives of government agencies.

During the one-week programme, they sought to ensure the future survival of Borneo's 23 carnivore species. The carnivores of concern are a group of mammals comprising cats like the Sunda Clouded Leopard, civets such as the Malay Civet (Tangalunga), otters and badgers such as Teledu.

One of the scientists present, Andre Hearn of Oxford University, said the three conservation areas being put forth by the State Government for the World Heritage Status application, were also home to the very mysterious and endangered species of carnivores such as the Borneo Bay Cat (Pardofelis badia) and Hose's Palm Civet (Diplogale hosei).

"The Borneo Bay Cat is found only in Borneo and has been recorded by camera traps in Danum Valley at relatively high frequency, compared to other areas in Sabah," said Hearn.

The first photograph in the wild of the Borneo Bay Cat was actually taken only in 2002 in Mulu National Park in Sarawak.

The elusive Hose's Palm Civet was not found during any camera trap surveys in the lowland of eastern Sabah including Danum Valley, but was found instead only in Maliau Basin, which is the most "eastern" record of this species.

Continue reading at: Sabah to seek joint World Heritage Status for Maliau Basin, Danum Valley and Imbak Canyon
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Japanese tourists want to stay longer in Sarawak

KUCHING: Sarawak has the potential to be a chosen destination for Japanese to go for longer stay especially during winter period in their country.

Chairman of the Japan Association Travel Agency Western Co-operative (WJTA) Koichi Kumashiro said he expected more tourists from Japan to come to the state through direct flights offered by Malaysia Airlines (MAS).

“Malaysia is one those preferred destination among the Japanese to opt for longer stay, which is more than one month, and is normally during the winter time,” he said, adding that Sarawak’s main attraction for the Japanese is the Orang Utan.

He explained that most Japanese who visited the State were keen to know more about the Orang Utan’s living habitat.

Apart from these, he said the State’s various ethnic group and cultural, natural surroundings, forests, and the widespread use of English was also an attraction to the Japanese.

He was speaking to reporters during a welcoming dinner hosted by Sarawak Tourisim Board for WJTA members, held at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) on Wednesday.

Malaysia Tourism promotion board director Ahmad Johanif said it expected more Japanese to participate in the ‘Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H)’, while pointing out a total of 1,300 participants were recorded up to May 1, this year since MM2H was introduced in 2006.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Japanese tourists want to stay longer in Sarawak
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

MAS confirms it will stop KL-Sibu flights

KUCHING: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has confirmed that it will stop its flights for the Sibu-Kuala Lumpur route.

MAS managing director and chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Seri Azmil Zahruddin Raja Abdul Aziz told the media this at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget on Tuesday.

“Basically Firefly will start coming in twice a day and MAS will basically transfer the service to Firefly,” he said.

As for other routes in the state and in Sabah, he said these were still under review.

“We will review our routes. We look at it as a group. You know some will be only one airline, some like Kuching and KK (Kota Kinabalu) we will have both.

“So over time we’ll see. There will some that both will operate, there will be some that only MAS operates. There will be some that only Firefly operates,” said Azmil.

MAS used to operate the Sibu-Kuala Lumpur route twice daily.

Continue reading at: MAS confirms it will stop KL-Sibu flights
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Promoting BIMP-EAGA tourism through buses

KUCHING: The tourism authorities in Sabah/Sarawak, Indonesia and Brunei are looking at giving incentives to three bus companies, namely Damri, Bus Asia and SJS for their roles in helping to boost the tourism industry in this region.

Tourism and Heritage Ministry permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik said that the three bus companies have been providing direct fleets from Pontianak to Brunei and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and they would be given some incentives as recognition for their contribution.

“We realise that the bus companies play a very important role in enabling the mobility of people from Indonesia, Sabah/Sarawak and Brunei to visit one another. So as recognition for their effort, we are looking into how to give incentives to them.

“Among the areas we are looking at now is how the governments of the three countries can reduce the bureaucracies imposed on the buses when crossing the border. One of them is by displaying the BIMP-EAGA tourism logo on the buses,” said Pahon.

He explained that the incentives for express buses providing direct fleets from Pontianak to Brunei and Kota Kinabalu were part of the proposed Borneo Tour Package initiated by the three countries.

“The Borneo Tour Package is a tourism network to encourage the mobility of people from Indonesia, Sabah/Sarawak and Brunei to visit one another. The proposal had been discussed during our first meeting in Kota Kinabalu last month and on July 4 we are going to have a follow-up meeting in Brunei.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Promoting BIMP-EAGA tourism through buses
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SpongeBob lends name to new mushroom species found in Borneo

A new species of mushroom has been named by its discoverers after the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

The fungus, named Spongiforma squarepantsii by the researchers at San Francisco State University (SFSU), was found during an expedition to the forests of Borneo.

S. squarepantsii is shaped like a sea sponge and, say its discoverers, has a fruity or musty smell.

Details are published in the scientific journal Mycologia.

