Friday, March 31, 2006

Family On Dream Trip To Sabah

By Neville D'Cruz

MELBOURNE -- A Melbourne family of four has left for Kota Kinabalu for a week-long five-star holiday -- and it's not going to cost them a cent.

Julian and Susan Crow and their daughters Hayley, 11, and Jessica, 8, won a competition sponsored by Melbourne Zoo to promote its Twilight programme to attract more visitors to the zoo last summer.

The competition was run by the Leader Group of Newspapers which has a readership of more than one million Melbourne-wide through its 31 weekly suburban newspapers.

For several weeks, the newspapers carried banner heads in 110 point size with the words "WIN A TRIP TO BORNEO".

Readers were told that the winner would receive free travel, accommodation and visits to all of Sabah's tourist attractions for four people, but they had to write in 30 words why they wanted to visit the Borneo state.

The Leader group received thousands of entries, and Sabah Tourism received thousands of dollars worth of free publicity without asking for it.

Melbourne Zoo spokeswoman said Sabah was selected because she had been there and felt it was a wonderful holiday destination.

The Crow family, originally from Britain, are all "dedicated animal and nature lovers" and when they were told that they were the winners they were over the moon.

"News that we had won, anyone would have thought our household had won the lottery," Julian Crow said.

"Initial disbelief was followed by mild hysteria -- that we were going on this dream trip, especially that we are all great lovers of flora and fauna and we love to travel," he said.

After Julian had qualified as a quantity surveyor in UK, he and his wife headed out in 1989 to Ndola in Zambia to work.

Eight years being close to the African bush and numerous weekend camping trips honed their love for outdoor life and interest in bird and wildlife.

The Crows then moved to Swaziland where Jessica was born.

"With easy access to Swaziland's nature reserves and South Africa's game parks, both our girls adopted their parents' love of the wild and any animal that they came into contact with," Crow said.

"So when he heard we were going to Sabah, you can imagine our thrill and delight. We are hoping we can hug a orang utan."


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Underwater Mailbox for divers at Pulau Mataking

UNDERWATER MAIL: Divers placing a sealed bag containing letters
into the underwater mailbox near Pulau Mataking in Sabah’s east coast.
Photo copyright The Star.


KOTA KINABALU: If you want to post a letter in Pulau Mataking, in Sabah’s east coast, go underwater.

A resort at the diving island has set up what’s believed to be Malaysia’s first underwater mailbox and Pos Malaysia thinks it is a grand idea.

Reef Dive Resort manager Adrian Van Dooren said a Japanese couple were the first to use the Pulau Mataking underwater mailbox.

The mailbox is attached to the wheelhouse (navigation cabin) of a 12m long wooden cargo boat, the Mataking 1, that sank near the resort on March 19.

“The vessel was last used four years ago, when the resort was being built,” he said, adding that the boat, 24m under the ocean surface, serves as an artificial reef.

“Divers now have the unique experience of posting their letters and postcards underwater,” said Van Dooren.

He said letters or postcards would be placed in a sealed bag.

They would first be postmarked with a special stamp that would state that the letters or postcards were sent through the underwater mailbox.

“The mailbox will be cleared four times a week,” Van Dooren said.

He said the resort, about an hour’s boat ride from Semporna town, was writing to Pos Malaysia to get it to recognise the underwater mailbox as a proper mailbox and hoped a special stamp could be issued to commemorate the event.

Contacted in Kuala Lumpur, Pos Malaysia corporate communications manager Yazli Salleh said the company was prepared to consider the resort’s application for a “symbolic mailbox.”

“It’s a good, creative and interesting idea to promote the islands,” he said, adding that as far as he knew it was the first underwater mailbox in the country.

Similar underwater mailboxes, have been set up in various diving spots, including in Spain, Vanuatu, the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.

Source: The Star

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More tourism projects for Beaufort

BEAUFORT: The Sabah government will intensify tourism development programmes in the Beaufort parliamentary constituency, especially at the Pulau Tiga resort in Kuala Penyu known for its volcanic mud pool, under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP)

Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Azizah Mohamad Dun said the projects planned included a bridge across Sungai Situmpoh to link Kampung PaluPalu and Pekan Kuala Penyu.

She said the bridge would shorten the travel distance by land from the state capital to Kuala Penyu via Membakut and Kampung Pimping, before a boat is taken to Pulau Tiga.

“With the construction of the bridge, more people will go to Pulau Tiga,” she said.

She welcomed investors keen to set up resorts in the coastal areas of Menumbok, Tanjung Aru and Tampurung.

Azizah, who is also Beaufort MP, said that efforts would be made to beautify Beaufort to be a stopover town serving tourists from Brunei and Sarawak travelling to Kota Kinabalu.

She said that Beaufort could also be promoted for ecotourism, especially Klias which had the proboscis monkeys.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

MAS to share local Malaysian flights with AirAsia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines will only fly to 19 domestic destinations, including all state capitals with airports except Ipoh, under a scheme to share local flights with AirAsia.

Besides these 19 domestic destinations, AirAsia will also service 96 other local routes, which are now termed as non-trunk domestic routes.

These flights are expected to commence on Aug 1.

MAS, however, is not allowed to sell its tickets at a discount and the price must be not less than the “full economy fare.”

The Government said the definition of a domestic trunk route was made after considering the joint report submitted by the two airlines.

“The definition of trunk routes is based on two criteria – international connectivity and business traffic,” said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office late yesterday.

The statement said that the KLIA, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu airports would be the main hubs for the trunk routes.

The Government, as part of its rationalisation of the domestic air services sector, had given the two airlines until yesterday to come to an agreement on the definition.

On March 16, the Government announced that both MAS and AirAsia would be allowed to fly major domestic routes.

The Prime Minister’s Department reiterated yesterday that MAS would provide the premium service and the budget airline, the low-cost domestic trunk services.

The Government also decided that both companies would be given the flexibility to decide on the frequency of flights, capacity distribution, type of aircraft and airfare under the supervision of the Transport Ministry.

“MAS must restructure its domestic operations by then and AirAsia must have built up capability to operate all domestic routes, including ensuring connectivity where MAS does not fly to.

“The Government will offer a fitting compensation for the domestic business unbundling agreement between MAS and Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad,” the statement said, adding that profit and loss for MAS’ domestic operations is now its own responsibility.

Stating that neither MAS nor AirAsia would be given a subsidy to operate their domestic operations, the Government would, however, pay the low-cost carrier to operate social routes like the rural air services in Sabah and Sarawak.

The Prime Minister’s Office also revealed that the two airlines were negotiating an agreement for AirAsia’s entire fleet of aircraft to be maintained by the MAS Engineering Unit.

At present, AirAsia’s planes are being serviced in Singapore.

“The Government hopes that this rationalisation process will mean greater cooperation between MAS and AirAsia not only on the domestic sector but also on the regional and international levels.”

MAS managing director Idris Jala said the national carrier analysed all its domestic routes and identified the 19 routes as key to ensuring its future success.

“We are confident that we will be able to work closely with AirAsia to ensure that connectivity and interlinking issues are addressed in a timely manner and that international passenger traffic in and out of Kuala Lumpur will not be affected,” he said.

AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said the long-awaited decision would finally enable the two airlines to set their differences aside and move forward to bring their services closer to the people.

Source: The Star

Tabin Wildlife Reserve's concept may be extended to safeguard forest reserves

Kota Kinabalu: The Forestry Department may adopt the concept practised in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (TWR) as a strategic measure to safeguard the nearly 300,000 hectares of forest reserves in the East Coast from illegal activities that could affect the conservation of their bio-diversity.

The State Government has agreed to expand the Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) principles pioneered in the Deramakot Forest Reserve to cover the forest reserves comprising the Ulu Segama Reserve (203,080ha), Malua Forest Reserve (33,969ha) and Ulu Kalumpang Forest Reserve (51,118ha).

Disclosing this, its Director Sam Mannan said the department has noted that the sustainable forest principles in TWR could be applied on the three forest reserve areas for better protection from trespassers and illegal loggers.

"We see that the concept practised in TWR is a good example where the reserve area is well protected from illegal activities.

"It is the presence of environmental experts, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), tourism companies and active participation from the community that work hand-in-hand to conserve and protect the area.

"Hence, we may consider taking on the concept in the nearly 300,000ha of forest reserve," he told Daily Express recently.

