Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Scoot launches inaugural Kuching-Singapore flight

KUCHING: Scoot, the low-cost arm of the Singapore Airlines Group, launched its inaugural flight from Singapore to Kuching, the first-ever destination in East Malaysia for the award-winning value airline on Sunday night.

The new Singapore-Kuching route with daily direct flights will be Scoot’s fifth destination in Malaysia, after Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi and Penang.

The inaugural flight landed at the Kuching International Airport (KCH) at about 9.55pm on October 29, 2017, with passengers on Scoot’s A320 aircraft receiving a warm welcome with a traditional dance organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board.

Present during the welcoming ceremony were permanent secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture Datu Ik Pahon Joyik, Sarawak Tourism Board acting CEO Mary Wan Mering and Scoot chief commercial officer Vinod Kannan.

Commenting on Scoot’s inaugural flight to Kuching, Vinod said, “Malaysia is a very important market for us as we see growing interest from Singaporeans to travel to different parts of our neighbouring country and vice versa.

“Hence, we are excited to launch our services to Kuching, which brings us a step closer to our objective of steadily increasing our network in the region. Through this, we also hope to continue enriching our Malaysian guests’ travel experiences with a healthy dose of our unique Scootitude on board.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Scoot launches inaugural Kuching-Singapore flight

Exploring volcano tourism in Tawau

KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTAC) Sabah Office is exploring Tawau Hills Park as a possible start-up of volcano tourism in Sabah.

Volcano tourism, pursued under the ministry’s Sabah Sustainability Volunsharing Program (SSVP) with Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), may not be a new global phenomenon but is still relatively new in Malaysia and especially Sabah.

MOTAC Sabah director Ag Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar said he was happy with the collaborative program and wished to continue this in the near future.

“We have been collaborating since 2015 and won few recognition,” he added.

The exploration team of 10 this year involved MOTAC Sabah and 10 UMS students and staff with the guidance of the Tawau Hill Parks’ authority.

During the excursion, discussions with Tawau Hills Park had resulted in the identification of two volcanic spots within the park, namely the warm turquoise water of the white sulfurous springs, and ancient crater at Mount Lucia, one of the three large mountains inside the parks’ area.

In Sabah, Tawau’s Bombalai volcano is currently a dormant volcano and, since it estimated to have erupted thousands of years ago, it can be regarded as an ancient crater.

Bombalai cinder cone is only a half-an-hour jungle walk from the entrance of Tawau Hills National Park.

Outside the Tawau Hills Park, there are other volcanic attractions such as Columnar Joints along the Balung River and Conical Sprouts at Andrassy where both sites are accessible from Tawau town.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Zoomology Blog: Orangutans of Borneo - An Encounter with a Flanged Male

On our first morning in the rainforest at Danau Girang Field Centre, nestled on the Lower Kinabatangan river in Borneo, we were woken by the people of the forest.

We watched a female orangutan and her baby move through the trees in the morning light.

You can read our post about this experience here.

In the distance, we also had a brief glimpse of something bigger and louder, but dismissed it as either noisy proboscis monkeys or a young male orangutan.

A few days later while attempting to get some rest in our accommodation, something large moved through the trees just outside our window again.

There is no electricity during the three hours between 2pm-5pm at the field centre.

Being the hottest part of the day, many people retire to their rooms after a cold shower to wait out the thirty-something degrees Celsius heat, 100% humidity, and jungle stillness.

In my sleepy, yet uncomfortable state, I dismissed the movement as a group of pesky macaques.

Emma, however, decided to investigate the noise and peered through the mosquito screen.

She was greeted by Hantu (Malay for ‘ghost’), the Centre’s huge, mature, flanged male orangutan.

Once again, I was up like a shot, frantically chucking on my clothes and cramming my feet into boots.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Monkey's Tale: Borneo, Part 2


We’ve been looking forward to this part of our trip and we weren’t let down.

We spent one day at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

They take in injured, orphaned and abandoned pet orangutans and rehab them so they can one day return to the wild.

It’s set in the jungle with a few long walk ways leading to a feeding area and to a nursery, both with viewing platforms.

Not long after we entered the sanctuary, the trees started to shake and about 10 m from us was our first orangutan, swinging along the vines. It was thrilling!

Then at the feeding area, we saw some moms with babies.

They arrived swinging from branch to branch and along vines with their babies clutching to them.

Development timelines are similar to humans so the 2 year old could barely walk or climb and the 4 year old was more daring with his climbing, but still never far from mom.

Walking around the site we saw a few more juvenile males trying to exert their status, but we didn’t see any mature males as they stay far away, deep in the jungle.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Monkey's Tale: Borneo, Part 2

The idea man behind Heart of Borneo

PERSONAL interest in connectivity is the hidden first cause of the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative.

We have nailed that first active interest down to Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh, former CEO of WWF-Malaysia, because he was recognised as such as a keynote speaker at the latest HoB conference.

"I have always been interested in connectivity," he told Daily Express.

So now we know this intensifying connectivity drive in Sabah originated from Kavanagh who thinks it's indispensable for the permanent future of wildlife.

"The idea is, say you have a 500ha national park and another 500ha national park and you put them together to make 1,000ha, you save much more genetical and biological diversity than if they were spread out into two.

"This is because you don't have the depth of mixing the pool and genes of a bigger area," explained Kavanagh who started young as a primatologist working in remote Sarawak.

Size matters: Kavanagh Borneo has the luck that Kavanagh landed his first job in Sarawak.

