Monday, April 30, 2012

Tourism to contribute to Sarawak's GDP over next five years

KUCHING:  The state can expect higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution from the tourism industry over the next five years, said Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

The acquisition of majority shares in MASwings, which is currently under negotiation, would contribute significantly to the industry following plans to increase air connectivity to East Asian countries.

The emerging of new economic force of India and China is expected to push the region’s tourism sector into new heights.

“East Asian countries such as Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong and India have proven to yield strong numbers of tourists. The strong economy of China and India will produce new middle class citizens with financial muscle to spend. This included spending on overseas travels, which will enhance tourism of new emerging markets such as the state.

“Having our own airline and with our own promotion, MASwings will become a bridge for foreign visitors to both the states of Sabah and Sarawak,” Abang Johari, who is also Housing Minister, told a press conference at his residence at Petra Jaya near here yesterday.

Also present was Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip.

He explained that tourism sectors in this region could provide fierce competition to European countries that will see an increase in travel cost due to its Carbon Emission Tax.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sarawak and Sabah hope for shares in MASwings

KUCHING: The federal government will conduct a study to restructure MASwings, a fully owned subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, to enable Sarawak and Sabah to have equity ownership of the company.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who announced this at the ‘Jelajah Janji Ditepati’ carnival yesterday said the restructuring of MASwings would enable the two East Malaysian states to own a stake in the airline.

“The government understands that increasing air connectivity is important for the economic development of both states. The review for both state governments to own a part of the airline will be a priority,” he said when officiating at the carnival held at Wisma Bapa Malaysia.

Also present were Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and other state dignitaries among thousands of visitors.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg assured last November the state would take up matters with the relevant authorities to develop MASwings as a regional airline to service Sabah and Sarawak.

Air connectivity is a critical factor in pushing up visitor numbers in the state.

“In this context, I believe MASwings can be developed as a regional airline that service Sarawak-Sabah, covering the BIMP-EAGA area and by extension to four important hub of Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Bali,” he said in his speech at the ‘2009/2010 Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Award’ gala night.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Eye to eye with Borneo's orangutans

A trip to Borneo's Tanjung Puting National Park affords close-up views of an ape that shares 97 percent of our DNA.

The swampy heat swaddles everything like a wet diaper. The coffee-colored Sekonyer River looks tempting to cool off in, but then there are the crocodiles and the water snakes. Somewhere out there, too, are rumors of headhunters -- and not the business kind.

Instead, my family and I decide to kick back and let the orangutans in Borneo's Tanjung Puting National Park come to us.

The park is one of the world's best places to see the endangered orangutan in the wild. With South Asia's tropical forests rapidly disappearing, particularly in Borneo, it's also one of the only places where you can still see the great apes in their natural habitat.

To reach the park, we fly to Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province from Jakarta, then take an old African Queen-style wooden boat from the port of Kumai on the Java Sea. We plop ourselves in deck chairs as the boat slowly putt-putts away from Kumai's fishing shacks, cargo sheds and bright blue mosque and finally enters a channel leading to the jungle. Here, an unexpected billboard featuring a large picture of a big-eyed orangutan announces the park's entrance.

Other than in the picture, though, the orangutans are initially hard to spot. Although the rain forest presses close on both sides of the boat, the apes stay hidden.

Our guide helpfully instructs us to look for swaying branches up in the canopy and for nests made of sticks: This is because orangutans are tree-dwellers, in fact the world's largest tree-dwelling mammals.

We learn to look in front of the boat, rather than to the side, and soon we spot moms with babies firmly attached swinging from tree branch to tree branch or munching contentedly on fruit. At ground level, I see solitary males, with their telltale large, leathery cheek pads, along the reedy banks.

Farther along, less shy orangutans watch the boat from branches close to the shore. Our guide calls to the animals, whistling and making kissing sounds. The orangutans remain silent but cautiously swing closer to the boat. A few venture to waterside branches, but the park discourages visitors from getting too close, for safety (the 250- to 300-pound males can be dangerously unpredictable) and health reasons.

I tentatively hold out a banana to one mom and suddenly feel an easy kinship with the great ape. Not surprising, since they share 97 percent of our DNA. Our guide tells us that the word "orangutan" derives from a Malay word meaning "forest man."

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Eye to eye with Borneo's orangutans

Friday, April 27, 2012

Adventure-tourism launch in Kiulu

TAMPARULI: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun wants industry players in Sabah to be creative and introduce new products to lure more tourists to the state.

Stating that it would help put Sabah in the world map, he said that tourists would think it as value for money as there are a lot of programmes that they can do in the state.

Giving an example, he said the newly launched Zip Borneo, an adventure-tourism product in Kiulu here, could not only let tourists try out 320 metres of ziplines or flying foxes, which is considered to be the longest in the state, but one could also enjoy nature at its best as Kiulu is known to have the most beautiful river in the country.

“This is a creative product for those who want something different. This is the kind of creativity we want from tourism players; come up with something that may not have been offered before.

“I am always proud to tell people that if you ever want to find the most beautiful state or city in Malaysia, I think Sabah is really, undisputedly, be the number one. With that in mind, there are so much potential and variety of products we can create in the state; our rich flora and fauna, the people, the sea … it is a huge potential to exploit,” he said.

On another development, Masidi said the locals should also take the initiative to show their capabilities and abilities, and play their part in developing the tourism industry.

“For the tourism industry to sustain, I think there should be active participation from the locals, whether to be workers or suppliers of certain materials needed.

“But it is not just the investors or developers that should be looking for locals or incorporating them into the system, but the people themselves should take the initiative to come forward and show what they have to offer,” he said after the official launch of Zip Borneo.

Masidi added that the locals should stop expecting opportunities to come at their doorsteps, but instead work equally hard to play their part in the industry.

Meanwhile, Ability Expeditions Sdn Bhd (AE) managing director David G S Powell said Zip Borneo comprises the flying foxes, an 18-metre challenge tower that incorporates a huge abseil, climbing wall and a high ropes challenge course.

“It will provide a safe and memorable adventure experience to a wide range of Sabahans and tourists alike. We, along with our long standing partners here at the Adventure Centre – Riverbug, believe that Kiulu and surrounding areas should develop into a regionally famous adventure tourism location,” he said.

