Friday, April 30, 2010

Sabah Fest 2010 - A moment worth waiting for

Kota Kinabalu: The Likas Sports Stadium has been abuzz the past week with hundreds of cultural performers from across Sabah rehearsing their moves for the Sabah Fest 2010 that kicks off with grand performances slated for tomorrow and Sunday at Magellan Sutera.

The highlight of the annual event in its 22nd year are the premier shows themed The Legendary Quest for Arung Salamiah - Semporna.

The ethnic groups on parade this time include the little known Bajau Kubang of Semporna, a Murut sub-ethnic group from Serudung, Kalabakan, the Tidong from Tawau, Orang Sungei from Kinabatangan, the Papar Kadazanduzun and Bruneian community from Bongawan.

Together, their traditional dances and rituals will form this year's highlights of an usually well acclaimed, colourful and inspiring grand display of Sabah's ethnic diversity and tolerance.

The show will open with an overture, and emerging to centre stage will be a Bajau Kubang maiden of exceptional beauty and grace - Salamiah, who is the desired dream chase for marriage from both her betrothed and a powerful chieftan.

The pretty maiden vanished when the chieftan tried to force her into it, driving her bethroed into embarking a long journey across Sabah in search of her whereabouts, starting from Bohaydulang, across to Tawau, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Papar, Bongawan, Tenom, Keningau, Serudung, Kalabakan and back to Semporna.

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Tawau Arts Fest will be a tourist attraction

Tawau: The district stands to become a tourist attraction once the Tawau Arts Festival is included in the State tourism calendar.

Sabah Cultural Board General Manager, Datu Rosmdi Datu Sulai, said if Semporna can be known for its Lepa Regatta, Tenom for its Kalimaran and Matunggung for its Gong Festival, then Tawau shall be known for its Arts Festival.

He said this when chairing the second Arts Festival Bimp-Eaga Taskforce Committee meeting held at the Tawau Municipal Council here, Thursday.

Rosmadi said the 23 ethnic backgrounds that exist in the district needed to be staged as an attraction for both domestic and foreign tourists.

"There are many interesting places to visit in Tawau and there is a variety of traditional food and an abundance of seafood...the only thing lacking is activities to promote them," he said.

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Brunei tourism in cruise mode

Majestic MS Costa Romantica docked at Muara Port

Swimming pool on board MS Costa Romantica

Shopping area inside MS Costa Romantica

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to James Kon and Brunei Press Sdn Bhd


By James Kon

Efforts to make Muara Port as the main gateway into the country by sea by increasing the connectivity is gaining momentum with the rise in number of cruise ships and shipping liners calling on the port.

Last year, 24 cruise liners carrying 20,599 passengers and 9,894 crews had called on Muara Port.

This year, 26 vessels are scheduled to dock at the port including two to six cruise liners per month and the number is expected to increase further by 2011.

Yesterday, Muara Port welcomed the arrival of the cruise ship MS Costa Romantica and container vessel MV Guang Ping on their maiden journey to Brunei.

Cruise ship MS Costa Romantica sailed from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei on its maiden voyage. The ship was carrying around 1,200 passengers and 550 crewmembers on board. Weighing 53,049 tonnes, measuring 220 metres in length and 14 decks high, the ship has the capacity to carry 1,690 passengers and 590 crews.

The cruise ship will arrive in Brunei four times every 14 days. The route it follows is Hong Kong-Manila-Kota Kinabalu-Brunei -Singapore-Ho Chi Minh-Da Nang-Hong Kong.

The docking of the new cruise vessel is expected to increase tourism, thus creating more business opportunities for local freight travel agents, tour companies and other related businesses.

Hj Awang Bujang bin Hj Tinkong, Acting Director of Ports Department, lauded the service offered by Costa Crociere SPA, Italy, the Principal of MS Costa Romantica as yet another milestone for the department to attract cruise vessels to call on Muara Port and increase connectivity with other major tourist destinations in the region.

Meanwhile, Captain of the ship Pietro Sinisi said, "We received a very warm welcome after arriving in Brunei. The passengers were presented with souvenirs and welcomed by songs. I hope that the welcoming ceremony would continue."

He also added that Muara Port has very good facilities like the cruise centre and so on.

Meanwhile the arrival of MV Guang Ping as an additional shipping service for importers and exporters is set to help reduce container sea freight charges.

Commenting on the concern of the high cost of shipping goods in and out of Brunei, Hj Awang Bujang said, "With the additional shipping service, container sea freight charges are expected to be reduced and Bruneian importers and exporters would have an additional choice of vessel.

"We are expecting freight charges to drop as more shipping liners are available. Importers and exporters will have more options to choose from and this logically will reduce the price," he explained.

"There are a total of eight shipping liners and with the arrival of MV Guang Ping, there are nine shipping liners now," he added.

MV Guang Ping, the 629 TEUs container vessel belonging to Geniki Lines Sdn Bhd, was built in September 2009. It is 110.08 metres in length and has a gross tonnage of 5,275. It will be deployed on a 10-day loop to cover Port Klang, Singapore, Pasir Gudang, Muara, Kota Kinabalu and back to Port Klang.

The Guang Ping will also provide services to Muara, Brunei Darussalam with Strait Borneo Express Services (SBX), offering a transit of 2.5 days in Muara.

The new service is expected to increase the container throughput at Muara Container Terminal thereby creating more business opportunities to local freight forwarders and transportation companies.

According to Johor-based Geniki Lines, around 3,500-4,000 TEUs are expected to be handled to and from Muara Port from the month of April to December this year.

In an interview with Mr Joseph Foo, General Manager of Geniki Lins, he said, "The objective of increasing our shipping lines to Muara is to strengthen our competitiveness in the East Peninsular. With the new shipping line of Muara, we have cut short the shipping time by 66 hours or two to five days."

In line with the strategic objectives of the Ministry of Communications and towards realising the vision of Muara Port becoming the hub of the BIMP-EAGA area, the Ports Department will continue its effort to attract and encourage more shipping liners to make frequent calls on the Muara Port without losing sight of the importance of maritime safety and security aspects.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sarawak River cruise promises a memorable experience for visitors

BE IT a leisurely sunset cruise, a starlight cruise party, a romantic wedding party or a corporate function, a cruise along Sarawak River from the Kuching Waterfront on board the mv Equatorial promises a memorable experience.

If you happen to be in Kuching, the Sarawak River Cruise is not to be missed. It’s a fantastic way to look at and experience the history of Kuching.

Cruising along Sarawak River, the main artery around which Kuching has grown, one will sail past the city’s historical landmarks and get unique insights and views of all aspect of traditional life by the river and the city.

While enjoying sumptuous meal on board the 120 feet by 20 feet vessel, one is entertained by the sweet sound of the sape – a traditional Orang Ulu musical instrument.

One may also choose to enjoy other on-board entertainment such as karaoke and piped music.

The double-decker mv Equatorial can accommodate up to 200 persons at any one time. The lower deck comprises an air-conditioned dining lounge, a mini bar and washrooms, while the upper deck has a sheltered sightseeing deck with an open-air performance stage.

Layar Warisan Sdn Bhd, which took over operations of the mv Equatorial in 2008, said the vessel had gone through a complete re-branding to provide a wide range of cruising experiences and improved service quality.

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Privilege is now extended to every Sabahan Mount Kinabalu climbers

Kota Kinabalu: Sutera Sanctuary Lodges which manages accommodation for would-be Mount Kinabalu climbers at Kinabalu Park has decided to extend its RM80 special fee - initially meant for natives - to all Sabahans.

However, as announced by the State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, the offer is only for bookings made through Sabah Parks and not valid for travel agents or any tourism-related agency.

The RM80 nett fee covers accommodation, including meals, at Gunting Lagadan at 11,000 ft. It said in a statement that the move is to offer a special privilege to all Sabahans the opportunity to climb Mount Kinabalu.

Climbers are also advised to produce a valid identification verifying their status of being a Sabahan.

The privilege is for a specific number of allocated beds that are available on a first come basis.

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International cruise terminal plan at Jesselton Point Waterfront

Kota Kinabalu: The SuriaGroup intends to transform the city port here into a bustling international cruise terminal as part of their Jesselton Point Waterfront development effort.

Costing billions of ringgit and stretching over 15 years, the terminal will have a meeting and convention centre, hotels, entertainment outlets, dining and shopping facilities, among others.

Its Chairman, Tan Sri Ibrahim Menudin, said the stumbling block was to resolve the transfer of the city port's existing general cargo operations to the Sapangar Bay Container Port (SBCP).

He said the land adjacent to SBCP has yet to be leased to SuriaGroup, adding work on the terminal could only start after the operations are shifted to this site.

"We urge the State Government to resolve the land issues and grant its approval as soon as possible so that we can relocate the general cargo operations here.

"That will also complete the facilities in SBCP," he said to reporters after Suria Capital Holding Berhad's 27th Annual General Meeting at the Sabah Ports Sdn Bhd office in Jalan Sapangar, Wednesday.

Ibrahim said once the land issue is put to rest, it would take two years to move the operations from the city port to SBCP and that the international cruise terminal could be built in two-three years thereafter.

This would attract more cruise ships to make Sabah a port of call, explaining that the city receives at least two cruise liners a month.

Continue reading at: International cruise terminal plan at Jesselton Point Waterfront
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Sarawak Tourism board joins hands with Brunei radio station

SARAWAK Tourism Board (STB) and Brunei Garrison Radio have established a joint venture to promote major tourism events in the two states.

STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said this working relationship with the radio network would go a long way in highlighting interesting activities and events in Sarawak to people in Brunei.

“The Brunei Garrison Radio network has wide coverage and reaches out to a lot of listeners there. By having a link with the network, we can promote our events to Bruneians and the expatriates there.

“Brunei is our closest neighbour and the tourism links we have with them is important. They are the main contributors to our tourism revenue,” he said, adding that the radio network had many expatriate listeners.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Tourism board joins hands with Brunei radio station
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sandakan Memorial Park a fitting tribute for fallen heroes

SANDAKAN: The Sandakan Memorial Park serves as a humble reminder of the high price of freedom and is fitting tribute to the many Australian and British soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said the beauty and serenity of the war memorial park made it difficult for people today to imagine the horrors and tragedies that occurred here more than 60 years ago.

Musa, whose speech was read out by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Peter Pang, said this at the Anzac Day dawn service held at the park here.

“We gather at this park to commemorate the courage of those men, to honour their strength and endurance and to preserve the memory of their sacrifice. We also remember the compassion of our own people, who risked and sacrificed their lives to help them,” said the Chief Minister.

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Over 50,000 throng Mukah to celebrate Kaul Festival

THE just-concluded nine-day Kaul Festival (Pesta Kaul) 2010 in the coastal town of Mukah in Sibu was a big hit among locals and tourists alike.

No fewer than 50,000 people participated in this festival of the Melanau community at the main celebration site in Kala Dana beach. The event started on April 17 and ended on April 25.

The Kaul Festival is an annual event unique to the Melanaus. It is held either in March or April and highlights the many facets of the Melanau community.

Traditionally, it is thanksgiving festival to appease the spirits of the farms, forests, land and sea.

The Melanaus express their gratitude to the spirits for keeping them safe throughout the monsoon season and make known their desire for a bountiful catch on fishing journeys.

In modern times, however, it is a celebration of harmonious existence and cultural appreciation.

This colourful beach festival, which has been in the Sarawak tourism calendar for many years, is one of the main attractions of the state.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Over 50,000 throng Mukah to celebrate Kaul Festival
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Malaysians’ hospitality makes Pata meeting a success

KUCHING: Malaysians’ hospitality, particularly the people of Sarawak, the state government, Tourism Malaysia and related agencies has made the hosting of the Pacific Area Travel Association (Pata) Annual Meeting here a successful bid, says Pata immediate-past chairman Phonsiri Manoharn.“The meeting has been very successful. It is the 59th annual meeting for all our Pata members. Malaysians’ hospitality, especially the people of Sarawak, are friendly and marvellous.

“They are friendly and helpful. Since we arrive at the airport, they have been taking good care and make us feel at home,” she told Bernama at a tree- planting event to mark the five-day Pata annual meeting at the Borneo Convention Centre beginning last Friday.

Describing her experience when she first set foot at the Kuching International Airport, Manoharn said she was amazed by the scenic surrounding and cleanliness of the airport.

“I was so surprised at the airport, it’s so beautiful, it’s very clean and brand new. I’ve never been to Sarawak before and Kuching especially,” she said.

She said the Borneo Convention Centre, the venue of the meeting, has state-of-the-art facilities.

“The venue itself is very good and the people there did their best to make us feel comfortable,” she said.

On the meeting, Manoharn said Pata elected a new chairman, Hiran Cooray, from Sri Lanka and a new team of board committee members.

The meeting also addressed several matters including deciding Macau as the next venue for Pata meeting in September and Beijing to host the meeting in April 2011.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Working closely with Pata in boosting Sarawak tourism

THE Tourism Ministry will intensify collaboration with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) to strengthen and diversify its global network.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit said that Pata chapters served as a valuable platform in boosting tourism as the association had a strong reputation.

“We look forward to collaborating with Pata in promoting sustainability in the Sarawak tourism industry. Malaysia has a lot to offer, and by networking with Pata, we can achieve this,” he said when officiating at the Pata Foundation Charity Gala Dinner at Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) near Kuching on Sunday.

Dawos said the state’s races and ethnic groups living in harmony in a pristine landscape would certainly be a dream attraction for many.

Over 100 Pata delegates were given a glimpse of this through performances and fun activities by SCV’s “warriors and maidens”.

The delegates also tasted local dishes and sweet delicacies.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

MASwings targets 1.1 mil passengers

KOTA KINABALU: MASwings has set a target of flying a record 1.1 million passengers within Sabah and Sarawak this year, said Malaysia Airlines chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid.

He said the target would be made possible with the latest 10th ATR aircraft which would enter its service by end of the month.

Mohd Munir said for the first three months this year, MASwings registered a commendable 150,000 passengers and hoped it would increase significantly with the additional aircraft.

“To date, we carry approximately 88,000 passengers each month, which represents a 24 per cent growth rate in passenger volume compared with that of last year,” he said in his speech in conjunction with Delivery of the 10th ATR72-500 Aircraft & Farewell ceremony to the last Fokker 50, at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, here yesterday.

Mohd Munir said the weekly flight frequency had increased from 400 flights per week in October 2007 to 600 flights per week last year, and a further increase to 900 flights per week this year.

“MASwings have, over the last two years, progressively increased the weekly frequencies, to continuously meet the ever growing demand for air travel within Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

Continue reading at: MASwings targets 1.1 mil passengers
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Sarawak expects to generate at least RM10 mil during jazz festival

SARAWAK expects to earn at least RM10 million in tourism revenue during the Miri International Jazz Festival on May 14 and 15 by luring expatriates from Brunei.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said Sarawak Tourism Board had found that the majority of expatriates in Brunei and Miri were music-lovers.

“This jazz festival is going to be bigger and more exciting than before. We are getting very good response thus far, especially from the expatriates, not just from Shell here in Miri, but also from the other international companies.

“We also expect to see a big turnout from expatriates who are in Brunei. We are talking about a huge number of expatriates in Brunei, mainly Filipinos, Thais, Indonesians, Europeans, Chinese, Australians, Koreans and Japanese.

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Sarawak wants more flights

THE Sarawak government is seeking closer ties with Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata), hoping that the association can help improve the state’s air connectivity.

Land Development Minister Datuk Seri James Masing told Pata delegates during a welcoming dinner on Saturday night in Kuching that poor connectivity remained the state’s number one tourism hurdle.

Masing, a state Tourism Minister in the 1990s, said Sarawak was still stuck as a “second tier destination”, with limited direct access from major tourist markets.

“While profit is the major modus operandi for airlines, do not forget that you are providing a means of transportation, which contributes to the overall development of travel and tourism,” Masing said.

Sarawak is hosting about 140 Pata members, who are here for their Annual 2010 Meeting.

“I would like to urge Pata members to partner us to provide better access into Sarawak, tapping the full potential of the state’s tourism. The state welcomes all forms of Pata assistance to achieve this goal. I personally request Pata to champion new and emerging destinations like Sarawak.”

Continue reading at: Sarawak wants more flights
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

5th Miri International Jazz Festival moved outdoors

MIRI : The magical sounds of jazz music will now fill the grounds of ParkCity as the 5th edition of the Miri International Jazz Festival (MIJF) has now been moved outdoors.

It was originally scheduled to be held at the Pavilion.

“Due to overwhelming response and feedback received from the public, we have, for this year, decided to move the stage outdoors. As such, this year’s MIJF will be one with a difference,” said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan.

Dr Chan, who is also Minister for Tourism and Heritage, said with the moving of the stage outdoors, the pavilion would be converted into a bar and dance floor where music would be manned by an international disc jockey (DJ).

Updating reporters on the MIJF here yesterday, Dr Chan said the festival, which had been enjoying a steady growth in recent years, would see performances from several foreign jazz bands. Their genre of jazz included blues, fusion, world, smooth and Latino beat.

“The bands that we will bring to you this time around will be James Cotton Blues Band from USA, Amina Figarova Sextet (Holland), Ricardo Hertz (Brazil), Mellow Motif (Thailand), Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder (USA), SimakDialog (Indonesia), Norbert Susemihl’s New Orleans All Stars (Denmark/Germany/USA) and Jeremy Tordjman (Switzerland).

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Promises of new ‘colours’ for 1Dayak pre-Gawai dinner

KUCHING: The pre-Gawai celebration, to be hosted this year by Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia), promises new ‘colours’ with the participation of Trek Places Services (TPS) as its appointed event organiser.

TPS’ managing director Bennet Sali said the event management company would be incorporating more local flavours to create a more ethnic ambiance during the event.

“This is the first time that we’re engaged to organise this event. We would be conceptualising many Dayak motifs and decorations into the event, making it more cultural yet engaging. Hence, the ‘nganchau tikai’ (spread the mat) tagline for the 1Dayak Pre-Gawai Dinner and Exhibition,” he explained.

“We’d also include several activities into the dinner, one of which is the ‘1Dayak Traditional Costume’ beauty pageant. For this particular event, we’re also be doing something different as we don’t separate the pageant into categorisations like Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu and others. Instead, all ladies of native races in Sarawak are welcome to join the pageant,” he added.

This beauty pageant is open to all Dayak ladies, including those of mixed parentage, aged between 18 and 40 years old. First prized winner will receive cash of RM700, while second and third runner-ups will be walk home with RM500 and RM300, respectively. Each of these lucky ladies will also be handed a pageant trophy and certificate.

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Friendliness can be hallmark of Sarawak tourism industry

MUKAH: Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud yesterday dwelled at length on friendliness towards visitors.

He urged Sarawakians to keep being friendly, saying it is very important.

“This friendliness could be the hallmark of our tourism industry,” he said.

He was at Kala Dana beach here officiating at the annual Melanau Kaul Festival which attracted more than 10,000 people. Among the visitors were foreign tourists including those from Brunei and Indonesia.

Taib observed that with their natural friendliness Sarawakians had always welcomed visitors, interact with them, satisfy their curiosity and proudly showed them their cultures and traditions.

“As a result, there have been many repeat visitors. I know a Briton who has been visiting the state every year for the past 30 years,” he said.

He said that although they have great differences in culture and traditions, the many ethnic groups have been able to co-exist in peace, unity and harmony.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sabah needs more hotels

Kota Kinabalu: The Asian Tourism International (ATI) College maintained its steady growth as the main producer of hospitality and tourism workers in the State with a fresh batch of 450 students graduating at its 13th Convocation here, Friday.

In front of proud family members and friends, over 200 of the graduates who attended the ceremony, received their certificates from Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun who represented Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman at the Pacific Ballroom, 1Borneo.

They either obtained their Higher National Diploma, Diploma, Pre-Diploma, Certificate or Skills Certificate.

Having produced over 10,000 graduates who have gone on to assume various positions in the industry nationwide since its inception in 1996, the College is on course towards providing quality graduates for the industry after welcoming a new six-storey building as their learning premises.

Musa believes the additional space was necessary for the rapid expansion of the institution with the ever-increasing number of students each year.

"I have also been informed that ATI College is expanding its programmes with some focus given to the business faculty.

"While your core business should be maintained, expanding your academic programmes is a wise move especially when you are working towards becoming a University College in the very near future," he said, in his speech delivered by Masidi.

The Chief Minister was also pleased the college was working with other educational institutions to develop programmes for potential foreign and local students.

"I applaud this, as we want to be world-class, offering a world-class product, service and facilities," Musa said, before adding, "we can only do this if we develop world-class thinking, and to do this, we must develop the right skills and competence levels - this will in turn benefit the college and help develop tourism education locally."

Continue reading at: Sabah needs more hotels
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Freaky fauna found in Borneo

KUCHING: A frog with no lungs, a “ninja” slug firing love darts at mates and the world’s longest insect are among new species discovered in the three years since the Heart of Borneo (HoB) conservation plan was drawn up.

The plan is jointly implemented by the governments of Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia to conserve 220,000sq-km of irreplaceable tropical rainforest.

The World Wildlife Fund For Nature’s report, titled Borneo’s New World: Newly Discovered Species in the Heart of Borneo, detailed 123 new species discovered since the plan was implemented in February 2007.

“As the past three years of independent scientific discovery has proven, new forms of life are constantly being discovered in the Heart of Borneo,” said Adam Tomasek, leader of HoB Initiative.

