Friday, February 28, 2014

Attenborough to film Sabah wildlife in 3D

KOTA KINABALU: Renowned British naturalist Sir David Attenborough is once again turning his attention on Sabah’s wildlife.

The documentary maker is spending about a month with a crew of 44 in Sabah’s Lost World, the Danum Valley and Gomantong Caves in the east coast to film flying creatures in three dimensional format.

The segments would be part of a documentary called Conquest of the Skies slated for release in the United Kingdom in December followed by other countries later.

“We are making a story about how insects and animals with bones have evolved to fly. There are more examples of the interesting flying creatures in Borneo than anywhere else in the world,” Attenborough said here on Wednesday.

“There are all sorts of flying reptiles such as frogs and snakes and then there is the flying lemur. This land is rich in wonders,” he said.

Attenborough said shooting a documentary in 3D format was most suitable as it would show clearly the movements of the animals.

This would be his second foray to the Gomantong caves that is home to thousands of bats.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Attenborough to film Sabah wildlife in 3D

Sabah Tourism voices concern power tariff hike may affect tourist arrivals

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun has expressed concern that the nationwide electricity tariff hike, which took effect on Jan 1, may to a certain extent affect the State's tourist arrival figure this year.

Sabah received two million domestic tourists last year, the first in the State's history, and one million in foreign tourist arrivals, which is also a record.

He said this is especially because domestic tourists may decide to cut cost in other aspects, which include less travelling for them, because of the increase in their electricity bill.

"That is why we are setting a cautiously optimistic target in terms of tourist arrivals for this year. For this year, we are just targeting about two per cent growth in the number of tourist arrivals," he told reporters during an appreciation luncheon hosted by the Ministry for the State winners in the recent Malaysian Tourism Award ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur.

Masidi also hoped hotel and resort operators in the State would help out by keeping their room rates at a healthy level that is affordable to both domestic and international tourists.

"I think we need to be careful because we cannot spoil the very reasons why people are coming to Sabah and I hope the hotel industry will continue to maintain a healthy rate that is affordable to both domestic as well as international tourists," he said.

"At the moment, it (room rate) is high. You are talking about an average RM500 to RM800 per night, which is high, I mean it is bad news that we like, especially at the hotel industry but at the same time, it may have repercussions on domestic tourism," he said.

He said this rate maybe just average or still low for international/foreign tourists but to the domestic tourists it is really quite high.

"So we do not want to lose the domestic tourists too. For the first time, the domestic tourist arrivals touched the two million mark and for the first time in history, the international arrivals also touched the one million mark and this is something good for us," he said.

On the shortage of 5-star hotel rooms, he said this is expected to be eased when JW Marriott at the city waterfront starts operations at the end of this year and Kota Kinabalu Hilton is anticipated to begin operations in the first quarter of 2015.

On business people here who intentionally increase the prices of their products especially seafood being sold to the tourists at high prices just to profit from their increasing number in the State, Masidi advised them to be careful because people have choice.

"If the price outside is similar with the hotel then they would rather eat in the hotel. They should not be too greedyÉdon't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs," he said.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sabah to have 'zip-line' tours at marine park

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will be the first state in the country to introduce “zip-line” tours at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park islands here soon.

Zip-lining involves “flying” from one elevated point to another while suspended on a descending line.

Sabah Parks board of trustees chairman Datuk Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin Mahamood said the zip-line tours were expected to commence in a few months.

“The idea came from members of Sabah Parks. We are finalising all security aspects as well as checking on all the equipment,” he said after an event at Gaya Island here yesterday.

Tengku Adlin said the zip line would connect Gaya and Sapi islands with a “flying” distance of about 200m.

He said the equipment had already been set up on the two islands.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jumbos may be moved deeper into Sabah jungles

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is deciding whether to move a herd of Borneo pygmy elephants deep into its central jungles in efforts to ensure the safety of villagers and also to protect the animals.

The translocation of two of the herd’s more aggressive elephants to Dermakot Forest Reserve was completed over the last two days.

Now, wildlife rangers are studying the possibility of relocating the remaining 17 jumbos.

According to Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, the relocation would protect the elephants as well as villagers and plantations that they encroached into.

A herd of about 30 elephants prowled into orchards and farms belonging to villagers at Kampung Bauto in Telupid, about 300km from here, last week.

Sabah Wildlife Department rangers were able to calm the herd after they tranquilised two “aggressive” females that were later restrained with chains.

The two females were relocated to the Dermakot forest 80km away after rangers fitted them with GPS collars.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Jumbos may be moved deeper into Sabah jungles

Trip down memory lane to Batang Ai

ON Feb 18, Tetsuo Fujii, a civil engineer from Osaka, took an emotional trip down memory lane to Batang Ai.

It was arranged by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) for him to visit the hydro electric dam there.

Fujii, now 80 years old, played a key role in the construction of the Batang Ai dam. In 1981, he headed the team that built the diversion tunnel as the project manager of Okamura Corporation, the contractor for the first phase of the dam construction.

It was the beginning of his love affair with the Land of Hornbills that lasts until today.

After finishing the tunnel diversion, Fujii stayed on as the general manager of the joint venture company — Okamura and Maeda — in charge of phase two of the project.

He left Sarawak in 1987 after completing the dam to take up other contracts in Japan but his heart remains in the land that has become as much home to him as the place where he was born.

The challenges of his next job as project manager for the construction of the 38km bridge from Honshu to Shikoku Island kept him away from Sarawak.

Re-establishing links with Sarawak in later years

Later, after landing a job as civil works manager with the Kobe City Council, he managed to find time to return to Sarawak. Thereafter, he made regular visits – even after his retirement.

On several occasions, he visited Batang Ai privately just see how the dam, which he helped to build, had fared over the years but never had a chance for a comprehensive visit and to be briefed by SEB officers.

On his way to power station last Tuesday (Feb 18), Fujii recognised several landmarks along the road. He was very impressed with the progress of the towns and villages along the road, especially the modern longhouses.

He also remembers the big tapang tree by the roadside after passing through Serian town.

“That was the tree we always looked out for to and from Batang Ai because it told us we were leaving Kuching or were near the city.”

He also remembers he and his Japanese colleagues called Bukit Bengunan,about half way to Batang Ai, the Weeping Hill as it was there that they started to miss the good times they had in Kuching during their break.

Upon arriving at the power station, Fujii was briefed by the station manager Encharang Ngtingih on the operation and condition of the dam.

He was gratified to learn that the structure of the dam was still in very good condition and some parts of the walls and panels were still in their original paint.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Trip down memory lane to Batang Ai

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Architects must come out with designs that relect Sabah state’s eco-wonders

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah architects must be innovative and come out with designs that reflect the state’s eco-wonders into state’s architecture, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said.

“As a melting pot of cultures, and as a state that is known globally for its eco wonders, it is my hope that you will strive to incorporate these values into architecture,” he said.

Musa said the state government shared the mission to promote the advancement of architecture and the profession for the betterment of the society.

“Through this mission and other objectives, you are playing an important role in realising our vision of turning Sabah into a developed and progressive state”, Musa said at the “Celebrating 50 years of Architecture in Sabah” organised by the Sabah chapter of Architect Association of Sabah (PAM).

Musa, whose speech was read by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said that the population growth and congestion of urban

centres also requird those involved in planning and designing to include elements of environmental sustainability in buildings, and especially in homes.

“Learn from the best to ensure that buildings do not require too much lighting in the day, or too much air-conditioning, helping reduce electricity usage and with that lowering emissions,” he added.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why YOU should dive Sipadan, Sabah

“I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now, no more. Now, we have found again an untouched piece of art…” - Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Jacques Cousteau, often referred to as the “father” of scuba diving, was enraptured with Sipadan. It must have be a burning question for many divers who have not dived in Sipadan yet, “Why the buzz about Sipadan?”

Sipadan is located within the Coral Triangle, which is known as the global centre of marine biodiversity with more than 3000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species. In addition to that, it is the only oceanic island in Mlalaysia, rising 600m from the seabed.

It was formed by living coral growing on top of an extinct volcano that took thousands of years to develop. As such, Sipadan hosts a variety of dive sites for all levels of divers.

Diving in Sipadan – Dive Sites & Marine Life

Barracuda Point

Have you seen these magnificent photos circulating on your Facebook before? We aren’t surprised if you find them familiar. Living by her name, Barracuda Point is known for its large schools of barracuda. Hundreds of barracuda congregate here and if you’re lucky, you get to see them forming a whirling tornado of fish.

Barracuda take the centre-stage while the hard and soft corals, black tip reef sharks, bump-head parrotfish, eagle rays, and triggerfish take the role of backup dancers.

Turtle Cavern

“Diving the Turtle Tomb” Have you heard that before from your friends who just went diving in Sipadan? Turtle Cavern, also know as the Turtle Tomb is probably the most talked-about site. Stories have been told that these caves can get deep, dark and narrow, where many of the curious turtles might have wandered into, losing their way and, unable to find their way to the surface, drowned.

Turtle skeletons were also said to be found commonly within. Eerie or not? Take a plunge into the Turtle Cavern (not into the deep caves unless you are certified!) and find out for yourself! Just outside the caverns, green and hawksbill turtles gracefully swimming around are a common sight.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Why YOU should dive Sipadan, Sabah

English couples first know of Sarawak while on cruise

KUCHING: The Sarawak Tourism Ministry needs to put in more effort in promoting Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 to the world as its reach fell a little short of England.

Two English couples met at the Kuching Waterfront recently did not know about the state, or Malaysia, and were here simply because it was one of the stops made by their cruise ship Adonia.

“We only learned about Sarawak from our cruise and not VMY 2014. Nevertheless, it is a good chance to escape the weather back home in North England as there is a lot of heavy rain and lots of water everywhere, while Sarawak is hot. We also tried the boat ride to go across from Kuching Waterfront,” said John Stenton, 76.

He said the boat ride was good as they both got to experience the natural transport of locals.

It was the first trip here for him and his wife Patricia, 71. Their previous stops included Penang, Melaka and Singapore and will stop in Brunei and Kota Kinabalu next among many other stops before returning to England on April 29.

Patricia noticed many cats around the city – many pregnant ones too – living up to its name of Cat City.

Another couple, Graham and Kathy Smith on the same cruise said coming to Sarawak was part of their cruise.

“This is our first time in Sarawak and our ship only stops here for a day. We find Sarawak quite nice and tidy, but the river needs a bit of cleaning,” said Graham.

The couple were spotted alighting from the ‘penambang’ (boat) at the Boyan-Gersik-Sourabaya waterfront.

He said they took a walk to take photos of the villages and the new State Legislative Assembly building before returning to Kuching Waterfront.

He will tell his friends and family of their experience in Sarawak and promote it as a vacation destination.

“I will recommend Sarawak as it is a different culture, the people nice and friendly and no hassle,” he said.


Work to upgrade Miri Airport to commence this year

MIRI: The Transport Ministry is expected to start work to upgrade Miri Airport by this year to better serve passengers, said Assistant Minister of Communication Datuk Lee Kim Shin.

Being a resort city, he said, it was important that Miri had good facilities, such as an airport,
which was able to function efficiently to cater to the needs of its visitors and business community.

“We hope the upgrading can start as soon as possible,” he told reporters after attending a briefing on the proposed upgrading work for Miri Airport by Zailan Jauhari, the special officer to acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Malaysia Airport Berhad (MAB) officials here yesterday.

He said Miri city also needed the airport to be upgraded because it served as the hub of all rural air services with the most number of flights to the rural areas, including routes to Bario, Ba’kelalan, Marudi, Lawas, Limbang and Mukah.