That was 1981 when WWF-Malaysia made him a junior conservation officer in Lanjak Entimau, for obvious reason – orangutan population, about 1,400 of them.

Well-rated as a man of ideas, his efforts quickly turned Lanjak-Entimau in southeast Sarawak into one of the State's largest wildlife sanctuaries, in 1983.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: The idea man behind Heart of Borneo

Saturday, October 28, 2017

3 Sabah islands to be gazetted as marine areas

KOTA KINABALU: The state government is in the process of gazetting Mantanani, Mengalum and Sipadan islands as total protected marine areas.

State Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said the initiative was in line with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recommendation to have at least 10 per cent of  protected marine areas by 2020.

“It is difficult to have three marine areas to be gazetted by 2020 as the process will be long. 

“However, the state government has already prepared the documents (for the gazettement of those waters),” he said, adding that the gazetting of Mantanani waters would be tabled in the next cabinet meeting.

Pang said the process for Mengalum would be discussed next year and status of Sipadan, renowned as one of the world’s top dive sites, to be discussed in 2019.

Once the three sites are gazetted, marine areas will make up 13 per cent of Sabah, exceeding the IUCN recommendation.

Sabah now has more than one million hectares, or 7.6 per cent, listed as total protected areas.

The Tun Mustapha Park off Kudat waters, Malaysia’s largest marine park, was the most recent gazetted area.

Pang added that his ministry was also encouraging hoteliers and seafood restaurants to sell sustainable seafood to their clients.

He said they could buy from suppliers who adopted good practices, such as fish farming and fishing using the right nettings, among others.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: 3 Sabah islands to be gazetted as marine areas

Friday, October 27, 2017

Wild Borneo: Paradise of Ecotourism

Borneo is the third largest island in the world. It is a home of unique flora and fauna. Its rainforests are the most ancient on the planet (more than 130 million years).

The island is politically divided among three countries: Malaysia and Brunei in the north and Indonesia to the south.

Not only diving and beach rest attracts tourists from the whole world, but also wild original nature.

If you want to feel as a real discoverer, visit Borneo, but do not forget to check the local weather forecast before arrival.

Entertainment and places of interest in Borneo

The territory of Malaysia is divided into two states: Sarawak and Sabah. The last one is the most popular among the travellers.

In Sarawak, you should take the excursion to the Sarawak Museum and visit Niah National Park with the ancient caves.

You will also like Gunung Mulu and Gunung Mulu National Park.

Circa 10 000 plants, 350 species of birds, 150 species of reptiles and 10 species of Primates are unique and live only in Borneo.

Sarawak offers also many kinds of the active rest: riding mountain motorbikes, rafting, safari, diving and many others.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Wild Borneo: Paradise of Ecotourism

Thursday, October 26, 2017

On The Brink Of Extinct: Borneo And The Tragedy Of Deforestation

The sight of a 20kg red monkey with a huge nose balancing atop a slender electricity pole should be hilarious.

Perched so precariously in the middle of a palm oil plantation and right beside a busy road, the lone monkey looks like the last surviving sailor clinging to the mast of a sinking ship.

In the seconds I have to take all this in before the bus I'm travelling in has hurtled past, I recognise the animal as the proboscis monkey -- an endangered species of which there's only about 7,000 left in the wild.

I'd just spent the better part of three days in the Borneo jungle looking for it.

Perhaps a week previously, I would have laughed at the bizarre image I had just been treated to, but in the few days I've been in Borneo, I've learnt and seen too much to find the humour.

As a guest of G Adventures and Tourism Malaysia, the eight-day trip boats an intense schedule touring through the natural highlights of Sabah -- the island's north-eastern territory controlled by Malaysia.

Our small tour group has managed to spot endangered animals in the wild, seen them up close at rehabilitation centres, cruised down the crocodile-infested Kinabagatan River and been welcomed into small local villages.

We have heard the eerie pulse of the ancient jungle at night, seen baby turtles hatch before releasing them into the ocean and met some of the dedicated local rangers working tirelessly to save the myriad of endemic species facing extinction.

And we've eaten so much traditional local food we probably would've gone home 10kgs heavier if we weren't sweating out our own body weight on a daily basis.

But again and again throughout these exhilirating days and nights, we have witnessed the tragedy of Borneo and Sabah from a heart-wrenchingly close proximity.

As the third largest island in the world, Borneo historically had extensive rainforest coverage, but massive deforestation since the 1960s under the timber and palm oil industries has drastically reduced native jungle to such an extent the primary rainforest is now threatened. Borneo's lucrative palm oil industry isn't slowing down either.

Palm oil is currently the world's most consumed vegetable oil and is found in about half of all packaged products found on supermarket shelves all over the world.

The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) expects the global demand for this cheap vegetable oil to only increase over the next decade.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Kim and Joe's Travels: Borneo – Bako National Park

Kuching & Bako National Park

Our final couple of days in Borneo were to be spent in Bako National Park, probably the premier destination in Borneo for seeing proboscis monkeys.  By all accounts, it also offered some great hiking and some stunning coastal scenery. 

As such, we set off early for our bus with great excitement.  We had seen quite a few proboscis monkeys in Borneo, but always from a distance and were really hoping for a close up experience with one of Borneo’s most bizarre endemic species.

The bus journey was about an hour on one of the most comfortable buses that  I have been on anywhere in the world.  Huge, soft leather seats and air conditioning meant that I slept most of the way to the jetty.  

From the jetty, we booked ourselves on a boat into the national park and sorted out the entrance formalities.

