Thursday, October 31, 2013

Into the Heart of Borneo

To finish up the summer I headed out to Borneo for 8 weeks as part of Kayak Borneo. Before landing in Kota Kinabalu I had no idea what to expect, but what followed was two months of great food, minor mishaps and adventure.

We met indigenous tribes who have occupied the highlands for ten thousand years, paddled numerous first descents and ran countless class three rapids...upstream! Check out the Kayak Borneo blog for stories. Here is a collection of my favourite photos and memories.

The Telekosang

An awesome river found by the first team. We headed there early in the trip to warm up and get a feel for the white water of Borneo.

The Tuto

After warming up the team decided to leave Sabah (northern Malaysian Borneo) and head south west to Sarawak. After talking to helicopter pilots, consulting our seriously out of date topological maps and driving through the small country of Brunei we set of on an unconventional route to Mulu national park.

Two ferries, a long boat and a scary four wheel drive ride later and we were at the top of the Tuto. With persistent heavy rain we had to move camp three times on the first night whilst dodging the jungle wildlife.

The river was mostly big, big volume grade 3/4 but one rapid was so serious that it had us trapped for four hours waiting for the levels to drop. Every time we thought it was getting ok to run a tree would emerge like the sword from the lake below the drop.

Along the way we managed to get immersed in the tribal culture of Borneo; staying with Penan and Kayan tribes in traditional longhouses. We were even given a demonstration of the silent and deadly blowpipe.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Into the Heart of Borneo

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guidebook on Mount Kinabalu's eastern trail launched

KOTA KINABALU: Plans to promote the less explored eastern part of Mount Kinabalu to adventure seekers are being worked out.

Sabah Parks chairman Datuk Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin Tengku Mahamood said while it was too early to reveal anything, he expected to come out with something concrete in the next few months.

Launching a guidebook, East Kinabalu: A Guide to the Eastern Part of Mount Kinabalu on Monday, he said part of the reason for a lack of climbers at that part of the mountain was the dearth of information compared with the well-trodden tourist trail to the highest peak, the Low's Peak.

The 160-page guidebook, written by three local climbing enthusiasts, would help address the matter and hopefully generate interest for others to venture into the less explored part of the mountain, said Zainal Adlin.

"People normally take the normal routes as east of Mt Kinabalu is for the more adventurous; it is more challenging yet safe.

"But more is needed to be done so that people will be able to experience the rocky wilderness there. We are planning something, but we cannot say anything yet until the government endorses it."

Asked about the difference in the number of climbers between the East Kinabalu route and the popular tourist trail, he said: "Last year, about 50,000 people climbed the western trail up Mt Kinabalu, but only nine people climbed the mountain's eastern trail.

"In the past, it was mostly Kinabalu Parks staff who climbed the eastern part of Mt Kinabalu, so we need to attract more local and international trekkers to this part."


Novel way to market Sabah tourism

INCENTIVE: Special tourism packages to give visitors a shopping spree-cum-cultural experience

KOTA KINABALU: SABAH is moving to promote the state capital and Labuan as potential holiday shopping destinations in conjunction with Visit Malaysia 2014.

Its special "Oh My Shopping" package would not only provide tourists a shopping spree experience, but also get them to join cultural tours and adventures here and in Labuan.

Sabah Tourism Malaysia director Sani Sham Ahmad said the agency, under Tourism Ministry, was working closely with selected shopping malls and travel agencies.

"Travel agencies see the potential of incorporating shopping with culture and adventure to further promote Sabah and Labuan as shopping havens.

"This creative method will be more appealing to tourists as promoting shopping alone is difficult," he said at a Duty Free Seminar here yesterday.

Sani said Sabah Tourism Malaysia had sold 380 packages worth RM263,000 since the "Oh My Shopping" initiative was launched in August.

He said the city and Labuan were as good as other duty-free islands as tourists would be able to shop for various tax- and duty-free goods in malls as well as tamu (bazaars).

The government aimed to promote Malaysia as a premier duty- free shopping destination and Sabah as well as Labuan, could contribute towards this initiative, he added.

Organised by Tourism Malaysia, the Duty-Free Seminar was to encourage shopping complexes, retailers, associations and non-governmental organisations to play their role in promoting duty-free goods.

Continue reading at: Novel way to market Sabah tourism

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Proboscis Monkey is the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 Mascot

After years of having the common Orangutan, Hornbill and Leatherback Turtle as the official mascot for the Visit Malaysia Year events, it was a very nice surprise to see a Proboscis Monkey being selected as the official mascot for the coming Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

This was also officiated at the dinner gala for the World Tourism Conference 2013 in Melaka on the 21st October.

The Malaysian Tourism Minister - Daruk Seri Nazri had concluded his WTC 2013 speech which led to the official announcement to over 600 people at the Hattan Hotel Grand Ballroom in Melaka. 

Many were caught unaware of this unique primate which can only be found on the island of Borneo.

Datuk Seri Nazri initiated the launch gambit by inserting a special VMY2014 Card into a slot which opened the center stage to reveal three Proboscis Monkeys who came out to surprise of the audience here.

Specially tailored costumes of the primates were created for this event where the monkeys danced on the stage inviting the tourism minister to participate along.

A video presentation on the highly protected primate was followed with a brief introduction to the media and audience.

The Proboscis Monkey or scientifically known as Nasalis larvatus is a very unique monkey due to its habitat where it survives on a very unique vegetarian diet of leaves from selected mangrove trees.

The large nosed monkeys are commonly found around Sabah and Sarawak near mangrove areas and usually in groups.

In Sabah, they are spotted at places along the Kinabatangan River, Labuk Bay in Sandakan and also the Klias River near Kuala Penyu which is about two hours from Kota Kinabalu city.

There are also other parts of Sabah where thee monkeys can be spotted.

A number of tour operators cater to tours and trips to see the Proboscis Monkeys.


