Friday, March 10, 2017

Monkeys and Mountains: Wildlife Encounters in Malaysian Borneo

Our guide stopped in his tracks. He motioned us closer. We tiptoed through the soft sand and twisting mangroves of the Malaysian rainforest.

A wild bearded pig and half a dozen two week old striped piglets were trudging through the sand a few meters away.

The mother was oblivious to our presence, but her young babies were curious. We froze.

They pattered over on tiny hooves, sniffing the air with their pink snouts.

The wild piglets stood within touching distance for a moment. Then, the breeze changed direction and they scattered into the underbrush.

Our guide, who had lived his entire life in that jungle, said he had never seen anything like it.

Of all the places we have traveled around the world, Malaysian Borneo has given us some of the most unforgettable wildlife experiences.

These adorable wild piglets aren’t the only creatures we saw on our travels there – we also encountered orangutans, proboscis monkeys, enormous monitor lizards, bright green snakes and much more.

If you are looking for a Southeast Asia destination that is still relatively unspoiled by tourism and overflowing with natural beauty, I would highly recommend it.

It was also incredibly affordable and very easy to travel. Malaysian food was delicious too – a mixture of Indian, Chinese and ethnic Malay influences that I still crave to this day.

How to Get to Malaysian Borneo

Via Air

You can fly into Sabah via the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, which is located about 20 minutes from the city. Then, you’ll need to take a taxi into the city as this is the only mode of transport, although some hotels offer shuttle bus pick up which can be arranged in advance.

There are daily flights offered from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. It is also possible to fly into Sabah from China, Hong Kong, Brunei, Taipei, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

You could also fly into Kuching International Airport and once you are in Malaysian Borneo you can take flights between many of the cities including Miri, Bintulu, Sibu and Sandakan. Buses also travel between all of the main points in Malaysian Borneo.

Via Sea

You can take a ferry to Sabah from the Philippines, Indonesia and Labuan. You’ll arrive at Kota Kinabalu and go through the immigration checkpoint there.
Passports and Visas

You’ll need to show a valid passport when entering Malaysian Borneo – even if you are travelling between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak. Most nationalities can enter without a visa and will be given up to 90 days to stay, including Canadians, British, Americans, Argentinians, French, Germans, Dutch and many others. Click here for a more detailed explanation of visas in Malaysia.

The Best Places to See Wildlife in Malaysian Borneo

Once you have made your way here, where are your best spots for getting up close with the local wildlife? Here are some of the best national parks and outdoor experiences.

Bako National Park

Lee and I celebrated my 26th birthday by hiking around Bako National Park, which is where we had the unforgettable encounter with wild bearded piglets I wrote about in the introduction to this post.

We hiked around Bako National Park with a local guide who had grown up in the village of wooden huts near the river.

Having a local who knew the jungle was so incredibly valuable and it enhanced our experience greatly.


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Sabah’s first railway station proposed as historical heritage site

KOTA KINABALU: Assistant Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Kamarlin Ombi yesterday proposed that Bukau in Beaufort be made into a historical heritage site since this was where the first railway station in Sabah was established.

Speaking to reporters after launching Railway Gallery at the Sabah State Museum near here yesterday, Kamarlin said although signs of the rail tracks were no longer there, a small gallery could be erected to show this data so that the facts would become known to the future generation.

He added that this would be an asset and would help promote tourism activities at the area.

He also said the Sabah Museum planned to gazette the Melalap Railway Station into a heritage site sometime this year.

Earlier, Kamarlin said the railway services in Sabah was introduced by the British North Borneo Chartered Company.

He said the construction of the railway track in Sabah, which was then known as North Borneo, started in 1896 and was spurred by the production of tobacco and rubber in the 1880s throughout the early 1890s.

The managing director then, William Clarke Cowie, who was responsible for starting the construction, believed that the construction of the railway tracks would encourage the opening of more commercial plantations.

The work began in 1896, with the construction of the tracks from Beaufort to Weston by English engineer Arthur J. West. This track was completed in 1900, and was followed by the construction of the 90-kilometre track from Beaufort to Jesselton which was handled by a British firm, George Pauling and Company.


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Thursday, March 09, 2017

World Harvest Festival 2017 set to wow visitors once again

KUCHING: The World Harvest Festival (WHF) will continue its role in presenting the state’s culture and tradition, apart from award-winning performances to everyone.

According to Assistant Minister for Arts and Culture Datuk John Sikie Tayai, the annual event serves as a prelude to the Gawai Dayak celebration on June 1.

This year, the WHF will be running from April 28 to 30 at Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV).