SpongeBob is the star of an eponymous television cartoon series which began in 1999. The character, who wears a short pair of square, brown trousers, lives in the fictional locality of Bikini Bottom.

The new mushroom is only one of two species that belong in the genus Spongiforma. The other one is found in central Thailand, but differs in its colour and odour.

"We expect that it has a wider range than these two areas," said Professor Dennis E Desjardin, from SFSU, who is a co-author of the scientific paper.

"But perhaps we haven't seen it in more places because we haven't collected it yet in some of the under-explored forests of the region."

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Sarawak lobbying for inclusion in MAS ‘Golden Holidays’ package

THE Tourism and Heritage Ministry is urging Malaysian Airline (MAS) to include Sarawak in their ‘Golden Holidays’ destinations to boost the state’s tourism industry in the global market.

Its minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said that he was discussing with agencies and the airline to explore ways to connect Sarawak to the international market.

“I welcome the use of Sabah and Sarawak as major promotional platforms for MAS in the French market,” he said after the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting yesterday.

“I’m now in communication with MAS in exploring ways on how we can connect Sarawak to their international network,” added Abang Johari, who is also Minister of Housing and Urban Development.

When asked about the response from French tourists, he said that it was still slow due to the lack of flights.

“At the moment there are some tourists from France but not many because our problem is still connectivity.

Therefore I welcome the introduction of low-fare routes by MAS and I hope the low-fare routes also include Kuching as one of the destinations,” he said.

Continue reading at: Sarawak lobbying for inclusion in MAS ‘Golden Holidays’ package
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sabah and Sarawak becoming vital destination for French

Sabah and Sarawak are major promotional platforms for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to the French market.

MAS area manager for France, Spain, Portugal and Nordic countries Sarjanisham Darus said this is because the island of Borneo is more well-known among the French than Malaysia in general.

“Borneo is one of the popular destinations for the French public as far as Malaysia is concerned. They know Borneo more, destinations like, Sabah, Sarawak, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and whatnot are quite popular here,” he said during a press conference recently.

He said MAS is working with Tourism Malaysia to promote the two East Malaysian states by flying in media personnel, both from print as well as radio broadcasters, to learn more about tourism products in Sabah and Sarawak.

At present, he added, Sabah is the more popular of the two states among French travellers.

“Sabah is quite rich in terms of its tourism products. You’ve got the eco-tourism, and Mount Kinabalu and obviously Sipadan and Mabul islands for diving and whatnot,” he said.

Sarjanisham added that MAS’ recent alliance with oneworld – the world’s third largest global airline group – would definitely boost operations in France as the union would help MAS fit into the various hubs in Europe through code-sharing with other partner airlines.

The current oneworld members are American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines (JAL), LAN, Malev, Mexicana, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, and S7 Airlines.

MAS is a member elect along with airberlin and Kingfisher.

There are also 19 airline affiliates under the alliance.

Meanwhile, MAS products are currently available at 5,000 agencies in France.

Continue reading at: Sabah and Sarawak becoming vital destination for French
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First 3D film in South East Asia to showcase the beauty of Borneo

SIBU: Shooting of ‘The Hunter’, the much-anticipated first 3D film in South East Asia, begins tomorrow.

Director Bjarne Wong told a press conference yesterday that he would try to finish shooting within 45 days.

“This is the first 3D film in South East Asia because no one else has ever done a shooting using a 3D camera on the set before,” he enthused.

Wong said the RM6 million film, shooting of which would begin in Sibu, would showcase the beauty of Borneo in general.

“I shot in Kuching before but not in Sibu. I am from Sibu and it has been my dream to come back and shoot this town.”

Malaysian actress Carmen Soo and Chinese actor Rocky play the lead roles.

Other members of the cast include Malaysian model Isaac Ong, Malaysian actors Smyth Wong and Sharifah Amani, Miss World Malaysia first runner-up Cindy Chen, Taiwanese Tavani and local actors Aaron Alfar and Lai Jong Hai.

Wong said 90 per cent of the shooting would take place in Borneo and the remainder in Hong Kong.

Among the locations earmarked are Sibu, Kuching, Serian, Bau and Matang.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: First 3D film in South East Asia to showcase the beauty of Borneo
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Sabah Dragon Boat race attracts thousands

KOTA KINABALU: For the thousands who thronged to watch the 26th Sabah Dragon Boat race, they were either weekend day out for the family or to provide moral support to the participants.

Vehicles were parked on the roadsides stretching from the City mosque at Likas up to the roundabout at Jalan Istiadat.

Despite the area already being jam-packed with hordes of people, latecomers were not even deterred by the sheer number of people present and were determined to witness the annual dragon boat race.

The event was officiated by the Head of State Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Hj Juhar Hj Mahiruddin.

Also present were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai representing the Chief Minister, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir, Sabah Tourism Promotion Board chairman Dato’ Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin and Sabah Chinese Cultural Association (SCCA) president Datuk Chau Tet On.

Those who participated in the dragon race, the title was fought not only for the team, but for the honour of the districts they represented and that of their families.

Ruwan Salim, 26, has in the past years participated in the teenager category and was at the scene yesterday to give his undivided support to the team from Kampung Giling, Tuaran. The team was vying for the Chief Minister’s Trophy.

Ruwan and his family attend the event every year without fail and were blissfully enjoying themselves watching the races and having a picnic at the same time.

“Many of our Bajau people from Mengkabung came (for the dragon boat race) and we have many relatives here too.”

Although the dragon boat race is traditionally a Chinese culture, the sport has attracted other members of other races to take part.

Continue reading at: Sabah Dragon Boat race attracts thousands
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Kuching to be promoted as geopark city

PADAWAN: Ministry of Tourism will apply to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) for the rebranding of Kuching as a geopark city.

The ministry’s deputy minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit when revealing this said upon approval, the city would be promoted as a geopark to attract more foreign tourists.

“Kuching is qualified to be recognised because there are many attractions such as the number of unique mountains available here.”

“Therefore, if it is approved, Kuching will be the second global geopark in the country after Langkawi,” he said.

Langkawi is the first in Malaysia and South East Asia recognised by Unesco in June 2007.

He said this to reporters after closing the Gawai Dayak celebration at Kampung Bra’ang Bayur, about 58 kilometres from here on Saturday night.

“Along Borneo Heights Road in Padawan here, there are many tourist spots that could be developed like mountains so that the local people can help to promote local tourism products.

“With this, they can also generate extra income if they wish to be involved part-time in the industry like bringing tourists for mountain climbing.

“I also encourage local people in my constituency to be involved in this industry which can give lucrative income as long as they are interested and committed to be successful,” Dawos, who is also Mambong MP, said.

Earlier, he officiated at the opening of a 500-metre road costing RM50,000 that leads to the village’s 18-door longhouse.

Continue reading at: Kuching to be promoted as geopark city
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fifth KK Jazz Festival a success

KOTA KINABALU: The 5th edition of the Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival (KKJF) played out over the weekend saw crowds filling the venue at the Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf and Country Club’s Tennis Arena during both of its evening concerts.

2011’s KKJF is the most ambitious of the festival’s incarnations so far, with its organisers polishing the event’s different components to create an increasingly palatable entertainment experience that manages to appeal to music fans of all ages.

It has a stable of 12 performers, with four bands from Kota Kinabalu, one from Labuan, two from Kuala Lumpur, and the remaining international acts hailing from the United States, Australia, Indonesia, and Japan.

It is also the most diverse set of acts to be featured at the festival, drawing on musicians that represent many different facets of jazz music.

Z Yan, touted as a Chinese bossa nova princess, capitalises on her uniqueness as the only musician in Malaysia who sings Chinese lyrics to music which frequently accompanies vocals in English or Portuguese.

At a conference, Yan shared that she was truly excited to play in Kota Kinabalu, her enthusiasm leading to a nightmare in which KKJF co-organising chairman Roger Wang had failed to fetch her from the airport, thus leading to the cancellation of her performance.

Wang, who is also praised as a skilled finger-style guitarist both in the local music community and at festival circuits the world over, has outdone himself in terms of selecting musicians for this year’s KKJF. Wang made the decisions on which performers to invite for the festival, and is thus responsible for recruiting hidden gems such as Agung Beat.

The gamelan troupe from the Universiti Malaysia Sabah combines the distinctly primal tones of traditional Indonesian instruments with modern funk beats and bass lines, resulting in a truly compelling sound. Agung Beat was met warmly at their performance on the festival’s first night, where they played with Sabahan vocalist Dayang Noraini, who delivered a whimsically jazzed-up version of “Sayang Kinabalu”.

This year introduced a second attraction at the festival in the form of a centre stage, essentially a smaller platform built into the middle of the venue. This allowed musicians to alternate performances on both it and the main stage, offering virtually no downtime and enabling the concert to flow seamlessly, with occasional interjections and introductions care of the festival’s emcee, Mix FM DJ Serena C.

Continue reading at: Fifth KK Jazz Festival a success
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Grand Margherita Hotel - Rebranding of a top hotel in Kuching

HOLIDAY Inn Kuching (now Grand Margherita Hotel) was established in 1976.

Under the umbrella of Holiday Inn chain, the hotel started with just 149 rooms, two banquet halls, a fine dining restaurant, a Chinese Restaurant, a bar and a coffeehouse.

The hotel grew by leaps and bounds and by 2011, had added a new wing – Sadong Wing – with a total of 288 rooms. The original hotel building is known as the Serapi Wing.

The hotel housed the state’s first discotheque – Bionic Disco – which was later turned into a banquet room. In the latter years, the Aquarius Club was added as the state’s first underground entertainment outlet.