JSM, first Welsh band to perform at 2014 Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival

KUCHING: A Welsh band will the first time be featured at the 17th edition of the internationally acclaimed Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) to be held here on June 20-22 next year.

Sarawak Tourism Board, Malaysia Major Events and Mabon jointly announced this at the World Music Expo (Womex) 2013 being held in Cardiff, Wales.

The band is delighted to accept this invitation which tops off a remarkable year of shows across Europe and precedes the band’s headline ‘Taith ADRE Tour’ across Wales in November.

Jamie Smith, Mabon’s composer and accordionist said it is a great honour for the band to be invited to this festival.

“We look forward to performing to a new audience and making new friends in a different part of the world,” he said.

The mighty Jamie Smith’s Mabon (JSM) are Britain’s finest original Inter-Celtic music performers, travelling beyond borders to explore the forms and styles of the Celtic traditions and work them anew.

The band’s reputation for producing acclaimed recordings and stunning live shows is well documented. Combining traditional instruments and a modern rhythm section, JSM perform outstanding original compositions, both instrumental and vocal, by acclaimed accordionist Jamie.

The band comprising five members will no doubt thrill festival goers.

In 2011 they were awarded ‘Best Instrumental Album’ by online folk and roots magazine Spiral Earth. Since then the band has played sessions for BBC Radio 2 and Radio 3, headlined shows for Celtic Connections, Womad (UK), Interceltique du Lorient, Het Lindeboom (France), Music Meeting (Netherlands) and a host of high profile festivals across Europe.

In 2013, Jamie won the competitive accordion competition at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient.

They are a ‘must see’ act in the folk and roots world.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Palm wine of the Kadazandusun

The Kadazandusun community makes a variety of traditional alcoholic drinks.

First, there is tapai, derived from rice fermented for a couple of weeks and then diluted with water.

This is a very simple and common way of making tapai drink.

Lihing is also made from rice but allowed to ferment longer until it turns into potent wine.

Another beverage is palm wine, known locally as bahar which is extracted from nipah palms and coconut trees. In Kota Belud, it is mostly derived from the latter.

Sumil Basanau, 46, is a third generation tapper from Kampung Tombulion Laut, Kota Belud. He extracts bahar from the coconut trees in his village.

He said bahar is derived from the flowers of the coconut tree while they are still in bud form.

“What I usually do is build a bamboo ladder right up to the top of the coconut tree. Some people don’t do this but I think safety first and so I build the ladder. This is especially important if the tree is tall like 12 feet and above. The risk of falling can be minimised this way.”

What usually happens is that when a bud appears on the tree, Sumil will tie it down so that it droops. He will then bind the bud, crop the tip and leave it for at least three days. After that, he returns with a container.

In the old days, bamboo cuts were used to catch the sap but nowadays, plastic containers or anything that can catch the sap, are used instead.

“I will climb up and secure the container to the bud so that the sap will flow down without spilling. I will then cut a very thin slice of the sap just so it flows again,” Sumil explained.

According to him, the sap will flow the whole day slowly but surely and is cut slightly again in the evening.

It is collected everyday at 5pm or so.

By that time, there should be a litre or more of sap collected in the container. It will be then taken down and another container put in position.

“I get about a litre a day, or at times, about a litre and a half. It depends on how nicely and neatly the sap is sliced. So I do this everyday to collect the sap,” he said.

Sumil shared that one bud of about two feet long would last a couple of months — so he can fill about 60 containers from each flower stump. The more trees, the more bahar to be harvested.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Palm wine of the Kadazandusun

Upgrading of Miri Airport would bring Miri’s tourism to new height

MIRI: Upgrading of Miri Airport would bring the tourism industry in the northern region, especially Miri, into new horizon.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tabled the 2014 Budget on Friday and it was announced that Miri Airport would be among the five airports in the state and Sabah to be upgraded with a RM312 million allocation. The other airports are Sibu and Mukah Airports and Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan Airports.

Lauding the announcement, Assistant Minister of Communication Datuk Lee Kim Shin welcomes the assistance to upgrade Miri  Airport.

“Miri being a resort city, it is important that we have good facilities such as the airport which is able to function efficiently to cater to the needs of our visitors and business community,” Lee said.

“We in Miri certainly need the airport to be upgraded because Miri Airport is the hub of all our rural air services. Miri has the most number of flights to the rural area, serving routes to Bario, Ba’kelalan, Marudi, Lawas, Limbang and Mukah,” Lee noted when asked during a seminar held in conjunction with the 55th anniversary of Miri Hakka Association.

In addition, Lee who is also Senadin assemblyman, said there was a need for the airport to have separate terminals catering to domestic and international and rural air services. This includes separate check-in counters and the departure and arrival lounges.

Lee also hopes for the terminal building to be extended and have more direct flights.

“We have a geographical advantage similar to Kota Kinabalu as the routes are shorter to Korea, Japan, China and Hong Kong,” Lee added, hoping that the government would consider making Miri as another gateway into Sarawak.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Turtle rescue centre launched in Pulau Gaya

KOTA KINABALU: The first dedicated turtle rescue centre in Sabah was officially launched yesterday, marked with the release of its first rescued turtle back into the sea.

The launch was officiated by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, who also helped to carry the turtle, named Bobby, from its temporary holding tank into the water.

The turtle rescue centre is part of the Gaya Island Marine Centre (GIMC), which was also officiated by Masidi yesterday.

Located on Gaya Island within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, GIMC also carries out coral reef restoration and marine conservation education programmes.

“The story of Bobby is a happy one, a story of hope,” said Masidi in his officiating speech.

He also launched a hard-cover coffee table book entitled “Natural Wonders” featuring plants, animals and places of interest at and around YTL Hotel properties around the world.

YTL Hotel is the operator of Gaya Island Resort, along with several other resorts and hotels in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, France and UK, including the recipient of 2003 world’s best resort award winner, Pangkor Laut Resort.