It was low tide, when we arrived, so the boat dropped us off on the beach by the visitor centre, greeted by a large bearded pig.  It was still early, so a great time for wildlife spotting.  

We dumped our overnight bag at the centre and set off on one of the many trails that snake all over the park.  We picked the Teluk Delima trail, as it was supposed to be one of the best trails for seeing proboscis.

There was no doubt that there were proboscis about, the tell-tale call of the male rang out across the rainforest as we walked towards the coastal mangrove forest at the end of the trail.  

On the picturesque beach at the end of the trail, we found a horse shoe crab shell, but not a great deal else. 

As we turned to go back, Kim spotted a proboscis high up in the canopy away from the beach.  We were getting good at this primate spotting lark, but it wasn’t the close up proboscis experience that we had been hoping for.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Kim and Joe's Travels: Borneo – Bako National Park

Monkey's Tale: Borneo, Part 1

Kota Kinabalu and area

We had a few days in Kota Kinabalu to take advantage of everything to do in the surrounding area.

When we arrived the weather was really nice, hot and humid so we took a local ferry to Manukan, one of the nearby islands belonging to the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

The ferry was a small fiberglass boat, and the drivers were crazy.

They raced across the ocean towards the islands at high speed.

The waves were really high and our small boat went flying at least 3 m into the air, crashing down with a hard landing.

This wasn’t just once, but several times in the 20 minute ride, we thought our boat would crack from the force. 

Manukan is a small island with a nice sandy beach, relatively clean water to swim, a few restaurants and a hotel.

After a day on the beach, we had enough relaxation so we went white water rafting on the Padas River. 

The trip to the rafting sight was an experience on its own.

There are no local roads so we took an old British train left over from WWII.

The rails were very narrow and the train shook from side to side as it traveled along the tracks.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Monkey's Tale: Borneo, Part 1

Heart of Borneo to be promoted as world class ecotourism destination

KOTA KINABALU: The next phase for the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative in Sabah will be to promote HoB as world class ecotourism destination.

Sabah’s Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests (Forest Sector Planning), Frederick Kugan, said a total of 37 ecotourism sites have been identified, including nine community-based tourism sites.

He said the move was important to create economy for the community and tapping into the tourism sector to support conservation efforts in the State.

“This is done through the concept of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) conservation finance strategy,” Frederick said in his presentation at the International Conference on HoB here yesterday.

The two-day event, themed ‘A Decade of HoB Initiative: Accomplishments and the Way Forward’, began yesterday at Magellan Sutera Harbour Resort here.

For the past 10 years, Frederick said the Sabah Forestry Department had been focusing on the maintenance of forest connectivity through strengthening of the protected areas network, and establishment of sustainably managed forest corridors connecting these areas.

“Sabah can be proud that we have achieved greatly in terms of increasing Total Protected Areas (TPAs) by 1 million hectares to 1.9 million hectares from 2007 to 2017.”

He said the initiative had also garnered support from partners to the tune of RM100 million through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

He said the HoB project had received RM38 million funding from the Federal Government thus far, while there was still RM27.5 million remaining from the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP).

Frederick said the next phase of HoB in Sabah would be to look at how to achieve the target of gazetting the remaining four per cent, or 300,000 hectares as TPAs by 2025.

“It can come from forest reserves, state lands and maybe from existing titles or communities.”

He said the Sabah Forestry Department would be engaging with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) and Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) to identify critical areas important for protection and areas good for rehabilitation or restoration.

He said the Sabah’s land use in the future might also evolve over time.

Frederick said this might lead to land swap to better enhance protected areas and to retain at least 50 per cent forest cover in the State.

“With all the conservation measures undertaken in Sabah, we believe that there will be at least no net loss or net gain in terms of biodiversity in the State.”


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Heart of Borneo (HoB) Visit Year 2018 to exploit Sarawak’s ecotourism industry

KUCHING: The State Forest Department will collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports to ensure the success of the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Visit Year 2018 which aims to exploit ecotourism that is based on culture, adventure and nature (CAN).

State’s deputy director of Forest Department, Jack Liam said, the launch of the HoB Visit Year 2018 will be held in conjunction with the official opening of the Non-Timber Forest Product Carnival (NTFP Carnival), 2017 at the Kuching Water Front on Oct 26 (Thursday).

“Besides conservation, HoB was set up to benefit the local community. We also hoped that tourism players would collaborate with their counterparts from Indonesia and Brunei to promote CAN in HoB areas which covers some 26.5 million hectares in the three countries namely, Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah), Kalimantan, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam,” Jack said here yesterday.

He pointed out that the main objective of the setting up of HoB was based on five pillars; namely: sustainable forest management; ecotourism based on CAN; natural resources management/sustainable land use/agriculture; community-based rural poverty eradication programme and conservation of biological diversity.

“HoB was the result of a successful dialogue between the three countries on February 12, 2017 under a slogan ‘Three Countries One Conservation Vision’ which aimed to conserve the environment and ecosystem based on sustainable basis for the good of the whole of humanity,” he said.


Sabah Govt committed to develop tourism sector

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism will continue to feature as part of Sabah’s economic development, said  Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman.

Speaking  at the launch of the opening of Mercure Hotel yesterday, Musa said with Sabah’s strong presence in the global tourism market, the government remained committed in further developing the sector along with private entities.

The Chief Minister also said Sabah had a variety of tourism products that could cater to the needs of tourists, from nature destinations to rich cultural heritage, a diversity of food and shopping options.

He added that the state government was also taking steps to ensure that the state’s eco-tourism products remained sustainable and would continue to attract travellers.