Continue reading at: Adventure-tourism launch in Kiulu

Annual Padawan Raft Safari back July 8

KUCHING: The annual Padawan Raft Safari is back, this time taking place on July 8 (Sunday) along Semadang River.

The starting points are Kpg Annah Rais (7am) for kayaking and rafting – expert, Kpg Temurang (8am) for rafting – men and Kpg Danu (9am) for rafting – women, rafting – government agencies and rafting – hotels & tour agencies.

Kpg Git will be the common finishing point for all categories.

There are five categories for rafting (expert, men, women, government agencies and hotel & tour agencies) and one open category for kayaking.

Prizes are more attractive this year, as winners will get cash prizes and trophies.

For rafting, registration fees are RM200 per team for the expert category and RM140 per team for all other categories. For kayaking, registration fee is RM60 per team.

According to Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) chairman Lo Khere Chiang, this year’s event promises to be more exciting.

“The Padawan Raft Safari is usually held in October but this year, we are holding it in July to coincide with the Rainforest World Music Festival.

“This way, we hope to attract more foreign tourists to join in the fun,” he said at press conference on Wednesday.

Continue reading at: Annual Padawan Raft Safari back July 8

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Largest Anzac turnout at Sandakan

Sandakan: The swelling number of young Australian visitors for the annual Anzac day commemoration service on April 25 is drawing cheers from city officials and tour operators alike.

At a welcome dinner at his official residence Tuesday night, Sandakan Municipal Council President, Datuk James Wong, noted the packed backyard garden and said he was pleased to know that the Anzac service is garnering more interest and the number of visitors has grown from year to year.

Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia, Miles Kupa, said there are Anzac Day services in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere but he decided to come to Sabah for it because Sabah has attracted the biggest attendance.

This year has attracted over 150 Australians - the largest ever.

"As the number of increases, I think the relationship between Australia and Sabah gets closer too," Wong said.

"But I am specially pleased that this year we have students from Western Australia including even a group from Christmas Island," Wong cited his delight and surprise, noting that Christmas Island which has a population of only about 2000, is 3,000km away from western Australia but form a part of Western Australia.

But Perth-hailed tour operator, Ryan Rowlan, a great believer in the idea that "there is no future without history" has done a lot to bring about a swelling presence of students in both Anzac Day and Sandakan Day services, by encouraging schools and teachers to take up the mantle of keeping Australian history in Sabah alive.

Besides the Christmas Island group, 10 students and three teachers representing a total of 13 schools in Western Australia were also here, said a teacher named Sue.

Datuk John Lim, owner of Sepilok Jungle Resort, who is hosting the Christmas Island group at his resort, said the beautiful Sandakan Memorial Park and the powerful story behind it has itself become an attraction for Australian students.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Largest Anzac turnout at Sandakan

Australian soldier launches book on POW experience in Sandakan

SANDAKAN: A book that relates the experiences of an Australian soldier who became a prisoner-of-war in Sandakan during the Second World War was launched here Tuesday night.

“The Boy from Bowen – Diary of Sandakan POW” was launched by the writer, Leslie Bunn Glover, himself in conjunction with a welcome dinner for Anzac Day guests at the official residence of Sandakan Municipal Council president Datuk James Wong.

Also present were the Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Miles Kupa and Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Tengku Zainal Adlin. Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand.

The book is a personal life story of Glover, who is from Queensland, Australia.

At the age of 16, he enlisted as an army cadet and joined the army militia. He graduated as a lieutenant prior to his deployment overseas to Singapore, where he was taken prisoner by the Japanese when he was 20.

He was sentenced to slave labour for the Imperial Japanese army in Sandakan and Kuching for nearly four years.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sarawak target 4 million tourists this year

KUCHING: The Tourism Ministry is optimistic that the state will achieve its target of receiving four million foreign tourists this year.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said last year 3.8 million foreign tourists visited Sarawak.

He said the confidence in achieving the target was based on the increase in the number of foreign tourist arrivals in the first two months of this year as compared with domestic tourists.

“In January, there were 227,000 foreign tourists coming into Sarawak as against 120,000 domestic travellers. In February, we received 188,000 foreigners as against 96,000 domestic tourists … meaning on average our foreign tourists is about 65 per cent of the total number of visitors,” he said.

He said this when met by reporters after presenting the Das Goldene Stadttor (Golden City Gate) awards won by the state in the Print Campaign Category at ITB Berlin Travel Show to Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud in the latter’s office at Menara Pelita in Petrajaya here yesterday.

Abang Johari, who is also Housing Minister, said he was optimistic that the trend would grow because there had been indications that Kuching, as a convention destination, was well known to those involved in conventions.

He said for this year alone there would be three international conventions to be held here and there would be more to come in the following years.

“For Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) to win the prestigious award in Berlin means that there is great potential for Sarawak to be a destination not only for European tourists but also other tourism fraternity.

“With that we have to improve our infrastructures in order to get ourselves prepared for the influx of tourists particularly from foreign countries,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak target 4 million tourists this year

Sandakan Anzac Day Dawn Service - Remembering fallen war heroes with wreaths

KOTA KINABALU: No speeches were needed. Wreaths laid in front of the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Monument were enough to tell the story.

And after a minute of silence, the sound of trumpet solo of the ‘Last Post’, a song that symbolises the end of soldiers’ lives, could be heard at the background, creating a sombre effect to the special day to commemorate those who perished during World War II.

Facing the monument were dignitaries led by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai and the High Commissioner of Australia to Malaysia, Miles Kupa, as they waited for their names to be called out to lay the wreaths.

And although the wreath laying at the memorial, erected along Jalan Tugu, here, is practised annually, one cannot help but to feel emotional, especially reminded of the sufferings endured by the fallen heroes.

Australians and New Zealanders recognise April 25 as a ceremonial occasion to reflect on the cost of war and to remember those who fought and lost their lives for their country.

Commemorative services are held at dawn, the time of the original landing, mainly at war memorials in cities and towns across both nations, as well as in Sabah.

Prior to the wreath laying here, a special run dubbed the ‘Lest We Forget’ was organised, luring some 250 participants coming from 30 contingents comprising school students, undergraduates from higher learning institutions, as well as government personnel and non-governmental organisation members.

The five-kilometre run was jointly organised by Athletics Australia and the Returned Services League of Australia, and is simultaneously held across Australia. It is designed to capture the Anzac Spirit.

In Sabah, the run reminds us of the most brutal and senseless slaughter of defenseless men in war. Over 2,400 British and Australian prisoners of war (POW) were taken from Singapore after the capitation of Singapore in 1942 to build an airstrip in Sandakan where they endured the most appalling conditions in the Japanese POW Camp at Mile 8.


Sandakan Anzac Day Dawn Service - Strong history forms bedrock of Australia, NZ defence relationship with Malaysia

SANDAKAN: Strong mutual history forms the foundation of Australia-Malaysia defence ties, which were cemented on the battlefields of the World War Two, the Malayan Emergency and the Confrontation, Australian High Commisioner to Malaysia Miles Kupa said.

“We have also served together, more recently, in far-flung places such Lebanon and East Timor under the United Nations flag.

“This strong mutual history forms the bedrock of Australia’s and New Zealand’s defence relationships with Malaysia,” he said at the Sandakan Anzac Day Dawn Service at Sandakan Memorial Park here today.

Kupa said Anzac Day was not just a commemoration of the victories or defeats of the Australian and New Zealand armed forces at war.

“We come to remember that individuals, ordinary men and women, Australians, Malaysians, British, New Zealand (people) and many more, were prepared to make personal sacrifices, for the freedom and quality of life that we enjoy today.

“In particular, we must also acknowledge the bravery and selflessness, and the suffering, of the local Sandakan population during the occupation of Sabah in World War II,” he added.


Sibu to host this year’s state-level Gawai Dayak celebration

SIBU: Sibu will host this year’s state-level Gawai Dayak celebration with Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) coordinating.

A dinner would be held on May 26 at Kingwood Hotel here at 7pm, organising chairman Chambai Lindong said.

“Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, SDNU president Tan Sri William Mawan and his deputy Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi are expected to be present.

“The theme this year is ‘Segulai, Sejalai, Sepenemu’ (United, one direction, one vision),” Chambai said after chairing a meeting of the organising committee on Sunday.

He said the function was to be held in collaboration with Sarakup Indu Dayak Sarawak and Orang Ulu National Union.

Among the activities are presentation of incentives to Dayak students, ‘pua kumbu’ exhibition and the highlight of the event, the ‘Kumang’ (female) and ‘Keling’ (male) beauty contests.

“There is also a ‘Ngeradak Ai Pengayu’ (toast to the New Year for Dayak community) ceremony besides cultural and singing performances.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Labuan tourism - Time to let it shine

IT HAS been almost three decades since Labuan was declared a Federal Territory, but the tourism potential of the island located off the northwest coast of Borneo has remained largely untapped.

However, things are set to change with Labuan being included in the Economic Transformation Programme for its oil and gas sector and the Labuan Corporation’s plan to form a committee called “Invest Labuan”.

This is to further boost Labuan’s status as a duty-free destination.

Already an International Offshore Financial Centre (IOFC), tourism is set to add another facet to the island’s economy.

The government is planing more people-centric projects for the Federal Territory of Labuan to spur the island’s economy and provide job opportunities for thousands of its residents.

The Pearl of Borneo, already known for its offshore financing facilities and oil and gas industry is poised to become a hub for tourism with emphasis on helping the locals promote their businesses.

Labuan MP Datuk Yussof Mahal said there are many potential investors who are keen on working in the various sectors to develop the tourism industry of the island as they see great potential in its natural resources and beauty.

Heaven on Earth

Pulau Papan, one of Labuan’s most beautiful islands, will soon be transformed into a lively place of fun and leisure as plans are in the pipeline to turn it into a multi-million ringgit resort akin to Singapore’s Sentosa Island.

According to Yussof, the government through Labuan Corporation, the local authority which administrates the Federal Territory of Labuan, is currently in talks with investors who are keen to develop the island into a resort.

“We have a few investors who are keen to develop the Pulau Papan’s marine parks and sea sports as well as constructing hotels to promote the area,’’ he said.

The island’s natural beauty is an attractive option for investors who can tap into the pristine environment offered by the island and the marine sport industry.

Pulau Papan is only a five-minute boat ride from Labuan and is the most developed of several islands near Labuan, with beautiful landscaping and an old colonial lighthouse adding to its charm.

The island has a mini agriculture park with an interesting collection of plant life from the region.

It is a popular weekend getaway for people from Brunei as well as locals who go there for trekking, picnics and snorkelling.

Chalets are available for rent, but tourists, especially foreigners, prefer to rough it out by camping on the beach.

Apart from Pulau Papan there are five other islands that make up the Federal Territory of Labuan.

Plans to upgrade the other islands and their beaches with facilities to attract visitors are also underway.

The other islands include Kuraman, Rusukan Besar and Rusukan Kecil.

Yussof added that, since Labuan is a duty-free zone, setting up duty-free shops could be one way to attract even more tourists.

Shopping haven

New shopping malls and hotels will also be coming up in Labuan in the near future.

Yussof said that a Brunei investor is keen on investing RM20mil to build a textile mall in Labuan.

“The land has already been indentifed for the mall and things are still in the prelimininary stages,” he said.

And with a few other projects planned, Labuan could soon become a landmark destination for vacations.

Continue reading at: Labuan tourism - Time to let it shine

Monday, April 23, 2012

Marine Day Beach Party at Gaya Island

KOTA KINABALU: City Hall is stepping up efforts to make Kota Kinabalu a clean and beautiful city.

“Cleanliness is our top priority,” Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir said at the opening of the ‘Marine Day Beach Party’, at the Bunga Raya Resort and Spa yesterday.

The event was held in conjunction with the Marine Awareness month campaign jointly organised by the Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC), Gayana Eco Resort and Bunga Raya Resort and Spa.

Abidin said City Hall has spent a lot of money and efforts to keep the city clean.

“This includes introducing proper waste management for the people living on the islands and coastal areas within the city’s jurisdiction.

“We have been carrying out various intensive cleanliness programmes on the mainland as well as nearby villages on Gaya Island,” he said.

To support the marine awareness programme, the mayor said City Hall would be intensifying enforcement personnel effort to curb the indiscriminate dumping of rubbish like plastic bags into the sea.

“Our campaign to reduce the usage of plastic bags has received tremendous support and we will even consider extending the number of days for the ‘No Plastic Bags’ campaign from the present three days a week,” he said.

And, he also said beautification was another vital agenda of City Hall.

Abidin said they have carried out various beautification projects to improve the landscape of Kota Kinabalu, including planting thousands of trees and flower plants over the last decade.

He said plants were not solely for aesthetic purpose but to also contribute oxygen and function as natural carbon sink.

However, he said most of such efforts were concentrated on land although 75 per cent of the earth is covered in water.

“As Kota Kinabalu boundary covers both land and sea, it is equally important that beautification is not only confined to land but also the sea.

“The sea is also a natural carbon sink and many marine organisms like giant clams are producing oxygen from photosynthesis as well,” Abidin said.

He congratulated MERC for taking the initiative to rehabilitate the marine eco-system by restoring the coral reefs and to repopulate the beautiful giant clams.

Continue reading (incl. Pic) at: Marine Day Beach Party at Gaya Island

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A global envoy for Giant Clams in Sabah in the making

Kota Kinabalu: Former Boy Zone superstar Ronan Keating is considering becoming a "Global Ambassador for giant clams".

"Sting has the rainforest, maybe I have the giant clams," Ronan quipped at a press conference at the Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC), Gayana Eco Resort.

"It all made sense because really we didn't know the clams were becoming extinct. We don't know that. That message is not spread back home (UK)" noted Ronan, here to mark a climatic end to the month-long Marine Awareness Month with two shows Saturday night and Sunday lunch time at Bunga Raya Resort and Spa.

A centre-piece of MERC's awareness month was the release of 500 three-year-old artificially spawned and propagated baby giant clams into a sea nursery and replant 1,000 pieces of corals.

The baby giant clams include all seven species of giant clams found in Malaysian waters, including the biggest and considered locally extinct species - the Tridacna gigas and the somewhat smaller T. serasa.

"It is fantastic to see it here first time what these guys are doing and the work that they are doing," Ronan commended, on the only project of its kind in Malaysia.

"It is fascinating that I will bring the message back to Ireland, England and Europe," Ronan said. Ronan did not say if the focus of his next global hit song would be about giant clams but confided that he was actually flooded with offers to do different things.

He said Sabah caught his attention as a logical sequence to a film shot in Australia entitled "Goddess" where he played the role of a marine biologist.

"Since I played the role of a marine biologist, I studied a lot about the sea to try to really involve myself in the role.

"I guess I was interested when I heard what it (giant clam propagation project) was and I wanted to understand more."

"So, it is nice to be asked to do this and be involved," he said.

"Besides, I am a fan of Asia, I love being in Asia. I love coming to Asia.

I do a lot of work in Asia and when I heard this, I said that's something I like to learn more about and help. So I am here."

"I have done some stuff in the North Pole regarding the seas and the melting of the ice caps," Ronan said.

"I guess when you are in a situation like mine that you are internationally looked upon as successful and you have a voice, and I don't mean voice as singer as a celebrity to spread the word, to create awareness, you have a responsibility to use that voice, stand up and be heard because there are so many out there who can't be heard and they need to be," Ronan added.


Turn Pesta Kaul Mukah into a major spectacle

MUKAH: Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud wants the annual Pesta Kaul Mukah to be organised on a bigger scale in future as it has proved its mettle to promote unity and harmony among the people.

Launching the festival at Pantai Kala Dana beachfront here yesterday, the chief minister noted that Pesta Kaul Mukah had also been able to indirectly transform the social, infrastructure and economic landscape of Mukah town and those in nearby areas.

He told those present that Mukah was no longer an isolated place or losing its people due to migration partly because of it.

“More and more people have come to Mukah to work. Rich investors have also come here to open up banks, factories, oil palm plantations and mills.

People also come here to further their studies at secondary schools and institutions of higher learning.

Continue reading (incl. Pic) at: Turn Pesta Kaul Mukah into a major spectacle

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Going green in the Borneo jungle

'Borneo is one great luxuriant hothouse made by nature for herself," the British naturalist Charles Darwin said of the island deep in the heart of the Malay archipelago.

At 130 million years, its rainforest is among the oldest in the world. Its biodiversity is so rich, it is said that 10 square kilometres of Sabah, on the island's north-eastern tip, contains more flora and fauna than North America and Europe combined. The Coral Triangle, a term referring to the waters between Borneo, East Timor and the Philippines, supports three-quarters of the world's marine life. Scientists are still unearthing new species: in 2006 and 2007, 52 new subspecies of fish, amphibians and plants were discovered in Borneo.

The island comprises the Indonesian state of Kalimantan, the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak and the sultanate of Brunei. Relatively little research has been done to document Borneo's bounteous flora and fauna; there has even been little mapping, for that matter.

It was only in 1988 that Malaysian authorities reached the Maliau Basin, a circular crater about 25 kilometres wide in central Sabah. Dubbed "Sabah's lost world", the basin is surrounded by 900-metre cliffs and vegetation so old it is thought to be one of the world's cradles of genetic wealth. So dense it's almost impenetrable, less than half of it has been explored by scientists. But they have discovered more than 80 species of orchid, plum-red rafflesias - at more than a metre in diameter, it's the world's largest flower - and a new species of tree.

As scientists uncover biological rarities, however, rampant deforestation - some of it legal - is occurring on the island, placing its rare and endangered species, many endemic, in peril. It is reported that half the world's tropical timber is drawn from Borneo, much of it destroyed to accommodate palm-oil plantations. Poaching and illegal hunting are also rife. Authorities in Sabah have promised to end all logging by 2014. They're looking to develop another industry instead. "We have taken the lead for ecotourism development in Borneo," the chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board, Dato' Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin, tells me emphatically.

Sabah's ecotourism policies are modelled on the United Nations' principles, that promote tourism ventures that contribute to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, engage indigenous peoples and are most suited to independent travellers.

Among Sabah's eco initiatives is the Green Building Index, which requires all new hotels to have advanced waste and water treatment, Tengku Adlin says, although in our conversation he couldn't name one new hotel that complies. Another policy, the Fair Trade Select, highlights tourism businesses using ethical products; so far, the only business endorsed is the handicraft shop, Kadaiku, which Tengku Adlin owns. "The government has ideas but little will to enforce," a biologist working in Sabah tells me.

I have heard there is a clutch of private tourism operators in Sabah who have instigated their own eco initiatives. My first stop is Gayana Eco Resort, a recently refurbished overwater resort hugging a bay of lush rainforest and mangrove forest on Gaya Island, one of five islands comprising the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, a 15-minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah state.

The bay was a marine wasteland when a local businessman, Ambrose Lee, bought Gayana four years ago, citing dynamite fishing and careless boating as among the causes of the devastation. Lee upgraded the resort's villas, installed a sophisticated water-recycling plant and started rearing fish using sustainable stock for the resort's on-site restaurants. Then he established the Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) to boost diminishing numbers of giant clam, a mollusc that can grow larger than a metre in length and live up to 100 years. Seven of the eight known species of giant clam are found in Borneo; they've been poached so heavily they're endangered.

Continue reading (incl. Pics) at: Going green in the Borneo jungle

Trash may kill off Sabah tourism

PENAMPANG: Garbage is Sabah's number one threat that will drive away tourists if it is not addressed, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Over the years, the bulk of tourist complaints received by the ministry was the heaps of rubbish in the sea and on the streets.

He said Sabah was blessed with beautiful nature, but if it was lost to trash, it would mar the state's image.

"Tourists will not come to Sabah (if this problem is not overcome) and we will have no tourism and no job opportunities for the locals.

"There have been some progress in the cleanliness of the city, but overall, it is still not satisfactory," he said at the Lestari Expo at SMK Datuk Peter Mojuntin here yesterday.

Lestari Expo is an environmental day organised by the school to raise awareness among students in sustaining the environment towards a better world.

Masidi said his ministry, through the Department of Environmental Protection, had done research on three rivers in Inanam and the results were alarming.

Following that, the ministry will set up a task force to conduct thorough studies and investigations.

"The task force, comprising relevant stakeholders, is aimed at finding ways to recommend measures to resolve the problems."

Continue reading (incl. Pics) at: Trash may kill off Sabah tourism

Friday, April 20, 2012

4WD challenge from Kinabalu to Mulu parks

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun will flag off the first Pan Borneo 4WD Challenge at Kinabalu National Park, Kundasang on April 29.

The three-day four-wheel drive challenge is expected to foster good relationship among the participants and promotes two heritage sites in Borneo, namely Mount Kinabalu and Mulu Cave.

Event manager John Chak said the challenge would be an annual event and is expecting a positive response from the participants and members of the public.

“The route on the first day will be from Kinabalu National Park to Ranau, Tambunan, Keningau, Kimanis and Kuala Penyu. The challenge will be a bit tough on the second day because we will be covering Beaufort, Sipitang, Sindumin, Lawas, Labu, Puni, Limbang, Kuala Lurah, Sungai Tujuh and Miri,” he said, adding that the challenge would be crossing Brunei on the second day.

The third day will be from Miri to Beluru, Laogan Bunut, Long Seridan and with Mulu National Park as the final destination.

Chak said this to Masidi during the courtesy call at the ministry’s office at Wisma Tun Fuad Stephens yesterday, together with organizer and Sabah Four Wheel Drive Association president Edward Lingkapo.

Continue reading (incl. Pic) at: 4WD challenge from Kinabalu to Mulu parks

Tropic Green to be first act at Borneo Jazz 2012

KUCHING: Led by pianist and composer Susan Harmer, Tropic Green’s musicians are from USA, Japan, Singapore and Cuba — a truly cosmopolitan mix in true Singapore style, which is where they are based.

Their material is original with captivating and unexpected twists — all written by Harmer, said a media statement here yesterday.

In 2011, they were awarded a Singapore International Foundation grant to perform at Samui International Jazz Festival in Thailand.

The band members had known each other for many years both as friends and as fellow professional musicians.

It had received excellent reviews wherever they performed, both for their musicianship and also for the original material that they play.

They would be the first act on May 12 during the two-day Borneo Jazz 2012 in Miri.

Continue reading (incl. Pic) at: Tropic Green to be first act at Borneo Jazz 2012

Mukah all set for Pesta Kaul

MUKAH: Mukah is ready to host Pesta Kaul, the biggest and grandest annual Melanau festival after months of preparation.

Centred at the beautiful and scenic Kala Dana beachfront, the festival will not only showcase the Melanaus’ unique cultures and traditions but also the traditions and customs of other local communities as well as promoting business and trade activities.

It will also become a venue to disseminate current information on government programmes and policies aimed at improving the people’s income and well-being as well as to preserve and safeguard a united and harmonious multi-racial society.

The festival this year will kick off with a traditional ritual at Tugek, Kala Dana beach today.

Led by the local Melanau leaders and elders, this traditional ritual will be performed in accordance with the Kaul celebrated by their ancestors in the olden days before they embraced Islam, Christianity and other religions which came later.

The’Kaul Ritual’ is made possible with the completion of ‘serahang’ by expert weavers. This decorative ‘serahang’ is an important component of the ritual as it is used to place all offerings for their gods called ‘Ipuk’, in return for good health and personal safety.

This will be followed by a grand official opening ceremony to be officiated at by Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud tomorrow morning.

This ceremony which will feature a ‘serahang’ parade by Melanau leaders and elders as well as a cultural and heritage parade showcasing the unique Melanau traditions and cultures.

Continue reading (incl. Pic) at: Mukah all set for Pesta Kaul

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tour of Borneo to put Sabah on cycling map

Kota Kinabalu: A total of 120 cyclists comprising 20 teams including a Sabah team have confirmed to compete in Sabah's first international cycling road race, the Tour of Borneo 2012 to commence from April 27 to May 1.

Tour of Borneo (ToB) organising chairman, Dato' Fredie Sua said the inaugural race in Sabah will feature cyclists from Malaysia and more than 10 countries are participating in the race.

He said a total of six professional teams from Malaysia are participating while the remaining teams come from continental, national and club teams from all over Asia, Europe, United States of America, New Zealand, Australia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Philippine, and Brunei Darussalam, among others, and will be accompanied by over 520 race officials.

The championship is rated 2.2 by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and listed on UCI's Asian Tour calendar.

Fredie said this international race has fulfilled all vital requirements and it is at par with the 'Jelajah Malaysia' Cycling and the annual Le Tour De Langkawi.

"The Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman will do the flag-off on April 27 to begin the race at Semporna.

And the Head of State Tun Juhar Mahiruddin together with the race's Honorary Patron, former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad will grace the closing ceremony to receive the final winner here on May 1. "ToB is a five-stage race that covers a total distance of 758.4 kilometres starting at Semporna and passing through picturesque locations of Tawau, Lahad Datu, Sandakan, Sepilok, Kundasang and ends in the State Capital here," he said.

Fredie said this to reporters after paying a courtesy call to the Head of State Tun Juhar Mahirudin at the Istana Negeri here on Wednesday.

He also presented a special invitation to the Head of State to grace the closing ceremony of the event with Dr. Mahathir early next month.

Juhar also witnessed a handing over of a mock cheque of RM100,000 from a Sarawak-based company, Sutranah Development Sdn Bhd Chairman Datuk Lau Chen Kiong to Fredie as the ToB's organiser.

Fredie said the race will introduce a new challenge featuring the most gruelling and longest ride from Sepilok to Kundasang for a total distance of 215km for the fourth stage.

Continue reading at: Tour of Borneo to put Sabah on cycling map

Malaysian airline to operate flights from Davao to Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan

A Malaysian airline has bared interest to operate routes to Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan, both in Sabah in Eastern Malaysia, through its 68-seater turboprop aircraft.

Dato’ Capt Mohd Nawawi Awang, chief executive officer of MASwings, said in a press briefing during the 1st Equator Asia Air Access Forum at The Marco Polo Davao Wednesday that they are looking to start their Davao operations within this year or early next year.

“Once we start our operations in Davao, we targeted to gain 60 percent of the passenger load factor,” he said.

He said they are planning to have three flights a week from Davao to the two destinations in Malaysia and or vice versa. The company has currently 10 turboprop aircrafts since the airline was launched in 2007, offering affordable fare rates.

The company also plans to acquire narrow-bodied jets like the Boeing 737-400/800 or the Airbus 320/319.

He said they would ensure that their Davao operations will sustain through strengthening the tourism promotions and marketing support. He said there should be a collaboration between the government and the tourism industry.

The company will further study the economic growth, particularly of Davao City.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines reported that the number of passengers in the Davao International Airport is seen to increase from about 2.5 million last year to 2.8 million by the end of this year.

Continue reading at: Malaysian airline to operate flights from Davao to Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan

Airlines' pledge to boost BIMP-EAGA connectivity

KOTA KINABALU: Key airlines' chief executive officers and tour operators from the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) concluded a two-day summit in Davao, the Philippines, yesterday, determined to further enhance inter-connectivity.

Dubbed as the First Equator Asia Air Access Forum and Airline CEOs Summit, it laid the groundwork for better inter-connectivity between and among the EAGA's focus areas, including its word-class tourist destinations, branded as "Equator Asia".

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chairperson and the Philippine Signing Minister to BIMP-EAGA, Luwalhati Antonio, said about a hundred delegates from the four-member countries attended the summit.

She said connectivity had been a major challenge to the Philippines, particularly Mindanao and Palawan, noting that unlike the other member countries, "we are separated by the waters".

The Philippines had been pushing for more airline connectivity with Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia so that there would be freer movement of people, goods and services within the sub-region.

Reiterating that the idea of creating the sub-grouping was to increase trade, tourism and investments in the EAGA focus areas, Antonio said it could only be realised if efficient transport networks and infrastructures were in place.

Continue reading at: Airlines' pledge to boost BIMP-EAGA connectivity

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Taste of colonial Sandakan

IF you find yourself in Sandakan, Sabah, and don’t feel quite up to venturing out of town to take in the sights, there’s a spot you should go to.

Actually, it’s more of a place you shouldn’t miss. The small hill in Jalan Istana is only a 20-minute walk away from the town centre but it holds two much talked about city attractions in nature-rich Sandakan.

With sprawling lawns and colonial-style wooden architecture, the Agnes Keith House and English Teahouse are two of the most interesting stops on the Sandakan Heritage Trail. You also get a great view of Sandakan Bay at the front and the Sulu Sea at the back.

Agnes Keith House

Now operated by Sabah Museums, the Agnes Keith House has been fully restored to the original design of a double-storey colonial wooden bungalow. It opened to visitors in 2004.

American writer Agnes Keith and her family lived here from 1934 to 1952, excluding wartime when they were held prisoners of war. Keith wrote two of her seven books here, including the famous Land Below The Wind, in 1939.

The small garden and grounds are well maintained, giving the perception of an occupied home. Visitors half expect the lady of the house herself to come out and offer them a cup of tea.

Visitors have to remove their shoes to enter the house. The air-conditioned interior is a welcome respite from the hot afternoon sun.

The interior is beautiful and awe-inspiring, containing reproductions and antiques belonging to the colonial period. The dining and living rooms on the ground floor contain memorabilia, photographs, a dining table set and refrigerator among other interesting items.

There’s plenty to see, yet the place is not cluttered with items and furniture, making it easy to walk around the house. An elegant wooden staircase leads to the upper level which houses the large, but simply decorated master bedroom and study. Also on display here are family photographs and glass cases containing some of the books written by Keith and toys she made for her children.

There is also a little screening area where visitors can watch a short film about Keith and her family, pieced together from footage shot of the Keiths by a family friend.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Taste of colonial Sandakan

Cultural extravaganza in Sabah Fest

KOTA KINABALU: The much anticipated annual Sabah Fest is back this year promising to impress the audience with the sound of music and dance performances exemplifying the cultures of the West Coast areas of the State.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun in disclosing this yesterday said that this largest cultural event will be held from May 3-5 at the newly-opened auditorium of the Department of Culture and Arts Sabah (JKNNS).

A string of fringe events will also take place outside the venue to offer visitors a complete cultural journey.

Handicraft-making demonstrations by local experts, pocket shows of traditional music and dance performances as well as traditional foods to sample are all part of the cultural extravaganza which are opened to the public from 10am to 10pm over the three days.

The highlight will be a cultural performance, showcasing the adventures of Ngarayang, an intrepid barter trader in the Sabah days of old.

“The story manifests itself in the form of a young adventurer named Ngarayang meaning ‘trader’ and that suited him fine as he plied the west coast of Sabah bartering and distributing a variety of goods much sought after by the coastal communities.

“However, Ngarayang transacted more than just material goods. Gifted with a charming demeanour and a flair for storytelling, he captivated his audience wherever he went with wonderous stories of his travels and tales of cultures he encountered.

“On one of his journeys, the charms of a beautiful princess captured his heart, and while tales of mystical rituals, captivating dances and mesmerising music in a land of exotic people and cultures fascinated him, his heart yearned to see his princess again,” said Masidi sharing the plot of the Adventures of Ngarayang.

He, however, declined to disclose the end of the story, but encouraged the public to come and find out for themselves at the fest.

Showcasing this year’s production of ‘The Adventures of Ngarayang’ are the Bonggi by the Adat Bebalang and Tabadak dances, the Dusun Kimaragang with their Pinakang dance, the Lotud donning the Sampangan cloth in their colourful and elaborate wedding ceremonies, the Sama with their Runsai Cagayan, the Dusun Menggatal Kuntau (martial arts), the Brunei Zapin Jamilah, the Bisaya Liliput dance and Bubu Mengalai ritual, and the Dusun Tatana Bakanjar martial arts integrated with the Moginum ritual and dance called Sayau Loyop.

Continue reading at: Cultural extravaganza in Sabah Fest

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spiders in Borneo: The Music of Biodiversity

On the plane flight home, I feel the afterglow of five weeks of walking on paths in Bornean rainforest, of living smells and stubborn itches, of jumping spider faces looking up at me. So many little faces, so many newly met.

I’d never seen a living Hispo before, nor most of the other species we found. It’s a wonderful feeling, to have my mind full of all these spiders.

Indulge me, please, as I explain that last comment (mind full of spiders — wonderful?), and tell you why I am a scientist. When asked about our motivations, we scientists are trained to answer that we’re interested in such-and-such conceptually challenging question because of its broad applicability to this-and-that.

These are valid answers as to why these studies should be done. These are the reasons resources should be invested in this research. But, is that really why most of us are scientists?

When that Phidippus audax female looked up at me 4 decades ago, I didn’t think “Ah, what a perfect study organism to experiment on!” I was, simply, fascinated by her actions, by her reactions to the world around her.

I was amazed by her eyes, her metallic green jaws and by the intricately diverse pelage arranged over her body. Seeing her, a whole world opened up, the world of Phidippus audax, as deep and detailed as the world of any species — dogs, or roses — but altogether mysterious.

But, it was when I began to look at other jumping spiders that I heard the music. I found other jumping spider species with forms and colors that differed from hers just a bit, or a lot. Her singular nature extended through her colleagues to a melody, to rhythms, variations on a theme full of patterns and yet surprises.

As beautiful as an ornamented male salticid may be, ready to dance to the female, what caught my eye were the patterns in diversity. Here is a plate from my doctoral thesis, showing a part of the spider’s body and how it appears in each of 35 different species (2 are the same species). Not only is each a small, abstract sculpture, but together the array of them almost dances as my eye moves from one species to the next.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Spiders in Borneo: The Music of Biodiversity

Orangutan nest building shows high degree of sophistication

Orangutans may be smarter than previously thought if a new study into the sophisticated way they build nests is any indication. Scientists at The University of Manchester spent a year observing and filming orangutans at a research facility in Indonesia and found they apparently possess complex knowledge of mechanical design and material properties.

The great apes -- which only live wild in Sumatra and Borneo and are one of man's closest relatives -- build large, oval nests in tree canopies every day where they sleep overnight, possibly for protection from predators and parasites or for warmth during sleep.

Until now, little was known about the nests' mechanical design and material properties but the researchers, led by Dr Roland Ennos, and carried out by PhD student Adam van Casteren, reported that the orangutans used particular branches for different parts of the nest. They also broke the branches in different ways depending on how they would be used.

"We found that the orangutans chose strong, rigid tree branches for the structural parts of the nests that supported their weight, and weaker, more flexible branches for the nest's linings, suggesting that the apes' choice of branch for different parts of the nests was dictated by the branches' diameter and rigidity," said Dr Ennos, based in the University of Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences.

"Further, branches chosen for the nests' structural framework were fractured differently from those chosen for the lining: whereas structural branches were broken halfway across, leaving them attached, branches used for lining were completely severed, suggesting that orangutans might use knowledge of the different ways in which branches break to build strong and comfortable nests."

Continue reading at: Orangutan nest building shows high degree of sophistication

Good response to annual Borneo Jazz festival

MIRI: Response to the Borneo Jazz 2012 which will be held at ParkCity Everly Hotel here on May 11-12 has been good with most bookings done online.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) director of Corporate Communication Angelina Bateman said yesterday that the two-day event was expected to attract a crowd of 8,000.

“We had about 6,000 people during the festival last year,” she said.

A random survey at hotels and restaurants here showed the good ticket sales have yet to be translated into room bookings and restaurant reservations.

According to a hotel near the festival site, there were plenty of enquiries on rooms but the bookings have yet to be confirmed.

Angelina said a capella group – SLIXs – has been invited to jazz up this year’s event.

SLIXS, formerly known as Stouxingers comprise six vocal virtuosos from Germany.

Continue reading at: Good response to annual Borneo Jazz festival

Monday, April 16, 2012

Orang-utans stressed when seeing tourists

KINABATANGAN: A study conducted by HUTAN – Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP) and the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) together with Indiana University has concluded that orang-utans in the forest are aware of human presence and shows signs of short-term stress when “exposed” to tourists and visitors.

“We conducted this study to ascertain whether tourists and visitors coming into our study site to see orang-utans in their natural forest environment have an affect on them and if so, how do we minimise this,” scientific director of HUTAN-KOCP, Dr March Ancrenaz, said yesterday.

The Sabah-based French non-governmental organisation, HUTAN – KOCP, has been studying orang-utans in their natural forest environment in the State with the SWD since 1998 with emphasis on the wildlife rich Kinabatangan region.

“What we found were hormonal indications that orang-utans in the forest have a spike of the stress hormone cortisol during exposure to tourists,” said Ancrenaz.

According to Ancrenaz, this indicates that the orang-utans are very aware of the tourists and are ready to “fight or flee” if the need arises.

“However, this wasn’t long-term stress as samples from before the arrival of the tourists were absent of the same stress hormone. To equate it to human terms, it’s like the stress most of us feel when we are driving and see police along the road. And even though we might not have done nothing wrong, we feel on edge and this is how these orang-utans are reacting to tourists and visitors,” explained Ancrenaz.

SWD director Dr Laurentius Ambu meanhile said that the study showed that it is absolutely crucial to have strict guidelines when engaging with orang-utans in their natural forest environment.

“We did this study with community-based Red Ape Encounter tours based in Sukau and they use strict guidelines on the number of tourists and length of time spent in the forest observing the orang-utans. We hope that other tourism operators that bring tourists to see orang-utans along the riverbanks and forests also adhere to such protocols which are also part of international guidelines,” said Laurentius.

Continue reading at: Orang-utans stressed when seeing tourists

Only 30 Sumatran Rhinos left in Sabah Borneo

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said there are only 200 Sumatran Rhinos left on earth and only 30 of the 200 rhinos are living in Sabah.

He said they were killed for their horns, which were believed to be nutritious.

However, the minister stressed that rhino horns do not carry additional nutrients, as a scientist told him.

In fact, consuming a rhino horn is similar to eating a person’s finger nails, he pointed out.

Masidi said that at the Sime Darby Rhino Walk which was held in conjunction with the Minggu Saham Amanah Malaysia (MSAM) here yesterday.

“If we keep on hunting (Sumatran Rhinos), there will be no more Sumatran Rhinos left in Sabah.”

Sime Darby, through its foundation, Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD), has committed RM11.4 million for Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) located at Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu from 2009 till 2015.

The project is a collaboration with Sabah Wildlife Department and Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) to conserve the critically endangered Sumatran Rhinos.

Masidi also urged corporations in Sabah to save endangered species as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme as done by Sime Darby.

“We can be rich, but the best inheritance to leave for our next generation is those who are endangered, so that the next generation can appreciate them,”he said.

The Sim Darby Rhino Walk attracted more than 6,000 participants from all walks of life.

Continue reading at: Only 30 Sumatran Rhinos left in Sabah Borneo

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Timber walkway at Sandakan Memorial Park ready

Sandakan: The newly-constructed timber walkway at the Sandakan Memorial Park (Sibuga Forest Reserve) was officially opened by Forestry Department Director Datuk Sam Mannan, Saturday.

The walkway connects with the Contemplation Area, which last year was erected on the site of the former RSL Memorial Plinth.

It provides a beautiful and tranquil approach to the main pavilion and information centre.

The Sandakan Memorial Park commemorates more than 2,200 Australian and British Prisoners of War (PoW) held captive in camps in Sandakan during World War Two.

In one of the great tragedies of the war, only six of them, all Australians, survived the war.

The project was initiated to correct inaccuracies on the panels of the 1985 Returned Services League (RSL) Memorial which was brought to the attention of the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) by Mannan.

Construction on the new walkway commenced in late January 2012.

Continue reading at: Timber walkway at Sandakan Memorial Park ready

Use tourism to move country forward

KUCHING: Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) has proposed working with schools to stream students for the hospitality industry in line with the Tourism Ministry’s target to pull in 36 million tourists to Malaysia by 2020.

Its president Datuk Mohd Ilyas Zainol Abidin said students who did not excel academically could be streamed for the industry to expose them to career aspects.

He asserted it was time for people to focus on the tourism industry to move Malaysia forward.

“The Ministry of Tourism Malaysia targets 36 million tourist arrivals in 2020. The question is how we plan to cope with the volume. My suggestion is we start streaming students, especially those who did not do well in academics, and notify students of career opportunities.

“It is how we embark on prospects in the hotel industry because tourism is the way forward; not just professionals like doctors and lawyers,” he told the MAH Sarawak Chapter’s annual general meeting at Four Points By Sheraton Kuching here yesterday.

Ilyas said students could build their career by capitalising on the government’s efforts to boost tourism.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg, who was invited to the meeting, said he noted that some hoteliers offered low remuneration that deter people from entering the industry.

“It is not that people do not want to join the hospitality industry, but the pay can be low. Some operators are not willing to offer a decent pay. You must pay high for quality people, and make it a point to train them to meet the demand.”

Abang Johari, who is Satok assemblyman, believed that Sarawak – given its natural setting and biodiversity – had what it took for the tourism sector.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Use tourism to move country forward

Pesta Lawas to be a grand one this year

LAWAS: This year’s Pesta Lawas, which will be held from May 25 to 27, will witness Batang Lawas being filled with boats, including those from a neighbouring country, in large numbers.

“Seven teams from Brunei and two from Sabah have confirmed their participation,” said Pesta Lawas and Regatta Lawas chairman Mohd Supaih Hamdan.

Participation was also received from local teams, including from the Lawas Chinese community, Landas (Land and Survey Department), Pusaka from Kuching, and the defending champion from Saratok (Citra Alti).

“It will be most interesting to see the participation of the Brunei teams. With bigger number of boats than usual, this will attract people to the Lawas Regatta,” said Supaih, who is also Lawas district officer.

The presence of the Sabah team is also expected to stiffen competition in the water sports, while the presence of the defending champion of Raja Batang Baram, Tedung Melancar from Marudi, is also expected to heat things up.

Continue reading at: Pesta Lawas to be a grand one this year

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sutera Harbour officially recognized as PADI dive resort

KOTA KINABALU: Sutera Harbour Resort, Asia’s first fully-integrated resort which comprises The Pacific Sutera Hotel, The Magellan Sutera Resort and The Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club, has been recognized as a PADI dive resort by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) which is the world’s largest recreational diving membership and diver training organization.

The Sutera Harbour Dive Resort will be offering a full range of high quality PADI dive courses as well as leisure diving and snorkeling trips which includes PADI Snorkeling Experiences (Guided snorkeling), Try-Dives, PADI Open Water Diver Course, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course, PADI Specialty Courses, PADI Dive Master Internship as well as diving courses for children from eight years of age.

The Sutera Harbour Resort is the only five-star resort in mainland Sabah with its own PADI Dive Resort.

It also offers a unique experience for first-time divers with access to the resort’s swimming pools for try dives and diver training which helps to create a safer, more comfortable environment.

All snorkeling and diving courses will be conducted by the professional and experienced Borneo Dream Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd, a premier dive operator in Kota Kinabalu.

As a certified PADI five-star dive resort, Borneo Dream delivers high quality, safe and enjoyable scuba diving and snorkeling activities.

They have a range of fully equipped diving boats, qualified PADI professionals who go the extra mile to create a ‘five-star’ diving experience for guests of Sutera Harbour Resort.

Borneo Dream was also awarded the “PADI Dive Centre of the Month” for December 2011 by PADI for its excellence in delivery of PADI dive courses.

Diving and snorkeling activities have become popular recreational sports among the foreign tourists as well as the locals.

Continue reading at: Sutera Harbour officially recognized as PADI dive resort