Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nature’s artistic patterns at Borneo sandy beaches


MAY I ask the reader for the answers to two simple questions? Question 1: What have the following words in common: hermit, fiddler and bubbler? Question 2: What have Bako, Damai, Sematan and Tanjung Aru in common? Whilst there are no prizes for the answers, you will most likely already have guessed crabs and sandy beaches.

Hermit crabs are usually seen in rocky foreshore pools and fiddler crabs on many a mudflat but the bubbler crab (Scopimera globosa) is only found on the sandy beaches mentioned earlier, where it is the most artistic of all crab species.

Its intricate artistic patterns are only found at low tide.

It was first described in detail by a Dutch zoologist Wilhem de Haan in 1835.

For many years, I have been fascinated by an intricate piece of Indonesian batik which hangs on my sitting room wall – given to me by a former student.

I have marvelled at the little gold painted spots on the outline of figures on this folk artwork.

It was much later, in 1992, when strolling along the public beach at low tide at Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu that I observed small rounded pellets of sand aligned in an orderly fashion and not dissimilar from the detail of my Indonesian batik.

I have more recently seen similar sand pellets on the Nature’s artistic patterns By Alan Rogers beaches of Sematan and Damai Central and on other sandy beaches around the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Amongst these minute sand ball pellets are two to three small holes in the sand from which the lines of sand balls radiate in arcs.

Each pattern is uniquely created on the damp sand by an individual artist, but how did this pattern emerge between high and low tides on the beach? The minute, shy, Scopimera crab is not unlike the street artist Banksie, who has painted talented works of art on blank walls in England but has never been seen in action! Scuttling out of their holes, these bubbler crabs specialise in sieving microscopic organisms, such as stranded plankton, trapped on the surfaces of sand grains.

Scooping up the grains with their small claws into their mouths they only ingest organic material and then spit out the sand, as residue to create the sand balls that we see.

When threatened by the squelching of human feet or the shadows of humans or by preying seabirds, this crab scuttles very quickly into its burrow – its air-raid shelter.

Measuring from one to 1.5 centimetres in width across its upper exoskeleton, with eyes on very short stalks to be lowered into its body whilst scurrying into its burrow, its upper meral joints (equivalent to our humerus bones leading down to our elbows) have membranous disks.

These disks are breathing organisms, used in gas exchange, when the crab is in its burrow or when on the sand surface to absorb atmospheric oxygen.

Zoologists frequently refer to these membranes as gas windows.

When the tide has ebbed, the crabs quickly emerge from their burrows, creating pathways or grooves as they eject indigestible sand in pellet form.

Almost chameleon-like in its ability to change colour, the bubbler crab adopts the same colour of the sand from which it feeds.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Nature’s artistic patterns at Borneo sandy beaches
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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Borneo Orchids – huge flowering diversity



ORCHID live in all continents of the world except Antarctica. They are found in deserts, in grasslands, in swamps, in the mountains or in the lowland rain forests. Their flowers range in size from little more than a pin-head to huge inflorescences more than a metre in length.

They live as epiphytes in the tops of the trees, as small plants in the leaf litter on the forest floor or as tall stems coming up from the ground. Some species have lost their leaves entirely, photosynthesising by their roots, others exist on the decaying leaves and twigs of the forest floor as mushrooms do, and some have even gone underground!


Largest Family of Flowering Plants in the World!


There is no other family of flowering plants that has such a huge diversity in its flowers and lifestyle and worldwide there are more than twenty-five thousand species of orchids – the largest family of flowering plants in the whole world!

World Hotspot of Diversity About 1,700 wild orchids are found on the island of Borneo. One thousand three hundred of these are found in Sabah and almost 900 of those species live on Mt. Kinabalu. This makes the Kinabalu Park, covering 754 sq kms, one of the richest places for orchid diversity, per unit area, in the entire world!

To give these figures some perspective, the whole of the continent of Europe, (an area of almost 9 million sq. kms, and more than 100 times the size of Sabah), has fewer orchids, (875), than are found in the Kinabalu Park alone! No wonder Mt Kinabalu is one of the top hotspots for plant diversity, (not just orchids), on this planet!


Over 100 New Species of Orchids in Borneo!


What’s more, over one hundred NEW species of orchids, just for Borneo, have been discovered and described within the last ten years!

Borneo Orchid Society Twenty years ago, the Borneo Orchid Society was formed by a group of enthusiasts keen to know more about Borneo’s orchids and keen to encourage more interest in this group of wonderful plants that have driven men almost mad with desire!

They decided that one of the ways in which they could this was to hold regular orchid shows. Orchid shows cost money however, and, as it happens, the last show was in 2010.

This year though, there is another show, so if you didn’t get the chance to see it on Friday or Saturday, make the time to pop along to the KK Community Hall behind the Sabah Tourism office for a lovely display of colour and form – this is the last day!

Insect Pollinators Evolved with the Orchids Orchids are amazing not just for the number of species, but for the variety of shape and form in their flowers.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Borneo to be wild in the Sarawak jungle


Heading into the steamy rainforests of Sarawak is less about getting away from it all than letting it all sink in.

The Italian honeymooners were subdued the morning after the rice wine, after their snores rose all night over the rough wood partition separating them from my companion and me.

Our tattooed Iban hosts had poured homemade tuak from plastic water bottles, as a full moon rose to bathe the jungle in white light, inspiring an insect and frog orchestra. As she’d chug-a-lugged with abandon, I’d grown to like the young woman I’d dubbed the Italian princess, with her straight back, painted nails and chic turban hiding her hair, while mine hung wet and stringy in the humidity.

But I was happy to wave the pair goodbye as they headed off. A fierce thunderstorm had made the brown river surge and swirl and I feared they wouldn’t be able to leave. However, their two-man longboat crew and guide were undaunted by the macho river, which had turned to surf and was hauling giant fallen branches about as if they were matchsticks. Soon, the only other tourists on our stretch of river in deepest Borneo were gone.

My companion and I now had Lubok Kasai Lodge to ourselves. It was a hand-hewn house on stilts with furry bark doors, bamboo slat ventilators and hard rain drumming on a tin roof. No electricity. The only calls, those of nature. To answer these, we would walk gingerly across a raised wet wooden walkway to proud upright toilets, transported here by longboat to cater to Western custom. Beyond that, we were summoned regularly to meals at a separate kitchen and dining area, where the Iban couple showed as much mastery in cooking as they had in steering us in their longboat upriver.

My cunning plan had worked. Holidaying in the crowded northern hemisphere high season, we’d hoped a remote journey in the Malaysian state of Sarawak would yield peace and isolation.

The idea was to find somewhere to purge the phone-checking, list-ticking, diary-flooding mouse wheel our urban lives had become. Somewhere to have adventures and read and sleep and think. Somewhere mind-numbingly hot.

The once-were-headhunters of Borneo obligingly welcomed us into their territory. Malaysian marketing creatives devising sales pitches to tourists like to stress the Ibans’ gory past. Some long houses still display shrunken heads. We shivered over a grey cluster of shrivelled heads dangling from rafters at the Sarawak Cultural Village just outside the state capital, Kuching.

But most of the heads were buried in 1926 by decree of one of the “White Rajahs” from Britain’s Brooke family, which ruled Sarawak for more than a century.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Borneo to be wild in the Sarawak jungle
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Labuan marine park dept continues its turtle conservation efforts


LABUAN: A total of 5,628 sea baby turtles were released into the wild, off Labuan waters since 2011, said Department of Malaysia Marine Park Labuan director Anuar Deraman.

The number was of the 7,381 eggs collected mostly in Kuraman Island, one of the three marine parks in Labuan.

“The success in the turtle conservation and protection was after the gazetting of three marine parks, Kuraman, Rusukan Besar and Rusukan Kecil and in collaboration with Petronas Cari Gali Sabah,” he said here yesterday.

He said the marine parks had become the nesting sites for two endangered species of turtles, namely hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata) and green turtle (Chelonia Mydas).

To help avoid further extinction of the species, he said the department had developed a turtle hatchling site in Rusukan Besar Island.

Anuar said Kuraman Island had recorded the most number of turtle landing so far this year with ten nests found on the island, while Rusukan Kecil and Rusukan Besar had five and two nests respectively.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bamboo Festival 2014: Native music deserves recognition

 
TAMPARULI: Native music deserves greater recognition as it is an integral part of Sabah’s priceless cultural heritage, said Tourism, Environment and Culture Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

“Traditional music, including the various songs and dances has helped bring people together and forms a vital part of way of life especially among Sabah’s diverse ethnic communities,” he said in his speech at the Bamboo Festival 2014 here yesterday.

The text of his speech was delivered by Kiulu Assemblyman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai who is also Sabah Tourism Board chairman.

He also pointed out that the promotion of native music is crucial to ensure its survival and preservation for the future generations.

Masidi noted that Sabah native music has a distinctive, unique sound which has gained international recognition through various cultural shows.

“It is vital that we give full support to the endeavours in preserving and developing the traditional music,” he said, stressing the need to teach and inspire the young people to play, compose and perform traditional music.

Continue reading at: Bamboo Festival 2014: Native music deserves recognition
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Miri Film Tourism Association to make Miri a premier film destination


MIRI: Assistant Minister of Communication Datuk Lee Kim Shin called for integrated efforts from all sectors to help make Miri City a premier film destination in the region or at least in Malaysia.

He said the newly set up Miri Film Tourism Association (MFTA) could take the lead in promoting Miri to film makers in and outside Malaysia.

“Film is one of the best ways to promote any destination to attract more people to come. If you follow the Korean movies for example, seeing the beautiful places there through films, could attract people to visit Korea.

In Miri, we have many scenic and beautiful places to visit and also potential spots to make films or movies. Thus concerted efforts including from non-governmental organisations, political parties or business sectors could work closely with the government in developing Miri and make it attractive for the development of the film industry,” he said at the Miri Film Tourism Dinner Show on Tuesday night.

Also present were State Assemblymen for Piasau and Pujut respectively, Alan Ling and Fong Pau Teck, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) Piasau chairman Adam Yii, patron of the Miri Film Tourism Association’s (MFTA) Datuk Abbas Sempurai, the Association’s president and secretary general, Patrick Jay Jay and Beeny Zakariah as well as presidents of various non-governmental organisations including Srimurniyati Cranfield (Miri Petroleum Ladies Association or PWPM).

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AirAsia's relocation to KKIA Terminal One depends on several issues


PENAMPANG: AirAsia’s final decision on whether to relocate operations to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) Terminal One will depend on several issues that need to be ironed out first.

According to AirAsia Berhad CEO Aireen Omar, there are a few issues that the airline needs to settle among all quarters involved.

“I think when the issues are all ironed out (and) I believe they can be ironed out, we will be more than happy to facilitate,” she said when met at the AirAsia-QPR Coaching Clinic Tour 2014 at SMK Datuk Peter Mojuntin here yesterday.

Aireen added: “We will look into what’s best for the whole operation of AirAsia and will it make sense for the whole of the state of Sabah and for our traffic volume. We want to be able to get that right traffic volume in and this is something that we need to look into and we need to see what is best to facilitate that (what is) the best possible way for Sabah and its tourism industry,” she said.

She said this when asked if AirAsia would be relocating its operations to KKIA Terminal One come January 1 next year.

The Federal Government has proposed for AirAsia to operate from Terminal One as it was part of its plan to convert Terminal Two into a cargo terminal.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stronghold of red monkeys discovered on Borneo


Sungai Wain is located within Balikpapan Bay, a biodiversity rich area consisting of interconnecting mosaics of mangrove forests, primary and regenerated rainforests, freshwater rivers and coral reefs.

However, this is a highly developed region in Kalimantan, mainly due to Balikpapan being the second main centre of oil production in Indonesia.

Human activities, such as logging, coal mining and acacia and oil palm plantations, are causing great damage to the ecosystems in Balikpapan Bay, including water pollution, increased sediments on the coral reefs and forest loss.

Sungai Wain is a 100 km sq protected forest; home to several primate species, including orangutans, Bornean gibbons, white fronted langurs and pig-tailed macaques.

Like many other forests on Borneo, during the last few decades large parts of Sungai Wain were destroyed by fires, with only about 40 km sq of core forest remaining intact.

Previous surveys were conducted by Professor Vincent Nijman in 1999-2005.

Seven years later we found that red langurs remained stable and in relatively abundant numbers within the core primary forest of Sungai Wain.

With a density of ~28 individuals per kilometre square, red langurs in Sungai Wain appear to be thriving.

In addition, the number of large trees appeared to be increasing: when we did our surveys in 2012 the trees with a diameter at breast height above 10cm almost doubled compared to previous data from 2001.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Stronghold of red monkeys discovered on Borneo
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Orangu-tans!


If you only have a few days in Kuching, this is must-see!

I usually hate anything ‘must-see’, ‘must-do’, yada yada.

Partly because I don’t like crowds, and more so because of my somewhat rebellious black sheep nature of having to go against the grain.

But sometimes, I’ve got to give in. In truth, I am from a small town in the South East of Ireland, when am I actually going to get a chance to see this magnificent animal again?

I could say on a Saturday night at 2am outside the a pub, but that would be completely insulting the Orangu-tans.

Semengoh Rehabilitation Centre is not actually a place where these wild animals go to get off the smack, or are suffering from ‘exhaustion’.

It is a sanctuary for rescued animals, taken into care after they have been abandoned or abused by captivators who treated them not so nicely to put it mildly.

There are two feeding times, when members of the public can attend and hope to get a glimpse of these beautiful endangered beings.

Note, if the Orangu-tans come out at these times is NOT guaranteed, but worth the wait.

Feeding times are at 08:30 and 15:00 hours. I went to the afternoon feeding, and these lads kept us waiting for 30 minutes!

The keepers leave coconuts and fruit on a platform, from which you are about 100 meters away.

You have  to be far away, as these animals are wild – so don’t go there with an expectation of hugging and kissing a cute little baby Orangu-tan.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Orangu-tans!
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Beautiful Borneo


As the old saying goes, ‘When one door closes, another door opens’.

I had no intention of travelling to Borneo, one part of which belongs to Malaysia, and the rest to Indonesia.

My intent was to travel in a straight line from Penang, up through Thailand, with the end destination being Chiang Mai in Thailand.

Why would a woman travelling alone want to go to Borneo?

After all, to my teenage knowledge, it was full of cannibals, wild animals, and jungle right? Wrong-ish.

If train travel in SE Asia is anything, it’s consistent in it’s lateness or the fact that the trains may not run at all.

I was super excited to get my first overnight sleeper from Butterworth to Thailand.

Hungover (smart girls get drunk the day they are before to travel) I picked up my ticket, ferry across from Penang to Butterworth, dragged my 25kg suitcase (yes, 32 now, no backpack for me) to the train station, and it was locked up.

I had some poor older Aussie guy running up and down steps with my suitcase, and without, trying to find out what was going on.

After an hour, we figured out the train had been cancelled.

Back to Penang, checking into my old hotel, Chulia Mansion, I was greeted by the hotel manager Fred, who asked me what I was going to do next “You should go to Borneo!”, he exclaimed.

Fred is from Kuching, Borneo and had sent a few people that way from the hotel after speaking so gloriously about his home place.

After a cup of coffee and a thinking cigarette, I booked my flights and was off to the jungle to be head hunted.

Kuching is the capital of the Sarawak state in Malaysian Borneo.

Rich in history, this state and it’s people have a lot of culture and a lot to be proud of.

The first thing that struck me was that I didn’t feel like I was in Malaysia.

I later found out from my guide that Sarawak only entered with Malaysia for economic purposes in the mid 20th century, everyone still has to go through immigration to get into the country, another stamp – yay!

It really has it’s own culture, own people, own laws and own vibe.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Beautiful Borneo
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Sarawak Cultural Village to host Borneo’s biggest trance music fest


KUCHING: ‘A Land Of Trance 2014’ — the biggest electronic dance music festival in Borneo – will be held at the Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) on Dec 12-13.

Mysterious Asia Sdn Bhd manager Mohd Khalid Issac said the festival will showcase the genre to music lovers.

“This event is in synchronisation with many music festivals around Asia for the month of December and SCV is the perfect venue for this kind of festival,” he told a press conference yesterday.

“In Kuala Lumpur this music genre is very popular and we want to share and get acceptance for this kind of music here and to get the impact we bring in some of the best trance music artistes to Sarawak and in particular to Borneo.”

The festival will feature international acts such as Orjan Nilsen (DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs), Alex MORPH, MaRLo, Lisa Lashes, Sneijder, Bryan Kearney, Ben Gold, Bjorn Akesson, Alexander Popov, Antillas, Betsie Larkin, Susana and Alexandra Badoi.

Malaysian talents include Herbert Lye and Azlie Azurael, IMX projext (Mister Ariffin and Adham Nasri), Neoteric Nova and G-Nerate.

Khalid said the festival aims to enhance togetherness between the local talents and international acts, as well as revellers and promoters around the world.

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Pullman Kuching named Booking.com’s best under five-star hotel partner


KUCHING: Pullman Hotel Kuching has been recognised with ‘Booking.com’s 2013 Best of Blue Fellowship Award’ for ‘Outstanding Hotel Partner Under Five Stars’ category.

General manager Felix Yeo, who accepted the award from a representative from Booking.com here recently, said the honour was the ‘best Christmas present’ for the hotel.

“This is the best recognition for our hardworking and dedicated staff members who have worked diligently in maintaining our top services all these years.”

Pullman Kuching had achieved an average score of 8.5 out of 10 last year on Booking.com – one of the world’s leaders in online booking for accommodation. Scoring has been rated by users or reviewers based on cleanliness, comfort, location, facilities, staff and value for money.

