Monday, January 31, 2011

Beautiful Sabah Tea Garden Now Serves As A Tourist Spot As Well

Sabah Tea Garden which started off as an organic tea plantation in the district of Ranau, Sabah has now expanded into a popular holiday destination as well in the state both for local and foreign tourists.

Located in one the oldest rainforests in the world, with the picturesque Mt Kinabalu, Malaysia's first World Heritage Site, for its background, Sabah Tea Garden is known for its 100 per cent organic tea without the use of any chemicals.

Today, managed by Sabah Tea Sdn Bhd's Ipoh based unit, Yee Lee Corporation Bhd, Sabah Tea Garden has grown into an ideal place for nature lovers and those wanting to relax away from the busy city life, offering various holiday stay and tour packages customised for its visitors.

The "tea garden" encompasses an area measuring 6,200 acres and is 2,272 ft from sea level. From the total area, only 1,200 acres are used for the cultivation of tea and tourism activities while the rest remains a tropical forest rich with flora and fauna.

With the Sabah state government projecting a tourist arrival of about 2.4 million to the state this year, Sabah Tea Garden is hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to promote its tourism and holiday packages, its General Manager Ismail Martin Kong Abdullah told a group of journalists on a familiarisation programme to Sabah recently.

The programme, organised by Firefly and Sabah Tourism, was sponsored by Golden Suria Tours & Travel.

"We receive an average of 15,000 tourists a year and we are aiming for 16,000 visitors this year," Ismail said, adding that 60 per cent of the visitors were locals and the remaining 40 per cent were foreigners with the majority of them from Australia and Europe.

Among the attractive tour and holiday packages that Sabah Tea Garden offers are a two-day one night stay, a three-day two nights package as well as day trips, team building programmes and company meetings package and rainforest camping.

For those taking the overnight stays, there are several types of accommodation facilities they can choose from at the resort including longhouses, cottages and camp sites.

Continue reading at: Beautiful Sabah Tea Garden Now Serves As A Tourist Spot As Well

Capturing carnivores in Kinabatangan on camera

KINABATANGAN: Sabah Wildlife Department, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), the NGO HUTAN and WildCRU recently launched the “Kinabatangan Carnivore Programme” with funding from four American zoos, Houston, Columbus, Cincinnati and Phoenix, and private donors in New York.

“The Kinabatangan Carnivore Programme, initiated by our Department, will intend to advance understanding, and the conservation, of the diverse carnivores of the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain,” explained Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

“For this, we are collaborating with Andrew Hearn from WildCRU (University of Oxford, UK) who spent the last four years studying clouded leopards and other carnivores in Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve. His experience with camera trapping is primordial for the success of this project,” added Ambu.

“It will be a long-term programme which aims to provide insights into Bornean carnivore ecology and density and develop Bornean carnivore species distribution and habitat suitability models,” said Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of the Danau Girang Field Centre.

“It is crucial for us, wildlife conservationists and managers, to find out about what dispersal opportunities exist for these carnivores and other mammals within the fragmented landscape of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, and how might dispersal corridors be protected, enhanced and restored,” added Goossens.

“Last November, we were extremely pleased to find a sequence of 12 pictures showing a clouded leopard female and her cub walking along a trail. These two individuals were also recorded in December on most of our cameras along a thin corridor of forest between the river and a plantation,” explained Rob Colgan and Rodi Tenquist, two undergraduates from Cardiff University, who are spending a year at DGFC during their professional training year and are providing field assistance to the project.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Capturing carnivores in Kinabatangan on camera

Sunday, January 30, 2011

World Heritage Site for Maliau Basin boost

MALIAU BASIN (Tawau): The Federal Government will support the efforts of the State Government to enlist Maliau Basin as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said: “We can support and make the presentation to UNESCO as we have a UNESCO office and members of the board of directors of the UNESCO. So we will try to present this case because the moment you are listed as the world heritage by UNESCO there is an immediate jump in terms of worldwide interest.”

Najib told reporters after launching the Maliau Basin Studies Centre (MBSC) and Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) here yesterday.

For example, he said George Town, Malaka, Mulu Cave and few others had really benefitted from being listed as a world heritage by UNESCO.

“So I would support what the Chief Minister (Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman) said. There is a process as it cannot happen overnight. Hopefully we can list this as part of the world heritage,” he said.

Earlier, in his speech, Musa hoped that Maliau Basin will become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the near future.

When asked to elaborate further on the statement he made in his speech earlier on the ecological experimental project carried out by Sime Darby Foundation (YSD) and Royal Society’s South East Asian Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) called Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystem (SAFE).

He said the critics especially the west have to understand that Malaysia needs to use land for development whether for industrialization, urbanization or plantation, because we need to create opportunity to support the people.

“Besides that, there are areas whereby no development activities are allowed such as Maliau Basin, Danum Valley, water catchment and forest reserve areas, these areas will be protected,” he said.

“If you look at the overall track record in Malaysia we are better than the developed countries, who created more sin than us and now they are pointing fingers at us. They made the mistake earlier than us and in fact we have a balanced policy where we can look after the interest of the people and forest for the interest of the world and future generation,” said Najib adding that Malaysia is committed to the Rio Earth Summit agreement as 60 per cent of the country are now covered with forest.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: World Heritage Site for Maliau Basin boost

Commitment in managing Maliau Basin

MALIAU BASIN: The Malaysian government is committed in managing Maliau Basin area for conservation, research, education and training, and appropriate recreation as well as nature tourism.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman said Maliau is a gift to the world and future generation.

Even though it is also known as the Lost World, people must ensure that their activities do not lead its loss forever.

He said Maliau with an area of 58,840 hectares is fast gaining global recognition as one of the few remaining untouched wilderness on earth.

“A unique and self-contained ecosystem not found elsewhere, it is a Class I Protection Forest Reserve under the Sabah Forest Enactment, and is also a Cultural Heritage Site under the Sabah Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Enactment,” he said in his speech at the launch of the Maliau Basin Studies Centre by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak here yesterday.

Musa, who is also the chairman of the Yayasan Sabah Board of Trustees, said Maliau is known for its spectacular waterfalls, the most famous being the magnificent seven-tiered Maliau Falls.

This conservation area is home to many outstanding natural features including the crater-like escarpment which encloses the Basin and the fabled Lake Linumunsut, the only ox-bow freshwater lake discovered so far in Sabah.

The Basin also serves as a crucial water catchment for the Maliau River, a major source of the Kinabatangan as well as its surrounding forested buffer zones are habitats to rare wildlife such as the Sumatran Rhinoceros, Banteng, Orang Utan, Borneo Pygmy Elephants and Clouded Leopards, just to name some.

Due to its isolation, he said Maliau Basin has not been explored in as much detail as some other forest, leaving an element of mystery.

However through three major expeditions and a joint project between Yayasan Sabah and Danish International Development Agency (Danida) project, diverse and distinct flora and fauna that added up to more than 240,000 were discovered.

Maliau is also gaining recognition for adventure enthusiasts with a range of activities including the half kilometre canopy bridge or the sky bridge as well as nature trails, night drives and bird watching.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Commitment in managing Maliau Basin

The Brunei Hotel to open after facelift

By Lyna Mohamad

The Sultanate's first and oldest hotel will soon be opening its doors under as a boutique hotel, under a new name, The Brunei Hotel, and a new management.