“We do this by focusing on sustainable and targeted development and with this, areas of natural heritage are continuously protected,” he said.

Musa also said Sabah was seeing a rise in interest among airlines to offer direct flights from regional destinations into the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, due to strong market support and the availability of both hotels and quality services.

“Just recently, Malaysian Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai was quoted as saying that there had been an increase in the number of tourist arrivals at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA). Visitor arrivals at KKIA between January and August stood at 5.3 million compared to 4.7 million in the same period last year, and this is an impressive growth,” he said.

He added that the state government welcomed the minister’s statement that the Transport Ministry was prepared to engage more airlines to use KKIA to fly in more tourists to Sabah.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Sabah to get 4 more direct flights from China by February 2018

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government is expected to get four more direct flights from China by February next year, said state Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming.

“Beginning Nov 15, Malindo Air will commence the flight from Chengdu, and the following month will see the airline ferrying people from Changsha.

“The same airline will open up its destinations in Tianjin and Guangzhou before Chinese New Year,” he said, adding that there were currently 171 international flights, including about 80 from China, flying in to the state.

He was speaking at a press conference after the launch of Mercure Kota Kinabalu City Centre hotel here.

Pang said Chinese and Korean nationals made up 60 per cent of international tourists in the state.

As of August, the state registered 296,441 Chinese, 196, 895 Korean and 41, 968 Taiwanese tourists.

“The state government welcomes hoteliers to invest in Sabah, which, with the availability of places to stay, the (Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry) is able to resume its marketing activities.

“There have been shortages in accommodation, especially for highly-demanded four- or five-star hotels and resorts with beach views,” Pang said.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Rocktober Fest rocks Miri

ROCKTOBER Fest Borneo 2017, billed as Borneo’s biggest beachside rock festival, saw a big turnout of local as well as international rock music fans in Miri last weekend.

Over 5,000 people jam-packed the inaugural two-day Festival, also known as #RTBF17, with most of the ticket-holders coming from Miri and other parts of the state.

Many of the festival-goers also came from cities in West Malaysia with direct flights to Miri such as Kuala Lumpur and Johor.

Fans from outside the country included those from Brunei and Singapore.

“I came here to see my favourite bands — Slapshock, XPDC, Bunkface, OAG and Hujan,” said Mohd Yusof from Brunei.

He added that he also came to support Rose of My Coffin Door, a Bruneian band.

An Ipoh fan who only wanted to be known as Gan, commented: “I think Rocktober Fest Borneo is something fresh. Miri is known for the Borneo Jazz and the Country Music Festival but #RTB17 attracts a new and different crowd.”

As for 24-year-old rock fan Deanna Maria, who flew in from Kota Kinabalu just for the Festival, she listed OAG as one of her favourites.

“I think it’s really fantastic we have a huge rock event in Borneo. I look forward to next year’s event and hope to see more international artistes in action,” she enthused.

The Rock Festival was held at ParkCity Everly Hotel with 37 bands performing live on two stages from 2pm until midnight.

Among the headliners were Hujan, XPDC, Koffin Kanser, Filipino band Slapshock, Oh Chentaku, OAG, Bunkface, Estranged and many more.

Kicking off the Festival on both days were up-and-coming Bornean bands whose performances in front of a large audience gave them big-time exposure.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Rocktober Fest rocks Miri

Kota Kinabalu is first Malaysian city with free WiFi service

KOTA KINABALU: Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI) president Datuk Michael Lui yesterday welcomed the free WiFi service rolled out by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK).

He said the WiFi service would enhance the city’s competitiveness and promote tourism development.

In addition, Lui said the facility would spur our digital economy, increase productivity which in turn, attract more foreign investors.

“KK City WiFi will improve the quality of life for city folks.

“The service will elevate Kota Kinabalu into a smart, highly liveable, business and tourist friendly city,” he said in a press statement.

Lui said having a stable and high-speed broadband service had been the dream of Kota Kinabalu city.

“We are excited that Kota Kinabalu is the first city in Malaysia that provides free WiFi service to the people.”


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Zoomology Blog: Orangutans of Borneo - Woken by the People of the Forest

The rainforest never truly sleeps. 

When one group of animals finishes their shift, they are instantly replaced by a suite of other unimaginably unique and noisy creatures.

After a night full of frogs croaking, geckos chit-chatting, insects buzzing and owls screeching, first light began to filter through the trees.

Lying in bed, we could hear the sounds of the forest change.

Birds began to sing and a different assortment of whirring insects started their engines.

I could hear something larger though.

Large enough to bend branches and shake trees.

Needless to say, I was up and out the door.

With my eyes struggling to adjust, I noticed two long-limbed silhouettes moving towards me.

Considering our short stay at the field centre and the tiny number of orangutans left in the wild, I knew that our chances of seeing orangutans would be slim.


Borneo Bird Festival 2017 - Birders are big spenders

KOTA KINABALU: Minister of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun said the state’s over-abundance of birds of various species should serve as a platform to boost the state’s economy.

“To date, we have discovered 67 endemic bird species in Borneo. Previously, we had only found 59 species. This shows that there has been an increase of eight new endemic sub-species,” Masidi said in his speech at the Borneo Bird Festival (BBF) 2017 opening ceremony at Imago Mall on Friday.

He added that 14 of those birds were endemic to the Kinabalu Park.

It is understood that the classification of the additional eight species was meant to be a focus for conservation biological diversity, a form of attraction for birders and nature enthusiasts.

According to Kinabatangan-Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association (Kita), there are over 205, 830 tourists who  visited Kinabatangan in 2015, with a total revenue of more than RM100 million that year.

On average, groups who visit Sabah for birding activities are made up of six to eight persons and their length of stay lasts up to 12 days, Masidi said.

“The average tour price per day is about RM900 (USD 232), per person. If this is multiplied with the average length of stay (12 days), then each birder will spend at least RM10, 800 here.

“This does not even include their stay in the city. Birders are big spenders.

“God has given us the capital (the birds). All we have to do is to preserve these birds and to attract birders and visitors and the money will eventually come. This is the best business deal in the world,” Masid said.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Twitter chat way to promote Sabah tourism

Kota Kinabalu: Creating a digital platform to raise public appreciation on the tourism industry, especially among the younger generation, is a way forward for Sabah Tourism Board (STB).

The Twitter handle for STB is @sabahtourism, which currently has 16,450 followers (mostly young people), since it was set up in 2009 to inform those interested about Sabah's tourism activities.

"#SabahChats was set up two years ago, basically to interact with our Twitter followers," explained STB Deputy General Manager Noredah Othman during the second anniversary of #SabahChats held in Tanjung Aru, here, Monday.

"Most of our followers come from Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Sandakan. This anniversary actually keeps the momentum. We want to make them ambassadors of Sabah.

"The more they re-tweet, the more they promote our events, the more people will know about our events.

It is a good digital platform for us, a good public awareness on tourism in Sabah.

"We want the younger generation to understand what tourism is, and also to support tourism in Sabah.

The digital world is always for the millennial, for the younger generation. It is a good platform, a good way to encourage the younger generation to interact with STB," she explained.

She said over the past two years, the impact they received was being able to get more from the local and international community.

She explained that awareness can be educational also with a lot of tourism events, adding that Twitter is not only to promote events and interesting places in Sabah but also to boost interaction with people in terms of education on tourism.

"Our Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun is also active on Twitter, so this is one of our approaches to get closer to the people.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A lot goes into making Visit Miri Year 2018 a success

MIRI: Much work still needs to be done to make Visit Miri Year (VMY2018) campaign a great success.

In this regard, Malaysian Association of Hotels honorary secretary-general John Teo believes that although many people are looking forward to it, efficient infrastructure must be in place.

“Accommodations like hotels and inns, condition of road signages, tourist destinations, eateries, public transportation and safety issues must be considered besides making sure that all these infrastructure and facilities are up-to-date, repaired and well-prepared to welcome the expected tourists.

“In fact, all these facilities are correlated with one another in helping tourists, especially backpackers, go around the city and places of interest easily and conveniently,” Teo said when sharing his view on ‘Miri Tourism Year’, stressing that safety and cleanliness must be given priority.

“Tourists want to feel safe when they visit a place. Therefore, emphasising road safety, directional signposts and enforcement of local ordinance are of utmost importance which the city council must take into consideration before welcoming tourists.”

Promotion, said Teo, must not be overlooked because promoting the best features of Miri on major websites, apps, government-related sites as well as on tourism and travel magazines could attract more travellers and tourists.

“In fact, Sarawak Tourism Board and the Tourism Ministry should include Miri in their roadshows, promoting the events and happenings in Miri which definitely would attract more curious people to Miri.”

Having been in the industry for nearly two decades, Teo is hoping for a successful VMY2018.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Less than 800 Sunda clouded leopards in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Hunting activities and habitat destruction are reducing the number of the Sunda clouded leopards in Sabah to about 750.

A recent study published in the scientific journal, Oryx, has produced the first robust estimate of the number of Sunda clouded leopards remaining in Sabah where changes to the state’s forest landscape are believed to be affecting these threatened wild cats.

The study, led by researchers WildCRU (University of Oxford, UK), in collaboration with partners from the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Sabah Wildlife Department and Panthera, provided the first evidence that the population density of the Sunda clouded leopard is ‘negatively affected’ by hunting pressure and forest fragmentation.

It also showed that the time period since logging among selectively logged forests is positively associated with abundance.

This research was primarily funded by the Darwin Initiative, the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation, the Robertson Foundation and the Sime Darby Foundation.

“For six years, we conducted intensive camera-trap surveys of eight protected areas in Sabah,” said Dr Andrew Hearn from WildCRU, first author of the paper. “We used the cloud shaped markings on the coat of the animal and morphology to identify age and sex of individual animals and used sophisticated statistical methods to estimate their density in these different forest areas across Sabah.

“We also analysed our camera trap data to provide an estimate of poaching pressure for each study area,” added Hearn. “We found evidence of poaching activity in all forest areas with the lowest detection rates being in Danum and the highest in Kinabatangan. We finally estimated the size of the population of the Sunda clouded leopard to be around 750 individuals in Sabah.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Less than 800 Sunda clouded leopards in Sabah

Less flights to Mulu could result in RM5 mln in losses due to tour group cancellations

KUCHING: The reduction in frequency of flights for Maswings to Mulu will result in the loss of at least RM5 million in direct revenue next year due to group cancellations.

“These are groups from major European and North Asian markets,” said Sarawak Tourism Federation president Philip Yong at a press conference here today.

“The current flight connectivity for Maswings (the only airline operating) to Mulu is very poor. Maswings flights to Mulu used to be available every day but are now only down to four days a week since last month. This has impacted group travel from Mulu to and from Kota Kinabalu, a major potential source of tourists,” said Yong.

The poor flight connections will result in further cancellations and reluctance of agents to feature Mulu as a destination to visit, stressed Yong.

According to him, the complaints from ticketing agents are that the group fares are usually higher than online fares and the cutoff time for group bookings was too short.

Yong said the other problem were flight ticket prices. Dynamic pricing has caused air fares to spike, such that there are instances when the fare between Sibu and Kuching would be RM530 and Bintulu and Kuching can be as high as RM800.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kim and Joe's Travels: Borneo – Sabah Part 2

Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Danum Valley

On our final morning in Kinabatangan, we opted for an additional boat safari.  We had been so close to an orangutan sighting the previous morning based on the freshness of the nests, that it seemed a no-brainer to have another attempt.

As it panned out, we didn’t manage to find one, but did manage to track down a Bornean Gibbon based on its distinctive call.  Add to that some sea eagles, hornbills and a baby crocodile and all in all it was a very worthwhile additional excursion.

After breakfast at the camp, we began our journey to our next stop, Lahad Datu.  A boat and two different buses got us to our comfortable and basic guesthouse in Lahad Datu.  After two hot and sticky nights in the jungle, the AC and warm(ish) shower made it as good as a 5 star hotel!

Lahad Datu offered very little as a destination in its own right, but does offer a route into Danum Valley.  Unfortunately, the shuttle bus to Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC), wouldn’t be leaving for two days. 

Although as luck would have it, we were both fairly keen for a couple of restful days after an action packed time on the Kinabatangan.  There was plenty of tasty food close to where we were staying and we had a comfortable bed.  It wasn’t the most exciting couple of days, but there are worse places to recharge the batteries ahead of the next excursion.

It also gave us time to consider the next stage of the trip, in Central America.  Something that had seemed a million miles away not so long ago, but all of a sudden was only a few weeks away.  The search is on for somewhere interesting (and ideally cheap) on the Baja California peninsula, with a decent language school, in which we can base ourselves for a few weeks.

Back to the current trip, it was soon time to take the minibus shuttle from the DVFC office to the field centre itself.  The journey in was very fruitful.  Even before we had arrived at the centre, we had met some of the residents of the rainforest of Danum Valley. 

Macaques (of both pig and long tailed varieties), bearded pigs, sambur deer and electric blue kingfishers all made appearance in the last 20 minutes of the journey as we neared the field centre.

Up by our accommodation, we met even more of the local inhabitants.  A huge bearded pig strolled confidently outside the dormitory, whilst two maroon langurs sat high up in the canopy in the distance.  We even met some people!  As it happened, they were the same people who would be on our night safari later that evening.

Even the walk to dinner was a wildlifespotting  opportunity!  Frogs, sambur deer and bearded pigs all made an appearance en route to a tasty dinner in the dining hall.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Kim and Joe's Travels: Borneo – Sabah Part 2

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sabah creative industry to be dynamic sector

KOTA KINABALU: A uniquely Sabah approach and the grassroots participation will turn the Sabah creative industry into its future dynamic sector.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman is confident that the creative industry can grow in both urban and rural Sabah if the local development of the creative industry focuses on the various strengths and advantages that the state has in terms of creative resources.

“Today’s seminar is relevant, especially when the success of our State’s development efforts today partly hinge on grassroots participation,” said Musa, whose keynote address was delivered by Datuk Seri Panglima Teo Chee Kang, at the Nurturing Sabah’s Rural Creative Communities Seminar launch in Tanjung Aru here on Thursday.

“Sabah is well recognized as culturally diverse with vast resources in the fields of performing arts, visual arts, film and handicraft. The State also has a substantial pool of creative talents who have consistently proven their abilities at national level, as well as actors and film-makers currently involved in the screen industry locally and nationally.

“Sabah is also an internationally-established tourist destination, particularly in nature tourism.  Our assortment of world class natural attractions, abundance of flora and fauna and unique wildlife also makes Sabah an attractive destination for documentary projects and commercial photography, apart from film-making.

“The three main niche areas Sabah could focus on are Cultural Heritage, Performing Arts and Creative Media. This “Uniquely Sabah” approach will provide the best prospect for us to position the State in the national and global creative industries market,” he added.

Musa said although most measures surrounding the development of the creative industry were centered in urban areas, most of Sabah’s creative assets are ‘rural-centric’ and particular key ‘creative place’ strengths that exist in rural areas can attract creative workers.

“Rural innovations could be driven by ‘urban demand’ and the creative industry often disperses a range of creative products, services and experiences that have been pioneered in urban areas but are new to the economy of many rural places.

“Developing creative industries in rural areas generates potential for sustainable high-quality enterprise and employment opportunities and contribute to rural diversification. Growth in such products and services correlate with rising levels of disposable income and better education.


Labuan marine parks popular turtle landing, eco-tourism sites

LABUAN: Concerted efforts to boost the turtle population are bearing fruit after 1,309 hatchlings were released into the wild from the three landing sites in Labuan from January to October this year.

The number accounted for 76.59 per cent of the total 1, 705 turtle eggs hatched at the popular marine parks of  Rusukan Besar Island, Rusukan Kecil Island and Kuraman.

These marine parks are strategic landing places for three turtle species, namely hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata), olive-ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) and green turtle (Chelonia Mydas), with 12 nests found on the beaches throughout the period.

Department of Malaysia Marine Park Labuan director Anuar Deraman said a total of 9, 543 hatchlings were released into the wild from the landing sites in Labuan from 2011 to 2015.

“Our efforts to conserve turtles by hatching their eggs and releasing the hatchlings into the sea since five years ago are succeeding,” he told Bernama yesterday.

“The strategic landing sites, with no beach erosion are the factor behind the increased number of turtles landing,” he said.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Yen Ai clinches cleanest coffee shop title in Kota Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU: Apart from being one of the best spots for a refreshing thirst quencher, Yen Ai Dessert and Herbal Tea shop is also the cleanest food outlet in the city after clinching the top award in City Hall’s Cleanest Food Outlet Competition in the coffee shop category.

The charming little tea shop in Bornion Centre, Luyang is known among local foodies for their wide range of herbal teas, sweet soups, dessert and other sugary treats.

In his opening remarks, Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai heaped praise on the winners for their relentless support and showing their commitment throughout the competition in pursuing the title of restaurant in the city.

“It gives me immense pleasure to convey my highest congratulations to all participants of this meaningful programme which aims to uplift and maintain the quality and safety of food sold at premises throughout the city,” he said.

During the prize-presentation ceremony, Yeo also took the opportunity to award top honours to representatives of Yen Ai Dessert and Herbal Tea shop, while second place went to Kedai Kopi Yee Fung, followed by Sinsuran Sang Nyuk Mee II at third place.

Yeo said the district-level competition is divided into two main categories which includes participating restaurants and non-franchise coffee shops.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Kim and Joe's Travels: Borneo – Sabah Part 1

Kota Kinabalu, Sepilok, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu

Our journey from Labuan Bajo to Kota Kinabalu, although a relatively short distance as the crow flies, would take 3 flights (via Bali and KL) and a full day of travelling. This meant that we arrived to Kota Kinabalu (KK) tired. With a rucksack full of laundry, some trip admin to do and some Spanish studying to catch up on we were never going to see much of KK in the couple of days that we were there.

However, what we did get to enjoy in KK was the food. It was so good to be back on Malay food. We had both enjoyed Indonesian food, but in my humble opinion it just can’t compete with Malay cooking. We were particularly glad to have roti back on the menu and wasted no time in visiting a local roti joint in the basement of Centrepoint shopping centre.

I ate roti Cobra, which was a plate of chopped up roti, vegetables, chicken curry and a fried egg. It was every bit as delicious as it sounds. Kim was straight back on the tried and tested Murtabak.

KK also served as a good base for a day trip to Kinabalu Park in the foothills of Mt Kinabalu and the Poring Hot Springs. We hired a car for the day and got our first taste of the Bornean countryside. The drive offered plenty of views of the peak and our first glimpse of the palm oil plantations that cover so much of Borneo.

There was a notable drop in temperature when we reached Kinabalu Park, due to the altitude, so much so that for the first time on the trip I put a jumper on! We spent a wonderful couple of hours hiking round some of the many trails that criss-cross the park. We didn’t see much wildlife and we got bitten by quite a few leeches, but we both thoroughly enjoyed our first experience of the Bornean jungle.

After a tasty lunch in Ranau (roti again!), we drove on to Poring Hot Springs for a bath in the natural spring water. Whilst the spring water may have been natural, there was nothing natural about the pools themselves. Each pool was essentially a bathtub, where one could run themselves a bath.

The water pressure left a lot to be desired and it took us quite a while to get something we could actually sit in properly. Still, it was nice to have a bath after so many days of cold showers and it was a great spot for people watching so all in all it was a nice day trip.

From KK, we took a comfortable 7 hour bus ride to Sepilok for a night at Uncle Tan’s Ops Centre/ B&B before our Kinabatangan tour with the same company the next day.

Before our tour started, we had an opportunity to visit the Orangutan and Sun Bear Conservation Centres, conveniently located down the road from where we were staying.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Kim and Joe's Travels: Borneo – Sabah Part 1

Tun Mustapha Park, Malaysia’s largest marine park holds first island-based Marine Turtle Festival

KUDAT: The first island-based Marine Turtle Festival within largest marine park in Malaysia, Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) was recently organised by Tigabu Youth Club (Kelab Belia Tigabu – KBT) and WWF-Malaysia.

TMP is located within Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu districts in northern Sabah.

TMP is a global symbol of how we can collectively commit to serving nature and humanity, benefiting both the environment and local communities. The area has rich marine biodiversity and is home to elusive dugongs and endangered marine turtles as well as other regular visitors such as migratory whales.

Diverse habitats ranging from mangroves, seagrass beds to coral reefs contribute to the rich marine biodiversity. This in turn provides food security for not only 85,000 inhabitants dependent upon it, but also the more than 120 million people in the Coral Triangle region.

Tigabu Island hosted the festival this month to highlight turtle conservation work being done in the Tigabu-Tambulian-Kukuban Island complex.

The first island-based turtle hatchery was launched on Tigabu in TMP to raise awareness on turtle conservation and threats such as fish bombing and use of poisons like cyanide.

Officiating at the launch, Banggi Island assemblyman Datuk Mijul Unaini praised KBT and youths for taking the initiative to conserve marine turtles.

Meanwhile, KBT member Absan Saman said he wanted one of the world’s most endangered creatures to continue to thrive around Tigabu and TMP.

Agreeing with this, KBT chairman Sulaiman Amir invited the community of Tigabu to work together to protect marine turtles for future generations. The Tigabu-Tambulian-Kukuban Island complex includes the three named islands and Mantabuan Island.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Joint tourism initiative to focus on Heart of Borneo

MIRI: Sarawak and Kalimantan are working out an exciting Heart of Borneo adventure-tourism package filled with fascinating scenery and exhilarating cultural experiences.

This was discussed at a dialogue between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Sarawak and Kalimantan branches on the latest issues concerning the two-million-hectare Heart of Borneo region shared by Sarawak, Kalimantan and Brunei, Borneo project manager Nuraini Soulisa told The Star yesterday.

“We are discussing the latest issues on the Heart of Borneo such as our latest sustainable conservation efforts, researches and transboundary monitoring.

“We will draw up an exciting eco-tourism package in the Heart of Borneo for local and international tourists.

“The region is full of exciting adventures and beautiful scenery,” she said, adding that the meeting began yesterday and will end tomorrow.

The Heart of Borneo, a vast central region encompassing the Tama Abu mountain range, was still unexplored in many parts and there were reported sightings of endangered animals such as the rhinoceros and temadu (Bosjavanias species of buffalo) in the jungles there.

An expedition team made up of 93 scientists, researchers and nature lovers was recently assembled to conduct a detailed ground survey to locate the rare animals.


Monday, October 09, 2017

My Inn Hotel in Kota Samarahan all set to welcome guests

KUCHING: My Inn Hotel Kota Samarahan will open its doors for business at 11.30am tomorrow (Oct 10).

“Strategically located in the booming township of Kota Samarahan, the hotel offers 46 fully-renovated and elegantly decorated rooms, namely Deluxe Family Suit, Deluxe Family, Deluxe King, Deluxe Queen, Deluxe Twin and Superior King,” said My Inn Hotel management through a press statement yesterday.

It will connect with Servay Jaya Supermarket – currently under construction – to provide one-stop grocery shopping, self-service laundromat, and is within walking distance to fast-food outlets and other food premises

It is also within a five-minute drive to Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), Sarawak Heart Centre, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and banks, among other facilities.

All rooms are equipped with high definition television and satellite channels, complimentary coffee/tea-making facilities, complimentary drinking water, free Wi-Fi access, individual air-conditioning, iron and ironing board (available upon request), non-smoking floor, CCTV surveillance system, as well as elevator to all floors, the statement added.


Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sematan Fest to include Tanjung Datu International Open Sea Fishing Competition from next year

LUNDU: The Tanjung Datu International Open Sea Fishing Competition will be organised beginning next year to attract foreign visitors to Sematan.

Tanjung Datu assemblywoman Datuk Amar Jamilah Anu said the proposed international competition will be aggressively promoted to ensure that the plan become a reality.

“Tanjung Datu Open Sea Fishing Competition will be listed in the tourism calendar and included in the Sematan Festival programme next year.

“This year we organised the event on a moderate scale but next year if there are sponsors we will open it to international level. This will make the festival much merrier.

“The competition is to remember “Tok Nan” – the 5th Chief Minister of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem who is a fishing enthusiast himself, “she said when officiating at the Sematan Festival 2017 yesterday.


Saturday, October 07, 2017

Study on impact of tourist arrivals in Sarawak vital

KUCHING: The state government wants to study the impact of having many tourists visiting Sarawak before it negotiates on getting more direct international flights to the state.

According to Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, this study needs special preparations in that the government must first make sure that Sarawak is ready to accommodate a huge amount of visitors.

Speaking during a press conference at his office here yesterday, he pointed out that there is no point of inviting more tourists to Sarawak if the state could not provide the facilities for them.

“There are lots of things needed to be studied before we could call for more tourists to come to Sarawak. We want to make sure that we can provide what is best for them (the tourists),” he stressed, adding that one of the provisions would be prices of local items such as food.

Abdul Karim pointed at Sabah as an example of a state popular among tourists, where the prices food – more specifically, seafood – are expensive.


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Direct Sibu-Kota Kinabalu flight coming up

SIBU: The state government is negotiating with AirAsia to have direct flights between Sibu and Kota Kinabalu.

Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, in revealing this, said he’s confident the direct flight would materialise.

“We are still in the process of negotiations. There are seven sectors in Sarawak being negotiated now with AirAsia and one of them is the Sibu-Kota Kinabalu sector.

“I am confident that by the time we end this negotiation, we would be able to secure the Sibu-Kota Kinabalu sector,” he said at the opening of Sibu Lantern Festival and 1Malaysia Food Fair at Sibu Town Square here Tuesday evening.

Since taking over stewardship of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports, he had been trying to get air connectivity, not just for Kuching, but also for other big towns in the state including Sibu.

He added that he would also look into the possibility of a Sibu–Singapore sector with direct flights in the near future.

“Just give me a little bit of time to do this. There are technicalities here and there that need to be sorted out; the government departments need to be approached, but at the end of the day, with the right approach, I am confident we will be able to bring all these flights to Sibu and other big towns in the state,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Direct Sibu-Kota Kinabalu flight coming up

One million tourists from China to Sabah next year

KOTA KINABALU: The Belt and Road Initiative advocated by Chinese President Xi Jinping will create more business opportunities for Sabah, particularly in bringing in increasing numbers of Chinese tourists and investors to the State.

Sabah United Chinese Chambers of Commerce (SUCCC) president Tan Sri Andrew Liew Sui Fatt said that the tourism industry in Sabah was thriving.

As such, he encouraged SUCCC members and the business community to venture into hotel development to cater for the market demand.

Liew said this after leading his committee members to pay a courtesy call on the Head of State, Tun Juhar Mahiruddin at Istana Negeri here yesterday. The purpose of the courtesy call was to introduce the new SUCCC leadership line-up to Juhar.

Liew said Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Haji Aman had recently met with the chairman of a tourism travel national cooperation in Beijing who promised to bring one million Chinese tourists to Sabah in the coming year.

Liew said the arrival of the one million tourists would certainly bring significant positive impact to the tourism and economy of the State.