Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saving Asia's Orangutans May Also Help Reduce Carbon Emissions

Indonesia and Malaysia have stepped up efforts to protect Asia's great ape, the orangutan. Saving the endangered "man of the forest" may also help fight global warming.

Under a canopy of green in Malaysia's Sabah state, tourists watch as orangutans are fed.

Tourist attraction

The Sepilok rehabilitation center allows tourists to observe the orangutans – "the man of the forest" – from a viewing platform in the jungle.

"It is wonderful to see a wild animal so near. It is a big emotion," said Loula Patmora, who is from Italy. "It is very, very incredible to watch them. It's a big project, the rehabilitation center, because it is a very important thing to preserve this wild animal."

Center spokeswoman Jennifer Pitt says tourism spreads the word about efforts to protect these apes.

"The main message is just generally creating awareness for the plight of the orangutan," Pitt said. "They are incredibly endangered species and it's an issue which we all need to look at."

Veterinarian Jason Parker says most of the 200 young apes here were abandoned and rescued from palm oil plantations.

"The usual scenario is that a young orangutan – one to two years old – is separated from its mother for whatever reason – in floods, where the mother had been shot or sometimes the baby is literally found wandering around on its own," said Parker.

Forest conservation

The center helps the apes learn to live in the forest. When they are older, they are relocated to more isolated reserves, where they monitored to ensure they adjust to their new surroundings.

Orangutans are native to Borneo, which is divided among Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and on Indonesia's Sumatra island. The apes can weigh over 100 kilograms, and they live in the jungles, climbing from tree to tree to find food.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Saving Asia's Orangutans May Also Help Reduce Carbon Emissions

Harmon Leon's Wild Man of Borneo

I spent a good bulk of the season in the jungles of Borneo on assignment for Penthouse magazine. No, I wasn't doing a pictorial on "The Hot Jungle Women of Borneo". Instead, I was partaking in a 10 day trek through the wilds of malaria country with Terra Incognita's ecotour in the northern Malaysian state of Sabah.

By no means was I planning on infiltrating the world of jungle ecotravel in uncharted territory; not with crocodiles, poisonous viper snakes, and wild elephants present. I needed to trust my experienced Terra Incognita guides because I didn't know if I would encounter the mythical headhunters of Borneo, a prehistoric bird the size of a house, or 37 species of moss. (The prospect of a wide-variety of moss was what freaked me out the most.)

I was thrilled at the prospect of a life changing experience with sensory overload deep in a jungle adventure that would make Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull look like a complete load of crappy fiction. (Can you really believe that was the long-awaited Steven Spielberg sequel they went with?)

No need for modern technology when I had the Discovery Channel right before my eyes. Chucking away my cell phone, with neither the Internet or a Mission burritos to be found, I wanted to see life through fresh eyes in one of the most remote regions in the world where trees full of monkeys are simply a common day occurrence.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Harmon Leon's Wild Man of Borneo

Ferry set to ply Brunei-Labuan route

LABUAN: A ro-ro ferry named MV Shuttle made its maiden trip from Muara, Brunei to the island yesterday as its prepares to ply between the two destinations early next month before the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration.

Upon its arrival, Labuan Member of Parliament, Datuk Yussof Mahal, was invited to tour the triple-decker vessel, which can transport up to 40 cars and 200 passengers.

Yussof told a press conference aboard the ferry that there is a need for an understanding between the two countries – Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam – to ensure smooth ferry operations for the convenience of both locals and tourists.

He said there must be certain requirements to be fulfilled by the governments of both countries, such as the regulations for the cars coming from Brunei and vice versa.

The two existing ferries plying between Labuan and Menumbok are insufficient, and there should be four to five ferries to meet the increasing demand, he said.

Meanwhile, Chin Mook Seng, the managing director of P.K.L Jaya Sdn Bhd, which operates the MV Shuttle, said travel on the ferry which was bought from Japan would be comfortable.

“We are planning to do four trips daily — two from Brunei and another two from this island,” he said.

“The trips from Muara, Brunei to this island will start at 9.30am and 3.30pm, while from here to Brunei will be at 11am and 5pm,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Ferry set to ply Brunei-Labuan route

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Merdeka Every Day" at Kuching's Merdeka Palace

KUCHING -- Padang Merdeka here, formerly known as Padang Central, is rather 'quiet' this time around as this year's Malaysia Day and closing of the Merdeka Month celebration will be held in Sabah.

There is a big cotton tree by the field which produces off shoots every two or three years, covering the grass underneath white.

Anyhow a hotel located adjacent to this field, Merdeka Palace, is celebrating Merdeka Day by offering the 'Jalur Gemilang' buffet spread at 53 per cent discount from the usual price.

This is to mark the country's 53 years of independence.

And on Sept 16, there will be a 'Malaysia Day' party at Victoria Arms, the hotel's entertainment spot and watering hole.


The former name of Merdeka Palace Hotel, at Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, was Hotel Aurora. It underwent renovations 12 years ago and was the first hotel built in Kuching - 1950.

Many of the British dignitaries that attended the ceremony to 'hand over' Sarawak to the federation had stayed in this hotel.

Merdeka Palace is now owned by Gagasan Abadi Sdn Bhd where 70 per cent of its shares are held by those from Sarawak with the remainder owned by Brunei citizens. The hotel's previous owners were Brunei and Singapore nationals.

The significance of Merdeka Palace is that this hotel stands adjacent to Padang Merdeka where Sarawak celebrated its independence and union with the federation to form Malaysia in 1963.

The hotel is also located near several tourist attractions in Kuching.


Among the interesting spots to visit are Sarawak Museum, Textile Museum, Chinese History Museum, Islamic Museum and a popular bazaar that sells handicraft as well as other items.

Stepping into this hotel would make the guests realised why it is named 'Merdeka'.

Behind the reception counter is a wall carpet with the 'historic' picture of Malaysia's Father of Independence Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj who held his hand high and shouted Merdeka on Aug 31 in 1957.

There is another wall carpet with a depiction of the National Monument.

According to Bidari Mohamad Suhaili, the hotel's assistant executive manager, all of the decorations at the hotel are based on the colonial and Merdeka themes.

The hotel rooms have framed pictures on the life and places in Kuching and Sarawak in the 1950s-1960s including that which showed the visits by British dignitaries.

Continue reading at: "Merdeka Every Day" At Kuching's Merdeka Palace

Cornwall students complete Kinabatangan River field course

KINABATANGAN: Cornwall College students have just completed a two-week field course working in the rain forest around the Kinabatangan River in Sabah.

Their trip to the Danau Girang Field Centre, which is run jointly by the Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University, is hoped to be the first of many.

Dr Andrew Smart, who led the trip said: “The work we carried out focused mainly on the river and freshwater system in the forest which compliments work by Cardiff University. This year we have had a small group who worked hard establishing the methods we will use in the future for long term monitoring of changes in the freshwater systems as the forest becomes more isolated.”

Students worked on profiling the river, which is over 20m deep in places, identifying frogs in the forest pools, catching and identifying fish species and cataloguing the birds along the river and their territories.

“By doing this we can monitor the health of the river which is vital for the forest and for the local people,” said Dr Hazel Selley who was also on the trip.

The students were lucky enough to see orangutans, saltwater crocodiles and the Bornean elephant.

“We were so lucky to see the elephant three times,” said Amy Solman, a student on a Wildlife and Media Foundation Degree.

“I filmed the trip for my second year project and have hours of footage of wildlife and students working on the project,” she added.

One of the highlights of the trip was a day travelling down river to the mangroves at the river mouth and stopping to share a meal with a local fisherman and his family.

Continue reading at: Cornwall students complete Kinabatangan River field course

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Journey to the mystical Kelabit highlands

KUCHING: The Sarawak 4×4 Travel and Adventure Club (Sakta) is organising a journey to Bario which promises to be an exhilarating adventure through more than 1,000km of the Borneo Highway and treading through jungles right to the heart of the Kelabit highlands.

Sakta president and event director Bladae Lassem said 70 drivers and their co-drivers in 22 four-wheel drive vehicles would be taking part in this year’s Sarawak North-Borneo Highland 4×4 Expedition 2010.