Lee said Miri Airport now needed separate terminals catering to domestic,international and rural air services including separate check-in counters, the departure hall and arrival lounges.

He said Miri Airport registered a growing passengers’ traffic volume with more than two million passengers using the airport since 2012.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Not many outsiders aware of Visit Sarawak Year

KUCHING: Sarawak is still a ‘mystery’ — a pin-drop survey of overseas awareness on Visit Sarawak Year (VSY) reveals. For starters, travel-savvy youths in neighbouring countries took a wild guess that the state has more to offer than ‘the monkey with the big nose’.

This is despite the fact that it is Visit Malaysia Year 2014 (VMY14) and that the state Tourism Ministry has launched its very own VSY campaign to prepare for the event.

The lack of awareness about VSY at the grassroots level in the region was made known by a Surabaya-based tour agency employee, who declined to be named. He made an observation in popular social media site Facebook on how the company’s tour package for Sarawak remained unpopular.

“Not many customers are aware of VMY14, let alone VSY. Most people who come to us usually prefer tour packages to Peninsular Malaysia, where they can access shopping, food, history and culture all at once. Sarawak and Sabah remain unpopular, except for the few who are into jungle trekking and mountain climbing,” he said.

His remark prompted The Borneo Post to do a quick survey among some overseas friends online, particularly those from Singapore and Indonesia as they are close to Sarawak in proximity and connectivity.

It was quite a surprise to learn that there are young people with ages between 20 and 40 who know very little about Sarawak tourism even though they are fairly travel-savvy and have ready access to social media and the Internet.

Kosen Pangtono was not aware that it was VMY14, adding that there was no noticeable promotion of Sarawak in his hometown Medan.

“Sarawak is the place with the big nose (Proboscis) monkey, isn’t it? I have not been there but I have heard about the eco-tourism, which isn’t a great point for us because we have got many eco-tourism spots here too. I would visit Sarawak, for its cultural diversity.

“I have been to other places in Malaysia such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru, Kuantan, Genting Highlands and Melaka.

“People visit places for a specific purpose, like how Kuala Lumpur and Penang are great for people who want shopping. Chinese Indonesians mostly prefer Singapore over Malaysia, while the really rich ones would go to Australia, USA or Europe,” observed the 26-year-old proprietor of a visual effects studio.

University student Rian Cahyadi, 21, has never heard much about Sarawak although he knew it as one of the two Malaysian states in Borneo.

“I have only been to Kuala Lumpur for a three-day holiday. It is a nice city. Maybe someday I will consider visiting Sarawak but I really don’t know anything about it. We usually learn about overseas tourism promotions through TV here and I don’t remember seeing any on Sarawak,” he said.

According to 32-year-old graphic designer and event organiser Richfield Edbert from Jakarta, he has seen endless TV and magazine advertisements on Kuala Lumpur.

“Malaysia Truly Asia seems to be about Kuala Lumpur and no other town or city in Malaysia. There is no promotion about Sarawak tourism here. I would want to know more about Sarawak as that is where my friend’s hometown is.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Not many outsiders aware of Visit Sarawak Year

Monday, February 17, 2014

More tourists expected with Royal Brunei Airways as events promoter

MIRI: Major events and activities in the northern region of Sarawak will be made known to Australians and Europeans with the help of neighbouring country Brunei.

This is because the task of promoting events and activities in Miri, including Limbang, has been given to the sultanate’s carrier Royal Brunei Airways (RBA).

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg disclosed this to reporters when he attended the inaugural Miri Country Music Festival at ParkCity Everly Hotel here on Saturday night.

“My ministry is working with Brunei tourism authority, particularly with Ministry of Primary Industry Brunei, for a joint promotion between Brunei and Sarawak, particularly Miri and Limbang.

“We hope with this cooperation and collaboration, we will be able to bring many foreign tourists. This is where Royal Brunei Airways will be the airline entrusted to do the job.

According to Abang Johari, RBA was chosen to do the task as it flies to Australia as well as Europe, including London.

The joint committee will promote through RBA events in Brunei as well as events in the northern part of Sarawak, particularly in Miri, including Limbang.

Meanwhile, Abang Johari also disclosed the ministry had chosen Miri to be the ‘musical city’ in the state.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

What’s for breakfast in Sibu?

YOU could get Northern Indian food now in Sibu, observed the young excited undergraduate I was travelling with as she obliguely eyed the book I was reading about travels in India.

“We had a wonderful gathering last month to celebrate a lecturer’s birthday at Payung,” she said, adding in the next breath: “We can also have some great Japanese food in Sibu.”

She said five years ago, the elders were all very traditional and most town kids only liked KFC or McDonald’s but now, many of the coffeeshops or eateries also had to look good with new-style service and interior décors.

“Sibu is really improving,” she enthused.

While most people would look for kampua, kompia and kopi-o (the three K’s) for traditional Foochow breakfast, Sibu serves up more food choices than you would actually know once you start digging deeper into its gastronomical menu.

New food outlets are mushrooming to titillate your taste buds. And one, in particular, along Jalan Kampung Datu serves a special roti canai filled with thin banana slices. The outlet is called Sri Pelita, operated by an Indian from Johor who is married to an Iban woman, and the items on the menu might even be something innovative for our Indian friends.

The roti is light and so thinly stretched that you can see the banana slices between the layers. The fine pastry is fragrant and light. One could fall in love with it at first bite.

The coffee and tea here — hot or with ice — are on par with local standards. Those preferring Horlicks or Milo drinks may have to look elsewhere such as at the Noodle House which serves some very interesting Horlicks beverages.

However, Sri Pelita’s nasi lemak has a nice taste of Indian spices and the tandoori chicken is great as well. It’s no wonder the outlet is often over-crowded in the early morning, especially with government officers and uniformed personnel.