A facelift converted it into a 65-room boutique hotel that will offer intimate and personalised accommodation, services and facilities for local and international travellers at an $88 special promotion rate per night in all superior rooms, breakfast included.

Choices Restaurant will have 80 per cent western cuisine from 7am to 11pm.

The hotel's meeting and function rooms are equipped with state-of-the-art public address system.

The rooms open to a view of the famed Kampong Ayer, named Venice of the East 600 years ago, when stilted houses stood on the Brunei river, as it is today.

The hotel's location gives easy access to commercial houses, department stores (Kota Mutiara, Milimewah, Hua Ho), the Yayasan, Darussalam and Wisma Jaya complexes, the scenic waterfront, banks, airline offices, the Kianggeh morning market by the river, the Royal Regalia Museum, the Arts and Handicrafts Centre, international restaurants and cafes, banks, airline offices, the bus station, and taxi stand, and the jetty for water taxis, and the golden-domed Omar Ali Saiffudien Mosque, and park, Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar 'Ali Saifuddien, named after His Majesty's late father.

On 95 Jalan Pemancha, (formerly known as Jalan Chevalier), the four-storey building across the centuries-old Water Village in the heart of the capital was a three-star hotel when it was opened by His Majesty's late father decades ago.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival 2011 expected to generate RM20 million

KUCHING: This year’s Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) to be held from July 8 to 10 is expected to generate around RM20 million for the local tourism industry.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan, who is also Tourism and Heritage Minister, said last year’s event raked in RM13 million.

He said the target of RM20 million for this year should be achievable by promoting the event more aggressively, including among European countries.

“Eventually we want to make sure that this festival is not only confined to the usual people who come from neighbouring countries like Singapore or Brunei but beyond, such as Hong Kong, Australia or more far away countries.

“Europe is also likely to be included in a bigger way, but we never really hard sell the event to them. This time we should hard sell it in Europe so that we can get more people to come from outside the usual areas,” he said.

Last time there were about 40 percent foreigners and this time the target is 70 per cent, Dr Chan told reporters during a media conference in conjunction with the unveiling of the new logo for RWMF at his office in Wisma Bapa Malaysia here yesterday.

Earlier, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said they were having an early start in preparation for RWMF 2011 to ensure greater success.

He said this year they were targeting 21 bands (19 international and two locals) to perform on three consecutive nights.

The response to this year’s festival was encouraging with all 1,000 special promotion online tickets launched in October last year snapped up.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival 2011 expected to generate RM20 million

Friday, January 28, 2011

KKIA runway expected to be completed by March 2012

KOTA KINABALU: The Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) runway extension project has been extended and is expected to be completed by March 2012.

Global Upline corporate advisor Tan Sri Dr Ting Pek Khing said the extension was given because the company had to use a new construction method to build the additional 480 meters of runway into the sea without causing further erosion to the shoreline and to finish resurfacing work on the runway itself.

“Resurfacing of the runway is expected to be completed by the end of this year or early next year. The balance of the work will be completed by March next year,” he said.

Ting said that the method, which has been approved by the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), would cost more money and an additional nine months to complete and will not impede the utilization of the runway during the duration.

“Extension of the runway can be finished in March but there are a lot of other things we have to consider. Many need approval and financial approval. The runway is safe for landing, no problem,” he said here yesterday.

Ting said that the company is now awaiting the approval from the Ministry of Transport and the allocation for the new construction method known as ‘Temporary Staging’ that will not affect the shoreline.

“The EIA has already approved our system of doing it, we just need the final approval from the Ministry of Transport to ask for more money to change the system of construction in order to finish it without destroying the shoreline, which is good for the villagers because it might incur flooding if it is not done properly,” he said.

Continue reading at: KKIA runway expected to be completed by March 2012

Annah Rais hot spring to be upgraded

KUCHING: The Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) is going to turn the Annah Rais hot spring area into a camp site through its community based eco-tourism (CBET) programme.

MPP chairman Lo Khere Chiang said this was to further develop the area as a popular tourist destination since the place had gained greater popularity since the completion of the upgrading on the Annah Rais hot spring recently.

“We started the upgrading work since middle of last year and it was completed sometime last November and we have handed it back to the villagers to run,” he said at a press conference after chairing the full council meeting yesterday.

He also disclosed that with the proper facilities, the hot spring is now getting more popular where around 200 visitors go there every weekend.

Fees charged per-entry by the villagers were RM3 for adults, children (RM2) and RM1 for primary school pupils.

“All the money collected will go to the group of people who own the area,” he said.

Continue reading at: Annah Rais hot spring to be upgraded

Perdana Park vital to a growing Kota Kinabalu city

The opening of a new public park by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak today has been the talk of city folks in Kota Kinabalu for days now.

For the health conscious residents, the new Taman Perdana park, a stone’s throw away from the Tanjung Aru beach is set to be the latest recreational facility.

The park was built by local water concessionaire Timatch Sdn Bhd for free under its corporate social responsibility (CSR) to develop the 7ha site, the historically significant Hone’s Place that was initially earmarked for a low-cost housing project.

After the housing project was scrapped, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman mooted the idea of the park as he believed it was important to retain some of its ‘green space’.

Below is the question and answer on Perdana Park with the Chief Minister.

* Tell us briefly of the park’s uniqueness.

The park’s design pays homage to the identity of Sabah by incorporating architectural designs reminiscent of the old government quarters during the British administration complemented with soft landscapes.

Among its features are a musical fountain, free purified water, handicapped- friendly, a containerised stage that could be used for cultural shows, reflexology footpaths and exercise areas.

The entry to Perdana Park is free and will officially open to the public on Jan 30.

* What was the idea behind the park?

In 2010, the United Nations reported about 50% of the world’s population now live in cities. Asia has the largest share of cities, with at least 500 million inhabitants combined. Of those 500 million, Kota Kinabalu is home to 452,940 inhabitants.

The pace of work and life in cities is fast-moving. Kota Kinabalu may not be comparable to a city like New York or Tokyo but Sabah is a state rich with beautiful natural landscapes and has not yet entirely become a concrete jungle.

The state government strongly believes it is vital to take steps to mitigate issues that a rapidly urban population would face such as a cramped and stressed lifestyle.

To have some green space amidst the hustle and bustle, would be benefit Kota Kinabalu.

The state government believed establishing a park is a strategic way to conserve this area.

It is also to encourage better physical and emotional health for the city’s populace — by providing a public communal and recreational space that can be enjoyed for several generations.

On top of that, it will be an additional tourist attraction.

* Why was the Hone’s Place chosen as the site for the park?

MUSA: Hone’s Place was the site for government quarters in the ‘30s. I myself, spent my childhood in those fields.

The state government wanted the park to pay homage to that. The two directives for the design of the park was to resonate with the historical values found there and to evoke the feel of our rainforests.

The area was left neglected, overgrown with grass after the low-cost housing project was scrapped.

The present day government believes by having a park is a good safeguard against future commercial development.

Today, Perdana Park probably stands on the last piece of prime open space in Kota Kinabalu.

Continue reading (Incl.Pics) at: Perdana Park vital to a growing Kota Kinabalu city

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Orangutan genome 'evolved slowly'

Scientists have released a draft sequence of the orangutan genome, revealing intriguing clues to the evolution of great apes and humans.

The work suggests orangutans may be genetically closer to the proposed ancestral great ape than are chimps, gorillas and humans.

Details of the research are outlined in the journal Nature.

Two modern species of orang-utan live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra respectively; both are under threat.

Of the great apes, the orangutan is the most genetically distant from humans.

Fossil finds show that it once had a wider range across South-East Asia; modern populations are threatened by the destruction of their forest habitat and other human activities such as trapping and selling the juvenile apes as pets.

An international team led by Devin Locke, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, US, sequenced the full genome of a female Sumatran orangutan named Susie.

With Susie's data as a reference, the researchers took advantage of next-generation sequencing technology to obtain lower resolution data on the genomes of 10 additional orangutans - five from Sumatra and five from Borneo.

The team's analysis reveals that the orangutan genome has experienced a slower rate of evolution than those of other great apes, with fewer rearrangements, duplications and repeats in the sequence.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Orangutan genome 'evolved slowly'

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tiny Borneo bats use carnivorous pitcher plants as living toilets

Birds may bomb cars with airborne droppings, but bats apparently use living toilets made of carnivorous plants, gracing them with their fecal matter, scientists find.

Pitcher plants get their name from the long juglike structures they form from rolled-up leaves. These pitchers serve as pitfall traps, with digestive fluids to liquefy any hapless victims (typically insects) that fall in.

Scientists recently discovered that small mammals known as tree shrews on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo don't end up as doomed victims of the carnivorous plant — instead, they sit on the rims of one such pitcher plant, Nepenthes lowii, and then poop inside.

As ignoble as this might seem, this is a win-win situation for both the pitchers and tree shrews. The plants cover the pitcher lids with nectar that the critters readily lick for nourishment, while the excrement serves as much-needed fertilizer. (This is why carnivorous plantsnormally trap insects — to get valuable nutrients.)

Now it turns out pitcher plantsare not exclusive bathrooms. Scientists have discovered the small woolly bat Kerivoula hardwickii uses a different type of pitcher in Borneo, Nepenthes rafflesiana elongata, as a lavatory and home as well.

Bat roosts

Tropical ecologist Ulmar Grafe at the University of Brunei Darussalam in Brunei first started working on the island of Borneo investigating how tadpoles can survive within the fluid of pitcher plants.

"It was a hot and humid day in the peat swamp forest and a student calls out, 'Ulmar, have a look at this — there's a bat in this pitcher,'" Grafe recalled. "We squeezed it out the top, and it was alive and well, obviously using the pitcher as a daytime roost."

Other people had seen bats roostingin the pitchers but they put it off as coincidental. "We were seeing it too often, however," Grafe said.

The pitchers of N. rafflesiana elongata are actually poor insect traps, capturing up to seven times fewer insects than typical varieties and possessing relatively little in the way of insect-attracting scents and digestive fluid. As such, "maybe the pitchers are modified in a way that attracts bats," Grafe said. "Bat roosting may not be coincidental."

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tiny Borneo bats use carnivorous pitcher plants as living toilets

Maliau Basin’s best kept secret to be savoured by Malaysian PM

Maliau Basin, which is poised to be a World Heritage Site soon, has become the most enticing destination in Sabah. People from every part of the world, particularly nature lovers, love to come for the precious moments of savouring the pristine condition in Maliau Basin, also lovingly called Sabah’s Lost World. Maliau Basin is visited by tourists of different ages and from the entire globe.

Come this Saturday, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will be Malaysia’s first prime minister to visit this internationally-acclaimed area, and at the same time enjoy the golden chance of discovering Maliau Basin’s best kept secret.

On that day, he is scheduled to open the Maliau Basin Studies Centre and witness the signing of several memorandums of understanding between local and international groups involved in research in the untouched rainforests of Sabah. Najib is also expected to launch Project Safe undertaken by Sime Darby in the area during his visit to the 30 sq km basin off the east coast.

“Maliau Basin is our precious natural treasure and heritage that needs to be protected at all costs,” State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun told Bernama, here, yesterday.

“That’s why the Sabah government had nominated Maliau Basin together with Danum Valley as a World Heritage Site for future generations to enjoy the designated areas of unspoilt natural beauty.”

Over the past years, Maliau Basin has been the subject of the so-called “monkey or gold” debate—whether the area should be left as pristine as possible with only monkeys roaming the hills and plains, or to have its valuable minerals extracted for economic gain. However, the debate subdued when the state government stood firmly and shot down the idea or the possibility of conducting mining operations in Maliau Basin.

Continue reading at: Maliau Basin’s best kept secret to be savoured by Malaysian PM

Better cultural village proposed in Miri to boost resort city

MIRI: A cultural village to showcase the cultures, heritage and traditions of Sarawak is one of the proposed projects for Miri and it will be more unique and realistic than the Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan disclosed this when asked by reporters on projects proposed to be implemented within the 10th Malaysia Plan.

“We have the largest diversity of ethnic and racial groups in Sarawak and the country. We want to make the cultural village very realistic, like showcasing people doing chores and activities such as farming in natural setting,” said Dr Chan, who is also the Minister of Tourism and Heritage Sarawak.

According to Dr Chan, the location for the proposed cultural village has yet to be determined although the authority concerned has identified around 100 to 200 acres of land in Lambir, about 30 minutes drive from the city centre, for the proposed cultural village.

“We are yet to decide on the location. We will let the state government to decide. But it will be up somewhere along Miri-Bintulu Road and should be 20 to 30 minutes drive from the city,” he said, adding that the location cannot be too far, else it would be inconvenient for people to visit.

Dr Chan also pointed out that a huge amount of money will be required to start the project, revealing that “it would cost around RM60 million”.

They will also be working together with Sarawak Museum on some aspects of the cultural village which will feature the cultures and lifestyles of various ethnics and indigeniuous groups in the island of Borneo.

“There is a proposal to set up a beads making factory there. It would be more interesting and great if we could put all in. It is still under planning as we need a lot of money to realise the project. This would also boost the image of Miri as a tourist and resort city,” Dr Chan explained.

On other subject related to tourism development, Dr Chan said both state and federal governments would allocate a huge amount of money to improve and construct new infrastructure such as bicycle, walking and jogging tracks along the beach as well as providing proper facility for diving activities.

Continue reading at: Better cultural village proposed in Miri to boost resort city

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sabah's orang-utan conservation effort receives shot-in-the-arm

Kota Kinabalu: The State's orang-utan conservation effort received a shot-in-the-arm with the signing of a contract agreement between WWF-Malaysia and AEON Co. (M) Berhad here Monday.

The five-year agreement is to provide for reforestation and rehabilitation of the orang-utan's natural habitat in North Ulu Segama, Lahad Datu.

The forest in this area was severely degraded due to several cycles of logging operations in the past and the frequent occurrence of forest fire, but miraculously the orang-utan which inhabit the area survived despite the ordeal they have had to endure.

The reforestation and rehabilitation effort will involve planting saplings of high trees, middle high trees, low trees and shrubs in approximately 80 hectares of the area over the next five years, with a RM500,000 investment by AEON.

The fast growing tree species to be planted will help restore the connectivity of the forest canopy so that the orang-utan will be free to roam in search of food in all the areas within the area and places to build their nests. The wild fruit trees will be source of food for the orang-utan.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun witnessed the contract agreement signing and exchanging of documents between AEON Managing Director Nagahisa Oyama and WWF-Malaysia CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma in a ceremony held at Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu here.

Thanking AEON for choosing Sabah as a place for it to carry out its corporate social responsibility, Masidi said the project is a recognition to WWF-Malaysia's good work in Sabah apart from being a kind of vote of confidence in the State Government's effort through the Forestry Department to rehabilitate and conserve the forest.

"It is my sincere hope that there will be more corporate organisations like AEON to come over to Sabah and assist us in our effort to not only save the orang-utan but also other species which are in danger of extinction like the rhinoceros and sun bear," he said.

He said the reason is simple, that is, because the forest is being fragmented by the opening up of land that affected their reproduction process, which in turn, contributed to the decline of the animal populations.

"Such an assistance from various quarters there is now light at the end of the tunnelÉin Sabah we are doing the right thing, at the right track, to help these animals to continue surviving for the future generations to appreciate," he said.

For AEON, this is not its first because it has actually been involved in tree-planting activities since 1991 at the JUSCO Malacca branch in Ayer Keroh.

It was called "AEON Hometown Forest Programme" where 50,000 saplings were planted.

AEON Co. Ltd in Japan is the pioneer of AEON Environment Foundation that has been contributing towards greening areas in Sudan and several sites surrounding the Great Wall of China.

"It has always been the company's aspiration to preserve the environment and the orang-utan's habitat in North Ulu SegamaÉwe see the growing importance of conservation measures to protect and nurture a green environment," said Oyama. The project will help foster closer ties between AEON and the local residents, not only as a business venture but also in the hope of educating the locals on the importance of preserving the environment, he said.

Continue reading at: Sabah's orang-utan conservation effort receives shot-in-the-arm

Lower air fares will encourage domestic tourism

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysians prefer to holiday overseas as they get better bargains, compared to visiting their own country, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun called on Firefly, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), to have a built-in mechanism offering lower airfares as an effort to encourage domestic tourism.

“Holidaying overseas sounds much better to Malaysians, but it affects domestic tourism. There should be a balance for us when traveling, because holidaying within our country will control the outside flow of the Ringgit.

“For one Malaysian to holiday abroad, we lose one local tourist in the country,” he said when representing Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman to welcome the inaugural Firefly flight to the state capital from Kuala Lumpur at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport yesterday.

Masidi gave an example of the promotional fare of RM99 to London while to travel to Sandakan, one will have to fork out about RM400.

“This is a simple issue which needs to be tackled,” he said.

Firefly managing director Datuk Eddy Leong, when asked to comment on the matter, said: “I think prices depend on supply and demand. If the supply is more, then players tend to do anything to get passengers. However, we want to continue to be committed to our tagline as a community airline.”

On another development, Masidi also proposed to Firefly and other airlines, to consider conveying conservation message to their passengers to protect nature.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Lower air fares will encourage domestic tourism

Firefly, a boost to tourism in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Air travellers, both locals and foreigners, now have more choices with the presence of Firefly in the market. Their presence will drive other airlines to offer the most competitive fares.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman when making the comment, said the increase in the number of daily flights between the nation’s capital and the state capital have made it easier for travellers to visit Sabah.

“Sabah has worked extremely hard to promote itself as a destination and to offer the best of what the island of Borneo has. There was a time when we were unable to expand our tourism sector as rapidly as we would have liked to. This was certainly attributable to the lack of flights between KL and KK.

“Air travel is after all, the only way for tourists to get to East Malaysia,” he said in his speech read by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun during the welcoming ceremony of the inaugural Firefly flight to the state capital from Kuala Lumpur at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport near here yesterday.

He said the state government’s focus on expanding the tourism sector along with the aviation industry is included under the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) plan as well as the ‘Halatuju’ or development agenda.

“We are committed to focusing our efforts to strengthen the tourism sector, as it has been identified as a growth sector of our economy.

“However, we will continue to adhere to the principles of sustainable development as we expand our tourism sector. The government is also consistently providing basic infrastructure to support the growth of the sector and testimony to this is the expansion of KKIA,” he said.

He said the launching of Firefly’s service to the state capital would certainly help fulfill the government’s agenda to stimulate economic growth through the tourism sector.

Continue reading at: Firefly, a boost to tourism in Sabah

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mulu National Park: Bats out of hell? Not quite

DEEP in the rainforests of Sarawak lies the largest limestone cave system in the world. There is no road to Gunung Mulu, but this UNESCO World Heritage Site has an air-strip. The journey by river-boat takes ages so most visitors travel by plane.

Over 250km of the caves have been explored, about 30% of the total. Deer Cave, the most impressive, has a cavern 174m high. That’s one and a half times the height of Dublin’s Millennium Spire! Caves tend to be sterile sepulchral places, but Deer Cave teems with life. Great jet-black patches cover much of the ceiling while other areas, seen through binoculars, have a whitish pock-marked surface. The black areas are gigantic concentrations of roosting bats. The pock-marks are swiftlet nests.

There are thought to be three million bats in the cavern. Nine species have been identified, each one staying in its own area to roost and breed. Bats are nocturnal, but the place is a hive of activity 24 hours a day. The swiftlets take the day shift, flying out to the rainforest in search of insects for their hungry youngsters. They navigate within the great cave by emitting loud clicking sounds and listening for their echoes from the rock faces. The bats, of course, have developed much more sophisticated sonar, but their clicks are too high pitched for us humans to hear.

Darkness falls quickly in the tropics and, as dusk approaches the swiftlets come home for the night. As soon as the birds are tucked up in bed the bat exodus starts. Their departure is a hit-and-miss affair. Bats know that few insects will be on the wing when it’s raining so they don’t venture out in wet weather. It’s the rainy season right now in Borneo. There are frequent thunderstorms and a deluge can burst forth without warning. !As a result, I was not rewarded with the great bat spectacle until my third nightly vigil at the mouth of the cavern.

Not that I’m complaining; the trek back through the dark wet jungle was an unforgettable experience. Insects, especially cicadas, produce the most extraordinary sounds, rivalled only by those of the frogs, while nocturnal birds provide an eyrie accompaniment.

Unlike the swiftlets, where every individual fends for him or herself, the bats stream into the fading light in huge formations. This may be a defence against predators; bat-hawks wait on cliff ledges outside the cave or wheel overhead, hoping for an easy meal.

Continue reading at: Mulu National Park: Bats out of hell? Not quite

Sabah prepared to bring home displaced orang utan

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia is prepared to assist any non-governmental organisations rehabilitate the orang utan in their native environment in Sabah.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said the Government wanted to assist in the rescue and rehabilitation of displaced orang utan currently placed in zoos in Europe and United Kingdom.

He gave an example of an obese orang utan, Oshine, rescued from a private owner and currently being rehabilitated by Monkey World in Dorset United Kingdom.

Until it arrived in Monkey World, the orang utan had never seen another orang utan, Dompok said during a dialogue with Sabah NGOs regarding plantation issues.

“I told them (NGOs) this is one thing (rescuing orang utan) that they may want to do. The Government will give assistance to help them get back the displaced apes,” he said.

Dompok said there was no reason for the orang utan to suffer in the cold north European climate as there was ample space in Sabah’s forests.

Weighing about 100kg, the 13-year-old Oshine was raised by a South African couple who fed him marshmallows and other sweets.

Continue reading at: Sabah prepared to bring home displaced orang utan

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Borneo, City Pleasures and Jungle Adventure

A SNOW-WHITE fortress in the style of the English Renaissance, garnished with crenellations, pepper pot turrets and an octagonal keep, is not quite what you'd expect to find on a steamy bluff overlooking an equatorial river in Malaysian Borneo. But Fort Margherita, built in 1879 by Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak, is just one of the many charms of Kuching, a gracious and kaleidoscopically diverse city of about 600,000 just an hour and a half by air from Singapore.

An amble through its safe, eminently walkable streets will reveal dragon-festooned Chinese temples a few blocks from a 19th-century South Indian mosque; fortresses from the time of the White Rajahs (English rulers of the Kingdom of Sarawak from 1841 to 1941) a short walk from a high-rise district of hotels and icily air-conditioned shopping malls; and chic restaurants that would not be out of place in London a few streets away from open-air stalls redolent with half-a-dozen Asian cuisines.

The most extraordinary attractions in the Kuching area, however, are natural. Drive an hour or two out of town and you come to tracts of some of the most ancient and species-rich rain forests on earth. In less than a week, you can plunge into an exotic world of primeval flora and endangered fauna, visit -- or live with -- a local tribe, and still have time for urban pursuits -- i.e. eating and shopping. In addition, many Sarawakians converse comfortably in English, making travel a breeze.

I first discovered the sundry delights of Kuching, which is the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak (pronounced sah-RAH-wok) several years ago. My soon-to-be wife, Rachel, was living in Singapore and we decided to escape it for a few days and explore some of Malaysia's other half. In less than a day I was entranced and decided to return at some point -- with a note pad.

When I went with Rachel, we stayed in the center of town, but for this visit I chose a guesthouse a bit off the beaten path. Kuching has several international-standard business hotels, but this place came with a good recommendation, and the fact that the co-owner of the Fairview Guesthouse, Eric Yap, a retired civil servant, offered to show me around was a bonus, especially since many of the places I wanted to go are not accessible by public transport. My game plan was to head to nearby national parks in the morning and explore the city later in the day.

One of my top priorities was to pay another visit to Asia's only great ape, the orangutan, which is endemic to Borneo and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Early one morning, after a quick breakfast, Eric and I got into his late-model Honda and drove 20 minutes south from Kuching to the Semenggoh Nature Reserve, whose wildlife center was established 35 years ago to rehabilitate jungle animals rescued from captivity. The 2.5-square-mile area is now one of the best places in the world to see orangutans up close and on the loose.

So far, we were told, 5 of the center's 27 orangutans -- 16 of them born here -- have kicked the habit of dining at park headquarters, but the other 22 often swing by (literally) to partake of the banana manna set out each day. We had been forewarned, however, that there was no guarantee that any of the orangutans -- the world's largest tree-dwelling animals -- would show up.

"Yaaay-ooh!" the park ranger yelled, the second tone lower than the first, as he scanned the forest canopy, "yaaay-oh!" The energetic rustle of leaves in a distant tree was the first indication that an orangutan was approaching. "If a big male is coming, keep distance. He is unpredictable," the ranger warned, adding nonchalantly, "he might attack, he might not." But it was a smallish young ape making his way toward us, clambering from one tree to another, grabbing onto vines and branches with gravity-defying agility.

At one point, we -- along with dozens of other visitors -- could see five shaggy orangutans clutching trunks, branches and vines with arms that can reach six feet or more. A female orangutan with a baby clinging to the long hairs of her torso descended warily to a stash of bright yellow bananas, stuffed as many as she could in her mouth, grabbed a green coconut in one hand and scrambled up a rope. Soon the last of the climbers disappeared back into the canopy, and Eric and I continued on.

We headed farther south, through a patchwork of dense secondary forests, open fields, houses and small orchards. For tens of millions of years -- until logging companies arrived in the late 20th century -- Sarawak's dense rain forests remained unchanged, but today only patches of completely untouched jungle remain.

Our destination was Annah Rais, a Bidayuh village whose residents -- or most of them -- live in longhouses, a collaborative habitation that serves as a home for the entire community. (The Bidayuh are one of the Bornean indigenous groups known collectively as Dayaks.) In a longhouse, each family retains a high degree of economic autonomy (this is not a kibbutz) but common areas are in constant use for cooking, traditional crafts, socializing and celebrations. If you were making a Dayak version of "Seinfeld," you'd set it in a longhouse.

Continue reading at: In Borneo, City Pleasures and Jungle Adventure

Clouded leopards in Borneo a unique subspecies

KOTA KINABALU: Using genetic and morphological analyses, an international team of researchers led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin (IZW), in cooperation with the Sabah Wildlife Department recently demonstrated that the Bornean clouded leopards need to be classified as a unique subspecies (Neofelis diardi borneensis), distinct from its relatives in Sumatra.

In 2006 clouded leopards have drawn international attention, when scientists found that the clouded leopard actually comprises two species living with distinct distributions.

Clouded leopards from Borneo and Sumatra are genetically and morphologically distinct from their relatives on the mainland (Neofelis nebulosa) and thus form a separate species, the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi).

Following up on these findings, a team of researchers led by Andreas Wilting of the IZW investigated in more detail the differences between the spatially distinct populations of the Sunda clouded leopard on Borneo and Sumatra.

Wilting explains: “Due to the long isolation of Sumatran and Bornean clouded leopards we suspect both populations to be different in their genetic and morphological characters and this proves to be true and based on the observed significant distinct characteristics, the researchers have now formally described two subspecies of the Sunda clouded leopard,one occurring exclusively in Sumatra, the other being endemic to Borneo.”

The Sunda clouded leopard is the largest carnivore on Borneo and it was only last year that the first film of a wild Sunda clouded leopard taken in Deramakot Forests Reserve, in Sabah, was released by the IZW, SWD and the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD). This new finding separating Bornean and Sumatran clouded leopards adds another dimension to this discovery as it highlights that Sunda clouded leopards in Bornean forests are unique.

“Their distinctiveness makes them one of the highest priority populations for conservation and ratchets up the need for conservation actions.” said state wildlife director Dr Laurentius Ambu.

Continue reading at: Clouded leopards in Borneo a unique subspecies

Annual Dragon, Unicorn and Lion Dance Festival boosts Sabah tourism

Kota Kinabalu: The annual Dragon, Unicorn and Lion Dance Festival not only helps to promote Chinese culture but also to diversify the State's tourism products, especially during the Chinese New Year holidays.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said city dwellers and visitors to the City certainly feel the Chinese New Year celebration mood with many activities being held at Gaya Street adding to the festivity.

Towards this end, he hoped something more unique and different could be exposed in future celebrations in order to attract more tourists.

"Importantly, cultural activities such as this must get more involvement from the youths to make sure we get continuity of this programme for the future," he said, when declaring open the festival at Padang Merdeka, Saturday.

The text of speech was delivered by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Peter Pang. He said youths of today lacked exposure to their own culture and if allowed to persist, would definitely lead to the extinction of local culture.

"Therefore, let us work together to ensure a programme such as this will continue to be strengthened to assure a harmonious living with our culture as the backbone," he said. Musa commended the organiser, Persatuan Masyarakat Cina Bersekutu Sabah, for the commitment and hard work.

"I hope such noble effort will continue in the years to come and directly showcase the 1Malaysia concept that has become so intertwined with the lives of the multi-ethnic and religion people in the State," he said.

He also urged cooperation from all to work towards protecting this uniqueness so that it continues to be Sabah's pillar of strength to foster unity and harmony.

Continue reading at: Annual Dragon, Unicorn and Lion Dance Festival boosts Sabah tourism

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Marine attractions of Manukan Island

The entrance welcomes visitors to Manukan Island

Manukan Island, always popular with tourists

Wooden chalets on the island

Starfish found in the island

A tourist playing with the fishes

A yacht docking at Jesselton

Bombs and shells on display at WWII memorial at Manukan Island

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to AK and Brunei Press Sdn Bhd.


Kota Kinabalu, formerly known as Jesselton, is the city capital of Sabah. A popular tourist's getaway and a major gateway into Sabah and Asia, it boasts an admirable collection of beautiful islands.

Charming and alluring Manukan Island or Pulau Manukan is one of the more famous ones. A 20-minute boat ride from Jesselton Point, it is the more popular islands in Sabah due to the attraction of its white sandy beaches and rich hued waters teeming with marine life. The abundance of corals and availability of water sports makes this a premiere destination for island hopping in Sabah.

Manukan Island is part of the chain of islands that makes up Tunku Abdul Rahman Park in Sabah, Malaysia. The boat ride would costs around RM20 - 35 and can accommodate 10 people, so if you're in a group that's less than the quorum, be prepared to wait a while until 10 people sign up.

The boat that takes you to the island is a modern speed boat and it easily navigates through the clear waters towards the island of your choice. The boat have a mixture of travellers from all over the world and the early morning skies are perfect when headed towards Pulau Manukan.

Snorkels can be rented from the boat operator at around RM15. The boats that are allowed to dock at Pulau Manukan have to be registered with Sabah Parks and are required to meet safety requirements, eg, life jackets must be worn during the journey.

The waterfront of Kota Kinabalu zips by as the boat departs and there is a constant wind from the speed of the boat blowing at you. The boat occasionally runs into waves so splashes of water into the boat are pretty common.

The lush green island soon comes into view as the boat slows down to dock at the Pulau Manukan Island. The natural beauty of the island is apparent - calm, green waters with a diverse amount of fishes swimming around and white, sandy beaches at the fringe with deep green lush trees lining the island.

The rich marine life on Manukan Island is apparent as we disembarked from the boat - the high tide submerges the lower part of the jetty and people can be seen feeding the fishes with pieces of bread.

The island is a protected zone so no fishing or harming of the marine life is permitted. This allows the fish to breed in abundance and they're quite friendly and unafraid of human contact.

Pulau Manukan has chalets for overnight stays but most people come here just to relax and enjoy the natural offerings of the island on a day trip. The red buoys bobbing around the perimeter extending 100 metres out from the beach are designated swimming areas.

There is a lot of boat traffic outside that demarcation and the speed boats carrying island visitors frequently passes very close to the line so it is a good idea to keep inside the perimeter. The Manukan Island pier is a wooden catwalk hovering over the vibrant green waters and the natural tranquility of the island is palpable as you walk towards the beach.

There is a "Welcome to Pulau Manukan" sign at the end of the pier and a RM3 conservation fee is to be paid at the booth before entry to the beach is permitted.

The chalets nest in lush greenery greet you as you first step on the beach. The polished wooden chalets look perfectly in place on the island, due to the matching theme and decor of the architecture.

There are lifeguard posts located at the beach should the need arise and in case of emergency. If you try snorkelling, one can see many different multi-coloured fishes, taking bites out of pieces of bread, occasionally nipping at your fingers. Sea cucumbers of all sizes lining the seabed and starfishes and corals of mind-boggling variety and complexity intensify the whole experience. The scenic islands surrounding Manukan Island are easily visible from the shore and saying that the island is beautiful is simply a big understatement.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Friday, January 21, 2011

Places of Interest in Sabah: Dinawan Island, Kinarut

Surrounded by the serene waters of South China Sea, Dinawan Island is reachable via speedboat from the Marina Sutera jetty in approximately 25 minutes.

This premier island resort is built on a lustrous tropical rainforest in the midst of clear, blue sea with warm and gentle blowing sea breeze. It is built with minimum disturbance to the natural surroundings - an excellent place to engulf oneself in tranquil island atmosphere.

A stay in the resort will give visitors a taste of untainted nature at its divine best! Be thrilled by the sights and sounds of squawking hornbills flying free in the rainforests, and enjoy a breathtaking view of the majestic Mount Kinabalu in the morning.

Guests can entertain themselves with a myriad of exciting activities such as snorkeling, sea walking, scuba diving, and other water sports. Other available activities include day and night fishing, a game of pool, and a game of mahjong. Guests can also enhance their zen experience by getting a traditional massage.

Source: Sabah Tourism

NOTE: Photo Copyright to Sabah Tourism

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tune Hotels woos travel agents and govt bodies in Malaysia Borneo

KUCHING: One of the country’s fastest growing chain of hotels, Tune Hotels Regional Services Sdn Bhd (Tune Hotels) is foraying ahead with a two pronged marketing strategy that focuses on travel agents and government bodies.

Tune Hotels’ distribution channel manager Ahmad Masdi Hussin said that the new marketing plan for the two channels were already in the pipeline earlier but had not been aggressively introduced. “We have massive marketing plans for 2011 and will continue to implement them throughout the year. After Sarawak, we porceed with our plans in Sabah, followed by the northern Peninsular, Penang and down to Johor.”

“We have all the facilities and infrastructure in place whereby the basic amenities are included in the pakage, however the extra amenities such as air-conditioning, towels and internet connections will be on a pay on use basis.

“About 90 per cent of our current business is from online bookings and we hope that with the emphasis on the two new channels we will get a booking ratio of 80:20 from online as well as travel agents and government bookings respectively,” he told The Borneo Post.

During a recent interview with Tune Hotels’ chief executive officer Mark Lankester, he revealed that the company was aiming for a larger presence in Sarawak as well as throughout the country, targeting a total of 30 hotels in Malaysia and Southeast Asia by the end of 2011 or early 2012.

Lankester further pointed out that in Sarawak itself, the company had already identified the towns to foray into and was now pinpointing the exact locations in these towns for a Tune Hotels presence. He also mentioned that the construction of the new property in Miri would start early this year and was scheduled for launch in the second half of the year.

Currently, the company has nine operating properties in the country with the latest one in Bintulu and Kota Bharu, which was set to launch this Sunday, January 23. Internationally, it has two hotels in Indonesia and one in London.

Tune Hotels regional manager for East Malaysia, Shanmugamnathan Suppiah said Tune Hotels planned to have 100 hotels operational, under development or acquired in three years time. With the current 11 hotels, Tune Hotels would have an inventory of 1,780 rooms daily for bookings.

