Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Food festival presents the indigenous tastes of Sarawak

THE Rainforest World Food Festival promotion at the newly-renovated Cafe Majestic in Riverside Majestic Hotel, Kuching, is also a celebration of the coming Rainforest World Music Festival and the abundance of flavours from Sarawak’s rainforest.

Launched by Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip, the promotion which ends on July 11 highlights Sarawak’s speciality dishes prepared fresh at the coffee house’s show kitchen.

The promotion offers patrons a variety of local delicacies made from the best and freshest ingredients.

For starters, there are the Head Hunter Chicken Salad, Grilled Chicken Tossed With Umber Tepus and Mixed Greens, and Rainforest Discovery Platter consisting of prawns, local smoked fish, jelly fish and sour egg plant with home-made salsa.

The Umai Ikan with Sago Dalat or marinated red snapper fillet with lemon, chillies, ginger and local herbs accompanied with sago pearls, is among the favourite dishes featured in the promotion.

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French band to perform at Rainforest World Music Festival 2010

KUCHING: Minuit Guibolles is a French band with strong folk foundation in jazz, traditional and classical currents and idealogical line similar to rock and punk.Munuit Guibollos will perform at the Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) 2010 on Saturday night, July 10.

The group will arrive early for the RWMF pit stop in Kuala Lumpur and do a preview at Borneo Rainforest Cafe on July 3.

Mixing sounds of yesterday with those of tomorrow on primitive instruments, these five musicians break down the borders of traditional music.

These music travellers are constantly exploring new cultural vistas to expand their original compositions.

Minuit Guibolles composes and plays the music of life while living a life of music styles and instruments, according to a press statement issued by Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) here yesterday.

The members call themselves collectors of new sounds and experience without discrimination or prejudice.

Continue reading at: French band to perform at Rainforest World Music Festival 2010
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Raising funds through orang-utan coin boxes

AN ORANG Utan adoption programme will be extended to students throughout Sarawak to promote awareness on the primate’s conservation and rehabilitation.

In this initiative scheduled to start in August or September this year, Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) will work with the Education Department to distribute orang-utan-shaped coin boxes to schools for students to make donations.

“We hope to extend the programme for the younger generation to be aware of the importance of the orang utan in the jungle,” said SFC managing director Datuk Len Talif Salleh after receiving RM30,000 from Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) general manager Vasco Sabat in Kuching yesterday.

Salcra is the first agency to be involved in the orang utan adoption programme launched last year.

It donated the RM30,000 to adopt a one-and-a-half year old orang utan and named it Anakku.

Currently, 24 orang utans at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and 17 at the the Matang Wildlife Centre have been adopted.

Len said that SFC had collected about RM500,000 for the programme so far and welcomed more contributions in cash or volunteer work.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Raising funds through orang-utan coin boxes
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Sabah, E. Kalimantan can jointly develop tourism products

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (Sedia) yesterday hosted a dialogue session with a media group from East Kalimantan to enhance people-to-people contact to drive economic growth.

“Although there is no lack of initiative between the state government of Sabah and East Kalimantan leaders, a lot more can be achieved by encouraging people-to-people relationship,” said Datuk Dr Mohd Yaakub Hj Johari, CEO of Sedia.

Adding that it is not good enough for the government leaders to say it, he said, “Sedia would like to build a bridge between the peoples of Sabah and East Kalimantan.”

It makes a lot of sense for cooperation as the two entities are in the Borneo Island, therefore, Borneo can be packaged and marketed to the world.

With its unique association with the Netherlands in Europe, East Kalimantan can draw tourism and investment from the former which by extension spill over to Sabah, reasoned Mohd Yaakub.

By enhancing people-to-people contact, we can derive optimum benefit because of these branding, he said of their similarity in Borneo. He mentioned the common concern on environment which is also global on the protection of biodiversity such as the Hub of Borneo Project and coral triangle initiative.

Continue reading at: Sabah, E. Kalimantan can jointly develop tourism products
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sabah’s exotic wildlife will remain in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun yesterday assured that Sabah’s exotic wildlife will remain at its natural habitat in the state.

He described it as irresponsible to shift the state’s iconic wildlife such as the proboscis monkeys, orang utan and rhinos elsewhere as the animals’ survival rate would be compromised if they were taken away of their ‘home’.