Among the positive comments was one written by a solo traveller who stayed for two nights at the hotel’s superior twin room this month, which said: “Awesome place to be, with no regrets. Everything from the room, facilities, and not to mention the staff (sic).”

A member of a group of five travellers having stayed at Pullman Kuching earlier this month, commented: “The spacious room was value for money, the bathroom so large – it’s like the size of my apartment room in KL. The promotion spa package was great, all spa facilities were well-equipped and in good condition (sic).”

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Malaysian Borneo – Kinabalu National Park


One of the things we had on our to-do list for Borneo was to climb Mount Kinabalu.

We are not mountain climbers, but as you do not need to be in order to attempt this one we decided to give it a go – when else are we going to have the opportunity to climb a mountain this high?

To be honest, as much as I had agreed to do the climb, I hadn’t realised exactly what I had let myself in for until I saw it.

My first view of Mount Kinabalu was from the aeroplane on our first day when we were travelling from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan.

Out the window of the plane I could see the mountain and I swear it looked almost as high as the plane!

At 4095m above sea-level, Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in South-East Asia.

Although some people do the climb in a single day, the most common approach is to split it over two.

We had decided to spend the night before our climb staying within the National Park.

The Park HQ is at just under 1800m so seemed like a good way for us to start acclimatising.

It was a few hours drive from Kota Kinabalu to Park HQ, with the mountain gradually looking bigger and more daunting the closer we got.

We didn’t know what kind of accommodation we were getting for the evening as there was quite a variety within the park.

I was amazed when we were shown to our room to find that we had a small suite – downstairs we had a living area and balcony, and upstairs was the bedroom. I had been expecting a dorm so this far exceeded my expectations!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Malaysian Borneo – Kinabalu National Park
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Entries for Baram White Water Rafting open till Nov 28


KUCHING: The Baram White Water Rafting Challenge is still open to entries until Nov 28 – the eve of the competition – its organisers announced yesterday.

The challenge, which is organised by the Social Development Ministry and Miri Resident’s Office, will be held at Sungai Tinjar, Baram in Miri on Nov 29 with its route mapped from Long Aton to Long Luyang.

Those interested can contact Baram White Water Rafting Challenge secretariat at 082-440441/082-472573 or fax to 082-446360.

Apart from that, the Long Lama sub-district office can also be contacted via 085-771204/085-771203 or 013-8224501 (Louis Michael Balau).

According to the ministry’s principle assistant secretary Mering Wan, who contacted The Borneo Post yesterday, raft enthusiasts would not want to miss participating or watching this extreme sport as it would be packed with action, spills and thrills.

“Two categories will be contested for the challenge, namely the Men’s Team Open category and the Women’s Team Open category. Each team must have six members,” he added.

He also revealed that the total prize offered for the challenge is RM16,200 as participants of both the Men’s and Women’s Team Open stand a chance to walk away with RM2,000 in cash prize, a challenge trophy and medals — should they be crowned champions.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Malaysian Borneo – Kota Kinabalu


After almost a week staying in lodges in the rainforest we had planned 2 nights of luxury in a resort close to Kota Kinabalu.

We are not really resort people, but this seemed like our best option to ensure we refreshed ourselves before we set off on another adventure.

We left Tabin after lunch and travelled to the nearest airport at Lahad Daku.

Unfortunately we were dropped off incredibly early for our flight – check-in had only just started for the earlier flight to KK.

We tried to get ourselves moved onto the earlier flight but sadly it was fully booked.

Because the airport is so small we couldn’t check in for our flight so had to stay close to the airport as we had all our luggage with us.

Once we eventually boarded the plane it was only a short flight to KK, and from there only a short connection to our hotel.

We had both been feeling under the weather during our last day at Tabin so decided to have dinner at the hotel and have an early night.

The next morning we decided to head into town to take a look around and stock up on energy supplies for our upcoming Mount Kinabalu climb.

We had our taxi drop us off at the Atkinson Clock Tower, which is one of the older structures in the town.

The clock tower is named after Francis George Atkinson, who was the first district officer of Jesselton (the former name of Kota Kinabalu).

It was very different from the styles of other buildings we had seen in the country.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Malaysian Borneo – Kota Kinabalu
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Malaysia tour prices to rise as fuel subsidies are withdrawn


INBOUND tour operators are prepared to absorb additional costs to honour existing contracts as the Malaysian government scraps fuel subsidies from next month, but higher package rates are on the table for the next contracting period.

Said Adam Kamal, CEO, Rakyat Travel: “We will monitor rates over the next three months and decide on a new rate mechanism for the next contracting period. We will likely put a clause in that transport rates are subject to change. We have a clause now for foreign exchange rates.”

Likewise, S Jayakumar, operations manager, Dayangti Transport & Tours, said: “For the next contracting period, we will cost our tours higher with a bigger buffer, just to play safe.”

Luxury Tours Malaysia senior manager, Arokia Das, said: “Our coach and van providers have indicated that new rates will go up by 10 to 15 per cent in 2015. GST will also be introduced on April 1, 2015. Thus our package prices will increase by a minimum of five per cent next year.”

The government announced over the weekend that from December 1 it will no longer be providing fuel subsidies for RON95 petrol and diesel.

Retail prices will be based on a managed float and tied to international crude oil prices.

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Promenade Hotel Bintulu officially opens


BINTULU: Promenade Hotel Bintulu was officially opened by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem during a grand opening ceremony yesterday.

Among those present were his wife Datin Patinggi Datuk Jamilah Anu, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang and wife Dato Sri Empiang Jabu, Double Dynasty Group of Companies managing director Tan Sri Yee Ming Seng and several assistant ministers and their wives.

Promenade Hotel Bintulu chief operating officer Alex Cham said Promenade Hotel Sdn Bhd’s maiden hospitality business began with the opening of Promenade Hotel Kota Kinabalu Sabah 17 years ago, which now operates as the corporate headquarters.

“Since then, it has successfully achieved its business vision to manage and operate a chain of Promenade Hotels in Tawau Sabah, Fujian China and now in Bintulu and another hotel is in the pipeline,” he said.

Promenade Hotel Bintulu has an inventory of 188 rooms and suites that are elegantly styled with a creative twist in its choice of colours plus a host of contemporary features such as the ingenious use of natural lighting and mirrors to give the feeling of warmth and spaciousness.

“In conjunction with the grand opening of Promenade Hotel Bintulu, we are pleased to extend our special introductory rates from RM168 nett and above, which includes breakfast,” said Cham.

He added since the soft opening last September 9, this 8-storey business class hotel had been consistently enjoying excellent occupancy rate of 80 per cent.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Geoparks poised to become best loved park brands in Sarawak


MIRIGeoparks – places with a geological heritage acknowledged by experts for its international significance are poised to become one of the public’s best loved park brands.

Geoparks leverage their geo-heritage to diversify local and regional economic opportunities, conserve natural resources, encourage respect for local traditions and culture, and promote community involvement with the site.

According to Dr Lisa Marie King, senior research fellow of the Curtin Sarawak Research Institute (CSRI) at Curtin University Sarawak, geoparks also promote sustainable tourism within beautiful and interesting geo-destinations.

King, also a member of the Langkawi Geopark Scientific Consultative Committee, said this in her keynote speech presented at the recent Sanin Kaigan Geopark International Conference held in Yumura, Japan.

According to her, there are over 1,300 protected area brands used around the world today. As the first suite of geoparks was established only in 2004, most people are not familiar with the new park concept.

“However, in the ten years since their establishment on-the-ground, the geopark concept has expanded across the globe. There are now approximately 100 geoparks worldwide. I believe that geoparks, over time, will become one of the public’s best loved park brands,” she said.

King remarked that Japan currently has seven geoparks. Citing Sanin Kaigan Geopark as an excellent example of a geopark, she commented that its wonderful scenery includes hot springs, waterfalls, scenic vistas, hiking tracks, an educational and fun visitor centre, and its friendly and hospitable staff members, which embody the values of the geopark brand.

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Lawas Regatta the best this year


LAWAS: The Lawas Regatta this year is deemed the best since Pesta Lawas was launched, keeping spectators on their feet from start to finish as they witness the most thrilling races in history unfolding before their eyes.

The series of neck-to-neck battle along the 1.2km Lawas River provided spills and thrills which saw a totally-different level of competition and eye-brow raising speed of boats reaching the finishing line.

Kuala Lawas Putera team was again in the forerunners of different categories and team manager Awang Damit Ali Hasan said it was a combination of exposure to higher standard of the sports with infusion of Indonesian expertise, hard work in training and competitive spirit which is second to none.

“Locals are exposed to the higher level of competition and techniques which are different from what they are accustomed to, and the result is that there are many close races among the competing teams.”

The disparity of standard is evident between the front runners and the laggards who are many boat lengths behind.

The normal suspects, Putera, Citra Alti, Pusaka, Landas and Punang would be vying for the top finish in the finals in the afternoon, particularly King of Lawas River title and prize.

Damit said the spirit of competition was unique in Lawas where unity and closer rapport among competing teams remained intact after competitive races where an entire village would come to town to support their respective teams.

“You could hardly find anyone in the village during Lawas Regatta,” he said.

Regatta is still the main attraction but the economic spin-offs and publicity for Lawas with the influx of locals and visitors to town is welcomed by entrepreneurs.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Lawas Regatta the best this year
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Orang utan ‘elusive’ on Sarawak Tourism Board’s cobwebbed site


KUCHING: For this certain Dutch tourist, her rare encounter with the great apes of Borneo turned out to be a RM30,000 walk on the wild side. That astounding price tag would not spark a stampede for Semenggoh Wildlife Camp, which is only a plane and a bus-ride away, but for those in the know about Sarawak.

Tracing the Dutch’s costly experience to a slumber of poor maintenance, the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) has been urged to swiftly update the content of its official website to better inform tourists across the globe.

Making this call with the anecdote, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Promotion of Technical Education) Datu Len Talif Salleh said he had come upon a Dutch tourist, who claimed spending some RM30,000 to see an orang utan here due to a lack of information on STB’s portal.

“This woman is from the Netherlands and she told me she spent RM30,000 just to see an orang utan in Sarawak. She said it was because there wasn’t enough information on STB’s website or the information available was not up to date.

“In the end, she had to venture her way to locate the area for orang utan and this cost her RM30,000,” he said when closing the Sarawak Map Creator Competition 2014 organised by Politeknik Kuching at a hotel here.

Len Talif pointed out it was also high time for the authority to provide more information on Sarawak tourism through ‘Trip Advisor’, a travel website providing reviews of travel-related content. Trip Advisor also includes interactive travel forums.

“Trip Advisor is an application for many to access worldwide, but there is very limited information on Sarawak on this website.”

He thus called on the organiser to bring both STB and Tourism Malaysia into the mainstream of tourist information in future so that the two agencies could liaise and do more to promote Sarawak and Malaysia.

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Beaufort Bagandang Festival - Youths called to preserve local culture


BEAUFORT: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Aman has called on youths to continue to preserve tribal and ethnic culture to keep the traditional heritage alive.

He said the very existence and survival of a racial or ethnic group depended upon its willingness, determination and commitment to uphold its cultural heritage.

“Therefore, the state government welcomes such programmes to maintain unity and uphold local cultural heritage,” he said in his opening speech at the Bagandang Festival here, yesterday.

His speech was read by the Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, who is also Beaufort member of Parliament, Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun.

Musa said the Bagandang Festival is not a tourism asset but also serves to further strengthen unity among the various races in Sabah.

Also present were State Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Kamarlin Ombi, Beaufort UMNO head Datuk Isnin Aliasnih and Kuala Penyu State assemblyman Limus Jury.

Musa said that besides helping to translate Malaysia’s excellent multicultural identity, the Bagandang Festival was also an opportunity for the people of Beaufort and its surrounding towns to earn some income.

The Bagandang Festival, a Beaufort district annual event, was in its sixth year with this year’s theme being ‘Upholding Culture Together’. The festival was a five-day event concluding yesterday.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sabah can promote tourism on its own


SANDAKAN: Sabah Tourism Board (STB) is capable of promoting tourism overseas due to rapport established with host countries during past promotions.

Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, the Minister of Tourism and Environment, said STB had established good rapport with host countries in overseas sales and promotion assignments and as such it had no problem in promoting the state on its own.

He said the Ministry of Tourism, both at state and federal levels, were responsible in carrying out their duties in promoting tourism in the country, and there should be collaboration in this matter.

“It is the responsibility of the Federal Tourism Ministry to promote Sabah as a tourism destination, after all we are a part of Malaysia,” he said adding that Sabah contributed income to the federal government and as such they also should do their part to promote Sabah.

Concurring that the federal ministry has to promote other states in Malaysia, he said it was not an easy task.

“Therefore, STB as an entity can promote its tourism product on its own.”

Speaking to reporters after the launching of ibis Styles Sandakan Waterfront, he said tourism players and his ministry had the same objectives in promoting tourism and as such there should be collaborations between them.

“We are a tourism team, with our main aim being to promote and prosper the tourism industry in the state,” he said.

“Everybody in the government should work together to ensure that tourism recover from what has happened in Sabah,” he said, adding that sensationalising stories should be avoided as this could compromise tourists’ confidence in Sabah.

According to him, there were disputes about the level of safety in the east coast of Sabah but he believed the security forces are capable of ensuring the security of this area.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah can promote tourism on its own
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Biennial Pesta Lawas roars back into life


LAWAS: The biennial Pesta Lawas kicked off yesterday with thrills and spills of the traditional regatta at Lawas River and crowd frenzy slowly building up in the afternoon.

It was a combination of three major festivals – Lawas Regatta, Borneo Co-Op Festival and One industry Fest – on Nov 21-13 with participation from Sabah, Brunei, Terengganu and Sarawak.

The traditional Lawas Regatta in a pit of paddling prowess was in the early days of the completion, testing the strength and weaknesses of their rivals groups on the first day of three-day battle which would culminate in the fight for the coveted ‘King of Lawas River’ title and bragging rights.

The quiet town is now a hive of activities by over 100 booth operators and the crowd is expected to turn up in full force on Saturday and Sunday.

Pesta Lawas is also a platform to build closer social and cultural interaction, business co-operation and networking and fun time for locals and visitors alike, with a blend of Borneo cultures in cultural performances from the best in Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei.

It is tailored for marketing and networking – a boost to cooperatives movement with the Co-Op Festival starting Nov 20 featuring 50 booths for co-operatives members from Brunei, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak to showcase their products and services while promoting networking and business opportunities for participants

The local industry promotion by the Bumiputera Entreprenuer Development unit in the Chief Minister’s Office is reflected in the 50 booths for entrepreneurs, with the district famous for its ‘Ikan Tahai’ (smoked fish)

Another interesting feature is the array of products showcasing fine artistry of local knife manufacturing cottage industry.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Surfing in Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: Surfing in Sabah is relatively still a new adventure sport but it is catching up among a very small fraction of the local population, who are mostly youths and young adults.

But when people think of surfing in Asia, Indonesia comes to mind, having established itself as a destination for surfers much earlier because of its big waves.

And it was about five years ago when a surf enthusiast, local Ivan Nicolai, banded with some friends and decided to give the waves, initially at Tanjung Aru, a go.

From thereon, there was no turning back for the small group of friends and as word spread around, the number swelled to more than 20.

Ivan started with bodyboarding about 1990 and switched to surfing only eight years later in 1998 after he went to Bali and got his own board.

"Most of my bodyboard buddies left the scene and back then I never see or hear any surfers (in Sabah) so I stopped (surfing).

"I only started to really surf again when I met my friends Charles and Kanesh in 2005," he said.

While the waves in Sabah are considered mild, which are more suitable for beginners, it didn't stop the interest on it from growing.

There is even a surf lesson that will be held soon for those who want to give surfing a go.

For the benefit of those who are unaware of it, there is the Sabah Borneo Surf Club or Sabah Surfing Association (SSA), which is about to be formed soon.

A website that is dedicated to surfing in Sabah said Ivan and his friends regularly invite friends from other parts of the globe such as Japan, Brazil, Australia and the UK.

And they usually hit the waves at Simpang Mengayau in Kudat where the size varies from two feet to nine feet.

"December to March is when the wind changes to the Northwest monsoon and that's when the swells start coming in more frequently in Tuaran and further up north in Kudat," according to Ivan.

Continue reading at: Surfing in Sabah
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Adventures along Borneo's Kinabatangan River: A Malaysian Wildlife Holiday


We hadn’t been at the Borneo Nature Lodge more than an hour when we hopped on a boat and headed down the fabled Kinabatangan River in Sabah State on the Island of Borneo. As we snaked our way along the banks of the river on a two hour cruise, wildlife stirred in every corner of the jungle.

Pigmy elephants, a mother and a calf, trundled through the thickets; a host of birds, including four species of hornbills, darted in and out of the canopy; a family of orangutans foraged for fruit from a tall fig tree while nearby, a group of proboscis monkeys hung out in leafy branches.

That, as Joe Harry, our wildlife guide, pointed out, is what makes the 26,000 hectare Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary so special.

“In terms of birds, reptiles and big mammals,” he noted, “the lower Kinabatangan has the richest concentration of wildlife in Southeast Asia. It’s great for visitors because animal viewing times are pretty predictable.”

Every day at around 4 pm as the jungle bursts into life, if you head out to the river, you can be sure you’ll discover an abundance of wildlife moving in its natural habitat.

Harry, a native of Sabah and an independent guide with 17 years of experience, has witnessed first- hand the remarkable transformation of the Lower Kinabatangan area over the last two decades. It has gone from a region dominated by a palm oil plantation economy to one that includes a growing eco-tourism industry. The formerly unpaved tracks built for the palm oil plantations are now roads that transport visitors to a variety of eco-lodges situated along the river.

Prior to the opening of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in 1997, the palm oil industry had encroached on much of the rainforest, especially the fragile areas bordering the river. In the 1970’s and 80’s, over-logging altered landscapes and impacted animal populations. Where cloud leopards once roamed, clear cutting and the growth of palm plantations decimated their populations. The entire ecosystem suffered, prohibiting the development of eco-tourism.

Since then, animal populations have begun to return, including primates such as the proboscis monkey and orangutan, as well as big mammals like the pygmy elephant.  There is hope that the cloud leopard will also rebound.

“The Sabah Government is on the right track,” says Joe.

According to our guide, in the past 15 years wildlife numbers have increased. Sabah state is also negotiating to buy land from plantation owners to widen animal corridors to promote their movement between areas bordered by plantations. 

Furthermore, the government is purchasing land adjacent to both sides of the river where wildlife traditionally feed and gather. This is because in many areas, plantations extend to the river banks, thus encroaching on animal habitat. Sabah state is now open to foreign NGOs helping to promote and expand the ecotourism industry.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sabah safe and secure


SABAH is safe, said Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, hoping many people will continue visiting the state.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said about RM1.28mil is spent monthly on operations for 43 army control posts. Besides that, nearly RM770,000 is spent on 42 police and auxiliary control posts under the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), he said when replying to Datuk Seri Abdul Ghapur Salleh (BN - Kalabakan).

Shahidan added that security personnel were placed on every tourist island resort.

“Even Singamata, which is a reef and not an island, is guarded by policemen,” he said, adding that the ratio was two security personnel for every tourist on specific islands.

He said priority was given to Semprona, Lahad Datu and Tawau, owing to their proximity to the borders of Indonesia and the Philippines.

He added that security was beefed up at Pulau Sibatik to curb cross-border smuggling involving subsidised items.

Continue reading at: Sabah safe and secure
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Foreign participation at international conference proves Sabah is safe


An ongoing international conference, which attracted more than 100 foreign delegates to come and talk on lifelong education, proves that Sabah is indeed a safe state.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the participants, who converged for the 3rd Lifelong International Conference 2014 (3LInC’14) need not worry, and may deliberate on their topics of discussion in peace.

Masidi made the comment, slamming Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, who recently stated several areas in Sabah were unsafe, and that he would not order his officials abroad to promote Sabah as he could not guarantee tourists’ safety until the two kidnapping cases were solved.

Since Nazri’s negative statement on Sabah, many had come forward to slam the minister, describing it insensitive and an unfair remark.

A total of 115 delegates from all over Malaysia, Indonesia, Oman, Thailand and Qatar attended the two-day event, organised by Universiti Utara Malaysia’s (UUM) Executive Development Centre (EDC).

Previously it was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 and Bangkok in 2012.

On another note, Masidi disclosed that more Malaysians were going back to school to be better trained and knowledgeable, attributing it to many public and private learning institutions available to meet their needs.

Masidi, who is also the Minister in charge-of Education in Sabah, in disclosing this, said the change in society’s attitude was essential to effectively promote lifelong learning.

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Pesta Lawas 2014 to pull in crowds


KUCHING: Pesta Lawas 2014 is expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors compared to 80,000 visitors last year as more exciting and interesting activities have been lined up.

According to Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, committee members came up with many improvements.

Many unique and interesting things about Limbang will be portrayed in the five-day event from today (yesterday) until Sunday.

‘Among the highlights are local food products including the popular smoked Tahai fish, cultural and heritage, handicraft, regatta, Lawas Kitchen, 1Malaysia community stalls and autoshow,” said the Bukit Sari assemblyman during a radio interview with RTM which was broadcast live from the studio yesterday.

The minister of public utilities and industrial development said in preparation for the three-day event, an entrepreneur seminar for local entrepreneurs to exchange ideas was held yesterday, while a primary forum today.

He said 15 cooperatives from throughout the country will take part in the event including those from Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Brunei.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Pesta Lawas 2014 to pull in crowds
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A more holistic approach to stimulate Sarawak tourism industry


THE Ministry of Tourism will be taking a more holistic approach to stimulate the industry’s growth by strengthening local niche events and diversifying their marketing strategy.

As of September this year, the state recorded around 3.5 million visitors, out of which 1.9
million were international visitors while the rest domestic arrivals.

“Through various exciting events and more direct flights into Sarawak, we can expect these numbers to increase by next year,” Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said during his ministry’s winding-up speech at the DUN yesterday.

He revealed that the 11.2 per cent rise in visitor arrival to Sarawak this year could be credited to the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 and Visit Sarawak Year 2013/14.

Other major platforms to promote the state’s tourism potential consisted of public relations, online and electronic communications and public events within Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam.

Throughout the two-year campaign, there were 962 airtime advertisement spots on TV1, TV2, TV3 as well as short documentaries slotted on iTV Astro.

“Promotional campaigns on VMY2014 are published in magazines and books such as Reader’s Digest Asia, Nikkei Business magazine, golf magazine and various in-flight magazines.

“The state is also promoted through short documentaries aired on various television channels such as National Geographic, Discovery Channel and news networks like BBC and CNN,” he said.

These digital and virtual advertising initiatives have put Malaysia and Sarawak on countless websites, travel apps, YouTube, Facebook and many other social media distributions.

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Tourism minister's remarks on Sabah trigger MATTA rebuke


THE Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has issued a strong statement rebutting Malaysian tourism and culture minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz’s position regarding tourist safety in Lahad Datu.

Mohamed Nazri told the parliament on Monday that certain places in Sabah remained unsafe and that he would not order tourism officers abroad to promote the destination. The Rakyat Post quoted him as saying that he personally will not visit Lahad Datu to avoid trouble, while The Star stated the minister does not want to be responsible for guaranteeing the safety of tourists in Sabah.

Responding to the minister’s remarks in a press release, MATTA vice president inbound, KL Tan, said: “In the first place, Lahad Datu is not a tourist destination. Perhaps the minister should also say he cannot guarantee the safety of any tourist to Malaysia as there are many unresolved cases involving the security of tourists.

“If a tourist is murdered in West Malaysia and the case remains unresolved, can we also say that Peninsular Malaysia remains unsafe?” he questioned.

Tan added that the Mohamed Nazri’s statement is a blow to the local industry and negates the concerted efforts by all tourism stakeholders to promote Sabah, echoing Sabah tourism, culture and environment minister Masidi Manjun’s remarks in an earlier report by The Star that his federal counterpart’s statement threatened to undo the hard work undertaken by the Sabah tourism authorities to bring back tourists to the state.

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Sarawak Convention Bureau launches Soulful Orangutan Appeal Project


KUCHING: The Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) recently launched its ‘Soulful Orangutan Appeal Project’ at Imex America.

This key trade show for the global meetings, incentive travel and events industry was held in Las Vegas, USA on Oct 14-16.

A press release issued by SCB yesterday said the project would be an ongoing SCB trade show initiative to promote Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC)’s popular corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme ‘Heart2Heart with Orangutans’.

With just a ‘Like’ and a ‘Share’ of ‘Soulful Orangutan Appeal Project’s’ Facebook page, visitors can be part of the programme and make a difference.

Each ‘Like’ equals a US$1 donation from SCB under the name of each participating individual.

“The response to Soulful Orangutan Appeal Project was encouraging as we had visitors to our booth enquiring about not only Sarawak’s CSR programmes, but what else the destination could offer; which was our main objective,” said SCB managing director Mike Cannon.

SCB said exhibiting under the Malaysia banner with partners Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), CPH Travel Agency and Borneo Adventure from Sarawak was a great success.

Built on a core trade show format, Imex America offered great networking opportunities and free education thanks to multiple partnerships with leading global and American industry associations, it said.

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Call for nomination of Kuching Waterfront to become Unesco World Heritage site


THE Social Development Ministry has proposed for Kuching Waterfront to be nominated for Unesco World Heritage List next year.

Its minister Tan Sri William Mawan said this in his winding-up speech yesterday, hoping that the historical interchange as well as the interaction between human and architecture, arts and culture here could qualify the site for the nomination.

“I believe that the history and charms of old buildings, culture and way of life, as well as the ambience created by the blend of the old and modern, could create a distinct identity for Kuching city and Sarawak,” he said.

Mawan, who is also Pakan assemblyman, also encouraged private building owners to register their heritage properties with the Sarawak Museum Department to ensure that more of the state’s historical assets such as Brooke Dockyard, the old State Mosque and Padang Merdeka together with its centuries-old ‘kapuk’ (silk cotton) tree, would be protected under existing laws.

On the development of the Heritage Trail Project and Sarawak Museum Campus, the minister informed the august House that the full design of

these projects was still being finalised, with the ground work expected to commence by year-end.

“A new Museum of Modern Sarawak to be located at the north bank of Sarawak river in the Heritage Square, is also being designed.

“In this respect, we need to document our history in an orderly manner, in enabling us to chart our developmental progress and achievements since independence,” he added.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Borneo boat tour to see Orangutans


Orangutans are some of the most intelligent primates in the world. They are exclusive. Travelling Asia to Malaysia and Borneo (Kalimantan), Indonesia in South-East Asia. They are gorgeous and really wonderful to observe and I was lucky enough to do just.

My partner and I hired a boat and cruised down the Sekonyer River to reach Tanjung Puting National Park to see an Orangutan feeding at the famous Camp Leakey.

We flew from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, into Pangkalanbun airport, Borneo, were picked up at the airport and driven to the ferry point where we were then shown to our own private boat and commenced to cruise for 3 days (2 nights) along the River Sekonyer, stopping at various spots to view Orangutan feeding spots in order to observe the beautiful animals.

Of course I make this sound as if it went extremely smoothly, the reality was slightly different. Our flight at the early hours of the morning was delayed by nearly an hour, we drove around for a very long time trying to get signal for the credit card machine to make payment and had actually expected to be on a boat with other people. But once away none of that mattered in the slightest.

The experience was amazing and so beautiful to see. We were lucky and saw the all different sizes of the primates, babies still clutching to swinging mothers, teenagers skulking along behind or in front of mum and even the area Alpha- Tom, a huge Orangutan who was the area’s dominant male.

The river was calm and the rainforest full of life. Motoring down the river we saw various lovely birds, bats, fireflies and the Proboscis Monkey- renown for their exceptionally big noises! Unfortunately my photos do not do this part of the journey justice.

The boat crew were incredibly kind and attentive, cooking us vast amounts of food that was as delicious as it was abundant.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Borneo boat tour to see Orangutans
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Malaysian Borneo – Tabin


During our stay at Tabin we went on several excursions with our guide, Rachel, looking for wildlife and enjoying other aspects of the rainforest experience.

We were a little disappointed to find that although there are a lot of walking trails from the Tabin Wildlife Resort, you cannot walk them unaccompanied.

They have had to tighten safety measures after a few cases of people coming face to face with elephants in the past.

That said, Rachel was great and she did what she could to fill our schedule as much as possible.

From a wildlife perspective, we saw lots of birds, monitor lizards and gibbons, but my favourite trips were the night drives.

Anyone who has been on a safari holiday is probably familiar with these – where the guides use flashlights to look for the reflection of eyes.

You then have to try and get close enough to the animal before it runs away!

We managed to spot several species of owl, a few types of civets and some leopard cats.

Sadly, it was tricky to take photos given the lighting but we managed to get one or two.

We knew elephants were in the area but kept narrowly missing them.

A few times the guides mentioned that there were fresh prints (less than 30 minutes old) but we always arrived a little too late.

It would have been great to see another elephant but at least we saw one on the Kinabatangan River so I wasn’t too upset about it.

One of the most enjoyable parts of our rainforest experience was swimming in a waterfall.

Aside from the other people in our group, there was no sign of human life.

It was so peaceful! I enjoyed just lying back in the water admiring the trees all around which seemed to reach for miles into the sky.

It really did feel like something you would expect in Lost!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Malaysian Borneo – Tabin
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