Interesting breakfast treats

SEDC operates a food court at the end of Kampung Hilir, offering some interesting breakfast treats such as rojak, Sarawak laksa, served with a couple of big prawns, and roti canai. For a halal breakfast in a kampung setting, this is the place to be.

If you are on the lookout for good nasi lemak and other Indonesian dishes, you can head to the police headquarters of Sibu. Behind this four-storey building, housing the police department, is an eatery called Café Ind, owned by Peter Tang, a Sibu-born but overseas-trained businessman.

Tang promises fresh and reasonably priced items. And nothing is better than a good friendly suggestion — with a smile — from the waiters or waitresses. The proprietor himself is very hospitable and accommodating.

A satisfying breakfast at this café will definitely not break your bank. On top of that, you will enjoy the nice décor and atmosphere. Order the Indian ginger milk tea and your mood will swing to the happier end of the pendulum.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: What’s for breakfast in Sibu?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Visit to Sabah Borneo’s Poring Hot Springs Recreational Area

I’ve never been particularly afraid of heights; being an avid tree climber and several years of gymnastics lessons cured any doubts I might have had about heights many, many years ago.

Looking up at a tiny netted wooden walkway situated 130 feet above the forest floor made me gulp a bit though.

If you’ve never been tree canopy walking, I strongly urge you to try it. It strikes a healthy balance somewhere between hiking and rock climbing. Tree canopy walking turned out to be my kind of activity, given that my health does not allow me to undertake strenuous or physically challenging activities like bungee jumping or downhill mogul racing.

When I found out that we could do some tree canopy walking on our road trip through Kinabalu National Park in Sabah, Borneo, I called it as one of ‘my’ trip activities. In other words, that means John can’t object, since I then had to do an activity with him of his choosing. (He choose to drive to the Tip of Borneo, but that trip didn’t go so well. We got caught in a flash flood that day.)

A trip to Sabah isn’t complete without visiting Mount Kinabalu, and a soak in the hot springs at Poring Hot Springs in Renau sounded delightful after wandering around Mount Kinabalu.

We had  high hopes for Renau. Unfortunately, our time there didn’t turn out as expected.

Located in the foot hills of Mount Kinabalu, the area is best known for the Poring Hot Spring and Nature Reserve. The hot spring is managed by Sabah Parks, and the various accommodation options and dining facilities are managed by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges, which is where we were headed for a two-night cabin stay.

The hot springs are located in a clearing in the forest, and you have to cross a short suspension bridge over Mamut River. A wooden pathway leads past a grove of giant bamboo, fruit bearing trees, and flowering plants. The walk is really beautiful, but I can’t comment much on the hot springs, mainly because it was extremely busy while we were there, and the pools were not at all clean.

I’ve read that this is normal at Poring Hot Springs, since the complex relies on its guests to change the water in the tubs. The tubs were filthy and we took one look at them and decided we weren’t going in.


Getting to Bako National Park in Borneo

A big part of any adventure is getting to your destination, especially when your goal is a national park in one of the wildest islands in the world. While Kuching in Borneo is more modern than most people think before visiting, getting to Bako National Park from the capital of Sarawak, Malaysia is still a thrill.

Finding the bus stop –

The first goal is to find the bus that goes to Bako. You can either walk to the bus station or get a taxi. I grabbed a taxi and wish I would have walked because the ten minute cab cost more than the 45 minute bus ride.

Grab the bright red bus 1 run by Rapid Kuching.  It leaves from in front of the buffet restaurant called Toko Minuman Jumbo at 6 Jln Khoo Hun Yeang. I highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat here before departure. Buses depart every 30 minutes from Kuching between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.

If you have trouble finding it just ask around. Most people in the area are accustomed to seeing backpackers leaving for Bako. Once you are on the bus, it is a breeze as the bus ends at the Bako bazaar where the next step of the journey awaits. The national park has a kiosk here where you can buy your entry into the park and a boat to get there.

Hiring a motorboat-

Bako is so pristine that there are no roads into the park. The only way to get to the entrance is by motorboat up the Tabo River. The boats cost RM47 each way, which is about 15 usd. This is the cost for the boat, so if you are with a group you can split the costs. Sometimes you can find other travelers on the bus or at the bazaar and pair up to reduce costs.

The boat ride is a magnificent introduction to the beauty of Borneo and Bako. Be on the lookout for crocodiles and eagles on the way into the park.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Getting to Bako National Park in Borneo

Largest female Crocodile collared in Borneo

KINABATANGAN: A 3.96 metres female crocodile was captured and tagged within the confines of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS) on February 6.

The female was given the name ‘Zalim’, meaning tyrannical, befitting one of the largest females in the Kinabatangan.

“Our project is a joint collaboration between Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and its Wildlife Rescue Unit, and Cardiff University (CU) and is funded by Chester Zoo – Act for Wildlife and DGFC. We seek to understand the role of this apex predator within a degraded habitat,” said Dr Benoit Goossens, director of DGFC.

He said the project had tagged seven crocodiles, five males and two females. Zalim would be studied to learn about breeding and nesting behaviour.

“This information is of great importance in a region where substantial portions of historic nesting grounds have already been converted to oil palm. In addition to the satellite unit, a small tissue sample was also taken to examine the genetic health of the crocodile population in the region,” said Goossens.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Largest female Crocodile collared in Borneo

Friday, February 14, 2014

Headhunters and orangutans: jungle fun in Borneo

It was a hot, humid morning, and I was surrounded on all sides by seemingly impenetrable rain forest – jungle so thick that, in places, the tropical foliage obscured anything more than a few feet away. From the canopy above, birds chirped and a million insects buzzed, creating a cacophony that, in its own way, was as dense as the forest.

As I stood there, the black-and-white photos that I had seen the day before at the state museum played in the back of my mind – images of severed heads on wooden pikes or hanging from rough ropes, over signs explaining that, not so very long ago, headhunting was a common practice in this very place.

And then, behind me, a sound: Soft, padding, small hands and feet, the noise coming not from the moist ground but from above. I turned to see an orangutan, his mess of reddish fur contrasted against the greenery, swinging effortlessly along a line strung in the trees toward the raised platform in front of me. As he passed high over my right shoulder, he turned his head to take me in, his lively eyes flicking up and down my frame before proceeding to the meal that awaited him ahead.

I was on Borneo, one of the world’s largest and wildest islands. I was seeking adventure in Sabah, on Malaysia’s side of Borneo (the other is part of Indonesia), looking to get lost in a land that, in many places, remains largely untamed. But I was to find that, like the rest of Southeast Asia, even far-flung Sabah is clinging to its traditions as it hurtles inexorably into a modernized future.

My first stop was Sepilok, the world’s pre-eminent orangutan reserve. Part conservation area and part rehabilitation centre, it allows about 200 of these endangered apes to roam 43 square kilometres of protected territory. About 60 of the animals are in Sepilok’s rehab program. It can take as many as 10 years for the experts here to equip these animals – orphaned and rescued from plantations or private homes where they were kept as pets – with the skills necessary to survive in the wild.

During Sepilok’s daily morning feeding, orangutans emerged from the jungle and swung down to grab tubers left for them by guides, often carrying them back up the ropes to comically recline and munch away while taking in the sight of the people below.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Headhunters and orangutans: jungle fun in Borneo

Looking for Wildlife and Homelife on a Borneo River

Reading National Geographic Kids inspires my children to explore. In the same way that the original magazine got adults dreaming of adventures in faraway lands, the kid version has given my children a curiosity about the animals, landscapes, and cultures of our vast, diverse world.

When we boarded the boat on Borneo's Santubong River, my daughter was immediately enthralled by the wildlife photos lining the ceiling. Pictures of proboscis monkeys with their comical, Jimmy Durante noses stared down at us. Irrawaddy dolphins with their characteristic rounded heads and snub noses were shown frolicking in the water. Images of crocodiles glared at us, daring us to get a little closer. As the boat began to chug its way out into the river, she went on and on, telling me everything she knew about proboscis monkeys and their endangered status.

After a while, she paused for a breath and said, "Mama, we should go and see these animals sometime," waving her arm at the pictures

"Honey," I told her, "That's why we're on this boat. Those are the animals we're going to see!"

She was so surprised and delighted. The look on her face was akin to a preschool girl who has just been told she's going to DisneyWorld to have breakfast with all the Princesses. It was as if she had stepped into the pages of National Geographic. A world which had so far only existed on paper was suddenly about to become real.

We were going to see these animals in the wild. Of course, this can be a little trickier than seeing them at the zoo or aquarium. They aren't captive and waiting for you to come by to look at them. No, these animals are living free, and we needed a combination of luck and familiarity with their habits to find them. Luckily, we had a guide who knew a few tricks.

Our first successful sighting was of some Irrawaddy dolphins. They are known to hang around fishing boats, so our boat would cut its motor and silently float whenever we came upon a fisherman.

"There!" someone would cry, pointing excitedly. The dolphins quickly came up out of the water and dove back down again. We would watch for a while before continuing down the river looking for more fishing boats to stalk.

Before you start scrolling down to see fantastic wildlife photos, I need to let you in on something. Photographing wildlife can be really hard -- perhaps even more difficult than taking pictures of uncooperative toddlers. Basically, none of my pictures turned out. All the ones of dolphins show nothing but water. I only got one photo of an animal the entire evening, and it was taken right as we were climbing on board.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Looking for Wildlife and Homelife on a Borneo River

To Mulu and the Borneo cave mec

It was an early rise at Wod Ji Lodge for me, pack and meet the girls for our flight to Mulu National Park in the Bornean High country, all aboard in our taxi and we’re off ( Mags has the back pack from hell 23kg almost taller then her ).

We’re all staying at differant places , so i check into the Nat Park 22person dorm with fear, but its all good small rooms all joining, unpack and then head down to the girls home stay to catch up and work out whos doing what caving and treking…

And Nick joins the group, another fair dinkum Aussie even though he’s a vegan ;) , a new friend made. We decide a walk to the little waterfall is in need as we all want to get wet and cool down in the tropical rain forest. 15mins walk and we arive at a beautif little waterfall and all dive straight in…. yeah this is living.

We all meet up for dinner at Nick, Denise and MAgs homestay, a wicked veggie rice with jungle greens and a cold tiger beer (well a few) and then home to bed for another early rise.

Out of bed early and meet Nick for our all day garden of Eden trek through deer cave, the 2nd biggest cave in the world and an Attinbough location…. stoked as… 6 of us and our guide set of for Deer Cave through the rain forest, all amped and awaiting the highlight of Mulu Nat Park. The enterance of the cave was jaw dropping, palm trees 100ft high and being dwalfed by the cave roof, and in we went, to the den of 5 million bats…

All a grin with excitement, head lamps on, eyes following the light every where… AND THEN IT HITS YOU… the Amonia gas… OMG! As we walk through the cave following our guide my thought pattern is ‘David Attenbourgh was her… wow look at that…. OMG I’m going to be sick… David Attenbourgh was here’ you get the picture.

As the cave continued on the air freshened up and so did the sightsbats clinging to the celing in black clous, cilindrical water falls, a cave that supposably you can fly a jumbo jet through and then the garden of eden, the exit of the cave a lust green view of tropical majisty.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: To Mulu and the Borneo cave mec

Baram Regatta time to celebrate rich cultural heritage

MIRI: The upcoming Baram Regatta on August 22-23 this year will be a cultural fest depicting the end of the head-hunting rivalry in the Baram basin over a century ago.

