Saturday, March 31, 2012

Helicopter rides to be offered at Pesta Kaul

MUKAH: Helicopter rides will be on offer during Pesta Kaul Mukah at Pantai Kala Dana from April 21-29.

Hornbill Skyways Sdn Bhd will give visitors the chance to enjoy a bird’s eye view of Mukah town and the surrounding areas.

“Other main attractions include kite flying demonstrations by Bintulu Kite Flyers from Bintulu and performances by cultural troupes from Indonesia and other countries as part of our efforts to promote Pesta Kaul Mukah to the international community,” event organising chairman Mukah Resident Saudi Narani told a press conference yesterday.

He said the unique culture and traditions of the Melanau community would also feature prominently during the annual festival themed ‘Simply Unique’.

Local Melanau elders will perform the Mukah Kaul ritual at Tugek, Kala Dana beach on the morning of April 20.

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33 teams to take part in this year’s Baleh Kapit Raft Safari

KAPIT: Thirty-three teams have confirmed their participation in this year’s Baleh Kapit Raft Safari to be held from April 6-7.

Kapit Resident Dahim Nadot, who is the organising chairman, said this at the final committee meeting on Thursday.

Of those 33 teams, nine teams are in the Men’s Bamboo Open category, 12 teams to compete in the Men’s Bamboo Closed, three teams in the Men’s Free Style event, five teams in the Women’s Bamboo Open category and four teams in the new category, the Paddle Boat Freestyle event.

“We are hoping to see more participation, especially in the Paddle Boat Freestyle category,” he said.

Dahim added that the deadline for entry had been extended from March 26 to the afternoon of April 2.

The meeting, he said was to finalise the preparation for the competition. He confirmed that Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing would officiate at the flag off at the first launching station at Rumah Salang on April 6.

The flag off for the second launching point at Rumah Bangkong at Nanga Bala on the second day of the race, he said, would be officiated at by the Assistant Minister of Land Development Datuk Gramong Anak Juna.

Meanwhile, Kapit MP Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi and Hulu Rajang MP Datuk Billy Abit Joo would officiate at the prize giving ceremony to be held at Kapit Wharf in the afternoon of April 7.

Continue reading at: 33 teams to take part in this year’s Baleh Kapit Raft Safari
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Maliau Basin and Danum Valley reclassified as “totally protected zones”

TWO of Sabah’s pristine forests – the Maliau Basin and Danum Valley – are to be shielded from encroachment with the creation of “totally protected zones” around them.

The state assembly passed amendments to Sabah’s forestry’s enactment to reclassify certain forests, including those surrounding Maliau Basin and Danum Valley, as first-class reserves yesterday.

Earlier, when proposing the Bill, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Radin Malleh said part of the Ulu Segama forest reserve, totalling 54,760ha in east coast Lahad Datu, and the 46,603ha Maliau Buffer Zone should be reclassified to Class I (Protected) from Class II (Commercial).

He said Ulu Segama was a vital water catchment area and a buffer zone for Danum Valley as well as a critical habitat for the orang utan, adding that it would be re-named as Mount Louisa forest reserve.

Radin said besides being a water catchment area, the Maliau Buffer Zone Class I forest reserve had unique conservation value.

“Other areas to be re-classified to Class I include part of the Sapulut and Kalabakan forest reserves covering 6,688ha, to be known as the Mengilan reserve.”

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Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival one of top 25 Best International Festivals

KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) has been voted for the third consecutive year in 2012 as one of the top 25 Best International Festivals by renowned world music magazine, Songlines.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said yesterday the event, now in its 15th year and held annually in Kuching, has no doubt been a contributor of tourist arrivals to the state.

“As the organiser of the festival to be held from July 13-15, we are pleased to note that this year tour operators from as far as Europe, Australia and Singapore are putting together packages to the festival and the destination,” he said in a statement.

According to the editorial team of Songlines, “selection of the festival is based on the broad representation of the quality and scope of music festivals around the world – from city-based events to ones in remote locations such as the RWMF in Sarawak and the Festival in the Desert in Mali.”

Among the festivals lauded are Africa Festival, Germany; WOMADAdelaide, Australia; Chicago World Music Festival, the United States; Essaouira Gnawa & World Music Festival, Morocco; and Forde Folk Festival, Norway to name a few.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival one of top 25 Best International Festivals
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Challenging year for Sabah tourism

Sabah’s tourism industry is set to have a challenging year following Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS)’ decision to cancel direct flights to Osaka, Perth, Haneda and Incheon this year.

With no more direct flights from Sabah to Japan and Western Australia, the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry has to look at alternative plans to ensure a positive growth in the tourist arrivals to the state.

The ministry will focus on main markets that have the flight capacity and at the same time continue to work together as well as support aviation companies so that they will consider increasing their flights to Sabah or maybe consider providing charter flights to the state, its assistant minister, Datuk Bolkiah Ismail, said.

Bolkiah added that Tourism Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun went on a working visit to South Korea in October last year to meet with travel agents and aviation companies there with the aim to improve the frequency of the Seoul-Kota Kinabalu route.

“Two airlines based in South Korea have indicated their interest to start a charter flight schedule to Sabah and it all goes well, they are expected to start servicing the route in April and July respectively,” he said.

Bolkiah also said that South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) would be flying from Clark, Philippines to Kota Kinabalu on May 1 this year with three flights a week.

The Philippines market had high potential in areas like MICE, shopping, leisure and education, he said, adding that the ministry had also identified five regional airports to play the role as ‘feeder’ for Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA).

These airports are on Kuala Lumpur, Brunei, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Continue reading at: Challenging year for Sabah tourism
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Sarawak a hot destination for travellers from China

KUCHING: Sarawak seems to be a hot destination for travellers from China lately. This was discovered during a recent incentive trip organised by Perfect World from China, said Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) through a press release yesterday.

The streets of Kuching were abuzz with activities as 170 Chinese tourists experienced an unforgettable five-day-four-night ‘business and adventure’ stay here.

Their itinerary included a visit to the Sarawak Cultural Village, Bako National Park, and a cat-themed party at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching. Then there were the Sarawak River Cruise, museum visit, special themed parties and dinners to showcase the versatility of Kuching as an exciting destination for Chinese incentive groups.

Bel-Air Travel & Tours managing director Alice Khor said: “We were excited to welcome this group of Chinese guests from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Taiwan to showcase Kuching’s main attractions for both leisure and business visitors.

“With the success of this trip, we definitely look forward to receiving more business to Sarawak in the coming months. Travellers from China love the allure of nature and adventure, which Sarawak has abundance of. Furthermore, the variety of food and daily activities is sure to keep them active and continuously exploring.”

SCB general manager Chew Chang Guan said: “China is a fast growing tourist generating country, and is definitely a promising market for Sarawak. Opportunities abound for Sarawak in terms of business events, and the Bureau is keen to support all meeting and incentive groups from all over the world.

“Sarawak is able to cater to their preferences, and we are more than happy to welcome them to truly experience an adventure of a lifetime.”

Kelly Liu of CTS MICE Service China remarked: “The Chinese in China were initially unaware of what Sarawak had to offer. However, through my previous site inspection, I started to fall in love with her. She gives me the feeling of peace with nature and the easy-going people are just so welcoming! From this trip, we are confident of getting more people from China to know about this beautiful land.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak a hot destination for travellers from China
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Celebrate with the Dayak

COME celebrate the Gawai Dayak festival, or the harvest festival, and be enlightened on Dayak culture.

This major festival of Sarawakians on June 1 celebrates the end of a successful harvest, hence its name.