“In East Malaysia, there are three Tune Hotels based in Kuching, Bintulu and Kota Kinabalu, with a total of 401 rooms. Next, we are looking at Miri, Sibu, Tanjung Manis and Mukah for Sarawak and Sandakan, Tawau and Labuan for Sabah,” he said at a media briefing yesterday.

When asked on the possibility of setting up another Tune Hotels property in Kuching, he said it was all based on demand. “Currently, Tune Hotel Kuching is doing great at an occupancy rate of 85 per cent and above. We will initiate our marketing plan and see how it goes in the near term.”

Continue reading at: Tune Hotels woos travel agents and govt bodies

Kota Batu archaeological site tells of Brunei's advanced civilisation

By James Kon

The findings from the archaeological site of Kota Batu have revealed that the country had a higher and advanced civilisation that used stones to construct buildings.

The historical site has educational value for the younger generation to learn about the country's advanced civilisation and also has commercial value in attracting tourists.

Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Awang Haji Hazair bin Hj Abdullah, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, yesterday said this during a working visit to assess Kota Batu's archaeological site as it will be open to the public and tourists in the near future.

The minister spoke to the media during the presentation on the Kota Batu archaeological site by saying, "From the findings, we know that our ancient civilisation was able to construct buildings with stones. It shows that they belonged to an advanced civilisation."

"The site," he said, "will have a huge educational value for the younger generation to learn about the old civilisation and also has commercial value in drawing tourists once it's officially open for visitors."

The significance of the Kota Batu archaeological site was highlighted by Pengiran Dr Karim bin Pengiran Hj Osman, Acting Director of Brunei Museums in his presentation.

The acting director said, "The Kota Batu archaeological site situated near the Brunei Museum is an important site for the country because of its historical and archaeological value since the 14th century. The area also has an attractive natural environment and it's located close to the three major museums of the country.

"The 120-acre Kota Batu archaeological site is spread from the jetty of Brunei River to Kota Batu hill. The area is gazetted under the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Act Amendment 2001."

The acting director described the significant historical value of Kota Batu by saying, "Kota Batu was the capital of old Brunei in the 14th to 17th century. It is believed that Kota Batu was open for trade during the reign of the first Sultan of Brunei who was the late Sultan Mohammad Shah (1360-1402). During the reign of Sultan Sharif Ali, a castle and a mosque were built with stones. While in the reign of fifth Sultan of Brunei, who was Sultan Bolkiah (1485-1524), the kingdom was at its peak whereby the area under Brunei comprised Borneo Island as well as south of Philippines.

"In the reign of Sultan Saiful Rizal (1533-1581), Brunei's seventh sultan, the late sultan ordered the start of coin smithing in Kota Batu. While under Sultan Shah, Brunei started its own factory to make cannons," he said.

Kota Batu also played a role as the centre of trade within and outside the country during ancient time. According to a Spanish report in the 16th century, the cosmopolitan capital had people from various races including from China, Siam, Cambodia, Indo-China, Philippines, Patani, Pahang, Jawa, Sumatra, Aceh, Muluku, Sulawesi and also Mindanao.

Pigafetta recorded that Brunei was a peaceful and prosperous country. The capital was big and had as many as 25,000 people. The royal palace was on land and very luxuriously decorated with silver, gold and precious stones.

He revealed that Kota Batu also experienced many good and bad times. Among them was the war against Spaniard intruders at the end of the 16th century when Pengiran Bendahara Sakam led a group of fighters to defeat the intruders in the Castille War in 1578.

Kota Batu also saw a civil war between Sultan Abd Mubin and Sultan Muhyiddin which lasted for 12 years that brought its downfall. It moved to Tumasik and then to the Water Village that stands now.

Pengiran Dr Karim also said, "The first excavation done in Kota Batu was in 1951/1952. The excavation was led by Tom Harrison on 417 plots that unearthed various artefacts and building structures. The success of the excavation encouraged the establishment of the Museums Department in 1965."

Under the eighth National Development Plan, $500,000 was used in Phase I to build pathway, bridges and information centre, as well as car park. A total of $11,963.17 was used for topo survey and soil investigation and $30,000 to bring in an expert consultant from Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Phase II, which has a budget of $2 million from the ninth National Development Plan, will see the construction of a pathway connecting to the old pathway, the construction of huts along the pathway, building of causeway, as well as a bridge connecting Pulau Terindak. The budget will also be used for the reconstruction of KBI, hut for KBII and also shelter for the old gravesite.

Pengiran Dr Karim also mentioned about building a site office, safety shelter, drainage system, signboard, zebra crossing, monorail, more walkways and others under the allocation in the 10th National Development Plan.

The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports also toured part of the Kota Batu archaeological site and made a number of suggestions for the pathway and walkway. He also advised the officials to make sure that the archaeological site will not sustain any damages from the influx of visitors when the site is open for visitors.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kaamatan focus on forgotten dances this time

Kota Kinabalu: The State-level Kaamatan Committee will showcase to the people never-seen-before cultural items, if any, during the Harvest Festival on May 30-31 at the Hongkod Koisaan Hall.

Its Chairman, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, who is also Deputy Chief Minister cum Infrastructure Development Minister, said he has given instructions that if there were cultural dances of the Kadazandusun and Murut (KDMs) community that have never been seen before these should be showcased during the Kaamatan.

Cultural items also include old songs that have artistic value, he said.

"So, if we discover this, we will showcase it to the people," he told reporters after chairing the Kaamatan Committee meeting on Tuesday.

On other developments, he said Tuaran would be hosting the State-level Kaamatan Festival this year.

He said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman would be launching the Kaamatan at Dewan Tun Hamdan in Tamparuli on May 1.

Following that, he said the various districts would be celebrating the Kaamatan on different dates.

Klang Valley, Beluran, Telupid, Paitan and Semporna would be celebrating it on May 7 while Kudat on May 10 and Matunggong and Tongod on May 12. The Kaamatan Carnival in Kota Kinabalu would be held from May 11-13.

Pagalungan would celebrate the Kaamatan on May 13 while Beaufort would celebrate it at the same time the Pesta Bengkoka is held from May 13-15.

Pairin said Penampang, Lahad Datu, Putatan and Kemabong would be celebrating the Kaamatan on May 14 while Sook, Tenom, Kota Belud and Membakut on May 15 and Banggi on May 18.

Tambunan, Ranau, Kunak and Kota Marudu would be having their Kaamatan on May 21 while Kuala Penyu, Menumbok and Keningau on May 22 and Sipitang on May 25.

Continue reading at: Kaamatan focus on forgotten dances this time

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do we really need an orang utan reserve in West Malaysia?

How far will having another orang utan sanctuary, this time in the Klang Valley, go in saving the endangered species?

IT IS yet another case of the tom yam syndrome: “Orang utan sanctuaries in Sepilok, Sabah, and Semenggoh, Sarawak, have done very well in drawing the crowds. Hey, let’s do the same over in Peninsular Malaysia. Let’s set up an orang utan sanctuary right in the Klang Valley, so tourists need not travel all the way to Sabah and Sarawak to view the rare red apes. Never mind that there is already such an orang utan park at Bukit Merah Laketown Resort near Taiping, Perak. And never mind that the primate died out in the peninsula thousands of years ago. The Klang Valley wants its very own orang utan sanctuary.”