“The WHF aims to celebrate the diversity of the different ethnic groups in Sarawak and also to help enhance the understanding of the culture among locals and foreigners alike.

“Thus, it is an ideal place for people of different backgrounds to meet, discuss and compare notes on traditional cultures through the exchange of ideas, as well as the portrayal of the dances, music, crafts and arts. This enables the participants to discover something new and at the same time, appreciate their own cultural heritage,” he said at a press conference cum promotional event for WHF 2017 at a hotel here yesterday.

The WHF 2017 is being organised by SCV with supported from both state and federal ministries of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and Sarawak Tourism Board.

The highlight of the festival will be a special play themed ‘Tra Tra Land – Where Honey Sparkles’. Other exciting programmes at the festival will be the ‘Miss Cultural Harvest Festival 2017’, ‘Ironman Challenge World Harvest Festival 2017’, ‘Sape World Concert and Workshop’ and ‘Sarawak Kitchen’.

On the special play, SCV general manager Jane Lian Labang said it would be based on a Bidayuh legend.

“It relates the story of Jurai, a Bidayuh lad who learned to harvest honey through a special song after his missing grandmother taught him in a dream. With this ability, Jurai managed to get the mystical honey that could only be found deep in the jungle of ‘Tra Tra Land’ and used it to cure Raja Manggeng’s only princess, who was suffering from a mysterious illness.


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World Harvest Festival Culinary Competition at Sarawak Cultural Village

KUCHING: Professional chefs, amateurs and students from local and abroad are invited to participate in the fourth edition of World Harvest Festival Culinary Competition (WHFCC 2017) to be held at Sarawak Cultural Village from April 28 to 30.

The 4th World Harvest Festival Culinary Competition 2017 is jointly organised by Sarawak Cultural Village and supported by Kuching Chefs Association.

Kuching Chef Association president Petra Abdul Rahim said the competition to be held in conjunction with the upcoming World Harvest Festival (WHF) 2017 aims at showcasing interesting cooking techniques, skills and creativity.

“This prestigious event will promote diverse unique gastronomy from various backgrounds to give mouthwatering cuisine,” Fadil said when met during a press conference at Grand Margherita here yesterday (March 8).

The main highlights of the WHFCC 2017 are the Junior Hot Cooking and Master Hot Cooking competitions, patisserie display, platted food, traditional dish cooking competition and black box cooking.


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Labuan sees increasing tourist arrivals in first two months this year

LABUAN: Labuan’s tourism industry is indicating signs of positive growth in the first two months of this year, with latest figures showing more tourists compared to the same corresponding period of last year.

Labuan Corporation Tourism and Culture Department in a statement to Bernama on Wednesday said visitor arrivals to the duty-free-island in January showed improvement, registering a hike of 13.4 per cent (90,073 visitors) compared to the same period in 2016.

Minister of Federal Territories Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor during the Federal Territory Day last month said improved competitiveness and significant government support have strengthened the island’s claim to be one of the premier tourism destinations.

“The sector continues to perform well, even with the challenges we are having with the harsh (global) economic environment,” he said.

He said efforts are in the pipeline to boost the tourism sector as the island’s engine economy with more tourism products and icons to be promoted and created.

Among the key areas to be promoted are the shipwreck dive sites and international sea sports events. Member of Parliament for Labuan Datuk Rozman Isli said a number of tourism development projects are to be implemented in the future to woo tourists into the island.



Wednesday, March 08, 2017

One and only book on beetles of Borneo launched

KOTA KINABALU: The only book ever written on the beetles of Borneo, ‘A Guide to Beetles of Borneo’ is meant for everyone and a guide to study on local beetles.

Launched here, yesterday the book which was established through an earnest effort by three beetle aficionados, Dr Steven Bosuang, Dr Arthur Chung and Datuk C.L. Chan, is more on a pictorial presentation meant for lay people.

For this reason, Chan emphasised that they have kept the text to a minimum so that readers would not be bored. He dispelled the misperception that books of this nature are meant for scientists and researchers The 244-page educational pictorial guide covers more than 150 beetle species commonly encountered in Borneo as well as rare, interesting and captivating ones.

Chan said that more than a third of those featured in the book are endemic to Borneo.

Ninety-nine per cent of the photographs in the book were taken by Dr Bosuang who had over the years visited forest reserves all over Sabah (Trus Madi, Sandakan, Kalabakan (Tawau) and Sipitang bordering Sarawak, among others) for beetle specimens.

“We are very proud of this book because we have invested so much time and energy,” said Chan, known to be a keen naturalist, illustrator and photographer with an engrossing interest in Bornean insects, particularly stick insects and beetles.

Meanwhile, Arthur quipped that the Creator must have been very fond of beetles, given that more than 400,000 species of insects are beetles, a significant two-fifths of all six-legged creatures, versus some 250,000 species of known plants.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: One and only book on beetles of Borneo launched


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Fulbright National Geographic Stories: Borneo’s Gliding Giants

Just as the sun sets a whiskered nose pokes out of a hole 15 stories above the forest floor. As the light dims a furry head, body, and massive tail follow.

Crawling on a branch it isn’t unstable, just a bit awkward and perhaps overburdened, like when you have to delicately shuffle your way over to the coffee maker in the morning because your whole comforter is still cloaked around you.

After carefully scanning the surroundings, this arboreal acrobat crouches down, takes aim, and launches itself into the warm night air.

This is how the flying squirrel begins its night, and not just any flying squirrel – this is the giant flying squirrel.

There are more flying squirrels found in Borneo than anywhere else on earth. Out of the 49 species of flying squirrels throughout the world, 14 are found in Borneo, including four giant flying squirrel species.

You can see below two different species of giant flying squirrels using the same tree at the Rainforest Discovery Center near the Sepilok Forest Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia.

On the left is a Red Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista), easily identified by the dark tip on its tail.

The on the right is the Black Giant Flying Squirrel (Aeromys tephromelas).

There are two other giant flying squirrel species found in Borneo, the Spotted Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista elegans) and the Thomas’s Giant Flying Squirrel (Aeromys thomasi).

Flying squirrels don’t actually fly; they glide using a membrane of skin that connects their front and back limbs called patagium.

The name is derived from the Greek word “patageion,” which referred to the gold lining at the edge of a woman’s tunic.

By stretching out this membrane as they leap from some of the tallest trees in the tropics, giant flying squirrels can travel well over 150 meters.

The trajectories of flying squirrels in the air were once thought to be something of a gamble, but research on Northern Flying Squirrels in North America has shown that they are actually quite agile in their gliding.

They are able to steer themselves in the air and even weave around trees by tensing muscles on either side of their patagium.


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Sandakan needs more than extension to airport runway

The Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) on Sunday welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister on the extension of the Sandakan airport runway to handle direct flights and chartered flights from China.

“The Prime Minister is far-sighted and such initiatives will boost the Sandakan economy from tourists arrivals,” said its vice president (inbound), Datuk KL Tan.

In a response issued here, he was especially convinced that such a move would significantly boost arrivals of tourists from China in Sandakan which is famed for its beautiful nature and eco-tourism, besides its rich culture and seafood.

“There were 183 Charter flights from China to Kota Kinabalu in 2016 but none directly to Sandakan. “Sandakan will appeal to Chinese tourist as the Chinese tourists would love the food and culture of Sandakan,” he said.

Tan further noted that after more than a decade of rapid growth, Chinese tourists are now more matured and want to experience authenticity and nature. This was well reflected in the increase in enquiries on Turtle Island, the world-renowned Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

“However for Sandakan town to cater for the influx of Chinese tourists, stakeholders need to work fast to ensure adequacy of shopping, food and beverages outlets, hotels and places of attractions, Mandarin speaking guides and transportation system to meet visitor expectations.

“A glaring setback for Sandakan is the lack of proper beaches for the tourists to enjoy water sports activities,” he added.



Monday, March 06, 2017

Trip Accomplice: Rafting with the Wild Man of Borneo

Often, the term “Wild Man of Borneo” is in reference to the orangutan, which is native to the island of Borneo and whose human-like mannerisms and intelligence beg for such a comparison. In my own context, that term has an entirely different meaning, referring instead to a reckless whitewater rafting guide whose antics potentially jeopardized an otherwise fascinating visit to this amazing island. But before divulging that particular story, let me share a few important details.

Where is Borneo and how do you get there?

The island of Borneo is located approximately midway between Southeast Asia and the Australian continent, and just slightly southwest of the Philippine archipelago. The island is shared by three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, and the small nation of Brunei. Most tourists arrive via the coastal city of Kota Kinabalu, situated in the northern reaches of Malaysia’s Bornean real estate. Kota Kinabula – often shortened to just ‘KK’ is serviced by many Asian airlines, though to my knowledge there are no direct flights from either Europe or North America. Alternately, it is a port of call for various cruise itineraries – including my own which brought me to this primordial tropical paradise for just one day of exploration.

What is Borneo like?