To encourage more tourists to get acquainted with the Land of the Hornbills, Tourism Malaysia Sarawak Office, Sarawak Tourism Board, Sarawak Convention Bureau and Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) have teamed up to develop three innovative Gawai Special Packages of 2D/1N, 3D/2N and 4D/3N tours to offer a variety of experiences. These special tours are priced at RM399, RM499 and RM599 respectively.

Tourists who buy such packages will have an opportunity to stay at either the Bidayuh, Iban or Orang Ulu longhouse at the SCV for a deeper insight into the three major ethnic communities’ cultures and traditions.

These programmes are for the duration of the Gawai festival and are on sale now. The tours will be on from May 18-June 30.

The activities include jungle trekking at the foothills of Mount Santubong, cooking Sarawakian dishes, folk song and dance lessons and visiting a variety of ethnic houses at the SCV. Mt Santubong is a 810m “single rise” mountain situated on the Damai peninsula about 35km north of Kuching, some 45 minutes away by car.

Night tours from 10pm-3am can also be bought by curious tourists to witness the unique ceremony of miring. This is an interesting ceremony involving offerings of special food items and a cockerel to bring about good luck or ward off evil, on special events and occasions.

The Gawai Special Packages were recently launched by Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit together with Assistant Sarawak Tourism and Heritage Minister and Sarawak Economic Development Corporation chairman Datuk Talip Zulpilip at the White Rajah Cafe, Kuala Lumpur, a restaurant specialising in Sarawak cuisine.

Gawai Dayak

THE Gawai Dayak festival is a harvest and social festival celebrated every June 1 in Sarawak. Gawai means ritual or festival and Dayak is a collective name for the tribes of Iban, Bidayuh, Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Murut and some 20 more.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Celebrate with the Dayak
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Sabah confident of getting 2.93 million tourists this year

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is confident that it will achieve the target of 2.93 million in tourist arrivals this year despite facing various challenges, particularly the flight rationalisation exercise carried out by Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd.

Sabah state Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun said as air transportation was a critical factor in the development of Sabah’s tourism sector, his ministry would further enhance their promotional efforts in markets that offer direct flight service to Sabah such as South Korea and China.

“My ministry will also continue to closely cooperate and continue to provide support to other airline companies to encourage them to increase their flights or provide special charter services to Sabah.

“My ministry, through the Sabah Tourism Board, have also taken special measures via the Aviation Hub Strategy and identified five main regional airports that offer direct flights to Kota Kinabalu as the go-between airports, namely in Kuala Lumpur, Bandar Seri Begawan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea,” he said when winding up his ministry’s debate at the Sabah State Legislative Assembly here yesterday.

Masidi also said with the absence of a direct flight between Tokyo and Kota Kinabalu, the STB has placed Hong Kong, Singapore dan Seoul as the alternative route to Kota Kinabalu. Through close cooperation with three main tourist agencies in Japan, namely HIS Travel, Japan Travel Bureau (JTB) and SMI Holidays, it expects to market Sabah in the Japanese market using the Cathay Pacific airline company.

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Tap Ulu Baram as source of tourism dollars

MIRI: Ulu Baram can be tapped as a lucrative natural source of tourism dollars for Sarawak if properly managed.

Much has been reported about the woes of the city’s tourism industry in living up to its image of a resort city. This could be tackled with the right lead from the government to diversify its attractions to include the vast Ulu Baram interior.

“The tourism industry is a highly profitable source of revenue if managed properly, and Ulu Baram can be tapped as another natural source of tourism dollars, especially for the city and the large northern region of Sarawak,” said SUPP veteran Lee Kee Bian, 80.

He then related his experiences and involvement in local tourism industry from 1974 to 1985.

During those 10 years when Lee operated as tourist guide from his hometown Long Lama, he had welcomed foreign tourists in groups of about 20 in Marudi town.

“They were mostly Europeans of Swiss origins attracted by Borneo’s natural charm. They started by climbing Mount Kinabalu after flying into Kota Kinabalu,” said Lee who served as Baram councillor in Marudi district office for two terms in 1986 to 1990.

In those days, land routes were lacking, and tourists travelled by river from Miri up Baram river by express boat to Marudi, hence on to Long Lama where they stopped for lunch.

Lee would then contract his Kenyah friends Maping Apoi and Dora Tatan. Maping, now in his 80s and Dora, 74, used to collaborate with him in the tourism trade.

Maping drove one of his two longboats to bring tourists around Ulu Baram, while Lee’s Penan worker called Beran operated the other longboat. Each boat carried about 10 tourists and their luggages.

Dora was involved in the business of supplying longhouses, and had helped in organising visits to different longhouses along the river, as well as coordinating events like eating, dancing and performances.

The elderly couple now stays in Miri, and are still active in the trade of supplying longhouses in Ulu Baram.

Lee got his start in the tourism business after working as a contractor for a UN agency that did forest research for six months back in 1972, and earned the respect of a Swiss colleague who recommended him as potential business partner in tourism.

“The foreigners really enjoyed staying in longhouses overnight, jungle trekking, visiting birds’ nest caves in Long Lama, visiting Penan settlements in the forests, beside Sg Akah like in Bua Abang,” he explained.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shelter Home's Mount Kinabalu Charity Climb 2012


We bring greetings to you from Shelter Home for Children. We are going to have a charity climb to Mount Kinabalu on the 25th - 28th of April and we are embarking on the prospects of seeking the help of your organization to sponsor a portion of the cost for our event. Our aim is to raise RM100,000 to provide Education for our Children.

We aim to increase the Standard of Education among the abused and abandoned children of Shelter Home. Knowing where they come from, it takes a greater effort than normal to reach out and educate these children. We are seeking your help and the help of your corporation to join along with us in this crusade of helping out with these poor and neglected children.

So join us as we scale the heights of South East Asia's highest mountain!

COME JOIN US! HELP US TO NURTURE AND TRAIN

FROM,

Edwin Jalleh (jallehshelter@gmail.com)
shelterhome.org

We SHELTER Our Future Generation
Find out more on: [ Sponsor a child programme | Children's homes ]
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Sabah tourism players need to be outward looking

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah tourism industry players need to be outward looking in order to better capture the tourism market, said former State Minister of Tourism and Environmental Development, Datuk Seri Panglima Tham Nyip Shen.

He cited for example, tour operators in Sabah who do not understand the holiday seasons in mainland China well.

“For instance, the Harvest Festival is on May 31 and that’s not the right season for the Chinese holiday goers. For instance their national day is on the first 10 days of October, and there’s not much activities in Sabah. Hence, from an industry viewpoint we ought to adjust ourselves to make ourselves more outward-looking in drawing them to visit Sabah.

“We fixed our calendar based on what we think is right. However, If we do not take into consideration what they want, and we mismatch the holiday seasons, we are going to mismatch the whole industry.

“We need to make our tourism industry more friendly in order to make our tourists feel more welcome,” he explained.

Tham was speaking in his capacity as CEO of eBorneo.biz Sdn Bhd at the news conference organised by his company and its joint-venture partner, Shanghai Triunfo Metro Investment Management Company (Shanghai Triunfo), to highlight their ongoing undertakings to promote Sabah tourism in China via the Beach Honey pageant.

He went on to stress that much has to be done in order to better capture the emerging Chinese tourism market. He cited for example the very little info on Sabah tourism available in the Chinese language on the Internet.

“If one starts searching on the Internet on Sabah (tourism), very little info is currently available in Chinese and more miserable from the Chinese people’s point of view. Most of the materials published in the international media are about Mt Kinabalu and some about Sabah’s wildlife, but very little is available in the Chinese media,” he said.

Tham who is a former deputy chief minister acknowledged that the joint-venture between eBorneo.biz and Shanghai Triunfo was driven by the fact that traditional markets for Sabah tourism like Europe, United States of America, Australia etc were now declining, whilst China is now an emerging economy with strong purchasing power.

The official statistics from the Chinese authority reveal that the number of outbound tourists from China in 2011 was 300 million. And it is projected that by 2015, about 27 million Chinese people are expected to visit South East Asia.

“But we are not sure how many will be visiting Sabah. Hence, it is this huge potential that we would like to translate into reality with the hope that the Sabah tourism industry will be ready to take up some of these tourists.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah tourism players need to be outward looking
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Promoting World War II relics as Sarawak’s tourism product in the offing

KUCHING: Efforts to promote World War II relics as one of the state’s tourism products might go through soon as budget proposals for the move can be expected next year.

Assistant Minister for Culture and Heritage Liwan Lagang yesterday said besides promoting books on war history, the ministry would set aside a budget for preserving and locating wartime relics all over the state next year.

“In terms of allocation we’ll try to put it in our budget next year during which we can do something to preserve all the relics and set up some tourist amenities there so they can experience what it was like during wartime,” he said at the launching of ‘Bario Commandos Heritage Exhibition’ at Sarawak Art Museum. The exhibition ends on May 25.

Liwan said among the noted wartime relics are airplane wreckages at Lawas and Kalaka and underground tunnels.

“I believe there are actually many more out there based on reports from timber camps that they saw remains of Second World War deep in the jungle.

“To preserve and locate these relics can be quite a bit of work because going deep into these jungles can be complicated logistically,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Museum Department director Ipoi Datan in his speech said the exhibition focuses on the end of World War II in the north of Sarawak.

Continue reading at: Promoting World War II relics as Sarawak’s tourism product in the offing
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Rare primates spotted with their infants in Sabah jungles

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife researchers have made a pleasant discovery in the jungles along Sungai Kinabatangan in Sabah’s east coast.

A tarsier and a slow loris which were caught before being released in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, have become mothers.

Researchers from the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) feel the development will enable them to learn more about some of the smallest and shiest primates there.

DGFC director Benoit Goosens said the discovery would provide researchers with opportunities to study the maternal patterns of these animals.

“Little is known about the nocturnal primates in Borneo and this project will provide valuable information about their behaviour and ecology in degraded forests,” he said here yesterday.

The capture of the tarsier and slow loris, which were fitted with radio collars, was part of the Kinabatangan Nocturnal Primate Programme that began in March 2010.

Cardiff University student Alice Miles, who was leading the programme at DGFC, said the tarsier collared on March 8 was found to be pregnant.

“While tracking her the following week, she was observed with a tiny offspring. The baby was thought to be no more than a few days old,” said Miles, adding that by following their development and behaviour, researchers could document maternal care in the species.

On March 16, DGFC researchers caught a slow loris – nicknamed Boss – and fitted it with a radio collar before releasing the primate.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Rare primates spotted with their infants in Sabah jungles
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Happy arrivals in jungles of Kinabatangan sanctuary

KINABATANGAN: The Kinabatangan Nocturnal Primate Programme that started at Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) in March 2010 witnessed a couple of happy arrivals in the jungle of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

“An adult female tarsier that was collared on the 8th of March 2012 turned out to be an expecting mother,” explained Alice Miles, a Cardiff University student leading the programme at DGFC.

“Whilst tracking her the following week, she was observed with a tiny offspring. The baby was thought to be no more than a few days old,” added Alice.

“It will be extremely interesting to follow the behaviour of the mother and her offspring, and document maternal care in the species. This is very exciting,” concluded Alice.

“On 16 March 2012, a slow loris was caught and named ‘Boss’. We fit her with a radio-collar and released her where she was found,” said Saroto Bin Payar, a research field assistant at DGFC, working on the nocturnal primate programme with Alice.

“While finding her sleeping site on the 21st of March, we were surprised to see her resting with an infant amongst vines. The infant was possibly a few months old,” explained Saroto.

“We believe that she hid her offspring while she went on a hunt for insects. She was very nervous during the collaring, we then understood why … she was worried about her infant left behind.

“We released her at the same spot where she was caught, and a few days later we saw her with her infant,” concluded Saroto.

Continue reading at: Happy arrivals in jungles of Kinabatangan sanctuary
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Save Sabah forest with just RM15

KOTA KINABALU: The public can now do their part in conserving a key Sabah rainforest by contributing as little as RM15.

The money will go towards rehabilitating some 50sq m area within the 34,000ha Malua forest reserve that is critical for the long-term survival of orang utan, pygmy elephants, sun bears and other threatened wildlife species.

Alternatively, they can contribute RM300 to conserve some 1,000sq m of the forest reserve which borders the pristine Danum Valley in Sabah’s east coast.

The contribution can be paid within minutes using the website www.protectmalua.com developed by Malua BioBank, a Sabah-based project for the restoration and protection of critical wildlife habitat and forest ecosystems.

The contribution can also be sent as a gift for birthdays and other special occasions via personalised online certificates featuring animals such as orang utan, sun bears, pygmy elephants, clouded leopards, rhinos and hornbills.

Malua BioBank manager Merril Halley said the Protect Malua site made it easy for everyone to contribute towards rainforest conservation.

“This has to be one of most cost-effective and enduring ways for individuals to contribute to the restoration and protection of prime rainforest,” said Halley.

Contributions will be used to restore the degraded forest which was logged before a ban was imposed in 2008 by the state government.

The funds will be used for forest restoration activities over the next five years, 20% of which will be channelled into the Malua Trust, an endowment that will fund its protection in perpetuity.

Besides providing food for wildlife, restoring the forest will help lock up a massive additional 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 50 years.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Save Sabah forest with just RM15
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Sabah rural villages urged to join homestay programmme

KOTA KINABALU: Villages with potential have been urged to join the homestay programme to help people in rural areas earn additional income.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the ministry was working with Malaysian Tourism Ministry, Homestay Association, public and private agencies to further promote the programme.

“Information on this programme is forwarded to all district offices for dissemination to the public,” he said when replying to Abdul Muis Picho (BN-Sebatik) in the state assembly here yesterday.

So far, 17 homestay projects have been established in Sabah involving 25 villages with 230 participants providing 438 rooms to accommodate tourists.

Masidi said following complaints, the ministry conducted checks and found that 28 premises had abused the homestay label.

Continue reading at: Sabah rural villages urged to join homestay programmme
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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sabah tourism association urged to be creative

KOTA KINABALU: The Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Environment has urged the Sabah Association of Tour & Travel Agents (Satta) to be more creative in repackaging their tourism products.

“Sabahans are creative people and we should look into packaging our products in the tourism industry from another perspective and make use of whatever alternatives we have to continue attracting tourists to Sabah,” he said.

Its minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said this in his address during the Satta “Get Together” Night 2012 held at Promenade Hotel here Friday night.

He said what we had lost in one area of the tourism industry, we should try to make up in another area and this is where our concerted efforts as a team can make the difference at this trying time.

“We should all consider ourselves as players in one field. The ministry, Satta, Matta and the other tourism players should work together to create results in minimising the effects of the suspension of the direct routes to Sabah on the regional network by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) starting early this year,” the minister stated.

He said the government is grateful to Satta who had worked very hard to promote the tourism industry in the State.

“We acknowledged and appreciated the role played by Satta who had continuously brought in tourists from other regions to Sabah via other means despite the hard times we are going through,” he added.

Touching on the cancellation of the direct routes from Sabah to South Korea and Japan by MAS, Masidi said the national airlines had incurred big losses last year.

Continue reading at: Sabah tourism association urged to be creative
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Brunei's majestic mangrove forests

By HAL

Mangrove forests cover 3.2 per cent or about 184.48 square kilometres of the land area of Brunei Darussalam.

