Monday, July 18, 2016

Mesmerised by the Milky Way at the tip of Borneo

THE tip of Borneo, which separates the South China Sea and Sulu Sea, is spectacular at night.

From mid-February to early October, the dazzling display of the crisp clear Milky Way appears without fail in the south-western sky, visible to the naked eyes.

This cloud-like stretch of stars across the sky is mesmerising and will spellbind any observer.

Finding the Milky Way is not difficult as one only needs to know which direction to look.

Kudat, which has no light pollution, is one of the few pristine places that offer stargazers an amazing view of the Milky Way.

Not many know that you don’t need special gadgets to observe the Milky Way, the home to some 400 billion stars.

In fact, in the mid-1970s and 1980s, the mass of innumerable stars could be seen anywhere in Malaysia on a clear night.

With progress and development over the years, light and dust pollution has drowned out and blocked the twinkling stars.

For the past two years, I have been quietly slipping out of Kuala Lumpur for weekends in Kota Kinabalu, where I would make a quick dash to Kota Belud or Simpang Menggayau to conduct my astrophotography activities.

Having spent many hours in various locations in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia to capture the Milky Way, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing more captivating than Kudat’s night skies.

This district, which is much bigger than Penang island, never fails to impress with its mesmerising view of the Milky Way on every visit.

Perhaps its remoteness, some 190km from Kota Kinabalu, and the lack of development have helped preserve this district from light and dust pollution, allowing anyone to have a clear view of the twinkling stars.

Of course, aside from astrophotography, Kudat has plenty to offer photography enthusiasts and tourists.

It has beautiful sunrises and stunning sunsets, especially during the blue hour – the twilight shortly after the sun disappears below the horizon.

Volcanic activity that took place centuries ago have also left behind unique and beautiful rock formations on some of Kudat’s remote and isolated beaches.

But what fascinates any visitor to this district is it’s ever-changing seascape, unveiling hidden rock formations, as the sand on the beaches shift according to the wind and tide, only to hide its beauty again when the monsoon comes in October.

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