As such, Assistant Minister of Public Utilities (Water Supply) and main committee organising chairman Datuk Sylvester Entri said he looked forward to Marudi Town coming alive with the convergence of all the indigenous tribes to this celebration of peace, culture and water sports prowess.

“We want to paint Marudi red with our rich cultural heritage with costumes, decorations and activities,” said Entri after a main committee meeting held at Marudi District Council recently.

He expressed happiness at the progress report from the respective sub-committees, which gave the organising committee confidence that this triennial event would be a big crowd puller and tourist attraction.

Among the new features in the regatta would be the ‘Pump Boat’ race, which proved to be a hit in smaller regattas in Long Lama last year.

Regatta sub-committee chairman and Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau said over 80 such boats were ready to participate in the event, an indication of the popularity of the race and the suitable river condition


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Orangutans in Borneo Spending More Time on the Forest Floor

As the world's largest arboreal mammal, orangutans quite logically spend much of their time in trees. But new research on Bornean orangutans reveals that the great apes spend more time on the forest floor than previously believed.

Mark Harrison of the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, and his international team of collaborators spent seven years tracking the movements of Bornean orangutans with 1,409 camera traps across 16 sites in the Borneo jungle.

Their project, which took place between June 2006 and March 2013, detailed the movements of 641 individual orangutans over nearly 160,000 days.

Prior to this study, the researchers report that evidence of orangutans coming down from the trees was rare and was usually associated with habitat disturbance.

"We've known for some time that orangutans use the ground to travel and search for food, but the influence of anthropogenic disturbances in driving this behavior has been unclear. This is crucial to understand in this age of rampant forest loss and fragmentation, which is slicing up the orangutan's jungle home," Harrison said.

"We found that although the degree of forest disturbance and canopy gap size influenced terrestriality, orangutans were recorded on the ground as often in heavily degraded habitats as in primary forests," Harrison continued.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Daily quota review for Mount Kinabalu trekkers

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun said Sabah is reviewing the number of people allowed to trek up Sabah’s Mount Kinabalu daily after a German tourist fell to her death on Monday.

He said it was important for those climbing to the summit to obey the rules set by Sabah Parks.

“The rules are there for a reason, to ensure their safety,” he said yesterday.

Masidi explained that all climbers were briefed before the climb and accompanied by well-trained guides but from past cases, investigations revealed that mishaps occurred because of the climbers’ indiscretion where they ventured away from their group.

According to the Sabah Tourism Board, a maximum of 196 climbers are allowed daily.

Victoria Poulsen, a 22-year-old university student in China, slipped and fell 30 metres to her death from Low’s Peak after she had stepped outside the fenced area to take photographs of the sunrise.

Masidi said he was waiting for the full report of the incident.

“I will ask for a full briefing after all the investigations are completed and we will take it from there,” he said, adding that Sabah Parks as well as the police would be conducting their own investigations into the case which happened early Tuesday morning.

Masidi said that at the moment the facts were still sketchy as he had not received the full report.

This is because the victim’s remains and her group members only arrived back to Kinabalu Park headquarters late Tuesday evening.

“I am still waiting for the full report from Sabah Parks and maybe from the police too as they will also be conducting their own investigations into the case. So it is not appropriate for us to make any assumptions at this moment because we are waiting for the detailed report.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sabah mulls reviewing daily quota for trekkers to Mount Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is reviewing the number of people allowed to trek up Sabah's Mount Kinabalu daily, in a measure to improve their safety.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said what was more important, however, was for those climbing to the summit to obey the rules set by Sabah Parks.

"The rules are there for a reason, to ensure their safety," he said after launching a book on Sabah's Bornean elephants Tuesday.

According to the Sabah Tourism Board, a maximum of 196 climbers are allowed daily.

On Monday, a 22-year-old German, university student Victoria Paulsen, slipped and fell to her death from the summit.

Masidi said preliminary reports from Sabah Parks officials showed that the German national had stepped outside the fenced area on the peak.

"From what we gather, she was sitting on rock to snap photos of the sunrise when it suddenly gave way and she fell down a slope," said Masidi, who extended the Sabah government's condolences to Paulsen’s family.

Masidi said this was the first incident of someone falling of the 4,095m Low's Peak, adding that the presence of dozens of people on the summit had never been a safety issue previously.


Manukan Island

Manukan Island in Sabah is one of the most visited islands in the Land Below the Wind. While you may think why, it is simply be cause the island is only a 15 minute boat ride from the city of Kota Kinabalu or simply known as KK here. As I was visiting KK town in early May 2013 together with a group of media from West Malaysia, we were taken to many popular tourist places here and Manukan Island was one of them where we spent the morning there before heading back to the mainland for lunch.

Manukan Island is actually part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park or TAR Park which consist of five islands which are Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi, Sulug and Gaya Island where each of the islands is only a mere couple of minutes boat ride from each other. Among these islands, tourist usually visit Manukan, Mamutik and Sapi Island for activities and day trips. The beauty about the group of islands here is that you can visit it in the morning and be back in town after lunch therefore this place is one of the top tourist spots in Sabah.

How to go to Manukan Island

There are two main areas where you can get to Manukan Island, one at Jesselton Pier in KK town while the other is at Sutera Harbor Jetty, a 5 minute drive from town. Usually hotels and tour companies sell day trips to the islands here. Prices range anywhere from RM100 to RM150 per person, depending on your package. Some packages includes island hopping while others are for one single island You can book these packages at any tour counters or companies in KK town or hotel lobbies. Some ready made Sabah Packages would already have this in the itinerary too. The deal would usually include;

* Pick up from your hotel and back
* Boat transfer to the island and back
* Island entrance fees
* A lunch (normal or BBQ) on the island
* Free snorkeling

However, you should note that any other additional activities are charged on the spot there. This includes;

* Scuba Diving
* Water Sports Activities
* Sea Walking
* Rental of equipment
* Restaurant/Cafe food and drinks
* Souvenirs

Best Time to visit Manukan Island

Since I have been there many times (eight times in the last 3 years), I have seen the busy and also quiet period. It is recommended that the best time to visit here is during the weekday and also off peak season. If it is the local School Holidays or any public holiday, the place is sure to be jam-packed and this may result in you not having a great time there.

I would personally recommend you that you go there as early as possible, before 10.00am as the crowd usually comes in about 11.00am onwards. By lunch the place can get crowded so go early to secure a nice spot on the beach. 

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Manukan Island

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mount Kinabalu: Spiritual peak of Borneo

Before Christianity and Islam became the dominant religions of the island of Borneo, Animist beliefs dictated that when a person died, their spirit rose to the peak of Mount Kinabalu.

At 4,095 meters above sea level, it's one of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia.

Today, UNESCO-listed Mount Kinabalu National Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state of Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo, with visitors forced to book two to three months in advance to secure one of 196 daily allocated hiking permits.

Though Sabah is developing at pace, villagers living at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu continue to perform Animist rituals to appease spirits residing at the cloud-ringed peak so no harm comes to those who scale it.

The above images were taken on the rock-strewn 8.7-kilometer trail to the summit with Evan Conrad, a guide who first climbed Mount Kinabalu 20 years ago.

"I've climbed the mountains maybe 100 times," Conrad said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Mount Kinabalu: Spiritual peak of Borneo

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Sound of the sapeh

SAPEH, sape, sampet or sampeh, in whichever way it is spelt, this stringed instrument of Sarawak’s Orang Ulu is primordial in essence. When plucked and strummed, it eludes a haunting tune, so divine and sacred, that those who dance to its music convulse into a trance.

The home grown musical instrument of Central Borneo’s upriver folks was once played to lend music during ritualistic ceremonies in the aboriginal enclaves of the longhouse. However, over the wheels of time, the sapeh morphed in status and in its role.

Though electric sapehs deliver a rhapsodic repertoire for modern social occasions today, the musical wooden contraption that resembles a boat to some, and a mega bass ball bat to others, will always retain the lyrical quintessence of its indigenous pedigree.

Avid sapeh player Thomas Goh, who recently spoke to thesundaypost, says: “The sound of the sapeh will forever be lilting and esotericeven though it has undergone startling changes through a series of improvisation.”

According to Goh, a trainer and musician with the Kuching-based Dayak Cultural Foundation, sincethe last few decades, the sapeh had evolved tremendously.

“The original sapeh had rattan strings. From rattan strings, it was fitted with nylon strings and eventually it was donned with steel strings that give an enhanced twangto its sound,” Goh explains.

Goh, of Iban-Chinese descent, says the sapeh is relatively a simple instrument but its music is complex. It was originally a two-stringed instrument with only three frets. It was then solely used to induce a hypnotic trance during ceremonial rites, but in later years, it was remodelled to become a three, four, five or six stringed  instrument for the purpose of providing music for social entertainment and leisure, he notes.

Goh adds that the sapeh can produce different tones and notes, according to the way it is tuned and the number of strings and frets it has, and more importantly, in the specific way the frets are arranged.

He perceives the sapeh as a very “versatile and progressive” musical instrument because of the many phases of development it has undergone.

“I can use the sapeh to play ballads, hymns, folk songs, Yuletide melodies and gospel songs,” Goh says, adding, that he loves to play Amazing Grace on the sapeh as the song’s intense sentiments match with the sapeh’s distinctive tonality.

For Goh, his long relationship with the sapeh saw its “defining moment” when he brought theromantic sound of the sapeh to Hong Kong, where he gave a rendition of an old Mandarin love song on stage.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sound of the sapeh

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Chinese airlines may land at Kuching International Airport for free

KUCHING: Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB) is expected to exempt four Chinese airlines from landing fees at Kuching International Airport (KIA) to improve the city’s connectivity with China.

Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said four airlines from China had shown keen interest in operating routes to Kuching.

“I have requested MAB to offer free landing fees for the four Chinese airlines for three years. This is a positive move to see more routes between China and Kuching,” he said during a Lunar New Year dinner jointly organised by Plaza Merdeka Management, The Waterfront Hotel, India Street Pedestrian Mall Committee, Kuching City Centre Consultative Committee and Kuching City Centre Community Association on Thursday.

Abang Johari said the exemption coupled with Sarawakian hospitality would help bring more tourists to the state.

Feedback from last month’s Asean Tourism Forum, he said, showed that delegates were impressed by both the hospitality of the locals and the city’s uniqueness.

“Some delegates say people of Kuching keep on smiling, which shows how great we are. They also say our city is very clean and well structured, making Kuching unique compared to other destinations.”

He thanked everyone involved for giving such a good impression to the delegates, adding their continued collaboration and hospitality would brand the city an attractive destination in the region.

Meanwhile, organising chairman Datuk Wee Hong Seng said a security force would be formed to patrol Padang Merdeka, Plaza Merdeka, Sarawak Tourism Complex, the Esplanade, from Pangkalan Batu to Brooke Dockyard, India Street and Kai Joo Lane all the way up to open air market.


Friday, February 07, 2014

Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa launches self-sustaining food production system

KOTA KINABALU: Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa has expanded its corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts to include aquaponics, a self-sustaining food production system.

The process combines aquaculture, the farming of fish and hydroponics, the farming of plants in water.

The resort’s aquaponics project is a sustainable food production system constructed out of discarded materials found in and around the resort.

The system will soon be upgraded and powered by solely by solar energy. The resort will use this system to cultivate a variety of herbs and vegetables and to breed freshwater tilapia.

“We are excited to be the first hotel in Kota Kinabalu and the only hotel within the Shangri-La group to launch this aquaponics system. Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa is a strong advocate for environmental sustainability and this is proven by our recent awards won at the 2013 Prime Minister’s Hibiscus Award for Exceptional Achievement Award in the environmental performance and the coveted Sabah State Award,” said general manager Craig Powell.


Sabah batik designers challenged to come up with creations that attract tourists

KOTA KINABALU: Young batik designers in Sabah have been challenged to come up with new creations that would reflect the state’s identity.

The creations should be unique and able to attract new tourists to come to Sabah, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said when posing the challenge at the closing of Yayasan Sabah Group’s Membatik Course and presentation of awards to young batik designers.

Noting that the trainees had learned and mastered the art of making batik, Musa said, “While your learning session has ended, it is just the beginning for you, and your challenge now is to come up with new designs that reflect Sabah’s culture and identity. We want it to be so good that it would lure tourists, both repeat and new ones, to come to our state to find these designs,” he said.

The Chief Minister stressed that Sabahans have the potential to produce quality batiks if they have the right attitude, interest and determination to do so.

He expressed his confidence that with the level of creativity and innovations among Sabahans, it would ensure that their works are good and competitive not only in the local market, but also internationally.

“Apart from offering job opportunities, the handicraft industry also contributes towards the nation and state’s economy, besides encouraging more Bumiputeras to take up the chances available,” he said.

Batik is a method of producing designs on fabric by using a wax resist. Once the fabric is painted with wax, it is placed in a dye bath where the areas under the wax will remain undyed.

The batik masters can produce complex design by layering colors and using cracks in the painted wax to produce fine lines of detail.


Thursday, February 06, 2014

'Cowboy town' of Borneo

LAHAD Datu is a district located on the eastern side of Sabah, just above Tawau and Semporna. It occupies about nine per cent of the state, and is a main producer of palm oil, cocoa and timber.

It was said that before 1879, many well-respected individuals known as Datu from the Sulu Sultanate migrated to the land, thus giving the name Lahad Datu which in the Bajau language means "land (lahad) of the celebrated, well-respected people (datu)".

The district's town, also called Lahad Datu, used to be known as a cowboy town for its lawless reputation.

Apart from a number of newly-built commercial buildings and housing areas, I believe the small town has not changed much since I left seven years ago for the big city.

Around the town, Filipinas can be seen selling cheap beauty care products in front of the shops while their children, probably around 11 or 12 years of age, roam the small town selling cigarettes and lighters.

At the market, there are Filipinos and Indonesians selling foodstuff among the locals.

Pakistani men, on the other hand, are still travelling from home to home in the villages selling carpets and rugs even though many of them now run carpets and furniture shops.

And when the authorities show up, it will be like Tom and Jerry playing hide and seek.

Immigrants, especially from the Philippines, Indonesia and Pakistan, are still large in numbers. Whether they came legally or illegally is a different matter.

Meanwhile, in the sea not far from the town's shores, there are still a small number from the Bajau Laut community known as the sea gypsies, living in their boats just like how their ancestors did eons ago.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: 'Cowboy town' of Borneo

Routes Asia may hold the key to Sarawak Tourism

KUCHING: Sarawak is looking forward to next month’s Routes Asia with much anticipation as it may have the answer to the state’s perennial air connectivity problem that had impeded its tourism industry.

The 12th edition of the largest route development forum in Asia will he held here from March 9 to 11 and Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg is confident the issue of flight connectivity would be raised.

“With our infrastructure, like airports, hotels and other facilities ready, we are now in a better position to expand our market abroad.

“Our only problem is lack of connectivity,” he said during a media briefing for Routes Asia here yesterday.

Also present were Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip, Tourism Ministry’s permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) managing director Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad.

Abang Johari described Routes Asia, which will be held at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK), as a blessing because the presence of 350-odd delegates representing 92 airlines, 177 airports, 19 tourism organisations and 24 suppliers from almost 60 countries would certainly cast a strong international spotlight on the state.

It comes right after the successful Asean Tourism Forum 2014 that was held here recently.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Routes Asia may hold the key to Sarawak Tourism

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

10,000 expected at Baram Regatta

MIRI: More than 10,000 people are expected to throng Marudi town during the Baram Regatta from Aug 22 to 23 this year.

Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau said this is because the Miri-Marudi road had been upgraded, thus enabling more people to come to the regatta.

The road was upgraded by the Royal Army Engineers Regiment through the ‘Jiwa Murni’ programme.

“We are glad that the construction of the road has made it a lot easier for the people to travel to Marudi and vice-versa,” he said.

When asked if the delay in the construction of the bridge at Sungai Arang to replace the ferry there would affect the number of people visiting the regatta, Ngau said it would not pose a problem.

Continue reading at: 10,000 expected at Baram Regatta

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Six Cool and Creepy Things You Can See on a Trip to the Rainforests of Borneo

Although it is slowly developing from a small town to a small city as far as opportunity and entertainment go, Kuching's best quality hands down is its proximity to the island's national parks and rainforests.

With approximately a half dozen parks within a two-hour drive, getting out into the natural world that surrounds the city is a must, as it is there that you will experience what makes Borneo, the home of one of the world's biggest rainforests, so special.

The Largest Flower in the World

The Rafflesia arnoldii is the largest individual flower on the planet, measuring in with a diameter up to 3 feet and weighing up to 20 lbs. It's pretty at first glance, but its fowl odor (rotting flesh) and parasitic nature quickly squash the fairy tale. Still, it's a special thing when you see it, as the flower blooms and withers within a matter of days. Your best chance to see it is at Gunung Gading National Park.

Pitcher Plants

This carnivorous plant uses a sugary nectar to attract and trap its prey, which include small moths, flies, wasps, and grasshoppers (other animals, such as tadpoles and mosquitoes, use the pitcher as a breeding ground). Monkeys have been seen drinking the water collected in the pitchers after it rains, which has earned them the nickname of "Monkey Cups." A look at the photo above and the plant's ability to blend into the jungle floor sheds additional light on why it is so successful in trapping unsuspecting prey. There are ten species of pitcher plants in Kubah National Park.