Monday, September 30, 2013

Surf's up in Borneo

The song “ surfing USA” keeps playing in my head and visions of lean muscled tanned bodies with hair, bleached blond by the Sun and sea, runs around in my mind.

When one thinks of surfing, we always think of the beaches of Hawaii , Australia and Bali  and we would never associate Sabah with this sport. 

However there is an ardent group of local and international surfers who are slowly but surely putting some of Sabah’s beaches on the surfers map.

The surf beaches in Sabah are found on the west coast, from Tanjung Aru beach in Kota Kinabalu to Tuaran and northwards to Kudat

These beaches face the South China Sea and are dependent on the monsoon to produce suitable waves.

The surf in Sabah will never be as great as the surf in Bali or other well know surfing beaches as the South China Sea is not as large as the Indian or Pacific oceans which produce very large waves, however it is still pretty good and perfect if you want to learn the sport.

The southwest monsoon blows from late May till September and brings with it waves between 1 to 5 ft (Looking from the back of the wave).

Tanjung Aru, which is the closest to the city, is also the best place to learn surfing as the waves are usually between 1 – 3ft, with the occasional 5 footer. 

However if you’re an experienced surfer, forget Tanjung Aru and head out North to the beaches of Karambunai and Kudat.

The waves get bigger as you travel north and the best time for this is during the Northwest monsoon which is from November to March. 

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Surf's up in Borneo

Scuba Diving Adventures: Sipidan in Borneo

What better way to spend your  Christmas holidays than to head for one of the world’s top 10 dive sites – Sipidan.

Located off the north east coast of Borneo, Sipidan is a non-inhabited island, protected by the Malaysian Government and preserved for divers from around the world to enjoy.

A limited number of divers per day are allowed to dive at Sipidan, so there is no guarantee that you will even get to dive there.

Our tip: the longer your stay the better your chances, and in four diving days, we were fortunate to be allotted Sipidan for two of them.

The closest accommodation to Sipidan is on nearby Mabul Island, offering a small range of choices.

We chose Sipidan Water Village,  a dedicated dive resort linked by a walkway to Mabul Island and situated totally over water.

The rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable, the food adequate and the showers great – essential after a busy day of diving.

The staff are super friendly and helpful throughout the resort, and best of all the diving was brilliantly organised.

Each day at 4pm the dive board is filled in with your allocation for boat, dive master and dive location for the next day.

It was always exciting to watch the names go up and see if we’d been allocated to Sipidan while having a nice hot drink at the end of another perfect day.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Scuba Diving Adventures: Sipidan in Borneo

Misompuru - Rungus home stay

Sabah has a profusion of home stays and some tend to be more “run of the mill” establishments while a few do have some very interesting facets for the visitor to enjoy. 

Some of the vital components that go towards making a home stay successful and attractive would include the warmth of the host family, standards of cleanliness and the natural attractions / activities in the neighbourhood.

One of the more commendable and popular home-stays in Sabah is Misompuru Home-stay, which is located a few kilometres from the town of Kudat in northern Sabah.

As with the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism’s concept of a Home-stay, the Misompuru Home stay is a community program, whereby local families open their homes to visitors who wish to stay in the area.

Bookings are made through a central booking system and guests are assigned to a host family based on a rotation system for equal distribution of resources and income.

As the home-stay incorporates 10 villages in the district – it includes host families from both Christian and Muslim faiths.

This is especially helpful when it comes to dietary concerns for Muslim guest.

Guests are assigned to rooms in their host family house and basically are treated as honoured family members rather than just visitors.

The main “draw factor” of a home stay is that it is an actual village, whose people still work the land for a living and  guest get the genuine village experience which is very different from a visit to a cultural village specifically targeted to  tourist.

As part of the experience, guests partake in household activities or venture into the farms and nearby forests where they are shown the various medical and economical plants.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Misompuru - Rungus home stay

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Travel: Building a future for Borneo

Beloved by naturalists the world over, Borneo is teeming with exotic flora and fauna.

But as Sarah Marshall discovers, travelling in the wilderness is now much easier – and more comfortable – than ever before.

“Pro! Pro!” The honking, nasal call is quickly absorbed by the uncomfortably moisture-heavy forest canopy. We scan the dense tangle of tree trunks and twisted vines, waiting for a response.


Naturalist Justin Juhun has spent months out here, slowly attempting to gain the trust of a group of proboscis monkeys.

As resident naturalist for the luxury eco-friendly Gaya Island Resort – built on a protected island of the same name, a short boat ride from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Borneo’s Sabah region – Juhun hopes he can one day bring visitors here to observe the lithe-limbed primates’ behaviour.

But today is not that day.

The monkeys, who are endemic to Southeast Asian island Borneo, and who locals historically referred to as Dutchmen thanks to their distended bellies and long, ruddy paddle-board noses, appear to be shy or sleeping.

Fortunately Juhun doesn’t expect to see results overnight. “This is a big job and I’ve been working alone,” he says with an element of frustration.

Brought up in Tawau, in south-east Sabah, he’s been surrounded by animals all his life. One day his father asked him to rear a deer rather than kill it, and from that point on he developed a Dr Doolittle-esque empathy with wildlife.

Of his past 40 years, he’s lived just four of them outside the jungle; he’s swung through the trees with orang-utans, and spent six months guiding scientists through the pristine primary rainforest of the Maliau Basin.

“Some of the species I remember as a child, I’ve never seen again,” he says with sadness.

Borneo’s woeful story of deforestation and near extinction of species has been told many times, and is far from reaching a happy ending. But the opening of luxury eco resorts, such as one-year-old Gaya Island, is bringing attention and money to the world’s third largest island, with a greater commitment to investing resources in conservation.

Juhun’s joined in his vision by Scott Mayback, a marine biologist who hopes to grow Gaya Island’s house reef, home to clown fish, blue-spotted stingrays and parrot fish. The remaining hotel staff are locals, including Nonny, a spa masseuse who’s terrified of the sea, and young waiter Adzeen, who grew up on a water village in the Philippines.