Borneo is likely just as wild and exotic as you’ve heard it rumored to be. It is a rugged natural wonderland of ancient jungles and intriguing rock formations, as well as home to the tallest peak in Southeast Asia – Mount Kinabalu, where you can escape the steamy tropical weather via altitude. The city of KK has all the modern conveniences that have blurred the lines of culture, yet just outside the city you can find lovely islands  with turquoise beaches, trek into the jungle to watch the comically-endowed proboscis monkey or seek the humongous (and smelly) Rafflesia bloom – the world’s largest flower. You can also sample exciting whitewater rafting through ancient stands of rain forest, which was the option I chose for my limited sojourn, and which brought me face to face with my own version of the “Wild Man of Borneo”.

What can be expected on a whitewater rafting trip in Borneo?

I had arranged a whitewater rafting tour ahead of time with a reputable operator, who arranged for my party to be picked up at the port (though there was confusion as to where, but that’s another story) and taken about forty-five minutes into the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, clad in rugged swathes of thick rain forest only lightly bearing witness to the presence of man. We were brought to a secondary starting point due to high water levels during that time, at a tiny village on the Kiulu River, which is ominously pronounced similar to the Kill-You River. More on that in a second.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Trip Accomplice: Rafting with the Wild Man of Borneo

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Sarawak tourism industry needs shot in the arm for marketing

MIRI: The state government has put in much effort to market Sarawak to tourists from all over the world.

However, it is noted that there are fewer Asian tourists compared to Western tourists coming ro our shores. If there is one reason that could explain Sarawak’s low popularity among China and Hong Kong tourists compared to other countries, it could be marketing or lack of it or wrong focus.

“We are all saddened by the news of Hong Kong-Kuching flight suspension by Hong Kong Airlines earlier this year. It is a brutal truth, but we cannot deny it nor give up. I can say the tourism board could be focusing on the wrong direction,” said Wilson Chiam, managing director of Brighton Travel & Tour Sdn Bhd, in an interview recently.

Western tourists, he said were more adventurous and nature-loving people, which is why they love exploring Sarawak’s natural heritage – Lambir National Park, Mulu National Park, etc.

Free independent travellers (FIT), he added, were mostly foreign backpackers who wanted to explore every corner of Sarawak.

“Western travellers are the least of our worries because almost every nature and adventure package we are promoting, are able to attract many of them who are willing to spend time and money to explore Sarawak.”

To date, Chiam has done inbound trips for tourists from United States, Australia, New Zealand and European countries.

Meanwhile, in comparison between tourists from Asian countries – China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Singapore – Chiam said Taiwanese tourists were more nature-loving and adventurous.

“It is a whole different perception when it comes to tourists from China, Hong Kong and Singapore.”

Recalling being asked for a Wifi password by a Hong Kong traveller during a familiarisation trip, Chiam said it went to show how different tourists were from one country to another, according to their needs.

“Perhaps, it was the different lifestyle that made them difficult to accept jungle-trekking, putting away technological gadgets and temporarily cutting off any sort of connection,” he said.


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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Sampling Dayak arts and cultures in Kalimantan Barat

TWO Dayak community leaders led 55 Dayak participants from Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah on a challenging three-day, three-night 1,143km Bandong boat cruise from Danau Santaruk down the Batang Kapuas to Pontianak recently.

This could be the world’s first customised Dayak-Bandong cruise down the Kapuas River. Both the cruise leaders — First Malaysian Infantry Division Commander Major General Datuk Stephen Mundaw, and a leading Sarawak pemancha, Datuk Pemancha Janggu Banyang — are Dayak Ibans as well.

The wooden Bandong is a traditional cargo boat that used to ply the Kapuas before the 70s when there were no roads linking the interior to the Kalimantan Barat (Kalbar) capital of Pontianak.

Today, many politicians of Kalbar remember going to school in Pontianak by slow Bandongs, taking more than a week to reach the capital from Hulu Kapuas.

In fact, when this cruise was proposed, many Indonesians were intrigued but this did not stop three participants from Jakarta from signing up.

The specially chartered, refurbished 200-tonne Kapal Bandong, Mitra Baru, ferried the 60-odd passengers through six regencies and four towns before finally stopping at Pontianak.

A happy passenger Louis Kanyan enthused: “It is like a floating house actually. I feel very safe in the boat which is big enough for 100 passengers.

“The captain has more than 30 years experience. In the belly of the Bandong, we passengers relax like on the ruai of a long house. Any one can sleep, any time. The vinyl covered floor is clean, a buffet table placed in the middle for meals. There is a second floor for more sleeping space. A ladies’ changing room has also been specially built.”

A fellow passenger from Miri, Johnathan Pengiran told thesundaypost during the cruise: “For three days and three nights, all of us are living like one family. That is the thrill I get. I think my retired friend, Subah, also from Miri, really enjoys himself. It is, indeed, a cultural trip in which we learn so much about our shared cultures.”

