Thursday, August 31, 2017

Janice Horton: Adventures in Borneo - Kota Kinabalu and The North Borneo Railway

There are two distinct sides to Malaysia. West (Peninsular) Malaysia and East (Borneo) Malaysia and they are separated by the South China Sea.

Trav and have explored most of the Malaysian peninsular including the islands of Penang and Langkawi on the west side and Perhentian Islands on the east but up until now we haven’t ever ventured across to Malaysian Borneo. That all changed when we flew from Kuala Lumpur to the town of Kota Kinabalu.

Kota Kinabalu or KK is known is the capital of the northern part of Borneo and is the gateway to the Kinabalu National Park.

Many people come here to climb Mount Kota Kinabalu – but not us – we were here for a train ride!

Riding on the North Borneo Railway is like stepping back in time and travelling through towns and jungle in the heart of Borneo on one of the very few wood-fuelled engines left in the world today.

Originally manufactured by the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows Lancashire UK and part of a fleet that have plied the tracks through Borneo since the late 1800’s.

We had the most amazing day travelling on this fabulous old steam train re-living the by-gone era of old colonial times.


Sibu International Dance Festival an international platform for the arts

SIBU: The annual Sibu International Dance Festival (SIDF) has become an international platform for the arts.

Temenggong Dato Vincent Lau said dancers and organisations can connect on local, regional and international levels to share concepts, experiment, and explore different styles and genres of dance.

“The dance performances featured by 17 teams from 13 countries and regions that will unfold both indoors and outdoors in the next few days are undoubtedly a grand cultural event and are truly looked forward to by the residents and guests of Sibu.

“Besides showcasing the essence of our unique arts and culture while promoting tourism through this festival, this is also the perfect occasion for Sibu people from all walks of life to come together and simply enjoy a feast for the eyes,” he said when opening of the sixth SIDF on Tuesday.

He added that the language of the dance is easily understood and clear to everyone.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

More skilled manpower needed to boost tourism industry in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Despite the fact that Sabah is experiencing positive growth through flow of investments, enhanced economic cooperation and improved trade relations, the increase in the number of hotel rooms is still insufficient to meet the ever increasing tourist arrivals in the State, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman.

“We are still short of hotel rooms, especially in Kota Kinabalu,” Musa said.

He said the number of tourist arrivals for the first half of this year was about 1.8 million, a growth rate of 11 percent compared to the same period last year.

Last year, he said Sabah tourism received tourists to the tune of 3.4 million.

Musa said he had met a leader from mainland China on one occasion, who had wanted to bring in 10,000 people to Kota Kinabalu.

“I say, cannot. If 10,000 (tourists) at one time, there is not enough rooms in hotels and resorts. So I asked him to come in phases, maybe 3,000 people (at one time). So you can see how many people want to come to Sabah.

“We need more hotels and resorts, and of course, skilled manpower. That is what ATI College is providing now,” Musa said, when gracing the 20th convocation ceremony of the college here yesterday.

Earlier in his speech, Musa said the hospitality and tourism industry was a key income generating sector for Sabah.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Intrepid Travel: Turtles and orangutans - witnessing wildlife conservation in Borneo

Sabah is a state situated on the northern tip of Borneo, Malaysia. It’s home to not only 3.5 million people, but also to a diverse array of animal and plant species. Forests and protected areas make up over half of Sabah.

However, due to extensive logging, the forests of Sabah have been severely reduced. The demand for timber, raw materials and the conversion of forests into agricultural land and palm oil plantations means that Sabah has depleted almost all of its old-growth forests.

The most notable victims of this change are the Bornean orangutans, which are one of only two species of great apes that are native to Asia. Destruction of their natural habitats has led to the Bornean orangutan being listed as a critically endangered species.

As a result, there is now a strong push towards conservation efforts in Sabah. The most famous project is at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

Covering 40 square kilometres of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, the centre rehabilitates orphaned and injured orangutans, with the goal to eventually return them to the wild. And here’s the great thing – as a traveller, you can visit!

Seeing the rehabilitation of orangutans in Sepilok

Before entering the sanctuary, I make use of the free lockers to store my bag. Cheeky orangutans have been known to snatch bags and loose items from unsuspecting visitors.

A walking path snakes down to the feeding area where the orangutans (and other monkeys looking for a free meal) congregate twice a day at 10am and 3pm. Your ticket gives you access to both feedings.


Imbak Canyon Study Centre boost for research, tourism

WHILE the Maliau Basin Conservation Area (MBCA) and the Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA) remain as Borneo’s more prominent and celebrated forests, it would be an oversight to exclude the equally majestic Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (ICCA) of Tongod from the list.

Situated north of MBCA and the west of DVCA, the Imbak Canyon is located some 300 kilometres away from Kota Kinabalu, a road journey that will take approximately seven to eight hours, subject to good road conditions.

Since being gazetted as a Class 1 (Protection) Forest Reserve by the State Government back in 2009, the ICCA has come a long way, and has reinvented itself as one of Sabah’s most promising tourism products.

The growth of the ICCA can be attributed to the partnership between Yayasan Sabah and Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) that was initiated back in 2010.

Since then, the two bodies have taken numerous initiatives to ensure the preservation of the forests, most recently being the establishment of the highly awaited Imbak Canyon Studies Centre (ICSC).

In 2013, Petronas approved a RM77 million fund under Phase 2 of the Yayasan Sabah and Petronas partnership to build the ICSC, in line with its intent to solidify the ICCA as a centre of learning for indigenous community in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

Construction commenced in 2014 and was completed in November 2016, when the facility was subsequently handed over to Yayasan Sabah.

Among others, the ICSC will serve as a platform for gene bank conservation and the exploration of pharmaceutical and biotechnological potentials.

