Monday, November 30, 2015

First Airasia flight to land at KKIA Terminal 1 at 8.40pm


KOTA KINABALU: Six AirAsia flights have been scheduled to arrive at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) Terminal 1 (T1) starting 8.40pm tonight ahead of the low-cost-carrier operations moving from Terminal 2 (T2) tomorrow.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd chief operating officer Datuk Abd Hamid Mohd Ali said while the closure of T2 is at midnight, the flights are rerouted to T1 to avoid towing of the aircrafts.

"We will witness the first landing of AirAsia aircraft from Sandakan at 8.40pm, followed by 10.40pm arrival from Tawau, 11.05pm from Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, 12.45am from Hangzhou and 3.15am from Guangzhou," he said when met by New Straits Times at the Malaysia Airports office at T1, here.

He said they have started the first Operational Readiness and Airport Transfer (ORAT) weekly meeting on September 2 this year following the decision to have AirAsia shifting operations to T1 from T2 effective December 1 to ensure smooth transfer.

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Ministry confident Sarawak can achieve 5 million tourists target


MIRI: The Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia is optimistic that the target to attract five million tourists to Sarawak can be achieved this year.

Its deputy minister Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said as at October this year, a total of 3.4 million people had visited the state.

“The development of the tourism sector in Sarawak can be seen clearly through the statistics of tourists entering the state. Last year, the state registered a total of 4.8 million visitors compared to 4.3 million visitors in 2013.

“With such positive progress, it is possible for Sarawak to achieve the target of five million visitors this year,” she stated when officiating at the soft opening of the Recreational and Tourism Centre at Bungai Beach in Bekenu yesterday.

Mas Ermieyati thanked the various ministries, federal and state departments, government agencies, local authorities, private sector and non-governmental organisations for their concerted efforts in promoting Sarawak to the international market.

At the same time, she reminded tourism players not to be over excited in their tourism promotion works so as not to affect the quality of their products.

“There is a need for you to practise balanced tourism development. Apart from generating profit, you have to balance your business with the need to preserve the quality of environment.

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Samalaju Resort’s irresistible holiday package in Bintulu


SAMALAJU, BINTULU: Planning a romantic or a family getaway this Christmas or New Year holidays? Samalaju Resort Hotel says it is offering you, in December, a holiday package you cannot refuse.

The newly-opened Samalaju Resort Hotel, some 60km from Bintulu town and perched on a 23-acre site along Tanjung Similajau with stunning views of both the South China Sea and the Similajau National Park, is offering a two-day and one-night holiday room package at RM310 nett (for superior room, inclusive of a complimentary breakfast, welcome drinks and cookies, and free Western set dinner for two, as well as sunset movies).

On top of this, the Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve buffet dinners are at RM69.90 nett per person.

Beverages are also on offer at the restaurant bar and karaoke lounge whereby customers will enjoy ‘buy-two-free-one’ offer at RM50.00 nett, and ‘buy-five-free-one’ at RM100 nett.

The Christmas Eve buffet dinner will serve roasted turkey with homemade sauce, lasagne, Christmas pudding plus other traditional Christmas-themed dishes, including complimentary fruit punch and coffee and tea.

Diners can also expect specially prepared leg of lamb on New Year’s Eve buffet dinner.

Designed to be an oasis of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of this ever growing town, the 175-room hotel has 148 rooms and suites, nine three-room chalets, including a host of modern facilities.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Hike not for the world to see you, but to see the world


“Hike not for the world to see you, but to see the world”. I read this quote somewhere on the Internet some time ago, and this made me recall my journeys to various mountain peaks.

To be honest, I started out hiking “for the world to see me”. I was neither fit (actually, I was overweight), nor was I the adventurous type (I spend most of my time in front of my computer).

One day, my mother was taking her students for a trip up Broga Hill (near Semenyih, Selangor) and invited me along. The first thing that came to my mind was: “sure, that would look great on my Facebook page, me on the peak of a hill”.

Broga is known as one of the easier hills to hike and there are great views along the hike and at the top. But my experience was:

1) I was panting all the way

2) View? What view?

I just wanted to finish this hellish torture and reach the top. So that was my first hike: boring, insignificant, uninspiring.

Mount Kinabalu

Sometime after, my girlfriend and I decided to go to Sabah for a holiday. While researching about “what to do in Sabah”, I saw numerous posts on how people described its famous mountain as a “you’ve-never-been-to-Sabah-if-you’ve-never-hiked-Kinabalu” sort of place. So why not? This would make an even better profile picture.

Up until the day of my hike, I was still excited more about imagining myself snapping a selfie at the top, rather than imagining the top itself.

But all that soon changed. Yes, I rushed through the first hour or so of the hike – I wanted to reach the peak as quickly as possible – no looking around, no enjoying the experience, just a straight-on charge.

People say that it is when you are weak and suffering that you begin to appreciate what you have and what’s around you. And it was when I started to get exhausted that I realised what was around me.

I was a stranger in a strange land. I had never seen those trees before, those flowers, those insects. The air was different – it was moist, cool, refreshing. The environment was different.

Nature was all over the place – the sound of nature, the sight of nature, the smell of nature.

The people were different – none were rushing, all were smiling, all were in great spirits, all were in awe of this world that we live in. It was then that I realised that my mental circuits were changing as well.

The next five hours of the hike felt different for me, and so were the remaining five hours of climbing the next morning. It was no longer about myself, but about getting closer to this world that God has created.

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Sabah Tourism Board encourages development of Sabah’s tourism products


TAMPARULI: Sabah Tourism Board will continue to provide encouragement and provide for efforts to develop tourism products in Sabah.

Its chairman, Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said the board would always support interesting events that are not available in other countries.

“When we talk about attracting foreign tourists, surely we want to present a tourism product that is unique and not found in other countries,” he said.

Joniston told reporters after attending Bambusia Gala Nite in conjunction with the Bamboo Arts Festival organised by the Kinabalu Bamboo Music Orchestra (OMBAK) and several agencies at Dewan Tun Hamdan, here on Wednesday.

He said Bamboo Arts Festival was one such event that could be developed as a tourism product to attract tourists to Tamparuli and Sabah in general.

Joniston said as an initial step, the Sabah Tourism Board was considering to help promote the Bamboo Arts Festival through existing networks such as website and tourism offices locally and abroad and embassies.