Going with the trend, the club was renovated and became the ‘happening place’ in the 80’s with the Tribes Music Restaurant and Bar which saw more than its share of celebrities and musicians.

Among those who preformed there were local artists in the likes of Datuk Sharifah Aini, KRU, Amy Search and Poetic Ammo and from the international front, Jordan Hill, Guy Sebastian, Human Nature and Plus One.

Its expansion included the requisition of the two beach resorts – Damai Beach and Damai Lagoon, now known as Damai Puri – and a city hotel, the former Crowne Plaza Riverside Majestic Kuching, now known as Riverside Majestic Hotel.

Exotic was the main theme of the hotel’s decor with rattan, timbered structures of native designs and wood being the dominant features mirroring the country’s rich diversity of culture and heritage.In 2009, the 30-year-old hotel underwent rebranding and was renamed Grand Margherita Hotel.

Explained the hotel’s general manager Arthur Yeap: “The renovation was part of the hotel’s rebranding plan to ensure quality facilities.”

A new name, a new image and a new beginning – it was time for a change. “It also marked the hotel’s commitment to improving its products and services to be on par with international standards to ensure it continues to offer guests the definitive hotel stay,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Grand Margherita Hotel - Rebranding of a top hotel in Kuching
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More Than Half Of Borneo's Carnivores Face Extinction

KOTA KINABALU -- More than fifty percent of Borneo's many carnivore species could become extinct, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which lists them on its red list of threatened species.

In disclosing the findings, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) director Dr Laurentius Ambu said as such, there was a need for action plans and long-term solutions to the declining number of Borneo's carnivores.

Speaking at the launching of the 1st Borneo Carnivore Symposium, here, today, he said the need to strengthen knowledge was crucial in efforts to protect the 24 species of carnivores found in Borneo such as the amazing Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi), which is only found in Borneo.

"Last year, scientists even rediscovered the world's most endangered otter species here in Sabah at Dermakot (near Sandakan), so it's obvious we have to work harder to protect these amazing wildlife," he said.

The symposium, aimed at developing action plans to ensure the survival of the carnivores in Borneo, was attended by almost 200 scienties from 15 countries including Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

"The conservation of carnivores is important because they are what we call the keystone species as their presence maintains a healthy ecosystem within the forests of Borneo," said Laurentius who was also the organising chairman of the Symposium.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Japanese pianist to give special performance at KK Jazz Festival

KOTA KINABALU: Renowned Japanese pianist Mariko Hatta will render a special performance on the second day of the fifth KK Jazz Festival tonight, as part of her goodwill trip to the State.

Her first piece entitled, ‘Mariko’, aims to raise awareness for the plight of the orang utans of Sabah, while the second piece called ‘Thank You Malaysia’, expresses appreciation for the support shown to Japanese tsunami victims during the recent catastrophy.

Organizing chairman Jack Ong during a press conference, before the first day of the festival commenced last night said telecommunication company DiGi is sponsoring four units of blackberry handphones as prizes for the lucky draw for both nights.

“We bring jazz music to Sabahans for the fifth year and hope that this musical genre will unite all Jazz lovers.

“We also encourage people to come as this festival is about raising money for installing water gravity projects in the rural areas of Sabah,” he said.

Last night, local bands Elixir, Agung Beat, Momain Blues and Spice of Tones performed with Juzzie Smith from Australia, Indonesian Idol, Lucky and WVC Trio from the USA starting from 7pm until midnight.

Tonight, the winners of the Sabah Jazz Talent show, SIA Little Jazz, will be performing with other international and local Jazz bands such as the Aseana Precussion Unit from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Chinese Bossa Nova singer Z Yan and the Benjamin Lackner Trio of Germany.

Juzzie and Elixir will be performing again tonight.

According to Ong, as with previous years, food stalls and sponsors’ booths would be set up at the venue for the enjoyment of festival goers.

Members of the public are encouraged to carpool and to be at the venue, the covered tennis court, Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf and Country Club, early due to limited parking space.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Firefly starts Johor-Sabah flights

Firefly Sdn Bhd, the community airline, has commenced twice daily return flights between Johor Baru and Kota Kinabalu from yesterday.

The budget airline said Kota Kinabalu was the second capital city in Sabah and Sarawak that Firefly was serving from its southern hub in Johor Baru.

The airline launched four daily services between Johor Baru and Kuching on May 19

Managing director Datuk Eddy Leong said the Johor Baru-Kota Kinabalu route signifies an improvement in connectivity between Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak and from Johor to North Asia, connecting through Kota Kinabalu.

“Additionally, our strong network and code sharing with Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and MASwings will further provide seamless travel to our guests and help stimulate economic growth through the tourism industry for Sabah and Johor,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Continue reading at: Firefly starts Johor-Sabah flights
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Kissmet – a fusion of Bhangra and Rock at the Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival

KUCHING: Made up of 6 members from the United Kingdom and India, Kissmet plays a spellbinding blend of Eastern and Western music that will captivate the audience come July 8 to 10 when the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) kicks off.