He said the 6-day event, which would start from September 4, carried the theme “A Journey to the Mystical Land of the Kelabits”.

“Sakta is a travel and recreational club which also stresses on the importance of community service,” Bladae told thesundaypost here yesterday.

He said the expedition would help give off-road enthusiasts the opportunity to experience the enchanting and somewhat mysterious rainforests and virgin jungles of Borneo.

“The participants will also be exposed to the vibrant cultures of the various host communities in selected locations, and to witness the arts and beauties of the local natives,” he said.

Continue reading at: Journey to the mystical Kelabit highlands

The Secret Sanctuary, Kuching - a quiet retreat from stress

KUCHING: Anyone who is looking for a quiet retreat to get away from all the stress of daily life will find The Secret Sanctuary the right place, providing facilities that would not be found in many star-rated hotels.The Secret Sanctuary is a unique boutique cottage located inside Taman Stutong Indah at Jalan Setia Raja.

“This little cottage is also for those who want to enjoy the sights and sounds of this hidden island paradise. This place will give an ambience of local culture as well as zen living all under one roof,” said the owner, Cyril Lim.

Currently, the cottage has four types of rooms to choose from namely ‘Bamboo garden’, ‘Herbal garden’, ‘Waterfall pool side’ and ‘Outside living’.

Each has its own uniqueness, said Lim, adding that the price ranged from RM38 to RM200 per night.

For guests wishing to have a drink or a bite and relax while listening to music, The Secret Sanctuary provides a bar right in the heart of the premises. The price is just affordable to everyone so as to satisfy all guests.

“There is an honesty bar where customers can make their own drinks and take whatever is available at the counter. All they have to do is jot down their order in the bill for payment later on,” he said.

When being asked if there were some guests who tend to be dishonest when recording down their orders in the bills, his just simply replied: “Well, we just want everybody to enjoy and relax here.”

This place is for people to find inner peace, beauty, love, compassion, creativity and truth.

Continue reading at: The Secret Sanctuary, Kuching - a quiet retreat from stress

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sarawak Regatta - What a regatta

The annual Sarawak Regatta held in Kuching earlier this month was no ordinary boat race. Emotions ran high as thousands gathered and shouted themselves hoarse cheering their favourite teams on.

IN any race or sporting event, there are always gracious winners, sore losers, celebrations, accusations, protestations and shrugs of the shoulder.

During this year’s Sarawak Regatta earlier this month, the atmosphere in the mighty Sarawak River was thick with competitive spirit as emotions ran high and participants battled it out tooth and nail. Tempers flared and paddles flew. There were cheers, there were tears.

The event can be traced back all the way to the reign of the White Rajahs of Sarawak. The second Rajah of Sarawak, Sir Charles Brooke, initiated the Sarawak Regatta in 1872 to avoid civil wars as well as to nurture healthy integration and sportsmanship amongst people who were hostile to each other.

The Rajahs’ rule may have ended but the regatta lives on.

This year’s race, themed The Race for Peace, was organised by the Kuching Resident’s Office in collaboration with government agencies and the private sector. From just a handful of teams when it was first held more than a century ago, the regatta has grown — a total of 313 teams comprising 5,844 paddlers competed in 17 events in this year’s edition, which offered a total prize money of RM178,600.

Known as “the mother of all regattas”, the Sarawak Regatta is customarily dominated by the Bidar and Balok boats.

The Bidar boat, made from hardwood, is traditionally associated with the Iban. It can accommodate up to 30 paddlers. The Balok boat (also called the sampan) is smaller and was originally designed by the Malays. These boats were formerly used for fishing, gathering attap leaves for roof construction and to transport goods and people.

During the opening ceremony, the river was alive with colour. All kinds of boats were paraded, sundry uniformed units showcased their skills, and every team that made it to the finals glided past the VIPs in a parade of honour. The sun was scorching but supporters and spectators gathered all the same along the banks, armed with hats and umbrellas, to cheer the teams on.

The regatta, touted as one of the main events in Sarawak’s tourism calendar, drew more than 60,000 people, with some arriving before sunrise to secure a good viewing spot.

C.S. Ong, a Sarawakian who lives in Singapore, makes it a point to return to his hometown every year for the event.

“This year, some of my siblings who live overseas also decided to return at the same time, so it’s a sort of family gathering for us,” said the 56-year old lawyer.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sarawak Regatta - What a regatta

New board to consolidate associations in Sarawak Tourism Federation

THE Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF), an umbrella organisation for the state’s tourism sector, is undergoing a major revamp following the election of new management board members.

Heading the federation is Audry Wan Ullok, a founding member and honorary secretary of the Malaysian Association of Hotels. She takes over from Wee Hong Seng, a three-term president.

Six new management board members were elected on Wednesday during the association’s annual general meeting that saw the return of old familiar faces including Philip Yong as secretary.

This time, the federation’s members chose to elect more representatives from the travel-agency sector.

Yong is managing director of an established travel agency in Sarawak, Borneo Adventure Sdn Bhd, and was president of the federation’s predecessor, Sarawak Tourist Association.

Meanwhile, Intercontinental Travel Agency general manager Dayang Azizah Abang Zaidan was elected as treasurer.

The STF board includes representation by leaders of popular tourist attractions. For example, Sarawak Cultural Village general manager Jane Lian Labang is now vice-president.

Audry is no stranger to the tourism sector. Her family owns and operates the popular Telang Usan Hotels in Kuching and Miri.

Speaking to StarMetro in Kuching yesterday, she said the immediate concerns included consolidating the various associations under the umbrella organisation.

“In the short-term, we are going to consolidate the strengths of the industry because, honestly, we are a bit disunited at the moment.

“Some people and associations are going their separate ways. Some are at loggerheads with each other. I understand that some had called on STF to take a softer approach so that the members can help and complement each other,” said Audry, the first woman to helm the organisation.

Continue reading at: New board to consolidate associations in Sarawak Tourism Federation

Friday, August 27, 2010

World's smallest frog the size of a pea found in Sarawak

ONE of the world’s smallest frogs was discovered in Borneo, scientists said today.

The pea-sized amphibian was found living in the distinctive flask-shaped pitcher-plant near a mountain in Kubah National Park, said researchers from the University Malaysia Sarawak.

Dr Indraneil Das and colleague Alexander Haas tracked down the micro species from their distinctive dawn call of “harsh rasping notes that last for a few minutes with brief intervals of silence".

"We heard the calls of this frog, and we knew the calls of all frogs in the area, and this was different.

At first we couldn't see it, but eventually we found it, and I had to trap the frog in one of my baby son's clean white diapers in order to really see what it looked like, it was so tiny," Dr Das said.

The frog measures just three millimeters as a tadpole and grows to about nine to 11mm as an adult.

It belongs to the Microhylid family of frogs, all of which are under 15mm in length.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: World's smallest frog the size of a pea found in Sarawak

MAS offering Merdeka sale for Sabah and Sarawak destinations

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is offering a 72-hour Merdeka sale with fares from RM99 for destinations within the Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak.

The sale is on from Sunday until Tuesday.

Tickets can be purchased at www.malaysiaairlines.com and via mobile at http://flymas.mobi.

MAS senior general manager, Dr Amin Khan said at only RM149, one could travel from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching, Sandakan, Tawau and Sibu.

“Customers connecting from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, Labuan, Miri and Bintulu can enjoy fares from RM169.

Continue reading at: MAS offering Merdeka sale for Sabah and Sarawak destinations

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Firefly to start Sabah flights?

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is keen on wholly-owned FlyFirefly Sdn Bhd start operating its B737-400 aircraft to Sabah.

Firefly is said to have been in talks with Sabah tourism authorities, and is likely to proceed with the move by the year-end.

MAS has been reported to have 36 B737-400 aircraft, which are due to exit from service by 2014.

Firefly currently operates the ATR 72-500 turbopropeller servicing routes in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia from its two hubs at the Penang and Subang airports.

Sources said both Firefly and MAS will operate the Sabah routes, with Firefly flying out of the KL International Airport in Sepang.

On August 9, MAS said Kota Kinabalu would be its eastern hub and gateway to promote travels to and from China, Taiwan, North Asia, Indonesia and Australia.

The hub will be developed over three stages from November 15 this year to June 3 next year.

MAS said it was targeting 150 flights and a cabin crew of 250 for the Kota Kinabalu hub by next June.

Six aircraft, two of which would be the B737-800 and four B737-400, would be based in Kota Kinabalu.

Continue reading at: Firefly to start Sabah flights?

Effort to promote Sarawak hotels, attractions through tourism and trade events

KUCHING: Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) will continue its marketing and promotion efforts for its hotels and attractions by participating in tourism events and trade missions organised by the Ministry of Tourism and Heritage, Sarawak Tourism Board and Tourism Malaysia.Its deputy general manager Wan Liz Ozman Wan Omar disclosed this at a press conference yesterday.

He said that at the corporate level, its Tourism Group will organise group promotions via group product updates and ‘Biz Mart’ to the West Malaysian market.

Wan Liz also disclosed that SEDC’s group of hotels, resorts and attractions are continuously creating and organising events and activities for the locals and tourists on their own or in collaboration with other agencies to help spur the growth of tourism and add the natural attractiveness of the state.

He said apart from special events like Kuching Waterfront’s Culture and Community 2010 programme designed to promote Waterfront as a centre for cultural and healthy activities, they also have other programmes which include art exhibition, batik-making demo, Flash Mode dance, Tuku Kame concert, ‘Sape’ showcase, Malay traditional drum performance, Chinese classical string performance, Arts and Craft colony, waterfront music fest and Kuching River Festival.

Wan Liz disclosed that the forthcoming attraction will be Raya Singing Competition (for ladies in ‘Kebaya’) from September 15 to 16 and Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern Procession on September 18, while in Sarawak Plaza there will be an Eco-lantern Making competition from August 30 to September 16, Jalur Gemilang Colouring Contest on September 16 and Mid-Autumn Mooncake Making Competition on September 19.

He also highly recommended the Grand Margherita Hotel Original ‘Macam-macam Ada’ buffet dinner which is widely regarded as the biggest buffet in town during this Ramadan month.

Wan Liz also mentioned that in view of the festive season and school holidays SEDC’s Tourism Group is promoting Damai Beach Resort’s School Holiday Room at RM205++ per room per night with breakfast for two from September 4 to 19.

Grand Margherita Hotel and Riverside Majestic Hotel are also promoting their School Out Room package at RM210 nett and RM230 nett onwards respectively.

Continue reading at: Effort to promote Sarawak hotels, attractions through tourism and trade events

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reliving Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches: New Tour Package To Attract Australians

In a move to attract more Australians to visit Malaysia, the tourism ministry plans to put together a tourism package aimed at offering Australians the experience of reliving the three Sandakan-Ranau death marches.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said: "There is Australian history in Sandakan (Sabah), and I am sure Australians, especially the younger generation, would like to remember their war dead, and experience the sacrifices their forebearers made, in the name of freedom.

"It will be a good learning experience for the Australians to understand that wars are evil and futile, and (they) don't contribute to a better world," she said at a dinner with travel agents and media here Wednesday.

She said each year, hundreds of Australians, mostly the young, visit war memorials and graves in Europe and Turkey to honour their war dead.

"We should get them to do the Sandakan Walk, even if they complete just part of the distance," she said.

The Sandakan death marches were a series of forced marches in east Malaysia from Sandakan to Ranau, resulting in the deaths of 2,400 Allied soldiers taken captive by Japan during World War II.

Continue reading at: Reliving Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches: New Tour Package To Attract Australians

Sarawak wildlife protection improving

GREATER awareness on conservation and protection of wildlife has resulted in fewer animals being hunted for food.

Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) general manager for protected areas and biodiversity conservation Wilfred Landong said that SFC’s conservation programme had been effective in the state’s vast rural areas.

“We have developed a team of honorary wildlife rangers to assist us in enforcing the law and raising awareness on the importance of protecting and conserving our wildlife,” Landong told reporters after receiving 19 protected animals and eight totally-protected animals from Lai Lee Siew.

Lai, who has caught more than 2,000 snakes and hundreds of other wild animals upon public request, is nicknamed as Snake King of Sibu.

He keeps the caught animals in his house before releasing them into the wild.

Landong said there were more than 800 honorary wildlife rangers who worked closely with SFC in the conservation programme.

Some wildlife offences were reported to SFC by the honorary rangers, he added.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak wildlife protection improving

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kuching Festival 2010 a great success

KUCHING: A total of 650,000 people patronised Kuching Festival 2010 during the three-week celebration, said Kuching South City Council (MBKS) mayor James Chan.

He proudly told reporters on Sunday night that the event was successful and that hawkers had made good income during the festival from the massive number of visitors.

Chan said that to ensure the success would be repeated in the future he hoped to get feedback on how to make the festival more unique than what it has been over the years.

“This year, we have more space for the vendors and from feedback they are very happy and I am happy as my staff and councillors had done very well for this festival,” said Chan.

He added that the festival had attracted people from all walks of life and was happy to note that the council had done its best to ensure a trouble-free environment for the festival goers, in line with Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s vision for Kuching to be a liveable city. He was also glad that the festival attracted more foreign tourists this year and expressed hope that more ethnic foods, especially Dayak food, would be on sale in the coming years.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kuching Festival 2010 a great success

Kampung style Ramadan package launched in Labuan

Labuan: Breaking fast in a typical kampung style with homemade dishes is the latest tourism product of Tourism Malaysia Labuan, introduced here for the month of Ramadan.

The breaking of fast is incorporated into the home-stay programmes offered by selected homes in Kampung Sungai Labu, Bukit Kuda and Patau Patau 2 here.

The product comes out of an idea by the Director of Tourism Malaysia Sabah, Mohd Roslan Abdullah, and Labuan is the first place where it is launched and introduced.

Speaking during the launching of the product at Kampung Sungai Labu, Deputy Secretary-General of Tourism Malaysia, Datu Hj Ab Ghaffar A Tambi, said: "The new feature in home-stay is to make such stay more attractive.

Not only visitors from outside could join the breaking of fast and mingle with the family and neighbours, they could also sample kampung style dishes."

Locals could also join the event, especially at weekends.

Participating in the programme would also provide an opportunity to the visitors, be they from Labuan or outside, to learn through demonstration how certain dishes are prepared.

He cited examples of making "Ambuat" and "Bubur Labu".

Continue reading at: Kampung style Ramadan package launched in Labuan

Monday, August 23, 2010

Over 1,200 foreigners have travelled on board RV Orient Pandaw

MORE than 1,200 foreign tourists have boarded RV Orient Pandaw, a river cruise ship operating out of Sibu on the Rajang River.

Owned by Rajang Pandaw Sdn Bhd, the 827-tonne ship began its operation on July 1, 2009.

As at the end of June 2010, the cruise ship made a total of 32 voyages and achieved a room occupancy rate of about 70 percent on its 30 cabins.

Pandaw cruise’s ground handling agent Patrick Ling of Greatown Travel Sdn Bhd said more than RM4mil had been pumped into Sibu in the past one year for the operation of the cruise ship.

Ling added that much of the money which was transferred from Pandaw’s headquarters in Singapore, was used to pay the crew’s salaries, food for the crew and passengers, local tours, logistics, fuel and ship maintenance.

“Almost all the tourists were from Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. At least 70 percent of them came through Kuching, while the rest from Kota Kinabalu and by direct flight to Sibu via Kuala Lumpur,” Ling said.

He said these tourists, most of them pensioners, used MAS flights rather than AirAsia because older travellers preferred a more comfortable and hassle-free journey .

Continue reading at: Over 1,200 foreigners have travelled on board RV Orient Pandaw

Cebu Pacific arrival in Brunei signals 'low cost as future of travelling'

By Narissa Noor

The Philippines' largest national carrier, Cebu Pacific (CEB), made its maiden Brunei-Manila flight yesterday, as it departed from the Brunei International Airport at 2.35am and arrived in Manila at 4.25am.

"We are experiencing almost 100 per cent passenger load factor for our maiden Manila-Brunei and Brunei-Manila flights.

"This shows that the market for Cebu Pacific flights to and from Brunei can really be stimulated by CEB's trademark low fares, and that it is responsive to the low-cost carrier model," said CEB's Vice President for Marketing and Distribution, Candice Iyog, who arrived on the inaugural flight to Brunei.

"CEB offers the lowest fare alternative from Brunei to the Philippines so we are very optimistic about our Brunei operations," she added.

"The big population of Filipinos in Brunei can go home more often, and their relatives in the Philippines can visit Brunei more often too."

She also expressed her hopes that locals from Brunei will venture into urban destinations in the Philippines for their leisure and business travel as well.

Bidding farewell to the departing passengers early yesterday morning were Director of the Brunei Tourism Board, Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed, Philippine Embassy's Charge d'Affaires Minister, Celeste Balatbat, and the Department of Civil Aviation Director Omarali bin Haji Mohd Ja'afar.

"Cebu Pacific's operations in Brunei shall be a win-win situation for our two countries," said Balatbat.

Balatbat believes that the airline's entry into Brunei will facilitate travel, investment, tourism and trade flows between the two countries.

With over 17,000 tourists a year coming from the Philippines, Sheikh Jamaluddin expects the figure to double with the help of CEB.

"Every passenger wants to travel cheap no matter if you're the CEO of a company or a worker," Sheikh Jamaluddin told the Bulletin.

"I see low cost airlines as the future of travelling and it is especially effective if the flight is within a few hours away."

According to Sheikh Jamaluddin, with the arrival of CEB, the Brunei Tourism Board will supplement their efforts and increase roadshows and boost their marketing strategies in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, during the inaugural departure ceremony, Roslina Adak Paradji, the first person to check in for the flight was presented a Brunei-Philippines round-trip ticket. Later, the Validation of the Air Operation Certificate by the Department of Civil Aviation was presented to CEB's VP of Airport Services, Jomar Rodrigues.

Brunei is CEB's 15th international destination and operates Manila-Brunei flights every Tuesday and Saturday and Brunei-Manila flights every Wednesday and Sunday.

According to a press statement, the lowest year-round 'Go-Lite' fare for this route is B$86, while those with check-in luggage will just need to add B$3 upon booking.

CEB is Asia's third largest low-cost carrier and flies to 33 destinations in the Philippines and 15 international destinations. According to the statement, it is slated to begin flights to Beijing on September 5, 2010.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Danish reality show to showcase Sabah

Kota Kinabalu: Denmark's biggest television network, TV2, will showcase Sabah's green image and exotic culture to millions of Danes next February.

The means to kick off this mass awareness to Scandinavians is a brand new eight-episode documentary series entitled "Girls Off The Beaten Track", shot in Telupid's primeval Tawai jungle and its spectacular waterfalls, Semporna's basic but happy Sea Gypsy lifestyle and our iconic orang-utan conservation programme in Sepilok.

A 13-member film crew from Copenhagen-based Eyeworks Denmark, led by Producer and Director, Jesper Aeroe Vinther, and military instructor, Lothar Friis, and a dozen-strong production crew, spent more than two weeks on location shoot in Gomboron, Bohaydulang island, Semporna and Sandakan.

The series stars seven vivacious 18-year-old fresh high school girl graduates who were tested to their limits through a hard jungle survival experience, living with the luxury-deprived Sea Gypsies, planting new palms and working with the orang-utan in Sepilok.

Most of the girls come from wealthy Danish families and are therefore considered "spoiled", metaphorically speaking.

"Girls Off The Beaten Track" is a factual entertainment series about taking the step into adulthood and stand on their own feet, about becoming mature, independent, learning about other cultures, nature and order to raise understanding of themselves and their own culture," said Jesper.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Danish reality show to showcase Sabah

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Borneo International Beads Conference - Preserving the bead tradition

BEADS enthusiasts will have the opportunity to exchange information and acquire knowledge on these tiny jewels during the Borneo International Beads Conference in Miri starting October 9.

The two-day conference, the first of its kind in Sarawak, will have 10 bead specialists sharing their knowledge and expertise.

Among them are American Jamey Allen, a researcher, lecturer and specialist on antique beads, especially multi-layered Rosetta beads.

Allen will present a paper entitled The Heirloom Beads of Island South-East Asia.

Australian National University’s Dr Cheah Hwei Fen, an expert on Nyonya beadwork, will present a paper entitled Beadwork (Penang, Singapore, Malacca).

She will share visuals on Nyonya beadwork and draw comparisons with dress, costumes, jewellery and interior decorations to explore Peranakan Chinese ideas about fashion, identity, change and women’s lives in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Another international speaker, Yekti Kusmortono from Indonesia, a highly-respected antique and modern bead jewellery designer, will present a paper on From Shards to Art – Antique Beads, Recycled Glass.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Borneo International Beads Conference - Preserving the bead tradition

Brunei Tourism chief welcomes budget flights

By Azlan Othman

The development of low-cost flights to and from Brunei has a positive consequence for the sultanate's tourism industry with the Director of Brunei Tourism Board, Sheikh Jamaluddin welcoming the low-cost carriers as it serves the purpose of the country's tourism drive very well.

"It certainly boosts air travel. It is my job to encourage any airline to come to Brunei, be it low cost or the non-low cost airline. Even managers and top executives now use low cost airlines With more low cost airlines coming to the country, it would increase connectivity and accessibility," he added.

AirAsia managed to get a daily flight to Brunei from Kuala Lumpur in 2006 and last year, the low cost airline added a second frequency, this time to Kota Kinabalu. And recently, it just received the authorisation to double its services to and from Kuala Lumpur. The second daily service to Malaysia's capital will start from August 25.

Asia's fastest-growing airline, Cebu Pacific (CEB), will also start to fly to the country starting August 22. This Manila-based budget carrier is the third largest low cost carrier in Asia, that will fly twice a week with an Airbus A320 from Manila NAIA to Bandar Seri Begawan. Brunei is Cebu Pacific's 15th international destination.

Asked on the any exciting events in the pipeline, he said Brunei Tourism focuses more on roadshows to the UK, Australia and China than trade shows. "We are on the verge of appointing marketing representatives on selected target markets like Korea, Australia and the UK.

China market too is lucrative and really a market for us, he said adding that he hopes to reach a 30 per cent increase in the country's overall tourist arrivals this year compared to the year before. "As in the previous years, we will once again go to Nanning's CAEXPO again this October," he added.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sarawak attracts Dutch tourists

DJOSER Holland Travel Agency is helping to promote eco-tourism in the state by bringing in tourists from the Netherlands.

Its tour leader, who wished to be identified only as Ellen, said her company had brought in two tour groups to the state so far.

The first group comprising 15 people came three months ago and the second group of 19 are still in the state.

She said the agency had formed a strategic partnership with Miri-based travel agent Tropical Adventure to take tourists from Holland to various unique destinations.

The latest group arrived early this week and their first stop was Kuching where they took in the city’s sights and sounds.

From there, they proceeded to Bako National Park for a jungle trek to experience the wonders of nature.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sarawak attracts Dutch tourists

Tourism Malaysia Develops Unique Products To Woo Kiwis

Tourism Malaysia has developed a number of unique offerings to entice Kiwis to visit Malaysia.

Presenting Malaysia's Tourism Transformation Plan 2020 at a "Malaysia Truly Asia" event, here Thursday night, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said, as in New Zealand, tourism was critical to Malaysia's economic development.

To attract Kiwi tourists, Malaysia had begun to focus on improving tourism products and creating focused tourism "clusters" that leveraged on existing and new iconic products, said Dr Ng, who is on a seven-day visit to New Zealand and Australia to promote tourism.

"Initiatives include a greater focus on ecotourism, major cultural events and activities for young urban professionals. Family-friendly destinations, wellness activities, value for money and a safe, clean environment are some the key drivers of this market," Dr Ng said.

To promote Malaysia as a biodiversity hotspot, Tourism Malaysia is putting attention on its flora and fauna and soft adventure options such as jungle-trekking, rafting, bird watching and visits to World Heritage Sites such as the Kinabalu Park in Sabah.

Continue reading at: Tourism Malaysia Develops Unique Products To Woo Kiwis

Wildlife Conservation Society: Help fund research on Hose’s Civet

THE Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia has appealed to citizens and corporate bodies to help fund its research work on the Hose’s Civet, which is extremely special to Malaysian Borneo and Brunei.

The society’s assistant head of the Wildlife and Logging Unit, John Mathai, said the species could not be found anywhere else in the world, adding that this was a cause worth fighting for, and would be a very unique and significant opportunity for corporate social responsibility initiatives.

“We are ready do our part and rough it out in the jungles to save this creature,” he added.

He told StarMetro that WCS Malaysia had plans to further its research on the Hose’s Civet using camera traps and hair snares.

“From this, we hope to model the distribution of Hose’s Civet in relation to habitat characteristics, thereby understanding its habitat requirements and threats. This will allow conservation efforts to be more focussed,” he said.

The research would hopefully generate the first ever estimates of population size of the species and enable CWS Malaysia to understand dispersal patterns, thereby understanding the potential for recolonisation, he disclosed.

However, Mathai said: “To do proper science, we need substantial and sustained funding. We currently do not have this, and so we can only apply methods that do not generate substantial data.”

Mathai, who leads the team of researchers who obtained the images of the Hose’s Civet in the Selaan-Linau Forest Management Unit (FMU), said that no protected area was known to hold a large population of the species.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Wildlife Conservation Society: Help fund research on Hose’s Civet

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sabah to be world’s orchid destination

KOTA KINABALU: The Borneo Orchid Show will position Malaysia and Sabah in particular, as the orchid destination of the world.

Datuk Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin, the president of the Borneo Orchid Society Sabah (BOSS), said the show from Oct 1 to 5 would showcase the jewels of orchids in Sabah, which are endemic to the state.

The event, he said, would coincide and would be among the main highlights for the World Tourism Conference that would also take place in the city from October 4 to 7 this year.

It is jointly organised by Kota Kinabalu City Hall (KKCH), BOSS and Sabah Tourism and Tourism Malaysia.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah to be world’s orchid destination

On the Hose’s civet trail in Sarawak

THE Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is trying to track down the extremely rare Hose’s civet, which was photographed by camera traps in the Selaan-Linau Forest Management Unit (FMU) in upper Baram in the northern region.

“We are trying to find out where they are. Hose’s civets (Diplogale hosei) are found only in certain parts of Borneo and there are only two or three recordings of the species, including one in Brunei,’’ said WCS Malaysia Programme director Dr Melvin T. Gumal after the opening of a carbon offsets and forest conversation workshop at Wisma STA here yesterday.

The event was organised jointly by Sarawak Forestry Corporation and WCS Malaysia Programme.

Dr Gumal said that 10 images of Hose’s civets were recorded on cameras set in the Selaan-Linau FMU during a comprehensive wildlife survey which started six years ago.

He said that WCS could not determine the Hose’s civet population in the Selaan-Linau FMU, a logging concession managed by Samling Strategic Corporation.

A WCS publication said the Hose’s civet, which is endemic to the interior of Borneo, was one of the world’s least-known carnivores.

No protected area in Sarawak was known to hold a population of the rare species, which might be adapted to living in montane forests, it added.

“Its highly localised distribution implies it is a habitat specialist which may be under great threat. The basic factors likely to determine its long-term future are entirely unknown, making specific conservation measures impossible,’’ added the publication.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: On the Hose’s civet trail in Sarawak

Cebu Pacific Air low cost airline to fly to Brunei

By Narissa Noor

The Philippine's second low-cost carrier, Cebu Pacific Air, will touchdown at the Brunei International Airport for the first time this Sunday, August 22.

The second low-cost airline to fly to Brunei after AirAsia will arrive in Brunei Darussalam at approximately 2am with a full flight of 156 passengers.

This will be followed by the inaugural departure of the Brunei-Manila flight at 2.25am. According to Blessie Cruz, Manager of Advertising and Promotion at Cebu Air Inc, as of yesterday, 145 passengers are already booked on the departing flight.

Slated for only twice weekly, there are no immediate plans to increase the frequency of its flights.

"We still have to see if the route is profitable before we can increase the frequency," Cruz told the Bulletin.

Brunei is Cebu Pacific's 15th international destination and is the third largest low-cost carrier in Asia, garnering a 91.8 per cent on-time performance in the first quarter of 2010.

According to the Philippine Embassy's Charge d'Affaires, Celeste Vinzon-Balatbat, Cebu Pacific's operation in Brunei is a significant milestone in the Brunei-Philippines bilateral relations.

"Our cooperation in air services has the potential to promote the two-way flow of people, trade, investment and tourism," he said.

As of today, Brunei has a total of four airlines flying in and out of the country including AirAsia, Malaysia's own low-cost airline, Singapore Airlines and Brunei's own national carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA).

AirAsia recently received authorisation to double its service to Kuala Lumpur starting from August 25. It was also reported that Indonesia AirAsia is keen to fly the Brunei-Jakarta sector.

Meanwhile, RBA is seemingly unfazed and remains optimistic despite the influx of low-cost airlines into the country.

"Cebu Pacific itself is a budget airline which caters to a different market. However, we welcome other airlines into Brunei as it allows Brunei to become a bigger commercial hub," RBA's Executive Vice President of Commercial & Planning, Riaz Moiz, told the Bulletin.

"We are a lifestyle company, providing more than just point-to-point transport services," he added.

Moreover, RBA's recent acquisition of a fleet of Boeing 777s and new fare strategies has also had a positive impact on the airlines' reputation.

"In addition to the higher passenger capacity, the 777 aircraft is a newer and improved product offering and this will enable RBA to grow its revenue and passenger base by being able to compete more effectively in the marketplace," said Moiz.

Meanwhile, one low-fare airline that is not jumping on the bandwagon despite being awarded traffic rights by Brunei's Department of Civil Aviation in 2006 is Tiger Airways.

According to a Tiger Airways spokesperson, the airline currently has no plans to fly to Brunei, but will continue evaluating it among other possibilities.

"As part of its successful low-cost business model, Tiger Airways focuses on the profitability of each route, and will add or withdraw routes accordingly," Charles Sng, head of communications at Tiger Airways told the Bulletin.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Endangered Man of the Borneo Video

The clip, Man of the Jungle, is from my Travel Adventure film, Magic of Malaysia, released several years ago about the rehabilitation of the orangutans, one of our most endangered animals.

In this short clip, two Malaysian Borneo rehabilitation centers for orangutans - at Sepilok in Sabah and Semenggoh in Sarawak.


Rare Hose's Civet Found In Sarawak

KUCHING -- The rare Hose's Civet, one of the world's least known carnivores, can be found at a timber concession area in upper Baram, Sarawak.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia Program director Dr Melvin T. Gumal said more than 10 images of the Hose's Civet, a small carnivore endemic to the interior of Borneo, were photographed via camera trappings at the Selaan-Linau Forest Management Unit (FMU) since 2004.

"Hose's Civet is a rare animal. The small carnivores were also found in Brunei and Sabah. However, the numbers recorded are not as high as the number we encountered in the highlands of Sarawak.

"Probably, only two or three records (in Brunei and Sabah)," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Earlier, Dr Gumal attended the opening of the Carbon Offset and Forest Conservation Workshop by acting director of forests, Ali Yusop, at the Wisma STA here.

Continue reading at: Rare Hose's Civet Found In Sarawak

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scientists to document new plants in pristine part of Borneo

KOTA KINABALU: A team of 150 local scientists and researchers, including a team from the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, will be spending 10 days in October to further document the plants and wildlife in relatively unexplored pristine and remote Imbak Canyon in central Sabah.

The Oct 10 to 24 expedition hopes to identify new flora and fauna species in the 30,000 Yayasan Sabah conservation area where earlier teams had discovered new species of the keruing tropical hardwood.

More than 69 species of medicinal plants have also been recorded to date in the Canyon that may well be dubbed a living pharmacy, Yayasan Sabah group corporate communications manager Linah Robert said Tuesday.

Previous scientific expeditions in 2000 and 2004 had also identified the Imbak Canyon as key habitat for Sabahs iconic wildlife such as the Borneo pygmy elephant and proboscis monkey.

She said the third scientific expedition was being organised by the foundation, the academy in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Parks, Sabah Wildlife Department, University Malaysia Sabah, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, WWF-Malaysia and the Sabah Museum.

She said the expedition will converge at the foot Mt. Kuli on the South West of the Canyon. The Expedition will carry out research of its flora, fauna, physical landscape, water, aquatic life and eco-tourism potentials.

Continue reading at: Scientists to document new plants in pristine part of Borneo

Traditional Kadazan wedding at Lokawi Wildlife Park

LOKAWI: When Belgian, Benoit Goossens and Mexican, Milena Salgado Lynn decided to tie the knot recently, they opted to go through it the traditional Kadazan way.

Benoit was clad in his ‘gaung’, a traditional black velvety shirt with golden trimmings, while Milena was wearing the ‘sinuanga’, a term for the Kadazan black sleeveless blouse also with golden trimmings and a long black sarong.

The event took place at the Lokawi Wildlife Park and was attended by some 150 friends and colleagues of the couple, which included the State Wildlife Department’s director, Dr Laurentius Ambu and his wife.

“We wanted to have something special to symbolize our love for each other and for Sabah. Dr Laurentius, our friend, is of Kadazan origin and he suggested the traditional wedding ceremony. We found the concept inspiring, as it is full with symbols of love, respect, happiness, tradition and care for each other and our families: a simple but truthful rite. It was also a way to show how much we love the people who have welcomed us so warmly, like Dr. Laurentius and his wife Juliana,” said Benoit.

He added that both of them love Sabah because of the generosity of her people, as well as their tolerance, the mixed cultures and religions, the respect for each other and obviously, the nature of Sabah.

“The State has wonderful wildlife and astonishing landscapes. We feel at home in Sabah,” he said.

Both are involved in conservation work in the State, Benoit is the director of Danau Girang Field Centre, Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary Sabah while Milena, who arrived to Sabah some three years ago also works with him and is currently undertaking her PhD.

“We hope to stay in Sabah for many years. We have found a place where we can live peacefully, where we can bring something, and where our children will be happy,” said Benoit.

The rituals were conducted by Bobohizan priestess, Rosnani Sogondu from Kampung Kibabaig Penampang.

“I have been doing this for the last 40 years,” said Rosnani, 78. She explained that each of the rituals carried a meaning.

Continue reading at: Traditional Kadazan wedding at Lokawi Wildlife Park

MAS eyes RM100m in revenue from Kota Kinabalu International Airport

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) expects between RM60 million and RM100 million in annual revenue contribution from the move to make the Kota Kinabalu International Airport a second hub.

Its managing director and chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin said the geographical location of Kota Kinabalu made it a natural gateway to Borneo for traffic from China, Taiwan, North Asia, Indonesia and Autralia.

“There is room for growth. The airport is capable of handling 12 million passengers annually,” he told reporters announcing the airline’s second-quarter financial results here yesterday.

He said that new routes will be added from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport in order to match capacity and demand for better economics.

Tengku Azmil said there will be more opportunities to increase yield as Malaysia Airlines started to receive new planes.

The airline has ordered up to 55 B737-800s and 25 A330-300s, with a total of three B737-800s to be received in 2010, comprising one each in October, November and December.

“We have also completed our discussions with Airbus and will be taking the six A380s. The first will be delivered in April 2012,” he said.

Tengku Azmil said MASkargo will also increase its fleet size from five to seven by September to cope with the surge in air freight demand.

Continue reading at: MAS eyes RM100m in revenue from Kota Kinabalu International Airport

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sandakan Death March memorial service attended by Australian governor-general

SANDAKAN: Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce AC yesterday led the Sandakan Day Memorial Service in honour of prisoners of war who perished in the infamous death marches from here to Ranau during the World War Two.

This is the first time that an Australian governor-general has come here to attend the annual service. This year, it marks the 65th anniversary of the end of the war.

At the ceremony yesterday, Bryce was joined by Sabah deputy chief minister Datuk Peter Pang En Yin and over 800 Australians and locals to lay the wreaths in remembrance of allied servicemen and Sabahans who died during the Japanese occupation.

“Many of their families and loved ones are here today too. Something extraordinary had sustained them, and something else extraordinary took over.

“With the nourishment, shelter and safety provided by local Sabahans, some of you are here with us now, these men were nursed back to life and health,” Bryce said in the ceremony.

Towards the end of WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army ordered prisoners of war to trek along 240km of treacherous terrain in a series of forced marches from here to Ranau, resulting in the deaths of 2,428 Australian and British servicemen.

Continue reading at: Sandakan Death March memorial service attended by Australian governor-general

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blood Brothers - tribute to Sabah’s World War II heroes

SANDAKAN: Blood Brothers. This is the fitting title of a book written as a tribute to Sabah’s World War II heroes.

Authored by Australian historian Lynette Silver, it details the true grit, valour and sacrifices of the heroes who helped the Allied Forces during the Japanese Occupation.

Blood Brothers was yesterday jointly launched by Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Peter Pang En Yin and Australia Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

Silver said the book served as a note of thanks to the people of Sabah who played a major part during World War II.

This included helping Allied Forces prisoners of war (PoWs), comprising soldiers from as far away as Australia and Britain.

She decided to write the book on Sabah’s World War II heroes when she attended the opening of the Sandakan Memorial Park in 1999.

There, she met local warriors Chin Chee Kong and Joseph Wong who were sitting quietly in a corner.

“No reference was made to them and I felt this was a shame as I knew they (Chin and Wong) were involved in the war.

“In addition, other Sabahans were tortured because of their involvement (in the war), but their presence was not mentioned either,” said Silver when met after the launch of the book at the annual memorial service held for the fallen soldiers some 12km from here.

Continue reading at: Blood Brothers - tribute to Sabah’s World War II heroes

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sarawak Tourism Federation wants more CCTV in tourism hotspots

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Federation chairman Wee Hong Seng said he would ask for federal funds to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) in tourism hotspots.

Wee said the city needed more CCTVs and police presence to combat the rapid rise in number of crimes, especially snatch thefts, against foreign tourists and travellers.

“I will request for federal funds to install CCTVs here when Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen comes here next month,” he said when contacted yesterday.

According to Wee, STF was concerned about maintaining Kuching’s status as a safe city for tourists and travellers.

He said the federation is trying all means, including holding dialogues with the police, of finding ways to bring down the crime rate and ensure the safety of tourists.

Last week, he led the STF in a dialogue session with the police and they asked for the continuation of Ops Payung.

This operation, involving the setting up of temporary police booths at hotspots, was effective in bringing down the crime rate when enforced recently.

“The crime rate has dropped 50 per cent after ‘Ops Payung’ was carried out here,” he claimed.

He said STF had also asked the police to mobilise more patrols especially in ‘grey areas’ of the city.

"From time to time, we hold dialogue session with the police. We are targeting zero crime here. Every city has crimes. Compare to some others, our place is still under control and I consider our place safe,” said Wee.

Besides working with the police, the tourism federation had told budget lodging houses and operators in grey areas to warn tourists about snatch thieves.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Tourism Federation wants more CCTV in tourism hotspots

Friday, August 13, 2010

New research suggests orangutans not so solitary

When British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace arrived in Borneo's jungles 150 years ago, one of his great hopes was to see orangutans. Even he was surprised at his success, spotting the red apes feeding along river banks, swinging between branches, and staring down from trees almost the moment he arrived.

He saw 29 — shooting more than half of them and sending their skins and skeletons back home — in just 100 days, an experience shared by many other adventurers and collectors during the same period.

"Whereas some early explorers would see as many as eight orangutans in one tree or encounter 35 along a river in one day, spotting even one in the wild in the same undisturbed forests is now rare," said Erik Meijaard, one of the authors of a study published Wednesday in PLoS One, a journal of the Public Library of Science.

"This prompted us to ask if these notoriously solitary apes once lived in much higher densities," said Meijaard. "We believe hunting may have caused a change in behavior, causing them to be less social."

The scientists measured the density of orangutan populations now compared with assumed densities in past — based in part on frequency of sightings by 19th century explorers — and found that encounters were three to six times higher back then. They also looked at possible causes, including ecological changes and disease, and determined the continuing tradition of hunting was the most likely reason for the decline.

Today, orangutans are shot for their meat or as agricultural pests.

The findings are still preliminary and likely to be controversial, but if correct, they could affect the way we come to understand the development of orangutans as a species and their conservation needs.

There are only an estimated 50,000 orangutans left in the wild, all living in small, scattered populations on Borneo island and nearby Sumatra, according to Serge Wich, a scientist with the Great Ape Trust of Iowa and co-author of the new study.

Orangutans are gregarious when they are young. But unlike the other great apes — chimpanzees and gorillas — they spend most of their time alone when they are adults, foraging for fruit or sleeping in the trees. They are rarely seen together in groups larger than two or three.

Continue reading at: New research suggests orangutans not so solitary

Stunning Sailing in Darkest Borneo

The 2010 Borneo International Yachting challenge, which was sailed over the third week of July, was won for the third consecutive year by Jun Avecilla from the Philippines in his Beneteau 36.5 ‘Selma Star'. Avecilla ended the regatta with a clean score sheet to take out the IRC racing class and the overall trophy.

In the three other classes Jim Ellis in his S&S 39 ‘Remington' took out Cruising A, Mark Blaskey sailing ‘Sari Timur' – Cruising B, and Bill Webb in ‘Out of the Bag' winning the Multihull division.

Conditions for the weeklong event which began in Miri and ended in Kota Kinabalu were near perfect with relatively consistent winds and fine weather. This was vindication for the race organizers who had made the decision to move the regatta forward a few months to take advantage of the south west monsoon. The other decision that proved very popular was the inclusion of the Sail Malaysia cruising rally in the event. This effectively doubled the number of entries making it a record fleet and one of the biggest keel boat regattas in the region, albeit without a real Racing class to head the call sheet.

Racing got underway for the fleet of 44 on Sunday 25th with a short inshore off the Miri marina. The night before a severe front passed over the coast with gale force winds that uprooted trees along the breakwater and produced a large ground swell. Exiting the marina the fleet was greeted by a 12 to 15 knot south westerly with near breaking waves across the entrance. This made for some heart stopping moments as the yachts made their way out onto the race course.

PRO Jerry Rollins sent the racing class around a three lap windward leeward course, while the cruising classes tackled the more forgiving reaching course. With two races scheduled for the day it was always going to be a battle for time before the tide made it too shallow to get back into the marina, and unfortunately a dying breeze forced the Race Officer to abandon the last race and send everyone back in.

Back on the beach it was Ulumulu, the Sydney 46 helmed by West Australian Gordon Lucas that was recorded as winner in the IRC class. That was until it was discovered that their finish time had been mixed up with one of the multihull's finishing times. This was good news for the multihull – Bill Webb's ‘Out of the Bag' which was bumped up from last place to first place, but not so good for Lucas who had to settle for second behind Selma Star. Cruising A honours went to John Potter in Jaraman, and Cruising B to Mark Blaskey in Sari Timur.

The next event on the schedule was the 97 mile race north from Miri to the duty free island of Labuan. Conditions for the start were near perfect with an 8 to 10 knot west south westerly giving the fleet an 18 mile broad reach to the corner at Kuala Baram.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Stunning Sailing in Darkest Borneo

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Anniversary of Sandakan Death Marches

Kota Kinabalu: The Governor-General of Australia will represent the country at the 65th anniversary of the Sandakan Death Marches from Aug 14 to 16.

Quentin Bryce and Michael Bryce will join Malaysian dignitaries and more than 100 Australians, including former Sandakan Prisoners of War (PoWs), Russ Ewin and Lesley "Bunny" Glover, at a memorial ceremony at the Sandakan Memorial Park on Aug 15 (Sunday).

A total of 2,428 Australian and British Allied servicemen from the Sandakan Camp died during three marches between Sandakan and Ranau.

Of the 450 Allied servicemen in the first Death March between Sandakan and Ranau, only one British and five Australian soldiers survived.

Continue reading at: Anniversary of Sandakan Death Marches

Interior attractions to be added to Sabah tourism calendars

Keningau: Tourism products in the Interior will be upgraded and added into the State and national tourism calendars, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

"This is so that more tourists will visit the Interior, particularly Keningau as the centre of tourism in the Interior," he said when opening the Pusat Restoran Pelancongan Pedalaman (Interior Tourism Restaurant Centre), Wednesday.

Also present were District Officer Amat Mohd Yusof, Liawan UPKR Rosdi Padiman and Pensiangan Umno deputy chief, Ahuar Rasam.

On other developments, Masidi said the Government would upgrade the World War II Memorial to attract more Chinese, British and American visitors to the Interior.

According to him, the number of Taiwanese visitors to Keningau in the last six months increased by 50 per cent compared to the same period last year.

He urged Chinese leaders here to look for ways to attract more counterparts from Taiwan and China to visit Keningau.

At the same time, Masidi said, the Government would be studying the potentials of the Crocker Range, Bandukan Park and Laing Cave in Bingkor.

He said the Government would consider the proposal by District Officer Amat Mohd Yusof for the Government to privatise the three tourism products.

Also to be considered, he said, is tour packages to the Interior, which would ensure tourists stay in the Interior for between two and three days instead of only one day.

"The Government will restructure the packages so that the tourists would have more time to spend in the Interior and visit the tourist products and subsequently benefit operators of hotels, taxis, buses, rest houses, handicraft and also fruit sellers," he said.

Continue reading at: Interior attractions to be added to Sabah tourism calendars

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cebu Pacific to add yet another flight to Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu: Cebu Pacific is hoping to stake a bigger claim on the travel market in this region by adding another flight to its twice-a- week Kota Kinabalu-Manila service.

Come October, Asia's third largest low-cost carrier would have an additional Wednesday flight to its regular weekly Monday and Friday flights now.

The airline has grown from strength to strength, flying a total of 21,430 passengers between the capital and Manila from August 2009 to July this year, which is a 15 per cent increase compared to flights from July 18, 2008 to July 31, 2009, which was 18,996.

Cebu Pacific had also overtaken the Philippine Airlines by 110,000 passengers in the first quarter this year, said Cebu Air Inc Corporate Communications Manager, RG T Orense, at a media briefing here, Tuesday.

Apart from the Kota Kinabalu-Manila route, which was established in July 2008, Cebu Pacific also operates a daily Airbus service from Kuala Lumpur to Manila.

They are also set to launch direct Manila-Brunei flights later this month and Manila-Beijing flights next month.

The airline flies to the most number of destinations and routes in the Philippines, to the most Asean destinations and routes from the Philippines, and is the only low-cost carrier flying to all three major North Asian countries of Japan, China and South Korea.

Sabah Tourism Board (STB) Deputy Chairman, Datuk Sari Suhut, said with Malaysia Airlines just naming Sabah as its Eastern hub, the new frequency of Cebu Pacific flights here bodes well with the rapid tourism and economic development in the State.

This would definitely promote Sabah as a holiday or business destination among Filipinos and vice versa, he said, adding he had also recently brought media representatives from the country who had wanted to cover stories on golfing facilities in Tawau, Tuaran and here.

Continue reading at: Cebu Pacific to add yet another flight to Kota Kinabalu

Low-fare double promotion from MASwings in Sabah and Sarawak

IN CONJUNCTION with the Merdeka and Ramadan season, MASwings is offering the Merdeka Value Fares and the MASwings/Maybank Ramadan Special.

This double treat is the latest back-to-back low-fare promotion from MASwings.

During the Merdeka Value Fares period from July 29 to August 31, MASwings was offering discounts of up to 70% on fares purchased online, said a press statement issued by the MASwings Corporate Communications Department.

