Monday, December 31, 2012

Linangkit Cultural Village to be enhanced to promote Lotud culture


TUARAN: The state government has allocated RM1.5 million to rebuild and enlarge the Linangkit Cultural Village (LCV) in recognition of the tourism role played by LCV.

The Village was founded several years ago to showcase Lotud culture and has since attracted thousands of local and foreign tourists alike.

Local Government and Housing Minister, Datuk Hajiji Mohd Noor announced the allocation yesterday during a year-end social gathering at LCV in Selupoh here yesterday.

The function, held partly in conjunction with Christmas and the New Year, was attended by the heads of villages where the Lotud people are found.

These village heads also accepted letters of appointment as KLOSA advisers in their respective villages. Also present were Tuaran district officer Madiyem Layapan and the Minister’s political secretary, Kassim Razali.

“The Lotuds are a unique sub-community of the Dusun people found only in the Tuaran district. Since its establishment, it has succeeded in not only attracting tourists by also in preserving the Lotud culture and language.

“In fact, the uniqueness of the Lotuds even attracted the interest of an Australian university who sent a team to LCV recently to study its culture, way of life, and even language.

“One of the reasons why they came here was that according to their Dean, the Lotud dialect would be among the languages of minority groups in the world that could vanish if nothing is done to preserve it.

“So, if even foreigners are so concerned about our culture and language, why can’t we be? Thus, I successfully persuaded the State Government to give this allocation of RM1.5 million to enlarge the LCV so that it can enhance its role in anticipation of more tourists and also in preserving the Lotud culture and dialect,” he added, to thunderous applause from the huge crowd.

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Sarawak to bank on culture, eco-tourism


KUCHING: The Ministry of Tourism will continue to highlight Sarawak’s unique culture and eco-tourism products during Visit Sarawak Year which will stretch from July 2013 till June 2014.

The Ministry will also be setting into motion several initiatives together with other major stakeholders to woo more quality tourists.

Among these initiatives are selling handicrafts at shopping centres in Kuching, said its minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

“Kuching now boasts several new shopping centres for tourists. This is to provide tourists a place to do their shopping. Handicrafts will also be made available at these shopping malls,” he said during a farewell dinner for outgoing Tourism Malaysia (Sarawak) director Johanif Ali on Saturday.

Touching on attractions in Kuching, he said among the infrastructure highlights would be the proposed pedestrian bridge across Sungai Sarawak which is expected to be completed by 2014.

“This will complete and complement the heritage trial within Kuching city centre.”

He added that several fringe events would also be held to complement the annual Rainforest World Music Festival in Santubong.

On improvements to national parks, Abang Johari said that information centres or kiosks would be built in national parks complete with technological gadgets to disseminate information.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Malaysia among world’s top 10 tourist destinations


MALAYSIA was one of the world's top 10 tourist destinations last year, making it the only South-East Asian country to make the list in the United Nations World Trade Organisation (UNWTO) Tourism Highlights 2012.

In 2009, the country recorded 23.6 million tourists arrival and in 2010, the number increased to 24.6 million.

Topping the list was France with 79 million tourist arrivals, followed by United States (62 million), China (58 million), Spain (57 million), Italy (46 million), Turkey (29.3 million), United Kingdom (29.2 million) and Germany (28.4 million).

Rounding up the top 10 was Mexico with 23.4 million tourists. The report also ranked Malaysia 14th in terms of international tourism receipts with US$18.3bil (RM56.3bil) last year, ahead of countries such as Singapore, Japan, the Netherlands, Korea and Canada. In 2009 and 2010, Malaysia recorded US$15.8bil (RM48.6bil) and US$18.2bil (RM55.9bil) respectively in tourism receipts.

In congratulating tourism players for doing a good job to promote the nation, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Mohd Khalid Harun said this was the result of hard work put in by many people.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Our Trip to Sarawak, Borneo


Woohoo – my daughter and her friend have had their article published in First News – the children’s newspaper all about their trip to Sarawak.

To be honest, their article surprised us a little – mostly because of their final summary of the event “it has been a life changing experience which we will never forget because Sarawak is where the adventure lives”. They wrote it together, by themselves and it was deeply moving to realise that of all the things we should remember to do in life – it’s to have experiences together with your children.

We all had a brilliant time together in Sarawak and it is a brilliant place to take children on an adventure holiday – especially teenagers who love the thought of trekking through the jungle – my daughter turned into the intrepid traveller – marching ahead through the rainforest jungle on the look out for all manner of exciting stuff.

Here is what they wrote, if anyone out there is looking for a different sort of adventure with their children then you should think about it:-

Sarawak, where adventure lives.

We have just come back from the most amazing adventure in Sarawak, which is in Malaysia, a part of the island of Borneo. Borneo is famous for it’s rainforest, which covers 427,500 square kilometers of the incredible island. This rainforest is 130 million years old, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. It is a home to many different species, such as Asian Elephants, Bornean Clouded Leopards and many, many more. When we were in Sarawak, we were lucky enough to go trekking through the jungle, where we came across monkeys, lizards, frogs, snakes and even a giant squirrel. We have never experienced anything so amazing as being in the rainforest, allowing us to view animals in their natural habitat was simply mind-blowing.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Our Trip to Sarawak, Borneo
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Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas treat for AirAsia Kota Kinabalu-Guangzhou fliers


KOTA KINABALU: AirAsia is offering another round of promotional all-in-fare for the Kota Kinabalu-Guangzhou route after tremendous sales when the route was first opened for booking on Nov 13.

After managing to attract 20,000 bookings, AirAsia is giving avid fliers a Christmas treat with prices starting from RM199 one way, said AirAsia in a statement yesterday.

The low-cost carrier had just flagged off its maiden flight from Kota Kinabalu to Guangzhou at 8pm on Christmas Day.

The booking period for the promotion is from now until Jan 2, with the travel period from Jan 4 to March 31.

This marks the 25th route to China by the AirAsia Group.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Need for Sumatran Rhinoceros to be in captivity


KOTA KINABALU: Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora) executive director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne yesterday re-iterated the need to bring all wild Sumatran Rhinoceros into captive, professionally managed facilities.

He said the move was to increase prospects of boosting birth rate above death rate.

“This has to be done now before the species goes extinct,” he stressed.

He also said the female Sumatran Rhinoceros, Puntung, that was captured in Tabin last year was found to have significant endometrial cyst growth.

Continue reading at: Need for Sumatran Rhinoceros to be in captivity
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gap year programme in Borneo – Mt. Kinabalu Climb and Jungle Trekking


This report brings you how Natalie and her team conquered Mt. Kinabalu, one of the highest mountain in southeast Asia, the highest peak in Borneo’s Crocker Range and the highest mountain in the Malay archipelago. Not only that, couple of days after descending from the mountain, they have successfully trekked for 5 days and 4 nights in the jungle and ended their programme at Camp Bongkud. I’ll let you read all about it here..

Dear friends and family,

I am thrilled to say that since my last update our group has made it through two major challenges! On Wednesday morning, we embarked on our ascent of Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in South East Asia. The first day was hard work, trudging up steep, uneven steps, one after the next,  loaded with a backpack of food and water for the day and warm, clean clothes for the rest of the journey. After 6 km walking we reached Laban Rata lodge where we were greeted with an optional icy cold shower and a bed to sleep in for the night. However, despite cocooning ourselves in numerous blankets, many of us found it difficult to get a quality night’s sleep due to the cold at altitude. In any case, we all relished filling our bellies that night with unlimited visits to a delicious buffet dinner!

The next morning our alarms sounded at the fine hour of 2 am for a 2:30 departure up the final 2.5 km of the mountain, aiming to see the sunrise from the summit. Up bare rockface, in the pitch black darkness, we went, with only a white hand rope and faithful head torch to guide us. The last 100 metres was the hardest, clambering up slippery wet boulders on our hands and knees, desperate to reach the top.

I think it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically, but wow it makes you feel alive!!

Unfortunately the weather at the summit wasn’t ideal so there was no view to be seen, and no one wanted to linger long in the finger-numbing cold and wind.  I broke open a celebratory chocolate bar, took a photo in front of the sign saying I had reached 4095.2 metres (this kind of thing requires photographic evidence) and mentally prepared myself for the long descent to the base.

I was so overjoyed to see the entrance gate that I had walked through less than two days before that I swear I nearly cried! I did it! Our first night at Camp Bongkud, our last camp in Borneo, was a blur of a well-deserved shower, a good meal and the warm embrace of a mattress.

For a couple of R & R days we hobbled around Camp Bongkud like little old ladies, taking small tours of the village and the school nearby as well as learning how to cook traditional steamed banana cake and bead bracelets. Our bums and thighs still sore, we received a briefing on our imminent second challenge: a 5 day trek in the Bornean jungle. The real deal this time : setting up our own hammocks each night beneath the forest canopy and cramming them into our backpacks the following morning; carrying our own food for the whole duration of the trek (a gourmet combination of instant noodles, cans of baked beans, biscuits, peanut butter, potatoes, canned tuna, oatmeal and oranges) which we had to ration ourselves.

Most of us simply balked at the thought of torturing our poor recovering bodies again with more intense physical activity! But we looked forward to the challenge of testing our personal limits once again, particularly in the realm of personal hygiene. Nothing but baby wipe showers for 5 days? Bring it on!

We set out the next morning, our packs swollen with food and supplies, both apprehensive and intrigued to see how we would survive the wilderness. After meandering away from the camp on a gravel road for a while, we came to a narrow bridge crossing our first river. One at a time we tip toed along the haphazard wire mesh patched up with wooden planks.  It was the threshold into the world of the jungle! After that a porter came to the front of our single file march. Around his waist was a sheathed machete (known as a ‘parang’ in Malay), which he swung back and forth to carve a path through the undergrowth. Suddenly some of the girls (and, admittedly, the boys) began to squeal, alerting us that the leeches had come out to play. It was then we knew the jungle had swallowed us up and we would have to wait through the next few days to see if it would spit us out again in one piece!

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Traveling To Borneo: What To See


Borneo is the third largest island in the world and it is located in southern Asia where more than seventy percent is in Indonesia, more than twenty five in Malaysia while the rest which is roughly one percent is a territory of Brunei.

The island is famous for its numerous tourist attraction sites which are enjoyed by both the local people and also people from other parts of the world. It’s an ideal get away place especially for people who would enjoy observing nature away from noisy cities.

People visiting the island are spoilt for choice amongst the place to visit; hence, here are some of the most famous places to visit in Borneo Island.

Diving in Sipadan

Borneo Island is endowed with some of the best diving sites in the world where scuba divers can enjoy themselves surrounded by nature. Amongst the famous diving spots in the island is Sipadan which is more than six hundred meters and has turtles amongst other marine creatures.

The spot is surrounded by a green forest where anemones grows thick thus facilitating the sun rays to display diverse colors as they pass through the forest hence creating a breathtaking site. Diving in Borneo is done by both experts and beginners who get assistance from the professional guides.

The safety of the divers is also guaranteed by the personnel who protects participant from any sea animal that might pose danger. Hence diving in Borneo is one of the activities that play a major role in attracting tourists to the island.

Mountain climbing

Borneo Island also provides mountain climbing opportunities in spots such as the Kinabalu Mountain which 4095 meters tall hence making it the tallest mountain in Indonesia and twentieth in the entire world.

The mountain is relatively easy to climb and while at the top one enjoys magnificent views around the island and an incredible sun set in the evenings. People climbing the mountains get assistance from the professional guides who are conversant with the region hence reducing chances of getting lost and also explaining the diverse features on the way.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Traveling To Borneo: What To See
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Monday, December 24, 2012

Borneo: Over the Wallace Line. Part I: Kubah National Park


In April, I took a trip to Malaysian Borneo with a mate of mine, George, with the simple aim of seeing as many animals over there as humanly possible.

We began our trip in Kuching and headed for Kubah National Park for a couple of nights' stay. We dumped our bags and walked straight out into the rainforest, filled with anticipation. Within metres of our accommodation we saw a couple of crimson-winged woodpeckers and a greater racquet-tailed drongo. I glimpsed a streak of grey-brown on a branch. It took me a few moments for my mind to come to terms with what I was seeing: a squirrel (it turned out to be a Low's squirrel). We were definitely not in Australia any more.

Here was a perfect illustration of the reason that George and I had chosen Borneo as our destination - Borneo is west of the Wallace line - an important biogeographical division that separates the fauna of Australia and the islands to its north from the Asian fauna and well, essentially the rest of the world. So while squirrels and woodpeckers are common elsewhere, Australia has no representatives from these groups. Back in Australia, the land of possums and quolls, to browse through the field guides of Borneo was like reading a fairy tale: animals such as civets, leopards, porcupines, monkeys and other primates, deer, otters, shrews, mongoose and of course squirrels were as foreign and fantastical to us as goblins and leprechauns. Even common animals in Borneo would impress us with their novelty.

As well as these completely different orders of mammals, the frogs, reptiles and birds have some groups (at the family level) that do occur in Australia but are represented in different ways over here. For example, in Australia we only have one ranid frog, confined to the far north of the continent, while in Borneo the group is widespread, has several genera and a wide diversity of shapes and sizes. The situation is the inverse with Elapid snakes - only a few representatives of this family occur in Borneo (though the diversity of colubrid snakes is high). Then, as with mammals, there are the completely foreign groups of reptiles and amphibians such as vipers, flying frogs and toads.

Needless to say, we were filled with eager excitement as we began our trip.

Kubah is characterised by steep terrain, with pleasant, moderately long walking trails, creeks and a waterfall. It even featured a frog pond, of all things. We spent our time here walking the trails and road day and night. We quickly found out that Kubah is an absolute paradise for frogs (and, by extension, froggers).

The first frog we came across was a charming little ranid, the Black-Spotted Frog, Staurois guttatus. Many individuals were active in the day, perching on the rocks beside a small swift stream, making a bird-like, chirping call. I was even lucky enough to view a display of territorial behaviour in the form of foot-flagging - that is extending the hind foot and spreading the toes to reveal light-coloured webbing. Returning to this stream by night, these frogs were still out and about though seemed to sit on vegetation rather than rocks.

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Experiencing Borneo’s Tribal Cultures


BORNEO, the third largest island in the world and 4th most populous, is divided up between Indonesia, Malaysia and the tiny nation of Brunei. Malaysian Borneo occupies around 26% of the island, containing the states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Of Sabah’s 3 million plus inhabitants, divided officially into 32 ethnicities, the largest indigenous groups are the Kadazan-Dusun, Murut and Baja. The first two are hill tribes, which are comprised of many sub tribes, while the Bajau are a nomadic sea-faring people who live throughout the Maritime (island) region of Southeast Asia.

From DiscoverBorneo:

“The largest indigenous tribes are the hill tribes, the Kadazan and Dusun tribes and their sub-tribes, often referred to the Kadazandusun, and the Murut. The Kadazandusun live mostly in the interior of Sabah, they are mountain people who believe the mountain is a resting place for the spirits of their departed, and thus it is sacred to them. The Rungus are arguably the most traditional of the indigenous tribes, a sub-tribe of the Kadazandusun the Rungus live mostly in the north near Kudat, many still live in longhouses. The Murut a group of several related tribes once lived in the longhouses like the Rungus, now they have mostly moved into single-family houses in the Tenom area and make a subsistence living from small-scale agriculture.”

The state of Sarawak is geographically larger than Sabah, but has a smaller population, giving it the lowest population density in all of Malaysia. Sarawak is home to 40 ethnicities, each with its own language and customs. Major ethnic groups include the Iban – the state’s largest group who were formerly known as headhunters. Iban are a longhouse-dwelling people with an impressive knowledge of the flora and fauna of Sarawak. Other groups include the Melanau – fishers and farmers believed to be one of the original settlers of Sarawak and who still practice many traditional animist customs; the Bidayu – land-dwellers mainly concentrated in the west of the island; and the Orang Ulu – a group including many river and plateau-dwelling tribes. The majority members of most tribes have adopted either Muslim (Melanau) or Christian (Iban, Bidayu and Orang Ulu) beliefs, though some still practice traditional tribal religions.

Sarawak – and Malaysian Borneo as a whole – is often referred to as “Asia’s best kept secret” due to its wide variety of cultures and rich biodiversity.

Thankfully there are several ways visitors can experience the traditional lifestyles of the inhabitants of both Sabah and Sarawak. One method is to visit Sarawak Cultural Village, located just 35km from Kuching in the foothills of Mount Santubong. This center showcases and supports the ethnic traditions of Sarawak, including dance, music, arts and crafts. It is also the venue for the World Harvest Festival and the Rainforest World Music Festival.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Experiencing Borneo’s Tribal Cultures
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Sarawak has potential to be cultural arts hub


KUCHING: Sarawak has the potential to become a centre for cultural arts in the region, said Indonesian Consul-General in Sarawak Djoko Harjanto.

He said the potential could be seen as Sarawak had consistently organised various musical shows and festivals, such as the Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival and cultural exchange programmes with the Kalimantan province in Indonesia.

“Organisation of such cultural activities could develop regional culture and the collaboration could also promote exchange of ideas among those involved.

“Sarawak has from earlier on showed that it is not only capable of organising programmes, but also has vast knowledge on cultural arts,” he said at the Cultural Exchange Programme Performance 2012, here Saturday night.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak has potential to be cultural arts hub
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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sabah Museum Night Safari programme


Kota Kinabalu: A new programme called Night Safari, designed to educate on the traditional livelihood of natives and the State's history by experience, is in the making by the Sabah Museum.

In spite of its activities still on the drawing board, a total of four Night Safaris have been held which, according to its Director Joanna Kitingan, were made available for group participation like families and students. She said future programmes would also include bead and handicraft-making sessions.

"The idea to introduce this programme came after I took part in the 'Night at The Museum' activity organised by Melaka Museum in March this year.

"I and a group of others spent the night in a Portuguese galleon ship, a replica of the Flora Del La Mar, the ship which sank off the Melaka Straits, and is now Maritime Museum," she said, after a Night Safari programme was held on Saturday night.

So far, the Night Safari programme consists of a quiz, whereby participants need to answer questions from gathered information, which is on display inside the Museum Gallery.

They have to do it in the dark as the lights will be turned off and torchlight will be the only light source, she said.

After the quiz session, the group would be taken for a hike into the Heritage Village Phase II, which is inside the Museum's extended property, located in the former Kota Kinabalu Old Folks Home land.

Bamboo huts have been erected ever since, to allow visitors and Night Safari participants to stay for the night in the area.

"During the hike, participants will be made to listen to a recorded natural ambience, as if they were in a jungle. It is a blast from the past experience, a time when electricity is still foreign," she said, adding that it is a back-to-basic affair.

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Durians galore at Batu Niah


IT WAS slightly over two months ago that durians were selling for high prices when the tropical king of fruits first appeared in the market from October to early November.

Normally, a bountiful harvest is a windfall to farmers and cultivators but this year, you can find durians selling everywhere at almost give-away prices — as low as 50 sen each in some places!

This is especially true in areas close to the source of durians such as Batu Niah and Marudi where planters lamented the low prices fetched in local markets — so the ‘royal fruits’ had to be sold further away in bigger towns and cities.

On one such occasion, thesundaypost was invited to join a trip to a durian orchard at Batu Niah, about an hour’s drive from Miri city.

The orchard owner decided it was no longer worthwhile selling the thorny and strong smelling fruits due to prevailing low prices, preferring to give them away to friends and relatives.

The oversupply of the once pricey and much sought after fruits was thought to correlate with abundant harvests that coincided with the Monsoon towards end of the year. The wet season is usually credited with bringing down the fruits during the night when it rained.

The rain had to be just right — not too heavy nor too light, and by the next morning, there would be plenty of fruits for the picking right off the ground.

So on a fine Sunday morning, I set out on my first trip to explore a durian orchard in Sarawak. I had been to durian orchards before but never really explored the ground for the fruits.

It was a relaxing solo drive along the coastal road through Bakam to the orchard belonging to Lim Khim Boon who owns eight acres of the land, previously planted with some 300 durian trees and later replanted with oil palms when the commodity fetched good prices.

However, about 100 durian trees and a few other types of fruit trees were left untouched for visitors, creating a somewhat interesting plantation-cum-orchard.

Our harvesting point or base was a birdnest building constructed two years ago. It provided a convenient shelter for visitors.

“We never had to worry about theft around here. The local folks are honest people who will never steal fruits at Batu Niah,” said the owner who generously gave away durians and other fruits to visitors at the end of the visit.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Durians galore at Batu Niah
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Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Rightful Place for the Indigenous People in the Heart of Borneo


IT could well have been a plot from Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness. Except that, instead of the African Congo, the clashes between the aboriginal inhabitants and timber tycoons were taking place in the Borneo jungles of South-east Asia.

And what an unequal clash of cultures that was breaking out in the 80s and 90s: the loggers, wielding chain-saws, unleashed bulldozers to to obliterate the heaths of the Penans and Dayaks while the natives had only bamboo poles and blow-pipes to square off with the invaders.

The protesters set up road blockades but they were charged by police called in by the government and the timber operators.

This saga of aborigines taking on capitalists in eastern Malaysia — and against migrant plantation operators as well in Indonesian Kalimantan province — was played out on the international stage when Swiss activist Bruno Manser took up the Penans’ cause.

The decades-long saga continues today with the Penans challenged to fit in within the new nations pressing ahead with a redrafted agenda described as sustainable development and conservation.

This comes in the wake of the Heart of Borneo (HOB) Initiative launched in 2007 by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, a new brand name for green economics that the world is taking notice.

Brand HOB covers 22 million hectares or 30 per cent of the Borneo forest territories traversing the three states which, it is said, will be managed on sound sustainable principles – a signal turnaround from decades of plunder and exploitation that threatened the survival and well-being of the indigenous peoples and the iconic orang utan, the last of Asian great apes.

For example, in Sabah, once dubbed the “wild east of Malaysia” for its free-wheeling timber logging operations and oil palm plantations, one million ha of its choicest forested lowlands — the natural habitat of the orang utan — had been transferred to plantations.

Its sister state, Sarawak, fared worst, having lost 90 per cent of its primary forests through extensive logging to meet world demand for hard-wood timber.

In Kalimantan, millions of acres of forest have been cleared by contract workers from other regions of Indonesia for commercial rubber and palm oil plantations.

The rapid loss of Borneo’s forest cover from run-away commercial exploitation has rung alarm bells even as the international community grapple with the threats of global warming.

For the Borneo forests host six per cent of the globe’s biodiversity, including the orang utan and the world’s largest flower, the Raffliesia.

It has been estimated that destruction of forests worldwide has contributed 15 to 25 per cent of man-made generation of greenhouse gases.

The HOB partner-countries have come round to seeing themselves as co-stewards of the forests reserves and acting to protect and preserve for future generations and the global community.

One key component of their new strategy is to recognise and resolve the demands and problems of their indigenous peoples, including customary land rights and culture.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Sarawak a great destination


KUCHING: Sarawak’s sunny climate, cultural diversity, scenic beauty and magnificent outdoors have made it a great destination for international events as well as business and leisure travel.

The state is highly diverse, especially in culture and multicultural activities that could cater for every tourism niche; from business, eco and cultural tourism through to adventure, medical and rural-tourism.

Former Miss Hong Kong runner-up Sharon Luk, who was here for a short visit with fiance Jeffrey Goh, couldn’t agree more.

She strongly believes that Sarawak has a strong worldwide appeal as a leisure destination.

“Sarawak has so much to offer to the world especially in tourism from its colourful culture, rich heritage and exceptional tasty food to beautiful nature.

“It offers tourists such dynamic experience that cannot be found in other parts of Malaysia or the world,” said the first runner-up of Miss HK 2005, adding that this trip was an eye-opening experience for her.

Since retiring from the entertainment industry about four years ago, Luk has ventured into business and joined 4Home Group International Co Ltd as vice president of sales with Goh as its president.

Especially impressed with Sarawak, which to her truly reflects multiculturalism, Luk who is a member of Wai Yin Association which is the official association for past pageants, intended to propose to the association to use Kuching as its venue for an outdoor shooting event for Miss HK Pageant 2013.

“I will go back and propose to Wai Yin that Kuching be a potential venue for the Miss HK Pageant outpost shooting,” she said on Wednesday during a visit to Jong’s Crocodile Farm.

Wan Yin Association is a non-profit organisation founded by a group of former Miss Hong Kong Beauty Pageant titleholders and finalists.

Established in 1982, the charitable organisation serves as a model of hope for the community of Hong Kong through fulfilling its social responsibility by carrying out various activities.

“I will also approach TVB (Television Broadcasts Limited), which organises the Miss HK Pageant and is the leading Hong Kong television station, for this proposal,” she added.

Luk was however bewildered that a majority of Hong Kong people do not know where Kuching or Sarawak is.

“They know Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu but not Sarawak. But this place is like a paradise hidden amidst a sea of skyscrapers,” she said.

Therefore, Luk said, the first step would be to create awareness of this place among Hong Kong people through Miss HK Pageant.

“Miss HK Pageant is an ideal platform in which hopefully we can get HK celebrities to be involved. This would in turn promote Sarawak to not only Hong Kong but the world and lure visitors here,” she added.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak a great destination
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No cancellation of flights at Kota Kinabalu International Airport


KOTA KINABALU: There was no cancellation of flights at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) here despite the allegation made by Global Upline Sdn Bhd (GUSB) that the KKIA runway was unsafe.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun told the press yesterday that all the airlines operating at KKIA have continued to express their confidence in the safety level of the airport by continuing with their operations here.

“I guarantee that there is no problem (with the runway) and that it is safe, just like other airports in Asia,” he said.

He added that the statement from the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) recently should be enough to dispel worries on the condition of KKIA.

“Airports all over the world are monitored by a world body and each country is represented by a regulatory body. In Malaysia, it is the DCA,” he said.

He also said that the international body and airlines required high safety standards and the fact that KKIA still have airlines operating here was testimony of its high standard of compliance.

Masidi then warned that the issuance of such statement (by GUSB) could cripple the State’s economy.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Highland paradise in Borneo


REST and relaxation, an all-natural spa on the premises, long leisurely walks, greenery as far as the eye can see — and on the high plateau at the border of Sarawak, the eye can see a long, long way!

Look north, and there’s Kuching almost lost in the early morning mists. Only a few of the high-rises stick out above the sea of white cloud. Look south, there are the rolling hills of Kalimantan, range after range, thickly clad in verdure.

The Hornbill Golf & Jungle Club at Borneo Highlands Resort is located 1,000 metres above sea level where the air is cool, between 18 and 28°C. No air conditioning is needed in the Club House, in fact most guests gratefully snuggle under a warm blanket at night.

If it wasn’t for the comfortable Club House, visitors might imagine they were deep in the jungle, amidst in  Borneo’s wide array of unique flora and fauna.

The number of guests is strictly limited to 60 per day to minimise the overall impact on the surrounding area, while human activities are carefully designed to fit in with nature.

These nature-appreciation activities include walking trails, an obstacle course, visits to waterfalls and the spectacular Kalimantan Drop-off, and bird-watching which may well include a flight of majestic hornbills.

Not only has the Borneo Highlands Resort managed to do this very nicely, it has recently been chosen as one of the world’s Top 10 eco-friendly hotels by leading travel portal, Agoda.com.

The meatless cuisine served at Anna Rais Cafe is just one aspect of the health regime. Organic vegetables are grown at the resort’s organic farm and there’s a horticulturalist on hand if anyone wants specific information.

At least one staff member appears to be a consummate jungle forager — the delicious wild mushroom fricassee has to be tasted to be believed!

HIGHLANDS RETREAT

And now, the little secret: Many visitors make their way up Borneo Highlands for the sake of enjoying nature.

Others, however, have discovered that this is where golf is taken to a high level — 1,000 metres, to be exact. The invigorating temperatures keep keen sportsmen and sportswomen cool and on the ball, the clear mountain air makes teeing-off a pleasure.

The 18-hole golf course is bedded into the natural contours of the rolling terrain, surrounded by forest-clad hills on all sides.

The Hornbill Golf & Jungle Club offers a lot more than golf! It offers a quiet retreat and fresh air to the harassed city dweller. After a strenuous round of golf, the tired body needs revitalisation (or should that be called coddling?).

Full spa facilities provide steam baths, saunas and jacuzzis, traditional massage, foot reflexology, aromatherapy, meditation therapy and organic facial and body treatments — or a relaxing bath with 1,001 flowers!

Fitness freaks find a well-appointed gym with up-to-date equipment and skilled employees, fruit juices and herb teas complete the pleasant rejuvenation process.

The guest rooms and suites in the Club House accommodate golfers in the midst of their favourite sport while a rustic-type cafe caters to their every need. An obstacle course tests muscle- and willpower and jungle trails lead up into the hills, with the occasional glimpse of Kuching’s tall buildings, far far away...

To reach this highland paradise, travellers drive from Kuching to the Foothill Station. They are well advised to leave their cars there, and let experienced chauffeurs take them up in four-wheel drive vehicles. The road is scenic, each hairpin turn reveals another vista of mountains and mist-shrouded valleys. The trip itself is a pleasure, if viewed from the passenger seat!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Highland paradise in Borneo
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'Flying Rods' discovered in Sabah


Kota Kinabalu: A mysterious insect-like creature that has been captured on film in several parts of the world but never physically and also not scientifically explained because of the tremendous speed at which it travels has also been found in Sabah.

Called, among others, "flying rods", "skyfish" and "solar entities", these creatures are invisible to the naked eye and can only be noticed on slow motion camera and resemble a flying centipede.

First made known to the world in 1994 in Roswell, New Mexico, by an Unidentified Flying Object enthusiast who was attempting to film an UFO - at the site of what is believed to be an UFO landing in 1947 - people in several parts of the world have since also claimed to have captured images of the creature and put them on the Internet.

They were, initially, dismissed as some super-flying insect specie unknown to man until technology made it possible to capture them using today's sophisticated cameras.

There are sceptics who still dismiss them as tricks of light or camera but other sceptics who have studied newer images of these so-called creatures have begun to acknowledge their existence although unable to pin them down as insects, a paranormal creation or even a possible alien life form.

"We are very excited with our discovery and what this means to Sabah in terms of research in the new realm of cryptozoology or even UFOlogy given that their existence has stirred so much controversy and debate worldwide," said Matthew Lazenby @ Jigger, an enterpreneur and avid traveller.

The Sabah discovery was made two weeks ago by this British national who has a particular interest in cave systems and was indulging in his favourite pastime while on holiday here.

He and a renowned local tour guide, John Nair, decided to get deep into an inaccessible cave using a helmet-mounted camera.

"We chose a cave that no one has been for a long time to find out if there would be anything of interest," said Nair, who specialises in adventure trails and whose expertise is often sought by documentary film makers such as the BBC.

"We were surprised at what we found when reviewing the video," said Matthew, who was aware of the existence of "flying rods" in the Internet and having seen documentaries done on the subject in TV's "Monster Quest" series.

"We did not know they were there until we reviewed the video footage.

For obvious reasons we will not disclose the cave's location until we have devised a sure-fire method of successfully trapping them on the next visit to this cave."

He explained: "The first thing we noticed were, of course, bats.

But as we slowed down the speed we noticed what seemed to be like little specks that got bigger and bigger.

"As we were going further and further into the cave, we noticed (upon slowing the film) more and more of these theoretical insects, since there is no official name given to them.

"We don't even know if they were an insect specie or creature of some sort that holds an element of intelligence that interacts with other entities or animal species," Matthew said.

They are bent on trapping these on their next visit.

"If we managed to trap these specimens, we want to make sure that Sabah gets the credit as it will be a world first.

"Already the news that we have discovered them in Sabah should make the State a magnet for scientists researching unexplained matter," Matthew said. A previous attempt to capture "flying rods" in China only yielded only moths and other insects.

What separates the Sabah footages from those taken elsewhere are the sheer abundance. "We even have footages of bats trying to avoid colliding with these creatures. Bats are never frightened of insects.

"I have one footage of a group of them together and you can see them turning at extreme speed. They even chased a bat away.

No one has got footage of this. It's never been seen before.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: 'Flying Rods' discovered in Sabah
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Sabah Parks staff undergo training to keep reefs safe


KOTA KINABALU: Some 20 staff members of Sabah Parks can now carry out detailed checks on reefs at the marine conservation areas off the state.

The staff, trained by non-profit firm Reef Check Malaysia (RCM), will monitor the health of coral reefs around the state.

RCM general manager Julian Hyde said the Nov 19 to 30 training would enable the staff to identify Reef Check indicator species.

“These include certain fish and invertebrates that are commercially valuable,” he said.

Reef Check objectives are to educate the public about the coral reef crisis; to create a global network of volunteer teams trained in Reef Check's scientific methods that monitor and report on reef health; to facilitate collaboration that produces ecologically sound and economically sustainable solutions; and to stimulate local community action to protect the remaining pristine reefs and rehabilitate damaged reefs worldwide.

He said the Sabah Parks staff from stations in Sandakan, Semporna, Kota Kinabalu, Kudat and Kuala Penyu were also trained to differentiate between the different types of substrates hard and soft coral and sponges and ascidians that make up a reef.

Hyde said the training was conducted at waters off Pulau Manukan at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park in Kota Kinabalu.

“Several elements have been integrated into the course, including classroom sessions, in-water training for buoyancy, photo identification assessments as well as final theory assessments.”

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sabah forests pulling in tourists


NATURE QUALITIES: State's seriousness in protecting forests generates interest among tourists

WITH its timber revenue declining as it focuses on reversing the trend of deforestation, Sabah is turning to the tourism sector to displace forestry as one of the main contributors to the  economy.

The state recognises that protecting the forest is crucial and runs parallel with efforts to promote tourism, considering that discerning tourists will prefer places where environmental conservation is given priority.

It was reported that the state government expected annual revenue from timber production to be less than RM100 million a year over the next 20 years with timber production from natural forests expected to decline during that period.

Between 1970 and 2000, the state depended heavily on timber revenue to support development, which resulted in the reduction of the productive capacity of forests.

Such dependence, coupled with past logging practices that were not environmentally-friendly and compounded by forest fires, resulted in the degradation of Sabah's forests and prompted the state government to enforce strict management of the forests using proper methods, including practices certified by international organisations.

All these efforts have helped placed Sabah in the global map with international non-governmental organisations acknowledging the state's seriousness in protecting its forests and conserve the environment.

This, in turn, has generated interests among foreign visitors, as evident from the increasing number of tourist arrivals.

This year, Sabah has set a target of 2.93 million visitors with an estimated receipt of RM5.2 billion.

The total arrival of visitors to Sabah for the first half of this year was 1,372,525, an increase of 1.7 per cent compared with the same period last year.

With this growth, Sabah should meet its target of tourist arrivals for this year. For next year, Sabah is targeting the arrival of 3.1 million visitors with an estimated receipt of RM5.5 billion.

To achieve this, the government is stepping up efforts to encourage airline companies to operate more international flights to Sabah, be they direct, scheduled chartered or chartered flights.

The state government's commitment is paying off with four new direct flights to Sabah from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Osaka and Perth commencing operations this month.

With the introduction of the new flights, Sabah now boasts of being directly connected with 13 international cities, including Shenzen, Manila, Jakarta, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Bandar Seri Begawan and Tarakan.

These cities are serviced by 11 airlines, among them Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Royal Brunei Airlines, Dragon Air, Silk Air, Cebu Pacific, Aseana, Korean Air, Tiger Air and MASwings. The flights from the 13 cities offer more than 18,000 seats weekly.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah forests pulling in tourists
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Kota Kinabalu International Airport is poised to receive an upsurge of foreign arrivals


The addition of a new direct route as well as the reinstatement of three other direct routes from the Asia Pacific region will further increase the foreign arrivals to Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA).

11 airlines with a weekly seating capacity of 18,000 will reconnect 13 international cities with Sabah, including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Osaka and Perth.

Malaysia Airline's inaugural flight from Shanghai to Kota Kinabalu on 12.12.12, a most auspicious date of the century, signaled the start of something big for Sabah's tourism industry. Landing on the land below the wind twice weekly, this will be MAS'  third international route originating from China after Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

"Shanghai is China's gateway to Sabah," said the Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board (STB), Datuk Seri PanglimaTengku Zainal Adlin, "and a hub that connects Sabah to China's key international financial centres as well as the provinces located in it's eastern region namely Zheijiang, Jiangsu, Anhui and Hubei."

“We are looking ahead to 2013 and beyond. The state government is drawing strategic plans to increase its air accessibility, as 96% of our arrivals are by air," said the Chairman of STB.

Malaysia Airlines have already reinstated the direct routes from Hong Kong and Perth on the 1st and 9th of December 2012, respectively. The Osaka direct route will be reinstated on the 20th of December this year.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

China tourists prefer Sabah, flights up


Kota Kinabalu: Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said starting from this month there will be increased flights between China and Kota Kinabalu to cater to the increasing number of tourists from China.

"As of July this year the number of Chinese tourists who came to Sabah is already equal to the entire number of tourists who came to Sabah last year.

So tourist-wise in terms of the Chinese market we are doing well.

"International tourists this year have also been better than last year so we can expect more European tourists as well.

"The flights from China have also improved. Two months ago I went to China and Hong Kong to negotiate with the airlines to increase their services to Sabah.

"I am happy to inform that starting from the end of this month there will be an AirAsia direct flight between Guangzhou and Kota Kinabalu everyday. Starting from this month also there will be three direct flights a week by Malaysia Airlines between KK and Shanghai .

"Starting this month there will also be 25 direct flights a week between KK and Hong Kong by three carriers i.e. MAS, AirAsia and Dragonair.

"I want to also say that we estimate that by the end of this year the highest number of tourists to Sabah are tourists from China."

Masidi said as of November, there were 126 chartered flights from China to KK and this shows the Chinese are choosing Sabah as their favourite destination.

"I hope we can take note of this to leverage what we have in Sabah to cater to the visiting Chinese tourists to Sabah.

"This can only mean there is a commercial benefit to us in Sabah, especially food providers, and I can assure you that Lido is one of the few food outlets that will benefit from the arrival of these visitors from China," he said at the official launching of the State's fourth Hawker Food Festival 2012 at Lido Square, Monday.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: China tourists prefer Sabah, flights up
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More than one way to promote Sarawak tourism


KUCHING: Tourism operators in the state are serious about marketing Sarawak but are not confining the channels to international trade shows.

Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) president Audrey Wan Ullok said Sarawak-based travel agents are selective on which events to attend at international exhibitions and trade shows.

“They will attend trade shows relevant to the market they are targeting. Each travel agent has his own niche market and client base.

“Tourism players in Sarawak learnt from experience that many government-organised overseas marketing trips give poor returns, so they use a multitude of other marketing channels,” she told The Borneo Post yesterday.

She was responding to Tourism Deputy Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit’s recent comments to the media that he was disappointed with the reluctance of Sarawak travel agents and tourism players to market the state at international travel conventions.

“I am surprised by these remarks and the deputy minister’s understanding of the reality and market dynamics of Sarawak’s tourism industry.

“International travel exhibitions are not the only means of marketing Sarawak. For some local travel companies, Internet marketing through online booking website may offer better returns than attending trade shows.

“Moreover, many Sarawak operators do not market directly to overseas agents. Instead, they work closely with other major establishments or agents from West Malaysia who are part of the global tourism distribution network,” she explained.

Dawos had commented that lack of seriousness in promoting Sarawak resulted in foreign tourists flocking to West Malaysia and Sabah instead.

Audrey said this was a simplistic statement showing poor understanding of Sarawak’s tourism industry and its challenges.

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MASwings clears air about its airfares in Sarawak and Sabah


MIRI: Airfares charged by MASwings are controlled by the government, and thus this subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines cannot change airfares at its whims and fancies.

MASwings Miri’s sales and marketing manager Zamanimaran Abdullah told members of the Federation of Miri Division Chinese Associations Sarawak during a dialogue session here yesterday that MASwings had been entrusted to serve the rural areas of Sarawak and Sabah but the operating cost, especially those involving Twin Otter planes, was high.

“This high operation cost has caused the hike in price of air fares,” he said.

“As for sectors which you feel the airfares are too high, you just let us know the sectors and we will forward your request to the Ministry of Transport for their consideration.”

Zamanimaran also suggested that passengers do online bookings in order to enjoy cheaper fares.

On the federation’s request for MASwings to introduce return flights between Marudi and Mulu, he said it was not possible as the aircraft used around that area was the ATR72 models, which Marudi Airport could not accommodate.

“If we want to ply this sector, we need to have two different aircraft.”

Touching on flights between Miri and Mulu, Zamanimaran said currently there were two flights daily and the sector was served by ATR72 planes.

The passenger loads were relatively high during the peak season, such as January and December. School holidays are also a peak season.

During non-peak season, he said passenger load could nosedive to a mere 55 per cent.

“To solve passenger load problems, MASwings has opened a new sector from Kuching to Mulu, flying seven times weekly.”

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Miri Port endeavours to become shipping and tourist destination


MIRI: Miri Port Authority (LPM) will work hard to strengthen its position as a shipping and tourist destination in the state besides being a major port in northern Sarawak.

General manager Shebli Hairani said although the vision was challenging it was not impossible to achieve with cooperation from the private sector here.

He said by promoting and selling their products abroad, the private companies would directly introduce Miri to the outside world which ultimately would make it to be known as an expert centre in the northern region.

“It directly helps us to introduce Miri abroad not only as a centre of commerce for import and export activities but also as a tourist destination.

“This will further strengthen its position as a major tourist centre of Miri in Sarawak and attract more investors and visitors to come here,” he said at the launch of cargo ship MV Sinar Seaway’s maiden voyage from Miri Port to Port Klang, in Kuala Baram, near here, yesterday.

MV Sinar Seaway is owned by Woodman Group of Companies.

In his speech, Shebli praised the company for having full confidence in the port authority to manage its cargo shipping activities.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Wake-up call for Sarawak travel agents


KUCHING: Travel agents in the state have been taken to task for not being serious in promoting Sarawak tourism products to the world.

Expressing his disappointment Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit observed that not many travel agents in the state participated in international conferences, for instance, to promote the state.

Dawos, who is also Mambong MP said, “In November last year, no travel agent from Sarawak took part in a conference in Australia to promote Sarawak.

“The same happened when I went to India early this year. A coordinator asked me about going to Sarawak, but where are the travel agents from Sarawak?” he lamented during a press conference after launching the state-level ‘Karnival Perlancongan Tarian Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia 2012’ at the Hockey Stadium here yesterday.

Dawos stated that due to the lack of seriousness in promoting the state, most foreign tourists flocked to the peninsula and Sabah instead.

“If no travel agents (from Sarawak) follow delegations, there is nothing much we can do because I cannot sign an agreement with them. All I can do is to only recommend them to visit Sarawak.”

Dawos said there was no problem between the state and federal tourism ministries. In fact, both parties were working closely together to promote the state.

He added that in the first 10 months of this year, a total of 3.2 million tourists visited the state, and out of this 2.1 million were from Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei.

Continue reading at: Wake-up call for Sarawak travel agents
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Local fruit festivals can be Sarawak's tourist attraction


KUCHING: Local fruit festivals should be held more frequently in Sarawak as they have the potential to be a tourist attraction, said Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit yesterday.

He reasoned that tourists would be drawn to the state to participate in the festivals as tropical fruits, particularly durian, were getting popular in many countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the European continent.

“The ‘Pesta Buah-buahan’ (fruits festival) @ Kota Padawan’ is being held for the first time here.

“Actually, such festival is very common in the peninsula. I see the need to have a similar festival in Sarawak

“I want to promote local Sarawak fruits to tourists so that they would come during the fruit season.

“For instance, the festival held today (yesterday) will benefit not only the Mambong parliamentary constituency but the whole of Kuching,” he told reporters when met at the event held at the parking lot of Kota Padawan near here.

He added that such festivals would allow foreign tourists to have a real taste of Malaysian fruits since most of the tropical fruits sold in some foreign countries were mainly imported from Thailand.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Climb Borneo's mesmerising Mount Kinabalu


FOR the past few days I've been haunted by two things: fleeting glimpses of Mt Kinabalu's ominous-looking granite peak and the dawning realisation that I'm the least prepared of anyone in the group.

At 4095m, Mt Kinabalu is South-East Asia's highest mountain, but it's also one of the most accessible; there's no technical climbing involved, just a steady, relentless uphill slog.

As our group of eight has come to know each other better, it has emerged that everyone else has done some serious training.

One couple recently hiked 29km; two guys have been tackling 1000-plus steps; another couple have climbed Mt Kilimanjaro.

The furthest I've ever hiked is 15km. And that was when I was 17.

For now, my concerns are being soothed by the rhythmic splash of paddles as we kayak through the warm, mouthwash-blue water of the South China Sea.

This is the first section in a three-part adventure in Sabah, the Malaysian state that occupies about 10 per cent of the northern tip of Borneo. After three days of sea kayaking, we'll spend two days climbing Mt Kinabalu and then recover with a three-day safari looking for orang-utans and other wildlife on the Kinabatangan River.

Leading the way is Nathan Wedding, our intrepid guide and founder of luxury small-group adventure company Seven Skies.

The former environmental philosophy lecturer swapped academic life for a career as a sea kayak guide, leading explorations in the Arctic Circle, Norway and Tasmania.

He's patient and accommodating, yet assertive when required.

Inevitably on a trip like this, things don't always go to plan, but he never gets flustered and always has a backup. We've spent the past two days exploring the five coral-fringed islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, off the coast of Sabah's main gateway, Kota Kinabalu.

Each morning we've paddled to a different island to snorkel and swim before returning to the Bunga Raya Island Resort, a secluded sanctuary of tree-house-like dwellings hidden among dense rainforest on the north side of Gaya Island.

During the 10km kayak back to the mainland, we pass two large, overwater villages. About 6000 people from the Suluk and Bajau tribes live in these sprawling stilt settlements, consisting of wooden shacks with tin roofs.The villages have a reputation for harbouring smugglers and migrants, so organised tours won't come here. But as we paddle past we're greeted with nothing but excited curiosity. Grinning children appear at windows to wave and call out "Bah!" (hello) while old men with sea-weathered faces fish from wooden boats.

As we cross the busy channel that separates the island from the mainland, we see a startling contrast: the centuries-old subsistence life of sea gypsies on one side; modern Malaysia with its skyscrapers and marbled mansions on the other.

Our intermittent base on the mainland is Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa. It's a welcoming haven of manicured gardens and bathwater swimming pools.

The group is noticeably subdued when we meet later in the hotel's club lounge for drinks.

Wedding talks us through tomorrow's itinerary and reiterates what we need to pack.

Then, one by one, we retire to our rooms, set our alarms for 5.30am and try to get some sleep.

Tomorrow, we climb a mountain.

By the time we've collected our permits, organised porters and taken the short bus ride to Timpohon Gate, the climb's official start point, it's 10.30am. We pose for a photo before setting off on a gravel track bordered by dense jungle. Disconcertingly, the track starts downhill but this is quickly remedied and we're soon ascending countless flights of steep stairs.

"Slow and steady," reminds Wedding as we stop in a rest hut to rehydrate. This is the 10th time he's climbed Mt Kinabalu and he knows that the right pace is critical.

Some of the group have hired porters to carry their belongings and it's astonishing to watch these wiry locals trudge relentlessly uphill, buried under their own bodyweight in bags.

As we climb higher, the terrain changes from dirt track to endless sets of rough sandstone steps.

Only once do we emerge from the rainforest long enough to get a glimpse of the mountain's glaciated peak before the clouds engulf us again.

Finally, after five hours of quad-burning ascent, our home for the night comes looming out of the mist.

Laban Rata is a hostel on the side of the mountain where most climbers stay a night en route to the summit.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Climb Borneo's mesmerising Mount Kinabalu
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Borneo to be wild: Watching the whirling carousel of wildlife in Sabah and Sarawak


Six o'clock cicadas, pigtailed langurs, bird-dropping crab spiders, lesser mouse-deer, smalltoothed palm civet - you certainly can't say Borneo has boring wildlife.

It is famously home to several of the world's most spectacular endangered animals, too, including the Sumatran rhino and Bornean clouded leopard.

Most visitors hope to come face to face with the region's most iconic animal, the cuddly orang-utan. But I must confess that orang-utans don't really do it for me. With their big, baby eyes and all that ginger fluff, they are far too cute.

There's a much more interesting primate to be found in the jungles of Borneo. You don't have to hike for hours to see it, either...

The base for my animal adventure was the brand-new YTL luxury resort on Gaya Island, within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Conservation Park in Sabah. Sabah and Sarawak states make up Malaysian Borneo, representing 27 per cent of the island. The rest is split between Brunei and Indonesia.

Gaya Island Resort is reached via the airport at Kota Kinabalu. Then it's a 15-minute speedboat ride from nearby Sutera Harbour. The resort is tucked along the coastline facing Malohom Bay, with lovely views over sea, beach or Mount Kinabalu, at 13,435ft the tallest mountain in South East Asia. Behind it, there is acre after acre of unspoilt rainforest where few humans have trodden.

The resort's resident naturalist Justin has, with the support of Sabah Parks, been a-foraging to see what wildlife lives there, and takes guests on hikes - hard and not so hard - through the dark jungle in the hope of finding such fabulous creatures as flying squirrels and bearded pigs (I love that you get exactly what it says on the tin).

Surprisingly, and hugely excitingly, it's also home to the animal I had come to see, the extraordinary, endangered proboscis monkey.

There are no prizes for guessing why the Nasalis larvatus is so called. The monkeys, particularly males, have extremely large noses - in elderly animals it can reach 7in, or a quarter of their body length.

Found only in Borneo, proboscis monkeys also go by the Malay name orang belanda, meaning 'Dutchman', as Indonesians noted that Dutch colonisers often had a similarly large abdomen and hooter. How rude!

In fact, both sexes appear to have pot bellies, thanks to the expansive digestive systems needed to process their diet of leaves and unripe fruit. One of these monkeys wouldn't thank you for a ripe banana, explained Jason, as eating it would produce flatulence on an epic scale in the poor creature.

But the best thing about proboscis monkeys is the way they swim. Not just a quick monkey-paddle like many primates - they are capable of swimming 65ft underwater. And they have webbed paws. So they should have been very happy when, halfway through my jungle walk, the heavens opened and the heaviest rain I've seen fell and drenched us. We saw nothing, though Justin did try to get me excited about a rather static money plant stick-insect clinging to some bark.

Fortunately, Plan B was to travel two miles south on the main island to join the Garama Wetland River Cruise in the Kuala Penyu region. We had been aboard for only five minutes, not even out of the narrow channels joining the river proper, when I smelt something ... peculiar.

Proboscis monkeys do not have a pleasant natural aroma, sadly, but that does make them easier to find. And there, right by the water's edge, were handfuls of them, including a male.

They are normally found in groups of four to 20, either all bachelors or just one rather smug boy with a lot of girlfriends.

Their fur is extraordinarily colourful - orange, red-brown and yellowish in patches; their faces are orangey-pink, and they make incredible noises - honks, squeaks, roars and snarls.

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