“We want to make this event bigger and be known to the public not only in the country but also overseas as the goal is to attract tourists.

“We really want to see Bamboo Arts Festival to become a major tourist attraction not only in Tamparuli or Tuaran district but in Sabah and Malaysia,” he added.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

How about a Fun Staycation at DORSETT GRAND LABUAN?


In the recent media trip to Labuan, I was excited at the prospect of staying in Dorsett Grand Labuan. I have heard so much about the Dorsett Hospitality and there are only two Dorsett Grands in Malaysia and I was going to stay in one of them!

Dorsett Grand Labuan is the only 5-star hotel in Labuan and that’s quite a distinction. Awarded the “Best Business Hotel Brand Malaysia 2014” and “Luxury Business Hotel 2014”, Dorsett Grand Labuan is the only upscale international chain hotel in Labuan which caters to both international business and leisure travellers.

Dorsett Grand Labuan is ideally located in the uptown business district and directly opposite the Financial Centre. I was surprised the ride from the airport took only about 10 minutes until I discovered the hotel is only 5km away from the Labuan Airport which makes it easily accessible for travellers.  I had expected the ride to be longer but before we knew it, the van had pulled up the sloped road to the main entrance of the hotel!

Upon arrival at Dorsett Grand Labuan, we were treated to a grand welcome – the hotel team gathered at the lobby and sang us a welcome song! Wow… I must say I was so touched by this warm gesture. That’s only the beginning of my experience with this group of warm friendly people.

Throughout my stay in Dorsett Grand Labuan, I encountered top-notch service and friendliness from the crew. When I met their General Manager, Susan Carlos, I realised their culture of being caring and having that connecting bond with guests was inspired from the leadership. The warm interaction among themselves and with guests was obvious and I personally experienced that with Susan and her team.

Dorsett Grand Labuan houses 178 well-appointed luxurious rooms with 1 Royal Suite, 10 Premier Suites, 44 Executive Rooms and 123 Deluxe Rooms.

My Executive Room had a lovely view of the serene South China Sea with the colours of the sky and sea changing when dusk fell. I was also chuffed to note that there was a dedicated iHome in my room which comprised a radio, clock and iPod/iPhone dock. This is available in the Executive Rooms, Premier Suite and Royal Suite – something which is truly appreciated especially among guests who are tech-savvy.

As befits a 5-star hotel, all rooms are complete with amenities such as 32-inch LCD TV with satellite channels, coffee and tea-making facilities, direct IDD phone with voicemail box,individually-controlled air conditioning, private electronic safe box and more.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: How about a Fun Staycation at DORSETT GRAND LABUAN?
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Padawan Raft Safari, a rafting event not to be missed


KUCHING: Just mention rafting and most people will imagine a group of people in an inflatable rubber raft bouncing over the rapids and cruising along fast rivers.

These days the rubber rafts are often associated with extreme sports, unlike their traditional counterparts made from logs or bamboo tied together and used as a water transport mode.

The traditional raft is steered along the river using a long pole.

When the water is deep an oar is used to navigate the raft.

Unfortunately, the traditional rafts have been replaced by boats and inflatable rubber rafts.

In Sarawak, however, traditional rafts are remembered annually with the Padawan Raft Safari (PRS) competition, which is into its 11th series this year.

The PRS is an annual traditional raft competition organised by the Padawan Municipal Council (MDP) since 2005.

With Sungai Padawan as the venue for the event, participants contested in various categories namely Expert, Men’s, Women’s, and Tourism.

This year the competition witnessed the highest number of participants, with 144 teams, 22 more than the number of teams in 2014.

PRS organising chairman Edward Kurik said meticulous preparation was carried out by the MDP with the cooperation of agencies such as the police, Rela and Sarawak River Board to ensure the smooth flow and safety of the participants.

Upon arriving in Kampung Timurang where the 26km Men’s category race began, the writer was amazed to see the number of participants that had gathered and how well the event was conducted.

Only the participants who have their life jackets on were allowed to inspect and collect their raft left at the riverbank a day before the competition.

The participant felt excited, with some teams seen on the premises as early as 6am for the race scheduled to start at 8am.

The two types of rafts that could be used in the competition were those made from logs or bamboos. Most of the teams wore a uniform and decorated their rafts to make them stand out.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Top 10 Things to do in LABUAN


Labuan is located off the coast of Sabah. It is made up of the main Labuan island and 6 other small islands around it.  All this time, Labuan is best known as an offshore financial centre as well as being an offshore support hub for deepwater oil and gas activities in the region. As a developing tourist destination, Labuan has plenty to offer its visitors.

The school holidays are here and if you are still undecided on where to bring the kids for a break, why not check out Labuan?

Here are the Top 10 things to do in Labuan…

1. MUSEUMS & WAR MEMORIALS

Muzium Labuan
First of all, the best place to learn more about the history of Labuan is the Muzium Labuan. Established in 2004, the museum is located in a 2-storey pre-war colonial building. Inside its cool interior which is like a maze, are displays of all kinds of artifacts depicting the history of Labuan. In fact, it is a one-stop centre with information on everything relating to Labuan.

Peace Park, Surrender Point Memorial
One of the most visited parks in Labuan, the Peace Park is located near Surrender Point where the 32nd Japanese Southern Army surrendered to the 9th Australian Imperial Forces on the 9th September 1945. The Peace Park was built by the Japanese as a promise to peace and mankind. The huge man-made mound has a plaque signifying the renunciation of war.

Next to the Peace Park is the Surrender Point Memorial. This was where the Japanese officially surrendered their rule on Labuan to the Australian army which marked the end of World War II in Borneo.

Labuan World War II Memorial
Known also as the Labuan War Cemetery, this memorial graveyard is where many personnel of the Indian and Australian troops were buried. They were killed during the Japanese invasion of Borneo. There’s a total of 1,788 graves in this immaculately maintained cemetery. There’s an incredible sense of peace as one walks around this place.

Labuan Botanical Gardens
Close by the War Memorial is the Labuan Botanical Gardens, a popular place for both locals and visitors.

This beautiful sprawling park used to be the estate of a stately government mansion. It was built in 1852 as the official residence for Labuan’s first governor, Sir James Brooke and the island’s succeeding Residents.

Now the gardens are landscaped with lush greenery and shaded by huge ancient trees. There is an added skate ramp, reflexology path, gazebos, boardwalks, bridges, water features, a children’s playground and a fun-looking tree house in one of the many huge trees.

Chimney Museum
The Chimney is something of a mystery in Labuan. Standing 106 feet tall, this tower located in Tanjung Kubong, is made with strong bricks brought in from England. Although called a “chimney”, there’s actually no trace of smoke or burning inside this tower. However, as there were coal mines in the vicinity back in 1847-1920, it was thus named as such.


2. GOLF

Labuan International Golf Club
Avid golfers will love Labuan International Golf Club (LIGC) with its promise “Tee-off with Mother Nature”. This par 72 golf course with its pristine green in undulating slopes is sheer joy for golfers. LIGC is the only 18-hole golf course in Labuan. Their 16-bay driving range, perched on a hilltop, provides a sweeping view of the greens and fresh crisp air for golfers practicing their swings.


3. LABUAN UN BEACH – COCKTAILS AT SUNSET

As Labuan is an island, naturally it is surrounded by beaches. One of the most popular stretch is known as “United Nations Beach” located along the northern coastline. This name came about due to its “Clean Beach Award” from the United Nations Environment Program during the 2nd COBSEA Marine Litter Workshop & Clean-up campaign in 2008. The 9km stretch runs from Batu Manikar Beach to Sungai Miri. The people of Labuan have upheld the honour as I personally saw the council staff diligently cleaning the beach.

It is also listed as one of the Best 15 Beaches in Malaysia. It may not be the perfect beach with powdery white sand but it’s very clean and one of the best spots to enjoy a spectacular sunset. Oh you can also have a cocktail party here, with some help from the Catering Team of Dorsett Grand Labuan!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Top 10 Things to do in LABUAN
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Airasia receives double award from Sabah tourism


KOTA KINABALU: AirAsia has been recognised with the ‘Best Airline Award’ as well as the ‘Minister Special Awards’ at the Sabah Tourism Awards 2015 held here last Saturday.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun presented the awards to the airline’s chief executive officer, Aireen Omar, during the ceremony.

The ‘Best Airlines’ category recognised the airline that contributed to Sabah’s tourism industry in terms of connectivity and bringing the highest number of visitors to Sabah in the past two years.

The ‘Minister Special Awards’ was given to AirAsia for its bold expansion of direct air connectivity to Sabah internationally and domestically with a total of 23 destinations and growing, fully optimising Kota Kinabalu’s strategic geographical position enabling visitors to discover and experience Sabah’s world-class attractions, apart from developing business opportunities in Sabah.

Aireen thanked Masidi and the Sabah Tourism Board for recognising their hard work and contribution to the state of Sabah with the prestigious awards.

“We have invested substantially in developing Sabah into becoming a key AirAsia hub and are very pleased that our efforts have paid off with the ever-growing numbers,” she said.

“We have big plans for Sabah and look forward to growing the current three million passengers per annum to at least 12 million passengers. We are confident this number is not far-fetched and highly possible, with a proper low-cost carrier terminal in place in Kota Kinabalu. Sabah has tremendous potential to be a key regional hub and we want to make this a reality,” she added.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Airasia receives double award from Sabah tourism
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Crocker Range Festival replaces Pesta Koningau


KENINGAU: Crocker Range Festival will become an annual celebration here to replace Koningau Fair.

It aims to introduce the cultures of rural communities as well as help improve the local socio-economy and provide an opportunity for villagers to market their agricultural produce and local products.

The announcement was made by Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman in his speech at the launch of the Keningau Crocker Range Festival 2015 at the school hall of SM Ken Hwa Keningau, on Saturday.

The text of his speech was read by Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan who is also Minister of Infra- structure Development.

Musa also welcomed the initiatives and efforts of the organisers to ensure the success of the festival by applying a varied and interesting concept.

“This festival is the best platform to continue to protect and uphold culture, especially for the younger generation and is a positive sign for a better future for the country and the people, especially in the context of further strengthening the spirit of unity and harmony,” he said.

Musa hoped the festival would continue to be a catalyst and contribute significantly to the socio-economic development, while strengthening the spirit of unity and solidarity to guarantee the stability, security and prosperity in Sabah.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sabah and the North...


Borneo! The mere mention of this name conjures up all sorts of exotic images of lush jungles, beautiful beaches, headhunter lore, remote tribes and longhouses...I have been captivated by this place for years; it started with seeing the movie Farewell to the King in the 80's and from its depiction of Borneo it looked like one of the most remote and exotic locales in the world...and now I was finally here!

We were to start our adventure in the northern state of Sabah before working our way down to Sarawak...we had a tough time choosing what to see and do here, there are a ton of options and we ultimately ended up scrapping the eastern portion of Sabah due to time/logistic constraints to focus more on the west and northwestern coast...

Touched down in Kota Kinabalu (or KK as the locals call it) late evening, we were still pretty jetlagged so decided to just crash and start fresh in the morning...after some coffee and breaky the following morning we wandered out to get our bearings, stopping to arrange a car rental in a couple of days for our self-guided trip up the western coast...not quite sure what to say about this place, it's a city with a few gigantic shopping malls and not a whole lot else...took a stroll along the waterfront and returned there for dinner when the local fish stalls cranked up, but after a couple of hours we decided on leaving the following day...so back to the rental agency to shift some dates around and that was that...

Picked up our decidedly unsexy Proton vehicle early the next morning, and with some basic directions started out for the Tip of Borneo where we planned to spend the next couple of days...the drive was great, spent a good three hours or so slowly making our way up the western coast before finally seeing the signs for Tommy's resort, then it was off the highway and into the thick of it...fortunately it was well signed, and after about thirty minutes we found it, right across the street from a large beach fronting onto the South China Sea...which would have been great had it not been for the rain and gale force winds whipping through the area!

Anyways, stopped in to find the place empty, checked out a couple of rooms, then went up to see another place right at the Tip of Borneo but ultimately decided on one of the private villas at Tommy's...very cool, there were three such villas on a hilltop behind Tommy's overlooking the sea and each with its own private covered deck...but again with the weather raging we didn't get to spend a lot of time out there...

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sabah and the North...
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Regatta Sarawak 2016 - Quest to be ‘King of Sarawak River’


ASAJAYA: The ‘Raja Sungai’ of every division in the state will vie to be ‘Raja Sungai Sarawak’ in Regatta Sarawak 2016.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg revealed that the event will be held in November next year.

“Starting next year, we will hold a regatta in every division to choose the divisional representatives before they compete at the state-level.

“We changed the regatta month to November to allow time to do this. We will also be bringing in participants from neighbouring Brunei and West Kalimantan,” he said when officiating at Regatta Samarahan 2015 at Sungai Tambirat Waterfront yesterday.

Abang Johari, who is also Housing minister, pointed out that the divisional-level event would ensure unity of Sarawakians at various places in the state.

“Sarawak is a state well-known for its spirit of unity among people of various races and religions. This is something we must preserve and maintain. Tourists come to Sarawak not only for the natural beauty of our environment but to witness the unity and harmony of our people,” he said.

Abang Johari revealed that the total visitor count to the state as of September this year was 3.4 million with tourists spending a total of RM7.8 billion.

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

How Eco Tourism Is Saving Sabah’s Wildlife


The Malaysian state of Sabah sits on the northern tip of Borneo. It’s an island rich in biodiversity, and it’s this biodiversity that attracts so many visitors to Sabah, but it’s now more endangered than ever before.

The rainforests here are home to truly unique creatures including orangutans, sun bears, proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants and Sumatran rhinos.

But these creatures are rapidly losing habitat, which is being taken over at a rapid pace by our appetite for Palm Oil.

Sabah is also home to some of world’s best snorkelling and diving. The Sipadan Barrier Reef, on Sabah’s east coast, is the largest barrier reef in South East Asia, and boasts the highest marine biodiversity on the planet. Over 2000 species of fish have been identified here.

But current levels and methods of fishing in this region are not sustainable. Large parts of the reefs have fallen victim to dynamite fishing and enormous numbers of sharks have been harvested to satisfy the world’s appetite for shark fin soup.

It’s not all bad news though. In Malaysia tourism is fighting back. Most of the tourism operators in Sabah are very environmentally aware, and are at the forefront of initiatives to conserve it. Here are a few of the best.

Shangri-La Rasa Ria

The orangutan sanctuary at Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort is well known, as is the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre which the resort also assists.

These sanctuaries play an important role in highlighting the plight of these adorable creatures, our closest primate relatives, and contribute to fund-raising efforts.

The sanctuary was opened in 1996 and works together with the Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary over in Sandakan and Sabah Wildlife, to help raise and rehabilitate orphaned orangutans.

Orangutans are solitary creatures, and young are raised by their mothers for at least 7-8 years before they are able to take care of themselves. These orphans need to be taught the basics of orangutan life, like how to climb and forage for food.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: How Eco Tourism Is Saving Sabah’s Wildlife
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Heart of Borneo Expedition to Upper Baleh

 
SIBU: Thirty people comprising mainly of experts and field staff from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), Forest Department, WWF-Malaysia and Sarawak Energy started their Heart of Borneo (HOB) Scientific Expedition Baleh 2015 yesterday.

According to Forest Department director Sapuan Ahmad, the expedition would be from Nov 19–29.

“This expedition is important as it forms part of a scientific mission to gazette part of an area in Ulu Baleh into a national park,” he said at the soft launching of the expedition at Tanahmas Hotel on Thursday.

His text-of-speech was read out by assistant regional forest officer Sandum Hitam.

Sapuan said all parties contributed their technical expertise and funds to the expedition in view of the expedition’s potential contribution towards the development of a planned catchment management plan for the Upper Baleh catchment.

“The outcome from the expedition will provide much needed data on the flora and fauna of the area, which is within the Heart of Borneo (HOB) Sarawak.”

He said the expedition was aimed at gathering baseline data to document the diversity of the flora and fauna of Upper Baleh and to support the gazetting of the proposed Baleh National Park and the conservation and development of a catchment management plan.

The second objective of the expedition was to explore and generate new scientific information on the biodiversity and gather baseline data to develop an understanding of montane terrestrial, freshwater biodiversity and ecosystems to support and complement identification of other representative priority conservation areas within the wider Baleh watershed.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Heart of Borneo Expedition to Upper Baleh
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Friday, November 20, 2015

Malaysia With Kids: Niah National Park


Borneo is Malaysia’s oft forgotten island, generally favoured by intrepid backpackers and scuba divers for its spectacular untouched natural beauty.

It’s a shame that more families don’t venture here because if you take the time to explore the heart of the rainforest and you will discover some brilliant cave walks and ancient civilisations at Niah National Park.

For family adventure holidays you won't forget, book a trip to Borneo with the kids.


The Destination

For children interested in exploring nature’s playground, the Niah National Park in Sarawak is part rainforest boardwalk expedition, part archeological adventure, part cave discovery.

Not only is it an exciting way to introduce older children (and active parents) to the great outdoors, it is safe enough for any reasonably fit person to achieve and easy enough to only occupy a short one or two days.

The reasons to enter the Park are the famous caves, but the boardwalk around the park is also a fun way to spot wildlife such as hornbills and macaques and experience a bona fide tropical forest.

The caves themselves are a thriving, living ecosystem of dripping walls, creepy crawlies and stinking guano (bat droppings – yes there are live bats too) that is a thrilling sensory assault.

It is a brilliant experience to duck under passageways, creep down dark crevasses and peer at sleeping animals camouflaging themselves in the darkness.

And witnessing the spectacle as the thousands of bats leave the caves at dusk is not to be missed.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Malaysia With Kids: Niah National Park
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Sabah Handicraft Centre takes ‘Sabah Batik’ to the next level


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Handicraft Centre or Pusat Kraftangan Sabah (PKS) through Kristal Handal Sdn. Bhd has made Sabah proud by being the only Batik producer from Sabah to receive the Batik Malaysia MS 692:2007 certification.

Held recently at the Malaysia Handicrafts Development Corporation (MHDC) Kelantan branch at Kota Bahru, Kelantan, the ceremony was the premier event of its kind in Malaysia.

Fifty one out of 604 Batik producers in the country have passed the MHDC standard laboratory tests which allow them to obtain the certification, the most important benchmark of product quality and authenticity, which indirectly enhances consumer confidence.

