Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sematan, where myths and land rise to meet the sea

LUNDU: Sematan is hard to miss – it is the passageway to Tg Datu the westernmost tip of Sarawak, north of Kuching, where land meets the sea.

For the road-weary traveller it is a place to soak in the sun on beaches where myths spring forth from the blue depths of the South China Sea.

Sematan is within Lundu District, 105km away from Kuching city. It is located by the sea and home to many quaint fishing villages.

The name ‘Sematan’ (San Ma Dan in Chinese) means ‘Three Red Horses’. Many local Chinese believe their forefathers were enchanted by three red-haired stallions cantering in the area. Ironically, Sematan although dubbed the ‘land of horses’ is actually much more blessed by the vast sea surrounding it.

Away from the Sematan beach, as told by 70-year-old Pemanca Lo Sin Li, are two islands – Talang-Talang – resembling turtle shells and which coincidently are the breeding spot for the many turtles found in the South China Sea.

“Each year, hundreds of turtles will lay their eggs on the two islands and a long time ago, there was a festival which was celebrated annually by the folk of Sematan. During the festival, the people will gather on the two islands and pelt each other with turtle eggs found there,” said Lo who has been Lundu’s Pemanca for seven years.

“This was a ritual to worship the sea god but since the two islands have been protected by the government, the festival also came to an end.”

Lo said Sematan is blessed with the rich waters where seafood is joyfully abundant. He explained that jellyfish can be seen floating on the shores of Sematan every year from February to March and from April to May, whereupon people would be on the move to harvest small shrimps.

Deep sea angling too lures cityfolk to these unspoilt spots, where for RM800 a trip, young man Alias Sudin runs a boat hire and fishing expedition based at the handicraft centre of Kpg Siru, a small village in Sematan. He ferries five to six customers on his 35-foot boat for the one-hour ride to Tg Datu, the northernmost tip of Sarawak bordering Indonesian Kalimantan.

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