Eighty-four per cent of mangrove forests in Brunei Darussalam are found in the coastal inland areas of Brunei-Muara District along the Brunei Bay in Kg Batu Marang and along the Damuan River. In Tutong District, mangroves can be found at the Tutong River estuary while in Belait District, it is located on the western banks of the Belait River.

The plants in the mangrove forest come from several main families namely Rhizophora, Avicennia, Sonneratia and Bruguiera. The ecosystem of the mangrove forest is very productive and provides a diverse habitat for birds, mammals, reptiles, fishes, shellfish, crabs and insects.

The mangrove tree is the star in the mangrove forest ecosystem. The tree produces nutrients for itself using photosynthesis. As the plant grows, its fruits,

flowers, leaves and branches provide food and nutrients to the animals and other plants that inhabit the ecosystem.

Herbivores such as worms and insects feed on the leaves which in turn feed the birds and small reptiles. Fallen tree matter is digested by bacteria and fungi in the ground and enriches the soil. Monkeys especially proboscis monkeys also thrive in the area.

According to a study carried out in Queensland, Australia, mangroves produce one kilogramme of plant waste for every square metre per year and one teaspoon of mangrove forest mud contains 10,000 billion bacteria. The study noted that mangrove forests are essential in maintaining a stable and healthy ecosystem in the coastal areas.

Mangrove forests provide breeding grounds for fishes and shellfish including shrimps and crabs. This resource can be used to develop Brunei's budding fishery industry. Mangrove forests also act as natural barriers against coastal erosion. Mangrove forests are far better than any man-made structure in preventing coastal erosion. Besides that, mangrove forests produce oxygen which is important in keeping carbon dioxide levels balanced in the atmosphere.

Acknowledging these facts about mangrove forests- its economic and environmental significance, the public in the country is urged to preserve Brunei's precious mangrove forests.

The Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam through the Forestry Department under the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources is actively promoting awareness on the environment especially about forest preservation.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend
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Sarawak biggest contributor to ‘Heart of Borneo’

MIRI: As far as the ‘Heart of Borneo’, a collective green lung initiative, is concerned, Sarawak is its largest contributor in terms of the conservation of flora and fauna when compared to Sabah, Brunei and Indonesia.

The state has come a long way in forest management practices, beginning with the establishment of the State Forest Department in 1919.

Among others, the state government is eyeing one million hectares of totally protected areas (TPA) for national parks, wildlife sanctuaries
and others.

Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said presently 80 per cent of the state, which spans 12.4 million hectares in total land mass, was still under forest cover.

He took foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to task for criticising the state’s forest policies without looking at the real picture on the ground.

He said allegations of Orang Utan destruction to make way for oil palm plantations were baseless.

“If one takes a London-Paris train, you can only see small islands of forest. Throughout the journey probably only about 10 per cent of the area are under forest cover,” he said here yesterday at a ceremony to present appointment letters to new Honorary WildLife Rangers.

Awang Tengah said Orang Utan habitats could only be found in Semengok, Sebayau-Meludam, and Lanjak Entimau, and not throughout the state as wrongly painted by these NGOs.

He added that the state’s government had a clear policy and direction in forest management, and its aims were for nearly half of the state’s land mass (six million hectares) to be under permanent forest estate (PFE) and one million hectares under TPA by 2020.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak biggest contributor to ‘Heart of Borneo’
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Dugongs at Mantanani Island - A lady you rarely see

SANCTUARY: Locals want Mermaid islands be turned into marine park to protect the dwindling dugong population

KOTA BELUD: MANY visitors willingly take a 50-minute boat ride to Mantanani Islands near here with the hope of catching a glimpse of the famous "lady of the sea".

The best time to see a dugong is between October and February, but with the population slowly on the brink of extinction, such sightings are becoming rare.

These endangered dugongs, dubbed "seacows", are semi-nomadic, travelling long distances in search of food and occasionally found grazing on sea grass near here, 80km north of Kota Kinabalu, at a cluster of islands also known as Mermaid islands.

Mantanani Paradise human resources manager Zamzani P. Amin said the last dugong sighting was last year when a juvenile was spotted feeding on the seabed located north side of the island near Mantanani Kecil. However, no proper recording was done.

"Mantanani is blessed with them, but not any more.

"The dugongs were hunted for their meat and oil, and the fish bombing frightened them away."

Mantanani Paradise, established in 2004, is the second operator to operate in the island that currently boasts more than 13 dive sites.

He said many divers especially from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and the United Kingdom would come during the diving seasons with the hope of an encounter with the unique marine mammal.

A recent issue of AsianDiver magazine carrying a picture of a diver patting a dugong in Mantanani helped fuel their interest.

"We will tell visitors to pray for a sighting, as the waters around Borneo are known to support a small population especially here.

"But with the dwindling population, we tell them that they would have to be extremely lucky.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Dugongs at Mantanani Island - A lady you rarely see
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sarawak tops in homestays and urged to utilise new media for promotion

KUCHING: Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg has advised homestay operators in the state to fully utilise the new media such as blogs and YouTube to promote their homestay to the world.

“Besides utilising the new ways to market your homestay, you must also ensure that you provide quality service and high standard accommodations,” he said this during his speech when launching Sarawak Homestay Entrepreneurship Workshop at Dewan Pustaka Negeri Sarawak here yesterday.

Abang Johari said homestay operators must also equip themselves with the knowledge of local history and culture to attract tourists’ interests.

He stated that the homestay industry had developed rapidly because of the good response.

“In Sarawak, the number of tourists staying in homestay registered with Ministry of Tourism Malaysia had increased last year from 9,384 in 2010 to 12,618.

“The increasing tourists staying in homestay also generated increased revenue from RM780,000 in 2010 to RM978,000 to the homestay operators last year,” he noted.

He anticipated that there would be an increase in the number of tourists visiting the state, saying this was “because we still have the natural lifestyle and natural environment that other places do not have.”

In an effort to ensure that the homestay operators provide quality service, Abang Johari encouraged the operators to register with the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia.

He said that currently there were 27 homestay operators who had registered with the ministry.

“I was made to understand that the 27 homestays were operated by operators of all races so the tourists can experience different cultures during their stay in Sarawak,” he added.

Abang Johari said in order to obtain an update of the number of homestays available in the state, his ministry, together with Ministry of Tourism Malaysia would conduct a survey with the help from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).

Continue reading at: Sarawak tops in homestays and urged to utilise new media for promotion
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

After its final Rajang tour, RV Orient Pandaw will be deported to Myanmar

SIBU: The RV Orient Pandaw is sailing up the Rajang River for the last time.

The 827-tonne, 30-cabin river cruise ship departed from here yesterday evening to Kapit for its last nine-day, eight-night “Into The Heart of Borneo” cruise.

After this, the steamship would be sent to Myanmar where it would be chartered by an Australian tour company for the next three years to cruise along the Mekong River.

Owned by the Strachan family (Paul and Roser), the cruise was set up in 1998 after Paul revived the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (IFC) when he leased and restored an original Clyde-built steamer called the “Pandaw” in Myanmar.

The cruise operation was later expanded to the Mekong River in 2003, and to the Rajang River in 2009.

Since its inaugural voyage on July 1, 2009, more than 2,000 tourists had joined the popular “Into The Heart Of Borneo” cruise throughout its two-and-a-half year operation.

IFC through its Pandaw newsletter in November last year, however, had announced that it would discontinue the cruise on the 640km Rajang River in April this year, citing logistical and operational difficulties that made the project commercially unsuccessful.

