Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Orangutangs and Sun Bears in Sandakan

Our first glimpse at some wild life today.

It started by catching the local bus to Sepilok, about 45 minutes away. The fare was 10MR.

This was a local bus so made various pickups and drop offs along the way, it was interesting that the fare most locals paid was no more than 1MR.

When we reached Sepilok we went straight to the Orangutang sanctuary.

I was very surprised that this was not contrived.

There is a food platform where some fruit and vegetables are placed twice each day, the Orangutang come and eat it if they desire otherwise they get there own food in the forest.

We were lucky enough to see one juvenile and three mother's with baby.

We were patient and did not leave when most of the other tourists left.

There was also a mischievous monkey and a black squirrel enjoying the food.

Out of the forest came a large male. He ate the rest of the bananas before swinging off on the ropes.

From here we went to the sun bear conservation area. This has only been open for 1 year.

It currently have 35 rescued sun bears, of which we were lucky enough to see about 10.

Once again, these live in trees or roam the forest floor, there is no guarantee you will see them.

We watched them for about 30 minutes, they seemed really peaceful and calm.

The also had a great documentary on how sun bears are kept as pets in cages, and how this project is rescuing them and reintroducing them in the forest.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Orangutangs and Sun Bears in Sandakan

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tracking orangutan in the wilds of Borneo

Achong is struggling to push our longboat against the current of Borneo's Batang Ai River, so we jump into the water to help him.

"Stay in the boat," he pleads, but we ignore him.

It's dry season and every ounce of weight is a factor as the longboat's hull scrapes the bottom of the shallow waterway.

This is the only time we ignore Achong.

Like other tattoo-covered Iban tribesman, he's a master boatman and this is his territory.

The Iban, once fearsome headhunters, are also expert trackers who have turned their talents to trailing one of the world's most fascinating endangered creatures: orangutans.

The ape pursuit takes us to Sri Aman Division, a remote area of Sarawak that nudges the border of Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo.

Borneo and neighboring Sumatra island are the only places the shaggy-haired red ape survives.

The chances of seeing them in the wild are increasingly slim.

"There's no guarantee," warns Borneo Adventure in its publicity blurb for the Red Ape Trail, the safari that has brought us deep into the Asian island's dense, steamy jungle.

"Ape numbers are about 20,000 and constantly declining due to forestry, palm oil crops and poaching."

Far more certain is searing heat, humidity of 80-100%, slippery conditions and the possibility of leeches.

"This walk demands a great deal of physical and mental exertion," says Philip Yong, Borneo Adventure's co-founder. "The region is totally isolated from the outside world."

Pampering base

Fortunately there's a soft option -- surprisingly, it involves a longhouse.

Longhouses are the large jungle huts that generations of Iban and other Dayak tribes have called home.

Usually built on stilts, they're dark, communal living spaces often shared by several families.

The Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort in the Sarawak region of Malaysia's portion of Borneo island takes its inspiration from traditional local homes, and translates this into luxury accommodation.

Seen from its jetty on the Batang Ai, a massive man-made reservoir in the Sri Aman region, the Hilton-managed resort appears like any other longhouse in the area.

Built from large chunks of belian (ironwood), it sits amid swirls of mist on the edges of the reservoir.

A huddle of pastel pink and blue painted longboats are tethered to its moorings.

This will be our pre-and-post-punishment pampering base.

Here we can cool off in a swimming pool -- safely out of leech reach -- and escape the melting humidity in air conditioned suites.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tracking orangutan in the wilds of Borneo

The Land Below the Wind

Today started with breakfast in the car park that serves as a wet and dry market as well as food vendors.

Coffee and once again another Malay breakfast of noodles and fried egg.

We had several chores to do today before starting the "Heritage Walk" around Sandakan.

The jobs included
. finding a Nikon shop to buy a spare battery and charger
. Finding a tailor to take up our hiking pants
. finding a laundry to get our washing done.

Tailor was easy there was one right outside our hotel, so for 10MR we got the pants shortened.

Finding the Nikon shop was a little harder, I knew I had seen one somewhere, so the search begun.

The people here speak very little English so although they try to be very helpful it is hard to get across what you are after.

It took about 30 minutes to find the right shop and purchase my battery and charger.

Now on to the laundry. This should be easy, we were told in the santos market which opened at 9 so we waited when it finally opened we found it was a supermarket not a laundry at all.

We walked the streets looking for a laundry but with no luck. So it was back to the hotel and wash all our gear by hand.

Now off to do the Heritage Trail - this starts at the 100 steps to the Chinese and Japanese cemeteries.

It is a pity that these are neglected and the first is slowly taking over.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Land Below the Wind

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Rafflesia Sighting at Poring

Today we wandered around the Chinese Market which is on every Sunday.

I can see where the market structures come form for our markets.

The only difference at these markets is they also sell cat, dogs fish etc.

Many people are confronted by this but it looks no different to our pet shops at home.

After the market it was time for a quick breakfast (dry noodles , and chicken dumpling soup delicious) then off to catch the bus to Poring.

We were meant to catch a bus to Ranau and then get a share taxi to Poring.

The bus driver had 6 passengers going to Poring so he charged us 20MR more to take us all the way.

The bus was full, the driver was playing some sort of linked Internet game on his phone. It was a little scary.

We arrived at Poring with the rain pouring down.

As soon as we arrive we see a sign signifying a Rafflesia is in flower.

We ask one of the staff where to go, he leads us to the private land.

It costs us 30MR each to view the flower.

We drudge though the mud in luring rain to finally get to the flower.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Rafflesia Sighting at Poring

North Borneo – What a Way to Run a Country!

North Borneo (now the Malaysian state of Sabah) was, by the 1940s, the last country in the world to be still run by a private company – the British North Borneo (Chartered) Company.

Over the centuries there have been many examples of companies administering territories, the most famous of which was the Honourable East India Company which ruled vast swathes of India until the British Government took over responsibility in 1858 following the Indian Mutiny.

Other examples were the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie which ran the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), the British South Africa Company (Rhodesia and Zambia), the Portuguese Companhia de Mocambique and the German New Guinea Company.

Some of the chartered companies were very exploitative, interested only in generating profits by any means including slavery (English Royal African Company) and the opium trade (East India Company).

Others, such as the British North Borneo (Chartered) Company (BNBCC), were more benevolent towards their subjects and were careful to retain the goodwill and cooperation of the local population on whom the company’s survival depended.

In the mid 19th century, when Western nations were scrambling to acquire more colonies, North Borneo was still a blank on the map, nominally owned by the Sultan of Brunei although the Sultan of Sulu controlled part of it.

An American adventurer managed to hoodwink the Sultan of Brunei into ceding North Borneo to him in return for the promise of certain payments. There followed an attempt to establish an American colony. When that failed, the cession papers changed hands and the territory could easily have ended up as a German, Austrian or Italian colony, all of whom were sniffing around at the time. Instead the BNBCC was formed in 1881 to administer the territory of North Borneo over which it had acquired sovereign rights.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: North Borneo – What a Way to Run a Country!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Racing around Labuan Island

Our mission today was to find all the "interesting" spots outlined in the Labuan tourist map.

First was to find a cheap car - a manual Viva at 70 ringget was the go.

Next review the map and make a plan.

I soon came to the conclusion that the map was a very rough guide, it only had about 1/3 of the streets and some sights were on incorrect streets.

But all in all we enjoyed the challenge, saw all the sights ( and some that were not on the map) and made it back in time to return the car at 5pm.

First stop was The Chimney - no one knows why this was even built but it is high on a hill and has been fully restored.

Onto the "United Nations " beach line - this was named a conservation area in 2009, the beach line was cleaned up and now is in pristine condition.

They are beautiful beaches. The tide was out so a swim will be had later in the day.

We circle back to try to find the Bird Park, ignoring where it is shown on the map, unfortunately it is closed on a Friday.

Onward to the War Memorial, this was well looked after and it appears that there is an ongoing restoration process in place.

There are over 3000 graves at the memorial, with over half belonging to "unknown soldiers". A very sad reminder of our past.

Next stop the Marine Museum - this was quite impressive, it is free and has some very good salt water aquariums.

As well as the aquariums it has a giant whale frame that was washed up on a beach in the late 1800's.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Racing around Labuan Island

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Diving Into the Mystic Off Sipadan Island

IT'S LIKE BEING IN the eye of a tornado. Once I breach the twirling funnel of silver jackfish, hundreds whirl around me, darkening the reef below and leaving a blurring circle of opalescent ocean 5 meters above my head.

At Barracuda Point, off Sipadan Island, south of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo, it should be the eponymous, sharp-toothed fish encircling me.

But, as yet, I see no sign of barracuda. Nor, while floating in the fathomless Celebes Sea on my earlier dive at South Point, did I see the hammerhead sharks I'd hoped to.

Yet, in more than 600 dives around the world, I've experienced few locations with such bountiful marine life and Technicolor-bright reefs as Sipadan.

The island is regularly listed among the world's top dive destinations and has long drawn scuba experts, including the likes of Jacques Cousteau. "I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago," reported the much-quoted documentary maker in 1989, "but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art."

Located five degrees north of the equator and 34 kilometers south of Sabah, Sipadan feels remote, and its topography, rising 600 meters from the seabed, has helped preserve its underwater ecosystem. The prescience of earlier generations has also been crucial—the island was first declared a nature reserve in 1917.

In 2002, after decades disputing its ownership with Indonesia, Malaysia acquired sovereignty over Sipadan, and ordered resort operators to leave the island.

Five years ago, "Sipadan Island Park" was declared. Now divers stay on neighboring islands, like Mabul, and require permits to visit.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Diving Into the Mystic Off Sipadan Island

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fast Boats on the Kinabatangan River, Borneo

After (reluctantly) leaving Borneo Rainforest Lodge, we drove for about 2.5 hours to Bilit Lodge, on the banks of the Kinabatangan River.

Despite being in secondary rainforest, this stretch has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the world, and is Malaysia’s second longest river.

As had become customary with this trip, our guide, Di, was incredible, and launched straight into stories about the river people and his tribe, the Orang Sungai.

This included a few choice lessons from his Uncle. He told us to be careful in the jungle, that children are taught not to swear or to argue, because if you do, the bad spirits will find you and you will get lost.

He also taught us that should you curse and get lost, to look around 360 degrees, check that you are truly lost, and then to take all your clothes off so the ghosts and spirits won’t get you (?!), and then to follow your feelings so you find your way.

Luckily we didn’t get lost in the jungle, so there was no walking naked through the trees.

Set on the banks of the river and accessible only by boat, the Lodge was near the main village, and felt like a taste of rural life in Borneo.

There were chickens wandering around, and signs warning you not to leave belongings outside in case they are stolen by the macaques!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Fast Boats on the Kinabatangan River, Borneo

Monday, December 22, 2014

Facing my Fears in Borneo Rainforests, Brunei

At the start of 2014 I made a promise to myself to overcome my fear of creepy crawlies. While in the back of my mind I hoped this resolution would pass, when it came bundled last minute with a once in a lifetime opportunity it was impossible to say no to.

This last minute opportunity came from Microsoft Lumia with their #makeithappen campaign who promised to fulfill my unmet resolution by sending me deep into the rainforests of Borneo which, when it comes to creepy crawlies, few places are quite as terrifying.

So the challenge begins in Brunei as I touch down in the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan. I have one night to prepare myself before I am dragged kicking and screaming to my potential doom…

Far, Far Away

I was surprisingly calm on the first morning. I wake to a beautiful sunrise on the Brunei coast, I settle my stomach with my ‘last supper’ of fish and chips and I then travel in minivans, speedboats and longboats to reach my destination in the Borneo rainforests.

The journey takes roughly four hours following winding roads and riverways through mangroves and dense jungle. At the end I find my base at Ulu Ulu Resort, which translates from Malay as “far, far away”.

This is exactly where I am, now surrounded by so many creepy crawlies that the thought of it would normally bring me to tears. We are located in headhunter territory, home to the infamous Borneo Iban Tribes, who fortunately have abandoned their gruesome traditions in favour of more amiable work here at the resort preparing food, manning boats and being warm and welcoming.

A nice bunch. Anyway, having my head chopped off was the least of my worries now as I can no longer escape the constant siren of creepy crawlies which surround me.

Scared of the Dark…

At the resort I manage to control my fears by staying in well-lit areas and near to the comfort of my room. It isn’t until I am forced through rainforests in pitch black darkness that my nightmares become reality. The biggest fear for me is not knowing what surrounds me and even the slightest brush of a falling leaf clenches me up, ready to run home…. but obviously I can’t.

So this was on an early morning trek which starts at 5am and follows seemingly endless steps up into the rainforest canopy. This in itself is grueling but there is at least a handrail to help pull myself along. I ask the guide “Am I okay to use the handrail on the way up?”. His reply, “It’s best not to. Sometimes there are spiders and snakes on them”… “You’re joking right?” He shines his torch across the wooden rails to find a venomous huntsman spider on the post.

While every inch of my being was saying RUN!!! I continue to brave on, and after an uphill clamber of almost an hour I find myself at the bottom rungs of metal scaffolding with more ladders up. At this time the sun was now rising and my fears of the rainforest fall behind with the new challenge ahead. “Has anyone failed to go up before?” “Last month a girl got to here, then started crying”.

The height of the canopy is in itself terrifying, and the scaffolding to reach it doesn’t look the safest. But the higher I go, the further I am from creepy crawlies so I push on. When I reach the top, the pride and relief I feel is only outdone by the magnificence of the view. I now realize just why I pushed myself so far in conquering this fear. The views over the canopy are like nothing I could imagine.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Facing my Fears in Borneo Rainforests, Brunei

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Niah Caves — the ideal grotto

AFTER 41 years in the teaching profession, including 16 years as a UK headmaster and another nearly three years in the same position in Kuching, I still remember my final interviews with the student editors of the respective schools magazines. “What is your ambition in your retirement?” My answer was simple: “To appear every Christmas as Santa Claus at the grotto in Harrod’s department store in London.”

“But why?” the students giggled and then listened carefully to my reply: “To see smiles on the faces of children.”

On a smaller scale, I have appeared for my grandchildren and neighbours’ guests knocking on windows and doors on Christmas Eve in the guise of Father Christmas with my padded belly and long cotton wool beard and a hearty cry of, “Ho, Ho, Ho!”, to persuade them to get into bed early so that I could deliver their presents when they were asleep! “Where are your reindeer?” the children would ask. I told them to look out of the windows on Christmas morning to see the wild red deer crossing the fields opposite my house. That said, Christmastide is about giving rather than receiving and the true meaning of Christ’s birth is often overlooked.

Unfortunately in my neck of the woods there are no true limestone caves to call my grottos. However every Christmas, as a geomorphologist, my mind immediately links to the most accessible cave system I have visited in the world — the Niah Caves, not far from Bintulu and Miri.

Much has recently been written in criticism of Tom and Barbara Harrison’s archaeological digs and discoveries at Niah between1954 and 1962, but only a few true archaeologists have recorded the lack of technological equipment they used compared with 21st century archaeologists today.

The Harrisons and their team dug with shovels and trowels. They were sponsored by Shell, for Tom was the curator of Sarawak Museum at that time. Much debate will continue to smoulder about their findings in terms of the ages of the artefacts, but we do know for sure through carbon dating that the skull of a 15- to 17-year-old youth is about 40,000 years old.

Neolithic axes, pottery and boats (wooden coffins) as well as Iron Age tools, ceramics and glass beads were discovered and it is likely that the caves were occupied by people from 40,000 BC right up to the 15th century AD. The rock paintings in the ‘Painted Cave’ are reckoned to have been created 1,200 years ago.

Of all the caves I have visited, in Carboniferous limestone in the UK, in the Mendip Hills of Somerset, in the Peak District of Derbyshire and in the Yorkshire Dales as well as caves in France, Malta and Slovenia, the Batu Caves in Selangor and the local Bau Caves, Niah Caves still top my list.

Why the Niah Caves? Unlike Santa’s grotto and the other show caves, they were not illuminated by up-lighting or spotlights in 1999. With a head torch you found your footing along the plank ways and with an upward turn of your head could see the 75m high roof.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Niah Caves — the ideal grotto

Lawas - Where giants and dragons roam

SUPPOSE for a moment that the creatures and heroes which inhabit the legends and folktales we grew up with were true.

Traditional stories often reflect a certain amount of truth about a culture, the times its people were living in and how they lived.

Before writing became the norm in this part of the world, these stories and folktales were oral history and life skills lessons of sorts – imbuing the next generation with the knowledge they would need to live, while honouring elders and ancestors by remembering their contributions.

It is no different for the folktales of the Lun Bawang which have been handed down from generation to generation in Lawas.

Kampung Long Tanid headman Padan Ukab still remembers listening with great fascination to the stories told by his elders when he was a young boy, particularly those told by his uncle, the former penghulu.

“My uncle knew many of the stories by heart, so I learned much from him over the years until he passed away,” the 56-year-old recalled, when met at the village which lies about?three hours’ drive from Lawas town.

From his uncle, Padan also learned about the genealogy of various local families and pantang harta (local observances governing property and inheritance).

The stories have provided him with in-depth knowledge of local history as well as Lun Bawang social and cultural etiquette – absolutely crucial for him in his role as headman.

Perhaps some of his uncle’s passion has also been passed on to Padan as he shares a similar penchant for regaling visitors with tales and legends of the feats of his forefathers, and how local landmarks came to be.

His depository of stories has also grown to include the recent history of the village, known for its scenic rice fields.

“We have lived at this present site since 1962 after a great flood that happened in the years after the Japanese occupation forced us to move.

“The water level was so high that almost all the houses were under water, except for one house and we only started planting Adan rice (a type of wet paddy prized for its aromatic qualities) around the 1980’s.

“We asked a logging company to use their heavy machinery to flatten the land around our village so that we could open wet paddy fields. Before that, it was very difficult to plant wet paddy as we could only rely on manual labour,” he explained.

Warrior giant?

Long Tanid resident and homestay coordinator Balan Berauk took thesundaypost to see the Batu Yung (translated as Yung Stone) – a unique stone feature, located just next to the old grass airstrip, once used to drop off and pickup supplies and passengers.

It stands on private property but we managed to get permission from resident Roland Baru to see the feature on the edge of a small slope just next to the house he stays in.

According to popular local belief, Batu Yung was one of the locations where a prominent warrior in Lun Bawang folklore called Upai Semareng would stop on his travels to and from Indonesia to refresh himself and sharpen his parang or machete.

Long Semadoh, of which Kampung Long Tanid is a part of, lies very close to the borders of Sabah and Kalimantan, Indonesia – demarcated by mountain ranges and rivers – so traditionally, there have always been close ties between the residents due to shared cultural and familial origins.

Long Semadoh was and is still an important transit point for visitors from the North and East of Borneo on the way to visit family and friends in Ba Kelalan and Bario.

Upai Semareng was a warrior of great strength, mostly likely a giant as the parang he wielded was larger and heavier than those belonging to other men.

Batu Yung consists of three large stones in a straight line, of which two are rectangular in shape and almost perfectly flat.

One of the flat stones is known as Teng (translated as Eating Place or Dining Table) and was thought to serve as Upai Semareng’s table where he ate his meals and entertained visitors.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Lawas - Where giants and dragons roam

Saturday, December 20, 2014

'Bizarre Borneo' gets international interest

KOTA KINABALU: University College Sabah Foundation's (UCSF) 13-episode documentary "Bizarre Borneo" ignited the interest of representatives from the world's leading History Channel and National Geographic.

UCSF's Vice Chancellor, Prof Datuk Ghazally Ismail and Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Dayang Aminah Ali foresee substantial growth among locals where art is concerned. They vow to ensure that staff and students reach their desired goals.

Dr Dayang said through exposure, they have proven that locals can penetrate the international market. Among collaborations carried out to put locals out there include forging relationships with experts in various countries such as the US, France and England.

Sabah Animation Creative Content Centre (SAC3) and UCSF representatives are in the process of submitting their three-minute trailer to be considered at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) in March.

During an interview, UCSF Master Trainer Abdul Razak Kassim @ Pak Yeop said the film will feature in-depth information on the State's flora and fauna. Among them are the Megapode (Burung Tambun) and Rafflesia.

This will involve extensive research fit for an international audience.

"If we are chosen, we will proceed filming our 13-episode documentary.

"However, even if we do not get selected, History Channel and National Geographic have already given us the green light. They have expressed interest to purchase our documentary."

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: 'Bizarre Borneo' gets international interest

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sarawak to be major player in MyFest 2015

KUCHING: Sarawak will not only play host to at least 10 mega tourism events next year, but will be a major host to the 2015 Malaysia Year of Festivals (MyFest 2015).

Among the events which the state will host in conjunction with MyFest 2015 are the Asean International Films Festival and Awards/Aiffa (April), Mukah Kaul Festival (April), Borneo Jazz Festival (May), World Harvest Festival (May), Babulang and Bisaya Buffalo Racing Festival (June), Rainforest World Music Festival (July), Borneo Cultural Festival (August), Borneo International Kite Festival (September), Sarawak Regatta (September) and Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta (September).

According to Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia (Motac) secretary-general Datuk Dr Ong Hong Peng, as MyFest 2015 would be the country’s biggest tourism event next year, he foresaw Sarawak playing a major role in making the event a success due to the attractions found in the state.

He was in town yesterday to attend a briefing organised by the ministry at a hotel here yesterday which was attended by most of the tourism and culture industry players in the state.

“This briefing was part of Motac’s effort to build up the promotion for this special celebration next year.

“We want them (tourism and culture industry players) from all around the country to know that this is the perfect time for them to work together with the ministry as we have a platform here to do so now in MyFest,” he added.

Assistant Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Gramong Juna and Tourism Ministry permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik were among those attending the briefing.

MyFest will complement the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan, through which the country has set a target of 36 million tourist arrivals with RM168 billion in receipts in 2020.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak to be major player in MyFest 2015

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hunting is a greater threat than logging for most wildlife in Borneo

Persistence is the key factor in the two most common human stressors on tropical wildlife. In Malaysian Borneo, hunting continually diminishes wildlife populations, whereas the negative impacts from selective logging are more transient, according to a recent study in Conservation Biology.

The study, led by Jedediah Brodie of the University of British Columbia, deployed a series of camera traps across a gradient of disturbed areas to investigate direct and indirect impacts on wildlife. Although both hunting and new logging reduced the number of species in a given area, there was evidence that some wildlife may eventually return to selectively logged areas.

Although clearcutting usually causes complete habitat destruction, the impacts of selective logging are more nuanced and less clearly understood. Still, collateral mortality of non-target trees and ecological disruption are common features of selective logging.

"Logging companies are taking out the high-value timber and leaving everything else," Brodie explained. "But in so doing, they knock over smaller trees, make skid trails, compact the soil, and cause lots of erosion—so it's not a benign process by any means."

The study's findings emphasize the immediate impact of such logging: selective logging reduced occurrence for all 30 species detected in the study area and caused an 11.3 percent decrease in the number of mammal species present.

However, after the ecosystem has a chance to regenerate, evidence suggests there is some hope for wildlife.

"Our study shows that the recovery of mammal diversity after logging is faster than we thought, although it's variable by species and some carnivores remain averse to logged areas for a long time," said Brodie.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

WWF: Over-hunting slashing wild animal population in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Malaysia said over-hunting, illegal wildlife hunting, and trade in wildlife meat and parts had contributed to the decreasing number of wild animals in Sabah’s forests.

WWF-Sabah head of conservation Bernard Tai said thousands, if not more, were being slaughtered by illegal hunters every year for their own reckless consumption, for illegal wildlife trade, and even sports hunting.

He said traps laid by poachers were illegal and not only did they cause long and excruciatingly painful deaths, they sometimes trapped other wild animals not targeted by these poachers by mistake.

“In some cases, these heartless hunters even used explosives to kill our wildlife,” said Tai in a statement yesterday.

According to him, a survey conducted by WWF-Malaysia in Sabah last year showed that 56 percent of the people interviewed consumed wild meat while 14 percent admitted they bought wildlife products.

“Wild animals that were most widely reported as eaten by the interviewees were turtle eggs, bearded pig and sambar deer.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Sabah's beautiful nature drawing outsiders

KOTA KINABALU: People from outside the country continue to be very interested to visit Sabah because of nature which is generally still untouched and not much different from some years ago.

This thus shows how important it is for Sabah to conserve its beautiful nature and natural biodiversity, the eco-tourism products, while developing further the State's tourism industry, said Deputy Head of Sustainable Tourism Research Cluster of the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Penang, Dr Azizan Marzuki.

"We need to continue developing Sabah's tourism products. But it is important that, while we develop further the State's tourism industry, we do not harm the natural environment," he told reporters when met at a welcoming dinner hosted by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun for the delegates of the Fourth International Conference on Tourism Research (4ICTR) at the Pacific Sutera, here, Wednesday.

Dr Azizan said that was among some findings of research works which they are doing and concentrated at the Mount Kinabalu and Kinabatangan areas.

"In Mount Kinabalu areas, our studies are focused on eco-tourism, the physical perception and assessment on some tourism products…we do some inventories on the quality of tourism products, gather the perception or opinions from visitors whether they like or not the tourism products, and so on," he said.

Commending Sabah Parks for a job well done in preserving and maintaining the forest reserves under their care, he said a study is also being done at one of the homestays near the mountain which attracts many international tourists because it is surrounded by real jungle of Borneo and that the visitors have an opportunity to learn about the local people, their culture and heritage during their stay there, which is something hard to find nowadays not only in Malaysia but also in Southeast Asia.

Their research in Kinabatangan area is focused on how the tourism industry can help the local citizens in terms of bringing improvement to their economic status and employment, said Dr Azizan, who sees Kinabatangan as another potential main tourist destination in Sabah.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sir David Attenborough filmed bat colony in Borneo while hanging 250ft in the air

  • Sir David Attenborough, 88, filmed bat colony while hanging 250ft in the air
  • Determined to carry on working despite knee replacement and pacemaker
  • Filmed the tricky shot in a cave in Borneo for new television series
  • Never wants to stop working and says has had 'good fortune' in his career

Hoisted 250ft in the air on the end of a tangle of ropes, Sir David Attenborough shows you’re never too old for a tricky camera shot.

The 88-year-old naturalist has had a knee replacement and a heart pacemaker fitted but none of that was going to stop his latest assignment – filming a huge bat colony in Borneo.

Filming Sky series Conquest of the Skies, Sir David travelled to the Gomantong cave in Borneo, home to around a million bats that emerge in a huge flock each dusk to go hunting for insects.

For this spectacular sequence, shot in 3D, he was winched up on a rope pulley and spoke to a camera fixed to a flying drone known as an ‘octocopter’.

Sir David said: ‘In the cave you can feel the pressure build as bats emerge from the depths, from up to a mile away in the blackness.

'They gather in an chamber just before the entrance and the crowd grows bigger and bigger into a huge maelstrom, almost a whirlpool of bats, wanting to get out to feed on the insects but not daring to while it’s still daylight because there are bat hawks out there.

‘Eventually one makes a break for it, and then they all go out, thousands of them, finding safety in numbers because there only about five bat hawks.’

He added: ‘I have been in the Gomantong bat cave before, but this time was a highlight: I was winched on ropes 250 feet above the cave floor, and with the octocopter in front of me, did a piece to camera with a million bats flying past on their way out of the cave to hunt.’


Sunday, December 07, 2014

Aramaiti Art Fest in Tanjung Aru

KOTA KINABALU: Those interested in the arts and culture of Sabah are welcome to visit the Aramaiti Art Fest at the Aruba Cafe in Tanjung Aru.

Among the many things which would be available to the public are busking, batik painting, temporary henna tattoo making, caricature drawing, stone painting and copper carving.

According to art consultant, Khalid Shamsuddin Arshad, the event would start at a small scale to see what they could achieve in the future.

“Next time, it would be more systematic. We will be doing this every weekend, as Tanjung Aru is one of the best places to see the sunset,” said the Kuala Lumpur native when interviewed.

Khalid also stated that as it was a tourist spot, there was the opportunity to do a lot of things, further adding that he was very happy with the outcome of the event.

He told reporters that he was looking for support and was planning to propose the idea to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment as he believes that such an event would help increase tourism in Sabah.

Meanwhile, William Cheng, who is the organizer for Aruba, said that they were aiming to create an “Arts and Cultural Street” and the event will continue tomorrow and every weekend.

“People can bring family members here; their children can enjoy the beach and join in painting as this is a very educational program,” William said.

He also added that more local products would be brought to the event.

Continue reading at: Aramaiti Art Fest in Tanjung Aru

Friday, December 05, 2014

Tourism diary for 600 licensed guides in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: About 600 licensed tourist guides in Sabah will be getting copies of the Malaysian Tourist Guides' Council (MTGC) Tourism Diary 2015 for them to be well informed of events and festivities in the country, including Sabah.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun lauded the first such national project by MTGC which will equip tourist guides with advance information on upcoming festivities and events next year.

"I was made to understand that MTGC will be distributing 5,000 copies of the MTGC Tourism Diary to all tourist guides in the country before end of this year, and Sabah will be getting about 600 copies of the diary.

"I am very pleased that such diary was created so that our tourist guides would know exactly what to tell their clients or tourists about the upcoming events.

"At the same time, they can be more informative on events or celebration of festivities and what to anticipate and may even consider advising their clients to extend their stays in Sabah," he said.

Masidi said this to reporters after launching the MTGC Tourism Diary at his office in Wisma Tun Fuad Stephens, here, Thursday. Also present were MTGC President Jimmy Leong Wie Kong, Sabah Native Registered Tourist Guide Association President Dabalun Balau and their main committee members.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tourism diary for 600 licensed guides in Sabah

Thursday, December 04, 2014

AirAsia unveils 'Thank You Sabah' livery

KOTA KINABALU: The world's best low-cost airline for six consecutive years, AirAsia, unveiled its special livery "Thank You Sabah" on its A320 aircraft at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) Terminal 2 on Wednesday.

The latest livery that took nine days to complete was dedicated to the State and people of Sabah for their undivided support for the airline's significant presence in the State.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the special livery also marks the airline's commitment to Sabah, to further boost its economic standing via enhanced tourism activities and business opportunities.

Apart from promoting Sabah in the airline routes, he said it also reflects the strong relationship between Sabah and the airline.

"I wish to thank AirAsia for dedicating the special livery to Sabah and its people. We are proud to be associated with a successful and significant airline, and are happy to have Sabah personified on an aircraft flown all over the region, grabbing the attention and evoking the interest of foreign tourists in the State.

"With the airline's significant presence in Sabah and the number of passengers flown into the State, it has resulted in impressive tourism growth and has helped expand further economic growth opportunities.

"We are proud to be part of AirAsia's expansion plans and Kota Kinabalu has been chosen as one of the airline's hubs in Malaysia," he said. State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun delivered Musa's speech.

Also present were Sabah Tourism Board (STB) Chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, STB General Manager Datuk Irene Benggon Charuruks, AirAsia Berhad Executive Chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, its Chief Executive Officer Aireen Omar, and Director Dato Fam Lee Ee.

Musa said the State Government will always support ideas or proposals that are beneficial for Sabah and open to discussing plans that help create impact in terms of tourism and commerce opportunities.

"It is our hope that AirAsia will identify and secure more direct routes to Kota Kinabalu, and with that increase trade and tourism in Sabah.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: AirAsia unveils 'Thank You Sabah' livery

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Astro radio station to set record on top of Mount Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU: Astro Radio Malaysia’s No.1 radio operator to set a new record in the Malaysian Book of Records by conquering Mount Kinabalu through live radio broadcasting. Together with Fresh & White, ERA fm will broadcast live atop Mount Kinabalu on December 11.

This is the first time ERA fm will broadcast outside of a studio or an event environment, and continuously for 14 hours non-stop as they are ascending the mountain, culminating in the record breaking broadcast from the summit.

This broadcast will have the distinction of being the first highest and furthest broadcast in Malaysia. This climb is taking place in conjunction with the International Mountain Day.

“We are happy to work with Fresh & White to conquer mount Kinabalu. With our efforts we hope we can convey messages to the public the importance of International Mountain Day, because this is an opportunity to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build partnerships that will bring positive change to the world’s mountains and highlands,” said Syazlee Zalsyam Zakaria (Uno), Operation Manager of Astro Radio Sabah.

The expedition will begin on December 10 where announcers and crew will embark on their journey to the mountain top. They will also be accompanied by the official Fresh & White mascot, the Polar Bear. It is scheduled to end on December 12.