Explorers have been visiting the island of Borneo for centuries but vast tracts of its interior have yet to be biologically explored, he said.

“If this stretch of irreplaceable rainforest can be conserved for our children, the promise of more discoveries must be a tantalising one for the next generation of researchers to contemplate,” he said.

The HoB is home to 10 species of primates, more than 350 birds, 150 reptiles and amphibians, and a staggering 10,000 plants that are found nowhere else in the world, the report said.

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Proboscis River Cruise Launched In Semporna

SEMPORNA -- A special tourist jetty as well as a tourist information centre and a new tourism product, the "Borneo Semporna Proboscis River Cruise", were opened and launched here on Friday to enhance the tourism appeal of this east coast district.

Minister in the Chief Minister's Department Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran opened the jetty and the centre which are located at the water village here.

The facilities are part of a two-phase project, costing RM2 million, to enhance tourism facilities in the district.

According to Semporna district officer Abdul Muhamed Ibnu Abd Kadir Baba, the first phase of the project consists of the construction of an office block which houses government agencies, a craft centre as well as a "dive shop".

Continue reading at: Proboscis River Cruise Launched In Semporna
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Lahad Datu In Dire Need Of New Airport

LAHAD DATU -- Being one of the fastest developing districts in Sabah, Lahad Datu is in dire need of a new airport to meet the rising demand for air service from people in the area.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said the existing airport had become too congested and uncomfortable and did not meet the international airport safety standard.

"The (existing) airport is no longer safe. It doesn't meet the standard set by the Aviation Certification and Interoperability Office (ACIO).

"So, a new airport for Lahad Datu is indeed a priority," he told reporters after visiting the proposed site for the new airport in Silabukan, about 25km from here, on Friday.

Earlier, Abdul Rahim was briefed on the proposed site by Malaysia Airport Holdings Berhad general manager Abdul Nasir Razak. The other proposed site is in Sandau, about 35km from here.

Apart from safety factor, Abdul Rahim said the new airport was vital in view of the increasing number of passengers, besides the population of Lahad Datu which now numbered over 300,000.

Continue reading at: Lahad Datu In Dire Need Of New Airport
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cheaper now for natives to climb Mount Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu: The natives of Sabah will find it cheaper to climb Mount Kinabalu now.

Sabah Parks and the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, in collaboration with the Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (SSL), have made it convenient and economical for natives to climb the mountain.

The move was initiated by Sabah Parks and the Ministry, and was supported by SSL at a recent meeting attended by Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister, Datuk Bolkiah Haji Ismail, Sabah Parks Director, Paul Basintal, and SSL representative, Adrian de Rozario.

A statement here, Wednesday, said the meeting endorsed that only a minimum fee of RM80 for accommodation at Gunting Lagadan inclusive of meals would be offered to native Sabahans for a specific number of allocated beds that are available on a first come first served basis.

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400-room hotel to be built in the heart of Miri

MIRI will soon have a five-star hotel in the heart of the city, boosting its image as the commercial and tourism gateway of northern Sarawak.

Construction of the RM400mil Four Points by Sheraton Miri will start before the end of this year and is expected to be completed by the end of 2011, said Sarawak tycoon Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing, who is the project developer.

The 400-room hotel, to be equipped with a huge convention hall, will be located next to the slope of Canada Hill, a stone’s throw away from the old city centre.

Construction of the hotel, the biggest in northern Sarawak, was supposed to take place last June, but was delayed due to technical reasons.

Ting assured the people of Miri that the hotel would be a reality soon and boost the image of the city and state.

Speaking to newsmen after briefing Miri mayor Lawrence Lai about the project, Ting said he had spoken with friends and business counterparts abroad, including in Singapore, about tourism developments in Miri and northern Sarawak.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First rhino in the wild in Sabah that may be pregnant

Kota Kinabalu: Images of a Sumatran rhino - believed to be below 20 years and pregnant - captured by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and WWF-Malaysia's remote camera trap devices in the State, have signalled a new hope for continued survival of the species.

Currently, there are estimated to be less than 30 rhinos left in Borneo.

"It would be wonderful if this female is pregnant, since there are so few Sumatran rhinos left in the world that each calf represents a lifeline for the species," says Dr Terry Roth, an international expert on Rhino.

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) Director, Dr Laurentius Ambu, on the other hand, highlighted the importance of strong and co-ordinated enforcement in the forest and wildlife reserves by relevant government agencies and NGOs to ensure survival of this species in Borneo's forests.

WWF-Malaysia is working closely with Sabah Forestry Department, SWD and Sabah Foundation, with the support of police, to ensure the safety and survival of this endangered species in Borneo.

Dr Laurentius said consistent monitoring of the rhino population here has been productive so far, as two rhino calves have been identified in this part of region. His department is also now working closely with WWF-Malaysia and Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) to finalise the Rhino Action Plan expected to be ready for full implementation by August 2010.

The "Rhino Action Plan" will address the conservation plans of the viable population including isolated rhinos. He emphasises that his department will have a different approach in managing the viable and isolated rhino population in Sabah.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sabah Fest turns to folklore to lure tourists

With all the racial, religious and political strife, what the world needs now more than ever is love. And love it is that will draw tourists to this year’s Sabah Fest. This, at least, is what Sabah tourism officials hope. They have themed the annual cultural showcase of the Borneo island state “The Legend of Arung Salamiah”, an ancient love story of the Bajaus of Semporna, a sleepy fishing town on the south-eastern coast. With a cast of 500 and an outlay of half a million ringgit ($152,000), the two-day one-hour musical is expected to fill the 1,000-seat ballroom of the Magellan Sutera Harbour Resort in Kota Kinabalu from May 1.

The legend has a ring of Forrest Gump who kept running all over America for three and a half years after Jenny Curran, his childhood sweetheart, jilted him. Forrest became famous and attracted thousands of people who ran with him. Tanjung Kalang roamed Sabah after he failed to marry Arung. In the course of his journey, he learnt of the cultures of the different people that he met.

Marlena Jaafar James, 28, of Lahad Datu, will play Arung. She is a dancer with eight years of experience having graduated last year with a degree in dance performing art from the Universiti Malaya.

“Rehearsing the role for about four hours every day has been tough,” she says. “But I like it very much.”

Already, 50 Australians have bought the 50-ringgit tickets, according to Tengku Zainal Adlin, chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board. “Thirty to 60 Australians come to the Sabah Fest every year,” he says.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sabah Fest turns to folklore to lure tourists
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Fluttering “sambulayang” beckon tourists to Semporna Lepa Regatta

SEMPORNA: Fluttering “sambulayang” (sails) in multi colours erected at each house along a 14km stretch of road from Semporna town, signal the approach of the Lepa Regatta in the district.

Starting from the Sekolah Kebangsaan Pinang, first-time visitors to Semporna to watch the regatta would be enchanted by the carnival atmosphere which also shows that the Bajau community is this district still steadfastly hold on to one of their age-old traditions.

Besides houses, the sambulayang are also installed at business premises, and public and private sector offices in conjunction with the carnival on April 23.

“We expect 60,000 to 70,000 people including foreign tourists to come watch the Lepa Regatta this time,” said the carnival’s organising committee chairman, Abdul Muhamed Ibnu Abdul Kadir Baba.

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ATR to play major role in East Malaysia air services

KOTA KINABALU: The ATR 72-500 aircraft will play a major role in MASwings’ domestic air services in Sabah and Sarawak.

MASwings’ managing director, Dato’ Mohd Salleh Tabrani said delivery of the 10th ATR 72-500 aircraft last week gave a further boost to the airline’s expansion plans as well as its efforts to meet growing traffic demand in the two states.

Of the ten ATR 72-500 aircraft, five will be based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah while the remaining five in Sarawak – three in Kuching and two in Miri.

“Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Miri are MASwings’ three major operational hubs within the two states,” Salleh told New Sabah Times.

He said a centre had also been set up in Kota Kinabalu to undertake engineering and maintenance work on ATR aircraft.

Salleh said delivery of the 10th ATR 72-500 also marked the completion of its fleet renewal programme that began in 2009. The aim of the programme was to replace all ageing Fokker 50 with the modern ATR 72-500 aircraft.

The need to replace the fleet of Fokker 50 is obvious. The planes are 20 years’ old and it is difficult to source for spare parts. Besides, they incur higher maintenance and operation cost, have lower technical reliability and are not fuel efficient.

But why ATR 72-500? Salleh explained that the ATR has lower maintenance and operation cost, higher reliability and safety standards, better customer comfort (five times quieter than the older generation of turboprop and 50 per cent quieter than modern regional jets). It is also 60 per cent more fuel efficient than a 70-seat jet and emits 50 per cent less carbon dioxide per passenger per kilometer compared with jets.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sarawak wants Mulu cave site to be country’s 2nd Global Geopark

MULU: Sarawak is hoping for the Gunung Mulu National Park to become the second Global Geopark in Malaysia after Langkawi.

Tourism and Heritage Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said that such a recognition for Mulu, already listed as a World Heritage Site, would be most appropriate considering its numerous natural wonders.

He pointed out that Mulu had one of the most spectacular caving systems in the world, including the world’s largest underground chamber and the largest cave passage. Its geological formations were some 40 million years old, he added.

“Gunung Mulu National Park is a fine example of a world-class geo-tourism destination and it can be a Global Geopark,” he said when opening the Second Geotourism Conference here Sunday.

Dr Chan, who is also deputy Chief Minister, said the state government realised the potential of eco-tourism as a new emerging sector.

“The government values the importance of preserving such a rich heritage like Mulu, thus no road will be built from Miri to access this park although it is possible to do so,” he said.

Continue reading at: Sarawak wants Mulu cave site to be country’s 2nd Global Geopark
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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sabah Tourism Upcoming Event: Sabah Fest 2010

Date: 1-9 May 2010
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Friday, April 16, 2010

Push for Maliau Basin to be World Heritage Site

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will push for the listing of the pristine Maliau Basin as a World Heritage Site, Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah said.

He said these were among the efforts being taken by the state government to preserve Sabah’s biodiversity.

Ahmadshah, who was delivering the government’s policy speech at the opening of the state assembly session here yesterday, said another move was to support the Corridor of Life and Heart of Borneo initiatives.

“The government is committed to protecting and preserving the state’s natural resources and eco-systems, more so in sensitive areas.

“Concerns for the environment will be balanced with planned and sustainable development,” Ahmad­shah said.

He added that the state would co-operate with other countries to obtain financial grants and technology to reduce the impact of climate change and environmental degradation.

Continue reading at: Push for Maliau Basin to be World Heritage Site
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Musical theatre show to kick off Sabah Fest cultural extravaganza

KOTA KINABALU: Half a million ringgit production cost, 500 performers, eight dances, one love story.

All will be showcased at the 22nd Sabah Fest cultural extravaganza in May this year.

Tourism minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the Sabah Fest would start off with a musical theatre style production entitled: ‘The Legend of Arung Salamiah’ at 8pm, May 1 and 2 at the Magellan Sutera Harbour Resort Grand Ballroom at Sutera Harbour Resort.

The legend tells the story of Arung Salamiah, a beautiful lady from an aristocratic family who only had her eyes on Tanjung Kalang despite being surrounded by admirers.

However, her family did not approve of her love with Tanjung Kalang who was from a different social class, and planned to marry her off to someone of the same status.

Brokenhearted, Tanjung Kalang embarked on a journey across Sabah to search for his true love.

The performance would feature the culture and dances Tanjung Kalang had experienced in his journey.

This includes Panansang dance which originated from Semporna and Sazau Bobohizan staged by the Kadazan Papar community, he said.

Masidi explained that there was no love story from the West Coast feature in past Sabah Fest events, thus the legend of Arung Salamiah would be the starting point of a good storyline.

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Japanese tunnel the hidden tourist attraction of Kunak

KUNAK (Sabah): “Where is Kunak located?” This is the query that disappoints Kunak District Officer Susilo Sumarto every time he mentions the district to outsiders.

Based on this, he concluded that most outsiders were not familiar with Kunak unlike districts like Tawau, Semporna, Lahad Datu and Sandakan though all are located within Sabah’s east coast.

Outsiders, especially tourists know Semporna due to its resort islands, Sandakan for its Orang Utan, Lahad Datu through Danum Valley and the Tabin Forest Reserve while Tawau for its seafood.

Maybe Kunak, located between Semporna and Lahad Datu, is less known because it lacks an identity like the rest though it has many of its own attractions. In fact many think that Gua Madai, that is well known for its bird nest farming and its ancient history, is located in Lahad Datu whereas it is actually in Kunak.

JAPANESE TUNNEL

As Kunak seems to be oblivious to the outsiders, the administrators of the district have planned out activities to introduce Kunak to the outside world through the 2010 Kunak Carnival on 17 and 18 April, organised with the cooperation of the Drug Prevention Association (Pemadam) and the Information Department.

“Those from the district have pondered over the economic, socio-culture and tourism aspects that holds potential in showcasing Kunak. We saw a big potential.

“One of the attractions in Kunak that even the locals is not aware is the underground tunnel built by the Japanese during WWII,” he told Bernama here.

Susilo noted that the eight kilometer long tunnel that branches into four directions is located within the grounds of the Sime Darby plantation. The site of the tunnel is about 12 kilometer from Kunak town. The secret tunnel is believed to be used by the Japanese Army to ferry and store weapons.

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Sabah now has 443 hotels compared to 2005

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s tourism is booming with the State now having 443 hotels compared to only 279 hotels in 2005.

With 18,065 rooms available up to last year, the number of visitors has also increased to nine million compared to only seven million in 2005.

Head of State Tun Haji Ahmadshah Abdullah said the tourism boom was felt despite the global economic downturn.

In his policy speech at the opening of the State Legislative Assembly sitting, here yesterday, Ahmadshah said that Sabah has also become well-connected with 108 international flights now available to 13 destinations up to last year compared to only 78 flights.

He also said that the agriculture sector had experienced growth with more land taken up for agriculture.

“In 2008, we have 1.48 million hectares of agricultural land compared to only 1.41 million hectares in 2006,” he said adding that the increase was due to the growth of oil palm cultivation which rose to 1.33 million hectares in 2008 from 1.24 million hectares in 2006.

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Miri promises another great repertoire of jazz

THE Miri International Jazz Festival (MIJF) 2010 promises to be an exciting event featuring a wide repertoire of jazz genres.

Organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), it will be held at The Pavilion of Park City Everly Hotel in Miri on May 14 and 15.

It will see performances by bands from various countries presenting jazz, blues, fusion, world and Latino beats.

The bands are James Cotton Blues Band (US), Amina Figarova Sextet (Holland), Ricardo Herz (Brazil), Mellow Motif (Thailand), Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder (US), SimakDialog (Indonesia), Norbert Susemihl’s New Orleans All Stars (Denmark/Germany/US) and Jeremy Tordjman (Switzerland).

Tickets for adults are priced at RM60 while for children aged between three and 12 years, the tickets cost RM30.

The tickets are on sale at Eclipse Booking Hotline: +603-7729 3829/+6016-688 1119.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sarawak aims to ride on its world-class tourism potential

SARAWAK, also known as the Land of the Hornbills, offers a panorama of beautiful landscapes and the wonderful hospitality of its 23 ethnic groups.

Whoever visits this state is bound to return with friends as close as family.

This is what was felt by a group of representatives of the media, Tourism Malaysia and tour agents from Malaysia and Indonesia after participating in the Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia programme organised by Gaya Travel Magazine with the co-operation of the Tourism Ministry from March 26 to 29.

Being the biggest state in Malaysia covering 124,450 square km, Sarawak has many places of interest waiting to be explored and has the potential to emerge as a world-class tourist destination.

Many of the places are yet to be promoted on a big scale overseas.

Tourism Malaysia Sarawak director Ahmad Johanif Mohd Ali said the number of visitors to Pulau Talang-Talang had to be restricted to seven at a time to safeguard turtle habitats there.

“We conduct studies before promoting the place. People get the wrong impression that the state is not promoting a particular area, but this is not the case,” he said.

Sarawak has targeted six million tourists arrivals for this year, of which 60% were domestic tourists and the rest foreigners, he noted.

To woo local tourists, Tourism Malaysia Sarawak is participating in Travel Mart programmes in the peninsula.

Continue reading at: Sarawak aims to ride on its world-class tourism potential
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

‘Five-star’ modern Sarawak longhouses unveiled

MIRI: Fancy living in a “five-star” double-storey longhouse “bilik” (unit) that costs RM226,768.80, complete with a garden the size of almost one-third of a football field?

This is one of four proposed longhouse designs unveiled by the Housing and Urban Development Ministry during a seminar here yesterday in line with the state government’s plan to modernise longhouses in Sarawak.

The high-end model will be a double-storey structure and will have a built-up size of 184.9 sq metres, not including a 0.1ha garden for each unit.

Each unit will also have three bedrooms, three toilets, a common hall, walkway, verandah, sitting room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and an “air well”.

This design will be limited to 20 units per longhouse while the other designs may have up to 30 units.

The ministry’s permanent secretary, Affandi Keli, said it had designed several models of modern longhouse units that would cater to different groups of income earners.

Continue reading at: ‘Five-star’ modern Sarawak longhouses unveiled
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kivatu Heights - Homestay tourism catches on in Sabah

Kivatu Heights Homestay looks out of place. A wooden alpine house sits atop a 10-storey tall stony hill in tropical Penampang, the rice-bowl of the indigenous Kadazandusuns, about 10 km from Kota Kinabalu city. This is the home of Francis Mobijohn, 45, and his family. When he built it 10 years ago, he didn’t know that he would be earning a useful family income from playing host to tourists on a shoe-string or those seeking adventures off the beaten track.

Mr Mobijohn, a building contractor, has been receiving a steady stream of foreign visitors since he opened his house to them six years ago. “I’ve had about 1,000 of them from all over the world,” he says.

He earns between 500 and 800 ringgit ($152 and $242) a month by giving them food and lodging. “In a good month, I earn about 1,500 ringgit,” he says. The summer of May and June and wintry December are his best months. He charges 65 ringgit for a room and 200 ringgit for an adjoining “chalet” which has a room, a living-room and a kitchen for a day’s stay.

But homestay was an afterthought for Mr Mobijohn and his wife Jane, 42, who wanted a comfortable house with a difference for their children. They have two boys and a girl aged 8, 12 and 14.

Mr Mobijohn says he was fascinated by the Alpine A-shaped wooden houses that he lived in one for a year while studying for his A-levels in Vancouver, Canada, from 1983 to 1984. So he built a similarly simple 2-storey wooden house, on top of a 150-m hill of about 2,000 square metres called Kivatu which means “stone” in his Kadazandusun language.

“I like wood,” he says, “It was about the same price as building a brick house then.”

After his house was built, they extended it with three rooms to accommodate their many friends from abroad, particularly those from America. Mr Mobijohn and his wife graduated from the Oklahoma City University with degrees in business administration and liberal arts respectively. The one he calls a “chalet” is the extended building with a room, living room and kitchen.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Kivatu Heights - Homestay tourism catches on in Sabah
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Sabah to reap RM8bil from tourism by 2015

TAWAU: Sabah is set to reap about RM8 billion in revenue from its tourism industry from the expected 3.6 million tourist arrivals by 2015.

In stating this, Sabah Tourism Board's chairman Datuk Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin Tengku Mahamood said with the current 10 per cent annual increase on local and international tourist arrivals, coupled with the efforts of tourism industry players, the target could be achieved.

"There is no problem. It's a realistic target. You see our growth for the last few years is 20 per cent per annum, so we can really be there. We are maintaining our existing strategy and growth," he told reporters after attending the launch of the "Tawau To Kuala Lumpur" travel package campaign here on Tuesday.

The campaign was a joint effort between Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian Travel and Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Sabah.

Tengku Adlin said Sabah had successfully promoted its rich nature tourism destinations like Kinabalu Park and its world-class diving spots of Sipadan Island for more than 10 years and these would continue to be its tourist attractions.

He said there was much more that Sabah could offer, including its rich flora and fauna as well as adventure tourism packages like water rafting, jungle tracking as well as observing wildlife in Kinabatangan.

Continue reading at: Sabah to reap RM8bil from tourism by 2015
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Monday, April 12, 2010

Hope for isolated orang-utan population within the Kinabatangan

KINABATANGAN: The orang-utan bridge project to reconnect isolated orang-utan populations within the Kinabatangan has obtained conclusive proof of success recently via photographic evidence.

“Over the years we have received numerous local eye witness reports of the orang-utans using these rope bridges but this is the first time we have received photographic evidence which clearly shows a young male orang-utan using the first rope bridge we constructed in 2003 to cross over Resang river, a small tributary of Kinabatangan ,” stated primatologist, Dr. Isabelle Lackman, Co-Director of the Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project (KOCP) in a press statement.

The statement was jointly released by the Sabah Wildlife Department and French non-governmental organisation HUTAN yesterday.

The photographs were obtained from a member of the local community, Ajirun Osman @ Aji who took the pictures February this year. According to Ajirun, the young male orang-utan spent about 20 minutes at the rope bridge tree before actually crossing over.

“It seemed like once he decided to cross, he did so very fast going over in about three minutes from the Pangi Forest Reserve into Lot 1 of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary,” shared Ajirun.

Dr. Lackman explained that in the past orang-utans would have used tall old growth forest as “natural bridges” over small rivers. However at present, the orang-utan’s no longer have this luxury since most trees have been logged.

“Today the orang-utan is facing more human made obstacle’s such as illegal planting for oil palm all the way down to the river bank leaving no riparian reserve which are actually required by law under the Environment Protection Enactment of 2002 as well as the Water Resources Enactment of 1998,” said Dr. Lackman.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tabin Wildlife Reserve has potential to be tourism magnet

AFTER a moment of silence, the bright light from a handheld beam pierced through the darkness to put a leopard cat under the spotlight.

It was at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah and guides expertly point out animals for awestruck guests at the back of an open truck during its nightly safari.

That particular night there was a special guest, state Assistant Finance Minister Donald Peter Mojuntin, who was there on an official visit to inspect the Tabin Wildlife Resort, a government-owned facility.

“Seeing the common palm civet, banded palm civet, Malay civet (tangalung), greater mousedeer, the leopard cat, pig-tailed macaque monkeys, black flying squirrel, thick-spined porcupine, tree monitor lizard, yellow-bellied prinia (a bird d size of a thumb) and wild boars (sometimes in groups of 13) on merely one night drive made the trip worth its while even for me as a local,” he said of the 112,000ha wildlife reserve that is twice the size of Singapore. It is the biggest wildlife reserve in Malaysia.

“There was even an Asian Black Hornbill which flew against my chalet window as I was packing my bag on the morning I left. I was told by a staff that it probably thought its reflection was another bird. No harm done. Maybe it wanted its picture taken!” said the Moyog assemblyman who believed the reserve was a gem of an attraction for wildlife enthusiasts.

“The reserve with its unique feature of primary and secondary forests sandwiched between oil palm plantations has strong potential to be a tourism magnet,” he added.

As far as the secondary forest is concerned, it is not fully canopied by trees yet, thus allowing sunlight through. This means that all kinds of food plants grow on the ground where there are clearings, which in turn attract insects, bugs and various wildlife.

This is also an ideal habitat for grazing animals such as the Borneo pygmy elephant, sambar deer and wild ox, as well as their predators.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Tabin Wildlife Reserve has potential to be tourism magnet
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Borneo package could be a hit

BRUNEI: Tourism players in Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei should work together to sell the combined uniqueness of both countries as a world-class tourism product.

In making the suggestion, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan, said such a “Borneo package”, when marketed properly, could ignite the imagination of foreign tourists and entice them to visit the northern part of Borneo island.

“Airlines such as Royal Brunei and Malaysian-owned airlines, for instance, should combine routes and services to promote and sell Brunei, Sarawak and Sabah.

“This would be a good package to sell to the whole world,” said Dr Chan at the launching of Sarawak Travel Fair at The Mall at Dadong, Bandar Seri Begawan, yesterday.

Dr Chan, who is also the Minister of Tourism and Heritage, said tourism products such as the Mulu National Park in Miri, the Empire Hotel in Brunei and Mount Kinabalu in Sabah could entice more foreign tourists to visit both Malaysia and Brunei.

“Most tourists come a long way just to visit one country or destination.

“The combination of Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei would be good idea as they (tourists) can visit two countries at one time,” said Dr Chan.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Borneo package could be a hit
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Friday, April 09, 2010

Mark of the 'invincible' Iban

KUCHING: In days gone by, an Iban warrior needed to have tattoos of different shapes and meanings all over his body because without them, he would never be complete.

Such was the importance of tattoos in the life of the Iban community in the old days.

Tattoos in the past symbolised strength and bravery as well as the status of an Iban man.

The mostly Iban Sarawak Rangers, the soldiers of the White Rajah, had tattoos on their bodies.

In Iban mythology, the semi-god Keling had tattoos all over his body.

Legend had it that tattoos gave Keling mystical powers -- his body could not be pierced by a spear or parang and he could disappear and reappear in split seconds.

A group of Iban elders from Kapit gave a stark reminder of the "mysterious" old days.

Calling themselves the "Parang Ilang" group from Rumah Tang, an Iban longhouse at Sungai Paku in Kapit Division, they were once volunteers who fought the communist terrorists when Sarawak was under threat in the 1960s and 1970s.

Each tattoo on the hands, fingers and thighs has different meanings. Their backs are also tattooed.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Mark of the 'invincible' Iban
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Photos: rescued sun bears in Borneo moved to new facility

Rescued sun bears in Sabah, Borneo are getting a new home this week. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC) has finished Phase 1 of its construction of a new home for the bears. Eventually the center will include visitor facilities and observation gallery where tourists will have the chance to watch the bears. For now, though, the bears will enjoy brand new state-of-the-art facilities and, for the first time, access to a pristine forest.

"For most of these bears, it will be their first 'home-coming' into the forest since their captivity into the pet trade at infancy," writes Siew Te Wong, head of the BSBCC, in his blog at Wildlife Direct.

Given that the sun bear is the world's smallest and sports an attractive yellow marking on its chest—hence its name—it is perhaps surprising that the bear isn't better known by the public and has been long-ignored by most conservation groups. BSBCC hopes a visitor center will give the public more knowledge and appreciation for this species, which is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.

The sun bears cared for by BSBCC were illegally stolen from the forest as infants for the pet trade. They were eventually confiscated by authorities and handed over to Wong for care and, hopefully for some of the bears, full rehabilitation and re-release.

BSBCC is now raising funds for phase 2 of the project, which will include the tourist facilities and an observation deck. Estimated at 300,000 USD, donations to the project will be matched by the Sabah government.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Photos: rescued sun bears in Borneo moved to new facility
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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sarawak Museum exhibition: Wartime memories come alive

THE wartime heritage exhibition at Dewan Tun Abdul Razak in Kuching aims to shed light on Sarawak’s history during the Second World War, about which little is known.

Held in conjunction with the 65th anniversary, the Borneo World War II: Sarawak Liberation and Reconciliation exhibition features wartime artefacts and photographs, including stark images of conditions in prisoner-of-war (POW) camps during the Japanese occupation.

One of the exhibits is a model of the Batu Lintang POW camp in Kuching, now the Batu Lintang Teacher Education Institute, where Allied forces and civilian personnel were interned from December 1941 to September 1945.

The model, built by retired lecturer Joseph Aloysius Kuek in 2002, shows Japanese army office buildings and barracks, POW barracks and buildings which were later renovated into college classrooms, hostels and offices.

Kuek, 81, also built a model of Australia House, a POW barracks in the camp which housed about 60 officers of the Australian Army’s Eighth Division from 1942 to 1945.

Seeing his models on display in the exhibition revived Kuek’s wartime memories.

“I was only 15 or 16 when the war ended in 1945. Life was very difficult during the Japanese occupation. We couldn’t simply go about anywhere and people were living in fear.

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Batik Boutique Hotel opens for business in Kuching

KUCHING: Batik Boutique Hotel, the first local boutique hotel to offer chic accommodation, opened yesterday at the heart of the city. Batik is the first of its kind. It integrates design as well as comfort.

It offers 15 trendy rooms, each with its own unique design, to cater to different guest types.

Its rooms have plush beds and silk duvets, Tanamera all-natural amenities and rain-showers in the bathrooms.

The premises also has a trendy Japanese restaurant, Tarot Salmon and a bar.

Patrons and guests are also welcome to dip themselves in the hotel’s Jacuzzi at the courtyard of the Boutique Bar.

Continue reading at: Batik Boutique Hotel opens for business in Kuching
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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Nomination for Maliau Basin, Danum Valley as world heritage sites

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah state cabinet is planning to nominate Maliau Basin and Danum Valley as world heritage sites, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Masidi said the state cabinet has agreed with his ministry to nominate Maliau Basin as a new world heritage site.

He added that discussion was still on to determine whether to nominate Maliau Basin and Danum Valley at the same time or separately.

“These places have their own individual uniqueness and are also popular worldwide as the centre for research,” he said to the press after officiating at the Gunung Tambuyukon Scientific seminar at Promenade Hotel here yesterday.

“We can make money out of many other things, but as for our heritage, flora and fauna, the commitment of the state government should not be questioned.

“We will make sure they are well protected.”

Earlier, Masidi also said 49 per cent of the land is reserved as protected areas, six per cent more to the targeted 55 per cent.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Nomination for Maliau Basin, Danum Valley as world heritage sites
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Mt Tambuyukon and Mt Kinabalu two-in-one package to lure tourists

KOTA KINABALU: Mount Tambuyukon and Mount Kinabalu — a two-in-one package — will create a more adventurous hike for tourists, said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun. Masidi also suggested issuing a higher value certificate for tourists who accomplished the hike on both mountains.

He said the aim of the special package was to increase the challenge in mountain climbing, as the climb up Mount Kinabalu is now more of a recreation activity than a physical challenge.

“I think climbing Mount Kinabalu is too easy.

“I am sure the new trail will attract more people to come back again and again,” Masidi said in a press conference after officiating at the Gunung Tambuyukon Scientific seminar here yesterday.

He added that Mount Tambuyukon, at a height of 2,800 metres, was a more challenging trail for climbers.

In addition, Masidi said the move would help disperse the crowd at Mount Kinabalu to a new attraction in Sabah, thus helping to maintain the current acceptable capacity in Mount Kinabalu at 192 to conserve the environment.

“We can accept more climbers but we shift some of them to Mount Tambuyukon,” he said, adding that the package would also increase the awareness of Mount Tambuyukon among the public.

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Pullman Hotel Kuching does its bit in orangutan conservation

KUCHING: On top of experiencing the luxury of staying at Pullman Kuching Hotel (Pullman), guests will have the opportunity to meet Sarawak’s very own red-haired celebrity – the orangutan.

“This is the first time in the world that a five-star brand, such as Pullman Hotel, collaborate (with a government agency) collaborate in orangutan conservation,” said Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) managing director and CEO Datu Len Talif Salleh during the launch of Earth Guest Discovery (EGD) package.

EGD package was created to encourage the hotel’s in-house guests to participate in the ‘Heart 2 Heart’ orangutan conservation programme run by SFC.

Heart 2 Heart is a one-day programme that allows the public to actively participate in orangutan rehabilitation at Matang and Semenggoh Wildlife Centres.

By direct involvement in hands-on conservation activities, Len saw the package as a chance for the public to see and experience the life as a conservationist or contribute to conservation.

“This would definitely boost our promotional effort in creating public awareness and participation in conservation activities.

“With this package, foreign visitors will get to experience for themselves the conservation efforts for orangutans. We believe this will build passion and commitment among the public to help us in protecting and conserving wildlife,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Pullman Hotel Kuching does its bit in orangutan conservation
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Monday, April 05, 2010

Murut community open house debut at Kalimaran Festival

TENOM: “Ansaluang” or Murut community open house was held for the first time yesterday at the Murut Cultural Centre here.

The inaugural open house was the much-awaited event at the Kalimaran Festival which began on Friday.

Among the food served at the open house were Murut traditional dishes like Umbud Imbalua (wild vegetables), Umbus (tapioca leaves), Lamu Binulu (rice cooked in bamboo), Linopod (rice wrapped in leaves) and others made of bamboo shoots, preserved fish and buffalo bones.

Various stage performances and dances were also performed by Murut sub-ethnic groups in the spirit of 1Malaysia.

Yet, the centre of attraction at the open house was probably Daud Udin from the Murut Lundayeh tribe who was believed to be the oldest of Murut men.

Local and foreign visitors were seen taking one picture after another with the 112-year-old man who was dressed in his traditional Murut outfit.

“This is the second time I participated in the Kalimaran festival,” said Daud who hails from Kampung Kuala Punti, Membulu in Keningau.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Murut community open house debut at Kalimaran Festival
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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sabah tourism will soar despite Open Sky Policy

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism Board (STB) yesterday refuted the recent statements made by Zainal Ajamain, Chief Assistant to the Executive Chairman of Innoprise Corporation Sdn Bhd regarding the number of visitor arrivals to Malaysia.

In a statement issued by Datuk Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin Tengku Mahamood, the Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board stated that Zainal’s claim that Kuala Lumpur received 22 million visitors annually is wrong. The 22 million arrivals are for the whole of Malaysia, including to Sabah and Sarawak, in 2008. Visitor arrivals into Malaysia (including Sabah and Sarawak) in 2009 were 23.6 million. The statement by Zainal that Kota Kinabalu received only 400,000 arrivals is also wrong, he added.

He explained that Open Sky Policy is not an issue to tourism arrivals in Sabah. Foreign airlines have no restriction to fly to Kota Kinabalu. It has been practically an Open Sky Policy for Sabah for the last few years with several foreign airlines having established routes and direct flights to Kota Kinabalu, namely Korean Airlines, Aseana Air, Silk Air, Jetstar, Royal Brunei Airlines, Dragonair and Cebu Pacific. As far as airlines are concerned, the real issue is one of ‘commercial viability’ of flying to Sabah.

“Over the past ten years, a total of 16.8 million visitors came to Sabah. They arrived by air, land and sea. Visitor arrivals to Sabah increased three folds from 770,574 in 2000 to 2,246,068 in 2009. This represented double digit (12%) compounded growth annually. Last year, the tourism industry contributed RM3.9 billion to the State economy,” he said.

He added that the fact that most major hotels and resorts in Sabah enjoy above 70 per cent occupancy is an indication of growing tourist arrivals in Sabah. Kota Kinabalu is also mushrooming with new budget hotels and enjoying good occupancy. Returning Sabah students for the holidays go home to their families and do not stay in hotels.

Continue reading at: Sabah tourism will soar despite Open Sky Policy
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Sarawak Museum exhibition - About World War II in Borneo

KUCHING: The community here knows more about how World War II impacted Borneo than whatever information the organisers of the Wartime Heritage Exhibition 2010 can collect on their own.

This is what Borneo Exhibition Group Australia president Ryan Rowland is counting on when the ‘Borneo World War II – Sarawak Liberation and Reconciliation’ exhibition opens at Dewan Tun Razak, Sarawak Museum, tomorrow.

Rowland said that a previous exhibition in Sandakan attracted over 40,000 people, some of whom were able to identify the people in the images shown.

“That information would have been lost if not for the fact that we had opened the box, and we started to get more information,” he said at a press conference held at the Sarawak Convention Bureau yesterday.

He added that the war conditions in Borneo were largely unheard of because the information was classified for 50 years with the hope that everyone involved would be dead and no one would ask questions.

“But once the gate was open, it started. Books, documentaries, information, and curious people came forward,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Museum exhibition - About World War II in Borneo
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