Masidi was commenting on Malaysian Zoological Association president Datuk Ismail Hutson’s statement recently that efforts were being made to get animals from Sabah to be relocated to Zoo Negara in Hulu Kelang, Kuala Lumpur.

“We may consider some animals, but to ask for iconic animals from Sabah is really out of the question.

“We are talking about orang utan or probably proboscis monkeys, or even rhinos which we also do not have enough (in Sabah).

“It is not because we do not want to give, but we want to, as far as possible, retain them at their natural habitat. Sabah understands the special needs of these animals so it will be irresponsible for us to send them outside the state knowing that the chances of survival could be very much compromised,” he said.

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The natural beauty of Sarawak's Jangkar waterfall

JANGKAR waterfall, hidden in the rainforest behind Kampung Jantan, Biawak, about 20km from Sematan, has all the ingredients to be the ultimate eco-tourism site.

Located on the slopes of the Berumput range on the boundary between Sarawak and Indonesia, the waterfall is the largest in southern Sarawak.

However, due to logging and plantation activities since the 90s, the villagers there are worried that their natural source of water and the beautiful waterfalls would disappear like the one in their neighbouring village.

“We stopped the loggers who attempted to log into our area outside their given boundary. Now, there is no more illegal logging near our place. We hope the waterfalls can be preserved for future generations,” said Benjamin Sulaiman, who hails from Sibu and has been staying at the village after marrying a local woman in 2000.

Benjamin, a tour guide, met his wife when he came to work at a nearby plantation in the 90s. They have three children from six to 10 years old.

His career as a tour guide began few years ago after tourists came to the kampung asking for directions to a seven-storey-high waterfall. He was previously a contractor transporting oil palm and delivering parcels across the border to Indonesia.

Since then, he has been a busy tour guide, especially during weekends when more visitors arrived.

His brother-in-law, Kapit, 32, later joined him as a full-time guide.

Kapit’s house is located in the middle of the kampung. He has stopped going to his farm and stays at home most of the time, expecting visitors who turn up at any time.

After visiting many similar sites in Sabah, Benjamin became confident that the Jangkar waterfall could be developed into an ecotourism site.

His efforts to bring visitors to the kampung, however, was not supported by some villagers.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The natural beauty of Sarawak's Jangkar waterfall
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Tamparuli to be developed for ecotourism and extreme sports

TAMPARULI: Tamparuli, a small town about 36km from Kota Kinabalu, is looking to develop high-impact, environment-friendly activities to boost tourism in the area at little cost.

Its state assemblyman, Datuk Jahid Jahim, said Tamparuli had a lot of natural sites that could be promoted for ecotourism and extreme sports that were harmless to the environment.

“There is no need to build big structures. Some of the places here are good the way they are and able to attract visitors.

“The only place that may eventually need upgrading or development will be the town because when more tourists come, there would be demand for food, lodging and other amenities,” he told Bernama when met at the Sabah Malaysian Borneo Cross Country World Class Paragliding event here recently.

Jahid, who is Sabah Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports, said the Tamparuli sub-district office was introducing paragliding at Ruhiang Hill, a breezy 1,000m hill here, as a new tourism product.

He said the idea was inspired by Pyongchang, a little town in South Korea considered similar to hilly Tamparuli, which became popular among paragliders and is now busy keeping up with economic demands.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tamparuli to be developed for ecotourism and extreme sports
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Sabah to attempt first paragliding flight from Mt Kinabalu to tip of Borneo

TAMPARULI: Come next year, plans are underway to notch up a record for the first paragliding flight from the vicinity of the summit of Mount Kinabalu to the Tip of Borneo, in the northern-most district of Kudat.

Local paragliding company Borneo Air Sport Ozone Adventures is now working with the Sabah Tourism Board to see the attempt by a local in either March or April. The company’s instructor, Bruce Patrick Soimil, said the idea came about after a German had hang-glided from Laban Rata at Mount Kinabalu to Mesilau in 1985. Only this time, Soimil wants to take it a step further and set a record for a local instead.

In an interview with Bernama yesterday, he said the company had identified a person for the record attempt and that the board’s response to the idea was “most welcoming”.