But leading orang utan scientists in the country and conservation groups are not at all happy with the idea. The plan is ill-conceived and lacks ecological reasoning, they argue.

Numerous questions have been raised: Why would we need another orang utan park when there is already the Orang Utan Island at Bukit Merah? Can the orang utans survive in peninsular forests? Won’t it drain already limited resources? Will this sanctuary serve any conservation purpose or is it merely a tourism product? Will wild orang utans have to be translocated from Sabah or Sarawak?

Talk about the sanctuary surfaced a year ago, when Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Mamit said the Prime Minister had mooted the idea and the park would be set up within the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur. But FRIM officials denied such a plan.

All was quiet until late last year, when news reports quoting Mamit said that the sanctuary will be in either the Kanching or Ulu Gombak forest reserves in Selangor. The proposal remains sketchy and no information has been forthcoming from the ministry.

Scientists are sceptical and wary of the plan.

Dr Benoit Goossens who has worked on orang utans for 13 years in the area of population genetics and conservation, describes the idea of releasing orang utans into the wilds of Peninsular Malaysia as “totally irresponsible”.

“You’re transferring them to an environment where they disappeared from thousands of years ago. They’re adapted to Borneon and Sumatran forests and would not be able to cope in Peninsular Malaysia forests where there are different parasites and diseases,” says the adviser to Sabah Wildlife Department and director of Danau Girang Field Centre in Kinabatangan.

“We have reintroduced species into the wild but this was for species which disappeared decades, not thousands, of years ago. I guarantee that it will be a failure. You will be sending orang utans to their deaths. We don’t even know which species occurred in the peninsula in the past. So releasing them into the wild is scientifically irresponsible,” he says.

Studies on what food is available in the forest for the orang utan and potential threats to their survival must be done prior to any releases, he adds.

He also does not support the idea of an orang utan sanctuary for tourists as it would duplicate existing facilities. “I don’t see the point of putting orang utans in yet another semi-captive environment in Peninsular Malaysia. There are already captive orang utans in zoos.”

Like many others, he believes money will be better spent if used to protect wild orang utans in Sabah and Sarawak rather than by setting up a sanctuary in the peninsula. “There is no conservation role in such parks. If you want to give a conservation message, then people should be encouraged to go to Borneo or Sumatra to see orang utans in their natural habitat.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Do we really need an orang utan reserve in West Malaysia?

2011 IWWF Sarawak Wakeboard World Cup will likely boost state sports tourism

KUCHING: The 2011 IWWF Sarawak Wakeboard World Cup to be held here on September 16 to 18 will put Sarawak on the world map as a sports tourism destination.

Expected viewing by 500 million people worldwide by live telecast and a special edited programme, the event will be aired in 92countries throughout the whole three days.

“This is going to be a large event as it combines the annual Sarawak regatta as well as in the birthday celebration of the TYT Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak,” said assistant tourism minister, Datuk Talib Zulpilip yesterday.

He also said that the organisers, the International Waterski and Waterboard Federation (IWWF) have checked the Sarawak river and is amazed at the infrastructure as well as the cleanliness of the river.

“This is a major ideal tourism event that brings water sports to Kuching and Sarawak. Capturing international headlines is always an elusive challenge for Tourist Boards around the world,” he said during a lunch at a local hotel recently to announce the successful bid.

“Hosting a World Cup Stop is a clever solution. The reason for this is simply high level media coverage which will firmly put Kuching on the world’s water skiing and wakeboarding map,” he added.

This World Cup Series brings with it a highly valuable TV, Internet and Press package. Two different edited TV products are distributed to over 600 million viewers in all key tourism markets.

A live Webcast will also be implemented for the three days of the event and this will greatly help to highlight Sarawak’s unique features for affluent audiences overseas.

Specialised media releases will also be directed at over 16,000 key contacts in 92 countries before, during and after the event.

He also said that the good infrastructure (waterfront) added the final touch to the decision of the International Waterski and Waterboard Federation (IWWF) to host the event here taking over from Putrajaya who have been hosts twice where the last was in 2010 seeing 14 to 15 teams in the fray.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: 2011 IWWF Sarawak Wakeboard World Cup will likely boost state sports tourism

Monday, January 17, 2011

KK-Perth route MAS’ second international destination for Eastern Hub

KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysia Airlines (MAS) inaugural Perth-Kota Kinabalu touched down at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) yesterday, carrying the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun and 155 other passengers on the airline’s new 160-seater Boeing 737-800.

The Kota Kinabalu-Perth route is MAS’s second international destination after its Eastern Hub was announced last October.

Masidi said the launch of the inaugural flight was an important milestone in effort to promote the country, especially Sabah.

He further said the route would provide an additional facility to the large number of Sabahans residing in Perth.

“Apart from students, there are quite a number of Sabahans or ex-Sabahans residing in Perth, as many

as 20,000. There are many Malaysians who have put up their second home in Perth,” Masidi said, while adding that he did not have the number of Sabahan students in Perth.

In the press conference, he lauded MAS for accepting the his ministry’s request to introduce the Kota Kinabalu-Perth flight. Masidi also urged Sabahans to work hard in sustaining the Kota Kinabalu-Perth flight.

“Eventually MAS makes commercial decisions, we must have sufficient load to justify the flight.”

Masidi further complimented the experience the new aircraft brings to passengers, saying that the economy class enjoyed better seats as well as their own television terminal.

On introducing new destinations, MAS chairman Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid said the airline would currently focus on improving its existing routes.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: KK-Perth route MAS’ second international destination for Eastern Hub

MAS Introduces MHdeals For Customers In Sabah

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) in Sabah has introduced MHdeals Destination Sabah, an augmented reality application, which enables customers to use their iPhones to book value flights.

The application will position airports around users and display the best deals from each of them, MAS said in a statement Monday.

"Malaysia Airlines is the first airline to use augmented reality commercially as a new channel for ticket sales.

"MHDeals Destination Sabah is a fun, entertaining and unique way to discover Malaysia Airlines' great deals and Sabah's attractive destinations," Executive Vice President Commercial Strategy Dr Amin Khan was quoted as saying in the statement.

The application is a collaboration effort between Malaysia Airlines, Sabah Tourism Board and SITA Lab.

Continue reading at: MAS Introduces MHdeals For Customers In Sabah

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Memorable visit to Tuaran Crocodile Farm

Visitors near the main signboard

A crocodile performance

A man is seen performing a trick with the crocodile

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to Said AR and Brunei Press Sdn Bhd.

By Said AR

The Tuaran Crocodile Farm is located at Jalan Sulaman, Kampong Lok Bukit, in Tuaran, Sabah. The crocodile farm has attracted many tourists from locals with Malaysia and even, foreigners.

The farm is open to visitors from 8.30am to 5.30pm daily.

One inside, visitors would be able to experience the ethnic lifestyle staying in a longhouse made entirely from bamboo and then, amazed with the welcoming dance performance from the Kadazandusun ethnic group in Sabah.

Visitors flocking to the farm with their families would have the chance to see up close performances and tricks from the crocodiles, then visit the nearby longhouse to enjoy the dance performances. They even allowed visitors to snap pictures as a memoir.

Throughout the visit, the welcoming atmosphere from the staff to the dancers impressed the writer and this made him to wanting to return to re-visit the Tuaran Crocodile Farm in the near fututre.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday