Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bornean Banteng Action Plan proposed for Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The final chapter of Yayasan Sime Darby’s research conservation projects with the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) will begin with a two-day workshop attended by subject matter experts aimed at conserving the Bornean banteng.

International and local scientists, governmental agencies as well as industry players will convene until  December 1 to save the iconic and endemic species to Sabah, months after proposing recommendations towards the conservation of two other species – the proboscis monkey and Sunda clouded leopard.

Recommendations will be proposed to protect the Bornean banteng based on findings of a five-year extensive state-wide survey conducted by DGFC and SWD.

A Bornean Banteng Action Plan for Sabah will then be drafted based on the proposed recommendations gleaned from the workshop. It will be validated by the IUCN Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group before being submitted to the State Government for approval.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said he hoped that the Sabah state government will adopt the Bornean Banteng Action Plan for implementation to save the species, which is threatened by heavy poaching, habitat loss, road development and forest fragmentation in Sabah.

Last month, three bantengs were poached by hunters in three protected areas in Sabah in the space of three days.

“At that rate of poaching, the species will not survive another 20 years and we will lose it like we lost our Sumatran rhinoceros,?he said.

“During this project, DGFC, in collaboration with SWD and Sabah Forestry Department, carried out surveys using camera traps in several protected and unprotected areas throughout the state.

“We currently have four, maybe five isolated populations of banteng, one on the west coast, one or two in central Sabah, one in the south-east and one in the north-east of Sabah. The total population is estimated to be around 400 to 500 individuals, making the Bornean banteng the most endangered large mammal in Sabah?", added Goossens.


Tamparuli echoes with sounds of bamboo music

TAMPARULI: The sound and music from bamboo instruments serenading through the Tun Hamdan Hall here yesterday, children and adults pitted themselves at the 11th Bamboo Music Festival.

The programme, under the auspices of the Kinabalu Ochestra Bamboo Music Association (OMBAK), was aim to instill the spirit of appreciation among students and the community in Sabah’s traditional music arts.

A National Department for Culture and Arts (JKKN) official, Mohd Zanidizam Mohd Dila, said they wanted to create awareness among the younger generation as well as to motivate them to engage more in creative arts industry.

“We hope that this programme will be able to cultivate and instill solidarity among the people, especially youths who have the passion for bamboo musical instruments and its arts,” he told New Sabah Times when met here yesterday.

The competition offered three categories including primary school, secondary school and open category. Three primary schools, seven secondary schools and four open categories groups have participated in the competition.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Second Miri AfroLatin Fiesta set to host over 100 dancers from 17 countries

MIRI: The Miri AfroLatin Fiesta will make its return next year, set to host more than 100 dance enthusiasts from 17 countries.

The second edition of the event, which was introduced last year, is scheduled for March 2-4.

It will be run by La Danza Fitness & Dance Studio Miri and supported by Miri City Council (MCC), Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) and Meritz Hotel.

According to La Danza Fitness & Dance Studio proprietor Dr Safrina Othman, who is also the event organising chairperson, her side would expect more participants in the second edition.

“We hope that dance enthusiasts from Miri would take the opportunity to learn from world-class dancers, who are coming here to conduct the workshops,” she told reporters during a press conference here yesterday, attended by Miri Mayor Adam Yii, the dance studio’s instructor Ramil Lopez Fernandez and a member of the organising committee Christine Yip.

Adding on, Safrina said the Afrolatin Fiesta 2018 would host several international dance artistes such as Jorjet from the US for ‘bachata’ and ‘salsa’ dancing, Sara Lopez of Spain and Kristofer Mencak of Sweden for ‘kizomba’, El Cruz and Nadege from Luxembourg, Dewa and Gung Is from Indonesia as well as Mutati (Kenya/Australia).


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sandakan's Marian Hill set to charm tourists with its unique attractions

SANDAKAN: Little-known Marian Hill here is set to be a new attraction with its pristine natural surroundings, as well as religious and historical significance.

A church has teamed up with Sandakan Tourism Association to promote the hill based on these elements, as well as the view it has from the hilltop.

During a recent hike with the media, St Mary’s Parish Pastoral Council chairman Pilis Malim said it took less than an hour to reach to the peak where climbers could see the expanse of Sandakan town below.

“The 2.5km journey provides views of beautiful flora.

“It begins from Marian corridor, a name dedicated to Mother Mary, who is the guardian of the parish. 

“The first stop is a ‘Japanese Bunker’, which was used by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War 2,” he said, adding that there were about 10 bunkers in the area.

After a 300m climb, hikers will reach a 16m-wide by 8m-tall dam.

Pilis said the church committee members discovered the dam by chance when it was almost damaged by treasure hunters in 2013.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Visit Tambunan Year drew 66,000 visitors

TAMBUNAN: About 66,000 people have visited this district in between January-September this year in conjunction with Visit Tambunan Year.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said of the total 66,073, 58,050 were local tourists with the rest comprising Malaysians from other states and foreign nationals.

He said the number was compiled from records taken at tourist attractions where visitors were required to register such as the Sabah Parks, Gunung Trusmadi and a few other places in Tambunan.

“This total does not include visitors to open places such as the tamu or those visiting celebratory events organised in the Tambunan District.”

Pairin was speaking at the opening of the Music Festival and Ecotourism Tambunan 2017 at the Pisompuruan Square here, on Saturday.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Study on flights to Mount Kinabalu summit

KOTA KINABALU: A detailed assessment will have to be done on the feasibility of flights to the Mount Kinabalu summit, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

“We need to look into the safety issue first,” he said when asked whether Sabah Parks would allow for “helicopter tourism” on the 4,095m mountain after such an aircraft landed on the summit on Nov 16.

On board the helicopter was Sabah Parks chairman Datuk Seri Zainal Tengku Adlin Tengku Mahamood who flew down from the mountain on a tandem paraglider.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Over 400 Bornean ethnographic artifacts in Holland to come home soon

KUCHING: More than 400 Bornean ethnographic artifacts will be returned to Sarawak Museum from a museum in the City of Delft in the Netherlands.

The artifacts were symbolically handed over by Delft deputy mayor Ferrie Forster and director of Heritage Delft Janelle Moerman to Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Hamzah and director of Sarawak Museum Department Ipoi Datan held at Prinsehof Museum in Delft recently.

“The return complements the Sarawak Museum’s own collection and it augurs well to assist in achieving its vision of becoming the ‘Global Centre of Bornean Heritage by 2030’.

The Sarawak government is keen to ensure that such artifacts that originated from Borneo would be returned to its original abode,” said Abdul Karim at the handing-over ceremony through Sarawak Museum’s press statement received here yesterday.

The statement also said that in early next year after the artifacts have arrived in Sarawak, an exhibition will be set up at the Textile Museum in Kuching  to showcase a selection of Nusatara artifacts to the public.


Friday, November 24, 2017

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation - An Unconventional Hero

There’s something to be said about conservationists and their quest to save the world. They’re relentless and driven. “We have to be,” remarks Wong Siew Te wryly, “...but it’s possible to make a difference,” he adds after a pause.

He looks a little travel-weary as he sits across me in the crowded KLIA2 cafeteria. Securing an interview with the CNN Hero hadn’t been easy, as he’s been “living out of his suitcase” as he describes it. “I use every opportunity I get to raise awareness,” he says, telling me that he had just flown from Hanoi after attending the 9th East and Southeast Asian Wild Animal Rescue Network Conference held in Vietnam. “We’ve got a few hours to talk before I fly back to Sabah,” he tells me matter-of-factly.

“You’ve been hailed as a ‘Superman of sorts’,” I begin, wasting no time and he laughs heartily. “It’s an amazing opportunity to put the plight of the sun bears in the international spotlight,” he says of his recent achievement of being hailed by the global television network CNN as a ‘CNN Hero’.

For Wong, every media attention he has been getting is an “opportunity” to spread his message of conservationism. “I used to call the sun bear a forgotten species. When I first started almost two decades ago, most people didn’t know they even existed. Now that’s beginning to change and thanks to international attention, the message of protecting this wildlife is spreading to a larger audience.”

The 48-year-old wildlife biologist has been gaining attention both locally and internationally for his tireless work in championing and protecting the smallest bear species in the world — the sun bear. From being conferred the “Wira Negaraku” by the Prime Minister’s Office to being hailed as one of CNN’s Heroes, or as the global network describes as “everyday people doing extraordinary things to change the world”, Wong is not one to rest on his laurels.

“There’s still so much to do,” he says earnestly. After all, the founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok, Sabah is on a mission to “be the voice of the sun bears” and to fight for their survival in the wild.

Bear-ing a burden

Many have heard about larger bear species like the ferocious Grizzly or the more docile American Black Bears but the diminutive sun bears remain the least known and least studied species. Historically, sun bear populations were found in most of Southeast Asia but the total population has seen a drastic decline by at least 30 per cent (IUCN 2007).

Although sun bears have been listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species in 2007, the current status remains unknown because there still isn’t enough information about wild sun bear populations. “It was worse when I first started,” recalls Wong.

As a young Masters student working on his thesis on the “The ecology of Malayan sun bear in the lowland tropical rainforest of Sabah, Borneo”, Wong worked alongside Dr Christopher Servheen from the University of Montana, where the former was pursuing his undergraduate studies on wildlife biology. The professor had come to his class to give a talk on his projects working with various bear species, and Wong soon found out that he was looking for a Malaysian research assistant to help him with his pioneering sun bear project in Malaysia.

He quickly volunteered for the position: “I told him ‘Hey I’m your man!’”. In 1998, Wong completed his degree, got into the Masters programme and snagged the coveted position as Servheen’s research assistant for the sun bear project in Sabah.

Still, the project was fraught with many challenges. For one, there were no precedent for researching sun bears anywhere in the world. “It dawned on me that I was working with a very rare mammal whose numbers were very low and nobody had studied them before.” The lack of data meant that Wong had to rely on his own creativity to track down the elusive wildlife. “It was all one big question mark.

How do we trap these bears to study them? How do we even see them?” he says, recounting with a chuckle that it took at least four very frustrating months of trying to outsmart the bears before he managed to trap his first wild sun bear. “I named it Dally” he says with a laugh because it was found within the 438-square-kilometre tract of the relatively undisturbed Danum Valley lowland dipterocarp forest in Sabah.


Sarawak banks on rich biodiversity to boost tourism

KUCHING: The tropical rainforest in Sarawak – recognised as the oldest of its kind in the world – still has many ‘gems’ that have yet to be discovered and explored.

Permanent secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datu Ik Pahon Joyik said the state is banking on this attribute, along the ‘myths and mystery of Sarawak rainforest’, through its tourism tagline: ‘Sarawak — Where adventure lives’.

“It (Sarawak) is blessed and is rich in ecosystem and biodiversity,” he spoke during the ‘Sarawak Focus’ session of the 13th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) at Borneo Convention Centre (BCCK) yesterday, where he presented the paper entitled ‘Sarawak As A Premium Tourism Destination’.

Ik Pahon said the state government strives to conserve and practice sustainable management of the island environment, seeing that Sarawak holds great potential as a premium destination for tourists through the consolidation and strengthening of its existing products and services.

“Sarawak can become the world’s last bastion of pristine environment. Our Unesco World Heritage-status Gunung Mulu National Park and other national parks possess their own unique features and content as far as geosystem and wildlife are concerned.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak banks on rich biodiversity to boost tourism

Reaching top of Borneo by helicopter and paragliding

KOTA KINABALU: There are other options to reach the top of Sabah’s most iconic mountain, Mount Kinabalu other than climbing up – by using helicopter and paragliding.

This is proven by Sabah Parks Board of Trustees chairman Dato’ Seri Tengku Dr Zainal Adlin Tengku Mahamood.

“We made a successful historical helicopter landing and tandem paragliding after that on 16 November at 0700 hours.

“The historical landing on Mount Kinabalu summit plateau 3932m was done with single engine helicopter Bell 206 Jet Ranger by Captain Jack Bianncchi of Layang Layang Aerospace, guided by me.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Once in a Lifetime Journey: Fun Facts About Sabah state in East Malaysia you never knew

The geographical division of Borneo is sometimes confusing to understand. It is the third largest non-continental island in the world (after Greenland and New Guinea) and shares space with the nation of Brunei and Indonesia’s Kalimantan region. I have met many people on my travels who are still unsure if Borneo belongs to Malaysia, Indonesia or is its own country.

Let’s clear the air quickly.

The island itself is called Borneo and consists of the five Indonesia provinces that make up Kalimantan, the Islamic sultanate of Brunei and the northwest area of the island known as Malaysian Borneo or officially East Malaysia, which includes the constituents of Sabah and Sarawak (together making 26% of the population of Borneo). 

Each part of Borneo is therefore administered by different countries. So next time someone tells you they’re going to Borneo, you can show off your geographical skills by asking them to be more specific.

East Malaysia is divided into two states. The northern tip of Borneo is called Sabah (capital Kota Kinabalu or KK) and Sarawak (capital Kuching) covers the north-west area of the island.

1. Malay or Chinese

It was reported in 2015 that Sabah’s population amounted to 3,5 million, making it the third most populous state in Malaysia with the highest non-citizen population. Although Borneo is surrounded by mainland Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, the largest group of non-indigenous Sabahans is in fact ethnic Chinese, mostly of Hakka descent, who make up close to 10% of the population. So while Bahasa Malaysia (national language) and English are widely spoken, there are also a lot of Mandarin speakers in Borneo.

2. Land Beneath the Wind

Sabah is known as ‘Land Beneath the Wind’ because it is located 6? north of the equator, just below the tropical typhoon belt. It misses the devastating effects of the typhoons that frequently hit neighbouring Philippines. Being an equatorial country, Sabah experiences year-round summer of 22-33?C for most areas, with Kinabalu Park being the exception, with temperatures dropping to as low as 2?C up on the mountain.


Pullman Miri Waterfront holds Christmas tree lighting ceremony

MIRI: Pullman Miri Waterfront began its year-end festivities with a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony on Tuesday.

Over 200 guests, including Interhill Group chief operating officer (hospitality division) Eric Tan, attended the event.

Hotel manager Jayson Chong said in the spirit of Christmas, the hotel will distribute gifts to Sarawak Children’s Cancer Society Miri, Miri Methodist Children’s Home, Miri Hospital Paediatric Ward, and Catholic Society for the Urban Poor.

Tenby International School Miri Year 2 pupils sang Christmas songs led by Expressive Arts and Technology Department head Sara Hill, while a group from St Columba’s Church sang Christmas carols conducted by Josephine Augustine.

Made with recycled drinking bottles collected by the hotel throughout the year, the 16-foot Christmas tree features in the ‘Guess the Bottles on this Tree’ contest, runs until Dec 18.

The winner will receive a two-day, one-night stay in a deluxe room with breakfast for two.


Tourism rakes in RM6.39 bln in first 10 months for Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The tourism sector in Sabah raked in a revenue of RM6.396 billion in the first 10 months of 2017, says Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

He said from the revenue earned, the state government paid RM741.15 million to the federal government in the form of corporate and income tax, including Goods and Services Tax, while another RM2.915 billion was injected into the state economy.

He said the remainder comprised company profits (25 per cent) and foreign remittance (20 per cent).

“Although the tourism sector does not contribute directly to the state government, it is still an important sector as it has huge impact on the state economy via spillover effects like employment opportunities for locals in the services sector,” Masidi said in the ministry’s winding-up speech at the state assembly here yesterday.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sabah's thriving tourism industry will benefit all stakeholders

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry will ensure that the state’s flourishing tourism industry will benefit all relevant stakeholders, its minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said on Wednesday.

"The ministry's aim is to look into the needs of villagers who are involved in tourism by (ensuring the) distribution of tourists to (their) districts via the Visit District Year, which is approaching.

"Moreover, (we will address the) challenges (faced by the industry) in terms of accommodation availability in the state capital, where four and five-star hotels are fully-booked until Chinese New Year next year," he said in reply to Datuk Samsudin Yahya's (BN-Sekong) question at the 14th state assembly sitting on whether the Ministry will organise a Visit Sabah Year to boost the state’s tourism industry.

As the country’s second-busiest international flight hub, Sabah receives 174 international and 410 domestic flights weekly.

For the first ten months of 2017, the state recorded a 10.5 per cent increase in tourist arrivals, comprising 1.4 million international and 2.1 million local visitors.


Fancy dress among highlights at Borneo Bird Run

SANDAKAN: The organising committee of the 2nd Borneo Bird Run, led by Cede Prudente and Teo Chee Kim, recently paid a courtesy visit to Chief Conservator of the Forests, Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) Datuk Sam Mannan.

They expressed their sincere thanks to Datuk Sam Mannan and SFD for their support to the event all these years. The committee has also invited him to be the special guest to flag off the Borneo Bird Run on Dec 3, which Sam has kindly accepted the invitation.

To be held again at the iconic RDC (Rainforest Discovery Centre) next month, an 8km adventure route awaits those who seek greater challenge, while a 2km fancy dress fun run will also be back by popular demand where attractive prizes await for the most eye-catching costume on that day.

Supported by the Sabah Forestry Department & Sabah Tourism Board, it is hope that this event will not only aims to provide a platform to promote and encourage healthy lifestyle for the local community, but more importantly, to continue to raise awareness of the need to protect our environment & wildlife species.

And there is no better way to do this than to let the masses to experience the joy and challenge of running through our rainforest.

Chairman of the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club, Gary Albert believes that the run will not only allow the public to enjoy the beauty of our rainforest, but will also let the family have some fun together. He would also like to express sincere appreciation to all partners of this year’s run.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Fancy dress among highlights at Borneo Bird Run

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Bidroom: Borneo – the Island of Three Nations

As a third largest island in the World Borneo is known worldwide. However, many people believe it to be a country, while in fact, three different nations administrate it. It is a unique land in terms of both nature and politics. Today we will have a look at its peculiarities.

But First, What is Borneo?

Before diving into its political system maybe we should introduce you to some of the basic facts about this incredible land.

Borneo is surrounded by other islands. It almost looks like the pearl of its region, lying between the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, in the extreme southwest of the Pacific Ocean.

Its location means it has a tropical climate, with only two seasons, wet and dry. Borneo is a rather humid land, mostly due to the rainforest covering half of the island. That and a primarily mountainous landscape creates quite a treat to the eye.

There are over 200 different ethnic groups inhabiting Borneo. They are known as the Dayaks. On top of that, the island is politically divided among Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

Indonesian Borneo

Indonesian territory covers approximately 73 percent of the area of the island, so we will describe that part first.

It is called Kalimantan, which is actually Indonesian name for the entire island of Borneo. It means “burning weather island” and refers to the high temperatures on the island throughout the year.

Indonesian Borneo is divided into five provinces, Central, North, South, East and West Kalimantan. Together they cover the entire southern part of the island as well as half of its northern part.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Bidroom: Borneo – the Island of Three Nations

17 million turtle hatchlings released to sea in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The RM1 million allocation for turtle conservation under the State Budget 2018 reflects the State Government’s seriousness in conservation efforts, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.

Masidi said an estimated 17 million turtle hatchlings have been released to the sea since the government became involved in turtle conservation.

He said this at a press conference after witnessing the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) and Sabah Parks Board of Trustees yesterday.

Masidi said the signing of the MoU will enable Sabah Parks to receive continuous guidance in its publications from Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, besides enhancing the cooperation between the two bodies in terms of the quality and types of books produced.

He said the cooperation between DBP and Sabah Parks have been established since 2004. To date, eight books authored by Sabah Parks staff have been published under the guidance of DBP.

The two bodies are also in the process of producing an encyclopedia on Sabah Parks that will enlighten readers on the biodiversity, conservation efforts and uniqueness in all the parks.

Masidi hoped that the natural treasures under Sabah Parks could be shared with Malaysians and even the international community through the publication of such books.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Thousands converge on Kuching Waterfront for Sarawak Regatta finals

KUCHING: Thousands of people, locals and foreigners alike, thronged the Kuching Waterfront yesterday for the final day of the 10-day Sarawak Regatta 2017.

The highlight of the finals was the highly-anticipated crowning of this year’s ‘Raja Sungai’ (King of the River) – the honour of which went to Team Landas 11, earning them RM10,000.

The representatives of the Land and Survey Department were racing neck-to-neck with their rivals from Yayasan Sarawak, who placed second.

Landas 11 clocked seven minutes and 40 seconds – five seconds ahead of Yayasan Sarawak.Placing third was Team Landas 31, which recorded seven minutes and 54 seconds.

Another attraction at this year’s Sarawak Regatta – themed ‘Race for Harmony’ – was the newly-opened Darul Hana Bridge, spanning over Sarawak River – almost above the finishing line.

Spectators took the opportunity to take up spots along the pedestrian bridge to have a better view of the races.

The grand event yesterday was graced by Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, who was greeted by Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and his wife Toh Puan Datuk Patinggi Raghad Kurdi Taib, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg and his wife Datin Patinggi Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, and also Culture, Arts, Tourism, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.


‘End in Sipadan’ diving campaign takes four years to plan

SEMPORNA: As the ‘End in Sipadan’ dive trail campaign finally came to an end, the question on everyone’s mind was “How did it all come about?”

What makes ‘End in Sipadan’ campaign so unique is that it will attract tourists to come to Sabah not only to dive in Sipadan but also to explore the many dive sites in the state.

According to Sabah Backpackers Association president Richie Lee, the ‘End in Sipadan’ idea materialized after four years of brainstorming and planning.

“The idea first came about when I was elected as president of the Sabah Backpackers Association (SBA).

“We wanted to create something different and to promote and put Sabah on the world map as one of the great dive sites our state can offer.

“Octavius (Mari Mari Sepanggar Island Lodge owner Dares Saham Asaad) came out with an idea of creating dive trails to connect several dive sites in Sabah.

“After many hours of hard work, brainstorming, planning and collaborating with Sabah Tourism and Culture Ministry (Motac), we finally launched ‘End in Sipadan’ in April at Mari Mari Sepanggar and ending its dive trail in Sipadan Island in Semporna.

“So I dare say that the ‘End in Sipadan’ is actually the brainchild, or how I like to put it, the “Octavius Blue Print” because without his knowledge and years in this industry, ‘End in Sipadan’ would never materialize,” said Lee during a three-day stay at ND Diver Lodge in Semporna.

The ‘End in Sipadan’ campaign started its dive trail in Sepanggar and making its way up to Mantanani Island, then to Kudat and back down along the east coast to Lahad Datu and finally ending in Sipadan.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Once in a Lifetime Journey: Guide to Sabah State including Kota Kinabalu and Kinabalu Park

Once in a Lifetime Journey was a guest at Sutera Sanctuary Lodges which is a member of the Secret Retreats collection and of the Sabah Tourism Board on this trip. As always, all opinions expressed in this article are our own.

As an expat living in Singapore, I’m constantly trying to find new places that are close by so that I can escape for a relaxing weekend. I have written about Bintan and Batam in Indonesia before, and while they are great getaways for a relaxing weekend on the beach and should not be overlooked, I found myself wanting a new experience. So when the opportunity to explore Malaysian Borneo came up, we couldn’t pass up on the offer.

If you have been following me for a while, you will know that I have visited Malaysia and Borneo countless times before. I had an adventure among the mangroves in Langkawi, picked strawberries in the Cameron Highlands, explored the culture and heritage in Brunei and swam with turtles in Borneo.

I have also dived in world renowned Sipadan. Yet the call to encounter a new part of this region was an experience that I did not want to miss out on. So here’s my guide to Sabah State including Kota Kinabalu and Kinabalu Park.

Where is Sabah and Kota Kinabalu

Situated close to Brunei and sharing land space with Kalimantan, Kota Kinabalu, or what locals call KK, is a quick 2,5hr flight from Singapore. Its location, just below the tropical typhoon belt, is warm year-round with temperatures usually not dropping below 22ᵒC in the day. This is why it is given the nickname “Land Below the Wind” and it was perfect for me as I’m not a fan of cold climates.

The infrastructure-ready and coastal capital city of the Sabah state in Malaysian Borneo has all bells and whistles you’d expect of a modern city, yet surrounded by the most lush jungle and tropical reefs to easily escape to, such as Manukan Island which is a short 15min ferry ride away or UNESCO-listed Kota Kinabalu Park, also a short 2hr drive away.

A brief history of Kota Kinabalu

Once part of the Bruneian Empire, Kota Kinabalu changed to the hands of the British in the 19th century when the British North Borneo Company (BNBC) established its first settlement near Gaya Island. Kota Kinabalu has seen various changes in its tumultuous history. Its various names it has been given signify state of constant flux.

It was originally known as Deasoka (“below the coconut tree”), then Api Api (“fire”), which became Singgah Mata (“pleasing to the eye”), Jesselton during the British occupancy (after Charles Jessel, vice-chairman of the BNBC), and finally Kota Kinabalu, where kota can mean “fort”, “town”, or a “city”. Kinabalu comes from nearby Mount Kinabalu which is said to be the highest peak in Malaysia, standing at 4,095m. To the west lies the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

The BNBC occupied the area of Gayah Bay from 1882 to 1897, after which the the indigenous Bajau-Suluk chief Mat Salleh, destroyed the settlement by burning it to the ground. After a brief relocation in what is now known as Sepanggar Bay, the BNBC moved once again to Api Api as it was near the North Borneo Railway and was a prime location to establish a port. The name of the area changed to Jesselton and became a hub for trading in the North Borneo area, mainly dealing in rubber, rattan, honey, and wax.

When the Japanese took over Borneo during World War II the name was changed back to Api. A famous uprising known as the Jesselton Revolt occurred in 1943, where local inhabitants known as the Kinabalu Guerrillas unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the Japanese.

The Borneo Campaign in 1945 saw the Allied Forces bomb most of the area afterwhich only 3 buildings were left intact. The Japanese officially surrendered North Borneo in September 1945, leaving the remains of the ruined location to the BNBC. The expenses to rebuild the area were so devastating that North Borneo was ceded to the British Crown in 1946.


Borneo Safari thrill for adventure seekers

IF there was any doubt about the popularity of the annual International Borneo Safari Off-Road Challenge, the 27th edition that ended last week would have quashed it.

Not only did it draw the biggest number of participants (with 412 four-wheel drive vehicles and 1,168 hardcore adventurers, including a handful of journalists, including yours truly), this year’s Safari showed that the thrill was not gone!

The eight-day expedition took us to the highlands of Kimanis, 60km from Kota Kinabalu. The route moved the convoy of vehicles and adventurers to Kampung Ovai, Papar, and Kampung Mandalipau before disappearing for five days into the so-called hardcore session, and from there to the final checkpoint in Kota Kinabalu.

Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, the Sabah Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, flagged off the event at Tong Hing and Sabah Customs Department.

Also present were Sabah Four Wheel Drive Association president and event director Faez Einstein, Isuzu Malaysia chief operating officer Masayuji Suzuki, and UMW Grantt Sdn Bhd general manager Amri Hashim.

Right after the lunch, the convoy headed for a construction site behind the Benoni Commercial Centre in Papar for the special stage, or “prologue” of the Borneo Safari.

Already a major sponsor of the Borneo Safari since the last decade, Isuzu Malaysia came on as strong as ever this year. As of last year, it reserved three models for the journalists: the seven-seater Isuzu mu-X SUV, two 2.5-litre Isuzu D-Max (Red and Black Monster), and the 3.0-litre D-Max V-Cross (White Monster).

The three modified Isuzu D-Max “Monsters” have been the ride for the Isuzu media team for four years now. And as a result, some believe, the D-Max “Monster” was declared Car of the Year twice in the Borneo Safari.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo Safari thrill for adventure seekers

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Turquoise Holidays: Travel Diaries - Beautiful Borneo

1. If you were describing the wildlife experience in Borneo in three words, what would they be?

Breath-taking, Spectacular, Unforgettable

2. When you were in the jungle, where did you stay and what was your favourite thing about each lodge?

We started at My Nature Resort which is the perfect stop over for a night before heading into the depths of the rainforest. My favourite thing about this resort is how close it is to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre which you can visit the morning after your night’s stay and is only a short drive away from My Nature Resort.

Here you’re able to watch and learn about the process of reintroducing the Orang Utan back into their natural habitat, which is a truly humbling experience. A visit here also guarantees that you’ll see these gentle, ginger apes which is not always that common when staying within the rainforest.

From My Nature, we headed to Abai Jungle Lodge which is a delightful lodge situated on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. Guests shouldn’t expect five-star luxury here but it’s a charming, comfortable and clean place to stay.

My favourite thing about Abai was that as it’s further away from some of the other lodges on the river, the wildlife experience is more exclusive as there are no other boats around when you venture out in search of wildlife.

They also have strong links with the local village which allows guests to visit and interact with the local communities. After our stay at Abai, we moved an hour up stream to  Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge, a larger and slightly more luxurious lodge than Abai.

Their large, bougainvillea clad deck is absolutely beautiful and my favourite feature. It overlooks the gushing river and the tremendous virgin rainforest providing the most breath-taking view and an ideal spot for sipping some sundowners after a day out channelling the inner David Attenborough in you.

Our final jungle stop was Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley, a 4-hour drive away, 2 of which are via a bumpy road through the rainforest which is an experience in itself! A stay here, in my opinion, is imperative and is the perfect way to round up your jungle experience of a lifetime!

The jungle treks, canopy walks and night safaris were my favourite experiences and a wonderful contrast to those on the river. One thing that will stay with me forever is the panoramic view from my private pool, the perfect place from which to watch the sun setting behind the misty rainforest and listen to the sounds that come from within it.


Fun and surf in Kudat

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s tip of Borneo in Kudat will be alive with music, fun activities and water sports from Nov 24 to 26 as the Music and Surf Festival takes place during these days.

The event, which will be held at Kalampunian Beach, Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, will see an array of activities including a surfing competition and concert by local artistes for the public to enjoy.

Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said the three-day event was aimed at promoting the beautiful beaches of Kudat as a tourism destination for outdoor activities and surf culture.

“We also want to showcase the tradition and customs of the Rungus community there,” he said during a press conference on Thursday.

This festival will kickstart with a surfing competition on Nov 24, exclusively for participants while those who wish to try out this new sport in Sabah can do so the next two days.

Joniston said Kudat is named one of the best surfing destinations because of its seasonal waves varying from one to six feet, sandy beaches and clear water.

He said although surfing is a new adventure sport, especially among locals in Sabah, it is fast gaining popularity.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Fun and surf in Kudat

Hornbill Skyways proposed to take over MASwings’ routes in Sarawak

KUCHING: A proposal has been made for Hornbill Skyways to fly routes that MASwings will cease operating next year.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Masing said maintaining the routes is necessary for connectivity.

“From next year MASwings will cease operations for three routes in Sarawak (Kuching- Miri, Kuching-Kota Kinabalu, Kuching-Sibu) so that should be replaced by another airline.

“So we are looking at it and at first we thought AirAsia will be the best because they are flying everywhere. However, if AirAsia is not very keen, I’ll suggest that we have our own airline (Hornbill Skyways) to take over.

So let them take over and the one who takes over will be subsidised by the government as we are subsidising MASwings,” Masing, who is also Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation, told reporters at the State Legislative Assembly yesterday.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Marine Protected Areas in Sabah to be gazetted

KOTA KINABALU: Efforts are now underway to submit for the State Cabinet consideration additional areas throughout Sabah that are to be gazetted as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and this will definitely go beyond the 10 percent threshold recommended by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Assistant Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said Sabah currently has about 1.02 million hectares of MPAs.

As had been announced by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, during the Pacom Conference recently, Pang said the waters around Mantanani would soon be submitted to the State Cabinet to be gazetted as a MPA.

“This move is the first among many more to come in efforts to meet IUCN recommendation for all nations to have at least 10 percent territorial waters to be conserved through MPAs,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Pang, who chairs the Sabah Anti Fish Bombing Committee, lauded the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on its seizure of close to 50 pieces of explosives used for fish bombing during a raid on five pump boats at Mantanani Kecil in Kota Belud recently.

“I would like to dearly congratulate the MMEA Sabah and Labuan branch under the capable leadership of First Admiral Mohd Zubil Mat Som and Kota Kinabalu MMEA director, First Admiral Adam Aziz, on the seizure.

“This latest apprehension will surely go a long way to safeguard the waters around Mantanani, which is currently a hotspot for tourism activities,” he said.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Monkey's Tale: Borneo, Part 4 – Exotic Flowers, Crazy Monkeys and Headhunters


After a week in the Mulu jungle we were ready for a few days in a city, and Kuching is a lovely city to unwind in and re-energize yourself.

It is located on the Sarawak River at the edge of the South China Sea. 

There are vibrant neighborhoods such as New and Old China Towns with interesting old Chinese and colonial architecture, bustling local shops and narrow winding streets.

It makes good use of the waterfront with a nice walkway along it with restaurants and shops.

We haven’t mentioned food in a while because there hadn’t been any worth mentioning, until now.

We found a few amazing restaurants here. Many restaurants use local jungle greens and fruits as the main ingredients in their tasty dishes.

At one restaurant, the kitchen staff came outside to their garden, cut a few leaves off of one of the plants and took them back to the kitchen – now that’s fresh!

After a couple of days wandering around Kuching, it was time to get back to the jungle. We headed to Gunung Gading National Park for 2 days.

This park is famous for its Rafflesia flowers. We saw this exotic flower on our own in Kinabalu Park, but in Gunung Gading you have to take a guide to see the flowers.


Sarawak Tourism Board attends World Music Expo (Womex) to promote Sarawak’s Rainforest World Music Festival

KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and their representatives attended this year’s World Music Expo (Womex) in Poland from Oct 25 to 29 to promote Sarawak’s Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF).

Attending this 23rd edition of Womex were STB director of events, Angelina Bateman, event manager Sarren Michael and RWMF artistic director Jun Lin Yeoh promoting RWMF among the international crowd.

“Sarawak’s unique culture and music truly shone during Womex, supporting the fact that there is no better destination for an event celebrating the uniqueness of world music from many different lands than Sarawak and the RWMF,” said Angelina.

The Expo was attended by local musician and artiste Alena Murang and musician Eldrick Udos or ‘Bob’ from the band At Adau, both of them having performed at the RWMF and are impassioned supporters of maintaining and passing on the Bornean cultural heritage.

They participated in Womex to promote Sarawak’s cultural music as well as their own brand, while networking with attending key players in the World Music industry.

“This is a big step that has been given to us from At Adau and mainly Sarawak to build the bridge across the world to help achieve our objective of enlightening the world about the beauty and uniqueness of Sarawakian music, arts and culture,” Bob said after participating in the Expo.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Borneo: Hanging with great apes

Around the corner of the jungle track we came... and there was Minah hanging high above by one powerful, red, hairy limb, another limb was holding baby Anoi, who was using her mother as a climbing frame, while the digits at the end of the remaining limbs - it was hard to tell if they were hands or feet - were clutching a pile of bananas and a coconut.

As we watched, she carefully peeled each of the bananas, dropped the skins on to the jungle floor, pushed away the inquisitive Anoi and enjoyed a pleasant breakfast.

When the bananas were finished, she tore the covering off the coconut, whacked it hard against a tree trunk, broke it open and devoured the tasty white flesh.

Now and again she gave Anoi a titbit but mostly the baby was left to her own devices to snooze, climb or pull sad faces.

Watching this hairy mother and child it was pretty easy to believe that humans and orangutans share 97 per cent of their DNA.

We were at the Semenggoh Orangutan Centre where the orangutans live in the wild except that twice a day some supplementary food - bananas, sweet potatoes, occasionally mangoes and coconuts - are put out for those who want it.

Our expedition ship Orion II, which was cruising around the island of Borneo, had berthed that morning in the Malaysian city of Kuching and the prospect of seeing orangutans had everyone off the ship in record time.

During the bus trip from the wharf to the centre, guide Joe told us there were 26 adult orangutans and 15 babies living in Semenggoh but the number turning up for a feeding session varied widely.

"If none turn up that is the best thing because it means they are surviving on their own in the wild," he said. "It is not so good for the tourists but it is good for the orangutans."

Joe also told us a few scary stories about orangutans, designed to ensure we listened to any instructions from him and the other guides.

We should, he said, be particularly careful if Ritchie, the alpha male at Semenggoh, should happen to turn up, because he was extremely powerful, probably weighed in at 140kg, and could be very aggressive.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo: Hanging with great apes

Mulu National Park gains more attention

KUCHING: Unesco World Heritage site Mulu National Park is getting a lot of attention via tourism campaigns and documentaries aired in China and other countries.

Assistant Minister of Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the strategies included a tactical campaign to put Miri as a preferred destination to visit, positioning Miri and Mulu as a twin destination.

“This ongoing campaign was launched in June last year together with MASwings and Tropical Adventure Tours Sdn Bhd in Miri,” he said in reply to a question from Datuk Sebastian Ting (BN-Piasau). Film and movie promotions such as the Chinese movie ‘Blue Tears’ highlighting attractions around Miri and Mulu would be seen by millions in China and other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, Food Trail of Miri was also shown in local television channel targeting domestic and Brunei markets.

“China Central Television 4 (CCTV4) made a documentary on Mulu in July 2016 and was shown in November and December the same year, giving Mulu wide publicity in China,” said Lee, adding that the ministry also promoted Mulu at the Brunei Travel Fair in September this year, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Kuala Lumpur and Kuching.

There were also familiarisation trips to Miri and Mulu with agents from Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Australia, as well as a visit from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) honorary secretary-general last year. Mulu National Park was also presented as a paper at the Hebei International Tourism Conference in Baoding, Hebei Province, China last year.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Miss Filatelista: Staying at Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan

While we often stay in locally owned boutique hotels, eco-lodges, and homestays sometimes we can't resist a lap of luxury, especially when we know we're going to spend our days getting dirty and exploring incredible nature.

International luxury hotel chains aren't always mean corporate zombies that do nothing for their local communities. The opposite is true of Four Points by Sheraton in Sandakan, Borneo, Malaysia.

During our stay the hotel management was preparing to host a charity ball to support local underprivileged children that are desperately seeking medical treatment, and it was a sold out event due to their tireless promotion! We even caught the hotel manager practicing his piano performance in the lobby for the big event!

This commitment to improving their local community stole our hearts. The divine king-size comfort bed, cloud-like robes, and infinity pool didn't hurt, either.

We were invited to stay at the lovely Four Points hotel during our adventures in Sandakan and couldn't have been more grateful for such a comfortable place to lay our heads after long days out adventuring in the magnificent nearby wilderness.

Four Points by Sheraton is actually the only international hotel in Sandakan and has a prime location. Four Points is situated centrally in the small town of Sandakan at Harbour Square which is located right on the waterfront. The hotel has stunning views of the sea from every single window that we saw!


Monkey's Tale: Borneo, Part 3 – Mountains, Caves and Bats

Gunung Mulu National Park

This park is deep in the middle of the Borneo jungle, close to the Brunei border, and accessible only by plane.

Gunung Mulu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Area, famous for its large caves.

We first visited Lang Cave. It’s one of the smallest caves in the park, but is still massive in size with thousands of stalactites and stalagmites slowly growing to join each other.

We felt that these intricate features made it the most beautiful of all of the caves in the park.

Beside Lang Cave is Deer cave which is one of the largest caves in the world with a resident population of over 3 million bats.

Because of the number of bats, there are huge mounds of bat guano inside the cave.

You can smell the guano for at least 100 m away, and inside the cave, the smell is suffocating.

One of the biggest thrills is to come at dusk and see the 3 million bats exit the cave by the thousands to feed on bugs.

Streams of exiting bats twist and turn trying to escape bat hawks waiting at the cave’s entrance.


Sabah looking into impact of MASwings’ routes cut

KOTA KINABALU: The announcement on MASwings’ routes cut is being assessed by the Sabah government on its impact to the people.

With the trimming of the routes, there is also a possibility of fare hike if they are taken over by other airlines.

Yesterday State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the Sabah Tourism Board had been tasked to study the impact of the reduction of the regional communal airline services within the state and Sarawak.

“The question is whether other airlines will enjoy the rural routes subsidy that MASwings has?” he asked. “If the answer is no, then will the fares be more expensive for passengers?” Masidi said.

“And without the subsidies, will there be enough passenger load on these sectors to enable the airlines to maintain or lower their fares as well as improving flight frequencies,” he added.

In the past, Masidi had asked MASwings to consider renewing its current fleet or add more ATR aircraft to improve its services.

“The government has been very satisfied with their service in Sabah but they need to improve on some points.

“I think they need to have more aircraft because once in a while we hear about flights being cancelled. I was made to understand the reason is when one aircraft breaks down, it is difficult for another relief aircraft to take over the flight because they only have around 10 aircraft here to serve Sabah and Sarawak,” he had said.

Meanwhile, Sandakan Tourism Association president Johnny Lim said the ceasing of Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan sector by MASwing would be “damaging” for the industry in the east coast district.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Miss Filatelista: Kuching Travel Guide - What to Do, See, and Eat

Our Borneo adventure started in the Malaysian portion of the island which actually belongs to three countries.

Brunei and Indonesia join Malaysia to form the most bio-diverse place in the world. We spent our first week on the massive island in Kuching, the largest city in Borneo and the capital of Sarawak, the western Malaysian part of the island.

We were astonished by the nature we encountered giant Orangutans, divine food, and otherworldy hospitality in Kuching. As I am not typically amused by kitschy things I don't have many photos of the numerous cat statues to share with you but I will tell you that they aren't random–Kuching means cat in Malay!

Animal nicknames rein strong in this land that has 185 species of mammals, 530 species of birds, 166 species of snakes, 104 species of lizards, and more. Sarawak is known as the land of the hornbills, although sadly we didn't see any here.

Too bad as it's considered lucky to see them flying overhead. There are fifty-four species of hornbills, eight of which live in Sarawak including the Rhinoceros hornbill which is the state bird of Sarawak. We did see many more fascinating animals, discover which and where below!


We were invited to stay at the newly opened Meritin Hotel which is centrally located in the downtown district of Kuching right along the Kuching waterfront. The prime location of the boutique hotel made it incredibly easy to stroll around Kuching to explore the historical sites and try all the local delicacies from street food hawkers.

The attention to detail and design elements is apparent throughout–from luxurious modern amenities to the welcoming grey decor in the stunning lobby. Throughout artwork, traditional crafts, jewelry, and photography are on display that were sourced from local artisans.

The establishment is owned and operated by a local hotelier who made every effort to localize the hotel. Even the logo is an homage to the Chinese heritage in Kuching. The M in the logo was designed to appear like the Chinese character which means people and reflects the hotel's commitment to customer service.

The courteous staff at Meritin Hotel made our stay so memorable, we were always greeted with a warm smile and bow and the receptionist was happy to suggest day trip ideas and recommended the best restaurants to try.


Laura's Travel Blog: Borneo and Mount Kinabalu

Those of you following my travels closely might have noticed an absence of a Borneo blog; here, the delayed lowdown on Borneo and specifically, our trek to the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

With all my group tours booked and paid for in full before I left England, this was perhaps the one I was looking forward to the most. I’d chosen it partly because it involved ascending  Mount Kinabalu to 4095m, but also for its general activity levels and hiking trails over a three week period, in addition to the wildlife and national parks we’d see, most notably orangutans and turtles. As a bonus, this tour was an Intrepid “Original” tour, meaning its accommodation would be a step up from what I’d become accustomed to, and relative luxury.

After the glorious heat of Thailand, Borneo was certainly a step down in terms of the weather. Although temperatures mostly managed to reach mid to late twenties during the day, this was generally accompanied by several hours of rain each afternoon, followed by cooler temperatures. This advanced to entire days of unrelenting downpours by the end of my stay; I was informed the weather was unusual for the time of year – we were suffering the side effects of the typhoon in the Philippines. Joy.

After two months in Thailand, what struck me about Borneo was how well everyone could speak English there. In Thailand most people have learnt the basics, but with nowhere near the fluency of Malaysian Borneo.  Thankfully food prices were similarly cheap, with good evening meals frequently being £1.50-£3. Mmm, rendang.

I began my stay in Kuching, where I was able to catch up with a friend I’d made on my Indian trip in May; by complete coincidence she was there at the same time as me! My next priorities were as usual whilst on the road – doing laundry and finding a gym – leading to what are probably my most memorable gym experiences so far.

Upon finding an affordable one, I commenced my workout, only to be reprimanded two minutes later by a male staff member; I had stripped down to my Adidas sports bra, partly due to it being so hot – there was no aircon there – and secondly, wearing extra clothing merely creates extra laundry, so generally I don’t bother wearing more than I have to. 

Accompanying my sports bra was a matching pair (unusual for me!) of cycling shorts. This fashion achievement was apparently lost on the gym staff there who informed me it was not appropriate attire – I was in a Muslim country and therefore considered to be showing too much flesh; I was asked to wear a top over my sports bra, “for religious reasons”. There were only two guys in the gym when I arrived, neither of whom appeared to object, but – rules are rules.

Later, upon searching for mats to do floorwork, I couldn’t find any so decided the gym carpet would do. I’d be laundering everything anyway, and frankly, the carpet was probably cleaner than most gym mats. The staff, having caught on to the mischievous Brit frequenting the premises, were fast on their feet this time, entering within seconds of me lying down, carrying a mat for me to use. Upon asking where these were located, I was informed they are behind the desk (hidden) back at reception, which is in a separate room. Well, what’s the point of that?!