Monday, October 31, 2016

Boosting Sabah tourism attractions for ‘timid’ travellers

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism attractions in West Coast Sabah will be boosted to cater for the ‘timid’ travelers in the state.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun said many were confused and were forgetful of the fact that Sabah encompassed 22 per cent of Malaysia’s total geographical area.

When unfortunate events happened in East Cost Sabah like Sandakan and Tawau, which is some 40 to 50 minutes away by flight from Kota Kinabalu, it is likened to an event happening between the span of Perlis and Johor state, he pointed out.

“Through my observation, currently tourism industry investors have a tendency to be in the West Coast because we actually have the attractions, beaches that are more beautiful in Kudat, Kota Belud, Kuala Penyu and so on,” said Masidi when officiating the Borneo Safari Sabah International Offroad Challenge at the Sabah Tourism Board building on Gaya Street here yesterday.

“What we are building or developing now is the choice for the ‘timid’ who are afraid to go to the East Coast, so they have goals and still feel fortunate to come to Sabah because there are attractions available on the West Coast.

“But remember, in spite of all the hyped safety issues, resorts in Semporna islands are still full. So for me, that is actually a manifestation of the true position. If the resorts are full on the East Coast, it means people who come haven’t the slightest doubt about the safety level over there,” the minister emphasized.


China movie - Tourism boost for Sarawak

MIRI: A romance movie spanning mainland China and northern Sarawak is in the pipeline, with the movie to prominently feature scenes in Miri city, Mulu National Park and Niah National Park.

Called Blue Tears, the movie will be the first film jointly produced by China and Sarawak.

There are also plans to have the movie made available online.

Assistant Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the movie will be a tremendous boost for Sarawak in that it will give widespread publicity about this state, especially the northern tourism hubs of Miri, Mulu and Niah.

He witnessed the signing of the deal for the film between China-Malaysia Universal Television Company (Msia) and Global Business Club International Group China at a hotel here yesterday.

“This movie is going to feature the beautiful Miri city and its nearby beaches as well as the wonders of Mulu and Niah.

“The movie will also feature our multiracial composition and multireligious harmony.

“This project is not only good for tourism but it also speaks volumes of the excellent bilateral and historic ties between Sarawak and China,” he added.

The movie will feature famous stars from China including Ringo Yu, who featured in Jackie Chan’s Police Story movies.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: China movie - Tourism boost for Sarawak

Record number of vehicles for 26th Borneo Safari

KOTA KINABALU: A record-breaking number of 357 four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles and 987 participants are taking part in the 26th Borneo Safari International Offroad Challenge which was flagged off here yesterday.

Event director Faez Nordin said a 350 target was set this year but an exception was made for seven vehicles only for one of the most challenging expeditions in the Borneo Safari history whilst more applications had to be rejected due to the set limit.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun flagged off the eight-day and seven-night expedition at the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) building on Gaya Street where the 4WDs will drive 680km through the Kota Kinabalu, Tuaran, Ranau, Kota Marudu and Kota Belud districts.

“The logging road has been abandoned for 20 years, I think. A lot of landslides, broken bridges and as you know right now in Ranau and Marudu, it’s raining a lot.

“It will be more challenging because there are more participants ever. Last year only 318 vehicles,” said Faez, adding a majority of the participants are Malaysians and the international participants hailed from Brunei, Indonesia, China, Japan, Thailand, Ireland and Portugal.

“There are a lot of newcomers, and we have more than 20 vehicles from Indonesia. Last year, there were only two from there. We also have a lot from Semenanjung as well as Kuching, Sarawak. There are 42 from Brunei so it is good for our tourism,” he added.

Faez said the annual event, which started in 1990, is the ‘new year’ for 4WD adventure enthusiasts and reckoned a 380 target would most likely be achievable in 2017 based on the overwhelming response of this year’s Borneo Safari.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bengoh fest in Sarawak tourism calendar

KUCHING: The Bengoh Cultural Carnival will be included in the Sarawak tourism calendar of event starting next year.

Permanent secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datu Ik Pahon Joyik  disclosed this when launching the Bidayuh Gong and Traditional Dance Competition held at Bengoh Resettlement Scheme, Jalan Semadang-Bau yesterday. Commending the efforts made the organiser of the event, he said the ministry was fully committed to support any event that promotes local arts and culture.

“I’m very impressed with tonight’s traditional music and cultural show and we will include it in the state’s annual tourism calendar of event as I believe it can offer travel experience to tourists in the state.

“We will also give a token support in terms of annual grant so that it can be sustained in years to come,” he said.

This competition kicked-off the festival, which is being held for the second year. The competition has attracted over 100 young and old participants from around Puncak Borneo, Padawan, Bau as well as secondary schools and arts institutions.

Ik Pahon, who is also Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) president, suggested that the organiser rename the festival in Bidayuh Biatah dialect so that it can be the signature event for the Bidayuh in Puncak Borneo.

On the Bidayuh Gong and Traditional Dance competition, he proposed that the competition be divided into two categories – Original and Creative categories to accommodate both the youths and elders from the community.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sarawak Regatta a welcome boost for tourism

KUCHING: The Sarawak Regatta - Kuching Waterfront Festival on Nov 11-20 will bring positive impact to the state’s tourism industry and the economy.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, said the regatta would bring great impact to Kuching and the state in general with the participation of 7,000 paddlers comprising among others 800 international paddlers from 26 teams participating in the International Dragon Boat Race category.

“The regatta will result in increase of consumption due to the presence of huge number of tourists. 

This is part of our efforts to transform our economy through tourism which is a growing industry,” Abang Johari, who is also Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture told a press conference at Wisma Sultan Tengah in Petra Jaya yesterday to announce the Sarawak Regatta 2016 carrying the theme ‘The Race For Harmony’.

Abang Johari added that the state could not rely on oil and gas only, but had to diversify through tourism and other sectors.

The regatta, he added, would also provide a platform for the state to showcase its diverse culture.

Meanwhile, countries expected to take part in the International Dragon Boat Race from Nov 11 till 13 are Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Netherlands, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and United Kingdom.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Regatta a welcome boost for tourism

Friday, October 28, 2016

Foreign tourists leaving Sabah via KKIA can claim for refund of GST

KOTA KINABALU: Foreign tourists leaving Sabah via the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) will now be able to claim for a refund of the Goods & Services Tax (GST) on purchased items that are hand-carried.

State Customs director Datuk Dr Janathan Kandok said that refund is an international norm for countries that implement the GST or Value-Added Tax (VAT) system.

“The claims are processed and delivered within two to four minutes. This is an example of good service needed by tourists,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters after the handing over of the second Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) GST Refund Verification Counter to the Sabah Royal Malaysian Customs Department at the International Departure Hall of KKIA on Thursday.

Janathan said that when making a TRS claim at the GST Refund Verification Counter, they must bring the items that they have purchased, present their passports and boarding passes, purchase receipts as well as the GST refund form which needs to be filled in.

The tourists must be 18 years old and above to make claims and the GST can only be claimed for purchases of RM300 and above.

“They must be foreigners and the TRS refund can only be claimed by non-Malaysians,” he added. He also said that there are times when the refund process takes a longer time but it is not due to any fault on the Customs Department’s part.

“Sometimes, the tourists do not fill out the forms, they do not bring their receipts or they fail to bring the items which they have purchased,” he said.

Janathan said 2,839 tourists made refund claims in 2015 and so far this year 20,843 tourists have done so.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bye Bye Blighty: Borneo – Sabah

In school, I have a vivid memory of doing a presentation on Borneo’s rainforest and being completely absorbed by a place that seemed so full of nature and adventure that it was almost too good to be true, never mind being over 7000 miles away from my doorstep. 

This place has always seemed like a far off dream from my childhood, but moving to Asia quickly put it on the map as a very reachable paradise.

Borneo exceeded every single one of my childhood expectations in every way and I’ve barely even scratched the surface – This island is home to culture, nature and adventure that are second to none and you could easily spend months exploring.

Borneo is the world’s third biggest island and has states belonging to Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. You’ll therefore find that it’s much quicker to use the domestic airlines to fly between the various areas on the island as travel on the roads can be long and the opposite of smooth.

Currently, I’ve only got any experience of Sabah and the area surrounding Kota Kinabalu, towards the North of the island. Sabah is one of the Malaysian states within the island of Borneo. 

For me, its allure was none other than the 4095m Mount Kinabalu, which shouldn’t be missed, even if you’re just going to have a look with no intention to climb. Whilst Kinabalu is by far the pride of this territory, there are lots of other things you can do to occupy yourself.

Getting in…

Kota Kinabalu has an international airport that welcomes flights from all over Asia, and gives you ease of access to other parts of the island or back to mainland Malaysia. From here, you can jump on the airport bus into the city for 5MYR or get in a taxi.

Top tip: Taxis don’t tend to be metered here so agree on a price before you jump in the car. Bare in mind that the airport is only about 20minutes away from the city centre. Also consider that uber is in full working force around here and will charge you about half the price of the hail and jump in cabs.

Getting around…

Admittedly, the transport system around Borneo is pretty dire. There are taxis, obviously, or various buses. Most people seem to use tours to get around, and whilst this is easy, it’s about triple the price of what you would pay if you’re doing it by yourself, so my recommendation would be to try and work it all out for yourself.

What to do.

Kota Kinabalu and the surrounding area offer a variety of things to do no matter what you’re looking for and who your travel partners are.

Island hop

Borneo isn’t just home to dense jungle, you’ll also find yourself confronted with some pretty sweet coastlines.

From Jesselton point, which is within walking distance from anywhere you stay in the city, you can get on a boat to a handful of islands.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Bye Bye Blighty: Borneo – Sabah

Gaya Island Resort opens Wildlife Centre

KOTA KINABALU: The Gaya Island Resort near here has added another attraction with the official opening of its Wildlife Centre.

YTL Hotels executive director Datuk Mark Yeoh said that the resort’s main attraction has always been the nature which includes the sea surrounding it and the jungle.

“In other places such as the Middle East, they had to construct islands and golf courses but here in Gaya Island, it is natural; that’s why we chose to invest here.

“Tourists now are very experience-focused.

They want nice experience apart from the good food, comfortable bed and so on, and here in Gaya we have that extra in the form of nature,” he said when met at the official opening ceremony of the Gaya Island Resort Wildlife Centre here on Wednesday.

The centre boasts a compilation of four-years-worth of data on the flora and fauna in Gaya Island.


Mulu chosen for BIMP-EAGA Expansion of Air Linkages

KUCHING: Mulu has been chosen as among the three new townships in Malaysia for the Expansion of Air Linkages under the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the other two areas to be opened up under this initiative are Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah.

“The three designated points namely Sandakan, Tawau and Mulu are in addition to the four existing designated points that were designated earlier namely Kuching, Miri, Kota Kinabalu and Labuan,” he told a press conference after the 11th BIMP-EAGA Transport Ministers Meeting here yesterday.

“We are opening up the townships in stages. This means that there will be more connectivity, tourism and passengers coming in to the townships and this will enhance the economic growth within the areas.”

Liow said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Expansion of Air Linkages would be signed next month in conjunction with the 22nd Asean Transport Ministers’ Meeting in Manila.

“Besides the three additional designated points in Malaysia, Indonesia will be opening up two more townships and Philippines will definitely be opening up more townships but they will only announce it during the meeting in Manila. As for Brunei, they have Bandar Seri Begawan that has been opened up,” he said.

Present at the 11th BIMP-EAGA Transport Ministers Meeting were Brunei Minister of Communications Datuk Seri Setia Awang Mustappa Sirat; Indonesian Ministry of Transportation secretary-general Sugihardjo, who represented the Minister for Transportation; and Philippines Department of Transportation undersecretary Felipe A Judan, who represented the Department of Transportation secretary.

Meanwhile, a joint statement issued after the BIMP-EAGA Transport Ministers Meeting stated the ministers looked forward to the signing of the Protocol to Amend the MoU on Expansion of Air Linkages, which aims to provide more flexible approaches to facilities the sustainability of air services on existing routes and encourage the opening of new routes.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rehabilitated orangutans freed in Borneo as species dwindles

Jamur didn't hesitate as the door of her temporary cramped quarters slid open. In less than a second, the stocky red-haired orangutan was savoring freedom for the first time in nearly two decades.

Her 10-year-old daughter J-lo would join her, along with three more of the endangered great apes.

The long-limbed hirsute primates were the ninth set of Bornean orangutans to be released into natural habitat by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation after years-long rehabilitation from trauma often inflicted by people.

Taken from their sanctuary, Samboja Lestari, to an even remoter spot on the island of Borneo, a journey by road, boat and foot that takes nearly 24 hours, the orangutans bolted from their holding boxes and scaled the nearest trees with astonishing speed and agility.

"Because we love them, we have to let them go, to be free in their habitat," said Jamartin Sihite, chief executive of the foundation, after all five orangutans had climbed into the tropical forest canopy.

"They have a right to live in their natural state and not with people as pets."

The release of the five last week marked the 25th anniversary of the foundation and was done in conjunction with government conservation officials. It is part of a herculean effort to prevent orangutans from being wiped out.

The species, known for its gentle temperament and intelligence, lives in the wild only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on the island of Borneo, which is divided among Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Bornean orangutans were this year declared critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to hunting for their meat, which kills 2,000 to 3,000 a year, and destruction of tropical forests for plantation agriculture. The only other orangutan species, the Sumatran orangutan, is found only on Sumatra and has been critically endangered since 2008.


Thrills and spills at Saratok Regatta

KUCHING: Saratok town will be buzzing with several activities as it will host the Saratok Regatta 2016 this Dec 3 to 4.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg is expected to officiate at the launch scheduled for at 10am on Dec 3.

According to Kalaka assemblyman Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz, the race will be divided into the Men’s 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 ‘sakai’ (rowers) events, while the women’s open category will have the 10, 15 and 20 ‘sakai’ events.

“This will be a major event for the town, where we expect thousands of people of all races to converge on the town square. This event will reflect the unity and uniqueness of Sarawak,” he said during a press conference on the regatta at his office in Bangunan Yayasan Sarawak yesterday.

Abdul Wahab also said the event – formerly known as Sungai Krian Water Festival – was last held in 2014.

There will also be other competitive events such as for p├ętanque, ‘Junior Star Search’, ‘Battle of the Bands’, Saratok Regatta Beauty Queen, ‘bermukun’ (traditional Malay ensemble involving singing, dancing and instrumental performance), photography, as well as basketball, sepak takraw and football matches throughout the weekend.

“Entertainment-wise, we will have a live concert, cultural and art performances, an ‘Explorace’ challenge and Zumba fitness session, as well as a lucky draw,” said Abdul Wahab, who is also Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chairman.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sarawak to provide Visa on Arrival facility for tourists from China

MIRI: The state government has decided to provide Visa on Arrival facility for tourists from People’s Republic of China entering Sarawak beginning December this year.

Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting, in disclosing this, said the facility would be available at entry points such as airports and the immigration checkpoint in Sungai Tujuh, Miri.

Ting, who is SUPP secretary-general, shared the good news to the media after attending a press conference on the filming of traditional delicacies in Miri for a magazine-based television programme at Meritz Hotel yesterday.

He said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg informed him of the state’s decision during their discussion at Miri Marriott Resort and Spa (MRSS) yesterday morning.

The discussion was also attended by Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Lee Kim Shin, who is also Senadin assemblyman.

Abang Johari was in Miri to officiate the Laying of Foundation Stone for the construction of As-Siddiq Surau Project at Senadin.

“Datuk Amar Abang Johari who is also Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture told me that he has already announced the matter at a function in Bekenu on Sunday night.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Sabah to lose tourism dollars if it allows shark population to decline

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will lose out to neighbouring countries in generating income in the tourism industry if it fails to conserve its shark population.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the southern Philippines' waters, which are rich in biodiversity, pose a competition to Sabah's diving activities.

"Philippine President (Rodrigo) Duterte is going all out to sort out the security issue in the country.

"Our reluctance to get shark species protected, will give opportunities for other countries to take advantage of the diving industry," he said in his closing speech during the 'My Fin My Life' campaign at the Kota Kinabalu Business dialogue here.

Last year, about 55,000 divers came to Sabah and 80 per cent of them wanted to see live sharks in the sea.

The year-long activity alone contributed more than RM300 million in tourism receipts.

Masidi added that besides restaurants, local employment in tourism services would be greatly affected when the population of the marine ecosystem's apex predator diminishes.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Curios Traveller: The Pacific Sutera Hotel, Sutera Harbour Resort @ Kota Kinabalu, Sabah - Deluxe Sea View Twin Room

Imagine this. You’re tired from that long journey on the plane, arriving at your destination and then to your hotel. You received your key card and when you open the door of your room, you found a balcony with some comfy deck chairs. The sunset view is there waiting for you. The sea breeze is giving you that freshest air that you needed most.

Sit and enjoy the moment, every day, if you want to. We had that moment at The Pacific Sutera Hotel, Sutera Harbour Resort at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. We had that breathtaking view of South China Sea and the Islands nearby. We sat on the deck chairs, enjoying the sea breeze, on the balcony attached to our Deluxe Sea View Twin Room.


We can’t believe it that after so many years and after recently vowing to return, we’re actually here at The Pacific Sutera Hotel. It’s been a while since the last stay and we’re not sure if the hotel is still offering the same qualities in both service and products. Well, we finally return and will be nesting here for 3 days and 2 nights.

From the outside, it looks exactly the same like what we saw years ago. We love the rooms on the higher floors dedicate to Pacific Club guests. This time around, we’re booked on a Deluxe Sea View Twin Room but still having full access to the exclusive Pacific Club.

The first thing that we noticed when alighted from our transport was the amazing glass panel on top, outside the lobby area. It gives spectacular view of the blue sky. Guests with their own cars need not to worry as there are abundant parking lots available at this hotel. Those with no transport will find that it’s easier to move around the Sutera Harbour Resort Complex as there is complimentary shuttle, operating from early morning to midnight. Taxis and shuttle to the city center are available as well.

Loretta and Masna were the first two people that we met when arriving at the Lobby area. They both are assigned to greet incoming and departing guests. It’s good to see some people smiling genuinely. Wearing the traditional Malaysian Baju Kurung, they were more than happy to be ‘captured’ by our camera’s lenses. These 2 nice young ladies personally escorting and showing us the way to the reception area. Seeing great staffs such as them was an indication that we’re to meet more amazing staffs.

Then there’s Sabri, smiling when he saw us coming to him. Seeing his welcoming gesture, we can’t possibly leave him without taking a picture of him. This is the right way to greet guests, smiling genuinely rather than showing all that stress. It’s easy to detect genuine smile, we’re professionally trained to do that. 

The eyes will tell if someone is smiling genuinely or faking it. Sabri welcomed us and after doing all the ‘check-in procedures’ in record time, he gave us our key card. He explained in details about the privileges that Pacific Club has to offer and within minutes we found ourselves in the elevator, going up to our room on the 8th floor.

There’s this amazing breathtaking view of the golf course from a large window next to the elevators on the 8th floor. That’s the award winning 27-hole championship golf course designed by Graham Marsh! Perhaps one day we will play golf here, fingers crossed. Such beautiful green area and not far is actually the other end of Kota Kinabalu International Airport runway. Lovely view and we believe there’s more to come.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Walk in the park: Combining conservation and entrepreneurship at Sabah's Tun Mustapha Park

SABAH, the Land Below the Wind, is regarded by many nature enthusiasts as a dream destination. For conservationists, it’s a veritable haven for its diverse species and habitats.

The beauty of Sabah was recently celebrated with the gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), bringing much joy to conservationists and nature travellers throughout the world. Measuring 900,000 hectares and covering more than 50 islands, TMP spans across three Sabah districts — Kudat, Kota Marudu, and Pitas.

“The gazettement is just the first step to ensure that the largest marine park in Malaysia fulfils its potential for conservation and community,” begins Joannie Jomitol, team leader for WWF-Malaysia Kudat team.

“All the hard work towards the gazettement of TMP over the past 13 years was just the beginning. Now that it has finally been gazetted, it represents a new chapter and requires all parties to take it to the next level,” she adds.

WWF-Malaysia, together with Sabah Parks, had been continuously reaching out to engage with the local communities in TMP and this will continue beyond the gazettement and into the future. “We’ve been working hand-in-hand since 2006 to bring about the gazettement of TMP,” adds Joannie, who’s been working on local community engagement throughout Sabah for her last decade’s employment with WWF-Malaysia.

The community collaboration includes patrolling, relationship-building with local communities, setting up the Interim Steering Committee for TMP, and capacity building for the communities as well as for staff working on the ground.


In July 2016, 50 representatives from different communities under the Tun Mustapha Park Community Conservation Group (TMPCCG) travelled from remote islands to Kudat at the invitation of WWF-Malaysia, to attend a social enterprise training aimed at providing capacity building in entrepreneurship skills.

“Investing in building capacity and increasing knowledge in sustainability are vital in conservation. At WWF-Malaysia, we believe that safeguarding the environment involves everyone — from the public, to the private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), industries and the local communities. Hence, we work very closely with TMPCCG, the biggest group of community-based organisations working on conservation of the environment to protect marine and terrestrial flora and fauna within the TMP,” says Joannie.

She shares that at present, the community groups in the established TMPCCG include Persatuan Belia Anak Taritipan (Anbatar), Kelab Belia Tigabu (KBT), Banggi Youth Club (BYC), Kudat Turtle Conservation Society (KTCS), Maliangin Island Community Association (MICA), Persatuan Belia Muda Tigabu (PBMT), and community groups from Kampung Berungus, Matunggong, and Balambangan Island.”

Formed in June 2014, the TMPCCG has gathered experience in marine education, awareness and livelihood programmes. Anbatar’s Sabarudin Samba saw the social enterprise training as an opportunity to incorporate these skills and knowledge into social entrepreneurships, where the benefits were equally shared amongst members and communities involved.

“In all the years that we’ve had workshops and trainings as part of community engagement, we never had one like this on entrepreneur-related capacity building and hopefully this will not be the last. Anbatar sees the benefits of this training to the communities, particularly in a marine protected area,” says Sabarudin.

The objectives of the training were to provide basic entrepreneurship skills to the TMPCCG members, and an opportunity to learn the Social Enterprise Business Model, which included financing and marketing. WWF-Malaysia believed this was an important step for community-based organisations (CBOs) to take, for them to recognise alternative livelihoods while keeping in view the importance of sustainability and conservation, which would be vital in moving forward with the recently gazetted TMP.


“We’ve been exposed to social enterprise before but this training is new in the sense that the workshop participants are communities who have hands-on issues to work on as they’re facing real challenges on the ground,” says Roslin Mohd Daud, programme leader for Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC).

Combining both conservation and social enterprise targets in mind, WWF invited MaGIC to develop a training programme specifically for TMPCCG. MaGIC sent two training groups - Tandemic and myHarapan - to give a four-day workshop on the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship, design thinking and problem solving, bringing products to the market, and financing social enterprises.

“We can definitely see the effort coming from the communities and their eagerness and passion in solving issues they face within their communities. We believe capacity building is a continuous effort and hope our engagement with the communities of TMPCCG doesn’t end here, and that relationship-building continues with them,” adds Roslin.

According to Tiu Kian Wee of Tandemic, speaking on behalf of his team, it was initially a challenge due to the adjustments needed in place for both parties — the trainers and the participants — to be able to understand each other’s concept of entrepreneurship.

After adjustments were made from their original programme, he confides that they were able to integrate personal experiences and skills of the community participants with their training and amazing and constructive ideas surfaced.

“This isn’t a first for Tandemic to be working with local rural communities but we’re excited to see what’s next in line for the communities in TMP. We’re hopeful and feel optimistic about the ideas and outcome from this training,” says Tiu.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Go4TravelBlog: 5 Mind-blowing Activities to Take Part in on Sipadan Island

As the only oceanic island in Malaysia, Sipadan measures a mere half-kilometer in length and just 200 meters in width. But whatever it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in beauty and diversity.

Most famous for being one of the world’s premiere dive sites, Sipadan Island activities also offer plenty of other fun to the intrepid traveler, which explains the island’s growing popularity among people of all ages and levels of experience.

Things were not always like this. The island was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took several thousands of years to develop. By 1933, Sipadan had garnered enough of a reputation to be declared a bird sanctuary by the British due its status as an important stopover for various species like the greater sand plover and the wood sandpiper.

But it was its portrayal in the Jacques Cousteau film “The ghost of the sea turtle” that brought international fame to this small island. Despite recent disputes between Indonesia and Malaysia over possession of the island, Sipadan has continued to thrive as a tourist destination.

Among the many Sipadan Island activities travelers can engage in while on the Island, the following five should figure high up on anybody’s list:

1. Scuba diving

As the activity that put Sipadan Island on the map, scuba diving here can indeed be an absolutely unforgettable experience. The waters around the island are filled with all sorts of exotic creatures, including the likes of leopard sharks, hammerheads and sea turtles.

It’s best to avoid traveling during monsoon season, as the rain greatly affects underwater visibility, which is otherwise pristine enough that several amazing videos have already been shot in the waters around Sipadan. Also, be aware that only 120 divers are allowed per day in an effort to keep the area as unadulterated as possible, so booking your Sipadan Island activities ahead of time is mandatory.

2. Snorkeling

Snorkeling often comes bundled together with scuba diving as two of the most common activities in Sipadan, but it actually offers a very different experience. Snorkeling can be done in the absence of any qualifications, and involves staying at the surface of the ocean.

Nonetheless, the waters of Sipadan are clear enough to allow excellent views of the corals and reef fishes below, and may even allow occasional turtle and shark sightings as well.


20th Rainforest World Music Festival goes to Womex 2016

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) is presenting the 20th instalment of its annual event, the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) at World Music Expo (WOMEX) in Santiago de Compostela, Spain from Oct 20-23.

The RWMF will be celebrating its 20th edition next year at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Damai, on July 14-16, with plans on making the festival celebration bigger than ever.

Through its interactive afternoon workshops, the audience has the opportunity to learn, understand and play the indigenous musical instruments used by performers during the day and later on, witness and appreciate the music’s beauty during the nightly performances.

As supporters of all ethnic arts, including the culinary arts, festival-goers are able to taste a variety of local and fusion cuisine from the Village Food Mart.

They will also be able to buy local beaded, woven, painted or carved handicrafts or witness their creation, or even get a traditional hand-tapped tattoo at the nearby Tattoo Expo.

The festival, the only one of its kind in the region, has attracted over 20,000 returning foreign and domestic visitors and has been awarded Songlines’ Top 25 Best International Festivals award six years in a row since 2010.

“We want to stage the uniqueness of world music by bringing in performers from other parts of the world and also to showcase our own ethnic music and to provide them with an opportunity to perform amidst international bands,” said STB chairman Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz.

“More innovative ideas are already in the works for our coming 20th Rainforest World Music Festival next year,” said STB director of events and corporate relations Angelina Bateman.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Wandering Memory: Unchartered Territory – Borneo

It came as a shock that we had not yet blogged about our experience in one of nature’s few wildlife sanctuaries – Borneo.

I remember hearing about an expedition to Borneo whilst I was at school, but I had no concept of where it was and little interest at that time.

Borneo for those of you who don’t know is an Asian Island split in three by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

It is actually the third largest island in the world, so don’t be fooled by the term Island.

The vast majority of the island is covered in dense rainforest wilderness and as such it is naturally perfect for a host of wildlife.

The most iconic of these is the Orangutan, which is now only wild in two islands in the world.

A trip to Borneo would not be the complete without searching for these rare yet iconic creatures.

As part of our honeymoon we decided to take on the quest to witness these majestic creatures in the wild.

As such we concentrated our Borneo trip in the Malaysian province of Sabah, originally flying into Kota Kinabalu then into the east for a bit of island luxury and finally onto the Sukau Rainforest Lodge adjacent to the Kinabatangan river.

This is pretty much in the middle of the Borneo jungle and is truly classified as a jungle lodge.

We hadn’t been to somewhere so remote since Angel Falls which felt like a life time ago – it really was a hideaway.

The evening was a combination of beauty and sound, with a magnificent look out that could captivate the imagination for hours combined with the natural noises from thousands of unidentified creatures.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Wandering Memory: Unchartered Territory – Borneo

333 to compete in Sabah Hospitality Fiesta 2016

KOTA KINABALU: A total of 333 hospitality industry players will be competing in the 19th Sabah Hospitality Fiesta, which will take place on November 5 and 6 at The Klagan Regency, here.

The participants include 253 hotels and 80 colleges from Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Keningau, Beaufort, Labuan, Sarawak and Negeri Sembilan.

“The annual Sabah Hospitality Fiesta is a test and display of skills, creativity and finesse of the State’s hospitality industry players and students. It’s also a display of the high standards of passion and commitment of the hospitality industry in Sabah,” said its organizing chairperson, Alvin Ting, of ATI College, at a press conference held here yesterday.

The competition is divided into two main categories, namely, the Professional Category for hotels and the Apprentice Category for college students.

This year’s competition will see a new category in the Professional Category, the Butcher Challenge.

“This category is for chefs, to showcase their ability and speed in butchering within a specified duration,” said Ting.

The other 13 Professional Categories, he added, include Decorated Wedding Cake, Pastry Showpiece, Seafood Platter, Meat Platter, Individual Fruit and Vegetable Carving, Bartender Flair; Cocktail, Nescafe Tarik Competition, Stewarding Race, Blackbox: Commis-Demi, Blackbox: CDP-Sous, Blackbox: Modern Chinese Cuisine, Table Setting and Professional Bedmaking.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: 333 to compete in Sabah Hospitality Fiesta 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ask Away: Borneo great place for animal lovers

Borneo appeals to us, satisfying a long time goal of being with orangutans, turtles, and animals.

The plant life is so different from what we have here in New Zealand, not to mention the food.

Then there is cost, and I am told that this is an affordable destination.

What are the experiences of others, of must dos, recommended agents, accommodation and I guess, avoids.

We are casual travellers looking forward to being among nature at its best.

Cheers, Ann and Jamie

I just spent a few days with a group of Malaysian journalists and one of them highly recommended Borneo as a destination - particularly if you're keen to get up close and personal with orangutans.

As far as cost goes, Air Asia X offers some really cheap deals on flights to Kuala Lumpur and they offer flights on to Kuching.

Having recently visited KL, I can also recommend it as a great spot to spend a few days before you head to Borneo - the shopping is great - and as an animal lover, I really enjoyed the Bird Park, which is right in the city.

Louise Levesque at Adventure World has also passed on some Borneo tips for you.

Seeing as you're an animal lover, you must visit Semenggoh Wildlife Orangutan Conservation centre near Kuching.

It was established in 1975 to care for animals that have been injured, orphaned or handicapped by captivity.

The world's largest Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is located in Sepilok in the North.

The site is 43sq km of protected land at the edge of the Sepilok Forest Reserve, with 80 orangutans living free in the reserve and 25 young, orphaned orangutans in the nurseries.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Ask Away: Borneo great place for animal lovers

Image of Borneo orangutan wins prestigious wildlife award

American photographer Tim Laman was awarded the 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year by London's Natural History Museum for his stunning image of an orangutan making a 30-metre climb on a fig tree in the rainforests of Borneo, Indonesia.

The photo was part of his project on the endangered species in Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia titled Entwined Lives.

For his winning photo, Laman used several GoPro cameras positioned around the tree and remotely triggered the devices when the opportunity presented itself.

According to the Guardian, he had to do three days of climbing to set up the cameras.

Laman's other images also captured the plight of the orangutans living in the region as their habitats disappear due to deforestation while the mammal itself faces extinction due to poaching.

In one of the photos, a one-month-old orangutan orphan, carried by a veterinarian from International Animal Rescue, is being transported to a wildlife rehabilitation center.


Film in Malaysia Incentive Tapped for Borneo’s Secret Kingdom

Australian producer WildBear Entertainment has wrapped its landmark 4K series Borneo’s Secret Kingdom, which was supported by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) and made use of the Film in Malaysia Incentive (FIMI).

WildBear partnered with Scubazoo, a Malaysian production company based in Kota Kinabalu, for the project.

The factual specialist spent more than 18 months in Sabah using both local and international crew members.

Borneo’s Secret Kingdom is a three-hour, blue-chip natural-history series.

It has been produced for National Geographic WILD and will be distributed by ZDF Enterprises.

Bettina Dalton, executive producer/principal at Wildbear Entertainment, commented: “Malaysia is a country rich in wildlife, culture and stories and we are thrilled to be able to promote its breadth in our new series.

This is our second production with FINAS, but the first accessing the FIMI rebate, and it has been a great partnership for us.

Any producer will tell you that tax breaks and incentives are appealing, but the help we got on the ground in Sabah through Scubazoo, and the ongoing support from FINAS, made the creation of this extraordinary series a truly remarkable and rewarding experience.”


Eco-marine conservation project a boost to Sarawak tourism and fishing industry

MIRI: The RM8  million Petronas-Sarawak Forestry Eco-Marine Conservation project at Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park in northern Sarawak will be a shot in the arm for tourism and the fishing community in Miri.

This five-year collaborative effort between Petronas and Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) is to protect and regenerate the dying coral reefs around the 12,200ha Sibuti Reef Complex within the 186,930ha Miri-Sibuti Coral Reefs National Park.

“The project is a significant environmental conservation effort that focuses on regenerating and enhancing Sarawak’s marine biodiversity that has largely been destroyed by illegal fishing trawlers,” said Petronas chairman Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan during the project’s launch by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem here yesterday.

He said Petronas was committed to protecting the environment in a holistic manner despite experiencing unprecedented challenges since its inception 40 years ago due to the current global environment of depressed oil prices.

Under the conservation project which kicked off last year, a total of 1,750 artificial reef balls will be deployed in stages at the coral reef and an awareness enhancement programme will be carried out until 2019.

The reef balls will deter illegal fishing trawlers from the national park because their dragnets will be destroyed if entangled

with the artificial reef balls that have been planted around the coral reefs.

“We hope corals will regenerate and in effect increase the fish population in Miri waters. When that happens, more international divers will come and dive at Miri-Sibuti coral reef and these activities will benefit the Sarawak tourism sector. The more than 2,000 fishermen in Miri and Sibuti will also enjoy a better catch. The socio-economic spin-offs from this project will be tremendous,” Mohd Sidek added.

To date, some 550 artificial reef balls have been deployed at the project site. The remaining 1,200 units will be deployed next year.

After the reef balls deployment, the project partners will embark on the second phase of periodical reef checks and the implementation of the Conservation, Education, Promotion and Awareness (Cepa) programme designed to enhance public awareness of the importance of marine conservation and protection. This phase will be carried out from 2017 to 2019.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cartoon Run to Give sees sister hotels Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan and Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu join hands for charity

KOTA KINABALU: Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan continues with its good deeds.

This time around the hotel joined hands with their sister establishment, Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu for their annual charity run – themed the Cartoon Run to Give.

The run which was carried out simultaneously at Marriott and Starwood hotels in South East Asia took place at Perdana Park in Tanjung Aru on Sunday.

Some 25 associates from Four Points by Sheraton, Sandakan made their way to participate in this good deed.

A total of 300 participants including senior citizens and children and also associates from Le Meridian KK took part in the fun.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon: Abahan defends title in 29th Mt. Kinabalu

BAGUIO City’s female runner Sandi Menchi Abahan returned with style and flair after reclaiming the women’s elite title at the close of the 29th Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon in Sabah, Malaysia October 16.

The 27-year-old former University of the Cordilleras varsity after the cancellation of last year’s competition clocking two hours, 58 minutes, and 48 seconds.

Despite the callous weather, the reigning TheNorthFace100-Philippines women’s champion enjoyed a 12-minute advantage against second placer Viola Kimeli of Kenya who crossed the finish line with 3:11:42, followed by Malaysian Tahira Muhammad with a 3:22:22 after the 26-kilometer out and back trail race.

This will be the young Cordilleran’s second women’s title for the Malaysian tiff, cruising with a solid 6:15:12 when the former 36-kilometer mountain summit sprint was held two years ago.

In 2015, the Sabah Tourism Office cancelled the event after damages on the mountain trail were caused by an earthquake June of the same year.


Why Bornean sun bears are still under threat

KOTA KINABALU: Sun bears are counting on stronger laws and greater awareness among the public to survive in the wild in Sabah.

A recent recovery of sun bear parts from poachers indicated a demand in the black market and lack of awareness among those who consume it.

Illegal hunting activities had put pressure on the survival of sun bears, and their low density population in the wild is a cause for concern.

On Aug 8, the Sabah Wildlife Department arrested two brothers and recovered mutilated parts that were likely from two adult sun bears.

Less than two weeks later, on Aug 20, two more men were nabbed and parts likely from one sun bear were found in their possession.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the four arrests and seizures had kept the department vigilant for poachers and illegal traders.

“In one of the cases, the parts were ‘advertised’ on social media and we were fortunate to seize them,” he said.

But Augustine knew the fight was far from over because of the demand for the parts and people’s cravings for exotic dishes.

But he believed a recent amendment to the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 would make would-be offenders think twice.

With the amendment, those found guilty of possessing a fully protected wildlife species, like sun bears, or its parts would face a mandatory one-year minimum jail-term and could be fined up to RM250,000.

It was passed unanimously by the Sabah Legislative Assembly in the last sitting in August.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre founder Wong Siew Te said the arrests and recovery could be viewed positively or negatively.

“The good thing is that the authorities are working hard on the ground to catch offenders, but at the same time, the arrests also indicate a problem on illegal hunting.

“The government has introduced stronger penalties over the years, but habitat destruction is also a big concern,” he said.

Wong agreed, however, on the need to push for more awareness to make people realise that there were no medicinal benefits from consuming bear parts, as well as stronger enforcement.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Why Bornean sun bears are still under threat

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sarawak's colourful ethnic cultures are important tourist attractions

MIRI: Cultural diversity is an element that attracts tourists to Malaysia, especially to multiracial Sarawak which is known for its colourful ethnic cultures.

In view of this, Assistant Minister of Sarawak Tourism Datuk Lee Kim Shin said Sarawakians must work together to preserve their cultural practices so that the state and country could continue to prosper with continuous influx of tourists.

“We can all live happily together because of our respect for each other’s cultures and beliefs. This cultural diversity is the thing that attracts tourists to come and visit Sarawak,” he said adding that these values must be protected at all times.

He urged Sarawakians to always unite and protect their beloved state from extremists who were out to destroy these values that bring people of all races and religions together.

“These values are not only the reason we live in unity, but it also attracts tourists into our state.

“We are very proud of our cultural diversity and we want to show tourists our beautiful cultures,” he said when officiating at the Miri Hindu Society’s Salangai Pooja ceremony.

The ceremony was held at Kamini Durga Eswari Amman Temple to celebrate the achievement of 10 Barathanatyam dancers from Kamini Bharatalaya Academy.

Also present at the function were councillor Lee Thin Hin, representing Piasau assemblyman Dato Sebastian Ting; MHS vice president Dr Anbalagan Krishnan and a dance teacher of the academy Kalai Chelvy.

Salangai Pooja is an important occasion in a dancer’s journey in Barathanatyam. It is done when students complete a beginner level of the formal study in Barathanatyam. Upon completion of this level, these dancers can start wearing a special anklet and participate in stage dance performances.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre rejoices with two orangutan babies in three weeks

KUCHING: Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is again in celebratory mood after it was presented with a second bundle of joy, an orangutan baby yesterday, barely three weeks after one was born on Sept 16.

Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) announced that Selina, 12, showed up at the feeding platform in the afternoon of Oct 9 with her first offspring.

Pregnant Selina was last seen on Oct 2 and when she returned to the feeding platform on Oct 9, she had a male baby clinging onto her.

The management of Semenggoh Wildlife Centre believed that

Oct 6 was the most likely date of birth of the new addition to the centre. Mother and child look healthy and mother is eating well. With these two births, the centre now has 28 free-ranging orangutans in the forest of Semenggoh Nature Reserve where the centre is located.

Of these 28 orangutans, 17 were born at the centre. In fact, six orangutans at the centre have given birth to multiple offspring at an interval of about five years, whereas female orangutans in their original habitat have been recorded to produce offspring at an interval of eight years.

The rising population of orangutans at the centre speaks volumes of the soundness of its rehabilitation programme.


Borneo Orangutan Project to be promoted in Las Vegas

MIRI: The Borneo Orangutan Project (BOP) will be promoted at the Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events (Imex) America in Las Vegas on Oct 18-20.

The Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) said in a statement that Imex America will be the last stop for BOP, which started at the Global Incentive and Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (IBTM) Barcelona last year.

It is part of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) #RoadtoSarawak campaign for the ICCA Congress, which will be held in Kuching on Nov 13-16.

At Imex America, Malaysia intends to drive Sarawak as one of the region’s freshest destinations for international events, and to promote membership of ICCA, a leading source of business and expertise for the association meetings market.

“Sarawak is very proud to not only be hosting the world’s biggest platform for meetings, the 55th ICCA Congress 2016, but also to have reignited a global interest in orangutan conservation, and in the same year that we celebrate the milestone of the 10th anniversary of business events in Sarawak,” said SCB managing director Mike Cannon.

“SCB continues to put Sarawak’s brand on the world map as a leading second tier destination – watch this space.”

ICCA CEO Martin Sirk said the association has high expectations for the Sarawak congress and looks forward to working with the local host committee to put on a truly memorable experience.

He said its education programme has some exciting new topics and experimental formats, with external expert speakers on entrepreneurship, corporate anthropology and sales and pricing theory.

“We will be experimenting with networking theory and practice in numerous, unique ways, inspired by Sarawak’s tribal heritage to find modern interpretations of concepts such as ritual, taboo, status and initiation,” he said.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Gaya Island: Borneo’s biodiverse treasure trove of jungle and marine life

Well, now we know what you don’t do in Borneo – and that is take your gear off after you’ve climbed Mount Kinabalu.

An earthquake and then international focus on the behaviour of backpackers on the mountain has brought attention to the tropical island in the past year or so. And while many come for the mountain, which is one of the great – and most difficult – hikes in the world, it is Borneo’s marine life which captivated me.

Borneo, the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia, is often overlooked in favour of a holiday in Bali or among Thailand’s enticing sprinkle of islands.

But its wildlife, beaches and accommodation make it a good alternative to old favourites. Here at the Gaya Island Resort, we are surrounded by water, including several excellent snorkelling spots, and in the soupy heat it makes more sense to be in the water than to climb a mountain.

The resort is a 15-minute speed-boat trip from Kota Kinabalu, capital of Malaysia’s easternmost state of Sabah. (In Kota Kinabalu there’s some great places to eat but it is essentially a regional port town.)

The resort is built high up in the jungle and the walk to the rooms is steep. When staff allocate rooms they make sure anyone born after 1950 is housed on the lower levels. As a post-1950s person, I’m high up in the trees (and sweating like I’ve just played five games of squash when I get up there).

Once I’m in my room, I almost don’t want to leave. It is spacious and has a deep bath on a raised platform; bedroom and wide balcony look out over the jungle and the water. Best of all, it is perfectly chilled.

The resort has many attractions to lure visitors out of their rooms, however, not the least of which is the amazing sea life. I’ve snorkelled in a variety of spots, from the Great Barrier Reef to remote islands off Sumatra, but have never seen such an embarrassment of underwater riches. The water is clear and thick with fish of incredible colour, variety and species. It’s like being in some CGI special effect – but it’s real.

Native to Borneo are the walking catfish – which can travel short distances on land, although you are more likely to see them in the rainforest areas in fresh, rather than salty, water.

One of the best snorkelling spots I visit is just off the front of the resort pier where all the boats pull up. I see – among other things – a sea snake curled up in the coral garden (thankfully resting) and bright clownfish.

But there is no resting on existing laurels. Despite the biodiversity of the region, work is being done on marine conservation – particularly focusing on the vulnerable turtle population.


RM10 mln upgrading works at Kota Kinabalu International Airport Terminal One

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) will be undertaking a RM10 million project to carry out upgrading works at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) Terminal One.

MAB managing director Datuk Badlisham Ghazali yesterday said they would be setting up inline screening of incoming passengers which would allow for faster processing time.

At the same time, MAB will also be designing a two-boarding bridge to cater for more planes as well as configure the immigration counters which will allow for better flow for both incoming and outgoing passengers.

The project would be ready by next year, he said.

In addition, MAB would also expand the remote parking bays, he said.

“We are preparing to add 11 more bays,” he explained, adding that this was one of MAB’s short-term plans.

In its mid-term plan, MAB hopes to expand the terminal but stated that this would probably happen four to five years from now.

Badlisham was earlier with Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun to brief the latter on the developments that would be taking place at KKIA Terminal One as well as to inform him on the tremendous growth in tourist arrivals up until September.

He attributed the tremendous growth to the efforts made by the ministry as well as to the Sabah Tourism Board in promoting Sabah as a tourist destination.

Last month, statistics showed that KKIA recorded the best growth for its international passenger traffic at 29 percent, registering 1.4 million passengers compared to 1.1 million during the same period last year.

In  September alone, KKIA registered impressive growth for international passengers climbing up to 46 percent.

The impressive growth was contributed by a strong performance from a wide range of airlines primarily the AirAsia Group, Jin Air from South Korea, and 16 other airlines operating at KKIA. AirAsia Group had also experienced a significant growth in international traffic since its move to Terminal One at 16 percent over the same period in 2015.

The Sabah Tourism Board had also reported an increase in total number of visitors/tourists to Sabah, for both international and domestic, which grew to 1.62 million or 3.7 percent year-on-year (YoY) for the period January to June 2016.