"I believe with the pooling of our base people and the inputs from the long term licensee, Sabah Foundation (YS) as well as experts from NGOs in our forest management team, we can do it.

"We may also involve the community particularly the villagers in the planning process of conserving the area as they would be our ears and eyes for any illegal activities in the forest reserve area, as what is practised effectively in the TWR," he said.

As for increasing the manpower to guard the area, he said, the department will study the plan properly, as they are more concerned about quality than quantity. Presently, the department has 1,200 staff consisting of 800 officers while the rest are from clerical and support services.

"We have identified the best people to do the work in the reserve area and they would implement the same work of managing the forests that they have been doing in the Deramakot Reserve. They do nothing else but manage the forest.

"We will also send in people from other districts on task force basis to do particular work like inventory in the area for one year. We will get assistance from all interested parties like HUTAN (French NGO), Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), to help us especially in rendering their expertise on identification of wildlife aspects in the reserve," he said.

In applying the SFM policy on the forest reserve especially in Ulu Segama that has a large number of orang-utan in Sabah, Sam said such planning would involve a lot of money.

He said they have yet to ascertain the amount because it would depend on what they plan to do.

For Deramakot, he said, they have been spending RM5 million a year on 50,000ha. So, for the nearly 300,000ha forest reserve, he calculated that approximately RM30 million a year is needed for the management and conservation of the three forest reserves.

"We have an added advantage whereby YS will also come in with their resources.

"We also want to see funds coming in from all over the world to help us with this conservation effort because in the end, we are protecting the said reserve area not just for ourselves, but the whole world is going to benefit, too," he said.

He said they would also apply for funds from the Federal authorities to implement SFM concept in the identified reserve area as it is in line with national policy.

Source: Daily Express

Monday, March 27, 2006

Last of the original ‘Tringgus’ tribe of Borneo

Tringgus Borneo Tribe Photo Courtesy of and Copyright to New Straits Times

By Firdaus Abdullah

IN the days of old they were the feared headhunters who roamed the interior of Borneo, striking terror in the hearts of their enemies. They are the Tringgus, the hunter-gatherers of Borneo when there were no borders.

They were the people of the land who knew the medicinal plants and poison sap, the edible plants and roots. In short, they knew the jungle.

Today Singan Ngegek and Sado’ Sanyek are the only members of their Tringgus tribe to maintain the old ways, traditions and animist beliefs (headhunting has long since been given up).

The rest of the tribe has embraced Christianity and, to a great extent, modern culture. But these two members of a feared tribe with a headhunting past refuse to budge.

Singan cannot remember how old he is or which part of the Bengoh Range he was born, but the cheerful custodian of the ancient tribe’s traditions is easily 90.

Singan and his trusted companion, Sado’, 64, are among the last of the "original" Tringgus people.

They lived deep in the interior of Borneo and had their settlements on both sides of the Bengoh Range until politics separated them.

Those who remained on the Sarawak side became Malaysians and continued their way of life until the late 1970s, when the Government advised them to move away from the border because of security threats from communist terrorists.

"Tringgus Lama is about three hours (by foot) from here. That was my home but we had to move," Singan said.

"Maybe our old shacks are still there. I haven’t been there in a long time."

The Tringgus tribesmen of his clan lived a life of poverty, often hunting and at times planting hill padi.

"We used to cover ourselves with tree bark and the bigger leaves.

"Only later did we start wearing loincloth.

"Food was the greens in the jungle and whatever animal we could hunt with our blowpipes and spears. We used to fish in the rivers.

"Now things have changed a great deal, but I will continue to safeguard the Tringgus tradition, culture and way of life as long as I’m alive ... this is my duty to my ancestors."

Sado’, who used to be a farmer, is now the village dukun (faith healer) together with Mentari Juak.

Both Sado’ and Mentari have been using just their hands to heal their people for the past 20 years.

"I don’t use any leaves or concoction, just my hands with a few invocation to the spirits of the mountains," said Sado’.

"We used to help deliver the babies but that duty has been taken over by the Health Department.

"Nowadays, people only come to see us for minor ailments and to seek the blessings of the spirits."

The Tringgus live in a cluster of villages close to the Kalimantan border. It is here that one finds the "original" Tringgus people.

The Tringgus are a little known sub-group within the Bidayuh of Sarawak (Land Dayaks). They are known to be farmers and hunters with good jungle survival skills.

Almost all of the 1,000-odd Tringgus who live in three small villages (Kampung Tringgus Bong, Kampung Tringgus Rabak Rotan and Kampung Matan Nguan) about 30km from Bau, are Roman Catholics now.

Singan said: "They can pick their religion but culture and tradition must be maintained for the future generations.

"The youngsters who attend school pick up all kinds of new things, but I hope they will not forget our roots.

"We don’t expect them to run around in loincloth, but we also don’t want them to ape cultures which do not reflect us."

His fears are not without justification as many youngsters do not seem to appreciate the rich culture and unique past of their tribe, once feared for its ferocity.

The Tringgus engaged in fierce territorial battles with other tribes in Borneo before the state of Sarawak came into being.

Pointing to his armlets and traditional necklace with bear claws and leopard fangs, Singan is proud to state that his forefathers were feared headhunters who kept the enemy at bay during troubled times.

"We still keep some of the skulls which were once prized trophies. They are kept in an old hut up in the hills."

The hut, he said, was being taken care of by a youth who appreciated the past.

"It is nothing religious but some of the villagers have frowned upon the youth. Maybe they are ashamed of their past.

"This is my fear ... that the Tringgus might lose their roots and forget their origins." The grand old man is also worried that their knowledge of the jungle will die with him and a few others of his age group.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Turning KK bird sanctuary into model centre for learning and conservation

By Jaswinder Kaur

KOTA KINABALU: EFFORTS are being made to turn the Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary into a model centre for wetland conservation, research and environmental education.

This is one of the aims of the Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society, a newly formed multi-stakeholder organisation which is now running the sanctuary.

Previously, the Likas Wetland Sanctuary Management Committee, with the WWF-Malaysia as the secretariat, managed the 10-year-old sanctuary.

The Society, in a Press statement, said it also aims to raise awareness and get more members of the public involved in protecting the wetlands.

The sanctuary is located on a 24-hectare site in Likas, just 10 minutes away from the city centre. It is home to more than 83 bird species and eight mangrove species.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Friday, March 24, 2006

New fun at Sarawak Cultural Village


SARAWAK Cultural Village (SCV) in Kuching, one of the state’s most well-known tourist attractions, has set its sights on raising its popularity by introducing three new products aimed at providing fun and a hands-on experience for visitors.

The new products – an arts learning centre, a traditional games and fun centre, and village stay – are part of SCV’s efforts to re-brand itself as a world-class attraction.

General manager Jane Lian Labang said that SCV had operated for the past 16 years with the mission of keeping Sarawak’s culture alive among its people and sharing the culture with the rest of the world.

“The introduction of these new activities and attractions will instil a sense of fun in visitors as they learn about Sarawak’s cultural traditions, resulting in a value-added experience.

“Hopefully visitors will spend a longer time at the village to participate in these activities,” she said.

The arts learning centre offers lessons in Sarawak’s ethnic dances and music as well as handicraft and cookery.

Programmes include bamboo carving, beadwork, Malay “keringkam” embroidery and making Iban or Orang Ulu shields.

Visitors can also learn the traditional dances and music of the Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Melanau and Malay communities.

The games centre, meanwhile, promises visitors a fun time. They can try their hand at blowpipe shooting, throwing a coconut “bowling balls” at bamboo “pins” or hooking glass bottles with a special fishing rod.

Finally, those who want to experience a little ethnic lifestyle can stay at the village for one or two nights.

Individual and family packages are available with accommodation in the Bidayuh longhouse, Iban longhouse, Orang Ulu longhouse, Melanau tall house, Malay house or Chinese traditional house.

The packages include meals, a tour of the village and a cultural show.

For more information about the new products, call SCV at 082-846 411.

Source: The Star

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rainforest music festival at the Sarawak Cultural Village in July 2006

KUCHING: Exotic music will resound at the Sarawak Cultural Village in the beach resort of Damai at the foot of Mount Santubong for the ninth edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival in July.

Sixteen groups will perform.

Eleven of these are from abroad. They are from Kyrgyzstan (Tengir Too); France (Les Yeux Noirs); Turkey (Aynur); Austria (Hotel Palindrone); the Latin American countries of Panama and Colombia (Calle Sur); Canada (Genticorum); the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar (Kilema); the west African country of Mali (Nahawa Doumbia); Mongolia (Egschiglen); and South Korea (Chungmyung Art Group).

Two of the five local groups are the Malaysian Dhol Federation group of the Sikh community, who will showcase their Bhangra drums, and the Yap Ting Percussion Ensemble from here.

All the participants are making their first appearance in the July 7-9 festival.

The festival had gained worldwide recognition, Sarawak’s Urban Development and Tourism Minister, Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh, said yesterday.

"It is Sarawak’s event of the year," he said. "From a humble beginning in 1998 attracting a mere 500 people for the three-day festival, it has grown to one attracting over 8,000 a night."

The success has won the festival this year’s Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) gold award in the Heritage and Culture category, but it has also given organisers a few headaches.

Wong said the number attending the festival last year was too large for organisers to handle.

This year, the crowd will be limited to 7,000 people a night.

Tickets for the festival will go on sale at the Visitors Information Centre here and at the Sarawak Centre in Jalan Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Kudat marine park to serve as corridor for endangered marine species

Kudat: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat regretted the depletion of marine resources resulting from indiscriminate activities in coastal areas.

These include stone and sand dredging along coastal areas, fishing with cyanide and explosives and improper land reclamation works.

Chong, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, pointed out that tapping marine resources such as fishing and aquaculture is important to the State economy, especially in Kudat district.

His addressed was delivered by Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Karim Bujang, while opening a workshop detailing a roadmap of the proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park at the Marudu Kudat Golf and Marina Resort here, Tuesday.

According to him, the State Cabinet approved the establishment of the park during a meeting on March 5 through an unanimous decision.

The proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park covers a total area of 1,028,630 hectares, stretching to the Malaysia-Philippine maritime border involving some 50 islands off Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas.

The park, to be managed by Sabah Parks, will also serve as a corridor for a safe passage for endangered marine species, such as whales, dolphins and dugong, as well as turtles.

Furthermore, the proposed park area is rich with many marine organisms, apart from being a critical habitat for corals, mangrove swamps and seaweed, Chong said.

In this respect, the area should be well preserved and conserved for the future generations, he added.

He was confident that Sabah Parks would handle the area well, as it has been doing with Kinabalu Park, Tungku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Pulau Tiga Park, Tun Sakaran Park, Crocker Range Park, Tawau Hill Park and Sipadan Island.

The workshop, from March 20 to 22, involved 67 participants representing the various departments under the Ministry, Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas district offices, Lands and Surveys Department, Fisheries Department, Sabah Museum, Evironmental Protection Department, Forestry Department, Wildlife Department and Marine Department.

Pacos Trust, Sabah Society, Malaysian Nature Society and UMS are also being represented.

Source: Daily Express

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

German reminisces gliding down Mount Kinabalu

The spot on South Peak where Witte (photo inset) 'took-off'.
Later to be named Witte's Cliff. NST pix and copyright

Witte flying above the clouds in this successful 1984 glide.
NST pix and copyright

KOTA KINABALU (NST) - While everyone was trying to climb Mt Kinabalu, one man had his heart set only on the descent.

It was 1984 and Ernst Witte wanted to be the first to hang-glide down the mountain.

But despite his best efforts, the authorities refused to budge from their position that it was dangerous to do so.

A year of correspondence finally saw the German getting permission for the daredevil dive down the 4,095.2-metre mountain. Witte still has a 'souvenir' from the experience - a scar on his left knee.

"I was hooked to my seat and left my fate to the four locals I had trained to stabilise the hang-glider. I told them that they had to let go of it at the same time, or I would go around in circles and crash to my death."

"They did a good job but the worst was yet to come."

Unexpected winds from the base of the mountain swept him even higher than a helicopter with a broadcast crew on board.

The wind speed was 75 kilometres per hour, five times the safe maximum wind speed for hang-gliding.

"The pilot later told me that I had reached more than 5,000 metres because I was flying higher than the helicopter was able to.

"I suffered a nose bleed and felt like fainting."

Even as his life hung in the balance, his mind was constantly on the next thing to do: Look for a place to land.

"I eventually saw a clearing through the clouds and ended in a farmer's backyard - where I cut my knee while landing."

It was the farmer who helped Witte back to the Kinabalu Park. By then, many were wondering about his fate as he had targeted Bundu Tuhan, about 3km away, as his landing site.

Witte became a celebrity overnight with wide coverage in the local and German media.

The then Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Ahmad Shah, even wanted to meet him.

Witte's hang-glider was displayed for a while at the Sabah Museum.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Tropical rainforests pride of Brunei

By James Kon

Seventy-eight per cent of Brunei Darussalam is still covered with tropical rainforests. This is still the highest in Asia, and should become the pride of our nation.

This was stated by Dato Paduka Awang Hj Hamdilah bin Hj Abdul Wahab, the Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, during the launching of World Forest Day 2006 at the Sungai Liang Forest Recreational Park yesterday morning. This year's theme is "Forest in Perpetuity: Assured Source of Water".

A large area of the nation's forest, namely the Ulu Temburong National Park, has been recognised by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as the "Heart of Borneo" area, he said.

"This represents an international recognition and approach to highlight the country's rich biodiversity resources in the joint project 'Heart of Borneo' with neighbouring countries such as Kalimantan, Sarawak and Sabah," he said.

The ministry hopes that with the partnership with WWF, it will attract Foreign Direct Investment through the eco-tourism industry, which could in turn produce social economic benefits and development in rural areas, he said.

According to Dato Paduka Awang Hj Hamdilah, who was also the guest of honour at yesterday's event, out of the 2,000 species of trees recorded in Borneo, 60 per cent can be found in the Sultanate.

The Proboscis monkeys, which can be found along the beaches and riverbanks in the Sultanate, could also become one of the strengths for development in the tourism industry.

The deputy minister pointed out that around 270,000 people visited the recreational forest park in 2005; an increase in the number of visitors compared to previous years. The increase was due to the Nature Camp project, which was participated by lower secondary students throughout the country.

In the 9th National Development Plan, the local private sector is encouraged to be involved in the forestry and tourism sector, where a number of long term projects are in the pipeline and will be implemented in the span of five years.

It is hoped that the projects would spur the progress of local economy activities and develop the downstream sector, Dato Paduka Awang Hj Hamdilah said.

In order to guarantee an effective administration and smooth planning of the nation's forest resources, Chapter 46 of the Forestry Act is in the process of its final amendment with assistance from the Attorney General's Office, the deputy minister said.

Dato Paduka Awang Hj Hamdilah then proceeded to present certificates to the participants of the logo design competition. This was followed by a walk around the Sungai Liang Forest Recreational Park trail and a tour of the exhibition.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sarawak's Rainforest World Music Festival 2006 - Back to the Rainforest

THE ninth edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) may still be just under four months away, but the early bird catches the worm, as they say.

The annual gathering of musicians from the far corners of the Earth in Sarawak will once again be held at where it all began at the Sarawak Cultural Village at Santubong, a 40-minute drive from the state capital of Kuching.

An early teaser from the organisers sees more eclectic offerings from the five continents.

Roots music, ethnic music, world music from the ancient to the modern has always been the mainstay and the attraction to this now seminal and increasing globally popular event in the World Music festivals calendar.

As for the music spectrum, think frenetic part gypsy, part Klezmer music from France or mountain music from Kyrgyzstan.

Also on offer will be shamanistic music from the nomads of Mongolia and Samul Nori folk percussion and dance from South Korea.

Malaysian bhangra (as a little alternative from British bhangra) and wassalou singing from Mali, are a couple of examples of what more to expect.

Asian music groups already confirmed to appear are Tengir Too from Kyrgyzstan, ChungMyung from South Korea, Egschiglen from Mongolia and Aynur from Turkey.

From Europe we’ll see Les Yeux Noirs from France and Hotel Palindrone from Austria and from the Americas come Genticorum from Canada and Calle Sur from Colombia.

Kilema from Madagascar, and Nahawa Doumbia from Mali represent the African continent, while home country Malaysia will see the Kuala Lumpur’s Malaysian Dhol Federation and the Yap Ting Chinese Percussion Ensemble from Sarawak.

Watch out for more updates and more acts to confirm.

Tickets are priced at RM60 per day (RM30 for children under 12).

For ticket information, e-mail or call 082 423 600.

For more information visit

Source: The Star

Monday, March 20, 2006

No increase in domestic air fare for MAS but higher fuel surcharge

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has rejected the request by Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad (PMB), the parent company of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), for a 10 per cent increase in domestic air fares, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said yesterday.

However, this did not mean that the government had totally rejected the request but only that “the government is not in favour at this point of time”, he said.

“Of course there is a ground (for domestic fare increase) as the last MAS domestic fare increase was 13 years ago,” he told reporters after gracing the graduation ceremony of Sheffield Hallam University here.

He did not give the reasons for the decision which was made a couple of weeks ago.

PMB recently submitted a proposal to the government, requesting a 10 per cent fare increase for all domestic flights operated by MAS.

Asked whether the decision would remain even after the full domestic aviation rasionalisation plan was announced after March 27, Chan said: “Yes, even after the rasionalisation plan being announced, we are not in favour”.

On whether the decision would affect MAS’ business turnaround plan, he said it was too early to tell.

He said, however, that the government had approved PMB’s reguest to increase the fuel surcharge for the domestic sector to RM36 from RM15 for flights between the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak and RM15 (from RM7.50) for flights within peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. The fuel surcharge on rural air services remains at RM7.50. He said fuel prices had gone up and it was only fair to review the surcharge.

“With the review, they (MAS) can recover 30-40 per cent. They just absorb additional cost increases, just to help them recover a little bit more.” he said.

MAS first imposed domestic fuel surcharge in the middle of last year while for the international routes, the national carrier had raised the surcharge three times since it was imposed.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sabah Zoo to be big tourism attraction soon

Kota Kinabalu: The 280-acre Sabah Zoological and Botanical Park in Lok Kawi is set to become another main tourism attraction for Sabah with its unique setting that is virtually in the wilderness.

The park, which has incurred a cost of about RM28 million so far, may only be opened to the public later this year as it still needs some improvement on the facilities and is awaiting some of the exotic animals to arrive from overseas.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat during a working visit to the park on Friday noted that a lot of improvement needs to be done there.

At the same time, the park is waiting for the acquisition of exotic animals from abroad to join animals that are found in Sabah.

"I'm sure when it is open it will be a big attraction because seldom can you see a zoo in a forested area as it is normally in the city area. Here it is in its natural setting," he said when met after the visit.

According to him, a meeting would be held with the management of the park to sort out what other areas can be improved.

Personnel from the park are also being sent on attachment under exchange programmes to other zoos. Presently, two personnel from Kensington Zoo, UK are on a six-month attachment at the park.

The zoo section is being managed by the Sabah Wildlife Department while the botanical side is managed by the Forestry Department.

Among the animals already there are a pair of bear cats or binturong, pygmy elephants and Asian elephants, tigers, Proboscis Monkey, orang utan, mouse deer, barking deer, bali cattle (bearing resemblance to the Tembadau), ostriches and various species of birds in the aviary.

A white Rhino, is among the animals which still have not arrived from Singapore.

Chong who is also a Deputy Chief Minister said he wanted the children's section of the zoo where several pygmy elephants, ponies and goats are exhibited to be expanded.

The botanical garden, which is to be managed by the Forestry Department using the technology at its world-class research centre in Sandakan, covers about 200 acres.

Chong was briefed that the botanical garden would see a 1.4km walking trail and another cycling trail for visitors to see the flora at the park.

Also planned are orchid exhibitions, fernarium, butterfly farm, insecterium as well as exhibits of medicinal plants, nephentes (Periuk Kera) and ginger, among others.

Accessible via the old road to Papar from Penampang and from Lok Kawi, the park would provide visitors a close-up view of wild animals in their natural settings.

Source: Daily Express

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bruneians top list of visitors to Sarawak

By Magdalene Rogers

KUCHING - Sarawak's tourism industry got a boost from Brunei - in the neighbouring countries markets - which topped the list of visitors numbering 1,318,782 last year followed by Indonesians totalling 428,570.

Sarawak Tourism Board's (STB) newsletter stated that the state has recorded a total of 2,261,696 foreign visitors' arrival that same year compared to 2,242,516 in 2004, that represents a slight increase of 1.01 per cent.

"For the long-haul markets, visitors from the United Kingdom and Ireland topped the list with 42,383 arrivals and followed by those from countries in Western Europe totalling 22,593," an official said.

Filipinos made up the most number of visitors from the regional market with 97,288 while Singapore came second with 42,659.

"Both Australia and New Zealand have a combined figure of 27,752, followed by China (18,927) and Thailand (17,431)," the official stated.

"On the domestic front, 446,986 arrivals were recorded from Peninsular Malaysia and 314,366 from neighbouring Sabah as compared to 234,208 from Peninsular Malaysia and 175,145 from Sabah in 2004 - a strong indication of a robust domestic growth in Sarawak tourism," she said.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Bruneians top list of visitors to Sarawak

By Magdalene Rogers

KUCHING - Sarawak's tourism industry got a boost from Brunei - in the neighbouring countries markets - which topped the list of visitors numbering 1,318,782 last year followed by Indonesians totalling 428,570.

Sarawak Tourism Board's (STB) newsletter stated that the state has recorded a total of 2,261,696 foreign visitors' arrival that same year compared to 2,242,516 in 2004, that represents a slight increase of 1.01 per cent.

"For the long-haul markets, visitors from the United Kingdom and Ireland topped the list with 42,383 arrivals and followed by those from countries in Western Europe totalling 22,593," an official said.

Filipinos made up the most number of visitors from the regional market with 97,288 while Singapore came second with 42,659.

"Both Australia and New Zealand have a combined figure of 27,752, followed by China (18,927) and Thailand (17,431)," the official stated.

"On the domestic front, 446,986 arrivals were recorded from Peninsular Malaysia and 314,366 from neighbouring Sabah as compared to 234,208 from Peninsular Malaysia and 175,145 from Sabah in 2004 - a strong indication of a robust domestic growth in Sarawak tourism," she said.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Kuching, Sarawak seeks share in sports tourism


KUCHING: The inaugural Saberkas RH Marathon on March 26 will help promote Kuching as a location for similar sporting events, Sarawak Housing Minister Datuk Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg said.

“We want to promote Kuching as a place that can host big sports events like marathons and position it for the sports tourism market,” he said.

The biggest event of its kind to be held in Sarawak, the marathon is organised by Saberkas, the state’s largest youth organisation.

Abang Johari, who is also Saberkas deputy president, said runners from 17 countries had confirmed their participation.

They included world-class runners from Kenya, New Zealand and South Africa.

He said Saberkas would continue to promote sports as a healthy lifestyle among Sarawakians.

He later received sponsorships of bottled water and soya bean drinks from Water Genesis Sdn Bhd and FFM Marketing Sdn Bhd respectively.

He also received sponsorship from the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation, which will pay for the hotel accommodation.

The marathon, which is sanctioned by the Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union and the Sarawak Amateur Athletic Association, is divided into eight categories – the full 42km run for men and women, 21km half-marathon for men and women, 10km veteran run for men and women and 10km junior run for boys and girls aged between 13 and 18 years.

Further details and entry forms are available at

Source: The Star

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sabah to foregone RM1b revenue to save Orang Utans


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has decided to save the endangered orang utan by phasing out logging in the big apes' heartland, which means forgoing RM1bil in timber revenue.

Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said that from December 2007 the state government would stop logging activities in the Ulu Segama and Malua forest reserves, which cover a total area of 237,777ha, to preserve the area's biodiversity.

He described the decision as a “tough” one but “in the best interest of present and future generations, as we believe in the concept of the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run.”

Initially, natural forest practices would be imposed on both forest reserves surrounding the 43,800ha Danum Valley conservation area near the east coast of Lahad Datu district until logging there ceased in 21 months.

Musa said both forest reserves were also the heartland of Sabah’s orang utan population.

A state Wildlife Department study showed that there were some 1,100 of the primates in Malua and a further 3,300 in Ulu Segama.

A similar sustainable forest management programme would also be imposed on the 51,118ha Ulu Kalumpang forest reserve near Tawau district, Musa said after the Cabinet meeting here yesterday.

He said the management of these areas would involve input from interested parties and stakeholders, including WWF, HUTAN (a French NGO), the Sabah Society, local community representatives and other NGOs.

He said Sabah would eventually have a total of nearly one million hectares of conservation areas, which would include Kinabalu Park, Danum Valley and Maliau Basin apart from various Class 1 protected forest reserves.

WWF Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Mikaail Kavanagh, who was present when Musa announced the Sabah government’s decision, said the move would be “major news” for Malaysia to report at the upcoming eighth conference of the parties of the convention for biological diversity in Brazil next week.

Source: The Star

Pesta Kalimaran, festival of Sabah's Murut community, in Tenom in April

KOTA KINABALU: Pesta Kalimaran, the annual festival of the Murut community in Sabah, will be held at the Murut Cultural Village in Tenom on April 1.

The two-day event celebrates and honours the Murut people’s rich cultural heritage. There will be Murut dances, songs, food, games and handicraft on display during the event organised by Sabah Cultural Board.

With a history of being intrepid head-hunters, consisting of 14-sub ethnic groups that share 12 languages, the Muruts are proud of their rich cultural heritage which has been preserved and observed to this very day.

They still practice many traditional rituals and perform a variety of dances, some of which include the famous ‘Magunatip’ dance, ‘Alang Ra Illau’, ‘Lumansar’, ‘Antitiopoh’, ‘Antabung’, ‘Saminali’ and ‘Alang Ra Amol’.

Apart from showcasing the rich cultural heritage of this unique community, Pesta Kalimaran is part of the State’s effort to promote socio-cultural activities and to further improve the economic status of the Murut community.

For more information on the event, contact Mackey Apison of Sabah Cultural Board at 088-268884 or 268818.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Plan for MAS to fly primary routes, AirAsia the secondary

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) will be flying primary domestic routes, while AirAsia will concentrate on secondary ones, as well as take over the rural air service if a recommendation by a Cabinet committee is taken into consideration.

The committee was set up by the Government to look into the rationalisation of domestic air routes in the country following keen competition between MAS and AirAsia, and to ensure better utilisation of resources.

Primary routes refer to Penang, Langkawi, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Johor Baru and Kuala Lumpur, with frequencies of about seven to eight flights daily.

The committee comprises representatives from the transport and finance ministries, MAS and AirAsia.

A source close to the negotiations said such an arrangement would eventually see MAS operating fewer domestic routes and AirAsia would serve most of the domestic routes.

“AirAsia, which is a budget airline, will also be allowed to fly primary and secondary routes and take over rural routes, mostly involving domestic air services currently operated by MAS,” he told Bernama.
The source said MAS would also relinquish the rural air services, mostly in Sarawak and Sabah, currently served by turbo-propeller aircraft, to AirAsia as it was found that such services were very costly for full-fledged airlines to operate.

“Both airlines have given their feedback on the matter and discussions are still currently on going. However, we expect the matter to be finalised on Wednesday when it will be brought up for the Cabinet discussion,” the source said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi or Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy is expected to make an announcement of the domestic route rationalisation today.

However, the source stressed that whether all these recommendations would materialise would depend on the Cabinet's decision today.

AirAsia had said it was prepared to take over some of MAS' assets, including four to nine aircraft, as well as 200 to 1,000 employees to service the added domestic routes.

AirAsia is also willing to take up the unprofitable domestic routes now run by MAS with no subsidies, with a view of turning over 100% domestic routes into profitables ones. Meanwhile, when asked how the Government would split the domestic air routes, Transport Minister Chan Kong Choy said: “There's no final decision” yet on the split in the routes.

“We have encouraged” MAS and AirAsia “to continue to talk,” he said at a briefing with MAS travel agents in Kelana Jaya.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tourist guides as 'backbone and ambassadors' of Sarawak's tourism industry

By Magdalene Rogers

KUCHING - Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism, Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh said his ministry has worked out with the federal authority "sometime ago" to come out with study syllabuses so that the East Malaysian tour guides in Sabah and Sarawak can conduct tours within the states' levels.

Wong, speaking at the Sarawak Tourist Guides Association, which celebrated the launching of its "Sarawak Tourist Guides Directory", with the theme: "Cowboy Nite" on Saturday, said that, essentially, the guides have a "vocation which is just not another job but something they enjoy doing."

He added that the tourist guides, whom he described as "the backbone and ambassadors of the tourism industry", are also "performing multi-dimensional roles" that helps to promote the tourism industry in the State.

Wong, who is also Second Finance Minister, said that his ministry has allocated a "certain amount of funds" to the association for its members to pursue courses and seminars so as to gain knowledge and improved their linguistic abilities.

"You need to have a proficiency in English, in Japanese, or Korean and to have communication skills as well as knowledgeable in history, geography and current affairs to become professional tour guides," he said, citing the importance of those courses and seminars.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Halal certification for Mega Hotel in Miri

By George Francis

MIRI - Mega Hotel here is the first hotel in Miri to have obtained the Halal certification from Sarawak Islamic Council (JAIS) after the expiry of certification from the National Islamic Council (JAKIM).

JAIS certification which is also sanctioned overseas, especially in Muslim nations, is currently the most applicable for domestic establishment while JAKIM is widely used for export certification and international level trade and industries.

Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister's Department in charge of Islamic Affairs presented the certificate at a ceremony on Sunday night to Mr Ting Ong Hua, Mega Hotel chairman.

Mega Hotel is the 85th halal outlet certified by JAIS so far in Sarawak.

Daud said throughout the course of applying the Halal certification which may take months, an establishment has to undergo a very stringent procedure check, modification, classes, compliance to regulations and requirement of the religious order.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Study on Maliau Basin in June

PETALING JAYA: More than 40 local and international researchers are expected to join the Maliau Basin Scientific Expedition 2006 in Sabah from June 15 to 24.

They will document and study plant and animal species as well physical and landscape diversity and water and aquatic life of the Maliau Basin.

The expedition, jointly organised by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and the Sabah Foundation, will be conducted in collaboration with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and Sabah Parks.

It would be supported by Universiti Malaya (UM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), the academy said in a statement Monday.

The academy and Sabah Foundation on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding for the Rainforest Research, Scientific Expedition and Training Programme of which the expedition becomes part of the MoU.

The academy was represented by its Vice-President, Datuk Dr Salleh Mohamed Nor, and Sabah Foundation by its Director, Tan Sri Khalil Jamalul at the signing.

Among other things, the academy will also help and facilitate the establishment of research and commercialisation of the biodiversity and biotechnology of forest resources in the area.

Expedition head Prof Dr Ibrahim Komoo told reporters that the expedition was to enhance knowledge of the Maliau Basin, build the capacity and capability of local scientists to carry out expeditions in the tropical region and develop long-term research co-operation at both national and international levels.

He said the expedition would involve four scientific teams - Flora Biodiversity, Fauna Biodiversity, Physical and Landscape Diversity and Water and Aquatic Life.

The Maliau Basin is situated in the south central region of Sabah, covering an area of about 390 sq km.

Resembling a volcanic caldera, the 25km diameter basin is, in fact, a sendimentary formation comprising mainly gently inclined beds of sandstone and mudstone and is inaccessible due to its extremely rugged landscape rimmed by steep slopes and cliffs.


Monday, March 13, 2006

More foreign tourists coming to Brunei

By Achong Tanjong

An increasing number of foreign tourists have been coming to the country in the past few years, according to statistics from the information counter of the Royal Regalia Building yesterday.

The number of foreign tourists, especially in the package group tours, has increased statistics revealed.

Topping the list of foreign visitors to Brunei Darussalam were visitors from China, followed by Taiwan, Australia, Japan and Malaysia.

In 2005, visitors to the Royal Regalia Building had also recorded an increasing number from Japan and South Korea.

More than 45,000 foreign visitors were recorded having visited the Royal Regalia Building in 2000. The number increased to 57,574 in 2003.

A total of 65,493 visitors were recorded in 2004 and the number also increased in 2005, said the officer at the information counter.

The number of visitors from Singapore, mostly from the army, also increased.

As of January 2006, the Royal Regalia Building recorded 2,387 visitors.

Of this number 1,235 were visitors from China and 438 were Koreans. Other nationalities also made visits.

In February, 4,997 visitors were recorded, including 2,705 Chinese and 675 Korean tourists.

Peak months for tourist visits are February, March and April, depending on the holiday season in other countries, the officer said.

Meanwhile, 12 delegates from Terengganu Islamic & Malay Council as well as Zakat Committee members from Terengganu, Malaysia yesterday visited the Royal Regalia Building. The group was led by Encik Hassan bin Mohd. Noor.

During the visit the group was accompanied by an officer from the Museum Department, Pg. Hj. Ismail bin Pg. Hj. Ibrahim.

The visit was conducted by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Darussalam Holding Sdn. Bhd.

According to Hj. Shamsul Baharin Bin Hj. Abd. Rahman, Assistant Officer of Sale and Marketing Department of Darussalam Holding, the group was on a two-day educational visit to the country to have a closer look at Brunei culture and heritage.

They also visited the Ministry of Religious Affairs and other places of interest including the Museum Department, Brunei Art and Handicrafts Centre, and the Water Village. They performed their prayers at the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, and visited Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque in Kg. Kiarong.

The Royal Regalia Building was officially opened on September 30, 1992 by His Majesty. The building has been designed to incorporate various characteristics of the philosophy of Malay Islamic Monarchy. It has become a landmark in Bandar Seri Begawan.

The building displays a large number of Royal Regalia that had been inherited from generation to generation.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Brunei local market now a 'must-go' tourist spot

By Kartika Rahman

The Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR), Dato Paduka Hj Hamdillah bin Hj Abd Wahab, officially launched the Local Agri-food and Handicraft Market as a tourist destination, yesterday. The Market is located at the Horticulture Business Centre in Rimba Gadong.

Also present at the launching ceremony was Dato Paduka Hj Hamid bin Hj Jaafar, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources and Deputy Chairman of the Brunei Tourism Board (BTB), Pg Hjh Mariana bte Pg Dipa Negara Laila DiRaja Pg Hj Abd Momin, Director of Agriculture as Chairperson and Custodian of the Agri-Food and Handicraft Market and the Rimba Garden Centre, as well as tourists and representatives from travel agents, hotel agencies and airlines.

The Market has been in operation since October 2005, where it was opened by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry. After a creative initiative to refocus its efforts, the Market is now officially another tourist hot spot in the nation.

In his opening speech, Dato Hamdillah said that the government is targeting a seven per cent growth in Tourism this year.

"Over the last few months or so, many in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry launched new products," he said.

"High- and medium-end local hotels also reported better room occupancy compared to last year, showing a growth in tourism."

"It goes without saying that Public Sector contribution is just as important as Private Sector initiatives in developing our young Tourism industry," the Deputy Minister added.

The Deputy Minister expressed the hopes of MIPR that local Micro Enterprises and SMEs, specifically food processors and handicrafts entrepreneurs, would "capitalise on the opportunities made possible by this Local Agri-Food and Handicraft Market".

"This will not only promote the Market as an additional Brunei's Tourist Destination, but also enable it to be a venue to generate additional income through local creativity in handicraft and agricultural production, thus laying the groundwork for Brunei Export Drive," he said.

Dato Hamdillah took the opportunity to recognise the collaborative efforts of the Public Sector, namely project sponsors MIPR and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, for their contribution to the enhancement of Brunei's Tourism Industry.

The Local Agri-Food and Handicraft Market is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 6pm. It is divided into three sections, namely Processed Agri-food section, Handicraft section and an Art Gallery displaying the works of local talents from the Persatuan Pelukis Brunei (Brunei Artists' Association). As many as 30 Agri-food vendors are available, promoting and exhibiting local products such as crackers, biscuits, cakes and local chili sauce. The Handicraft section hosts producers and exhibitors of Kain Tenunan Brunei (Brunei Woven Fabrics), Batik souvenirs, embroideries, Songkok and paintings. The booths are rented out at a minimal amount, so as to encourage the participation of local vendors. In addition, cultural stage performances are showcased from 10am to 11am and from 3pm to 4pm during operating hours.

The Deputy Minister summed up his speech by urging tourist guides, hotels and travel agencies to "offer Rimba Garden as a must stopover, as it is conveniently located at the heart of the city".

"With both private and public sectors' concerted efforts, success is eminent in encouraging clients, guests and Brunei's tourists to visit this Tamu on weekends to keep it alive and growing.

"Perhaps in the future, the Rimba Garden Centre will become an iconic attraction of Brunei such as the famous Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok, thus promoting Tourism as a sustainable industry in the country," said Dato Hamdillah.

For more information regarding the Local Agri-Food and Handicraft Market, visit Agri-Business Info Centre located at the premises during the Market's operating hours.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Friday, March 10, 2006

First hang glider to fly from Mt Kinabalu on display at Sabah Museum

Visitors can now view the historic Hang Glider at
the Sabah Museum beginning this Saturday.
(Photo Copyright Borneo Bulletin)

By Ismail Hj. Mansor

KOTA KINABALU - The public will now have the opportunity this Saturday to see the first-ever Hang Glider which had been used by Ernst F.C Witte when he became the first person ever to hang glide from Mount Kinabalu, South East Asia's highest peak, on March 23, 1984.

The Hang Glider was donated to the Sabah Museum by Yayasan Sabah. The Hang Glider has been exhibited at the Sabah Museum in 1984 and managed to draw quite a big crowd. The glider has been taken back by Yayasan Sabah.

Due to its historical significance, Yayasan Sabah and Sabah Museum have decided to exhibit the Hang Glider again at the Sabah Museum for public viewing. A soft opening of the exhibition will he held this Saturday at 10am.

On March 23, 1984, 46-year-old Mr. Witte who hailed from West Germany, took off from the South Peak Cliff at a height of 4,050 metres (13,287 feet) above sea level at 7.37am and glide down to land in a small clearing at Tenumpok in the Bundu Tuhan valley near Ranau.

At one time, he even glided higher above the summit of Mount Kinabalu, a height which even the helicopters could not fly up to.

Meanwhile, Sabah Museum is also preparing for the forthcoming special exhibition on "The Beauties Of Sabah Islamic Arts" to be held next month.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Malaysia woos German tourists

EFFORTS are being made to woo high-end visitors from European countries, especially Germany and other German-speaking countries.

This is part of the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2007 objectives, launched last December.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said besides the United Kingdom, Germany was an important market.

German tourist arrivals to Malaysia has fluctuated in recent years, with the numbers dropping from 70,000 to 41,000 between 2000 and 2003.

However, in 2004, their number increased to about 50,000 visitors.

For the period between January and November last year, 54,800 visitors from Germany visited Malaysia.

The Germans spent between RM1,400 and RM2,400 while in the country. Some stayed up to 6.5 days.

"There is a high demand for our island and beach packages with Sabah and Sarawak remaining the most attractive destinations among German tourists," said Tengku Adnan.

The minister is in Germany for the 40th International Tourism Bourse (ITB) 2006, the world’s largest tourism trade fair.

He said the fair provided an excellent platform for Malaysia to promote events such as Formula One and the country’s unique attractions, including the festival open house and shopping carnivals.

The annual fair at Messe gathers major industry players from the government and private sectors worldwide.

This year’s event attracted more than 10,000 participants from over 180 countries, including Malaysia, with its 420 square metre pavilion at the fair represented by 60 organisations, including hoteliers, tour operators and state tourism boards.

The major events promoted there were VMY 2007, "Malaysia Welcomes the World" and the "Malaysia My Second Home"programme.

Source: New Straits Times

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Two Borneo Travel Articles for your reading pleasure

If you have visited the main page of, you would have noticed that we have finally replaced our infamous Virtual Guide, Raj the Orang Utan column, with a What's New column.

You would have also seen that we have just added two brand new travel articles for your reading pleasure as follows:

  • Adventure Vacation: Mesilau Summit Trail - an Alternative and More Challenging Route To Conquer Mount Kinabalu
  • National Park Vacation: Introducing Mesilau Nature Park, an Alternative to Kinabalu National Park

As for Raj, just in case you are wondering, simply click here for Raj's last message and find out why he decided to call it a day.

Happy reading from all of us at and hoping that you will get to know more about the vacation traesures in Borneo from the two articles.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Aussies to retrace Sandakan death march track

MELBOURNE: A group of Australian Defence Force personnel will retrace the infamous Sandakan death march track where almost 2,000 Australians lost their lives during World War II, beginning March 15.

The party will be led by historian and investigative writer Lynette Silver, who was responsible for rediscovering the path. It will embark on a six-day trek from Bauto across the mountains to Ranau, a distance of about 150km.

“Lost behind impenetrable jungle in Borneo for the past 60 years, the Sandakan death march track, where Australian and British prisoners of war died amid unimaginably cruel conditions, has been identified,” said Silver, who spent the past 14 years researching the Sandakan PoW camp and the resulting death marches.

“Almost 2,000 Australians lost their lives in Sandakan and in the resulting three death marches in 1945 across Borneo’s rugged interior, where Japanese captors forced ailing Australian and British soldiers to walk a 250km trail.

“My hope is that the Sandakan track will become as much a part of Australia’s ethos as the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea and Gallipoli in Turkey,” she said.

Silver added: “The atrocities suffered by Australians and their allies in Sandakan should never be forgotten. Their heroism, sustained over a three-year period, was extraordinary and certainly equals that exhibited on any battlefield,”

She has combined forces with Tham Yau Kong, Sabah’s leading trekking expert, to locate and re-open the original death march track.

Silver rediscovered the track’s route using a highly detailed hand-drawn map

- the only known and complete map in existence given to her by a member of the 1945 body recovery team — and by plotting the location of every PoW body recovered along the entire track.

The first section of the route, from Sandakan to Bauto, can also be followed, but now passes entirely through oil palm plantations.

The project to re-open the track has the backing of the Malaysian and Sabah governments and the general manager of Sabah Tourism, Datuk Irene Charuruks.

On March 15, Silver and Tham will accompany a group of Australians, including a relative of one of the original prisoners of war and nine members of the Australian Defence Forces.

They will be the first people to walk in the footsteps of the PoWs since Australian Army recovery teams searched for bodies in 1946. Silver will be the first woman to follow the path.

The original route, cut by locals and purposely made as difficult as possible in the belief that it would be used solely by Japanese troops, passed almost entirely though uninhabited areas.

Once the war was over and bodies retrieved, the jungle obliterated all traces of it. An attempt was made by local trekkers in the 1950s to locate the route, without success.

For more information check

Source: Bernama

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Brunei-Sabah tour package 'the best formula'

Kota Kinabalu: Brunei supplied a total of 58,544 visitors to Sabah in 2005 while Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) can play an even

bigger role to help Sabah tap a growing China market, local operators said.

Two local tour operators here alone reported getting close to a thousand Chinese tourists per month from Shanghai, Guangzhou

and Hong Kong via Brunei and RBA.

"We are now getting a few hundred Chinese tourists each month and RBA's connecting flight and the China market must go

together," said Vivian Lee, Executive Director of Mt Kinabalu Adventure Tours.

Giving reasons, she said: "Chinese visitors want to see Brunei because it is famous - being the smallest yet the richest

Muslim country in the world."

Yet Sabah has the more to gain because most Chinese choose to stay two nights in Sabah in a three-night/four-day package,

since Brunei at night is generally quiet, she said.

"And of mainland Chinese, Hongkongites and Taiwanese, the spending power of mainland Chinese is better," Lee noted.

Eddy Chan of Tai Kar echoed generally the same story. "RBA flies four times a week to Shanghai and every month we get about

400 Chinese tourists stay a night at deluxe Hyatt in Brunei and come stay three nights in Sabah on a five-day/four-night

package," said Chan.

"My groups use RBA every flight," he added.

Since Brunei has hundreds of years of historical dealings with China and now enjoys world fame for its oil wealth, it is

well-known in China.

"We find the best way to sell Sabah in China market is the two-in-one formula, that is, a Brunei/Sabah package," said Judy

Ngui Siok Choon, RBA's Acting Sales Manager Sabah.

Brunei's Ministry of Tourism has for some years promoted Sabah together with Brunei.

Believing RBA can be of greater help for mutual benefits in the years ahead, Ngui said the airline recently staged an

awareness drive with Wisma Merdeka based on a Chinese New Year lucky draw.

"All shoppers who bought RM50 or more goods and services were eligible for a lucky draw," Ngui said.

First prize-winner was Heng Mui Kiow who won a return air ticket to Hong Kong, while Au Sok Goh won a return air ticket to


Since RBA flies to Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Darwin, it is a key deliverer of Australian tourists to Sabah, especially from

Perth, Ngui said.

It also brings in good number of Britons from London, especially Saga Holidays guests.

It flies to KL and Singapore daily, Manila five times a week, Hong Kong six times, London daily, Frankfurt four times,

Auckland, New Zealand, three times and other regional destinations such as Bali, Surabaya, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, etc.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, March 06, 2006

New Package: 3D/2N Kuching Leisure Tour

If you missed out on our new short tour package announcement via our Borneo Tour Package Alert Blog last week, please do take a look at our latest 3D/2N Kuching Leisure Tour at the following URL:

Sunday, March 05, 2006

More turtles returning to Sipadan Island

KOTA KINABALU: More turtles are returning to the diving haven of Pulau Sipadan after a move to limit visitors was made.

State Secretary Datuk K.Y. Mustafa said Sabah Parks personnel recorded 507 turtle landings between April last year and February this year.

Of these, 502 were green turtles that laid nearly 46,000 eggs. Five were leatherback turtles which laid 502 eggs.

“More than 17,000 of the eggs have hatched,” Mustafa said during a visit to Sipadan two days ago.

He said since the government decided to demolish all resort accommodation on the island and to limit the number of visitors to 120 per day, more trees and other plants have grown.

Mustafa said that to ensure better management of the island, he would meet various agencies and tourism companies involved in taking divers to Sipadan.

“Ultimately, we want to see a more co-ordinated entry of tourists and divers to Sipadan,” he added.

On security on Sipadan, where 21 tourists and resort workers were kidnapped and held in the southern Philippine island of Jolo for six months in 2000, Mustafa said he was satisfied with the measures in place.

Sabah Parks director Datuk Lamri Ali said a tourism centre would be built on the island over the next few years.

Source: The Star

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Red ape of Tasek Merimbun, Brunei

Two adult Maragang feeding hungrily on young leaves of Merremia peltata
just next to the dormitory. Photo & Copyright: Hj Ramlee
An adult Maragang or Maroon Langur reacts with its classic posture.
Photo & Copyright: Hj Ramlee

By Meiji and Hj Bahrin HB

At a glance one could have stumbled upon a red primate in the countryside or interior believing it was an Orangutan. On record, perhaps the most reliable encounter of a solitary Orangutan was claimed by Awg Hj Pudin bin Zainal who said he saw one at Selangan forest, in Temburong way back in 1923. His description of the primate - red fur, no tail, a bit bigger than other primates found here in Brunei Darussalam, does not jump but moves and swings most of the time from tree to tree - is most likely to be the last red ape seen in the wilderness of this country.

But what has happened then?

Nobody had seen such an ape since. Could it be that the rare sighting was of another red primate - the Maragang (the species of Presbytis rubicunda meaning red langur)? However, the Maragang which has a similar coloration with a long tail and of which the dominant males live with a harem do not occur in that part of the lowland Temburong forest except in the mountain ranges of Bukit Retak and Gunong Pagon.

Where else can you see this red ape?

The Maragang (which also means red in the native Dusun language) or commonly known as Maroon Langur (for its reddish to golden brown furs) is not found in Brunei-Muara district either. Rapid development has immensely changed the natural landscape into less diverse fragmented forest habitats that could have been the main factor which pushed them further inland in the Tutong and Belait districts. There are now several harems living around Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park Centre. One of the harems is often seen just next to the dormitory inhabited by a few of the Brunei Museum staff.

There are two distinct groups of monkeys in Borneo; the langurs or leaf monkeys and the Proboscis Monkey and the macaques. The Langur consists of five species; Presbytis hosei, Presbytis frontata, Presbytis cristata, Presbytis melalophos and Prebytis rubicunda. Three of the species are found in Brunei Darussalam, they are Presbytis hosei, Presbytis cristata and Presbytis rubicunda. The later two species are found in Tasek Merimbun.

The Maragang has a dark face or a bluish tinge. The adult's head has a cone-shaped hood fur that an Orangutan does not have. The infants are whitish with black markings down the back and across the shoulders. Still clinging to their mum's shoulder since their birth, the infants then transform into a reddish coloration after about six months old. They learn to move independently after about one year but always staying close to their mums and enjoying the company of their other younger siblings. They usually live with a group of about eight with only one adult male.

Researchers have found that the Brunei group size is slightly richer than that of the neighbouring countries and this could be due to the healthy and well-maintained ecosystem in its natural state. In Tasek Merimbun, the known habituated group size consists of ten individuals. They spend their night on tall trees preferably an emergent.

The Maragang feeds throughout the day mostly on young leaves of both primary and secondary forests, but they also known to come down to certain tree plantations and gardens to eat young leaves and seeds. In Tasek Merimbun, the Maragang feeds on young leaves, flowers and as well as fruits of the species Merremia borneensis, Merremia peltata, Koompassia malaccensis, Havea brasilensis, Dillenia suffruticosa, Plectomia mulleri, Uncaria sp and other species from the families of Myrtaceae, Oxalidaceae, Urticaceae and Moraceae. They even feed on poisonous young leaves of the Parartocarpus venenosus.

This red primate is listed in the IUCN Red Book, meaning they are endangered and are legally protected worldwide. Their occurrence in most conservation areas of Brunei Darussalam provides a better chance of their longterm survival particularly at Tasek Merimbun that has been declared as one of the most outstanding ASEAN Heritage Parks since 1984.

The Maragang in Brunei Darussalam have always been very fortunate because indigenous people do not eat or hunt them and they never been considered as pests. Primate enthusiasts or visitors who may wish to enjoy seeing this red primate could seek advice from the managers of the park for further sighting schedules.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Kota Kinabalu A Port Of Call Of Star Cruises

By Jackson Sawatan

SINGAPORE (Bernama) -- Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, will be one of Star Cruises' new ports of call from the middle of this year.

Two of Star Cruises luxury ships, SuperStar Virgo and SuperStar Gemini, will call at Kota Kinabalu from May, Star Cruises General Manager Michael Goh said Friday.

"Both the ships have proven to be very popular with the Asian, Australasian and European markets," Goh said an exclusive presentation on "Sabah, the Land Below the Wind", here.

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, who is Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, launched the event on board SuperStar Virgo at the Harbour Front.

The 13-deck SuperStar Virgo of classical and Mediterranean design will embark on a special departure to Kota Kinabalu on June 4 with a five-night Redang-Kota Kinabalu cruise, while SuperStar Gemini -- the luxury 400-cabin cruiseliner -- will call there from May, offering seven-night and 21-night cruises through August.

Both ships carry more than 300,000 passengers a year comprising many inbound tourists to Singapore, taking a cruise from here to visit neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Thailand.

"Visitors to Sabah will now get to enjoy a totally new holiday experience as they can cruise in comfort and style to explore the many wonderful sights that Kota Kinabalu has to offer," said Goh.

Today's event also saw the signing of an agreement by four parties -- Sabah Tourism Board, Singapore's insurance co-operative NTUC Income, Star Cruises and Sabah-based tour agency Carlota's Borneo -- to promote Sabah as a tourist destination.

NTUC Income's chief executive officer Tan Kin Lian, said: "NTUC Income will work closely with our partners to draw up attractive travel packages for our policyholders and union members. NTUC Income offers more than insurance. We look for ways to offer special benefits to our members."

The insurance co-operative has 1.5 million policyholders and union members.

Present as the guest of honour at today's event was Singapore's Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Lim Boon Yang.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Retract travel advisory on Malaysia, Australia urged


PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia wants the Australian government to retract its travel advisory cautioning its citizens from visiting the country, particularly the east coast of Sabah, due to risk of a potential terrorist attack.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said there was no police intelligence of such a threat in Malaysia.

He disputed the alert issued by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last Tuesday. The department had advised Australians not to travel to the east coast of Sabah, particularly dive resorts on its islands, “because of a high threat of kidnapping by terrorists.”

The department also advised Australians in Malaysia to be careful when visiting commercial and public areas frequented by foreigners such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, marketplaces, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas.

Najib assured tourists that Malaysia was a safe place and visitors should not be taken in by the advisory. The Government has deployed the army and police to watch over the east coast of Sabah and its islands.

“We don’t know why Australia put up the travel alert. If they have information on the threat, they should have shared it with us. As far as we are aware, there is no such danger,” he said.

If Australia could not substantiate their report, the travel advisory should be retracted, Najib told reporters after meeting an Umno Youth delegation at his office here yesterday.

Earlier, some 30 Umno Youth representatives – led by its chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin – met Najib for about an hour.

Hishammuddin said among the issues discussed was the increase in fuel prices.

He said Umno Youth would explain to the grassroots the Government's rationale for taking such a drastic step.

“We will go around to advise the people to be more prudent in their spending and ensure there is no waste following the increase,” he said.

Source: The Star

Sabah's Bajau water festival enters Malaysia tourism calendar

KUALA LUMPUR: This year’s Regatta Lepa in Sabah is expected to be a big hit among tourists as the event has been included in the annual tourism calendar.

It is the first time the traditional Bajau water festival, which has been held consecutively over the past 13 years, is listed as a tourist attraction.

The event is scheduled for April 14 to 16.

Domestic Trade and Consumers Affairs Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal said the organiser was expecting a 30% increase in turnout

“The sea festival offers great potential for boosting tourism in the district.”

He said the Regatta would also help promote Semporna and Sipadan Island, which is nearby.

Shafie said the festival would indirectly pave the way for more economic activities among locals.

F&R Exhibition and Conference Sdn Bhd chairman, retired admiral Tan Sri Abu Bakar Abdul Jamal, said this year's festival would be special.

“The event is to remember the Bajau for their skills in building colourful boats.”

The Lepa boat is made of red seraya wood. The tradition of making the boats was inherited by the Bajau who have been seafarers for generations.

Abu Bakar said that 30 boats from islands in the district would participate in the event.

“The festival promises great moments for everybody,” he said.

Source: The Star

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The ‘Ambuyat' - Brunei's popular dish

Ambuyat, a traditional local dish produced from sago, remains popular with the Brunei people. But in spite of its popularity, not many people especially the youths know how ambulong or sago starch is produced, RTB reported last night.

Nowadays, the traditional way of processing sago starch is no longer used with the adoption of modern processing machinery.

An RTB crew recently went to Kuala Balai in the Belait District to have a closer look at how sago starch is produced using the old way.

Kuala Balai is one of the original areas where sago is produced. Histrorically, ambulong or sago was first produced during the early part of the Second World War in the 1940's when rice was hard to come by and people had to find an alternative staple food base. For Kuala Balai residents, they turned to the 'Rumbia' or sago palm, from which they extracted the starchy part as food.

Dayang Hjh Masnah binti Abdul Rahman explained how sago was processed the traditional way. She said the first step was to choose the right tree, the trunk of which should be at least 10 feet long, as the longer the tree the more sago starch it contains.

After the tree is cut down, the bark is removed and the remaining inner part is grated into a container, which is then mixed with water. The mixture is then trodden by feet and the liquid, which is squeezed out, is strained and collected onto a trough. This will harden to become the white starchy sago.

Apart from the Belait ethnic group, the Melanau and the Penan people of Sarawak are also well-known in the making of ambulong or sago.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

ED NOTE: Ambuyat is also a popular dish in Sabah especially in the Sipitang and Beaufort districts.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Brunei River Cruise to boost tourism

By Huraizah Ahmad

Tourists can now experience the 'Brunei River Cruise', the latest tourism product in the market to provide a wholesome experience of the water village scenery.

The tour product was launched by chairman of the Brunei Tourism Board, Dato Paduka Hj Hamdillah bin Hj Abd Wahab at the RMS Portview Seafood Restaurant yesterday.

The launching event was attended by representatives from foreign embassies in Brunei Darussalam, members of Brunei Tourism Board as well as government officials and stakeholders of the tourism industry.

The cruise offers four different tour packages including Water Village Tour, Proboscis Monkey Tour, Night Cruise Tour and Firefly Sighting and Seafood Dinner.

With the launch, three new models of a 25 feet pontoon boat running on 100 hp engines were unveiled and put into use. They can accommodate 14 passengers.

The Brunei River Cruise is designed and run by AAA Dolphin Dive and Trading, a local tour operator specialising in river and marine activities. The cruise is expected to complement the existing tourism products and enhance the tourism market in the country.

AAA Dolphin Dive and Trading will also contribute US$1 for the preservation of the Brunei river's environment and wildlife awareness programmes for every tourist or passenger on board the Brunei River Cruise.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin