Thursday, January 31, 2013

When adorable Borneo pygmy jumbos take a dip

KOTA KINABATANGAN: Recently, this writer and several media representatives had the opportunity to take part in a programme in Sungai Kinabatangan, Sandakan, Sabah.

We took this opportunity to look at wildlife in the area by taking a boat ride along the river from Kampung Sukau.

Just as our boat made a turn, moving out of one of the river streams, the boat guide gave a signal.

He flapped his hands by his ears and smiled.

“There are some elephants further ahead. We may be able to see them eating by the bank before it gets dark,” said the boatman, who was in his early 20s.

Many elephants live on the island of Borneo. While male Asian elephants can grow up to 9.8 feet (3.0 metres), female Borneo elephants grow to less than 8.2 feet (2.5 metres), according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). These elephants also have larger ears than ordinary elephants. They have longer tails too.

This writer was anxious to see pygmy elephants for the first time. Borneo, the world’s third largest island, is home to Borneo pygmy elephants. These elephants require mineral salts and water.So, it is important that they stay near water bodies.

However, they should not be close to water bodies that are crowded because it will lead to more conflicts between humans and wildlife.

Satellite tracking along the tributaries of the Kinabatangan river has revealed a drastic decline in the number of elephants because of deforestation.

Unfortunately, forests, which are habitats of these elephants, are being destroyed by lumberjacks and oil palm plantation companies.

Conservation groups, such as the WWF, are working closely with local wildlife agencies to set up sanctuaries in suitable habitats in the heart of Borneo.

Pygmy elephants are smaller than other elephant species.

Loud noises made by pygmy elephants can be heard from the river.

The green bushes on a slope nearby were shaking vigorously although there were no strong winds.

A few metres from our boat, we saw two other boats with tourists.

“Look at those elephants. They are smaller than elephants in zoos,” said one of the passengers, after watching a playful and a young pygmy elephant eat some green shoots.

The pygmy elephant is the smallest elephant in the world.

The males rarely grow beyond 2.5 metres in height, while a large female elephant is about 2.9 metres tall. These elephants do not act violently in the presence of humans.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: When adorable Borneo pygmy jumbos take a dip

RM10,000 for info on Borneo pygmy elephant killers

KOTA KINABALU: A RM10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and successful conviction of those causing the death of 13 endangered Bornean Pygmy elephants at Yayasan Sabah Conservation area in the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, Tawau.

The reward is offered by the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) Sabah which said the death of the elephants, believed to be caused by poisoning, was a great loss to the state and tourism industry as viewing them in the wild was always the highlight of nature wildlife tours.

MATTA Sabah chairman KL Tan said Bornean elephants were small in numbers and found in isolated pockets and listed as endangered animals. They were indigenous to Borneo and their generic distinctiveness made them one of the highest priority population for Asian Elephants conservation.

“If the shocking death of the Bornean elephants is confirmed to have been due to intentional poisoning, MATTA Sabah would offer a cash reward of RM10,000 for information leading to successful conviction of the culprits,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He urged those with information to contact the joint task force directed by Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun and consisting of Sabah Wildlife Department, Forestry Department, Yayasan Sabah, WWF and Royal Malaysia Police.

“We urged the public to assist the task force to investigate the matter and to ensure there is no malicious intent on the innocent elephants.

“This cash reward is a positive indication of the travel industry involvement that we are serious in conservation and sustaining Sabah as an eco and wildlife destination,” Tan said.

“MATTA’s contribution is one of the proactive measures to express its interest to the community that we care and the need to protect the Bornean elephants and other endangered wildlife. Conservation of endangered wildlife is for the benefit of our future generation and sustaining tourism growth in Sabah,” he said.


Borneo Pygmy Elephant Death Toll Hits 14 in Sabah

Four more Borneo pygmy elephants were found dead in a protected forest in Sabah, Malaysia—bringing the total to 14—as a wildlife official said that they may have been killed by poison.

"We suspect poison was spread over the area by plantation workers," the head of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Laurentius Ambu, told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. "We are waiting for lab results to determine if the elephants died of poisoning or bacterial infection."

Authorities are talking to plantation workers at Sri Jaya Industries as part of the probe, he said. But Hiew Yin Foh, general manager of the company, whose 9,000 hectares of land include nearly 5,000 planted with oil palm, told The Wall Street Journal that his workers are not involved.

"We always have elephants coming to the fringes of our plantation," he said. "We leave them alone, because they never encroach into our areas…. We love elephants. We do not poison animals."

Officials from the Sabah Wildlife Department, the police and some nongovernmental organizations are investigating the tragedy, which is drawing global attention because only about 1,500 Borneo elephants are alive in the world, including some 1,000 in the state of Sabah in Malaysia's eastern tip. An endangered species, the elephant is protected under Malaysia's Wildlife Conservation Enactment; those found guilty of hunting or killing them are subject to a fine, five years' imprisonment or both.

Mr. Ambu said he expects to find more dead elephants, and has sent out eight wildlife workers to search a section of the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve where the elephants were found. The dead were part of a herd of about 400 that roams the section.

Pressure for land in Sabah is high. Two palm-oil plantations—including Sri Jaya Industries—and a logging company operate near where the Borneo elephants were found dead.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic & Vid) at: Borneo Pygmy Elephant Death Toll Hits 14 in Sabah

Bats in Borneo roost in carnivorous pitcher plants

Bats in Borneo have been found roosting in carnivorous pitcher plants.

A new study reveals that the plants benefit from nutrients in the bats' droppings.

This unusual living arrangement is apparently beneficial for the bats too as they can shelter unseen inside the plants' pitchers.

Although tree shrews have also been observed using pitcher plants as toilets, this is the first time mammals have been found living inside them.

Nepenthes carnivorous pitcher plants grow in nutrient-poor soil and rely on trapping insects to acquire enough nitrogen for growth.

Found in the peat swamps and heath forest of Borneo, N. rafflesiana elongata are remarkable for their long aerial pitchers.

However, research has previously suggested that N. r. elongata catch up to seven times less insects than other pitcher plants in Borneo.

In a new study, published in the journal Biology Letters, scientists found that the unique subspecies had a extraordinary relationship with mammals.

Dr Ulmar Grafe and his team investigated how the plants supplemented their nitrogen intake and were surprised to find woolly bats inside the pitchers.

"It was totally unexpected to find bats roosting in the pitchers consistently," says Dr Grafe.

The small Hardwicke's woolly bats (Kerivoula hardwickii) were found roosting above the digestive fluids in the plants' pitchers.

Rather than consuming the whole bat for extra nitrogen, Dr Grafe found that the plants gained from the bats' waste.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Bats in Borneo roost in carnivorous pitcher plants

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Be prepared to be amazed by flora, fauna of Kinabatangan

KOTA KINABATANGAN: The Sungai Kinabatangan is 560 km long.

It starts at the Crocker Range in the southwest of Sabah and ends at the Sulu Sea. It is the longest river in the ‘land below the wind’.

Near the river, 10 species of primates can be found, including the Proboscis monkey, the Orang Utan and the Bornean gibbon.

The place is home to 250 bird, 50 mammal, 20 reptile and 1,056 plant species.

Planning to see wildlife near Sungai Kinabatangan? Then, travel in a boat along the river. Boat rides along Sungai Kinatangan begin at 6am. The last boat ride is at 4pm.

Recently, this writer had the opportunity to view flora and fauna along the Kinabatangan riverbank. Along with two friends, she took the evening boat ride to view the wilderness and natural habitats there.

The two-hour boat ride, which began at the Sukau Greenview lodge, was priced at RM30 per person. From the boat, visitors could see the Sukau village and a few other lodges and resorts.

“Look, they are sitting on the branches of those trees. They are eating wild fruits,” exclaimed a passenger while pointing at a few trees.

An adult Orang Utan sitting on one of the branches of a tree on the Kinabatangan riverbank had caught the attention of several visitors.

“These wild animals are seen near the banks of the river. They hide behind trees and on branches,” said a passenger, Rose Azrin Dahlan, a communications consul “However, the thinning forest canopy does not allow these animals to go into hiding. They come closer to the riverbank because their natural habitats, which are deep in the woods, have been taken over by humans,” she said.

Orang Utans are large apes that live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. These apes mostly live on the branches of trees and swing from branch to branch using their arms.

The word ‘Orang Utan’ means ‘man of the forest’ in the Malay language.

As its habitats are being taken over by man, the number of Orang Utans is decreasing and the species is in grave danger of extinction.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

10 rare Borneo pygmy elephants feared poisoned

Ten endangered Borneo pygmy elephants have been found dead in a reserve in Malaysia, with officials saying they may have been poisoned.

The animals, which had all suffered internal bleeding, were found near each other over the space of three weeks.

In one instance, a three-month-old calf was found alongside the body of its mother, apparently trying to wake her.

Sabah Environmental Minister Masidi Manjun said it was "a sad day for conservation and Sabah".

Sen Nathan, head veterinarian at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in Malaysia's Sabah state on the island of Borneo, said the elephants were all thought to be part of the same family group, and were aged between four and 20.

The bodies of four were found last week but then officials found another four animals dead or dying two days later.

Laurentius Ambu, Sabah wildlife department director, said two "highly decomposed elephant carcasses" had been found earlier in the year.

"We believe that all the deaths of these elephants are related," he said.

The animals still had their tusks, indicating that they had not been killed by poachers, and none had gunshot wounds.

Samples have been sent for testing, but Mr Nathan said the damage evident in the elephants' digestive systems had led officials to "highly suspect" acute poisoning. Tests will confirm whether they could have been deliberately poisoned.

"It was actually a very sad sight to see all those dead elephants, especially one of the dead females who had a very young calf of about three months old. The calf was trying to wake the dead mother up," he said.

The WWF estimates that there are fewer than 1,500 Borneo pygmy elephants in the wild, most of them in Sabah state.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: 10 rare Borneo pygmy elephants feared poisoned

Top Five Things To Do In Borneo

The Island of Borneo is one of the most beautiful and naturally diverse islands in the world, and these features have helped to make it one of the most desirable places to visit.  The island itself is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, although it is the Malaysian third of the island that has been most extensively developed and is most popular with visitors.

The cities of Kota Kinabalu and Kuching are the most populous cities on the island, but for the majority of visitors it is the natural aspects of Borneo that prove to be the most attractive.

Get Up Close And Personal With The Orangutan of Borneo

The Orangutans are among the most famous of the great apes, and their population in Borneo is one of the largest in the world.  One of the best ways to do this is by visiting the Tanjung Putting National Park, which lies in the Indonesian portion of the island.  The Bornean Orangutan is considered to be an endangered species, and the opportunity to get close to some of our closest genetic relatives is one that is rarely available outside Borneo.

The animals themselves generally spend their time in the trees, and there are a number of sanctuaries alongside the national parks where guides can help you to get a look at these intelligent primates.  For those fortunate enough to see them swinging through the trees, it is a truly exceptional sight to behold.

See The Giant Rafflesia Flowers

The huge flowers of the Rafflesia are genuinely impressive when they are seen, but because they spend so long developing and then only flower for a few days, it can be particularly difficult to catch a glimpse of this remarkable flower.  The blooms themselves are considered to be the largest in the world, and as well as being brightly colored they also have an odd odor which tends to smell slightly like rotting flesh.

The best way to do so is with one of the local guides who will know where to find the buds that are closest to flowering.  The Rafflesia Information Centre in the Malaysian part of the island is an ideal base to walk to the flowering sites, although it is worth making sure you get there early in the day.

Visit A Crocodile Park

There are a number of different species of crocodile to be found in Borneo, and there are a number of crocodile parks that allow visitors to get a good look at one of the largest animals in the country.  These are also often used as places to breed crocodiles, and although those in the wild are often cautious and are rarely seen by people, these crocodile farms do allow people to see the animals, and will often have a number of other natural attractions too.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Top Five Things To Do In Borneo

Monday, January 28, 2013

Meeting orang utans in Borneo

The world would be a better place, I thought as I read my email from other parts of the world, if we all dropped the Singapore chewing-gum jokes. Singapore caning jokes too. And any sort of dog-eating joke in reference to Asia.

I’d involuntarily heard them all, way too many times, I thought as I headed out of my hostel back to Singapore’s airport for my AirAsia flight to Borneo. Had they even been funny, some time in the distant pass?

But I was in for a treat, as I was about to be overwhelmed by a new theme. Cats!

I was flying to Kuching, a city in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Borneo is the island, and there are parts of three countries on the island – Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. The Malaysia bit consists of two states, Sarawak and Sabah. I was flying into Kuching and out of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah ten days later as part of this leg of my trip around the world.

Kuching is called “Cat City” because, well... no one’s totally sure. Some say it’s because the Malay word for cat is “kucing.” Others say it’s from a local fruit known as the “Cat’s Eye.” Either way, I was happy to trade in gum jokes for cat jokes.

On arrival in Kuching, a taxi driver was waiting for me with a sign at the airport. I'd booked ahead with the hostel.

He was a cheery man with round glasses and betelnut-stained teeth. He whisked me into town and left me at Lodge 121, where I'd booked a single room with bath down the hall for $16 a night.

I went out in the blisteringly hot sun – with bonus humidity – and walked down to Kuching's waterfront. There you can view the State Assembly Building – which is truly an odd shape, like a cake or a party hat – across the river.

But the real attraction, of course, is the cat sculpture nearby. I headed over to snap a few photos. Why, I wondered, were cats the theme of Kuching? I was here to see orang utans.

The price was right at my lodge, but the down side of staying in a smaller backpacker's lodge was that since they had fewer customers than the larger lodge, they didn't have a morning excursion going to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. No one else had signed up.

No problem, I thought. I'd just wander down the street to the much bigger lodge – Singgahsana – and booked onto their morning tour. And that's how I found myself listening to Curious George Rides A Bike en route to seeing some orang utans. A tourist-mum in the van was reading the book to her daughter.

Curious George barely got anywhere on his bicycle before we were at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and offloaded onto a hiking path. I followed a large group of 50-or-so people into the reserve to see the morning feeding of the reserve's semi-wild orang utans.

"Wow. They are like short wookies," I thought, watching the orang utans sturdily meander onto the feeding platform. I watched for an hour, until the orang utans slipped back into the woods, swinging up into the trees. I heard a noise from the side and turned – it was a shy mother and baby, who’d come down a tree quietly. The ranger had walked over to meet them.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Meeting orang utans in Borneo

Adventure Travel in the Sukau Rainforest

“Ack-ack, ack-ack,” clicked a gecko, adding harmony to the echoing kak-kak of the hornbill, the high whine of Borneo cicadas, the tonk-tonk of the brown barbet. Under my bare feet, the belian hardwood, or ironwood of Borneo, deck boards felt smooth and warm.

The rich scent of rainforest hibiscus flowers and tibouchina shrubs lingered, without a wind to whisk them away.

Heavy clouds promised an afternoon downpour over the yellow water of the Kinabatangan River–I was about as far away from the Saskatchewan prairies as I could be!

Thirty-five hours of airport and flying time had transported me to a world I’d often dreamt about, the land of rainforest jungles.

Malaysian Borneo has the oldest tropical rainforest on the planet, with the Sukau and lower Kinabatangan area of Sabah (second largest state in Malaysia) home to a decade old wildlife preserve. Unlike North America, where access is open to nature refuges, in Malaysia tourism is strictly monitored to ensure there is as little impact on the environment as possible from human visitors. Officials stopped our boat, and our guide had to show his permit before we started our journey down the Kinabatangan, Sabah’s longest river.

My rainforest adventure began at the Sandakan jetty, on Jambatan #23, the slatted wooden footbridge that served as a street for the water village. Just like back home, in Regina, shops lined the sides of the nearly three metre wide “street”—that, however, was where the similarity ended!

Drying shirts and pants hung from short clotheslines or over railings on the front deck of homes and businesses, indeed the pubic washroom had a large plastic pail of laundry soaking beside the sink.

Local women strolled past, enveloped head to toe in colourful dresses, hair hidden beneath scarves despite the 32 degree temperatures. Inside, the shops gleamed with dark hardwood floors and walls, while bright curtains covered the windows. Prices were always negotiable!

From Sandakan we had an hour boat ride across the Sulu Sea to the mouth of the Kinabatangan, then on to Abai Jungle Lodge, where I’d be without any contact to the outside world.

Local men from the Orang Sungai tribe waited at the boat landing to greet us—some of the friendliest and most helpful ‘bell boys” I’ve ever met. The rooms in the longhouse were simple, immaculate and with all the modern conveniences we Canadians are used to, including individual bathrooms.

I’d already discovered earlier in my visit that Malaysia is serious about energy conservation. Each hotel room card has an electronic card holder at the door—when the room card is inserted the power comes on.

In an embarrassing moment, I’d had a hotel clerk have to come and show me how it worked! The jungle lodges took this one step further, so in order to have a warm shower an additional switch had to be flicked on to heat the water, rather like a trough heater back on the farm.

My first lunch at Abai featured grouper and white snapper, a local specialty. Along with lots of fresh vegetables and the mainstay of Malaysian meals, white rice, it was delicious! Generally, food was boiled or steamed, with the exception of bananas, which were deep fried in batter and one of my favourite foods throughout the country.

Of course the main reason for a visit to the rainforest was to experience the jungle and learn more about the wildlife. In keeping with the mandate to keep human interaction in the environment to a minimum, I was given two ways to explore—walking the boardwalk through the jungle and taking the guided boat tours.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Adventure Travel in the Sukau Rainforest

Explore Sarawak: Sarawak Culture Village

As I was going through my photo albums yesterday, I realized I completely forgot to blog about my trip to Sarawak Culture Village (SCV)! There will be lots of pictures in this post as I didn’t want to collage them because I believe the readers would like to see a bigger and clearer image of this place.

Of course, if you’re on my FB friends list, you can always view all the pictures for my Sarawak trip there.

For those who are planning a trip to the Land of The Hornbills, SCV is a place you shouldn’t miss. At this place, you will get to know more about its local ethnic groups namely Iban, Melanau, Bidayuh, Penan and Orang Ulu.

If I’m not mistaken, the journey from Kuching town to SCV takes approximately an hour and the entrance fee is RM60 for adults, RM30 for children from age 6-12 and FOC for those below 6.

Here’s a tip if you plan to visit SCV: be there early and do not miss the cultural performance which takes place twice a day at 11.30am and 4pm. For my trip, (my friend and) I miscalculated and arrived at the place an hour late and was this close of missing the performance.

Since we wanted to make it for the performance on time, we didn’t have much time to explore each of the houses in SCV. Luckily for us, the person-in-charge said we could come again the next day without purchasing tickets.

I think you need at least half a day to fully explore this place so don’t plan too many activities on the day you’re visiting SCV.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Explore Sarawak: Sarawak Culture Village

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Borneo: You don't have to be an explorer to enjoy this exotic land

The day before I leave for Borneo, an island so wild it seems absurd to say you're going there on holiday – expedition sounds better – someone recommends me a book. It is, of course, Redmond O'Hanlon's Into the Heart of Borneo, a witty account of the trip he and the poet James Fenton made in 1983. Theirs really was an expedition: they set off up the Rajang river on canoes, looking for rhinoceros in what was then relatively uncharted territory.

My own itinerary is slightly less intrepid, though no less exciting. I'm heading for the north coast, where you can see wildlife without needing a snake stick or even malaria tablets. This is Borneo-lite, a gentle introduction to an island where orang-utans still swing through the rainforest and much of the landscape is jungle.

I say much: Borneo is known for having one of the world's most biologically diverse rainforests, but also one of the most endangered. The logging of hardwood has been going on since the 1970s, initially for the wood itself, used to make teak furniture. Latterly, trees have been felled to make way for palm oil plantations. This wonder oil is used in so many products, from biscuits to biodiesel, that as a crop, palm is a sure-fire winner. The trouble is, removing primary rainforest is a potential catastrophe, not only for the environment but also its native species such as the orang-utan.

The good news is that, thanks to increased awareness, Borneo is making efforts to reposition itself as a responsible tourist destination. There have been clamp-downs on illegal logging, and the plight of the orang-utan, of which there are still 35,000 living on the island, has been recognised. And not just the orang- utan: Borneo has an extraordinary diversity of wildlife – proboscis monkeys, long-tailed macaques, flying squirrels, clouded cats, hornbills – and the opportunities to see it are improving.

My base will be Gaya Island, one of five small islands just across the South China Sea from the regional capital of Kota Kinabalu, or KK, as you learn to call it. This northern portion of Borneo, a state known as Sabah, forms part of Malaysia, along with the neighbouring state of Sarawak. The larger southern half of the island is the Indonesian territory of Kalimantan, with the Kingdom of Brunei wedged into the middle of the Malaysian territories. KK is a fun city for a night out, a low-built former colonial town (Britain ruled here until 1963) with plenty of bars and fish markets along the water. Soon after I arrive, the US aircraft carrier John C Stennis pulls into harbour. According to the Daily Express, the excellent local paper (much more informative than our own paper of that name), 5,500 sailors who haven't been ashore for three months will be hitting the town. Just as well we're off to Gaya Island.

One surprise fact I gleaned from O'Hanlon's book is that Borneo is the third largest island in the world. Can you name the biggest two? I couldn't. (It's Greenland then New Guinea. Australia counts as a continent, apparently.) So don't expect to see more than a tiny fraction of Borneo in a fortnight's holiday. Tourism is still relatively new, but the infrastructure is good.

A short taxi ride from the airport to the marina is followed by an invigorating dash in a speedboat across the water to Gaya, and suddenly, I'm in a tropical haven. There are only two hotels on the island, and the one I'm in, called simply Gaya Island Resort, is very new and big – 120 villas and suites have been scattered along the water, centred on a pool, bar, library and restaurant complex.

It's an ideal position for those who like peace and quiet but want excitement close at hand: from your sunlounger you can gaze across the water to the hurly-burly of KK and Mount Kinabalu beyond – at 4,095m, it's the tallest mountain in South-east Asia – while pondering whether to order the lobster or crab.

But I want to see wildlife. This is, after all, a long way to travel for a lobster salad. Gaya Island is the largest of a cluster of five outlying islands, and most of its 15sq km are covered in primary forest. As part of a government drive to protect its wildlife, the islands have been designated a marine park. You might think that plonking a resort here would be unlikely to help, but in fact YTL, the owner, is ploughing a lot of money into preserving the wildlife, both in the water and on land.

The hotel is spread along the water's edge, and rising steeply behind it is the wilderness. It is densely wooded, but Justin, the resident naturalist, knows his way around and takes me into the network of paths in search of the proboscis monkey. We climb through trees the like of which I have never seen before. I can tell an oak from a birch, but here you need an encyclopaedia of flora. Luckily I have Justin, who points out the low-lying rattan, with its long frondy palms. Technically, it's not a tree so much as a vine, but it certainly looks nothing like the furniture you find in conservatories back at home. Then there are the enormous dipterocarps, the tropical hardwoods that surge up like skyscrapers. These are home to many weird and wonderful insects, including termites, that build all sorts of elaborate homes in trunks and on the ground. Apparently on one tree alone, 1,000 species of insect were once identified.


Panchor Hot Spring - the hot spring with potential to heal

KUCHING: Panchor Hot Spring in Kampung Panchor, over 40km from here, is said by some to have the potential to heal those suffering from heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos, who pointed this out yesterday, said he has met two persons whose helath improved after frequenting the hot spring.

“A woman I met in Paku yesterday told me she brought her husband to Panchor Hot Spring weekly for three months as he suffers from heart problems.

“She said after three months, her husband became better. It goes to show that the hot spring has some healing properties. There could be more success stories being spread around,” he said at the ministry’s voluntourism programme themed ‘1Malaysia Clean and Green 2013’ at Panchor Hot Spring yesterday.

Dawos said a couple of individuals from northern Sarawak used to seek treatment for their illnesses at the hot spring.

“At one point, there were people who came all the way from Lawas for a cure at Panchor Hot Spring.

“This is why the Sarawak Tourism Ministry has upgraded the hot spring for all to stay healthy and happy.”

Panchor Hot Spring is a community-based tourism project developed by the ministry at a cost of RM450,000 and completed in May last year.

According to Dawos, further enhancement work at the hot spring will be looked into. For the time being, both men and women share the same pool of natural water.

The ministry is looking at introducing a women’s section for more privacy.

On community-based tourism project, Dawos called on various local communities in Sarawak to inform the ministry of any interesting places and products to be promoted.

“If you have seen some special species of bird in any part of Sarawak, tell us; if you have discovered a waterfall, let us know and we can turn them into a tourism product.

“We want more locals to get involved in community-based project work. The ministry is keen to promote this for it is in tandem with elevating the socio-economic status of our people.”

On Panchor Hot Spring, he suggested that locals come up with a plan to develop a hotel and resort around the area to draw visitors.

“Some tourists want to come to the hot spring, but there is no hotel around. So it will be nice to have a resort next to the hot spring.”


Over RM37 million for Sarawak tourism development

KUCHING: Sarawak gets over RM37 million for the development of tourism under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP).

Of the total allocation, nearly RM10 million is meant for ad hoc tourism projects between 2011 and 2015, said Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos.

“Under the 10MP, RM9.6 million worth of ad hoc projects have been implemented. There are 21 projects throughout the state.

“Tourism is, in fact, the second largest industry in Malaysia after the services industry which contributed 58.7 per cent to the GDP,” he told the press at Panchor Hot Spring in Kampung Panchor, over 40km from here yesterday.

The 21 projects included upgrading works at Wind Caves in Bau, Malaysia-China Friendship Park here, Panchor Hot Spring, Limbang Waterfront, Miri City Fan (1Malaysia Garden) and public parks in Miri.

Dawos, who is also Mambong MP, added that more than RM5 million of the government grants had gone to developing homestay programmes statewide.

“Some 20 homestays are involved and when I say 20 homestays, it does not mean there are only 20 participants.

“If say, each homestay is to have 10 participants, there are about 200 participants to benefit from the allocation.”

Pointing out that the Sarawak Tourism Ministry emphasised community-based projects, he believed there should be more tourism products in Sarawak to come forth.

He said Panchor Hot Spring is not the sole community-based project in the state as Kampung Annah Rais also has a hot spring, which is well known among locals and visitors.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Over RM37 million for Sarawak tourism development

Saturday, January 26, 2013

RM5.178 bln from Sabah tourism in 2012

KOTA KINABALU: The lucrative tourism industry continues to be one of Sabah’s major income earners as Sabah increased its target arrivals by 1.1 per cent totaling 2.875 million visitors compared to 2011.

This was an estimated RM5.178 billion revenue earned, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment reported yesterday.

“The industry has proven to be resilient, rising from turbulent times and gaining strength from adversity from the beginning of 2012 with challenges faced especially on flight uncertainty,” said its minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun.

International arrivals recorded an overall positive growth of 11.3 per cent with double digit growth from China and Hong Kong (44.3%) and South Korea (26.1%).

European arrivals especially from the United Kingdom and Ireland (growth of 39.9%) were also making a comeback to Sabah, indicating confidence in long-haul travelling and strong focus on nature-based tourism, Sabah’s stronghold in the industry.

Domestic tourism remained as the main contributor making 67% of the total arrivals or 1.933 million to Sabah in 2012.

However, this was a decrease of 3.2% compared to 2011 mainly due to a reduction in total domestic seat capacity from both Sarawak and the peninsula.

“For the first time in fourteen years domestic arrivals were affected due to less competitive airfares offered to the domestic outbound market as well as opening of new routes by low cost carriers to other regional destination. This year we continue to keep our partners, the airlines, close to support our destination as 96% of our arrivals come by air,” said Masidi.

Continue reading at: RM5.178 bln from Sabah tourism in 2012

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Giant Pygmies of Borneo

On the trail of the world’s rarest elephants on Malaysia’s Kinabatangan floodplain

The humid air stirs more from buzzing legions of insects than from our boat’s gentle progress on the river. I yawn and promptly inhale several of the most attentive of them.

We are cruising the only highway this land will ever know, the Sungai Kinabatangan, Sabah’s longest river and a premier wildlife haven. Our goal: to track down and photograph Borneo’s famed pygmy forest elephants, reputedly the rarest in the world.

Proboscis monkeys crash rowdily through the foliage above. An hour ago we’d have stopped the boat to get shots of them, but now they offer little consolation. It has been three hours since we set out and we have found few signs of our quarry. I fiddle listlessly with my cap.

Suddenly the lead boat erupts with excitement, its two passengers frantically snapping pictures of shadows we cannot yet distinguish. Straining my eyes, I think I see something moving behind the façade of foliage. Something huge.

“Up ahead,” announces our wildlife guide and boatman, Osman Umi. I glance back, hoping he will say the magic word. He grins and gives the slightest of nods.


Borneo by boat

The mighty Kinabatangan springs from the mountains of southwest Sabah and snakes 560km towards the Sulu Sea, east of Sandakan.

I first heard about the river after summiting Mt Kinabalu in November 2007. Fellow travellers regaled me then with tales of mist-wreathed waters and swamps teeming with wildlife, but I had to wait four years until I could return to Sabah, along with a Filipino hiking group called the Loyola Mountaineers, to finally see the ‘Father River’ for myself.

Scouring the web for tours of the area, Osman’s name had quickly come up, along with testimonials to his skills as tracker and boatman.

Soon we had a three-day, boat-based trip set up, based out of Osman’s own riverside house. Simple but spacious, its five rooms sit atop solid stilts, insurance for when the river swells each December. A row of upturned rubber boots – essential tools of the trade here – adorns the porch.

Barely an hour after our arrival, we are cruising at two knots along the Menanggul River, looking for movement amid the foliage and snapping pictures of long-tailed macaques and a skateboard-sized monitor lizard which had somehow hauled itself up a perfectly vertical trunk. After four years, I am finally in the elephant’s backyard.

The Kinabatangan is among the oldest rainforests on Earth, formed 130 million years ago. Here a verdant profusion of trees, ferns, vines, mosses and countless other plants jostles for space and sunlight, home to what the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates is more than 250 bird, 50 mammal and 20 reptile species.

Occasionally, this area blesses a lucky adventurer with a fleeting glimpse of the rare Bornean clouded leopard or the even rare Sumatran rhinoceros. More commonly, even without binoculars, visitors spot birds, crocodiles and up to ten types of primate, especially when the water recedes each summer to leave bare expanses of mud over which animals must fly, slither or skitter.

The elephants are one of the stars of course. Borneo’s pygmy forest elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis) are smaller and more docile than Asian elephants with males standing around 2.4m tall and tipping the scales at 3,000kg, and females slightly smaller. They have straight tusks, larger ears and tails long enough to give them an almost comical appearance. Only about 1,500 are left, prompting some scientists to consider them the rarest of elephants, with the largest remaining herds concentrated around the lower Kinabatangan.

At one point I ask Osman about another animal on my list: the tembadau or banteng, Malaysia’s wild cattle. “Not likely to see,” he says. “Ever since palm-oil plantations come nearer and nearer to the forest. Many wildlife now gone.”

Sadly, up to 90% of the Kinabatangan’s forests have been cleared, mostly for African oil-palm plantations. Feeding the 20-or-so processing mills that dot the region, these sprawling plots produce oil for soap, fuel and other commercial purposes.

“But elephants easier to see now, for the only good forests left are near the river,” says Osman. “Sometimes though, even they must pass through plantations, looking for food. Guards scare them off with explosives.” As if on cue, a baritone boom reverberates across the Kinabatangan. I look at him, but he is staring at the river – worrying perhaps, that the elephants might be going the same way as the banteng.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Giant Pygmies of Borneo

Pekan Nabalu (Nabalu Town), Sabah

Climb Mount Kinabalu? Oh no...not me! I just want to get a good view of the majestic mountain, so we made a stop at Pekan Nabalu.

It was as beautiful as when I first saw it years ago. Can one envy a mountain? I do. No one ever labels a mountain ugly and if it is ever called big, it is at most taken as a compliment.

Pekan Nabalu has flourished as a tourist stop - for souvenirs, to grab a bite, for a toilet break and the scenic view is a great spot for some touristy photo-taking activity.

The souvenirs are a treat, really cheap and abundant in choices. I love how beautiful the handmade crafts are especially the string hammocks. It has been my dream to own one ever since I was a child and these were so prettily coloured. I walked off with one in arm...oh dear, how will this fit into my small apartment I wonder...

Adding to my list of purchases was a sarong sized native design cloth for just RM10 and a bag of wood carved key chains.

I would have loved to complete my souvenir shopping here but experience has taught me not to put all my eggs into one basket. ..and this turned out to be a wise decision. 

The toilets are ok-lah. You'll just have to close one eye. We arrived in the afternoon way after the tourist buses have left. They begin their adventure in the wee hours of the morning. We prefer the laid back experience. It made our traveling peaceful. I am glad we escaped the toilet queue and did not have to rush to pose for photos on 'high demand' spots.

A viewing platform at the back has fallen into disrepair and the area has been cordoned off by a warning ribbon. No matter, we still got a good view of the mountain from the grassy edge of the hill we were standing on.

There's a lovely "Angel's Trumpet" tree growing here too, some metres away from the decrepit platform. No doubt a crowd puller for photo-taking enthusiasts, one being me.!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Pekan Nabalu (Nabalu Town), Sabah

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Awesome Borneo Tours

If you are an adventure freak and want to live an adventurous life that you would want to relive again and again all your life then you should surely travel to Borneo.

Just lose yourself amidst the jungles and experience nature all in its form, you will find yourself closest to the nature and will get a magical opportunity to experience a new birth in the same life.

Borneo, the third largest islands in the world is calling you to pay it a visit.

People set out on Borneo tours experience the amazing combination of water, forests, and thrill and once you too try this place out, Borneo will leave you horripilate and would make your soul shiver with thrill and amazement.

Being a nature lover you are bound to fall in love with the atmosphere around, once you travel to Borneo.

You may trek it, crawl over it, climb it up and if you are still not able to put a hold on over your happiness and amazement, you can even float in it.

You may do whatever as there is truly no dearth of adventure out there.

Once you are set on your Borneo tours you will be left astonished as you will witness a perfect mix of religions, traditions, culture and of course world’s most delicious cuisines.

Continue reading at: Awesome Borneo Tours

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Monkey business in Borneo

For those who have been bitten by the travel bug, you will know the signs - itchy feet, a constant need to explore new surroundings and a yearning to know every inch of the history and culture of an area. For centuries, humans have travelled to parts of the world not previously explored. However, our footprints are now all over the planet and high heritage value areas are shrinking to the point of disappearing.

Travellers are making their way into wildernesses and following in their wake is raw industry exploiting land for profit with scant regard for the environmental cost of their actions.

All around Borneo, and deep into its remote interior, the jarring mechanical buzz of chainsaws replaces forever the natural songs of the rainforest.

Palm oil dominates Borneo's agricultural production. Together, Indonesia and Malaysia produce 90 per cent of the world's palm oil and 40 per cent of foods contain it. Oil palm seeds are among the world's most productive oil seeds. Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of Borneo, and has rainforest that is incredibly rich in biodiversity including several species of primates. Two standout species of primate here are the orangutan and proboscis monkey. Both are critically endangered.

Orangutans share 97 per cent of their DNA with humans. To watch one for even an hour you will notice eerily familiar behaviours. The proboscis monkey is also engaging, especially the dominant male with his bulbous nose, permanent erection and bright red genitals to attract the ladies. They are even more endangered than the orangutan, with around only 15,000 left in the wild. With their habitat forever shrinking, who comes to their aid?

Dr Birute Galdikas and her former spouse, Rod Brindamour, established Camp Leakey in Tanjung Puting National Park in Southern Kalimantan in 1971, the same year she was on the cover of National Geographic magazine. Her lifetime mission has been to research wild orangutans and rehabilitate these apes so they can be released back into the wild.

However, the situation is now so critical that hundreds of orangutans are in rehabilitation centres all around Borneo, with simply no rainforest left in which to release them.

Galdikas is known as the last trimate, after Dr Louis Leakey chose Jane Goodall to study chimps, Dian Fossey to study gorillas and her to study the orangutans, and she still considers herself a scientific researcher of wild orangutans.

What can everyday New Zealanders do to help protect orangutans? We can try to avoid buying palm oil products ... but it would make for a complex and confusing trip to the supermarket.

There is no standard for palm oil labelling, and it is often just labelled as vegetable oil. Let your local politicians and supermarket know that you want standard labelling for palm oil. Already, because of public demand, the Progressive chain of supermarkets, which includes Countdown, pledged in 2010 to move to certified sustainable palm oil by 2015 and have on-pack labelling for all private label products. It is not about stopping the production of palm oil completely, it is about making palm oil sustainable.

In order to see positive changes in the rainforests of Borneo a balance needs to be achieved and Galdikas and Orangutan Foundation International, the organisation which she runs, is working with the largest palm oil producer.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Monkey business in Borneo

MoU to expand Wildlife Corridor in Lower Kinabatangan

“It makes sense to conserve. Nature is Sabah’s biggest asset. We are very lucky. Show the future generations that we are looking after it,” said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun who witnessed the MoU Signing Ceremony on Creation and Management of Orangutan and Borneon Elephant Conservation Corridor in Kinabatangan Mega Biodiversity Corridor. The MoU was signed between Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) and Myne Resort at the Palace Hotel recently.

Speaking at the ceremony, BCT Honorary Secretary and Director of Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said, “Looking into Lower Kinabatangan Sanctuary, the biggest problem that we face is fragmentation of the area. We worked with WWF (World Wildlife Fund for Nature) to come up with a master plan to deal with this problem. One of the recommendations at that time was to work with the land owners, NGOs, resorts and oil planters.”

“That vision is being realized through this MoU today. We are embarking on the first model with this partnership whereby 100 acres of Myne Resort land will be managed together with BCT and Sabah Wildlife Department. Instead of developing it for agriculture, the land will be used for tourism purposes.”

200 acres of Myne Resort’s forest land is located along the fringes of Kinabatangan River in Kampung Bilit. 100 acres have been utilized to build the resort. The 100 acres of forest land is an important component that reconnects isolated forest habitats with the larger forest landscape by re-establishing the biodiversity corridor between Lot 4 and Lot 5 of Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

"This will be a big highway for the elephants to move from the northern to the southern part of Sabah,” said Ambu. Besides linking key habitats for the elephants, the habitats for orangutans and rhinoceros will also be re-established in Lower Kinabatangan. This will decrease isolation of animal population that will expose species to genetic drift and inbreeding. Habitat fragmentation will also increase the incidence of human-wildlife conflict.

“The biggest challenge in forest conservation is to convince landowners to defer their profit,” said Masidi. “I think Myne Resort has conservation at heart,  and it makes economic sense.”

Masidi also said that the partnership established will draw in more tourists to Sabah. “We can only find the orangutan in Sumatra and Borneo. You might find them in other places but that is not their natural habitat,” added the Minister. “Even the Proboscis monkey is endemic to Borneo.”


Royal boost for Brunei Regatta

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has consented to grace the Brunei Regatta that will be held at the Brunei River on February 3, 2013 to witness the biggest boat race competition in the country which has attracted competitors from neighbouring countries as well as other nations.

The Brunei Regatta 2013 will feature a total of 12 traditional boat race events, four categories for the speed boat competition, two categories for water taxis and two events for the jet skis.

His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, is expected to grace the morning session of the regatta.

The regatta is organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs along with the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources as well as the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

The organising committee for the speed boat competition held a preparation meeting yesterday to finalise the entries as well as the safety rules and regulations.

According to Hj Raffee, the secretary of the committee, “The speed boat race is divided into four categories, namely, 40HP speed boat, 60HP SST speed boat, F1 MU Carburettor and Jet Ski.

Speed boat racers from neighbouring countries like from the Sarawak towns of Bintulu, Kapit, Kuching and Sibu, as well as from Australia have confirmed their participation

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Royal boost for Brunei Regatta

Rare Sarawak's ‘bekop’ a prized delicacy during durian season

KOTA PADAWAN: Bekop is a prized seasonal delicacy that is so rare that few people are able to obtain it, even if they are willing to pay a high price just for a taste.

The bekop tree only produces fruit during the durian season, 54-year-old homestay operator Sagen Adan told The Borneo Post recently.

“We don’t eat the fruit, only its seed which is traditionally cooked with tempoyak (fermented durian). This way, it can be kept for a few months,” he said.

Sagen, who hails from Kg Semban, said that some of his friends from Kuching would constantly ask him to send them bekop, such is their craving for this seasonal delicacy.

“Bekop is always in great demand, especially by village folk who grew up with its taste but are now working and living far away in the city.”

“But bekop is not easy to gather as you have to climb the tree to get the seeds. Furthermore, each tree does not bear much fruit. The squirrels also like to eat the fruit. So the villagers tend to keep what little that is harvested for themselves.

“Even if my friends were to pay RM100 per kilogramme, I would hardly consider going through all that effort as we don’t have enough for our own consumption,” Sagen said.

Bekop seeds have hard shells, which make them look like black marbles when cooked.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sarawak Homestay operators record nearly RM1.6 million revenue in 2012

KUCHING: Homestay operators in Sarawak registered with the Tourism Ministry earned RM1.6 million last year, up 64 per cent, compared with a revenue of RM978,703.62 recorded in 2011.

The ministry’s State Assistant Director Radiah Muhammad said the figure could have been higher if all 418 operators submitted their financial reports.

“Until the end of last year, some Sarawak homestay operators did not submit their financial reports to us.

“We will continue to check with homestay operators to find out their problems as they could risk being deregistered should they fail to submit their reports for three consecutive years,” she told Bernama.

Radiah also said homestay facilities were gaining popularity among tourists to Sarawak with 14,284 of them taking up packages offered compared with 12,612 bookings recorded in 2011.

From the total, 3,274 were foreign tourists while the remaining 11,010 were domestic vacationers, she said.


Kota Kinabalu city to celebrate 13th anniversary with various activities

KOTA KINABALU: Various activities are being lined up to commemorate and celebrate the city’s 13th anniversary throughout the year by Kota Kinabalu City Hall.

The activities will also serve as a platform to promote the city as a tourism destination.

The celebration will start on the morning of February 2 with the raising of the flag, followed by the bigger KK City Day Sunset Sea Parade, which will start at 3pm, as 21 ships and boats sail along the Jesselton Point.

Guests and audiences will be entertained by an orchestra performance, strip lights, foghorn and rocket flare shows.

Free movies will be shown at the GSC Suria Sabah on February 3 at 10am and those interested can contact Elizabeth Borubui at 088-521800.

The highly-anticipated KK City Tourism Treasure Hunt on March 24 at the Marina and Country Club, Sutera Harbour Resort, is expected to attract as many as 170 teams from all over the country.


Reviving tourism products in Miri

MIRI: The relevant authorities here should hold a roundtable talk on how to intensify and revive Sarawak tourism products in this city.

Communications Assistant Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said such commitment is needed as Miri is struggling to transform into an international resort city.

“We have a lot of unique tourism packages here, and existing packages need to intensify use of attractive promotion techniques.”

Lee told The Borneo Post this when asked to comment on a recent media statement by Singapore Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs, Masagos Zulkifli.

The senior minister during an official working visit to Miri on Jan 15 said Miri had the potential to attract more tourists from Singapore if well promoted to the republic under its ‘Prosper thy neighbour’ concept.

Lee agreed, saying tourism authorities here should take note of this.

He said when Miri was granted direct flight to Singapore in the last few years, the local authority designed tourism products to lure Singapore tourists here.

“As far as I know, our tourism products were promoted to Singapore though I don’t know how well.”

He also pointed out a need for the authority to revive potential tourism events such as Miri International Mass Wedding and Miri International Food Fair.

Continue reading at: Reviving tourism products in Miri

Monday, January 21, 2013

Borneo Banquet at Gaya Island Resort: The Bajau Laut Beach Barbecue

It is a balmy night on the golden sand of Malohom Bay at YTL Hotels’ newly opened Gaya Island Resort.  The Casuarina trees soar over us and the waves lap calmly lap at the bay as we are handed glasses of chilled sauvignon blanc.

In the two evenings that we will dine here, we will experience the cuisines of the region, the first being The Bajau Laut Beach Barbecue- homage to the cuisine of the sea-faring tribes of Borneo, and the second being the Sinigang Steamboat, a hotpot meal inspired by the large population from the Philippines living in Sabah.

Set on a prisine patch of sand overlooking the beautiful, serene bay, The Bajau Laut Beach Barbecue begins with a Mango Refresher- a crisp leafy salad tossed with sweet mango, dried shrimp, fresh crabmeat and tangy segments of grapefruit, sprinkled with crushed peanuts. It is an awakening in the mouth, sweet, sour, refreshing. Alongside the salad, we are served a shot of lihing, the famous Kadazan rice wine.

Our palate suitably stimulated, we move on to the barbecue selections which feature a bounty of land and sea, marinated with lemongrass, ginger and salt to enhance the natural sweetness of each meat as they are grilled over hot coals.

Succulent chicken skewers with Sarawak pineapple, moist chunks of beef interspersed with charred leeks, plump prawns, fillets of grouper fish and squid are served, complemented with sides of local sweet corn, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and eggplant. Steamed mountain red rice, fruit pickles and the traditional Kadazan shredded relish, Hinava are offered alongside as well.


A Journey to The Heart of Borneo

The Sandakan Offroad Challenge 2013 roared into action as more than 50 four-wheel drive vehicles began their long journey to the rugged wilds of the Demarakot rainforest.

The four-wheel drive enthusiasts from Sabah, Sarawak, Labuan as well as foreign participants from Japan, Brunei, and Indonesia are taking part in the 4-day expedition starting on 19th January.

Among them was a lone lady driver, Liau Ching Fung, 39 from Sarawak, who is thrilled to take  part in the challenge, and hopes more women would join the rally.

The event was organised by the Sandakan Municipal Council and the Sabah Offroad Adventure Association.

Datuk Masidi said Sabah offers an unrivalled eco-adventure experience and encouraged more Sabahans especially associations and the youths to organise their own expeditions to discover Sabah's natural beauty for themselves.

Located at the heart of Borneo and covers 55.139 hectares of mixed dipterocarp forest, Demarakot Forest Reserve is a class II commercial forest reserve which the state government holds up as a model of sustainable forest management.

"This rally is yet another great opportunity to showcase Sabah's wild frontier, Demarakot, which is a shining example of our commitment to environmental conservation and rehabilitation," Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said during his speech at the launch of the event on Saturday near Kota Kinabalu Port.

The teams will face a daunting challenge at Demarakot where they will traverse the treacherous 20km former timber track deep inside the forest reserve in a test of skill, endurance and teamwork to conquer some of the most punishing off-road terrains in the world.

With the recent rain, conditions will become even tougher as the vehicles head into the dense jungle to wrestle with the sticky mud, broken-down bridges, swollen rivers and streams.

Sabah Off-road Adventure Association members together with President Hiew Min Khuin have carried out strict inspections to ensure vehicles are in excellent condition before the journey.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Journey to The Heart of Borneo

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Preparation for Brunei Darussalam Regatta 2013 on a fast lane

PEHIN Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman, Minister of Home Affairs as Co-advisor to the Brunei Darussalam Regatta 2013 Executive Committee, said the upcoming regatta will not only be an event where the public can witness the competition, but there will also be a local product exhibition.

The minister said that this year the committee for the regatta also comprises of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.

This, according to the minister, reflects the committee’s efforts to make the regatta as a sporting event as well as a tourism product.

The minister was speaking at the Brunei Darussalam Regatta 2013 Executive Committee Meeting held at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports yesterday.

Also present at the meeting was the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Awg Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah as the Co-advisor to the Executive Committee.

The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, in the meeting spoke on the need to elevate the regatta as a prestigious water sporting event in Brunei Darussalam, if not in Borneo.

Towards this aspiration, the minister said there may be a need to invite ministers from the neighbouring countries.

The minister believed that this can also create strong relations between the neighbouring countries, not only in a social perspective but also in various aspects in shared development interests such as tourism and economic activities.

The minister said that even though the event looks more like a sporting event, it has an added value to contribute towards development sectors.


Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort lines up array of touristy treats

THERE are many seaside areas worth visiting in Sabah — and indeed, many places offering comfortable accommodation and a good view of the sea.

Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort is one local establishment that boasts fantastic view, accommodation as well as friendly service.

As with all five-star set-ups, the Resort promises the best in terms of facilities with sea, sun, sand and more to boot.

Rasa Ria has 416 guest rooms and suites. The Garden Wing offers a private lane to all ground-level rooms, making the Resort accessible through the Garden while the other floors have balconies.

For best of comforts, the Ocean Wing offers 90 premier rooms with a private outdoor bathtub and sweeping views of the sea and lush gardens.

According to the general manager Randy Zupanski, the 326 rooms at the Garden Wing has undergone a US$20 million refurbishment.

The lobby also had a major refurbishment and now features new decorations and furniture, making it more comfortable and spacious for guests to relax.

Other refurbishments include ethnic style artworks with modern facilities such as wall-mounted widescreen TVs linked to international satellite channels, and complimentary Wi-Fi and broadband connectivity.

The fitness centre has also been improved with a bigger exercise area where health buffs can enjoy the view of the hotel’s garden landscape while working out.

New lounge deck chairs and daybeds have been placed near the swimming pool and the beach fronting the sea. The pool has also been ‘fun-added’ with a “double-s” slide.

A walk round the premises reveals several other areas that have received a touch-up, mostly with water and fire features.

There is a foundation in the garden at the porte cochère, and even the lobby staircase has a waterfall cascading down a wall.

The Rasa Ria, it seems, is not stopping there but is now carrying out more construction at the porte cochère.

“The Ocean Wing will be augmented to accommodate more guests in the premier rooms,” Randy said, adding that when the construction is completed next year, 81 more rooms will be added to the Resort.