The resort’s marine biologist, Scott Mayback, said they found the turtle floating near the island five months ago.

“The turtle tank was not completed yet at the time but we decided to bring it back and try to nurture it back to health. We named it Bobby.

“It was in very bad shape. It could not dive or eat and there were several times I’ve mistaken it to be dead, because it was so inactive.

“In fact, the only thing that it could eat for the first three months were fish oil, which we injected directly to its oesophagus. One day, we took a leap of faith and tried a new antibiotic and the result is the healthy turtle that you see today,” said Mayback before releasing Bobby.

Masidi in his address also touched on the importance of conserving and preserving nature, and turning it into a sustainable economic earner for the State.


Special Tourism Fund to boost Sabah’s tourism industry

The tourism industry players in Sabah need to grab the RM2 billion Special Tourism infrastructure fund that was announced by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak when he presented the 2014 Budget last Friday.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said that the fund would help to boost the rapid growth of the industry in the state.

“I’ve just had a meeting with hoteliers and I was been informed that the average occupancy is 92 percent this year; one of the highest in the country.

“We have also received double the number of tourists from China this year compared to last year.

This shows that we need more hotels,” he said responding to the 2014 Budget at the Chief Minister official residence at Sri Gaya.

Masidi said that the funds allocated in the budget were timely and will greatly help the government’s effort to promote tourism industry in the state.

The RM2bil will be provided to the Special Tourism Fund under Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Berhad.

The fund will provide soft loans at low interest rates between 4 percent and 6 percent, with the government providing a subsidy of 2 percent.


Rare bloom in giant’s lair

A GROUP of Bidayuh surveyors stumbled upon a huge strange-looking flower and froze in their tracks, wondering if they had stepped into a giant’s lair.

There is, after all, a legend that tells of a behemoth inhabiting the mountainous wilderness where this rare flower blooms.

A heightened sense of foreboding soon mellowed and turned into curiosity as the group began photographing their unusual “discovery” before leaving the site to continue their frontier inspection.

It was October 17, 2013. Murris Sagoi, 63, a JKKK member from Kampung Krusen Kranji, was carrying out an inter-village perimeter survey with 11 other villagers, including his village head Paron Langgar.

The purpose was to determine the boundary of a Bidayuh village – Kampung Krusen – which encompasses three other villages – Kampung Krusen Kranji, Kampung Krusen Mawang and Kumpung Krusen Siu in Serian District. These three kampungs, in turn, share boundaries with four others – Kampung Prangkan, Kampuung Payau, Kampung Bidak and Kampung Karuh.

After treading their way into many areas they have not visited over the past two decades, the group finally came to Darud Sirumpe (officially known as Gunung Sirumpang). This 1,000-feet high mountain has, for centuries, been shared by the villages around it and the surveyors had to ascertain which part belongs to which village.

The way to the mountain was via a trail from Kampung Prangkan. At about 10am, the group reached the part of the mountain purportedly belonging to Kampung Krusen Kranji. They were near the summit before they caught sight of a giant whitish green flower among the shrubs, creeping rotans and trees of the secondary forests.

The cream-coloured flower was bud-shaped – and seemed not to have come into full bloom yet. It was firmly attached to a single stalk with no leaves but only a huge bud over two feet tall on top, and enveloped by a lime green spathe. The sight of the flower gave Murris and Paron goose bumps. The hair on their neck stood up as they gazed (for the first time) at the bizzare-looking plant.

Their reaction was understandable as the Bidayuh community have been living in the area for centuries but there is no mention about the existence of such a giant flower in their folklore or stories passed down by their ancestors. However, there is legend among the Bidayuhs of Kampung Krusen Kranji that the place Murris and Paron were standing on used to the dwelling ground of a giant.

The legend has it that a giant (antu jin in the local dialect) had been occupying the area around the mountaintop. About 20 years ago, the Bidayuhs, who were still planting hill padi in the area, were told making noise between 6pm and 10pm was taboo.

“Even barking of dogs was not allowed. You’d be asking for trouble if you made loud noise as it would draw the giant to you and he would devour you,” Murris told thesundaypost.

With the legend still fresh in his memory, Murris’ first thoughts when he saw the flower were – could the flower be the giant’s pet flower, and had he and Paron “trespassed” into the giant’s backyard?

With all the questions popping up in their heads and after regaining their composure, curiosity got the better of the group and they began taking pictures of the flower with Paron’s handphone before continuing with their assignment.

When they later returned to the village, the image of the flower lingered in their minds. To ease their angst, they finally decided to notify a fellow villager, Peter Sibon, who heads The Borneo Post Special Desk.

“Despite the legend of the giant and everything, we hope someone can tell us what this flower really is – whether or not it can be called a new species since it’s so rare. If so, it will put our village in the spotlight and hopefully, bring in more development,” Murris said.

Their enthusiasm took a knock when Peter told Murris the photos they took were too blur to be used – actually so blur that one could not even make out what the flower looks like. Just a blurry silhouette.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Rare bloom in giant’s lair

Chinese tourists to Sabah prefer accommodation in resorts

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism investors should look into building resorts in the West Coast to cater for the significant increase of Chinese tourists.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun said the State needs some 5,000 more rooms.

“We know what the Chinese (tourists) wants. They prefer to stay in seaside resorts where they are near the beach and islands.

“That’s why they don’t go to Sandakan where the hotels are not enjoying high occupancy,” said Masidi when launching a two-day 16th Sabah Hospitality Fiesta at City Mall here yesterday.

Masidi urged investors to do their groundwork and homework well before embarking on hotel building.

However, all is not lost in efforts to attract more Chinese tourists to Sandakan as the State Government is looking into the matter.

“I have sought the help from Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman to develop Pulau Berhala.

“The Chinese tourists are rich and they don’t like to spend their holidays in the jungles unlike the Europeans who already gone through the process of urbanization. And they like the jungles that is why 80 per cent of the visitors recorded in Kinabatangan are Europeans,” said Masidi.

Masidi also commended the five-star hotels in Sabah for taking heed of his call to provide Mandarin signages and translations in their information.

“This showed that the hotels are responsive to the changing of circumstances as a big chunk of our visitors nowadays are from China,” he added.

He also encouraged tourism players to take advantage of the RM2 billion Special Tourism Fund announced by the Prime Minister on Budget Day.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Navigator - Street Map to help tourists in Sabah

In an effort to further promote Sabah as a tourist attraction, the Public Media Group (PMG), a Sabah advertising team that focuses on the tourism and hospitality industry has introduced My Navigator - Street Map, which is a pocket-sized map that will be distributed around Sabah beginning 15 November 2013.

The map contains a list of popular restaurants, hotels and serves as a travel directory around Kota Kinabalu.

This pocket-sized street map is endorsed by the Sabah Hotel Association and Star Cruises.It will be placed at places such as airports, F&B outlets and tourism information booths.

The map will be published on a quarterly basis, with 30,000 copies printed per issue.

According to Christoper Chan, Chairman of the Sabah Hotel Association, My Navigator is a perfect guide for travelers as it provides information on the latest tourism destinations, F&B outlets as well as entertainment venues throughout Kota Kinabalu.

"It's a great way to promote Sabah ," said Chan.

"With My Navigator, tourists will be able to explore Kota Kinabalu at their own pace and this may encourage them to stay here longer," he added.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: My Navigator - Street Map to help tourists in Sabah

Inaugural Xpress Air flight lands in Kuching International Airport

KUCHING: Indonesian low cost airline Xpress Air made its inaugural flight to Kuching International Airport (KIA) yesterday landing at 1.30pm.

Assistant Minister of Tourism Sarawak (Local Event and Products) Datuk Gramong Juna said Xpress Air would help improve the state’s connectivity by increasing travel options for both premium and budget travellers.

“This is good for the tourism industry for both Sarawak and Indonesia,” he told a press conference after welcoming Xpress Air passengers on the flight from Jogjakarta via Pointianak.

“Such flight availability will increase connectivity between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore via Kuching and then to various destinations in Indonesia.”

He said visitors to Sarawak last year increased by 7.2 per cent to 4.07 million tourist arrivals compared to 2011. Foreign arrivals also increased last year by 12.4 per cent to 2.6 million.

From January to June this year, total visitor arrivals from Indonesia to the state increased by 15.6 per cent compared to the first half of last year.

The Xpress Air flight from Pontianak to Kuching departs at 12pm while the Kuching to Pontianak flight takes off at 2pm every Friday and Sunday.

Currently the all-in promotional fare is RM168 from Kuching to Pontianak. Xpress Air president and director Henny Kurniawan said this international route is a big step for the airline and would not have been possible without the support of the Sarawak government.

“We realise that transportation plays an important role in strengthening bilateral relationships and not the flight itself but more towards emerging business, education, medical and also culture,” she said.


Friday, October 25, 2013

A whopping 86 per cent rise in tourist arrivals from China, Hong Kong

KOTA KINABALU: Tourist arrivals from China and Hong Kong to Sabah surged more than 86 per cent for the first eight months this year numbering at 247,273.

For the same period last year, there were 132,377 arrivals from China and Hong Kong.

Minister of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun said his ministry would continue to make efforts in improving facilities for the convenience of tourists from China in Sabah.

He made the assurance when receiving a courtesy call from the Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI) at his office here yesterday.

The visitors were led by KKCCCI president, Datuk Michael Lui.

Masidi said to ensure tourist arrivals in Sabah continue to rise, hotels have been told to improve facilities for tourists from China by having menus translated to Mandarin.

The Ministry has also sponsored officers and staff at the airport terminal gates to take Mandarin classes to enable them to communicate with the Chinese visitors.

Other measures taken by the Ministry have been to work with the Kota Kinabalu City Hall in providing more police ‘huts’ specially to assist tourists in the city.

“In Bali, Indonesia there are culture police who encourage people to be courteous and helpful to tourists and perhaps this is something that can be done here too,” suggested Masidi.


RM1.8 bln Jesselton Quay development at Kota Kinabalu waterfront

KOTA KINABALU: Suria Capital Holdings Berhad had entered into a joint-venture agreement with SBC Corporation Berhad (SBC) to develop Jesselton Quay that will comprise construction and development of commercial suites, retail mall, retail units, office towers and hotel.

Once completed, the project is poised to become an iconic landscape as Kota Kinabalu city new waterfront and premier tourism frontier which is marina focus complete with its own cruise terminal.

The Jesselton Quay, that carries a minimum net sale value of RM1.8 billion, will be built on a 16.25-acre prime port land which is strategically located at the waterfront of Kota Kinabalu city centre area and to the northern fringes of the central business district of Kota Kinabalu city at Tanjung Lipat.

It has good connectivity to key roads, highways and ports. The port land used to be the Kota Kinabalu Container Port before the operation was relocated to Sapangar Bay Container Port in 2007.

Under on the joint-venture agreement, SBC shall be responsible for all matters relating to the project, including its implementation and completion at its own cost and expense while Suria Capital shall provide the development land, assist and facilitate in the implementation of the project.

Expected to commence in the first quarter of 2014, the project has an estimated development period of eight years. It will be developed in three precincts comprising the commercial suites, retail mall (including retail units) and signature precinct, that will include signature offices, hotel and office.

Once completed, the Jesselton Quay would be able to cater to the anticipated demand for commercial properties within the prime Kota Kinabalu waterfront area and is expected to attract both local and international home buyers and investors.

In recent years, property development projects in the Kota Kinabalu city area have received strong interest from investors.

With the development land strategic and prime location, Suria Capital believes that the venture provides an opportunity to participate in the development of a prime land into a development project.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Full schedule planned for inaugural Santubong Nature Festival

KUCHING: Festival goers will be spoilt for choice at the coming Santubong Nature Festival.

With activities for all and the young at heart including easy-going heritage and nature walks, adrenaline-pumping bike racing, kayaking, night photography and night walk, an eco-fashion contest, youth concerts and charity auction, there’s something for everybody.

These activities will take place concurrently at eco-resort Permai Rainforest Resort and Damai Central in Santubong from Nov 9-10.

The Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) is co-organising the Santubong Nature Festival with Permai Rainforest Resort.

The inaugural event is supported by Friends of Sarawak Museum (FoSM), Sarawak Heritage Society (SHS), Sarawak Museum, Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), Trienekens (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd, LimKokWing Institute of Creative Technology, UCSI University, SSPCA and Damai Central, to name a few.

Admission to this festival is free but certain activities require pre-registration due to limited seats, while firefly watching that requires boat rentals will cost RM50 per child/adult.

On Saturday (Nov 9), nature talks will take place at Permai Rainforest Resort’s conference room starting at 2pm.

The speakers comprise a senior geologist from the Geological Department Sarawak Henry Litong who will speak on Geology of Santubong; wildlife photographer and biologist Chi’en Chien Lee on The Carnivorous Plants of Santubong (2.30pm); social scientist Tengku Hilda Tengku Ahmad on Santubong Stonehenge (3pm); writer and teacher Tom McLaughlin on Chinese Settlers In Santubong (3.30pm); ecologist Rambli Ahmad on Defining Wallace’s Line (4pm); and researcher and entomologist Ikhwan Idris on Butterflies and Moths of Santubong (4.30pm).

An indoor 30-minute talk by herpetologist Hans Breuer, introducing forest creatures of the night will be held at 7.30pm to be followed by a night walk which will take 90 minutes.

The first nature walk starts at 2pm guided by Datin Dr Katherine Pearce, a botanist and forest ecologist. For those interested in the geology of Santubong, Hans Hazebroek who is a geologist, author and professional photographer will give a hands geology walk at 2.30pm after Henry Litong’s talk.

At 3.30pm, there will be a 90-minute Santubong Heritage Walk which is a visit to some archaeological and historical sites in Santubong, led by Karen Shepherd, Sarawak Heritage Society.

Shuttle departs Permai and early registration is required.

There will be workshops on photography with a professional photographer, John Arifin, from Singapore at 2pm at Permai.

The second workshop is on night photography which will be conducted outdoors and this starts at 7pm. Registration required.

For children ages three to 18 years old, there will be a games station conducted by UCSI University students at Permai starting from 2pm onwards.

The three-hour Night Kayaking Experience along the coast of Santubong with trained professionals start at 5.30pm. All equipment is supplied but early registration is required.

Depending on the weather, a two-hour guided boat tour to observe the firefly colonies along Sungai Buntal will start at 6.30pm. Registration is required, on a first-come-first-served basis. Participants are to pay RM50 per adult/child.

At Damai Central, festival goers are invited to visit local bazaar booths set up by various organisations and local community around Santubong with a variety of merchandise and goods. The bazaar will be opened for the whole day and on Sunday, from 9am to 2pm .


Use marketing to promote Sarawak tourism industry

KUCHING: Hotel industry players are urged to use their marketing and promotional strength to promote Sarawak and spur her tourism industry.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said hotels could take advantage of their brand and global network to create awareness on tourist products.

The state is looking to aggressively promote its products to tourists from mainland China, Korea, Japan and the Middle Eastern.

Abang Johari said China alone has tourists estimated to grow from 60 million to 200 million annually.

“If the state can attract at least one per cent of the China tourist market, that is good enough. For visit Malaysia Year in 2014, the country has estimated some 26 million tourist arrivals, generating income up to RM76 billion.”

From January to August this year, the state has attracted 2.8 million tourist arrivals of which 60 per cent are foreign tourists, he said when officiating at the opening of Citadines Uplands Kuching here yesterday.

Also present were The Acott Limited regional general manager for Malaysia and Singapore, Tan Boon Khai; Kuching City South mayor Datuk James Chan, Tourism Ministry permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik, Kenbest Sdn Bhd managing director Stephen Long and executive director Sim Ewe Kee.

Abang Johari who is also housing minister said the state is looking to market its orangutan conservation effort including its Kuching Wetland National Park (first Ramsar site in the state), national parks, crocodile sanctuaries, deepsea fishing (angling sports) and health tourism among others.

“Sarawak has more orangutans than Sabah but Sabah is more famous due to its extensive marketing. Western Australia is famous for its pinnacles which is nothing compared to Mulu pinnacles but the difference is the marketing.

“Most of the Middle Eastern and East Asian market love flexibility but not tight schedules. They want to take their time to explore. These are the things the hotel industry can look into when promoting tourism packages for the state.

“Tourism and hotel industry players can come up with promotional packages to complement their products,” he suggested.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Use marketing to promote Sarawak tourism industry

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Effort to boost tourism in Sarawak's rural areas continuing

KANOWIT: The Ministry of Sarawak Tourism will continue to find initiatives to boost tourism in the state, particularly in rural areas, says Assistant Minister of Tourism (Local Events and Products), Datuk Gramong Juna.

“Rural places in the state are still rich with unique culture and customs as well as home to flora and fauna that cannot be found elsewhere.

“There is much potential to be tapped from our rural areas in terms of tourism,” he said when opening the 4-day ‘Rantau Kemiding Festival’ held at the riverfront near the 65-door Rumah Benjamin Angki here recently.

Gramong, who is Machan assemblyman, said the move by the ministry to include many activities in its yearly calendar of events was part of the initiatives to support the industry.

He told rural tourism operators to take advantage of modern technology like the Internet and communication facilities to enhance their knowledge.

He said they must strive to improve themselves.

On the festival, he commended it as one that would generate incomes for Rumah Benjamin Angki residents who were mainly homestay programme operators.

“I believe this festival will popularise your homestay programme to outsiders,” he said.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Visit Malaysia Year 2014 Mascot: The Proboscis Monkey

They have huge noses, big bellies and live in groups. They are not your ordinary tree swinging monkeys and they don’t eat ripe bananas. They have webbed feet and are able to swim. We are talking about the proboscis monkey – a rare and endangered animal found primarily in Borneo and predominantly in Sabah.

Malaysia will be hosting the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) in 2014, the nation’s biggest and grandest tourism celebration that welcomes the world to see, feel and experience the endless possibilities of the country.

This is the best time to witness and experience dazzling parades and processions, colourful cultural shows and exhibitions, fabulous food festivals, exciting sports and adventure, enchanting music and arts festival, shopping extravaganza, nature thrills and spills and many more.

A unique mascot is vital to create a visual impact and easy association with VMY 2014 among the locals and tourists alike. In the past, the orang utan, leatherback turtle and hornbill were used to promote Visit Malaysia Year and state-level tourism campaigns.

For VMY 2014, a new animal mascot is needed in order to trigger more excitement and anticipation of this grand celebration.

The Ministry of Tourism & Culture Malaysia has decided to use one of the most endangered animals in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as the mascot for VMY 2014 – the proboscis monkey.

Aptly known as the long-nosed monkey, the proboscis monkey best encapsulates the essence of Malaysia Truly Asia. This elusive monkey belongs to the Asian langurs and is the only member of the Nasalis genus. Proboscis monkeys are primarily found in Borneo particularly in Sabah, Malaysia.

Like the diversity encapsulated in the Malaysia Truly Asia branding, proboscis monkeys also possess diverse skills. They frequently leap from tree limbs and hit the water with a comical belly flop, as well as attract their mate with their unusually large and long nose.

The proboscis monkey also has webbed feet, which enable it to swim. In fact, proboscis monkeys are fairly good swimmers. Naturally, they have always been crowd pullers especially for eco-adventure tourists who would not miss a chance to catch a glimpse of this monkey.


28 million tourists, RM76bil in receipts targeted for Visit Malaysia Year 2014

The Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 initiative targets to attract a new record of 28 million international tourist arrivals and RM76 billion in tourist receipts, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Aptly themed “Celebrating 1Malaysia, Truly Asia”, he said the initiative will showcase the unique selling points of the country’s rich culture and heritage with many ethnic groups living in harmony.

“VMY 2014 is not just about organising more events and intensifying marketing and promotion, more importantly; it is getting the nation ready by offering our Malaysian hospitality and changing mindset to be a tourist-friendly nation.

“In the process, VMY 2014 mobilises the entire industry and nation to move up the value chain of tourism product and services offering thus contributing towards making Malaysia as a top-of-the-mid tourist destination,” he said in his opening remarks at the World Tourism Conference 2013 here, yesterday.

Also present were Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz and United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Executive Director Zoltan Somogyi.

The three-day conference is being attended by 678 delegates from 46 countries including the United Kingdom, Portugal, China, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, Guatemala, Singapore and Brunei.

Muhyiddin said the government’s role to target and advance tourism as a priority sector had been the game changer in the industry.

He said it could be viewed as two distinct phases, with the first traced back to the period from 1998 to 2010, whereby tourism was identified as a key sector to address the economic downturn and generate new sources of growth.

The government, he said, provided the necessary policies and institutional framework as well as enabling environment and facilitation for tourists.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Santubong over time

A BEACON of light Rising above forest clad slopes A natural magnet Gunung Santubong

Geologically Gunung Santubong is a sandstone mountain that has risen to be over 800 metres, in recent (in geological terms) times.

This does not take the mystery from the mountains, nor it’s mythical origins, which has been immortalised in the song ‘Puteri Santubong’.

Mythical origins

The mythical origins of Gunung Santubong and its sister mountain Gunung Sejinjang are founded in the conflict between two beautiful sisters, who in some versions of the myth fight over a man and in others over who was the most beautiful.

Puteri Santubong was a skilled weaver and her sister, Puteri Sejinjang, skilled at pounding padi. A padi-pounding pestle thrown by Sejinjang, whose head in turn was split becoming the islands that ring the coast, killed Puteri Santubong.

The King of Heaven was so cross that he condemned the sisters to remain on earth as mountains.

In other versions of the myth, the King of Heaven sent the princesses to earth to stop fighting between villages; this accomplished, they started fighting over who was the most beautiful resulting in their demise.

Distant past

The early history of Santubong is as enticing as its mythical origins.

Archaeological evidence strongly suggests that in the vicinity of present day Kampung Santubong, a traditional fishing village at the foot of the mountain, a thriving port with extensive iron workings existed from the 10th to the 14th century.

Dense reefs of iron slag (left over from working with iron) mixed with pottery shards from the Tang Dynasty (618 to 906 CE) have been located in the Sungai Jaong about 2km from Kampung Santubong.

In 1966, the then curator of the Sarawak Museum, Tom Harrisson excavated a Bongkisam Shrine, which had architectural similarities to other Buddhist-Hindu shrines of the era.

Dr Alfred Russel Wallace – the famed contemporary of Charles Darwin who is being commemorated this year, as it is his 100th anniversary of death – wrote ‘The Sarawak Law’ while staying at Santubong in 1855.

Wallace, in his discussion on evolution, wrote “Every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with closely allied species.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Santubong over time

Sri Aman may have golf course and floating jetty

SRI AMAN: The Sarawak Tourism Ministry plans to build a golf course and a floating jetty here in the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) to spur Sri Aman’s eco-tourism.

Its Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state government would bring up the proposal to build an 18-hole golf course to woo foreign tourists.

The proposed floating jetty, he said, would enable tourists to take a close look at the crocodile habitat at Sungai Batang Lupar in Sri Aman using boats.

“These two proposals plans are meant to enable foreign tourists, especially those from China, Korea and Japan, to sample our eco-tourism before they experience the ‘Benak’ phenomenon here,” he said when officiating at the 2013 Sri Aman Benak Festival yesterday.

Also present were Assistant Minister of Housing Datuk Francis Harden Hollis, Dewan Negara Deputy President Senator Datuk Doris Sophia Brodie, Sri Aman MP Masir Kujat, Engkilili assemblyman Dr Johnnical Rayong Ngipa, Balai Ringin assemblyman Snowdan Lawan and Sri Aman Resident Johnathan Lugoh.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sri Aman may have golf course and floating jetty

Call for Sabah Cabbage fest to draw more visitors

RANAU: Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun yesterday launched the Sabah Cabbage Fest 2013 here and asked the organiser to ensure that the tourism product draws more visitors.

He said the organiser should review the concept and content of the annual festival in recognition of the vegetable growers of the Kundasang highland to make it more appealing.

The sponsorship of more local companies must be enlisted to make the festival more comprehensive and an attractive tourism product, he told reporters after the launch of the festival at Kundasang town.

Masidi, who is the state assemblyman for Karanaan, said the festival must incorporate changes to meet the tastes of visitors who desired to see a difference over time.

He also asked the Kundasang Highland Vegetable Growers Association to be more active in ensuring the welfare of its members.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

MV Orion II arrival in Kuching marks another bustling cruise season

KUCHING: The arrival of MV Orion II in Kuching yesterday morning marks another busy season for Orion Expedition Cruises, Australia.

According to a press release from the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), the cruise ship arrived at the Sim Kheng Hong Port here at around 6.30am.

This is the first arrival for MV Orion II this season but the fifth cruise ship arrival to Sarawak shores this year in what promises to be another positive season for local businesses and tourism operators.

Sarawak recorded 15 cruise ship arrivals up to October this year compared to 14 cruises for the whole of 2012.

Kuching has been the main port of call for MV Orion II on its 10-night cruise departing Bali, Tanjung Putting National Park, Bako National Park, Natuna Archipelago, Anambas Archipelago and Singapore.

Upon their arrival, passengers onboard were welcomed with traditional dances and garlanded in typical Sarawak style by 10 members of a cultural troupe courtesy of STB.

While in Kuching, cruise passengers will visit Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and the city attractions.

They will also celebrate with a theme party to be held at Sarawak Cultural Village in Damai.

“Cruising is popular among Australian, American and many European tourists. Although we lack a proper cruise terminal, we are still able to welcome thousands of cruise ship passengers who are attracted by what the destination has to offer,” said STB Marketing Manager (Europe and International Market) Maurice Balang in the statement.

MV Orion II is an Australian-based luxury expedition cruise line formed in 2004 and is the leading expedition cruise operator in Asia Pacific.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Call for review to Sarawak's wildlife protection ordinance

KUCHING: The sharp increase in trading of protected wildlife in the country over the past decade has led to calls that the state revise its Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1998.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) head of Zoology Department, Faculty of Resource Science and Technology, Dr Mohd-Azlan Jayasilan Abdul Gulam Azad said reports compiled by the Wildlife and National Parks Department revealed over 52,000 cases of illegal trading in protected wildlife in the Peninsula in the past 15 years.

The species traded, he said, were mostly lizards and pangolins, while 15,000 kg of meat mostly of wild boar and deer, and over 800,000 kg of skins and scales of civets, lizards, pythons and pangolins were seized. The seizures also included some 10,000 turtle eggs.

“The Peninsula has introduced a new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 considering the increasing threat on wildlife, habitat declinations, loss of land and forested areas due to agriculture, land conversion, illegal hunting, poaching and others.

“In Peninsular Malaysia, the past 10 years has seen a sharp increase in illegal trades and similar trend could be expected in Sabah and Sarawak,” Jayasilan highlighted when delivering his paper during the Animals and the City International Symposium held at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here recently.

He mentioned that the number of animals categorised as endangered species under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had tripled over the past decade in the state, at an average of two new species each year.

Another point worth to ponder, he pointed out, was that penalties under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 appeared to be quite low considering the high profits made from illegal trading.

He cited the recent case in Miri where a man charged with killing a pied hornbill was only given a three-month jail sentence for failing to pay the RM2,000 fine imposed on him, whereas the penalty for killing a totally protected animal in the state is three years imprisonment and a fine of RM25,000.

“The penalty was mild in comparison to a recent unrelated case in Sibu, where a youth was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for stealing a television from a budget hotel. Hornbill is a state emblem; it is the pride of the state. We need to re-look at our existing legislation,” continued Jayasilan, who is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Deep sea sport fishing contest mooted for Mabul

KOTA KINABALU: Mabul island in Semporna is a scuba diver’s haven as it is just a half-hour boat ride to the world famous diving paradise, Sipadan Island.

The island is now the setting for a new sporting activity – deep sea sport fishing – as the surrounding seas are teeming with tuna, dorado and giant barracuda among others.

With the aim of promoting deep sea sport fishing as a new tourism attraction for Semporna, Sipadan Dive Centre (SDC) recently held its Closed Mabul Fishing Challenge, which saw 26 hardcore anglers responding to the invitation to take up the challenge.

The anglers came from as far as Penang to respond to the challenge of hooking and landing the prized yellow fin tuna and the dorado, which is known to put up a good fight.

However, it was local angler, Ahmadul Tahir, whose 9.5kg yellow fin tuna took the first prize in the three-day two-night competition held from October 4 to 6.

In second place was Shan Lim with a 8kg tuna, while third was his cousin Preston Lim with a four kilogram mahi mahi. Ahmadul also took the dorado jackpot with his 4.5kg fish.

SDC general manager Wembly Mogindol, who was met at the company’s resort on Mabul, said that based on the good response and success of the event, they will be looking at offering fishing packages for their guests.

“There is good future for deep sea sport fishing here in Mabul and we will be making this Closed Mabul Fishing Challenge an annual event. We took only three months to plan and promote the event and the response was good despite the negative publicity from the Tanduo intrusion early this year.

“We planned the event after all the negative talks died down and we did not advertise the event. We only extended our invitation to certain people and we did mention it on social media which generated a lot of interest,” he said.

“We are hopeful that we can get 50 to 100 participants for next year,” Mogindol said, adding that the nine anglers from Penang, including the sole woman participant, were all from the Penang Swimming Club’s Angling section.

Mogindol, in his welcoming address at the dinner before the event, said that it was the brainchild of one of SDC’s owners who had envisaged that deep sea sport fishing could be another of Semporna’s popular tourism product other than scuba diving.

He added, “much is said of the fishing potential in the waters off Pulau Sipadan and the objective of this challenge is to promote sport fishing to add to the scuba diving activities in this region. This will further enhance the socio-economic opportunities for the villagers on the island by the way of boat hire and employing them as guides as well as assistance for the fishing packages.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Funds needed as Bornean sun bear centre in Sandakan ‘overpopulated’

KOTA KINABALU: The smallest bear in the world, the Bornean sun bear, is more endangered than the orangutan and also the least studied.

According to Wong Siew Te, the founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sepilok, Sandakan, it was estimated that there were less than 11,000 of the bears found in the wild of Sabah today.

“I cannot give the exact number, except that the population is smaller than the orangutans,” he said.

Among the threats to their survival are deforestation, forest conversion and poaching.

“Poaching still occurs and sun bears are hunted for their gall bladder, claw, canine…well, every part of the sun bear has commercial value,” he said.

Aside from that, sun bears are prone to be affected by forest conversion as they reside mainly in the low land tropical forest, which unfortunately are areas most suited for agricultural activities, he said.

And another reason why they are becoming endangered is because they are one of the species that is least known and very much ignored.

“Unless we do something quick, we are going to lose them,” he said.

During the interview, Siew Te also mentioned how he became engrossed with the Bornean sun bears.

“I studied them, and the more I knew, the more concerned I became for their wellbeing. They are an important element of the forest system and if we lose them, the system can fall apart – well, at least some species that depend on the sun bears, like the hornbills which depend on the sun bears to dig holes in tree trunks, will not be able to make their nests. Sun bears are forest engineers, and the forest will be off-balance without them,” he explained.

Fortunately, there is still hope for the sun bears, as their numbers are still more than the Sumatran rhinocerous, of which there are probably 10 or less left in the wild of Sabah, today.

“As long as we minimize poaching and protect the forest…fortunately, Sabah still has a lot of forest as compared to Sumatra. The forest cover is still great but I need to emphasise that forest protection has to be a priority,” he said.

He also said that they still find sun bears kept as pets by people.

“When we confiscate the bears, the people complain that their family has always had bears as pets – their fathers had them, and so did their grandparents,” he said.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sarawak Museum a showcase of racial harmony

SIBU: The executive director of the Friends of Sarawak Museum (FoSM) Louise M Macul says the Sarawak Museum in Kuching is one that showcases the racial harmony of the people.

Speaking at the Sarawak Chinese Culture Seminar here on Sunday, the volunteer of the museum from Maine, United States, said many artifacts exhibited came from various people, both coastal and the interior.

She said these items proved to be interesting reading and evidence that at no time was the collection being built specifically along racial lines.

“Inside the tangible collections are signs of racial harmony.

We can focus on the differences in cultures and races in Sarawak, or on the similarities despite the differences. For the latter, we only have to look at its collection that shows the fl exibility of culture.”

Louise said the museum had shown the interaction of people of various races dating back to the Song and Ming Dynasties.

“The maritime trade routes between India and China are known to have had Borneo on their path. This brought Chinese trade goods to Sarawak in return for jungle products.

Indians also traded, especially in Santubong.”

She said these people brought more than merchandise; they brought their culture, and the exchange of goods and import of culture left an indelible mark on the people of Sarawak.

She said the Sarawak Museum had a large collection of jars now a part of the Dayak culture.

“These were originally from China dating back to the Northern Song Dynasty. Often, these jars were of the storage variety with a dragon motif, but, their values were more than a mere container.

“Many other ornamental jars dating back to the late Ming Dynasty went on to become coveted heirlooms by the Melanaus, Ibans, Lun Bawang, Kenyah, Kayan and Kelabit.”

She said items that came from afar had added value and so did the jars and beads from China, India and beyond.

“The natives incorporated them into their belief, like the use of the jars in burial and for fortune telling. The beads were used by shamans as ritual objects for healing.”

She said the integration of these objects into a culture represented a harmony among the races.

Louise gave another instinct of the cultural integration – the Chinese dragon joined the local dog to become ‘aso’.

She said the style of dragon was found in the more coastal areas with the Melanaus, as seen in their Bilum exhibited in Sarawak Museum, and the Ibans.

Louise gave another interesting aspect of the cultural integration.

“Tigers are not found in Borneo, yet, tiger and dragon designs are found in cultural items throughout Sarawak.

She said tigers were on tiny bells on the Bidayuh costume, and the Kayan and Kenyah put the animal in paintings in a place of structural support to the rest of the life depicted.

To the Ibans, the ‘remaung’ (tiger spirit) is powerful, protective and prominent in their oral traditions.

Of all the ethnic groups, Louise said none were more infl uential in aterial culture than the Kayan, Kenyah and Kajang of the ulu.

“With their ‘maran’, social stratification, vaguely similar to the Indian caste system, these people fl ourished in the arts.”

She said they held the copyright for tattoo in Borneo, adding many ethnic groups had adopted this art form.