Dayak souvenirs

A delighted Terence Temenggong Jayang chimed in: “It is a real cultural experience and most of the participants bought fantastic Dayak batik, baskets and bead crafts. They will be definitely spending millions of rupiah.”

The cruise threw up a lot of opportunities to view the arts, crafts, architecture and textiles of the Dayaks in the Kapuas Valley — from Badau to Pontianak. The Dayaks form 70 per cent of the population in Kalbar.

Tours of museums

Stephen Beda, who is from Kanowit and made the trip with his good friend Edward Nyallau, commented that the tours of four museums in Pontianak were really educational for the Dayaks from Sarawak.

“These museums are very impressive, comprehensive and well managed with good solid structures and equipped with IT and air-conditioning. Truly first-class.”

Dayak motifs are everywhere — along the Kapuas River and on buildings, especially the museums.

One of the most impressive Dayak arts are the engravings found on the pillars, walls and roofs of the museums and buildings the tour group visited.

Bernard Sellato in his book ‘Hornbill and Dragon’, wrote: “The Dayaks possess high valued wealth of engravings. A design can be engraved on paractically any object in an appropriately esthetic and philosophical manner.”

Traditionally, the Dayaks would spend time, especially after the padi harvest, doing some engravings. The women too would start their weaving and the skillful ones were (still are) revered.

The famous Pua Kumbu is used for religious rites or presented as a gift to newlyweds. Fern leaves, eyes of birds, bamboo shoots and waves are common motifs woven into the pua kumbu.

Extraordinary motifs can be seen in the engravings on the buildings, especially government buildings and offices such as those in Sintang and Sanggau.

The residence of Kalbar Governor has some of the most awesome Dayak motifs in the engravings on its walls and beams.

Even a church has Dayak motifs engraved on the walls — both inside and outside.

Fellow tour member Richard Holt, who is very interested in music, loves to own a sape with authentic engravings from Kalbar, saying that the engravings would enhance the beauty of the sape.

Many of the sapes found locally but made in Sarawak, only have painted Dayak motifs.

Holt said he was really inspired by the Dayak motifs of Kalbar and would like to go back again.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sampling Dayak arts and cultures in Kalimantan Barat

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Miri on dancing map with Afrolatin Fiesta

MIRI: Sarawak and Miri in particular remained an almost unknown destination to dance circles until recently, when the world’s dancing community including famous international dancers came to town for the inaugural Miri Afrolatin Dance Fiesta.

In the retinue are Afrolatin dancers like Isabelle Crepin from France, Guspon Pierre from Canada and Paris Penalver from Australia.

However, now the situation has changed emphatically for the better following the hosting of the inaugural Miri Afrolatin Dance Fiesta here from March 2-5, which is also the first such fiesta held in Borneo.

Isabelle, who has never being to Asia, Guspon and Paris were among 15 international and national artistes who came for the fiesta to conduct workshops in their own specialities, besides performing at the Gala Dinner on Saturday night.

“I am proud to be here. When Dr Safrina contacted me and I asked ‘is it real, am I going to Asia?’ but you did it and I am very proud of you,” said Isabelle at a joint press conference yesterday with Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting, Miri City Mayor Adam Yii, the festival organising chairperson Dr Safrina Othman and artistes Guspon and Paris.

Among those present were Bintang Megamall general manager John Teo and artistes including Theodore Wolashie Awadzi from Norway.

Guspon, who has over 20 years of experience in dancing and conducting workshops the world over, also commended Dr Safrina and her team for successfully organising the fiesta.

“The reception was really amazing, I never felt that before. I am seeing the future is very bright for Miri in being an important dance festival destination and I hope the mayor will be with us at the next festival here and beyond,” he said.

Paris too was very thankful that Miri initiated the first Afrolatin Fiesta in Borneo adding that “Already this is being so great and the community here makes it so wonderful… I believe this fiesta will to be continued”.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Miri on dancing map with Afrolatin Fiesta


Saturday, March 04, 2017

Sabah tourism rakes in staggering 3.43 million tourists, RM7.25 billion

KOTA KINABALU: Years of partnership with the private sector and working with right partners have placed Sabah as top-of-the-mind destination.

The success comes after Sabah tourism recorded its best year ever in 2016 with 3.43 million tourists’ arrivals with an estimated RM7.25 billion in tourism receipts, despite numerous challenges, said Sabah Tourism Board Chairman, Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.

“This has surpassed its best record in 2013 with 3.38 million tourist arrivals. On international tourist arrivals alone, we witnessed an increase of 15.4% compared to 2015 statistics.

“China once again has become the main contributor (+33.2% market share) with an overall growth of +51.8% in 2016 compared to the year before,” he said during the launching of Sabah Travel & Lifestyle Fair 2017, organized by IEC Midas at Ground Floor, Suria Sabah here.

He further added that the embracing of digital marketing has also made Sabah a popular destination.

As for the three days fair which began yesterday, Joniston congratulated IEC Midas and its collaboration partner for successfully organized the fair to present our local products to our international guests.

He said, there are 32 booths respectively promoting travel packages, hospitality, wedding, healthcare, beauty & wellness packages, local batik and fashion as well as local food and beverages.

“While the main objective of this fair is to help promote local products and services, participants are encouraged to network within their industries for brand enhancement.



Friday, March 03, 2017

Swiss Traveler: Where to stay on a luxury trip on Borneo

5 first-class hotels in the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah

The northern part of Borneo was the destination of a trip of two befriended families with an adult son each.

What to do in the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah was the subject of my last post.

In this post, you find the reviews of the hotels we stayed at during our tour from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu.

As we booked this vacation with a Swiss tour operator (Tour Asia), the hotels of our trip were fixed, however we made sure that we had first-class resorts.

At least we were able to pick out our beach hotel ourselves (Shangri-la's Rasa Ria), although the choice of luxury resorts on the beach in the area is limited.

A good alternative may also be the Gaya Island Resort on a small island near Kota Kinabalu.

Hotel 1: Pullman Hotel, Kuching/Sarawak

Our two nights’ stay at the Pullman Hotel was certainly not the highlight of our trip.

The hotel, situated on the hillside overlooking the city of Kuching, is advertised as five-star resort, which is hard to believe.

There are modern amenities, but neither is the Pullman well maintained nor kept especially clean.

Also the breakfast has to be called subpar, with quite many choices, but of an underwhelming quality.

The staff is neither friendly nor well trained.

At least, we did not overpay our stay at this hotel as prices are low.

Overall, Pullman is cheaply run, it feels more like a small local business hotel than a luxury hotel suitable for demanding international travelers.

Hotel 2: Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort, nowAiman Batang Ai Resort, Batang Ai/Sarawak

Aiman Batang Ai Resort is a replica of a longhouse. When we stayed there for one night, it was managed by Hilton, now it is a Aiman hotel.

It already needed renovation when we were there and it seems that not much has been done in terms of remodeling in the meantime.

While the setting on a lake and the ambiance in the isolation of the rainforest are favorable, the rooms are simple and the dining facilities are nothing to write home about.

All in all, a nicely located resort that serves as a springboard for a trip to the Iban people, but in need of a thorough refurbishment.


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Beki_Tee: Kinabatangan river safari

We stayed at a lovely resort on the Kinabatangan river.

A place much more eco than Danz 'eco resort' in Taman Negara (which wasn't the remotest bit eco at all). This place was built out of wood up off the forest floor.

We saw so many monkeys on our first river safari that I came to distinguish them as either big nosed, hairy faced or scaredy faced.

The big nose variety are the proboscis monkeys.

Endemic to Borneo they're very cute and interesting to look at.

The males have big pot bellies and big long noses.

Apparently, the bigger the nose the more attractive the monkey.

The hairy faced monkeys are the long tailed macaques.

They are a dark grey colour but their babies are a bright orange.

The first evening, we set out for our night walk in the jungle but I very quickly became unnerved.

The terrain was the muddiest I've walked in since my accident, and after 20 minutes or so full panic set in and we had to turn back.

My physical recovery has all but taken place, but this highlighted my psychological recovery to still be in progress.

Next day, on our 6am misty morning river safari Mike and some of the others saw an orangutan, but I couldn't place it in my binoculars in time.

Back at the lodge that morning we saw all sorts of monkey business (including them stealing socks and making off with packets of coffee creamer stuffed in their mouths)!

Having enquired about the terrain and told it was even more muddy and challenging than the night walk, I sat out of the daytime jungle trek, stealing a nap and catching up on my blog. 

While he was out Mike dropped his camera . . . Bang, bang splosh; bouncing on the side of the boat before it made its merry way into oxbow lake.

It's been retrieved, SD card removed, and it's now sitting in a bag of rice. Let's hope some of it can be salvaged. The photographs if nothing else.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Beki_Tee: Kinabatangan river safari

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Have more and new Sarawak tourism products to attract tourists

KUCHING: Sarawak, particularly Kuching, needs more new tourism products to ensure continued flow of tourists into the state.