The band fuses Bhangra (Punjabi folk music from India) and rock together to create something amazing, taking audiences on a roller coaster ride from the East to the West and back again.

Kissmet has performed throughout Europe, South America and Asia. Everywhere they go, they spread the word that it matters not what language you sing in or the style of music you use.

The RMWF is a not-to-be-missed occasion, and guarantees a smashing time in the heart of the Borneo rainforest. This popular event lasts for three days and features activities like informative workshops, ethno-musical lectures and jamming sessions.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kissmet – a fusion of Bhangra and Rock at the Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Whale rescued at Mabul Island

SEMPORNA: A group of rescuers were overcome with joy when a whale that was found trapped on the coral reef at Mabul island was successfully rescued and released into the blue ocean, but not before resurfacing twice as if to thank her rescuers.

The event took place at 9am when the whale, measuring three and a half metres long, was spotted.

Resort manager Carys Fox of Scuba Junkie Mabul Beach Resort, who led the whale rescue said: “It was like the whale knew that we were trying to save her.

“She was flapping around in distress in the shallow water but when we arrived she calmed down and let us put the life jackets around her as buoyancy and carried toward deeper water.”

Resort staff, visiting tourists and the local community from Mabul worked together and took only 25 minutes to free the whale.

Scuba Junkie marine biologist Ric Owen said the whale suffered cuts but they were all superficial and should heal quickly.

However, he could not exactly identify the species and they are currently waiting for confirmation from whale experts.

Divers are suggesting that it may either be a pilot whale or the rare pygmy sperm whale.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Whale rescued at Mabul Island
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Internationally acclaimed jazz artistes to perform at KK fest

KOTA KINABALU: A number of internationally acclaimed jazz musicians will perform at the KK Jazz Festival (KKJF) 2011 this weekend at the Covered Tennis Court of Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club here.

They include Benjamin Lackner Trio (USA/Germany), Juzzie Smith (Australia), Lucky (Indonesia) and WVC Trio (USA).

Despite the unique characteristics of KK Jazz Fest being one of the few jazz events in the region that features local artistes, the committee still ensure that there is a balance mix of international artistes in the event.

“Every year, our band selection committee headed by Roger Wang carefully selects a few jazz bands from overseas to perform at KKJF.

“Apart from bringing in a varied selection of music genre for the local festival goers, it is also a perfect time for the local artistes to expose, interact and learn from them,” said Jack Ong, organising chairman of KKJF 2011.

“Besides, we are bringing quality performance to the doorstep of our people here in KK,” he added.

Other artistes performing at KKJF 2011 include Elixir (Kota Kinabalu), SIA Little Jazz Band (KK), Spice of Tones (Labuan), AgungBeat (KK), Momain Blues (KK), Z Yan (KL), Aseana Percussion Unit (KL) and a special performance by Hata Mariko (Japan).

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Kundasang War Memorial being upgraded for visitors’ safety

KOTA KINABALU: The State Government has no intention to demolish the walls of Kundasang War Memorial Park but is making improvement to it for the sake of safety, said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun.

He said an engineering inspection has revealed a section of the wall in the Contemplation Garden had cracked due to earth movement in Kundasang.

“The engineers said it is necessary to provide granular materials such as sand at the base and the back of the retaining wall to facilitate water drainage,” he said.

“It is important to reduce the structural weight of the wall. To do this, it is necessary to remove the existing masonry wall,” he said at a press conference yesterday after presenting prizes to the winner of state-level Forum Remaja competition at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Hall in Likas yesterday.

Masidi said the wall is in imminent danger of collapsing and rectification work is necessary for the safety of visitors.

He said the monument is important and every care will be taken to preserve it but the safety of the public is even more important.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tombonuo dance enters Malaysia Book of Records

PITAS: For the first time in the history of the Tombonuo people here, they made it to the national level in their cultural activity by getting the Sumanggak dance into the Malaysia Book of Records.

The president of the Sabah Pitas Tombonuo People Association (PBTPS), Akian Ahkiew, said that this is a significant achievement for the Tombonuos who have all this while been excluded in major cultural events.

“It was a proud moment last month when the association’s dance group made it into the Malaysia Book of Records,” he said.

“Now we can look forward to more cultural activities and get our cultural heritage become an important part of Sabah’s and Malaysia’s cultural mosaic.”

He regretted that even at the state level, the Tombonuo dance has not been fully recognised unlike the dance of other ethnic groups.

“This is not entirely the fault of cultural organisers,” Akian admitted.

“It is also due to insufficient initiatives of the Tombonuo people themselves. But now, under the association’s new leadership, we are more aggressive in promoting the Tombonuo identity at the state and national level.”

The sumanggak dance was part of the marathon dance performance organised by the Malaysia Book of Records in Kota Marudu on May 21, 2011.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tombonuo dance enters Malaysia Book of Records
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival going through final preparations

KUCHING: Final preparations for the 14th edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) are underway.

Project manager Pauline Lim held a meeting with the festival’s food and village market vendors yesterday to confirm their participation and brief them on the do’s, don’ts and the guidelines.

A total of 40 stalls will be set up for the festival at Sarawak Cultural Village of which 20 will offer food and drinks. Among the food on offer will be an assortment of western, Japanese, Middle Eastern and Thai cuisines.

Local food will also be available including Sarawak laksa, ayam pansuh, umai Sarawak, mee kolok and an assortment of Nyonya delights.

For children, there will be an assortment of finger food, French fries and ice cream. For those watching their diets, fresh juices and fruits will be in store.

Twenty others stalls will offer handicraft and festival memorabilia.

There will also be a stall doing airbrush ink and henna tattoos and another selling this year’s performer CDs and souvenirs.

The Rainforest World Craft Bazaar will feature handicraft items from various countries.

In line with the festival’s greening campaign, all vendors have been advised to use recyclable products while recycle bins will be provided on the festival grounds.

Food cleanliness and hygiene have been given emphasis and all food waste and regular rubbish is to be properly disposed of in the bins provided.

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DiGi continues sponsorship of KK Jazz Festival

KOTA KINABALU: Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival 2011 is proud to welcome back DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd on board as one of its sponsors.

A signature event in Sabah, this Jazz extravaganza which promises a musical festival packed with talented local and international artistes, is held annually since its debut in 2007.

It has been DiGi’s commitment to continuously support the Sabah Government’s concerted efforts in promoting Sabah as the choice destination and at the same time, cultivate the local arts interest amongst its people.

“We are very glad to have corporations such as DiGi to sponsor KK Jazz Festival, which enable us to develop the jazz scene here in Kota Kinabalu. DiGi’s presences has also added a lot of vibrancy to the festival,” said Roger Wang, co-organising chairman of KK Jazz Festival 2011, during his courtesy visit to DiGi at its office here.

Frankie Fu, the founding chairman and advisor of KK Jazz Festival later added: “The KK Jazz Festival organising committee would like to thank DiGi for coming forward to support our fifth KK Jazz festival. We appreciate them as our pioneer supporter since the inception of this event. We hope that their support will grow as the festival expands and reach a wider audiences. We believe this partnership is a win win formula for both parties.”

A DiGi booth will be set up at the event area, where the company will organise lucky draw sessions and visitors can try their luck to win exclusive DiGi premiums and mobile phones.

For the first time, DiGi is sponsoring four units of HTC Aria, two units of Blackberry Bold 9700 and two units of Blackberry Curve as the prizes for the lucky draw.

To be held on June 17 and 18 at the Covered Tennis Court in Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club, KK Jazz Festival will feature a great line up of accomplished jazz artists, a series of pre-festival fringe events, workshops as well as a jazz talent search.

Tickets are on sale at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf outlets in Kota Kinabalu at RM50, or at door at RM60.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: DiGi continues sponsorship of KK Jazz Festival
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Promoting Sarawak as an international meeting destination

KUCHING: Sarawak, also known as ‘Land of the Hornbills’, and popular for its natural splendor and colourful history, is now being promoted as a Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition (MICE) venue.

Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) has, through strategic planning, arranged for 18 international events to be held in Sarawak between 2011 and 2016, attracting at least 600 participants per event.

These events include the ASEAN Australian Engineering Congress (AAEC) event (25-27 July, and the Global Conference 2011 (30 Nov-3 Dec).

Some of the preferred venues for the MICE programme are the five-starred Pullman Hotel; Borneo Convention Centre, Kuching (BCCK); Damai Beach Resort; Sarawak River Cruise; and Four Point by Sheraton, Kuching.

More events planned for 2012

A total of nine MICE events have been lined up for 2012, including the 50th MD 308 Lions Convention 2012. This will be held at the Pullman Hotel from 19-22 April, and will bring 2,000 participants.

Others events include the CDA/MDA 69th AGM Malaysia Dental Association Conference and Trade Exhibition 2012. This will be held between 30 May and 1 June at BCCK, and will attract 3,200 participants. Additionally, the 9th World Congress of Chinese Medicine 2012 (WCCM) will be held during 20-23 Oct, attracting 1,000 participants.

SCB’s chairman Datuk Seri, Dr Muhamad Leo Michael Toyad Abdullah, said Sarawak is not in competition with Kuala Lumpur and other cities as a destination for MICE, since it has its own unique attractions.

“When they are looking for a new perspective, they can consider the Sarawak River Cruise, as it is unique. They can watch the beauty of the sunset while cruising,” he said.

“This is about what is different in Kuching and not available elsewhere.

It’s our focus. We can provide both river-cruise packages and rainforests, depending on what they are looking for,” he said.

Growing as a mice destination

Explaining the purpose of SCB, Dr Muhamad Leo said that the non-profit organization, established in 2006 by the state government, has a mandate to promote the state as a leading MICE destination.

Chief executive of SCB, Jill Henry, added that an estimated RM57 million will be spent by the attendees of business meetings here, between 2011 and 2016, based on the number of confirmed international association meetings.

A driving force in MICE-industry development in Sarawak, SCB does not, however, intend to stop at this figure. It is aiming for a larger slice of the global industry, worth RM11 billion.

Malaysia currently has a 1.1 per cent share of this pie.

As the first agency created exclusively to promote the MICE industry in the state, SCB is confident the state has what it takes to achieve this objective.

Continue reading at: Promoting Sarawak as an international meeting destination
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Move to save Bornean banting in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah's endangered wild cattle, the Bornean banting, has become a focus in the state's wildlife conservation efforts.

Conservationists and scientists from across the world are working together to study the relatively unknown cattle species found in the wilds of Sabah.

“The Bornean Banting Programme intends to advance our understanding of and conservation efforts for one of the most charismatic and still unknown mammal species,” said state Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu.

Dr Ambu, a member of the Asian wild cattle group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said his department was working with various partners to study the ecology of the endangered wild cattle.

“It is a long-term programme which aims to provide an insight into the ecology of this endangered wild cattle species,” he said, adding that the number of the cattle in Sabah was much lower than the number of elephants.

He, however, declined to give any estimates of the current population of the rare cattle.

“The results of this programme will assist our department to develop a state action plan for all banting across Sabah,” Dr Ambu told The Star.

Dr Benoit Goossens, director of the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), the department's field study centre located within the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, said there were fears that the Bornean banting might go extinct if nothing was done to conserve the species.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Move to save Bornean banting in Sabah
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Borneo big bike festival gains popularity

KOTA KINABALU: The organisers of the 12th Borneo Island International Big Bike Festival (BIIBBF) are happy with the response given to the three-day event which started last Friday.

“The response was so good that we broke our record set in 2006,” organizing chairman Angus Wong said.

Wong when met at a high tea hosted by Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir yesterday, said more than 500 big biker enthusiasts took part in the event hosted by Sabah this year.

“The total number doubled the number of participants we had when Sabah hosted the event in 2006 and we broke our own record,” he said, adding that there were more than 100 hundred participants from Sabah in the event this year.

He also disclosed that the city of Pontianak in Kalimantan, Indonesia will host the 13th edition of BIIBBF next year since the host country is rotated among Sabah, Sarawak, Kalimantan, Brunei Darussalam and Labuan.

“We also have participants from as far as the United States who in fact had their bikes shipped to Sabah,” he said.

Meanwhile, the founder of Sabah Big Bikers Club (SBBC), Saludin Abd Salam who was present at the event, said that since the festival was first launched, the number of participants to the BIIBBF have been very encouraging as it now involved clubs from all over the world.

According to Saludin, the first event was held in 2000 and it was known as the Borneo Island Big Bike Festival as the participants comprised those only from Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei Darussalam.

The event gained popularity over the years and now has participants from other countries, including The Philippines and Indonesia.

Continue reading at: Borneo big bike festival gains popularity
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Sarawak’s budget river cruise making waves

KUCHING: Barely three-months in operation, a river cruise touted as the state first-ever budget cruise is raising eyebrows among established cruise operators.

Wholly-owned by Koperasi Lan Berambeh Sungai Bedilku Kuching Berhad, a cooperative operated by a Malay village located in Kuching City, it is now eyeing to expand its appeal in the domestic and international markets.

The cooperative’s chairman Zamahari Saidi said among the winning features of the cruise since it started operations in March were affordability and flexibity factors.

“We are charging as low as RM15 per person and if they want a river cruise together with beverages, then it will be RM35 per person for a one-and-a-half hour trip,” he told Bernama here yesterday.

Zamahari said the cruise offered flexibility as passengers could request to be picked up at any river jetty as long as it was on the route.

He said the popularity of the cruise was fast catching up as the number of passengers has risen from a total of 330 passengers in March to 347 in April and 589 in May.

He said the 70-feet-long and 10 feet wide wooden cruise boat cost about RM120,000, had a 24-horsepower Yanmar engine and could accommodate 40 passengers and a crew of five.

Continue reading at: Sarawak’s budget river cruise making waves
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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kinabalu Park - Chilling out in a tropical destination

Kinabalu National Park in Sabah (Malaysia Borneo) – a UNESCO “world heritage site” with over 4,500 types of flora and fauna, 326 birds and 100 mammalian species – also boasts Mount Kota Kinabalu, which at 4,095 meters above sea level, is Borneo Island’s highest mountain.

Both attractions are located a four-hour drive from Sabah’s capital city Kota Kinabalu and it’s where we truly enjoyed some much needed respite from the city hustle and bustle.

The main highlight, however, was visiting Masilau Nature Park, situated at 2,000 meters above sea level at the southwest corner of Kinabalu National Park. At the nature park, we’d experienced thick foggy weather condition and temperature that dropped to below 10 degrees Celsius.

Indeed, Masilau Nature Park – which is often exposed to erratic weather conditions – is known as the coldest part in the national park.

Before heading to the nature park, we had the opportunity to check out Kundasang Village, located six kilometres from Kinabalu Park.

The village’s close proximity to Mount Kinabalu also proffers panoramic views of the majestic peaks, valleys and quaint village settlements situated on mountain slopes. The picturesque village is ideal for taking lots of snapshots!

Also an “agricultural” hub, Kundasang has a thriving vegetable market which is open daily. With most of the vegetable stalls managed by locals, comprising mainly native Dusun and the minority Chinese community, look out for local specialities such as fresh cabbage, mushrooms (such as shitake and black mushroom varieties) and baby kai lan.

One of our tour guides had said that some of the varieties of greens are sold at the lowest prices available in Sabah!

For those who’d prefer to buy local handicrafts such as batik, among others, check out the many souvenir stores in the village.

Old-world kopitiams (coffee shops) also dot the village – and where you can enjoy an aromatic cuppa while immersing in the surrounding’s languid pace, before taking a 30-minute drive to the Masilau Nature Park where high-adrenaline activities, among others, are available.

At the foot of Mount Kinabalu, the Masilau Nature Park is where “mountainous” vegetation thrives, such as verdant ferns and other sorts of medium-height flora and fauna.

Before embarking on your trekking experience at the nature park, you must register and pay a fee at the park’s headquarters nearby the upscale Masilau Nature Resort, where chalet-type accommodations are available.

The “Masilau” moniker is derived from the small waterfall which locals claim was originally yellow in color (‘silou’ is yellow).

Having gone where most amateur trekkers have surely threaded in the past, the rather easy-to-trek Masilau Trail is equipped with proper plank walks and specially built wooden staircases along some sharp bends and steep slopes – all passing rocky terrain and other parts with lush greenery.

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Sumazau dancers create record

KOTA KINABALU: One thousand traditionally-garbed performers danced their way into the Malaysia Book of Records with the graceful Kadazandusun sumazau to mark the highlight of the Tadau Kaamatan Malaysia open house here last night.

With outstretched arms and swaying gracefully in unison to the beating of gongs, they were rewarded with loud cheers and applause by a crowd of thousands who braved the rain at the historic Padang Merdeka here.

Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin launched the celebrations, witnessed by Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman and Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim and other state and national leaders.

Musa told the crowd that Sabah's ethnic diversity was never an obstacle to unity among the people.

“Instead, this unique aspect has become our pillar of strength that has resulted in political stability, paving the way for economic and social growth,” he said.

He said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Malaysia as a whole had reached a level of harmony that the people could be proud of.

In his speech, Dr Rais said the Kaamatan had become a renowned celebration and was among the basis on which the 1Malaysia concept could be built upon.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sumazau dancers create record
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Low Cost Carrier Terminal needed to attract more direct flights to Sarawak

KUCHING: Kuching Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCGCCI) has called on the government to build a low cost carrier terminal (LCCT) here to pave the way for more direct flights.

Comparing the situation here with Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, the chamber felt that tourism development here was way behind, citing the lack of an LCCT here as part of the reason.

“With an LCCT, more direct flights can be established and subsequently boost tourism development and ensure economic progress.

“Without such an airport, low-cost airlines will not be able to expand their routes both domestic and international,” said a resolution adopted during its annual general meeting at Wisma Chamber here yesterday.

The chamber would write to Tourism Ministry, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd and AirAsia Berhad to voice its concern. Another resolution urged the government to reduce renewal premium for industrial land as members felt it would be fair for the government to do so following the announcement to reduce renewal premium for residential and agriculture land in May last year.

“Reasonable review of the renewal rates for industrial land will help relieve the financial burden of industry players,” reasoned the resolution.

The chamber has thus resolved to send a formal request to Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, Planning and Resource Management Ministry and Land and Survey Department.

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Sarawak Government mulls tourism programme for Bakun

BINTULU: The state government intends to implement and promote sustainable tourism programmes for every development project such as Bakun Dam.

Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip, who revealed this, said the programmes were to benefit all players in the industry, especially the local people.

“Whenever there is a big dam it will be good for tourism industry and can benefit the local people, travel agents, transporters, restaurants and grocery shop operators,” said Talib, who is also Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) chairman.

He said with more tourists coming to Bakun, the people would gain from more job and business opportunities.

The dam, he said, would bring greater development to the state, being a profitable project and a catalyst for the development of various industries besides generating electricity.

He suggested that many projects, especially those related to tourism industry, could be introduced in Bakun.

“In order to have all these, there is a need to have political stability because there will be no giant projects without good governance and good policies,” said Talib when officiating at the ‘Sebezau 1Malaysia Community’ charity dinner here last Friday night.

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