They belong to a melting pot of cultures in Borneo: there are 52 tribes and 82 dialects spoken on the island, which is divided between Malaysia and Indonesia.

On a visit to the weekly Gaya Street Sunday market, on the mainland, I’m bombarded with a chaos of smells, sounds and snapshots of different cultures. Young girls, giddy with excitement, choose pet rabbits from metal cages, while frowning women queue up for heavy-handed foot massages.

A band, with synthesizers protruding from plastic laundry bags, belt out a muzak version of ‘You Are Always On My Mind’, as a sausage dog waddles past, dressed in oversized pink plastic shades.

We’re undoubtedly in Asia, but I’d struggle to pick out where.

Borneo’s flora and fauna is no less varied, and despite David Attenborough’s shocking observations about the colossal loss of habitat to palm oil plantations, people are still drawn here by the lure of species found nowhere else on the planet.

The Mount Kinabalu national park is home to half of Borneo’s bird life and is the most researched region in Southeast Asia, due mainly to the number or rare orchids and pitcher plants found here. During my visit, a TV crew are filming in the botanical gardens; their focus is a Rothschild’s slipper orchid, which I’m told can fetch 40,000 US dollars on the black market.

But despite the many natural riches on offer, locals are more interested in the nearby Kampung Luanti fish spa, where toothless, foot-long fish suck dry skin from any body part they can slap their slimy chops around.

It’s so popular, visitors are restricted to 15-minute slots, making this the Bornean equivalent of an express pedicure.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Travel: Building a future for Borneo

Borneo Eco Film Festival screens 13 films this year

KOTA KINABALU: Screening of French documentary – Oceans marked the official launch of the three-day Borneo Eco Film Festival 2013 (BEFF 13) on Friday night.

The 84-minute documentary by famous French director Jacques Perrin, which took four long years and €5 million (about RM17,448,802) to make, was screened for the first time in the region to the BEFF audience.

It is a story about a journey into the depths of the oceans, giving viewers an unprecedented look at the lives of elusive deepwater creatures through its use of incredible state-of-the-art filmmaking techniques.

The BEFF screened the English version of Oceans that is narrated by the former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan.

Also in the program that night were the screening of the simple yet powerful live film The Giving Tree and the historical movie Kemajuan Sabah.

The night actually began with an intriguing seven-minute presentation of The Giving Tree, made up of a live narration of the film adapted from the classic children’s picture book written by Shel Silverstein.

Famous local poet and artist Datu Ruslan Sulai recited the Malay translation of The Giving Tree, accompanied by Malaysian musician Hezekiah Asim, renowned for playing ethnic musical instruments.

An eight-minute historical film entitled Kemajuan Sabah (Sabah’s progress) in Malay followed immediately after The Giving Tree. It is a black-and-white classic taken from the archives of Filem Negara Malaysia released in 1963 which showcases the opportunities and aspirations of Sabah at the dawn of a new country called Malaysia.

The event, which ended Saturday night, saw a total of 13 specially selected films screened free to the public.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun in his speech read by Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, described the BEFF’s effort as “commendable” for placing its emphasis on community engagement.

“From what I can see, there is definitely a lot of involvement from very committed public on the green agenda for the country. I hope the Festival will keep up with its efforts and reach out to more Sabahans.

“The Festival’s focus is of course on the screening of international and local environment-themed films. But there’s a certain laid-back and positive energy that comes with it, and I hope that, as a group of concerned citizens here, we are able to learn, understand and practice what we have seen,” he said.

He said the annual BEFF is also aimed at celebrating Borneo’s bio-cultural diversity through showcasing environmental films and nurturing local community filmmaking. Its mission is to also support indigenous people/local communities to tell their own stories with their own voice and with their own images while presenting environmental international and Asian films, some of which have never before been seen in Malaysia, or even throughout Asia.


Sarawak to continue with health tourism promotion

KUCHING: The state will continue to push towards promoting its health tourism industry that has continued to garner a significant increase in tourist arrivals.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the health sector here had begun to receive a lot of attention within the region considering the cheaper cost of medical treatment with top class facilities and medical specialist.

He added that from January till June this year, the state recorded an increase of between 12 and 16 per cent in tourist arrivals compared to the corresponding period last year. Last year, the state recorded about 4.1 million in tourist arrivals.

“We (the state) have received many visitors from neighbouring Kalimantan and even Jakarta, Indonesia, who came to sought treatment at private hospitals here such as KPJ Kuching Specialist Hospital and Normah Medical Centre.

“The upcoming Borneo Specialist Centre, which will house medical specialists who had served in Singapore, is sure to bring in their own base of clients. Sarawak posed an advantage because treatment cost would be lower than Singapore.

“The main tourism sub sector that has garnered lots of attention is health tourism. The increasing medical facilities in the state would ensure improvement in the health tourism sector. Tourist arrivals would increase,” Abang Johari, who is also Housing Minister, told reporters when met at the ‘Jom Heboh’ carnival here yesterday.

Among those present were Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof and Malaysia Institute of Defence and Security (Midas) chief executive Lt Gen Dato Pahlawan Dr William R Stevenson.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak to continue with health tourism promotion

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mother of the apes

AFTER 17 years of saving orphaned orangutans in Borneo the former air stewardess who gave up everything to protect the animals is now starting to release them back into the wild.

It was the momentous event Lone Droscher Nielsen had been envisaging for 17 years. Everything she'd worked for had been leading to this: the release into the wild of the orphan orangutans she and her colleagues had reared from babies.

For the former air stewardess it was the heart-warming culmination of many years of work that had brought her here to Borneo on a mission to save these animals' lives.

Further months of planning to transport the apes to this remote spot by boat, plane and helicopter had also gone into this moment. Now the team of project workers took turns to open the animals' individual travel containers.

One by one, the apes headed for the treetops.

Like a proud mother Lone watched as one of the orangutans, an 18-yearold called Emen, climbed into the canopy of trees and started making a nest. Lone thought back to the pitiful youngster she first met 14 years previously - another of the many victims of hunters and poachers who kill orangutan mothers to steal their babies to sell on in an illegal pet trade.

"Her owner was bragging that he'd cut the fingers off her right hand because she'd stolen some eggs," Lone recalls now. But Emen could have got her injuries when her mother was hacked to death with machetes. We'll never know."

Speaking from her home in Monmouthshire, Wales, Danish-born Lone adds: "Emen was the sweetest character and worked so hard to learn to climb using her stump and thumb.

"Seeing an animal freed touches something so deep inside, especially as I'd known these individuals for most of their lives," she continues, recalling the day of the animals' release, soon to be seen in a new TV documentary.

Nor will Lone, 49, forget releasing 17-year-old Leonora, who calmly strode to the nearest tree and climbed to freedom with son Lamar "clinging on for dear life". Looking up at her Lone remembered the sweet-faced three-year-old she had named after her own grandmother.

"When we went to confiscate her from her owner, I saw my grandmother in her face," says Lone. "Leonora was such a gentle soul. I worried she would always be too tame. But here she was proving me wrong.

"I got so emotional I had to walk away from the film crew making the documentary. For any mother the hardest part is letting go." What particularly concerned Lone was whether the animals - so accustomed to being fed and cared for - would be able to survive on their own in the wild.

"That night I didn't want to be at the camp with all the pots and pans and people talking. I felt happy, relieved and afraid at the same time. I slept at the release site in my hammock."

Since 1996 Lone has dedicated her life to saving orangutans nearing extinction. It couldn't be further from the carefree life she had in her 20s - au pairing in California, working as a chef on a yacht and travelling the world as an air stewardess.

But three months on a volunteering holiday at a rescue centre for confiscated pet orangutans changed everything. She learned how babies literally cling on to their mothers for their first eight months. But poachers were hunting down females to kill them and steal their babies to sell on as pets. The majority died in transit to other countries. The lost little souls in the sanctuary were the lucky ones.

"When I hold a baby that has witnessed the killing of its mother I cry for the fear they have both felt. It is heartbreaking to see motherless infants. When you look into their eyes you see such knowing intelligence."

She had found her calling. She left her job and flat in Berkshire and bought a one-way ticket to Borneo. Back at the sanctuary she met and fell in love with Odom, a handsome local Dayak (native of Borneo) who worked as a researcher. Lone's parents flew out for their traditional wedding in 1997 and they moved into a hut with no water or electricity. "We had cushions on the floor and candles. It was so romantic," she says.

Two years later, backed by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, the couple co-founded the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project. The black market pet trade was savage enough but the situation became dire with the relentless destruction of Borneo's rainforests for timber and palm oil plantations. Orangutans only survive on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra and experts fear 98 per cent of forests there will be destroyed by 2022.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Mother of the apes

Friday, September 27, 2013

Miri City Council introduces shopping bonanza to promote Asia Music Festival

MIRI: Miri City Council (MCC) is actively promoting the Asia Music Festival (AMF) by initiating a shopping bonanza in conjunction with the event.

It encourages shopping malls and supermarkets in its area of jurisdiction to take part in the bonanza and promote the festival by offering prizes to shoppers.

For every purchase of RM100 and above from participating outlets, customers will be offered free tickets to the festival on a ‘first come, first served’ basis while stocks last.

According to mayor Lawrence Lai, MCC and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) agreed on the free tickets promotion for the two-day event to introduce the brand new international festival to the public.

The festival will take place on Oct 4 and 5 at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club here.

The outlets participating in the AMF 2013 Shopping Bonanza are Bintang Mega Mall, Boulevard Imperial Mall, Boulevard Shopping Complex, PermyMall, Emart and Sin Liang Supermarket.

“The Asia Music Festival 2013 Shopping Bonanza promotional period will be from Friday (Sept 27) until Saturday (Oct 5),” disclosed Lai.

Other than organising the shopping bonanza, Lai said MCC will also be coordinating several fringe events at the venue, which include the

exhibition of 100 big bikes from Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei, eight handicraft stalls from Miri Handicraft Centre, four tattoo booths and a photography exhibition booth.

Meanwhile, STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said STB will continue to embark on its carbon footprint initiative through greening programmes such as a tree-planting ceremony.


Winners of Asia Music Festival 2013 online contest announced

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) is happy to announce that they have picked the winners of their inaugural Asia Music Festival (AMF) 2013 contest.

Held from Sept 6 – 20, the quiz was organised by STB, where readers had to answer five questions in the entry forms posted on to win free tickets to the two-day music festival.

The winner list along with the answers can be found online at

Winners can claim their tickets at the STB booth at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club on the day of the festival and are advised to bring documents of identification like their identity card or passport.

The music festival will bring a dynamic range of performers and musicians from India, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Korea, Brunei as well as Malaysia.

The line-up of performers includes Antoney Dassan Yen Party (India), The Foxy Girls (Indonesia), Bembol Rockers (Philippines), V.Star Band (Korea), Boy Thai Band (Thailand), Soesah Tidoer (Indonesia), Fakhrul Razi (Brunei), Tritha (India), Malaysian performers Bob Yusof (of Akademi Fantasia 2 fame), Hevance, Melissa Francis, The Mountain Wind Band and The Starlets Band.

Besides live music, fringe events will be run simultaneously like the Big Bikers Charity Event, tattoo and handicraft exhibitions.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Asia Music Festival in Miri to be electrifying mix

MIRI: The inaugural Asia Music Festival from Oct 4-5 promises the most electrifying eclectic mix of live music from Asian region bands.

To take place at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club, the festival has the objective of attracting the Asian expatriate community working in neighbouring Brunei, Bruneians themselves, as well as those from Sabah, Peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and other parts of the region.

A carnival atmosphere is planned apart from evening shows.

Based on the success of the Rainforest World Music Festival and the Borneo Jazz, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) is confident that this new festival will thrill the crowd.

“This is an inspiring opportunity for everyone to come together and experience the adventure of yet another music festival,” said STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan.

Bands confirmed are Bembol Rockers (Philippines), Vstar featuring Kamal Musallam (Korea), Anthony Dassan Yen Party Band (South India), Orkes Soesah Tideor (Indonesia), Foxy Girls (Indonesia), Boy Thai Band (Thailand), Tritha (North India) and Fakhrul Razi (Brunei).

There will also be bands and singers from Malaysia such as Melissa Francis, Starlet Band, The Mountain Wind Band, Hevance Band and Bob from Akademi Fantasia.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Asia Music Festival in Miri to be electrifying mix

Miri Waterfront Transformation Project: Biggest facelift of decade for Miri in the offing

Miri is primed for one of its biggest facelift of the decade under the landmark Miri Waterfront Transformation Project.

The project which will see the development of a five-star luxury hotel, a modern 18-storey highrise apartment suites, and 10 units of supersize shop houses by 2015 has a total gross development value of RM450 million.

Unique Harvests project director Alice Hu Yun Bin said the mega project would complement the city’s reputation as one of the country’s robust growth areas.

“The construction work for the entire development will take place concurrently, and both high rise buildings will go up at the same. The entire project is scheduled to be completed in two years, with completion anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2015,” said Hu.

“One of the main components of the transformation is the 18-storey private strata titled suites — the Wharf.

The Wharf is a 99-year leasehold private development encompassing all 3 bedroom detached and semi-detached units from the sixth floor onwards, and offers modern lifestyle facilities on the fifth floor such as swimming pool, the very first Sky Garden in Miri, gym, aerobics room, multi-purpose hall, pool deck, BBQ pits and many more,” Hu pointed out.

The Suites with the size of 1531 sq ft to 1760 sq ft will be semi-furnished and are priced between RM926,888 and RM1,091,688 depending on unit location.

The five-star luxury hotel consists of 328 spacious rooms and suites, and will include facilities such as a ballroom with a seating for up to 1,000 people, six other function rooms, all with modern meeting facilities, a signature infinity pool with pool deck and children’s pool, a private spa with sauna, steam room and jacuzzi, gym and aerobics, F&B outlets, including coffee house with a modern open buffet concept and a private lounge on the top floor.


Tanjung Aru beach access guaranteed

KOTA KINABALU: Tanjung Aru Eco Development Sdn Bhd (TAED), the company redeveloping Tanjung Aru into a world class destination, yesterday said that public access to the beach is guaranteed.

It said that that more than 50 percent of Tanjung Aru area will be dedicated to public park, open spaces, walkways, bicycle lanes and others.

“We fully acknowledge that the beachfront of Tanjung Aru belongs to the people of Sabah, and this recreational area will always remain a perpetual heritage to be enjoyed by all generations. As such the public beach is a key component of the development masterplan and it is intended for the new beach not only to be larger but all encompassing,” the company said in a statement yesterday.

It was responding to the recent queries and concerns regarding the project highlighted by Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA) concerned about access to the beach.

TAED also confirmed that Prince Philip Park will be expanded and rejuvenated to bring back its charm for public enjoyment with a much larger increase in acreage. In fact, the park will be double its present size.

An EIA consultant, DHI Water & Environment, has been appointed and the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the EIA is in preparation. The TOR will be submitted to the State Environment Protection Department for their review to ascertain whether a normal or a special EIA is required.

“We acknowledge that there have been different versions of the masterplan in circulation, which reflects the fact that the concept is still in its preliminary stages based on the inputs from the local and international consultants in the field of environmental impact, environmental sustainability, hydraulics, water quality, coastal engineering and landscape architects among others.

“Their inputs are shaping the development concept, but the preservation and rejuvenation of the area’s cultural heritage, namely the public beach and Prince Philip Park, has always been a cornerstone of the development concept and there will be no compromise on this,” said the company.

It added that the masterplan has not been finalised as the various consultants have not completed their studies. When the draft final design of the masterplan is completed, it will be displayed and accessible to the public before the next phase of the design works is implemented.

The Board of Directors of TAED, mainly comprising of top civil servants are committed to ensure that the interest of the public will always take precedence for this development.

Concerned groups are calling for a special environmental impact assessment for the proposed massive redevelopment of the scenic Tanjung Aru beach area here.

Continue reading at: Tanjung Aru beach access guaranteed

Sarawak Tourism Board finalist in ‘The Destination of the Year’ award

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) joined other finalists in London’s Leicester Square to see who would walk away with this year’s most hotly anticipated award — The Destination of the Year.

The travel industry’s biggest players were out in force at the prestigious Travel Trade Gazette Awards on Sept 10 to celebrate the achievements of the past year.

This is the first year STB was shortlisted, and their first year at the awards, joining other leading destinations like Brand USA, Tourism Australia and Barbados Tourism Authority.

Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing was eventually named the winner that evening.

TTG’s editor and brand director Daniel Pearce presented STB regional marketing manager Maurice Balang with a certificate to recognise Sarawak’s huge achievement in making it into the shortlist.

Maurice said that they were delighted with the achievement.

“The UK is one of our biggest tourism markets and over the past year we have increased our engagement with the trade; a strategic decision that has now been rewarded,” he said.

“However, we must not let momentum slip and will continue in our efforts to champion Sarawak.”


Sarawak Tourism Board wins gold travel award for print campaign

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) has won the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Gold Award 2013 for its Sarawak Tourism Re-Imaging Campaign in the Marketing Media — Travel Advertisement Print Media.

Malaysia received two Pata Gold Awards at the international membership association’s award ceremony held in Chengdu, China recently.

The other was won by the Frangipani Langkawi Resort and Spa for its Eco-Walk and Training.

STB CEO Datuk Rashid Khan received the award for the print campaign conceptualised and created by STB’s creative agency Integrated Strategic Communications.

“This is another big endorsement of our efforts to further promote Sarawak in the global tourism arena.

This is the third international award received by the board for its re-imaging campaign,” Rashid said in a press statement.

The press statement added that Pata judges were most impressed with the quality of STB’s entry, and indeed the overall high standard of entries submitted this year.

This year’s awards attracted 165 entries from 60 organisations and individuals worldwide.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Experts from New Zealand to conduct study on eco-tourism in Sarawak

KUCHING: The state has engaged New Zealand eco-tourism experts to do a comprehensive feasibility study on its tourism sector, particularly in eco-tourism.

The study will cover areas from the Santubong peninsula to Tanjung Datu, including Bako National Park and Wetland Park, and Rambungan to Lundu which has Gunung Gading Park and Tanjung Datu Park.

Minister of Sarawak Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said these places are easily accessible from Kuching, which made them popular among tourists.

He said the study would include accommodation which must blend with the environment.

“The study, which is costing more than a million ringgit, is now in process and we are giving them a timeline of one year. After that we will know what infrastructure to put in.

“The New Zealanders are good in eco-tourism because in their country, eco-tourism is number one followed by agriculture,” he told reporters after launching the Sarawak Region Community College Convocation Ceremony at the Dewan Kompleks Islam Baitumal here yesterday.

The Department of Community Colleges Education Ministry director-general Amir Md Noor was also present.

In addition, Abang Johari said, the study will also cover Bakun lake which has about 43,000 species of plants including wild orchids.

“When I went to Bakun, I felt that there must be a certain zoning where people are allowed to do angling.


Air connectivity vital in BIMP-EAGA growth

MIRI: There is a need to enhance the air connectivity, within Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines – East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) region.

Stating this at the inaugural BIMP-EAGA Transport Cluster meeting here yesterday, Assistant Minister of Communications Datuk Lee Kim Shin called on the BIMP-EAGA Transport Committee to specifically look into air connectivity between Miri with the other cities in the BIMP-EAGA region.

Lee said Miri is strategically located and has vast tourism potential and the city’s importance as a transport hub had been boosted by major industrialisation through the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) at nearby Samalaju Industrial Park.

“I still remember launching the commercial bus service under a memorandum of understanding on cross-border movement of commercial buses and coach’s way back in October 2008, marking the commencement of commercial bus service under the memorandum connecting Miri to Bandar Seri Begawan, Limbang, and Lawas and all the way to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah,” he said.

The assistant minister was happy to note that despite the challenges and constraints, the bus service is still in operation.

He added that the ro-ro ferry service that commenced operation on October 16, 2010, linking Muara, Brunei Darussalam to Labuan provided a new gateway for people residing or working in Labuan to drive to Brunei, all the way to Miri, Bintulu, Sibu and other places.

“The pace of progress and achievement in developing the transportation network in BIMP-EAGA may not be taking place at bullet train speed; nonetheless, progress does happen, achievement are there, albeit at a ‘moderate pace’. At least it is better than no action talk only,” he added.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bats and more: an astonishing array of wildlife greets visitors to Borneo’s Gunung Mulu

The low, steady rumbling roar sounded like a storm was blowing in. But when I looked up, I saw only sunlight piercing the dense jungle canopy. A few minutes later, however, the source of the sound became apparent in a nearby clearing: I stood in awe as a continuous stream of bats flowed across the sky, moving together as if choreographed.

It is estimated that two million of the flying mammals live in Deer Cave at Gunung Mulu National Park on the island of Borneo. The late afternoon exodus can last for over an hour, and is just one of many natural wonders to find in this off-the-beaten trail, tropical paradise.

I am on a scientific expedition to study the biological diversity of Mulu, in my role as assistant curator of mammalogy with the Royal Ontario Museum, but any adventurous tourist can explore this United Nations World Heritage Site. Mulu is known for its 50-million-year-old geological history that has left mountainous peaks rising more than two kilometres above the surrounding forest and extensive cave systems carved out by underground rivers.

My local guide Veno’s father used to harvest and sell bat droppings as fertilizer, and the guano still forms huge mounds beside a flight of wooden stairs built in the cave for tourists. Many of the tour guides at Mulu are from his Berawan group of the Orang Ulu — “people from up river.”

They will take visitors just about anywhere in the park including trekking to the 2,400-metre summit or hiking on the headhunter trail. In previous generations, Orang Ulu warriors used this route for raids on their enemies and would bring back heads as symbols of their bravery. “It was the old custom of survival,” said Veno, who now works with the Penan — another group of Orang Ulu who are most familiar with this mountainous region.

Tourists can hire a guide for $135 per person to take them on the challenging four-day and three-night roundtrip summit hike of 50 kilometres. Unless you are super fit, I recommend splitting the cost of hiring a porter, who will carry food and other supplies for four people for an extra $120.

The trek to the summit starts with an easy morning hike to Camp 1 at the base of the mountain. If there have been recent rains, the trail will be muddy and there are several stream crossings of various depths depending on the weather. Bring footwear that can get wet such as water-resistant hiking boots, rubber boots or high-tech aquatic shoes. It will be a matter of personal preference and how much you want to pack for the trip. Be prepared to get a leech or two, but they are more gross than harmful.


Friends of Sarawak Museum to play role in culture preservation

KUCHING: Friends of Sarawak Museum (FoSM) has come at the right time to play a role in the state government’s massive cultural and heritage preservation exercise, which involves the construction of a new museum.

Speaking at the official launch of FoSM yesterday, Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said they will be talking to experts, including one from Singapore, to get their input on a new museum building to facilitate the exchange of artefacts with other museums in New Zealand, Australia and Europe.

He also said the new museum is part of the plans for a Legacy Square announced by Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud in August.

“Sarawak has a rich historical, natural and cultural heritage – from our music, dance, language and costumes to our natural resources and our food. This rich heritage has drawn traders, thinkers and travellers from all corners of the world to our shores.”

FoSM is on a mission to promote appreciation of Sarawak’s heritage through its museums, providing an opportunity for Sarawakians from all walks of life to contribute to museums and other heritage sites.

“It will train docents, or volunteer guides, to provide quality interpretation to visitors,” Abang Johari said.

Also present were Tourism Assistant Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip, Sarawak Museum Department director Ipoi Datan, FoSM president Anthony Sebastian and FoSM executive director Louise Macul.

In his speech, Ipoi Datan said the Museum Department’s vision is to become a world class heritage institution of Sarawak.

“We aim to be the custodians of antiques, monuments and cultural landmarks, archaeological sites, arts, architectural, religions relics and other materials which have high traditional significance and value for the benefit of the state and national heritage in order to bring about perpetual understanding and greater harmony amongst the people of Sarawak.”

In order to achieve this vision, he said they were working closely with counterparts in the government, institutions and experts from around the world and partners in the private sector.

“The ‘Friends of the Museum’ organisations exist in many parts of the world, and have proved to be an invaluable resource for museum administrators and managers,” he added.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Music Festivals in Sarawak

There are numerous Music Festivals in Sarawak for music lovers or even anyone who is into various genres of music. The largest state in the east of Malaysia plays host to a number of international and world renown music festivals and shows throughout the year and this article is highlighting these events that attracts thousands of visitors here.

Note that Sarawak is located in the east of Malaysia on the island of Borneo which is shared by Sabah, Brunei and Indonesia Kalimantan. Access to Sarawak is via flights from Kuala Lumpur and many other major cities around the region while from neighboring countries, you can drive into the state. Below is a list of major music festivals in Sarawak in no order and supported by images of the events.

Rainforest World Music Festival

The mother-of-all music festivals in Sarawak, the Rainforest World Music Festival which has been around for 16 years, and is recognized as one of the 25 music festivals in the world to visit. Having attending this festival only in 2013, I realized the huge potential of this festival which showcases ethnic musicians from around the world in one event.

Spread over a three day event, hoards of people from the world over make their way here to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere in the Sarawak Cultural Village, which has been home to the RWMF for the last 16 years.If you have never attended this unique festival, I very much recommend going for the next one which is the Rainforest World Music Festival 2014. Provided you must love world music and the outdoors.

As many reports have been out there about the festival losing its charm, I stand to differ as I was a first timer there in 2013 and the momentum of the festival opened my eyes. Personally, I had a fabulous time there listening to the many interesting genres of music from around the world. The event is also held yearly in the month of July and at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong. Below are random pictures from the RWMF 2013.

Borneo International Jazz Festival

Running for the 7th year, the Borneo International Jazz Festival or BIJF is a must-visit if you are a jazz lover. This festival was once called the Miri Jazz Festival too. The home ground for this is at the ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri which has a spectacular event area facing the sea. Also an outdoor event, world class jazz musicians make their way here for a two day outdoor jazz festival cum carnival which is excellent for families, couples and of course, jazz lovers.

Subjective as it may sound, there are also sub-jazz genres performed during the BIJF as I witnessed this year in 2013. For the general jazz lovers, you will be in for a treat as the line up is well balanced with different groups who perform interesting variations of jazz. Food and beverages are easily available here while it only takes about five minutes drive to the city center from here. The Borneo Jazz Festival is usually held in the month of March every year.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Music Festivals in Sarawak

Visit the World’s Most Famous Floating Village in Brunei

The floating village of Kampong Ayer is a must-see destination for visitors to Brunei. The world’s largest floating village, it is considered a symbol of the history, culture and development of Brunei.

According to the ancient documents and records, Kampong Ayer was formed some 1,300 years ago. Small settlements were then scattered on Borneo Island, but people were afraid of predators on the land, so they began building houses over the water. Later, as the Sultanate of Brunei flourished, the village grew larger and larger.

The 14th and 16th century were the most prosperous period for Brunei, as well as of Kampong Ayer, as the village became an economic and administrative centre, and the capital of Brunei at that time.

The houses in the village are connected by a system of raised wooden walkways called jembatan. There are a total of some 36km of these wooden walkways connecting the different sections of the village and running to each house.

All the houses and public buildings in the village are built of mangrove wood from Borneo Island. This type of wood is used for the stilts since it is hard and strong, able to both support the heavy structures and resist the corrosive effects of seawater for many years.

The houses in the village are well known for being cleanly decorated, with outdoor areas for flowers and bonsai. Most of the houses are furnished simply, in keeping with the lifestyle in Brunei, but many have numerous rooms including living room, bedrooms for parents and children, and separate kitchens.

The houses, built about 2 meters above the water, have a cool and airy atmosphere for the residents. The community is quite peaceful; people need not worry about theft or burglary, and everyone is happy together.


First Sunda clouded leopard satellite collared in Sabah

KINABATANGAN: A wild Sunda clouded leopard was recently trapped and fitted with a satellite collar for the first time ever, as part of a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), WildCRU and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

This project, focusing on research and conservation of the Sunda clouded leopard and other carnivores in Sabah, is mainly funded by Sime Darby Foundation, with additional funding and support provided by Atlanta Zoo, Houston Zoo, Recanati-kaplan Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Point Defiance Zoo and Rufford Foundation.

“On Sunday 15 September, early morning, a male Sunda clouded leopard weighing 25 kgs, was caught in one of our traps set up along the Kinabatangan River, in the vicinity of DGFC,” explained Andrew Hearn from WildCRU and PhD student at Oxford University.

“Rarely seen, Sunda clouded leopards are amongst some of the most elusive and secretive of the world’s wild cats, and as such, remain one of the least understood.

“I have been studying these beautiful felids here in Sabah for over seven years, yet have seen them only a handful of times, and despite trying, have been unable to entice one into our traps, until now,” he said.

Hearn added the leopard was fitted with a satellite collar to provide crucial information on its movements in the Kinabatangan landscape.

“It should send a location every 20 minutes for about four to six months, enabling us to determine its home range and how it is able to move through the fragmented landscape.

“Incredibly, a few days later, we caught another individual, an old female, weighing only 9 kgs. She was too small and too old to collar, but we have been documenting her in the Kinabatangan since 2010, using camera traps,” said Hearn.

Wildlife veterinarian Dr Fernando Nájera said anesthetizing the first wild male Sunda clouded leopard had been one of the most rewarding experiences of his whole professional career.

“We have been waiting too long for this moment and having this astonishing animal under my care during the procedure was something that I will never forget.

“Malaysians are very lucky to have this unique species in their forests and we all need to keep on working together towards the conservation of Sunda clouded leopards, a truly Malay treasure,” said the PhD student from University Complutense of Madrid, Spain who is working on the project.


Sarawak Tourism Ministry lobbying for more direct flights to state

SIBU: The state will strive to improve its air connectivity to boost its tourism industry.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said he would meet the top management of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) this week in Kuching to discuss the matter.

He was asked to comment on calls from local tourism players here for a direct flight from Singapore to here.

“We will see what we can do,” Abang Johari, who is also Housing Minister, told The Borneo Post after ‘Majlis Ramah Tamah Aidil Fitri’ for central zone cum Saberkas leadership award Friday night.

He said he could not comment further until after the meeting, slated on Sept 26.

Sarawak Central Region Hotel Association chairman Johnny Wong Sie Lee called on the government to help make the Sibu/Singapore route a reality.

He reasoned that Singaporeans would flock to visit Sibu if the direct flight was available.

“Otherwise, they will be waiting too long in transit and this is putting them off,” Wong lamented.

Meanwhile, the Divisional Tourism Task Group (DTTG) met recently, to call for more flights to Sibu.


Sarawak Tourism Ministry chips in RM50,000 for Sibuti Regatta

NIAH: The state government, through Ministry of Tourism, allocated RM50,000 to Sibuti Regatta Committee to finance the event, said Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip.

“Ministry of Tourism allocated RM50,000 to  support the committee in organising  various events that enhance unity and harmony apart from generating income for small time traders,” Talib said.

He represented Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg at  the closing ceremony of Sibuti regatta yesterday.

He said the Sarawak Tourism Ministry supported events such  as regattas as they boost tourism and create opportunities for the local communities to sell their products during the event.

Besides that, Talib said through regattas the multi-racial community could take part together in the events, fostering unity among the people.

Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Datuk Patinggi Abang Muhammad  Salahuddin and Toh Puan Patinggi Norkiah graced the closing ceremony.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Tourism Ministry chips in RM50,000 for Sibuti Regatta

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Underwater clean-up in Kuching highlights marine threat

FOLLOWING months of careful planning and coordination, the Malaysia Day Dive 2013 (MDD) concluded on a high note with a total of 64.5kg of marine debris successfully collected from in and around the WWII shipwreck of the Hiyoshi Maru, about 30km off the Santubong coast.

A stinking mess of abandoned fishing nets piled high on the boat ramp may not be anyone’s idea of the catch of the day but for the 15 volunteer divers taking part, it was a beautiful sight because it meant these nets would no longer pose a danger to ocean life.

“We’re quite pleased with what we managed to accomplish today even though we could not reach our target of collecting 100kg of fishing nets,” said event organiser Ernest Teo, when met right after the team landed on shore.

Weak ocean currents also helped diving conditions at the wreck site despite continuous rain in Kuching for most of the previous night and early morning that day.

Nevertheless, the divers still found the task of removing the nets from the wreck rather tricky, having to rely on knives and scissors to cut through the worst bits entangled over the wreck’s structure and the coral growing on and around it.

The divers’ exuberance was also somewhat tempered by the knowledge that they had no choice but to leave behind a lot more debris due to the constraints of time and lack of manpower.

Nevertheless, the team took pleasure in doing their bit to protect one of Kuching’s most popular and well-known historical diving sites.

Once on shore, the divers measured the debris collected so that the data could be logged and sent to Project AWARE ( – a global environmental movement founded by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) – as part of Dive Against Debris (DAD).

DAD is a comprehensive, year-round data collection programme focused on the prevention of underwater debris.

This type of information is crucial for any effort to influence environmental protection policies as well as gather key data about the current states of our oceans.

For their efforts, the MDD divers also received Project AWARE certificates for their efforts to keep the ocean debris free.

“We hope that this (dive) will encourage and inspire other divers to get involved in cleaning marine debris,” Teo said.

Unseen menace

One of the aims of the Hiyoshi Maru wreck clean-up was to highlight the significant threat posed by marine debris on ocean environments and eco-systems.

Teo pointed out that one of most obvious difficulties with surveying the amount and impact of marine debris is that a lot of it is underwater – out of sight, out of mind.

“People won’t know it is there unless they look below the surface – like scuba divers who see first-hand the damage it can cause to the environment.”

Thousands of marine animals and seabirds are killed all over the world every year by marine debris – whether from ingesting trash, getting entangled in fishing nets or having their habitats and food sources depleted by rubbish.

For endangered populations such as certain species of sea turtles, even the loss of a handful of their kind can mean the difference between survival and extinction.

Underwater threat

Unfortunately, marine debris is not the only threat faced by dive sites in Kuching. The other is the pilfering of artifacts which, to a certain extent, has been facilitated by the lack of legal protection and oversight over historical marine sites (WWII shipwrecks stripped – The Borneo Post, Sept 14).

Both marine debris and the removal of artifacts are causing serious – even irreparable –harm to Kuching’s burgeoning underwater tourism industry.

“I would say diving at the Japanese wrecks in Kuching is one of the best (wreck diving experiences) in the whole of Malaysia right now. It’s an asset we rarely promote but now (through MDD) we have a good opportunity to promote it,” said Teo.


Baleh-Kapit Raft safari dangles RM41,500

KAPIT: Winners of the 18th series of Baleh-Kapit Raft Safari slotted from Oct 4 to 6 stand to win some RM41,500 in cash prizes and challenge trophies for the various categories.

The prizes are for the six categories namely the Men Bamboo Open, Men Bamboo Closed, Free Style, Women Bamboo Closed, Paddle Boat and Best Decorated Raft.

The winners for the Men’s Open and the Paddle Boat category will bring home the RM3,000 cash prize and  a trophy, first runner up, RM2500 and a trophy, second runner up, RM1500 and  a trophy while those placed fourth to tenth places will receive the consolation prizes of RM800 each.

For the Men’s Bamboo Closed, Free Style and Women Bamboo Closed , the champion team will receive RM2,000 and a trophy, RM1500 and a trophy for the second place winner , RM1,000 and a trophy for third place while those teams placed fourth to tenth places will receive the consolation prize of RM500 each.

In the Best Decorated Raft category, the champion team will receive RM1,000 and a trophy,  winner of second place RM800 and a trophy and the third place winner to receive RM500 and a trophy respectively.

The best decorated raft category would be judged based on the traditional materials used and the design. In addition, the raft must reach the finishing point in order to qualify.

Kapit Resident Fredrick John George, who is the organising chairman of the raft safari said this when chairing the sixth committee meeting at the State Office Complex on Friday.

According to Fredrick, the first leg of the raft safari would be from Rumah Undi, Bena Sungai Sut on Oct 5 and the next day the flagging off would be from Rumah Juntan, Nanga Elik, Sungai Sut, Baleh River to Kapit Express Passenger Terminal.

Fredrick said the two venues for the race this year are accessible by road from the town.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Baleh-Kapit Raft safari dangles RM41,500

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sabah Dining: Lucy’s Kitchen at Market 88

Purported as the place to go for desserts but having the reputation of so-so savory dishes, the KKMOI team decided to go have lunch at the popular Lucy’s Kitchen at Market 88 to see if what we heard was true.

So without further ado, let us tell you a bit about our experience.


When we arrived, the entire air-conditioned area was occupied, so we headed out to the outdoor area at the back. In spite of it being a hot day, the outside area was breezy, so we were quite happy to be there. Moreover, two of the team members were smokers and they liked the “outdoor” option.


The scene is a good mix of families with small children, friends, and folks in business-attire. By the time we were 70% through our lunch, more people started to pour in, all tables were occupied, and there were folks waiting around for tables to be vacated. Regardless of whether you are going there for lunch or dinner, our advice to you is to arrive early.



Prawn Fritters

At first glance, this dish looks like any Chinese prawn fritter dish, but it doesn’t feel quite as oily. Biting into them was lovely. The dish however came with commercial mayonnaise, so the sauce didn’t have the character that would have made this better by our standards.

Oxtail Soup (Malaysian Style)

This wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the kind that gave me a Malay food-gasm. I know how wrong that sounds, but there’s no better way to describe it.

The meat was tender, the soup was flavorful, but I guess what I was looking for was a knockout oxtail soup. It had the punch power of a kampung rustic pot, but what we want is for it to taste like a makcik made it. It didn’t taste like that. :( Still something worth eating if you like a) oxtail and b) the Malay sup bumbu taste.

Caesar Salad

Being served fresh salad leaves is the single most important aspect in the sweltering heat of the tropics. Why? Bacteria and germs populate a lot faster in hot and humid conditions. The lettuce looked nice and fresh, but I would have liked the tomatoes to be cut right in front of me if I had a choice (but let’s be practical here).

The dressing however tastes like packed commercial stuff. If you’re okay with that, then that’s fine, but I’m a “Salad Nazi” (I make salads all the time) and unless the dressings are freshly made, I’m going to get on every salad-maker’s case. Why? If ultra-busy KKMOI can toss a fresh dressing in 2 minutes, so can they. That’s if they want to improve!

Main Dishes

Spaghetti Bolognaise

Decent by local layman standards, “meh” by a New Yorker’s standard. This isn’t something I’d lift up my skirt to hitchhike to get to, because I guess I can make something I like more.

However, don’t listen to me, it’s fine. I can’t help being a little picky because I am a Queens gal, where every other corner serves some damn good bolognaise from real Italian-Americans.

If you’re a Westerner who has been cast away like Tom Hanks for months at a remote island or something, this will sooth your pang for pasta, until you discover a better bolognaise. It’s saucy, so very saucy!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sabah Dining: Lucy’s Kitchen at Market 88

Bay cat in Sabah

During our trip in Malaysia earlier this year we met a couple of fellow wildlife enthousiasts in Borneo.

They had some info that may be of interest for other mammalwatchers.

They had spent a few days in a forest reserve called Deramakot.

In this reserve they experiment with sustainable logging and more importantly for mammalwatchers, it seems to be a very good place to see some rare species.

A camera trapping study revealed the presence of flat-headed cat, clouded leopard, otter civet, hairy-nosed otter, banded palm civet, sun bear and tembadau.

Our friends hired the jeep of the rangers (with driver) for a whole day for 400 RM.

They were mainly after elephants and orangutans.

Although they saw plenty of elephant tracks and old orangutan nests, they did not see their targets in the reserve.

During spotlighting they did see a bay cat!!!

They got a very good look at it as the ranger’s initial determination was flat-headed cat but the animal was too big and uniformly colored to be any other species.

Unfortunately they did not get a picture of it…

Continue reading (Incl. Vid) at: Bay cat in Sabah

Friday, September 20, 2013

5 Reasons Why You MUST Attend Borneo Eco Film Festival 2013

If you didn't know it already, the annual Borneo Eco Film Festival (BEFF) is back for it's 3rd year and are ready to explode in awesomeness this coming 27 - 29 September 2013 at the Kompleks Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Keseniaan Negara (JKNN) Sabah.

Here are my 5 ultimate reasons why you MUST attend #BEFF2013:

1. Rare Gems to be Display

The films showcases during BEFF are not your ordinary cup of tea that are easily available when you browse through your satellite tv channels on a lazy afternoon. Most of the films are going to be premiere for the first time in South East Asia and be prepared to be blown away with some of the rare footage of the early Sabah.

I personally can't wait to watch "Blackfish", "Oceans" and "A Fierce Green Fire".

2. Get Yourself Inspires

Just by watching the trailers for some of the films already got me so inspired. As human we have been living on earth for so long and we kept on taking and taking even more by day from natures. It's time for us to give back and make the earth a much better place for generations to come.

All the environmental films will inspires you, trust me!

3. Contribute Your Ideas for Film(s)

There is a segment where you can participate and contribute your ideas for future film making. The Borneo Pitch is a public forum that provides an opportunity for local storyteller to present their ideas to filmmaking experts and also to the audience and in return will receive feedback from everyone!