Its spokesperson Melissa Crocker said the travel period for the promotion was August 2 to January 31, 2011, for all the destinations on offer.

Customers would have to purchase their tickets five days in advance prior to the departure date to enjoy the promotion, she added.

It offers fares are as low as RM45 for the Kuching-Sibu route and RM92 for Kota Kinabalu-Sibu.

Melissa said the MASwings/Maybank Ramadan Special was from yesterday to Sept 10 exclusively for Maybank card members who could enjoy discounts of up to 50%.

During this period, customers can purchase their ticket one day in advance to enjoy the travel deals on offer for most MASwings destinations in Sabah and Sarawak.

The travel period is from today to Nov 30 and tickets could be purchased from Malaysia Airlines and MASwings ticket counters as well as the Call Centre in Malaysia, she said.

This value-for-money fare is also applicable on the reverse flight.

Melissa said the fabulous deals were one-way fares starting from as low as RM65 for Kota Kinabalu (KK) to Labuan, KK–Lahad Datu (RM75), KK-Sandakan (RM75), KK–Tawau (RM80) KK-Bintulu (RM110), KK–Sibu (RM115), KK-Mulu (RM95), KK-Miri (RM85) and KK-Kuching (RM145). Sandakan–Tawau (RM50), Miri (MYY)–Bintulu (RM50), MYY–Mulu (RM47), MYY-Sibu (RM75), MYY-Limbang (RM50), MYY-Labuan (RM50), Sibu-Bintulu (RM45), Kuching (KCH)–Bintulu (RM110), KCH-Sibu (RM70), KCH-MYY (RM110), KCH-Mulu (RM115) and Sibu–Limbang (RM105).

Continue reading at: Low-fare double promotion from MASwings in Sabah and Sarawak

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kota Kinabalu - MAS Eastern Hub

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is making Kota Kinabalu its Eastern hub, leveraging on the geographical advantages of the city as an ideal gateway for passengers traveling between major international destinations.

Announcing the major undertaking yesterday, the national carrier said the hub will be developed over three stages beginning Nov 15 this year until June 3, 2011, involving introduction of new increased frequencies of international flights.

Under the plan, MAS has also committed to position six planes, including two latest Boeing 737-800 aircraft, at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) along with 150 technicians and 250 cabin crew.

MAS managing director and chief executive officer, Tengku Azmil Zahruddin when making the announcement yesterday, said the decision was driven by the increase in demand from countries such as China, Taiwan, North Asia, Indonesia and Australia.

“We picked Kota Kinabalu to leverage on the strategic location of the city as an ideal gateway to promote travels between the markets mentioned.

“This is the right time to develop the (eastern) hub with the upturn of this industry in Asia. It provides us opportunity for growth in yield, load factor and destinations -we expect a potential improvement of between RM60 million and RM100 million per annum to our bottom line as a result,” he told a press conference here, yesterday.

Tengku Azmil said the setting up of Kota Kinabalu as the Eastern hub will enable the national carrier to provide customers with better flight schedules and connectivity as they would not need to rely on flights from Kuala Lumpur.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kota Kinabalu - MAS Eastern Hub

Sabah rises further in Malaysia tourism thanks to air connections

To firmly establish a destination on the tourism world map today, it is not only a matter of natural or cultural attractions. Air connections are of crucial importance. In East Malaysia, the State of Sabah has been actively promoting entry access to its capital Kota Kinabalu, providing even funds for airlines keen to fly into it.Combined to an aggressive strategy of Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAHB)to air carriers, it has worked out miracles. After five years, Sabah has won the battle for notoriety.

Over the last years, Sabah has indeed enjoyed healthy growth rates in its tourist arrivals. In 2000, the State recorded only 0.77 million tourist entries of which 0.41 million were foreigners. In 2009, total arrivals topped 2.25 million while foreign arrivals reached 0.56 million. This represents respective increases of 192% and 36.6%. From January to May 2010, Sabah has seen tourist arrivals growth accelerating as recession’s effects faded away. During the first five months of the year, total arrivals are up 8.1% reaching almost a million.

Kota Kinabalu airport is now firmly established as Malaysia’s second largest airport in terms of passengers’ traffic and served destinations, just behind Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian Airports (MAHB) Managing Director Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad aims to develop the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) into a regional hub. Providing financial incentives and marketing support, the airport’s company is focusing on attracting new air services from Australia and North East Asia -specifically out of Japan, Korea and Greater China (including Taiwan and Hong Kong).

Continue reading at: Sabah rises further in Malaysia tourism thanks to air connections

Double digit increase in tourist arrivals to Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is anticipating substantial growth in its tourism sector following decision by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to make Kota Kinabalu their eastern hub.

State Tourism, Culture & Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said there has been a double digit increase in Sabah’s tourist arrivals over the last six months, a good indication that the industry is still growing fast.

And with the introduction of new flights and better planes to be based here under the eastern hub project, he said there will be even more significant growth in the State’s tourism sector.

“Both Sabah and Sarawak will gain from this move and it is certainly an encouraging development that will further boost the tourism industry in both states.

We will continue to talk with MAS to further improve the connectivity in Sabah by having more flights to other destinations, not only to main cities in northern Asia but Australia as well,” said Masidi at a press conference to announce MAS’ plan.

The national carrier yesterday announced its intention to make Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) their second hub, in addition to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) which has long served as their operational centre.

Masidi said in line with the MAS plan, and in order to fully tap the potential for further growth in tourism, Sabah needs to further enhance capability in providing the services and expertise needed both by the arriving tourists and airlines industry.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Double digit increase in tourist arrivals to Sabah

Cebu Pacific Increases Manila-Kota Kinabalu Flight Frequency

KOTA KINABALU -- The Philippines' low cost carrier, Cebu Pacific Air, will increase its flight frequency between Manila and Kota Kinabalu from twice to three times weekly beginning Oct 20.

Director of International Sales Arlene Tena said the third frequency was necessary as the route was gaining popularity among passengers between the two cities.

"Cebu Pacific experienced a year-on-year growth of 15 per cent, flying a total of 21,430 passengers between August 2009 and July 2010," she told reporters after a product presentation to Sabah travel agents here Tuesday.

Tena said the third frequency would fly on Wednesdays, in addition to Mondays and Fridays, with fares starting from RM146.

Continue reading at: Cebu Pacific Increases Manila-Kota Kinabalu Flight Frequency

Monday, August 09, 2010

Borneo Land of the Dayaks, not Land of the Headhunters

KUCHING: Borneo should not be dubbed as the ‘land of the headhunters’ anymore but instead, rebranded as ‘Land of the Dayak’.

The term ‘Land of the Headhunters’ which was heavily associated with the savage historical culture of the natives (Dayak) in Borneo was no longer relevant in today’s society and this infamous tag should be terminated once and for all.

Speaking to The Borneo Post after the Borneo Dayak Forum (BDF) held at Penview Hotel here yesterday, organising chairman Dr John Brian Anthony claimed tourists are still wary of the threat of having their heads cut off when they come to Borneo.

“And this is not friendly at all. It’s bad publicity.

“This is no longer synonym to the Dayak culture today. As the government has been promoting heavily on local Sarawak cultures as its tourism product, why not we (the Dayak) promote Borneo as ‘Land of the Dayak’ instead?,” he said.

John Brian who is also Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) deputy president added that Dayak (natives) people are famous for its rich cultures, customs and hospitality, and no longer associated with the tradition of headhunting.

“What more suitable way than to promote the Dayaks than their cultures and products,” he said.

John Brian stated that re-branding the third largest island in the world, as ‘Land of the Dayak’ would bring lots of benefit to the natives. For a start, it would create more awareness of the uniqueness and traditions of the Dayak. In addition, it would be in

line with the vision of getting all natives to group together under the Dayak banner.

“As we move forward into the 21st Century, it is very important to globalise the Dayak economy. It would certainly aid the development of the Dayak. Among other steps that could be taken was the patterning of Dayak cultural patterns, which was heavily marketed, in almost every local product today.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Borneo Land of the Dayaks, not Land of the Headhunters