Sources familiar with the cruise earlier said costs to operate RV Orient Pandaw were 60-70% higher than those in Myanmar, Vietnam or Cambodia.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: After its final Rajang tour, RV Orient Pandaw will be deported to Myanmar
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SEAIR will fly from Clark to Kota Kinabalu

SEAIR recently announced that it will fly from Clark to Kota Kinabalu starting May 1, 2012. Clark to Kota Kinabalu flights will be at 15:05 – 17:05 and Kota Kinabalu – Clark at 17:35 – 19:35 every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

SEAIR is offering a special one-way fare of as low as Php 999 to Kota Kinabalu until March 21, 2012, for travel on May 1, 2012 to Feb 28, 2013. Passengers can log on to www.FlySeair.com and www.tigerairways.com to book seats.

Kota Kinabalu is the capital city of Sabah, Malaysia. Top places of interest include Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park which is composed of five islands and only 10-20 minutes away via speedboat from the city and popular among tourists and locals alike for snorkelling, diving, and relaxation.

Kota Kinabalu is a popular jump-off point to Borneo Island and Sabah, renowned for its lush forests and coral reefs. Travelers can opt for day trips to Likas Bird Sanctuary and The Green Connection, an aquarium focused on conservation of endangered species.

The city is also home to Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in South East Asia.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: SEAIR will fly from Clark to Kota Kinabalu
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ronan Keating to promote coral reef restoration at Gaya Island

PULAU GAYA: The Bunga Raya Island Resort spa will fly into the State the world-renowned Irish artiste, Ronan Keating, as part of their effort to promote the Marine Ecology Research Centre’s (MERC) work in coral reef restoration and giant clam propagation.

“Keating has agreed to perform and is excited to become part of it and has expressed eagerness to promote the cause,” said Bunga Raya Island Resort Spa’s owner, Gillian Tan, who pins the hope that the message to save the sea through coral reef restoration and giant clam propagation will spread throughout the world following Keating’s involvement in the effort.

Keating will give a dine-and-song performance at the resort on April 21, which is exclusive for in-house guests between 7.30pm and 11pm.

Tickets for the event is priced at RM1,000 per person.

He will appear the next day as a guest performer at the resort’s Marine Day Beach party which will take place between 9am and 5pm.

Tickets for this event are sold at RM200 each and are available at the Gayana Eco Resort’s office at Jesselton Point.

Patrons of the beach party will be provided with lunch, lucky draw prizes, a beach kit, music performances by local artistes and Keating, and Zumba with local fitness coach, Michelle Koh.

Continue reading at: Ronan Keating to promote coral reef restoration at Gaya Island
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The Marine Ecology Research Centre to release 500 giant clam juveniles to the sea

PULAU GAYA: The Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) will release its first batch of 500 giant clam juveniles back to the sea soon.

MERC’s project director, Alvin Wong, said during a press conference held at the Gayana Eco Resort yesterday that after three long years, they have finally come to the stage when they can release the juvenile clams, each measuring about three inches in length back to the wild.

“It took us three years to get the clams to the three-inch size they are now at and hope they will be able to thrive in the wild,” he said.

The monitoring of the clams after their release will be continued to assess how well they thrive.

“If it doesn’t work, we will have to go back to the drawing block.”

Wong disclosed that it is not easy task to propagate all the seven species of clams used to be found in the waters off the coast.

“It is a journey never done before and we don’t know if we would be able to achieve our objectives, but today, we would like to celebrate the success of the first phase of our struggle,” he said.

The first phase of the propagation programme involved producing giant clam ‘babies’ through spawning and tending them until they reached the stage when they can survive in an ocean nursery.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Marine Ecology Research Centre to release 500 giant clam juveniles to the sea
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World Harvest Festival is back at Sarawak Cultural Village

KUCHING: The World Harvest Festival 2012 (WHF 2012) is back this year from May 26-27 at the Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV).

The festival, held in conjunction with Gawai, is an ethnic festival that is one of the highlights of the Gawai Dayak celebrations.

Now in its 8th year, WHF is not only synonymous with the festivities of the Dayaks, but has come to encompass other ethnic groups in Sarawak as well as the tourists, to help reflect the true Malaysian spirit of the people.

The WHF was established in line with Ministry of Tourism Sarawak (MOT) objective to position an international event on its tourism calendar.

The WHF provides the opportunity for the non-Dayaks to understand the cultures, traditions and aspirations of the Dayak community, all within the event.

The amount of the awareness and interest created by this festival brings benefit both the public sector and the tourism industry.

Among the many highlights of the WHF cultural event is the theme play held on May 26.

Last year, it was based on the Bidayuh legend ‘Selanting Kuning & The Dragon King’ and this year it will be on the Iban legend called ‘The Adventures of Keling & Kumang’.

What is unique about this theme play is that the whole village becomes the stage, and the entire play promises to overwhelm the guests in audio and visual splendour.

Another highlight of the festival is the ethnic beauty pageant ‘Miss World Harvest Festival 2012’.

The theme of this beauty pageant revolves around the Iban community.

This year fifteen beauties will vie for the coveted title.

This ethnic beauty pageant has never failed to add colour and vibrancy to the festival.

Last year’s winner of the ethnic beauty pageant was Suljirina Lucas, a 27 year-old Berawan lass.

As always the Harvest Festival or Gawai is celebrated on a grander scale with the participation of cultural troupes from other countries.

Continue reading at: World Harvest Festival is back at Sarawak Cultural Village
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Talang Satang National Park a sanctuary for endangered turtles

SEMATAN: The turtle adoption and conservation programme carried out by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) at the Talang Satang National Park was to conserve the population of the Green Turtle species (Chelonia mydas).

National Park caretaker Tonny Ganyer said the three turtle islands where the turtle conservation was being carried out – Pulau Talang Besar, Pulau Talang Kecil and Pulau Satang Besar – provide a perfect sanctuary for turtles to come ashore and lay eggs.

“The Green Turtles are fast becoming an endangered species due to predators in the sea and sea gulls as well as the danger posed by human, like fishing and beach activities,” he said after a briefing on turtle conservation and research in Pulau Talang Besar here.

He said last year about 3,000 turtles had landed on the shores of the three islands to lay about 200,000 eggs, between the months of March to September.

A major reason why marine turtles throughout the world are in danger is the continuing loss of nesting habitat and it is believed that marine turtles have an extremely high affinity for their nesting beaches, and therefore the loss or reduction of even a single nesting beach can have serious effects.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Talang Satang National Park a sanctuary for endangered turtles
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Upcoming Borneo Jazz audience to be treated to performance by Tangora

KUCHING: The audience at the upcoming Borneo Jazz 2012 in Miri will get to see the sensational Tangora perform.

Singer, songwriter Tangora mixes a heady cocktail of influences.

She comes from a French — Italian background and is heavily immersed in the sounds of the Caribbean and afro-Latin jazz.

Her songs in Creole, English, Latin and French, are delivered in her sultry and sensual voice. And she is backed by an enviable Who’s Who rhythm section of Eric Vincenot, Tony Rabeson and Jonathan Jurion.

Tangora has made music her banner, her way of life. Her lyrics are odes to love, hymns to interbreeding, celebrations of life, delicate and sensual ballads, poignant messages in a mosaic of colours that carry the soul of intermingling.

“She juggles with notes as well as with words … emotion, mellowness, intensity, she shares with her accomplices and brilliant musicians who form the main part of her group.

“Borneo Jazz 2012 main shows take place in Miri from May 11 to 12. Be sure not to miss Tangora from the land of romance and seven other international bands performing near home,” a spokesman for the festival said in a press release.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Upcoming Borneo Jazz audience to be treated to performance by Tangora
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Sutera Harbour Resort to observe Earth Hour for third time in a row

KOTA KINABALU: For the past two consecutive years, Sutera Harbour Resort had joined the rest of the world in observing Earth Hour which is held on the last Saturday of March every year.

This year Sutera Harbour Resort is most honoured and delighted to partner with Kota Kinabalu City Hall, Sabah Environmental Action Centre and World Wildlife Fund to launch Earth Hour, the world largest campaign for the planet on Saturday, March 31 at 8.30pm in the covered tennis court at the Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf and Country Club.