Advisor of Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) Dato Lim Kian Hock said more investment on tourism was thus needed to enhance the growth of the tourism industry and the state’s economic wellbeing.

“As such, it is good to introduce new tourism products for the local people as well as tourists to enjoy,” he said at the official opening of Upside Down House Kuching at Jalan Borneo, off Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman here, yesterday.

Lim encouraged young people to play active parts to stimulate the local tourism industry through collaboration and cooperation with various sectors.

The Upside Down House Kuching (opposite Hilton Hotel) is the first of its kind in Sarawak.

The idea of setting up the upside down house gallery, according to its founder Brendan Kon, was inspired by his exposure and experience from travelling outside Sarawak

“I have seen this in Melaka and Penang and I thought it would be nice to bring the idea back to Kuching,” he said.

The goal, he added, was to provide new things to do and visit for locals as well as tourists, and to boost the tourism industry.


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Thursday, March 02, 2017

David Attenborough attacks plan for Borneo bridge that threatens orangutans

Endangered pygmy elephants and orangutans threatened by scheme for Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

David Attenborough and Steve Backshall have joined conservationists and charities asking officials in Borneo to reconsider a bridge that threatens one of the last sanctuaries of the rare pygmy elephant.

There are now just 1,500 of the world’s smallest pachyderm, according to WWF, and about 300 of them make their home in the 26,000-hectare Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, in the state of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. But construction teams have begun preparatory work for a bridge that will cross the Kinabatangan river which weaves through the region. The area is also home to critically endangered orangutans, proboscis monkeys, clouded leopards, gibbons, sun bears, pangolins and thousands of other jungle species, and hosts a thriving eco-tourism industry where travellers can view wildlife from boats on the river or while hiking into the forests.

Attenborough, known globally for his wildlife documentaries and conservation work, rarely intervenes in domestic planning issues. But he has written to the chief minister of the region, Musa Aman, arguing that the plan will harm already embattled wildlife populations and create a new barrier for migrating Bornean elephants. Listed as endangered by the IUCN, they require large areas of habitat for foraging and many fear that the increasingly fragmented populations will lead to genetic problems.

“I have had many encounters with the magnificent and unique species with which your state is blessed,” Attenborough wrote. “If this construction is allowed to go ahead, I am left in no doubt that the bridge will have significant negative effects on the region’s wildlife, the Kinabatangan’s thriving tourism industry and on the image of Sabah as a whole.”

Sabah and the Kinabatangan rainforest have been transformed over the past few decades. Palm oil plantations have fractured much of the habitat, forcing species into ever-smaller pockets of forest. Already, the Bornean rhino (a subspecies of the Sumatra) has vanished from Sabah entirely. Conservationists fear the Bornean pygmy elephant could be next.

The bridge would span 350 metres across the Kinabatangan river, connecting the village of Sukau, of around 2,000 people, to Litang and Tomanggong. It would be funded by the federal government. The project would also require paving a dirt road, bringing more traffic to the area.

Many local people are lobbying for the bridge, arguing it will cut down journey times and allow much faster access to the nearest hospital. For remote villages, it would replace a private ferry, which is the only way for them to cross the river and can require several hours of waiting.

Local councilman Saddi Abdul Rahman argues that his constituents require the infrastructure update and that it won’t harm the local wildlife. “We are concerned about our wildlife but we also cannot ignore the needs of people there,” Saddi told the local press. As well as the controversial bridge, there are plans for a 1km-long viaduct nearby, which would raise traffic above the forest. He believes this would allow free passage beneath for elephants and other species and create a new eco-tourism experience.


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International Traveller: Borneo’s wildlife – up close and personal

Sink into the spirit of Asia’s largest island, Borneo; the perfect place for nature lovers to get up-close and personal with the rainforest locals.

Asia’s largest island is a veritable technicolour playground for nature lovers.

Home to around six per cent of the world’s biodiversity, Borneo is bursting with beautiful wildlife that will take your breath away – regardless of your activity levels.

Adventure buffs can get their thrills at the World Heritage-listed Kinabalu Park (think trekking, rock climbing and paragliding), while the less agile can simply admire the dramatic peak of Mt Kinabalu.

Animal lovers will delight in meeting orphaned orang-utans during feeding time at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, where you can’t help but feel intimately connected to these magnificent creatures.

Sukau Rainforest Lodge, nestled on the Kinabatangan River, is the perfect place to sink into the spirit of Borneo.


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Kadazan movie ‘Huminodun’ to premiere in May

PENAMPANG: ‘Huminodun’ – the movie will be released in May, the month when the KadazanDusun Murut communities celebrate the Harvest Festival.

It is also a time for the communities to reflect on Huminodun and her parents’ Kinoingan and Suminundu’s ultimate sacrifice for the people.

Kinoingan sacrificed his only daughter so that the people could have food. Her body parts were planted as seeds and became the food resource of the world, rice.

Huminodun will be in Kadazan language with English subtitles and is produced by Siung Film Productions.

According to the movie’s producer, Jo Luping, the one-hour movie was filmed entirely in the Kadazan language and the cast are all locals.

“This movie is 99 per cent Sabah ‘made’. The actors are all local talent. People were sceptical about us getting the talent in Sabah but we did it. Shooting took about a week and pre-production took about two years.

“Because it is a historical drama we need to be accurate in terms of our research. It took a long time to research the costumes, the story, to talk to the different elders in the Kadazan community,” she said.

Jo, who was met after the screening of the Huminodun trailer on Tuesday night, said that as part of their research, they consulted Auntie Rosnani who was trained as a ‘bobohizan’.

“We just wanted to make sure that we had our facts right. We tried our best to be as accurate historically as possible,” she said.

When asked about the message she hopes to get across to the community, especially the younger generation, Jo who is of Kadazan descent, said it was to remind them the importance of learning their mother tongue.

“We want them to learn their mother tongue because through your mother tongue you can really identify with your culture and who you are and that gives you your point of difference in a world where things are similar.

“It brings something that is close to your heart and that is how you differentiate yourself in the world,” she said.

She disclosed that ‘Huminodun’ which casts Alexandra Alexander, Boni Mosios, Jenifer Lasimbang, Marc Abas ad Hazli Bojili in the lead roles, is slated to be released in May.

They want it to be a cinematic release so the plan is to premier it in Sabah first and then distribute into international film festivals.

It will come back to Sabah into a film format, she said adding, “that is the usual circuit and we want to sell it into the Hong Kong film mart.

“The goal is to distribute it through Sabah and have a local film market but also definitely we also want to take Sabah culture and tradition and sell it to the world because I think everybody is interested in Borneo. In terms of a brand Borneo and Sabah are equally great,” she said.

They are undecided as to where the movie will be premiered and are currently looking at different venues.

On the Siung Film Production’s future plans, Jo said that they were planning to shoot ‘Pangazou’ – another Kadazan language movie.

“We have other plans to do Dusun, Murut and Runggus movies. The reason is because we are from Penampang, we have access to Rita Lasimbang and then it is a natural progression to do it in Kadazan.

“But we would love to ultimately do all Sabah legends because we are a hotbed and treasure trove of fantastic stories and the world is interested in legends. They want to know about these legends, they want something different and we got it all here,” she stressed.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kadazan movie ‘Huminodun’ to premiere in May

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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Killing Orangutans for their Meat is an Appalling Crime

Orangutans in Borneo are critically endangered, suffering as they do from a variety of existential challenges. The grave challenges they face in the wild include habitat loss, forest fragmentation, encroaching development and the exotic wildlife trade.

Now you can add another threat to that list: being hunted for their meat. Yes, you’ve read that right.

According to news reports, workers on a palm oil plantation in a remote area of Central Kalimantan province in neighboring Indonesia shot and killed an orangutan so they could feast on the animal’s meat. Worse: this crime was not a one-off. Yet similar incidents rarely get reported, much less investigated by local police, said an Indonesian lawmaker who has called on authorities to apprehend the culprits.

We certainly second that call. National boundaries are man-made constructs that are unrecognized by nature. Hence, a crime against orangutans in Indonesia is a crime against orangutans in Malaysia as well.

Finding the perpetrators should not be that hard, considering that a witness to the crime provided authorities with photographs, one of which shows a man with a rifle standing over the dismembered remains of a dead orangutan. “[Another] picture showed the orangutan’s head floating in a pot. In another, several people are cutting up the primate’s flesh,” the Associated Press reported.

Horrendous, yes.

The wanton murder of the intelligent and loveable primates is nothing new, of course. Plantation workers and farmers have been known to kill the animals in order to stop them from damaging their crops. Although Indonesian conservation laws prescribe a severe penalty for killing orangutans, perpetrators are often left unmolested by police. The situation is hardly better in Malaysia, where orangutans likewise end up being killed at times.

Needless to say, we can ill afford to lose any more orangutans in Borneo, no matter what side of the artificial state boundaries they may live. The iconic apes, which are endemic to the island, are critically endangered and have seen their numbers drop by as much as 60% since 1950.

Between 2010 and 2025, their numbers will likely drop by another fifth, which places the survival of the entire species at risk, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which has recently raised the alarm about the primates’ long-term prospects.


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