According to the Director of Yayasan Sabah Datuk Sapawi Ahmad, Batik Malaysia MS 692:2007 certification, the standard developed in cooperation with SIRIM Bhd and the Department of Standards Malaysia, is subject to strict criteria.

“The Batik producers are required to go through 11 lab tests for each fabric within six months. The quality standards specify the material requirements, technique specifications, processes, methods and textile labelling which are defined as ‘Malaysia Batik’,” he explained.

“The tests involve colour fading test, liquid extract pH test, waste disposal test, water solubility, dimensional stability and textile strength of finished product,” he added.

Being the only Batik producer in Sabah to receive the certification, PKS has definitely brought ‘Sabah Batik’, which is known for its uniqueness and authenticity of local motif patterns to another level.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Miss Scuba International beauties at Mabul Island


TAWAU: Aspirants for the coveted Miss Scuba International crown have begun arriving from all over the world with 18 contestants arriving here on November 16 enroute to the Mabul Water Bungalows, located on Mabul Island for their daily preparation, training and activities.

The contestants come from several countries, namely, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malta, the Philippines, Latvia, Kenya, Japan, Indonesia, China, France, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

They will be competing to be crowned the next Miss Scuba International which will take place at Magellan Sutera Resort, Kota Kinabalu on November 27.

The contestants will spend eight days at the Mabul Water Bungalow undertaking diving trips, attending conservation workshops, participating in catwalk training and so on.

Upon arrival at the Mabul Water Bungalow, the contestants joined the orientation programme and a welcoming dinner at night to start off their first day of competition.

On the second day, they did their swimsuit photo shoot at the Sipadan–Mabul Resort and from the response of the contestants, they are apparently enjoying the pristine beach, clear water and tropical weather at the resort.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Miss Scuba International beauties at Mabul Island
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cape Rhino Camp, Tuaran: Historical, adventurous, breathtaking river camp


KOTA KINABALU: Not many people know of the existence of a camp in Tanjung Badak, Tuaran. However, if one is a nature lover, Cape Rhino Camp at Tanjung Badak is a place that should make one’s bucket list.

It is located next to the Mengkabong River estuary and it has 20 separate toilets, showers, a camping ground that can fit more than 150 people, a roofed area, dining area, rooms with fans, a jetty, traditional sea gypsy homes and a bon fire pit. It also has a private beach and island.

The camp is managed by Sea Gypsy Mangrove Village (SGMV), an outdoor activities company specialising in watersports, horse riding, nature cruises, mangrove related activities and teambuilding programs.

Speaking to the owner cum operating manager of SGMC, Ahmad Nahri Mohd Noh, or more fondly known as Matt, he said that the company strives to provide the best outdoor experience.

“At the same time, we want to educate our guests about nature and its importance. The camp is surrounded by the lush Mengkabong mangroves. The place is also alive with sea gypsy (Bajau Laut) culture so what we do is literally naturally exciting,” said Matt.

He said that the main type of accommodation is camping. Matt also said that safety wise; there had been no major issues before.

“Even in the water, it is safe. Even if it is jellyfish season, there is not much jellyfish and we will usually be warned about jellyfish by local fishermen,” he said, adding that the water in the camp is about 5 metres deep without waves.

Matt said that the company began its operations about a year ago and focusing on the local market and believes in only employing local people.

Many activities can be conducted there such as fishing, barbeques, and team building activities, sunset cruises, firefly cruises or even river cruises.

“One can opt for the river cruise where we would bring people upstream the Mengkabong river and introduce them to the local sea gypsy culture.”

“They (Bajau Laut) are different than the Bajaus in the East Coast. These Bajaus are localised towards land and they live in stilted houses.”

“Even the dead are buried on land. During the river cruises, guests will have the opportunity to visit the Bajau community in their houses and talk to the people there,” he added.

Matt also said that his company has a program called the Nature School Program which caters student groups of ages below 17.

“This program aims at educating youngsters on rubbish disposal’s responsibility, which is a serious issue,” he said, adding that he and his staff has been cleaning the beach everyday ever since they began operations.

He said that despite cleaning the beach every day, a lot of trashes are still seen on the shores due to its close proximity to the camp and nearby villages.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sarawak tourism must find more ways to attract visitors


KUCHING: Sarawak must take the initiative to promote itself as a tourism destination and stop being too reliant on Kuala Lumpur for promotions, said Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

“If we (Sarawakians) don’t do it for ourselves, nobody else will. We need to find as many ways as possible to attract visitors to Sarawak annually,” he said at the 6th Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards 2013/2014 at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) on Sunday.

The Chief Minister said the state had the potential to be the country’s number one tourist destination as it had many things to offer, ranging from its ancient caves and jungles to national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and cultures.

On places of interest in the state, he said the state was practising an open-door policy, meaning everyone should be permitted to visit these places with minimal restrictions.

He pointed out that places such as caves, national parks, reserves and sanctuaries should not proscribe visitors as they were meant to be visited.

“I heard that certain places of interest in the state have restrictions (to visitors). I do not want that in the state as such places of interest are meant to attract visitors to the state.”

On airlines, Adenan said he hoped to see more airlines fly direct into the state rather than going through Kuala Lumpur.

“It can be a hassle for tourists who wanted to come to Sarawak when they first need to go through immigration check points in Kuala Lumpur and another one in the state.”

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Curb on the number of climbers to Mount Kinabalu


Kota Kinabalu: The number of climbers to Mount Kinabalu using the new climbing route has been limited to between 100 to 120 people a day during the two-month trial period from Dec 1, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

He said the decision was to ensure that the new route was suitable for use by the climbers and to identify any weaknesses.

The new route from Laban Rata to Sayat-Sayat to the peak of Mount Kinabalu to replace the old route which was damaged following the magnitude 6.0 earthquake on June 5, was now ready for use.

"Another route from Kota Belud will only be completed in February," he said after opening a Seminar on Firefly and Tourism Sustainability organised by University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Faculty of Business, Economics and Accounting.

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Hong Kong-based airline eyeing Kuching route


KUCHING: An undisclosed airline based in Hong Kong is expected to start flying direct from Hong Hong to here as early as February next year.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, in his speech at the 6th Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards 2013/2014 here on Sunday night, said a joint announcement on this development would be made soon. He said it would augur well for the state’s tourism as currently the only international scheduled flights were from Singapore.

“For now, I won’t reveal the name of the airline,” he said, when approached by reporters on the sideline of the event.

Abang Johari said the Hong Kong-Kuching sector could result in more Chinese tourists to the state as Chinese nationals tended to visit Hong Kong first before travelling overseas.

“Air connectivity is still a challenge, but whatever the shortfalls and hurdles, I urge all industry players to be resilient, creative, and innovative in their promotion and branding strategies.”

On a related matter, Abang Johari said the state had been chosen to host several international conferences and events, such as the International Congress and Convention Association Conference (ICCA), which is expected to bring in about 800 captains of key business events.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

New Sabah-China links to boost visitor numbers


TRADE players in East Malaysia are excited that the recent boost in new air services linking Sabah and China will pave for more robust two-way traffic between the two destinations.

AirAsia will begin daily services between Kota Kinabalu and Wuhan from January 22, 2016, while China Southern Airlines will introduce thrice-weekly flights from Guangzhou to Kota Kinabalu from December 1.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines and Universal Charter have entered into an agreement to operate 180 charter flights between Kota Kinabalu and Tianjin, Nanning and Chengdu from December 15 until March 31, 2016.

Earlier, Spring Airlines resumed four-times weekly charter flights between Shanghai and Sabah since October 25.

Welcoming the surge in China-Sabah air links, Mint Leong, managing director of Sunflower Holidays, said: "We have come out with new Sabah itineraries involving islands and beach holidays. Sabah is an easy sell as it has lovely beaches and clear waters."

Malaysian outbound players are also keen to tap the new air connections to venture into other parts of China.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Malaysian Borneo: Can you top this for adventure?


(CNN) Malaysian Borneo has long evoked visions of adventure in the West.

Many a kid has thumbed through their parents' National Geographic mags, dreaming that one day mom and dad might pass on yet another trip to Yosemite in the station wagon and instead take them to a land where headhunters lurk in ancient rainforests and wild orangutans play.

Today Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia, aka Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan) isn't the unaccessible impossibility it once was -- it's now serviced by a range of airlines and filled with resorts to suit all budgets.

The challenge is pinning down an itinerary. The place is huge.

Malaysia shares the island of Borneo with Indonesia and Brunei. The Malaysian portion is home to two Malaysian states -- Sabah and Sarawak -- and the federal territory of Labuan.

And it's far from perfect.

Logging continues to eat away at Malaysian Borneo's natural resources. Some researchers estimate 80 percent of the rainforests in Malaysian Borneo have been heavily impacted by logging.

Meanwhile, officials there continue to battle the illegal wildlife trade.

But it's still an adventure.

These options give you a taste of what's out there.


Mount Kinabalu

Whether or not you climb to the summit, Kinabalu is worth a visit.

Part of the UNESCO-listed Kinabalu Park, it sits 4,095 meters above sea level.

Despite the altitude it's a relatively easy trek, though guides and permits are required. A variety of overnight trek options range from one- to three-night climbs.

More information on climbing the beautiful beast is available from the Mount Kinabalu Official Climb & Booking Information Centre.


Sipadan

The waters off Malaysian Borneo are legendary, with dozens of dive sites offering pristine views of some of the world's finest coral and sealife.

If you want the best of the best, it's Sipadan. A contender on any dive publication's list of the "world's best dives," Sipadan lies 35 kilometers off the coast of Sabah.

In order to protect Sipadan's fragile ecosystem, in 2004 the Malaysian government ordered all dive resorts off the island, banned night dives and set a limit of 120 divers per day.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Malaysian Borneo: Can you top this for adventure?
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Saturday, November 14, 2015

On My List: Forest Forays and Food Fest in Kuching, Borneo


Arriving in to Kuching in the early afternoon, we immediately noticed the haze wasn’t as bad as Singapore (hooray!).

We checked in to our hostel, Singghasana Lodge, decorated in a typical Sarawakan style with some great spaces for socialising including a rooftop bar, and headed out to find lunch.

Our walk took us along the south bank of the river with views over to the grand, golden-roofed State Assembly that looks a bit like an ornate circus big top.

We passed a number of street art paintings and Chinese temples as we headed down the lanterned main street through historic Chinatown and stopped to sample banana fritters from a street vendor that were perfectly crisp on the outside and a soft messy goo within – absolute culinary heaven!

We continued to the open-air market for lunch and ordered fresh pau – steamed pork buns that were so fluffy it was like eating clouds – and Sarawakan laksa, a five-spiced take on what is possibly my favourite Malaysian dish.

After our hectic day in Singapore, we spent the afternoon relaxing at the hostel before going to Junk, a very cool restaurant/bar that had a ceiling cluttered with eclectic ‘junk’ ranging from a mix of Chinese lanterns to musical instruments and old tennis racquets.

The food, like the decor, was a fusion of East and West, and I enjoyed a delicious fish and chips with an Asian twist.

The following morning we visited Semeggoh Nature Reserve, one of the best places in the world to see semi-wild orang-utans.

We were joined by Adam and Gemma, a lovely English couple who had just started teaching in KL and who entertained us with their tales of international school life in Malaysia.

Arriving at the reserve, we witnessed with mixed emotions a live chicken being devoured by a big Estuarine crocodile and were then briefed on the orang-utans of which there are 27 in the reserve.

Left to roam freely in the forest, the reserve had two areas where food such as bananas and coconuts was made available to the orang-utans that wanted it twice daily and during these times visitors could observe.

Sightings were therefore never guaranteed, but there was a good chance of seeing them.

We walked through the jungle to a feeding site and waited scanning the trees for movement.

Soon, a rustling in the trees grew louder and we held our breathe as we got the first glimpses of a female with a baby clinging to her underside, swinging from one tree to the next and down ropes to the wooden platform.

Close behind was a massive male, known as Edwin, that was at least twice the size of the female and looked decidedly like the honey monster with it’s massive, hairy body.

Along with this, his wide face with huge cheeks and beard made his powerfulness truly palpable.

We watched enthralled by their dexterous antics as they swung with easy in near silence, using all four limbs equally in their leisurely acrobatics, so that at points they were hanging upside down and in positions contortionists would be proud of.

We were overwhelmed by what majestic creatures they were and admired their strength and intelligence as one effortlessly cracked open a coconut against a tree to drink the juice.

Walking back towards the HQ, we came across three more orang-utans feeding and playing in the trees, including the wise-looking Grand Old Lady that was no more than a few metres from the path.

As they swung off back in to the jungle, we felt privileged to have experienced their presence and on an absolute high.

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5traveltheworld: Borneo - Part 2


From Mt. Kinabalu we needed to get to the eastern town of Sandakan; this would involve a 6 hour bus journey. The only way to get the bus is to wait in a small lay-by next to the Kinabalu Park entrance and wait for the KK to Sandakan bus to pass through and then wave it down.

They come through every hour in the mornings although sometimes they are full. We had various contingency plans of what to do if there were two or three seats available, and of course I selflessly volunteered to wait for the next bus if there were only four free seats. As it turned out we all got a seat on the 9.30am bus and settled in for the long journey.

On arrival in Sandakan bus station we took a taxi to our hostel (Harbourside Backpackers) which turned out to be great. We always worry that the children’s noise will disturb other guests, and so we were concerned when the cleaner  knocked on the door saying she had heard the children and wanted to see them.

As it turned out she meant this in an entirely positive way; she propped the door open and stood watching them saying how beautiful and fun they were! The staff was brilliant from start to finish- always taking the time to chat to us all, and much to the children’s delight, taking every opportunity to turn the communal television on to the Disney Channel.

We managed to find a laundry service who could turn around 6kg of filthy clothes in a few hours, but other than that Sandakan was rather lacking in appeal. The next morning, wearing freshly laundered clothes, we tore the children away from Disney and set off to fulfill a life-long ambition in visiting the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. We stopped off first at our new lodgings, the Panganakan Lodge.

The view from our room was amazing- straight out over the rainforest. The shower was actually outside in the rainforest, along with the loo. This led to a new challenge at night whereby I kept my eyes shut when taking Josie for a wee in an attempt not to see what was flying/scuttling/crawling around on the floor.

Finally the time had come to head to the Orang-utan Sanctuary. The place has been in operation since the sixties. They rescue orphaned, abandoned, mistreated, or even pet orang-utans and work to rehabilitate them to a point whereby they are no longer dependent on human intervention.

As part of the centre there is a dedicated nursery where the babies are taught all the skills that their mothers would usually teach them. Once they have learned the basics they are moved to a different nursery. This is the first stage they can be viewed by the public, and only then from behind soundproof glass as to not disturb them.

Adult orang-utans are free to roam in the entire protected area. At present they have around 60 orangutans in the sanctuary but only 20 or so are still returning to feed at the feeding platforms. They put food out twice a day and the public are allowed in during the two feeding times only. We visited for the afternoon feed.

Travelling with children is the same as being at home with children. At times they are difficult, argumentative, and generally uncooperative. It was just unfortunate that they all decided to choose the afternoon I had most been looking forward to, to go in to complete meltdown.

We lasted about ten minutes inside the sanctuary, catching a glimpse of an adult orang-utan at the feeding platform, and briefly viewing unfeasibly cute orang-utan babies in the nursery before we had to drag out three tantrumming children while receiving the usual mix of pitying and disgusted looks.  We know when we are beaten though, so we wrote it off as a bad day and took them back to the lodge for a very early night.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: 5traveltheworld: Borneo - Part 2
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Friday, November 13, 2015

Kicalduk: Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia


Sabah is a part of Malaysian federation and is smaller than Sarawak. When we traveled to Sandakan from Kota Kinabalu we passed national park with stunning views of the mountain picks and while the bus was climbing up and down we could admire the snow covered picks of Mount Kinabalu.

Beautiful views just slightly disturbed by ‘asian’ style of driving. In case you wander it means the  biggest vehicle has right a way or fast and furious;-)

Sandakan itself is bit sad town with short water front and few hotels. However it is surrounded by a jungle so the vast green areas are everywhere and it brightens the town up a little.

We visited Sepilok Orangutans rehabilitation center and it was awesome. We saw so many of them and not only. They are such a beautiful animals and I love the color of their fur! I wish my hair was red like that:-) We also saw makaks and visited Sun bear rehabilitation center.

Its just across the road from the orangutans and yet the apes are taking all attentions. Like us most of people do not realize but there are bears living in the rain forests. They are not on the en-dangerous species list but the animals in the center were rescued from stupid people who kept them as pets or tried to sell for their gold bladder.

The stations does great job and we spent almost 3 hours observing those lovely animals. The bears are like miniature black bears and grow up to 160 cm and 60 kg but the one we saw were a way smaller. They hang on the trees most of the time and only wander down when they are hungry. The staff at the center was very informative and it showed they know what they do.

We also visited proboscis monkey sanctuary, which made me doubt its sanctuary status. The behavior of staff there made me think that the monkeys are to attract tourist and photo shots. We saw loads of proboscis and silver head monkeys but the way the feeding took place left my with bitter aftertaste.

At all centers we visited we were always told that guests and staff should not interfere with the animals however it was other way around there. Once all tourist were on the viewing platform staff started calling the monkeys and once they came they fed the  with bread and cake! and encouraged them to ‘mix’ with guests on the viewing platform where they feed the with long beans from hand.

‘The show’ was purely for tourists amusement as some of them went  crazy with their cameras taking close shots of pure animals into their faces. After the feeding we were taken for lunch and then ushered to TV room where we watch some para-documentary about the monkeys with some sleazy comments done by some ignorant prick.

It praised the owner of the oil plantation where the ‘sanctuary’ was based for helping the animals. I guess Mr Lee, the owner, completed some training from corporate social responsibility and applied it in truly ‘Asian’ style. If I had a choice I would not have gone there one again.

Nonetheless , the animals were beautiful and there were so many of them that I got my fix of monkeys for a while. I guest what helps is that at least they are not kept in the cages and maybe at some stage in the future the center will turn into its real purpose.

We also had loads of laugh because proboscis monkeys live with packs with one dominant male who copulates whenever he is ready. And he is ready a lot so we watched some monkey sex with bunch of older Asians who giggled like crazy and started making monkey noises themselves. It was hilarious;-)

Continue reading at: Kicalduk: Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
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A Race to Save Ancient Human Secrets in Borneo


Archaeologists enlist UNESCO's help to protect prehistoric sites threatened by limestone quarrying.

If you wanted to create a new UNESCO World Heritage Site, you might well look to the limestone landscape, or karst, on the Sangkulirang Peninsula in eastern Borneo. There, in the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan, you could cite the abundance of human and natural riches to justify your proposal.

For seven years, archaeologist Francois-Xavier Ricaut, from the University of Toulouse, and his French-Indonesian team, MAFBO (Mission Archéologique Franco-Indonésienne à Bornéo), have been excavating three sites in the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat karst, which spans 3.7 million acres (1.5 million hectares).

In the karst, thick tropical forest shrouds weathered limestone spires, making it hard to get around, let alone do science. As a result, Ricaut says, “hardly any archaeological work has been done in this karst—we’re just beginning.”

After dogged sleuthing, Ricaut and his colleagues have found bones and charcoal that date back 35,000 years, the earliest such evidence of human occupation yet found in Kalimantan.

“These early remains are exciting,” he says, “because Kalimantan has for a long time been excluded from the human evolution and dispersal story.”

UNESCO seems to recognize the natural and cultural values of this landscape. The organization has placed the karst on its tentative list of sites to protect and has shown interest in sending a team out to see the region.

But Ricaut worries that recent scientific finds, and UNESCO interest, may be coming too late. Rapid expansion of plantations of oil palm, and illegal logging, have put pressure on the area, and now industrial companies are poised to mine the region’s limestone, the main raw material for making cement. Forest fires—ones now raging in Kalimantan were likely intentionally lit to clear land—compound losses of wildlife and habitat.

It’s anyone’s guess what might disappear. The “hobbit,” Homo floresiensis, discovered a decade ago in a karst cave on Flores, Indonesia, continues to rouse scientific curiosity and debate. It is thought that this miniature hominin lived as recently as 12,000 years ago alongside modern humans.

The French-Indonesian MAFBO team is working in the same area where ancient people made impressions of their own hands in cliffside caves 10,000 or more years ago. Along with the old bones they’ve unearthed, Ricaut says they’ve found hundreds of prehistoric rock paintings that show, in orange to brown hematite pigments, the figures of animals such as tapirs (now extinct on Borneo), banteng (wild cattle), and some creatures unknown to us today.


Blind Fish, Orangutans—And Indigenous People

The wonders of the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat karst are not limited to the human imprint: Southeast Asia’s limestone hills and valleys have been dubbed “imperiled arks of biodiversity.” 

“I was speechless when exploring this karst,” says Rondang Siregar, an Indonesian biologist from the University of Indonesia, in Jakarta. The region is brimming with rare limestone-restricted species.

“I saw blind freshwater fish, rare bats, black- and white-nest swiftlets, and countless other animals," she says. "The karst forest is also a refuge for orangutans fleeing forest fires during El Niño years.”

Matthew Struebig, a tropical ecologist at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, says the diversity of bat species is greater here than most anywhere else in Southeast Asia. And the sheer number of bats is impressive. “Some Sangkulirang caves support populations of several hundred, if not millions, of individuals.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Race to Save Ancient Human Secrets in Borneo
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The Phuket List: Borneo - Sarawak


A quick flight from KL to Kuching (for the ridiculous price of $24) set me down on the island of Borneo to start my 5 week exploration.

I hopped in a cab and headed straight for the downtown area to drop my bags off at my hostel.

Then it was time to get out and explore the Chinatown area nearby.

My first full day in Kuching I caught the local bus out to Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Center to meet up with my relatives.

The park originally had 10 semi-wild orangutans and now they have 26.

It was amazing to watch them peel bananas and boiled eggs.

Their faces are so expressive and human-like. I just couldn’t get enough!

After watching them eat and play for a few hours it was time to head back into the city.

The next day I caught another public bus to Bako National Park for an overnight visit.

Unfortunately when I arrived it was low tide and had to wait 3 hours for the boat to take us out to the park.

Once we finally arrived I dropped my bags off in the dorm room and headed out for a hike.

I hiked about 2.2 km to a beach to see if I could find some proboscis monkeys.

As I approached the beach I managed to scare off a group of about 6 or 7.

After the hike I went to lay down and take a short nap before dinner which turned into sleeping until the next morning.

Oops, guess I was tired. When I woke from my deep slumber I headed out for another hike, this one about 7 km to a different beach and viewpoint overlooking the South China Sea.

Then I grabbed my stuff and headed back to Kuching for the evening.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Phuket List: Borneo - Sarawak
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Agop Batu Tulug - Exploring the ancient burial caves of Sabah


I have always been fascinated with the past and as a child I daydreamed of becoming a famous explorer and discovering ancient tombs filled with treasures. So when I was invited to go on a trip to visit the ancient cave burials in the Kinabatangan district with some Sabah Museum staff, I jumped at the offer.

This was back in 1984 and the road conditions were pretty bad to say the least. It took us a whole day to get to Batu Putih, which was a small village along the Kinabatangan River. Arriving at night, we stayed over with one of the local villagers.

We left for the caves after breakfast the next morning and armed with ropes and torchlights, we made our way to the limestone massif known as Agop Batu Tulug which towers 39 M above the forest and houses 4 caves within it. It was hard work trekking through the scrub to get to the lower cave.

From here, we scrambled over very sharp lime stone rocks and even did some rock climbing to get to the higher caves where the coffins were housed. It was a very rewarding sight to see so many wooden coffins stacked one on top of the other while some rested on wooden racks while others were strewn around the cave floor.

The coffins were all made of local hard wood such Borneo iron wood (Belian) or Merbau and varied in size, but most average about 2 meters with some smaller ones presumably for children. These coffins are very heavy and some date back to between 700 – 900 years ago. There are 125 timber coffins in this site alone.

According to the local people, it would take 5 men to carry an empty coffin and we were left wondering how they managed to get them into the higher caves when we had to use ropes to climb up?

The coffins are made from single logs with the insides hewn out. The two ends are carved with various animal head designs like Tembadau (wild Buffalo), crocodile, lizards, snakes and even birds. There is also a protuberance or “tongue” at the far end of the coffins and if the tongue bears no particular shape, the coffin was made for a women but if it has an animal shape, then it house a man.

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