Together with 135 countries and territories across every continent, Sutera Harbour Resort has pledged to support this environmental sustainable action by switching off non-essential lights around The Magellan Sutera Resort, The Pacific Sutera Hotel and Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club as well as in the other properties of Sutera Sanctuary Lodges.

According to the Magellan Sutera Resort general manager and representative for Sutera Harbour Resort, Ravindran Kathiravelu, the highlight of this year launch for the Earth Hour will be focused on the global theme uniting People To Protect The Planet?

In keeping with the theme, 480 candles will be lighted up on the huge Earth Hour logo (60+) which will be put up at the venue, he said at a press conference yesterday.

Ravi said that the programme would start off at 6pm and Sutera Harbour Resort had organized several activities leading to the launch of Earth Hour.

Some of the activities include a Food & Games Fun Fair, Most Creative Costume Contest for children from five to 12 years old and Earth Hour Photography Competition. The Most Creative Contest will be judged on originality based on the theme Uniting People to Protect The Planet, he disclosed.

Participants who join the Earth Hour Photography competition must capture images during the lights off between 8.30pm and 9.30pm at the tennis court, he said, adding that all photos submitted to the resort will be uploaded in Sutera Harbour Resort Fan Page in Facebook and members of the public are invited to log in and vote for their favourite photo.

Continue reading at: Sutera Harbour Resort to observe Earth Hour for third time in a row
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Information centre a boon for Imbak Canyon Conservation

TONGOD: The Ulu Kinabatangan information centre and jetty serves as an important platform for the local community to take part in safeguarding the natural heritage of the Imbak Canyon Conservation Area, here.

The 30,000-hectare area, located right at the centre of Sabah, is a Class I Forest Reserve.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the two facilities took place at Kampung Imbak here and performed by Kinabatangan Member of Parliament Datuk Bung Moktar Radin and Kuamut assemblyman Mansiung Bannah.

Kampung Imbak is about a five-hour drive from Sandakan and located near the conservation area.

Sabah Foundation director Tan Sri Datu Khalil Datu Jamalul said the setting up of the two facilities was following a collaboration between the foundation and Petronas.

It aims to make the Imbak Canyon a learning centre for biodiversity conservation as well as a gene bank.

“The relevant issue from the collaboration includes providing training to the local community in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources,” he said in speech read by his deputy Datuk Johan Arrifin Abdul Samad.

Continue reading at: Information centre a boon for Imbak Canyon Conservation
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Young Hornbills missing from Lower Kinabatangan?

KINABATANGAN: World renowned hornbill expert from Thailand, Professor Dr Pilai Poonswad of Mahidol University and the Hornbill Research Foundation (HRF), has expressed her concern for the lack of information on the breeding cycles of hornbills in Sabah.

“I have visited Sabah before briefly for the Borneo Bird Festival last year but after visiting the Lower Kinabatangan to do a rapid assessment of hornbills, I am now concerned in particular with the lack of information on breeding cycles for the whole state and the lack of suitable nesting trees in this area in particular,” shared Poonswad.

Poonswad and her team of three researchers spent a week with local counterparts at field sites of the Lower Kinabatangan with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), HUTAN — Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

“The first thing that needs to be done is to establish when are the different species of hornbills breeding,” stated Poonswad who has spent the past 33 years studying and carrying out community based conservation of hornbills in Thailand.

During the teams’ rapid assessment in the Lower Kinabatangan, another issue that has caused concern for Poonswad and her researchers is the lack of suitable nesting trees.

“I understand that the Lower Kinabatangan is a forest that has previously been extensively logged and I can clearly see it is also now part of the oil palm landscape. This means that big trees which are usually preferred by hornbills are missing from this area,” explained Poonswad.

For example, in a similar site in Southern Thailand, Rhinoceros Hornbills (Buceros rhinoceros) on average makes its nest in trees that have a diameter of about 148 centimetres but in the Lower Kinabatangan, Poonswad estimated that trees that might be suitable were mostly between 40 to 60 centimetres in diameter.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Young Hornbills missing from Lower Kinabatangan?
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Miri still a shopping paradise for Bruneians

MIRI: The resort city of Miri is a shopper’s paradise, as far as Bruneians are concerned whose weekend begins on Thursday, despite recent figures showing a decline.

According to many Mirians, the favourite shopping malls frequented by the visitors are the Bintang Plaza and Boulevard Shopping Mall although they have now shifted their focus to E-mart shopping arcade and the new Permy Mall in Senadin which is much nearer to the Brunei/Sarawak border.

A manager from Hotel Resort, Walter Stanley, told The Borneo Post Adventure Team (BAT) that Bruneians are still the biggest weekend spenders as they visit Miri not only to do their weekly shopping but also to have a great time, especially during long school holidays.

“They also go for entertainments and other recreational activities available in the city. Definitely they take advantage of the good exchange rate of their currency which is very much in their favour to obtain whatever goods and services they need. This is good for the local economy and helps many business entities in the city,” he said.

“Their presence also drives some local food and beverage outlets to mark up their prices but Mirians have got used to this and they find alternative shopping areas where prices for goods and services are pretty much affordable,” he added.

Stanley described Miri as a nice city, with most of its multiracial residents and business people working very hard.

“Those who work in the private sector, especially in the oil and gas industry whether they are expatriates or locals have good income.

“The influx of people from Brunei plus the locals and expatriates who are also high income earners had also helped trigger the higher cost of living in the city. Prices of goods and services have also increased in relation with what these people are earning,” added Stanley.

On the other hand, a staff of an international brand, Maza Qayra, said compared to previous years fewer Bruneians now patronise their shop.

“We did our own market and sales survey and we recorded a 30 per cent drop in the number of Bruneian shoppers coming to buy our products especially during the weekend. We know they are from Brunei from the membership cards they show when buying the products,” she added.

Continue reading at: Miri still a shopping paradise for Bruneians
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tackling North Borneo on wheels

UNTIL last month, I wasn’t a fan of the pickup truck.

Given Kuching’s mix of winding colonial roads and single carriageways, this class of vehicle seemed too big and too menacing to be used within city limits – especially when you’re trying to outrun one in your much smaller car.

It took being rear-ended last month (for the third time), followed by an even timelier roadtrip through Sandakan, Sabah, in an Isuzu D-Max pickup, for me to re-examine that opinion.

Sponsored by Isuzu Malaysia Sdn Bhd, the Isuzu Dura-Mission 2012 convoy was made up of two ‘Monster’ trucks, an Isuzu Trooper and nine standard Isuzu D-Max — a combination of double-cab 4×4 manual and automatic vehicles with 2.5 and 3.0-litre diesel engines.

Our entourage comprised reporters and editors from East and West Malaysia and our mission was to travel from Sandakan to Tawau, Sabah, from February 14 to 18.

We were split in pairs so that we could take turns behind the stars of the show - the D-Max – making stops at the sanctuaries and reserves along Sabah’s eastern seaboard over the four days on the road.

Our journey started from Sandakan Hotel on February 14 with the traditional flag-off by recently appointed Isuzu Malaysia managing director and chief executive officer Kimitoshi Kurokawa and chief of operations, Daisuke Ishida. Our first destination was the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre nestled in the 4,300-hectare Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.

Road runs through it

The road from Sandakan town through Sabah’s eastern seaboard is flanked by undulating hills of oil palm plantations as far as the eye can see.

With at least 102 oil palm estates in Sandakan recorded in 1997, today, nature reserves and plantations live next to each other, making for an interesting balance between conservation and economic development.

For the casual observer, the dotted rows of oil palm were calming to the tired urban eye, made even more so by the smoothness of the D-Max.

Evelyn Heng, event manager and PR representative for Isuzu Malaysia Sdn Bhd, pointed out that one of the trucks in the convoy was used by our BAT Team in their first expedition across Malaysian Borneo last year

They logged 3,903km over 21 days and the vehicle has since traversed the Pan-Borneo Highway several times over — testament to the D-Max’s hardiness.

My co-driver, Syukran, who drives a Malaysian hatchback at home, steered our manual pickup with practised ease, probably honed by the last Dura-Mission expedition Isuzu made in 2009 through Ba Kelalan to Lawas where the drivers truly experimented with D-Max’s off-road capabilities which, coupled with its fuel efficiency, are a source of pride for Isuzu.

Last year, Isuzu challenged the fuel-efficiency of its 2.5-litre 4×4 pickup by driving it from Bangkok to Malacca on a single tank of diesel. At the end of the four-day journey, the D-Max reached Malacca, covering a distance of 1,600km and consuming a total of 73.7 litres — a few short of its 76-litre tank capacity.

By comparison, the four-day journey from sanctuary to sanctuary like Sukau and the Tabin Wildlife Reserve along smooth roads was a piece of cake for many in our entourage.

For reporters and editors like Syukran who had a taste of the off-road adventure in 2009, they were itching to hit a dirt track in the D-Max again — something that would happen two days later on our way to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

On our first day, we were headed to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, 23km from Sandakan town.

Once there, we were greeted by the sight of adolescent and childlike orang utans, rappelling lazily down ropes, webbed through the surrounding forest reserve, before crouching around their breakfast – a careful preparation of fruits and multi-vitamins.

As tourists snapped pictures from the observation deck, the ‘people of the jungle’ were joined by their more wily cousins, the pig-tailed macaques, which took every opportunity to reach out a long, hairy arm to grab a bunch of bananas when they thought nobody was looking. (No, nobody was fooled!)

Despite this light-hearted moment in the animal kingdom, the orang utans at the sanctuary are in reality orphans. Their stories may vary from being rescued from logging sites, plantations, illegal hunting or people who kept these gentle beasts as pets but their future at the sanctuary is the same — to be trained to survive in the wild.

Their eventual release is done through a three-step process. From the nursery, orphaned orang utans between the ages of 1-3 years learn basic jungle skills like climbing trees from the wildlife ranger before graduating to other phases that would see them becoming less dependent on the rehabilitation centre for food and emotional support until they achieve total independence.

Since the centre’s inception in 1964, more than 100 orang utans have been released back into the wild.

Our next wildlife stop to Proboscis Lodge Bukit Melapi in Sukau on day two saw us navigating the tributaries of the Kinabatangan River in search of the wildlife that live in the forest reserve surrounding the river.

True to its name — the Proboscis Lodge — proboscis monkeys there live in massive numbers in the surrounding forest reserve, and can actually swim. We discovered this on a river cruise down the Menanggul tributary in search of local wildlife when our careful inspection of a dozing monitor lizard was interrupted by a splash from behind.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Tackling North Borneo on wheels
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Gaya Island Resort to Open in Borneo July 2012

YTL Hotels remains true to its philosophy of crafting inspired experiences, is set to open its highly anticipated development, Gaya Island Resort in Borneo on the 1st July 2012.

This world class resort will be added to the stellar collection of luxury resorts across Asia and Europe, strengthening YTL Hotels' reputation as Malaysia's premier hospitality group.

Located just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu and set on the shores of Pulau Gaya, the largest island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Gaya Island Resort offers the perfect launching pad to discover Borneo and all that it has to offer; idyllic golden sand beaches, diving sites of spectacular underwater havens and untouched tropical rainforests, offering a home to many rare species, including the orangutan, the proboscis monkey and the pygmy elephant.

Gaya Island Resort will incorporate elements of Sabahan architecture and contemporary design complete with modern amenities and WiFi capabilities. It will comprise 121 spacious stand-alone hill and sea-front villas offering spectacular views of the majestic Mount Kinabalu.

The resort is easily accessible from Kota Kinabalu International Airport and is a short 30 minute combined car and speedboat ride from the airport.

There will be a vast array of activities to satisfy each adventure, nature and water enthusiast while experiencing Sabah's colourful culture.

Activities available include canoeing, paddle surfing and jogging while creative guests can immerse themselves in intriguing activities such as weaving and beading classes, Rungus Tribe Storytelling and Borneo Cooking Class.

Guests can also rejuvenate with a traditionally Borneo spa treatment, amidst the tranquillity of the ancient rainforest or meditate to the soothing sounds of the gentle lapping waves.

Enjoy land and marine explorations such as scuba diving adventures, PADI open water course, island hopping, chartered snorkelling excursions with the Marine Biologist or a jungle safari with the Resident Naturalist and Mount Kinabalu expeditions.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Gaya Island Resort to Open in Borneo July 2012
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KKIA to operate round-the-clock by May 1

KOTA KINABALU: The Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) will be operational round the clock by May 1 though work on the runway resurfacing is only expected to be completed by year end.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said the round-the-clock opening of the airport would allow more flights to land and take off, even during odd hours.

Since 2006, the airport has to close for six hours daily (from midnight) to enable the upgrading works to be carried out.

“Opening of the runway is important, and it would make many people happy such as the airlines, the state government and the tour operators.

“I received assurance from the contractors that they would work hard to meet the deadline,” Kong said after inspecting the progress of work at the airport yesterday.

Work on the taxiway, he said, would be completed by end of next month.

“But there are still other works to be done, including the extension of the runway by 792 metres to 3,780 metres.”

He also said the runway had to be raised to comply with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

“Apart from this, some aircraft approach lights need to be installed in the sea beyond the southern part of the runway.

When fully completed, the 3,780-metre runway would allow a fully laden Boeing 747 to land and take off.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: KKIA to operate round-the-clock by May 1
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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Domestic tourism on rise

KOTA KINABALU: A recent survey conducted by LivingSocial found that domestic tourism is on the rise with close to 60 per cent of Malaysians voting Sabah, Sarawak and Langkawi as the ideal local escape destinations in a recent survey.

More than 40 per cent of respondents chose Taiwan, Korea and Japan for Asian destinations while Europe received the highest vote followed by Australia for international destinations.

“Malaysia has a great deal to offer tourists, and we are delighted that the unique Malaysian travel experiences offered by LivingSocial are very popular among our subscribers,” LivingSocial Malaysia marketing director Irene Foo said in a statement yesterday.

The survey was conducted among 2,000 respondents across four Malaysian states.

She said the survey also revealed that a majority of people planned their travels at least six months ahead, and 98 per cent of the people who travel do it for leisure, 35 per cent search for family-oriented holidays, while 31 per cent look for romantic breakaways.

Continue reading at: Domestic tourism on rise
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Land secured as corridor for elephants, orang-utans in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: A 5.7-acre land, identified as one of the key ecological corridor for elephants and orang-utans in Lower Kinabatangan, has recently been secured by Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) with the financial support from Co-op Clean Co., Ltd of Japan.

Tan Sri Ibrahim Menudin, Chairman of BCT, expressed his appreciation to Hideyuki Oohira, the Managing Director of Co-op Clean Co., Ltd, for their support in securing the “link” to connect the fragmented forests, during the corporation’s visit to Sabah.

Ibrahim emphasised that this effort to purchase the forest land parcel is another positive step in achieving BCT’s vision to secure the ecological corridor for elephant and orangutan.

“This particular land parcel is important for the elephant migration from Lot 3 to Lot 4 of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary,” he said yesterday.

According to Oohira, the corporation consists of 250 key cooperatives supported by 20 million consumers in Japan. From the sale of each detergent product, the company pledged 1 yen to BCT-Japan as their contribution to the conservation project in Borneo.

He said Co-op Clean’s deep concern on the issue of sustainable management and conservation of the ecosystem has driven them to work towards achieving greater sales so that a bigger contribution can be made.

Continue reading at: Land secured as corridor for elephants, orang-utans in Sabah
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wild orangutans stressed by eco-tourists in North Borneo, but not chronic

Wild orangutans that have come into contact with eco-tourists over a period of years show an immediate stress response but no signs of chronic stress, unlike other species in which permanent alterations in stress responses have been documented, new research from an Indiana University anthropologist has found.

IU anthropologist Michael P. Muehlenbein can't say yet what makes the wild orangutans of Borneo deal with stress differently than other species in other locations, but an analysis of orangutan stress hormone levels recorded before, during and after the apes interacted in the wild with eco-tourists found evidence of acute elevation of the stress hormone cortisol the day of an interaction, with levels then returning to baseline afterward.

By analyzing fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGM) levels of orangutans in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, Malaysia, the team led by Muehlenbein was looking to, among other things, gather evidence about levels of disturbance on wildlife exposed to eco-tourism, a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry that is growing annually.

Red Ape Encounters, a community-owned and -operated eco-tourism program in Sabah that assisted with the research, facilitates the only trekking program for wild orangutans in the world.

"Revenue can enhance economic opportunities for the locales involved, and it can support environmental education, protect natural and cultural heritage, and be used to conserve biodiversity," Muehlenbein said. "But rapid, unmonitored development of nature-based tourism can also lead to habitat degradation and negative impacts on the very species we wish to protect.

Given the increasing demand of tourists to encounter wild orangutans, it is critical to evaluate any potential physiological effects this and future programs may have on this charismatic and endangered species."

Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio) are considered an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which produces the Red List of Threatened Species.

Eco-tourism guidelines used by Red Ape Encounters include limiting visitation groups to seven people for no more than one hour; excluding sick tourists; maintaining a 10-meter minimum distance; and requiring appropriate behavior.

The company hosts about 250 tourists per year, with most of the visitor activity centered on the two wild habituated orangutans used in the study: Jenny, an adult approximately 32 years old, and her 11-year-old son Etin.

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Hidden Gems: Kuching

Still waters run deep as a visit to languid Kuching proves

While there are various explanations as to how Kuching got its name - whether it's named after the fruit tree Buah Mata Kuching or a cat - one thing that's clear about the capital of Sarawak is its unmistakable leisurely backwater feel. And that's what makes the city so appealing - an oasis of calm against the lush backdrop of the Borneo forest.

1. Sarawak Orchid Garden

Unknown to many travellers, there's an orchid garden in Kuching City North. Opened just two years ago, the 15-acre garden located next to the Governor's Astana building may not be huge, but it's a pretty compact sanctuary to take in some fresh air and admire the different exquisite Borneo orchid species, especially Sarawak's state flower, the green and purple Orchid Normah. Even better is the fact that the garden is free to the public.

2. Serikin Market

For shopping with a difference, take a trip out to Serikin Market. The small town is near the border between Malaysia and Indonesia. As such, you'll find many vendors hawking Indonesian goods at this weekend market. Colourful silk batik, rattan furniture, handmade homeware, knick-knacks, curios and antiques ... there's plenty for the picking.

3. Sin Min Joo

Now this dingy hole in the wall coffeeshop (at the corner of Carpenter Street and Jalan Bishopgate) may not seem promising, but wait till you see the crowds. This is where you have to be prepared to wait, swelter and jostle with the locals for kolo mee that's reputed to be the best in Kuching. The noodles come with a lip-smackingly satisfying bowl of mixed pork soup. Some say it's divine, others claim it's not worth the long wait ... you be the judge.

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A cappella group to feature at Borneo Jazz

KUCHING: Borneo Jazz 2012, which will be held from May 11-12 in Miri, will for the first time feature an a cappella group.

One of Germany’s best and most charming vocal ensembles, Slixs, formerly known as Stouxingers, comprise six vocal virtuosos who effortlessly imitate a whole band.

“They create a variety of sounds and noises that eclipse almost every assemblage of instruments. Their self-created or chosen pieces of music are a true homage to the love of life.

“A luscious and homogeneous sound, brilliant solistic presentations, amusing moderations and artful compositions make the Slixs concerts an a cappella experience that offers unequalled opportunities,” said the Sarawak Tourism Board in a press statement yesterday.

They won the Cara-Award Best Jazz Song in 2008 and the Ward-Swingle-Award in 2006.

The sound of Slixs – from a whisper, click of the tongue, noisy breath, twitter, didgeridoo-like voice – is not to be forgotten.

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Limbang, the Buffalo town - spruced up to attract visitors

LIMBANG: Limbang District Council is spending nearly RM1 million to spruce up the town and its parks.

It is part of a five-year plan to provide the district with infrastructure and facilities to welcome visitors and for the recreation of locals.

Council chairman Sufian Mohat said these projects include a landscape upgrade at Golden Jubilee Square costing RM0.8 million and RM100,000 for lights at Jalan Bulatan Buangsiul up to SK Melayu Pusat.

“The lights give a magical touch to the town square,” he commented.

The council has more such projects in the pipeline including the sprucing up of recreational facilities.

Sufian is optimistic that an attractive landscape could change negative perceptions of this district bordering Brunei.

The council will also adopt a comprehensive approach to turn Limbang town into a popular place of call for visitors from Brunei, Sabah and other parts of Sarawak.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Danum, Maliau, Imbak can be World Heritage Sites

KOTA KINABALU: Yayasan Sabah’s head of conservation and environment division, Dr Waidi Sinun, said Sabah has a strong chance of getting all its three conservation areas to attain recognition as World Heritage Sites.

The three areas concerned are the Danum Valley, the Maliau Basin and the Imbak Canyon conservation areas.

Dr Waidi who disclosed this during the one-day World Heritage Site nomination workshop held at a leading hotel here yesterday said, the three areas are special in that they are the only locations where all the animals that used to live in the State exist at the same time.

He cited that the animals found in the three areas include the pygmy elephants, the orang-utans, Sumatran rhinocerous, proboscis monkeys, all the various cats and hornbills in Sabah.

Dr Waidi who has been associated with the conservation areas for more than 20 years said despite having visited several protected areas in Malaysia and other countries, the experience was not similar to the situation at Danum Valley.

“You can be sitting at the veranda of the rest house at Danum and see a deer walking past, or hornbills flying over.

“And at Imbak and Maliau, you can see all the eight species of hornbills and you cannot experience this in other parts of the country. You can hardly see any bird,?he said.

The areas’ richness and diversity in wildlife is the main reason why the areas attract a lot of visitors, he said.

He added, the three areas are among the most pristine areas in Sabah and grades them as better than Taman Negara Mulu and most of the protected areas in Peninsular Malaysia in terms of wildlife and wilderness.

Dr Waidi said that while he was not familiar with the World Heritage nomination, he opined that comparing them to other areas he has visited, the State government’s keeness of getting the three conservation areas recognised as World Heritage sites should be given a strong chance since there is no other area similar to them in the world or even within Borneo.

The Imbak Canyon is a 25 km long self-contained valley in central Sabah, surrounded on three sides by sandstone cliffs reaching a height of over 3,700 feet and it is the last remaining part of Sabah which has remained pristine and relatively unexplored.

This remaining contiguous area of unlogged lowland dipterocarp forest covers an area of about 30,000 hectares including the two Virgin Jungle Reserves located on the ridges surrounding it, making Imbak Canyon a priceless heritage.

The Maliau Basin, on the other hand, was originally part of a timber concession held by Yayasan Sabah and was designated a conservation area, for the purpose of research, education and training, along with the Danum Valley conservation area in 1981.

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