Last Monday, a group of journalists were invited for a first ever media visit to ICSC, where they had to stay on location for four days under a programme spearheaded by Petronas and Yayasan Sabah.

To learn more about the facilities provided by the ICSC, the manager of ICCA, Dr. Hamzah Tangki, took members of the media for a tour around the newly-built compound.

It is understood that the buildings at the ICSC were designed taking into consideration green elements to ensure minimal carbon footprint.

The establishment of the ICSC will coincidentally elevate Tongod as one of the crucial districts of the State with the ICSC serving as a major infrastructural development.


More direct flights to Sarawak from China, South Korea, Taiwan possible

SIBU: The Ministry of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports is studying the feasibility of direct flights connecting state with other destinations in China, along with South Korea and Taiwan, to boost tourist arrivals.

This was disclosed by its minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah yesterday when asked if  there were plans to have direct flights between Kuching and other major cities in China besides Shenzhen.

“Of course, we are studying closely other destinations in China, and probably (South) Korea as well as Taiwan, which are feasible for future flights,” he said.

On the proposed direct flights between Kuching and Shenzhen, he said: “It should materialise before the end of this year.”

Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, when officiating at the opening of Metrocity Seafood Garden at Jalan Matang in Kuching recently, said Shenzhen was among one of the cities that would be connected to Kuching through direct flights, made possible through the cooperation of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports.

In stressing that tourism has been identified as an important sector in the state’s economy, Abang Johari said he was informed by Abdul Karim that the number of tourist arrivals in Sarawak for the first six months of this year had increased by 150,000 compared to the corresponding period last year.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Borneo Bird Club: 9th Borneo Bird Festival 2017

Borneo Bird Festival is one of the largest nature festival in Malaysia, a celebration of the magnificent birds of Borneo and its surrounding nature.

It is aimed to create public awareness to nature conservation, promote birdwatching, and encourage eco-tourism activities.

The 9th edition of this annual Festival will be held in the west coast of Sabah.

The Sabah Bird Race, where teams shall travel to the cool highlands of Crocker Range Park in search of the most species of birds along the hills and mountain ranges of Borneo.

At the end of the day, each team will experience the beauty of this land as they count the numbers of recorded species, and the longest list shall earn the prestigious credit and shall be declared the 'SABAH BIRD RACE' Champion!

Crocker Range Park is a known hotspot for Bornean hill and montane endemics, the Bornean Barbet, Bornean ibon, Bornean leafbird, Whitehead’s spiderhunter, Bornean banded pitta, Bornean falconet.

The Headquarters of the Keningau head-station of Crocker Range is frequented by birders and can be rewarded by Sunda Laughing Thrush, Chestnut-hooded Thrushes, the endemic Mountain Barbet, Bornean ibon, the smallest raptor in the world Bornean falconet, Bornean flowerpecker, Dusky broadbill, the migrant Mugimaki flycatcher.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics & Vid) at: Borneo Bird Club: 9th Borneo Bird Festival 2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Display of colour, tradition and culture at 118th Baram Regatta

MARUDI: It was a sea of colour, culture and traditions here yesterday as thousands of people from all walks of life thronged the town square for the 118th Baram Regatta.

The sunny weather in the morning beckoned over 7,000 people to the banks of Baram River here on the second day of the most awaited regatta that kicked off yesterday.

A total of 64 boats representing 27 teams took part in the paddling events yesterday with Mulu Terawan team sending the biggest team this year with 10 boats.

Present to experience the historic ‘Mother of all Regattas’ was Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and entourage who arrived at the town at 3pm.

Upon arrival, the Head of State and his entourage including Transportation Assistant Minister Datuk Dr Jerip Susil were welcomed by Baram MP Anyi Ngau, Marudi assemblyman Datu Dr Penguang Manggil, Mulu assemblyman Datuk Gerawat Gala and Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau.

The entourage was then led to Marudi Wharf to watch the Decorated Boat Competition.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Simunjan Festival hopes to draw over 20,000 visitors this year

KUCHING: This year’s Simunjan Festival from Sept 29 to Oct 1, is expected to double the crowd in 2015, which registered 10,000 visitors.

What makes the Simunjan Festival 2017 unique is that participants from Brunei and Sabah are also taking part in the Sarawak Gendang Melayu competition held in conjunction with the festival.

During a press conference here yesterday, Simunjan assemblyman Awla Dris called upon the people in Serian and Gedong as well as Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman to join the three-day event.

“We target to draw 20,000 visitors to this year’s festival, to take place at the Batang Sadong Waterfront in Simunjan.

“Simunjan District has a population of nearly 40,000 people, the majority Malays at over 21,000 followed by 14,900 Ibans, 1,300 Chinese, and others,” he said after chairing a meeting here yesterday.

Awla said the festival would act as a platform for the people of diverse culture to mingle and promote mutual respect and understanding.

He added the event would also help to promote Simunjan District as a choice destination for tourists in Sarawak.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Travel Happy Girl: Borneo’s Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Malaysian Borneo is one of the best-known places to see orangutans.

While it is possible to see orangutans in the wild – and no doubt rewarding – it is of course much more difficult.

Unfortunately, I only had five days in Borneo.

After flying into Kota Kinabalu in Sabah I realised I’d have to take either a long bus or another, internal, flight just to get to the rainforests populated by the great apes; my main motivation for visiting the island.

I had just enough time to visit the centre, but sadly not enough to wander freely into the jungle.

Although I planned to see the orangutans in partial captivity, I was careful to research the facility beforehand and ensure that it is a genuine sanctuary that rehabilitates orangutans, rather than functioning entirely as a tourist trap.

Satisfied, I went to visit the centre in Sepilok.

It certainly appeared that the centre was well run and ethical.

Seeing orangutans in their natural habitat is something that features on the bucket list of many, and it was an experience that didn’t disappoint this animal lover.

I like their unique, human-like faces and gentle, graceful movements, and they looked so at home in the rainforest, a mystical and magical environment to me.


Kuching to have direct Shenzhen flight

KUCHING: An airline is expected to start operating a direct flight between Kuching and Shenzhen, China by the end of this year, said Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said Shenzhen will be one of the cities to be connected to Kuching through cooperation between the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports and the airline.

Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah is working together with AirAsia to connect Kuching as a hub to the other cities where they can fly direct to Kuching.

“One of the cities that will be connected to Kuching by end of this year is Shenzhen. There will be direct flight between Kuching and Shenzhen,” he said when opening MetroCity Seafood Garden at Jalan Matang, here, on Wednesday.

Abang Johari said the ministry is also in discussions to reinstate the Kuching-Hong Kong direct flight.

“It was because of limitation in Hong Kong Airport, they gave us very unattractive times to reach Hong Kong. Therefore, there is a bit of reservation on that particular timing,” he said.

Hong Kong Airlines started its Hong Kong-Kuching flight on May 28 last year, but it was suspended on Feb 25.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Kite flyers from 25 countries coming for Borneo International Kite Festival

BINTULU: The 13th Borneo International Kite Festival 2017 will be held at Bintulu Old Airport site from Sept 27 to Oct 1.

About 121 kite flyers from 25 countries throughout the world will be participating in this year’s edition, said Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) general manager Rodziah Morshidi.

The opening ceremony at 9.30am on Sept 30 is expected to be officiated by Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

The highlight of the event is the record breaking attempt for the ‘Longest wind garden street’ in the Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) with 1,200 wind kites of all shapes and sizes.

“This is an iconic event for Bintulu and we have been organising this for 13 years. It is an annual event which is popular in Bintulu and I am proud to say that Bintulu is the only place in the state organising the international kite flying event,” Rodziah said during a press conference at Wisma Bintulu yesterday.

She reported that for the past 13 years, the kite flying event has created four MBR records: flying 1,6555 kites simultaneously for 20 minutes in 2008, flying 92 train kites for 20 minutes in 2010; flying 2,550 kites in 2013, and longest arch kite tunnel of about 500m long with 2,500 kites in 2014.

She hoped this year’s kite flying festival will be better with the support of the people.

“I urge people from all walks of life to join us in making this kite flying event a greater success,” she said.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Fight to protect most vulnerable elephants in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is one of Sabah’s best known tourist attractions and since 2013, it has been the Wildlife Rescue Unit’s (WRU) base in eastern Sabah.

“But in recent times, Sepilok has become home to another makeshift family, one the tourists are largely unaware of even as they are startled by their occasional bellows and hoots — baby elephants, a small clan, intelligent, fast-developing toddlers, normally shy behind their larger, more intimidating mothers and aunts, but these elephants’ matriarch is smaller though equally ferocious when it comes to her babies,” WRU vet Dr Laura Benedict said.

These baby elephants are orphans, and hidden in the quiet, peaceful depths of the Sepilok’s enclosure, on the fringes of the Bornean jungle, Dr Laura and WRU are all the family they have.

“It all started in February 2014,” Laura said.

“We rescued two baby elephants from two different areas, Sg Lokan and Sukau Kinabatangan. Like it or not, we have to find a space to keep these elephants; it’s not their fault they are orphaned.”

In recent years, elephant-orphan situations have become disturbingly commonplace.

The advancement of oil palm plantations and human settlements have fragmented and massively depleted the territories of all Borneo’s wild inhabitants.

Unlike most animals, however, habitat encroachment rarely stops an elephant getting where it wants to go. Their sheer size, voracious appetites, dexterous trunks and tough skin, make palm trees simply another food source, that is, until they find themselves stuck in a man-made maze of paths and fences, or face-to-face with an angry, frightened farmer.

When a herd of elephants becomes trapped, their lives are in the hands of the people living there. Elephants are a fully protected species under international conservation laws but this has not stopped appalling acts of violence being committed against trapped elephants.

In some cases, the adults are frightened away. In their rush to escape, the weak/sick babies are separated from the adults. In other rarer cases, entire families of elephants have been killed. Lone infants, terrified and traumatised, are discovered attempting to wake up their dead parents.

As ever great expanses of land have been cleared, the problem has only increased. Since 2013, when a baby elephant called Joe was rescued after his whole family was poisoned, the WRU set about taking in orphaned baby elephants at the Sepilok centre, trying to offer them a sense of community, family, and a safe home.


Monday, August 21, 2017

WWF to gather vital data on the habitats of orang utan

MIRI: WWF-Malaysia is to carry out a survey on the habitats of orang utan in the northern Sarawak-Kalimantan-Sabah border.

The wildlife organisation, which celebrated International Orang Utan Day 2017 on Saturday, expects the project to help boost the survival rate and population of the primates in Sarawak’s forests.

WWF Malaysia will send its senior field biologist Lukmann Haqeem to the “Heart of Borneo” to compile data on the mammals.

The Heart of Borneo is a virgin jungle area in central Borneo Island shared by Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan.

Lukmann is entrusted with the task of gathering vital data on the existing location and population of the orang utan and how they strive in their habitats.

With such data, WWF Malaysia hopes to help the Sarawak government boost the survival rate and increase the primates’ population.

Lukmann told StarMetro that travelling to the the Heart of Borneo would take many weeks.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sarawak Adventure Challenge ‘The Lost Mines’ to evoke images of Indiana Jones adventures

KUCHING: Sarawak Adventure Challenge: The Lost Mines aims to deliver on Sarawak Tourism’s tagline ‘Where Adventure Lives’, and introduces the incredible terrain of Bau, Sarawak to adventurous souls around the region.

“We have these amazing trails and landscape close to Kuching that we want the people to come and appreciate,” said race organiser Robert Basiuk, adding that they are keen to get more Sabahans onboard.

The inaugural edition of the Sarawak Adventure Challenge – The Lost Mines will be staged on Oct 14 in the Bau region near Kuching. It is held under the umbrella of What About Kuching (WAK) 2017 the month-long festival that celebrates the arts, culture and lifestyles of the people of Kuching.

This international multi-sport adventure event includes a combination of mountain biking, trail running as well as a cave run. Evoking images of Indiana Jones, the Lost Mines theme is a reference to the area’s colourful mining history and the fact that the race will incorporate some of these features.

Sarawak is renowned for its rainforest, rivers and scenery and the route for the race will take competitors through some spectacular landscapes. Over the course of the event, competitors will cover 40+ km mountain biking, 12+ km trail running as well as a caving section. Set as a one-day team event, teams of two will be required to complete all stages and finish together.

The reward for navigating single track trails, old mining trails through jungle, streams, local roads, villages and plantations: an exhilarating rainforest experience and a total prize purse of over RM 33,000.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Sarawak aiming for more direct flights

KUCHING: The state government will continue its efforts to get more direct flights to Sarawak, assures Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youths and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

He said getting more air connectivity into the state is critical to achieve the government’s goal of boosting tourist arrivals into Sarawak.

“So far, the state government has succeeded in getting AirAsia, the world’s best low-cost airline, to increase its direct flights to Sarawak over the last three months. The airline is already operating direct flights from Pontianak, Indonesia to Kuching seven times weekly, and direct flights from Kuching to Langkawi four times weekly on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday,” he said in a press conference at his office here yesterday.

The Kuching-Pontianak route began in June while the Kuching-Langkawi direct flight was launched early this month.

“There will also be a flight from China via Vietnam soon. That one is a daily flight. That is going to be a big boost for us.”

Abdul Karim said the state government was trying very hard to get air connectivity into the state, but cannot rush to get them done until all the products available in the state are put in place.

The products – whether national parks, health facilities, food outlets or tourist guides – must first reach a level that is expected by the industry, he pointed out.

“We have to go progressively according to what we can offer because if there is a big influx of tourists to Sarawak and we have nothing to offer, that is also not good because the tourism industry is very sensitive.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak aiming for more direct flights

KKIA can handle 12 million passengers after renovation

KOTA KINABALU: The Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) here has the capacity to handle a maximum of 12 million passengers per annum after the renovation works.

Generally, the forecast has suggested that the present airport will last out within this five years, said Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) chief operating officer Azmir Zain.

“KKIA has handled 7.2 million passengers in 2016, today it has the capacity to handle nine million passengers per annum,” said Azmir during a media briefing on ‘MAVCOM Consumer Report and Industry Report-Waypoint’ at a hotel here yesterday.

“MAHB (Malaysia Airport Holdings Berhad) explained to us with some adjustment and renovation done to the airport (KKIA), it can increase that capacity to 12 million passengers per year,” he disclosed.

“Beyond that, we understand that there are discussions between the federal and state governments. We leave it to them to make the announcement in due course,” said Azmir.

On other issue, he said the rural air services (RAS) in Sabah and Sarawak are under the purview of the Ministry of Transport.

“Air connectivity is a critical mode of transportation for Sabah and Sarawak. The federal government already had the RAS programme since independence.

“The federal government also developed the Pan Borneo Highway project connecting all the coastal cities in Sabah and Sarawak.

“But, the rural areas still depends on air connectivity, hence the RAS is emphasized,” he said. He said MAVCOM also introduced a valuation process for commercial licences for both schedule and non-schedule carriers and also for ground handlers.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Promoting rural tourism in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is optimistic that rural tourism will gain popularity and benefit locals in the long run.

Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said the recent Rural Tourism roadshow held at a shopping mall was a success.

"The two-day inaugural roadshow attracted 10,000 visitors and the number of people visting the four promoted places - Tambunan, Kiulu, Ranau, Kadamaian-is also increasing.

"Most districts in the state have also activated their committees to develop rural tourism at their places," he said during a press conference on Universiti Malaysia Sabah's (UMS) Mulberry project with the people of Kampung Tudan.

Joniston added rural tourism products would not only benefit the industry but also help to generate income among villagers.

On the mulberry project at Kampung Tudan, which is about 50 kilometers from here, he said the villagers should consider setting up homestays.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Promoting rural tourism in Sabah

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Exploring the Heart of Borneo

MIRI: A team of 93 environmental scientists and researchers are going to explore the deep interiors of central Borneo - a mountainous region shared by Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan that is dubbed “The Heart of Borneo”.

These experts from local and foreign universities and environmental groups will be carrying out surveys to gather information about the rare flora and fauna found in that region.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said more in-depth studies needed to be conducted there.

Speaking at a talk held here, he said many parts in the vast central region of Borneo encompassing the Tama Abu mountain range were still unexplored.

“It is said that rare and endangered animals like rhinoceros and temadu (Bosjavanias species of buffalo) have been sighted in the jungles there,” he said.

As such, an expedition team made up of scientists, researchers and nature lovers has been assembled to carry out a detailed ground survey to locate these rare animals.

“The team will carry out in-depth analysis of not just the animals, but also plants, trees and other vegetations growing in the wild there.

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sabah tourism wants wetlands river cruise operations standardised

KOTA KINABALU: It will probably be better if one main entity is put in charge of river cruise tourism offering views of fireflies and the Proboscis monkeys among others, in Klias and Weston off Beaufort.

This was because it could help centralise management and the operations while providing standard guidelines and policies that could ensure the sustainability of the activities there.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said there were too many operators doing the same promotions and activities at these places currently.

“There is no clear guideline or policy on how best to go about bringing tourists here,” he said after attending the Elephant Film Festival here on Saturday.

Most tourists went to Klias and Weston, and even Labuk (Sandakan) to sightsee and watch the fireflies and Proboscis monkeys.

However, the guides had different views and rules for the tourists, with some detrimental to the ecosystem there.

As such, Pang said he would like to call upon all the operators and players in these areas to discuss this matter.

“It would be feasible if one entity, say the local communities there, fully manage and take care of the Klias and Weston tourism activities,” he said.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sabah tourism raked in RM7.2 bln last year

KOTA KINABALU: The rate of tourist arrivals in Sabah has increased by a whopping 10.8 per cent, and this indicates the tourism industry has been performing well, said Tourism, Environment and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.

“As of June this year, the total number of tourists in Sabah was 1,791,493, which indicated an increase of 10.8 per cent compared to the same period of last year,” Masidi said at the opening ceremony of the 27th anniversary of Centre Point Sabah yesterday.

Masidi stressed that this was a brilliant achievement, as the state was on track to beat last year’s tourism record, which was regarded as ‘the best year for Sabah tourism’.

“A total of 3.43 million tourist arrivals was achieved last year, the highest number ever in Sabah’s history. This brought an estimated revenue of RM7.249 billion.

“We are very positive to achieve our target this year,” Masidi said.

However, he said the lack of hotels in Sabah could potentially halt the tourist arrivals to Sabah.

Thus, Masidi urged the investors and the hotel operators of the state to build more hotels to accommodate the increasing number of tourists.

He disclosed that there were over 175 international flights arriving at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) every week, and 79 of those flights were from China.

During summer (July to August), China will have an extra 28 direct flights to Sabah.

As for domestic flights, there were over 405 flights arriving at KKIA on a weekly basis, Masidi added.

Masidi asserted that Sabah’s tourism industry was the only industry in the state that is fully controlled by locals.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Happy 145th birthday Kuching!

KUCHING: Today is the birthday of this city as on this date in 1872, the second White Rajah Sir Charles Brooke officially named the capital of Sarawak, ‘Kuching’.

However, this key historical date has been ignored and there is no record of any event held to mark the birth of the city.

Brooke could have changed the name of the state capital to Kuching to avoid what must be a confusion caused by a single name for his raj, capital and the river that flows through it.

The similarity of the city’s name to the Malay word for ‘cat’ spawned a long running rigmarole over its origin and the people overlooked the fact that until Aug 12, 1872, the capital of Sarawak was located by the bank of Sarawak River.

It is likely that the name ‘Kuching’ has nothing to do with cats, as there was a part of the town referred to as ‘Koo Ching’, which means ‘old well’, by the Chinese residents.

It was the place where the townsfolk drew their fresh water.

It was only in 1895 when the settlers of the fledgling township got treated piped water from a water reservoir, built at a place where the present Reservoir Park off Jalan Budaya is.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Happy 145th birthday Kuching!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sabah unveils new tourist spots

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is slowly becoming a haven for short getaways, especially for eco-tourism lovers as it unveils more places outside the city.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, less than two hours away, are dozens of mini parks and hills for hiking which lead to rivers, waterfalls and homestays fit for family trips.

Among them is Kampung Tambatuon Eco-Tourism Park in Kota Belud, some 80km from here.

This place offers visitors options for hiking the Nungkok hill, go for wet hiking at the Kilombun River, feed fish and get feet massage at the Tagal river there, and lastly take a dip at the waterfall.

On rare occasions if the timing is right, visitors can also see Rafflesia flowers along their hike.

Another spot nearby is the Eko Pelancongan Tagal Kampung Talungan, where its main attraction is the river where people can swim with freshwater fish, walk on a suspension bridge and camp.

Not far away, a similar eco-park – Kampung Terintidon eco-tourism in Kota Belud – is also a new attraction.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sabah unveils new tourist spots

Thursday, August 10, 2017

AirAsia’s Kuching-Langkawi route officially launched

KUCHING: AirAsia, the world’s best low-cost airline, yesterday launched its inaugural flight from Kuching to Langkawi which will operate four times weekly on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

The launching ceremony at Kuching International Airport (KIA), using flight AK5093, was ‘sent off’ by Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz and AirAsia Head of Commercial Spencer Lee.

Celebratory all-in-fares from RM100 one way are available for booking online at from now until Aug 13 for travel period between now and Feb 8 next year.

With the inaugural flight, AirAsia now flies to 11 destinations from Kuching with more than 220 weekly one-way flights.

The other destinations are Miri, Sibu, Bintulu, Kota Kinabalu, Johor Bahru, Kota Bahru, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Pontianak.

“We (AirAsia) are committed to continue growing this hub as Sarawak has a lot to offer beyond a tourism destination.

“Last year, we have flown about 3.2 million guests in and out of Kuching hub and we believe that the introduction of the two new routes to and from Kuching, namely Pontianak recently and Langkawi today (yesterday), echoes our commitment in Sarawak,” Lee said.


Borneo Wildlife Warriors - Film featuring Sabah’s wildlife and rescues showing Sept 16

KOTA KINABALU: Borneo Wildlife Warriors, a six weekly episodes of a film production featuring sun bears, elephants, orangutans and others, on breath-taking rescues and relocations in the state will be released starting from September 16.

This will be the second season after the completion of its first 10-episode film production, ‘Borneo Jungle Diaries’. The episodes can be watched online at

Scubazoo TV is a new online wildlife channel by Asia’s leading natural history filming and photography company, Scubazoo.

Its managing director, Jason Isley, said these episodes will be investigating the threats posed by afforestation, the illegal pet trade and more with Sabah’s Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) vets and rangers working to protect endangered wildlife.

“There are a few places that evoke the magic and mystery of Borneo: dense jungles packed with enigmatic animals, including orangutans, sun bears and the world’s smallest elephant.

However, Borneo’s rain forests – and all that inhabit there are facing colossal threats. Deforestation, illegal wildlife and pet trade and the traditional medicine trade are all threatening the survival of these unique animals,” he said.


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

First Kuching Waterfront Jazz Festival not to be missed

KUCHING: Sarawak’s first ever Kuching Waterfront Jazz Festival (KWJF) will be happening at the Grand Margherita Hotel Kuching on Sept 29 and 30.

The two-day jazz music festival will feature a total of 17 acclaimed jazz musicians and bands from all over the region, including Sheila Majid (Malaysia), Ernie Watts (USA), Jeremy Monteiro (Singapore), Kunto Aji (Indonesia) and Shanghai Sisters (Malaysia).

Sheila Majid, Malaysia’s Queen of Jazz, has been in the Malaysian and international jazz arena for more than 30 years after soaring to success with her 1986 song ‘Sinaran’, an evergreen.

She achieved international stardom by winning the prestigious Indonesia BASF Award for Best Female Artiste in R&B category in 1987, never done before by a non-Indonesian.

Her success in Indonesia was followed up by a 1988 nationwide tour. Sheila spread her wings to Japan with the release of her 1988 multi-platinum selling album ‘Warna’ and has performed in many cities around the world.

She released several more award-winning albums including ‘Legenda’, ‘Ku Mohon’ and ‘Cinta Kita’. Her 2017 album entitled ‘Boneka’ is her first studio album after 13 years.

She is a household name in Malaysia, her music breaking all age and racial barriers.

American jazz musician Ernie Watts is one of the world’s most versatile and creative saxophonists.

Starting at the age of 13, the two-time Grammy Award-winning saxophonist has played jazz professionally for 50 years all over the globe, been featured on 500 recordings with different artistes, and played on movie soundtracks for acclaimed hits such as Grease and The Color Purple.


All set for 2017 Kuching Marathon

KUCHING: The Kuching Marathon which will be held on Aug 13 here has been well received by both local and international runners.

Kuching South City Council (MBKS) mayor Datuk James Chan welcomed foreign runners to also visit the Kuching Festival and other tourist attractions here.

He said the council supported the event as it promoted sport activities and healthy living among the public.

He said this when dressing the Padungan cat statue with a Kuching Marathon outfit yesterday.

Also present was Kuching Division Marathon Association secretary Liew Tang Chieh who said that Kuching Marathon was an exciting event incorporating 42km race, 21km, 10km and 5km races.

He disclosed that only 40 per cent of the participants are from Kuching, with the rest from other divisions, states or countries.

The runners will have a great opportunity to enjoy the unique and harmonious atmosphere of the Cat City. Participants will also have the chance to learn the rich culture and history of the city by the Sarawak river.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: All set for 2017 Kuching Marathon

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Sarawak needs to develop tourism industry to sustain its economy

KUCHING: Sarawak has to keep moving forward in developing the tourism industry to sustain its economy because the state cannot cut its forests forever to extract timber and set up oil palm plantations to bring in revenue, Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said.

“As tourism has been a major contributor to the economy of many countries, the state has to develop it to make it a mainstay of our state’s economy,” he said at the grand opening of the Marian Boutique Lodging House here yesterday, adding the state has to find other ways to ensure its economy is sustainable.

His text of his speech was read by Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youths and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

The Chief Minister also thanked all local entrepreneurs who have been trying to give new life and purpose to the old buildings like what the management of Marian Boutique Lodging House was doing. He noted that it has become a trend in the old part of Kuching for old buildings to be repurposed into eating places and accommodation.

“This is a good thing to happen here as this allows the historical heritage of Kuching to be preserved, at the same time giving economic benefits to the owners of these buildings of the colonial era. Of course, you have to comply with all the safety requirements of agencies like Bomba (Fire and Rescue Department) to ensure that the place, some of which were built in the late 1800s, is safe and sound for your guests.

“With everything considered, I know it’s not cheap to repurpose old buildings like this, with costs running into millions of ringgit,” he said.

Abang Johari went on to congratulate the management of Marian Boutigue Lodging House for having the courage and confidence to spend so much to realise the project. He said the effort by the management was a brave move and very much in line with the state government’s agenda of uplifting the status of the state tourism industry, especially in and around Kuching.


Borneo Cultural Festival 2017 records 600,000 visitors

SIBU: This year’s Borneo Cultural Festival (BCF), which ran from July 20 to 29, recorded about 600,000 visitors – more than last year’s figure of over 500,000.

Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) deputy chairwoman Rogayah Jamain acknowledged the encouraging response from visitors to the annual event, which was first staged in 2002.

“They (visitors) wanted more cultural elements. They said there were more improvements this year than the previous editions,” she told The Borneo Post yesterday when asked if the council would organise BCF on a larger scale next year.

In her reply, Rogayah said: “That would depend on the budget. Definitely, we will improve it (further).”

She noted that visitors loved the BCF Arch at where Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah performed the opening ceremony.


Monday, August 07, 2017

Prlakwatsero: Land Travel By Bus: Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

There are three ways to reach Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia from Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

First ride a ferry via Labuan Island It will take 7 hours and land travel by bus via Sarawak, Malaysia it will take more or less 10 hours or take an hour flight from Brunei Airport.

Let's focus in land travel. There's no concrete info online regarding this route before I travel, but I really want to do it just because of the Passport stamp that I will get before I reach Kota Kinabalu.

One month before my travel date I purchase a bus ticket online via Sipitang Express.

This company is the only one offering a trip to Kota Kinabalu via Lawas, Sarawak Malaysia.

I was so nervous at first because of the multiple entry in the two countries.

I was consulting some of the travel blogger friends regarding on this matter doing a multiple entry into a visa free country.

They said nothing to worry about its fine.

I left the hotel in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei around 7am since the bus will leave at 8am sharp.

My friend fetches me up in the hotel and drop off in the loading area of the bus.


Potential generation of tourism dollars for Sarawak through sports events

KUCHING: Sports tourism could serve as a viable platform to draw in more tourism dollars for the state.

According to Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) commission member Dato Wee Hong Seng, the ongoing synergy between the government, corporate sector and sports bodies is seen as a catalyst for such development.

“I believe that our Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg had this foresight when he combined the portfolios of Youth and Sports with Tourism, Arts and Culture under one ministry, with Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah being the minister in-charge.

“As far as SBBA is concerned, it is our hope that through our events, we would be able to contribute in our own way to the development of sports tourism in Sarawak,” he spoke at the opening of the fourth annual Mr Boulevard/Mr BBS bodybuilding championships, staged at the Atrium of Boulevard Shopping Mall here on Saturday.

Wee, who is also Sarawak Bodybuilding Association (SBBA) president, pointed out that the state government knew about this very potential, as seen during last year’s Malaysia Games where promotions were intensified and sports facilities across the state underwent upgrading.

“Still, the national event was not the sole trigger of sports tourism in Sarawak; many of the facilities had been set up long before that to ensure that this area of tourism would continue to thrive and prosper,” he said.


Sunday, August 06, 2017

Khaye_leidoscope: Our Free Trip to Kota Kinabalu and Getting 15 Passport Stamps in our Borneo Trip

Free and travel sounds good together, right? Who wouldn’t want that? Of course, we do! Luckily, we were able to get our first free trip to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia via Air Asia. Here’s how it happened.

Originally, we booked a roundtrip ticket to Miri, Malaysia thru Air Asia Airlines. We learned about their promo when we attended a travel fair.

I cannot remember the exact details such as the promo fare cost, other expenses and name of our hotels because this trip took place three years ago.

Two weeks before our flight, the airline informed us that it has been cancelled due to insufficient number of passengers. They offered us a refund, but we were determined to push through with our trip.

We called the airline to emphasize that we do not want a refund, and they must do something about it. Kudos to their team because they were efficient enough to come up with a solution.

They offered us a connecting flight via Kota Kinabalu for FREE. Without second thoughts, we grabbed their offer.

Getting 15 Passport Stamps in our Borneo Trip

Aside from free trips, we are thrilled every time we get stamps on our passports. If you travel often, you’ll realize how precious your passport is. A little book that can bring you to places.

It has been our goal to fill ours with stamps of different countries around the world. Those stamps are not just blots of ink on our passports, but they also signify the memories of our travels.

This is how our Borneo trip went. The reason why we booked a ticket to Miri was because we wanted to go to Brunei to see the golden mosques.

However, it’s quite expensive to book a direct flight to Brunei, so we opted for a cross country travel. Miri was our cheapest option. There’s a direct bus route from Miri to Brunei.


Bario – a Highlands experience

A Singaporean tourist stepped on the scale to have his body weight verified by the counter officer as he checked in for a Twin Otter flight, operated by Sarawak’s Rural Air Service, to the Bario Highlands.

His fellow Singaporeans and Kuala Lumpur friends travelling with him, were amused they had to weigh in for their first-ever flight aboard the 19-seater light aircraft to the highlands for the Bario Food and Cultural Festival 2017 (Pesta Nukenen) from July 27-29.

Apparently, they did not expect this, at least not at Miri Airport which is classified as an international airport. But it was all taken in good spirits and their trip to the Bario Highlands turned out to be an enjoyable and memorable one.

On an ordinary day, Bario could have over 50 visitors flying in on the three daily flights. But for the Pesta Nukenen, it is quite usual to have a few more chartered flights besides the normal three.

The group from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, who booked their fight last September, were only told the opening ceremony of the Bario Food and Cultural Festival would always be on the last Thursday of July – in this instance, the same day of their arrival in Bario. So, they could hope there would be sufficient culinary delights to sample on the second and third days.

Accompanying the group was a much-travelled Canadian from Toronto. She told thesundaypost she had been googling for more information on the festival since knowing about it last year. She was excited about visiting the highlands and experiencing life in the Land of a Thousand Handshakes.

The Twin Otter made a smooth landing and one of the travellers was even eager to get her bags by herself from the belly of the small plane but the luggage man at the spot saved her the trouble.

Bario is a STOLport— an airport designed with STOL (short take-off and landing) operations in mind, usually for aircraft of a specific weight and size class.

According to a local, if Bario airport were to have a longer runway, it would have to move somewhere else because there is a river at the end of the runway.

“We may have to wait many years before bigger planes can land here,” he lamented.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Bario – a Highlands experience

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Sabah received record tourist arrivals in 2016

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s tourism industry had its best year ever in 2016, achieving record tourist arrivals and tourism receipts despite headwinds, said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

He said Sabah received an all-time high of 3.43 million tourist arrivals and estimated RM7.25 billion for the state economy.

“International visitors alone saw a 15.4 per cent increase, with China visitors as the largest contributor, recording a 51.8 per cent increase compared to the year before. Australia despite having only one direct flight a week from Perth, saw an increase of 8.7 per cent.

“Over the period from July to September this year, I was informed that we are expecting to receive four charter flights flying from Incheon, Korea and one charter flight from Tokyo, Japan.

“This will contribute an additional 25,637 seats to the current numbers. Apart from charter flights, for the same period, China Southern Airlines is adding their frequency from two times to three times a week. Malindo Air is also adding their frequency from four flights a week to daily flights flying from Taiwan for the winter schedule,” he said.

Masidi said this in his speech during the launching of Sabah Rural Tourism Roadshow at Imago Shopping Mall yesterday, adding that Sabah’s previous best was in 2013, with over 3.38 million arrivals.

“Certainly our best products are the attractions on coastal areas as well as the preserved landscapes located in the interior. I do hope that this roadsow will give us all more ideas on the many untapped new attractions that are available around Sabah.

“We should consider this as an opening of new fresh markets for domestic and foreign tourists,” he added.

In tandem with the positive growth in Sabah’s tourism industry, where tourists are searching for new tourism products, Masidi said Sabah Tourism took the initiative to create an event where rural tourism products owners could engage with the tourism industry players as well as the public at large to showcase the availability of rural tourism products.

“Since 2014,  Sabah Tourism Board has put tremendous effort on the rural tourism initiative in each district in Sabah.


Friday, August 04, 2017

Pacific Paratrooper: Sandakan POW Camp and Australian Soldiers

It remains the single-worst atrocity against Australians at war. Yet many Australians have probably never heard of Sandakan.

So few men returned from the Japanese prisoner of war camp on the island of Borneo after World War II it has become a neglected chapter in Australia’s wartime history.

In fact 2,000 Australians spent time as POWs at Sandakan. And of the nearly 1,800 still captive there at the end of the war, only six men survived.

All of which makes Sydney man Billy Young rare indeed. He spent three years as a POW under the Japanese.

He is the only surviving rank and file Australian soldier who spent time at Sandakan.  And he is the only POW still alive who was imprisoned at Outram Road Jail in Singapore.

Now aged 90, he has written a book about his inspiring story. “Billy: My Life as a Teenage POW”, co-written with historian Lynette Silver.

Mr Young would never have gone to war if his mother had not abandoned him as a baby.  Adora Shaw walked out on Billy and his father William in Hobart in about 1927 and returned to Sydney with another son Kevin, from an earlier relationship.

Billy never saw her again. One of his earliest memories is of his father taking him to Sydney to search for her, and later showing him her grave.  She had apparently died of tuberculosis.

A decade later his father also died. He had joined the Australian Communist Party and gone to Spain to fight in the civil war, but was caught and shot by forces loyal to dictator General Franco.

“When he was gone, I was like a wild animal,” Mr Young says from his home near Hurstville.  “I was a rebel. I wanted my dad.  He was the only person of authority I could listen to.”

At 15, a fellow student told him he wanted to enlist in the army. It was 1941. Australian troops were fighting overseas. Billy decided to join him. 

“The fella said to us ‘what mob do you want to join?’ And we said the one that goes overseas. He said ‘that’s the AIF’, and I said ‘that’s us’. He said ‘how old are you?’ And we said ‘how old have you gotta be?’ He said 19. We said ‘well, we’re 19’.”

With no parents to give consent, the boys took the enlistment forms and signed each other’s paper. At 15 they were soldiers.

Hoping for a boys’ own adventure, they joined the 100,000 allied troops in Singapore. Mr Young says initially there was no fear of the Japanese. 

“Intelligence officers used to say to us: ‘Those Japanese — they’re nothing. They’re blind. They all wear glasses, they’re short-sighted’,” he says.


Thursday, August 03, 2017

AirAsia helps Sabah’s connectivity

TRAVEL within Sabah is greatly enhanced and made affordable by air travels where its city and major towns are connected by air. Much time is saved compared to travelling by road plus the comfort during the journey and reaching its destination unruffled. With low cost airline such as AirAsia it will help making decision to fly even easier by air. Air travel is now available using Malaysia Airlines and or MasWings within Sabah and with AirAsia in the fray, travellers have now the luxury of more flights and choice of service providers.

AirAsia’s phenomenal growth continues with its cheap air travel in Asia being already ASEAN largest budget airline by fleet size after having leveraged its hub-and-spoke model to connect numerous cities. Now with the growth of the region’s middle class, the airline is eyeing new routes and markets, especially China.

AirAsia Bhd has launched three new international routes from Kota Kinabalu, Langkawi and Penang. It has also launched direct flights from Kota Kinabalu to Wuhan, Langkawi- Guangzhou and Penang-Ho Chi Minh.

“We saw ASEAN before ASEAN saw us,” quipped Tony Fernandes, the airline group’s chief executive. AirAsia’s modest start with just two aircraft in 2002 coincided with the region’s economic integration under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. AirAsia immediately saw the huge potential in an area with a population of over 600 million, with growing economies but poor connectivity.

AirAsia has associate companies in Asia Aviation Capital, an aircraft leasing company, which is 100 per cent owned, AirAsia Japan at 49 per cent, Thai AirAsia at 45 per cent, Indonesia AirAsia at 49 per cent, Phillipines AirAsia held 49 per cent stake through its associate company. It also owned long distance carriers in AirAsia X in Malaysia, Thai AirAsia X and Indonesia AirAsia Extra

Tan Sri Tony Fernandes noted that the timing was great, reckoning that the airline would not have taken off much earlier. Luck played a big part, but they took advantage of it. Marketing the airline under the banner “Now everyone can fly,” AirAsia enhanced air travel with its short-haul, no-frills service, charging for everything from baggage to meals in return for low fares. The theme reflects their focus on making travel available and affordable to everyone.