Meanwhile, the Sabah Malaysian Borneo XC (Cross Country) 2010, the first world-class paragliding event held at Tamparuli, ended yesterday. During the event, weather and wind conditions proved challenging to the participants since last Friday.

Borneo Air Sport Ozone Adventures, together with the Tuaran District Office and Tamparuli Sub-district office, have jointly organised the three-day event at Ruhiang Hill, Tamparuli. It is aimed at boosting the tourism industry there, while promoting paragliding as a sport.

Continue reading at: Sabah to attempt first paragliding flight from Mt Kinabalu to tip of Borneo
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Green corridors the size of Iceland to be set up in Sabah and Sarawak

Malaysia’s plans to conserve two massive green corridors in the Peninsula and in Sabah and Sarawak under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) will cover a combined area the size of Iceland.

Significantly, it will protect rare flora and fauna not found elsewhere, in one of the most recognised bio-diversified spots in the world.

In tabling the 10MP recently, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak unveiled plans to implement the 4.32 million hectare ‘Central Forest Spine’ (CFS) in Peninsular Malaysia, and another six million hectares in Sabah and Sarawak for the ‘Heart of Borneo’ initiative.

CFS links four major forest complexes from Perlis in the north to Johor in the south, namely Banjaran Titiwangsa-Banjaran Bintang-Banjaran Nakawan, Taman Negara-Banjaran Timur, South East Pahang-Chini and Bera and the Endau Rompin Park-Kluang Wildlife Reserve.

World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma told Bernama:

“The key outcome of the successful implementation of the CFS is that significant forest habitats and existing natural corridors will be protected whilst restoring connectivity between fragmented forests, via a network of ecological linkages or wildlife corridors.

“The corridors would allow for the safe movement of wildlife between one forested area to another with minimal contact with humans and in this way, reduce the potential for conflicts between humans and wildlife.”

Continue reading at: Green corridors the size of Iceland to be set up in Sabah and Sarawak
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Bidayuh culture for all to see

LOCALS and foreigners had a rare glimpse of the colourful culture of the Bidayuh community from the Singai area in Bau district during the three-day Fifth Gawai Carnival Redeems that ended on the outskirts of Kuching yesterday.

Thousands of people from all walks of life thronged the carnival themed 1Malaysia, Bogo Adat or 1Malaysia, Multi-Cultures organised by the Association of Research and Development Movement of Singai Sarawak (Redeems).

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin was the guest of honour at the opening.

He was accompanied by his wife Puan Sri Norainee Abdul Rahman, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and Redeems president and carnival organising chairman Datuk Peter Nansian Ngusie.

Redeems is a community-based organisation made up of people from 12 villages of Singai, a predominantly Bidayuh area.

The 12 villages showcased its customs in the form of food, attire, music, folk songs, games, dances, art and crafts, and its languages at a bamboo longhouse aimed at reviving, preserving and promoting the Bidayuh culture in its young generation as well as visitors.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Brunei's Belait District boasts of beautiful recreational spots

By Sham

Even though it is just a small country with a relatively small population, Brunei Darussalam has quite a number of interesting places for people to visit. Beautiful places where families can take a break and enjoy themselves.

Brunei-Muara, being the most populated and also the country's main district, has countless number of famous and attractive places. Some of them are the Shahbandar and Tasik Lama Recreational Parks and also the two famous beaches of Muara and Serasa.

Meanwhile, Tutong District has its own Bukit Basong Recreational Park and the Seri Kenangan Beach, including the Tutong town waterfront whereas the Temburong District has its own well known Taman Peranginan Batang Duri as well as the Ulu Belalong Forest Reserve.

Belait District, the biggest of the four districts in the country, also offers a number of beautiful spots for the public to visit, most of which are located in and around the Kuala Belait town area.

One of these places is the Taman Jubli. Practically located at the Belait beach, it is one of the oldest yet most famous parks in Kuala Belait.

The park had a facelift and was officially opened by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on October 24, 1992. Until today, the park continues to go through continuous maintenance. In the centre of the park, stand proud a monument symbolising a gift to His Majesty the Sultan from the citizens of the Belait District in conjunction with the Silver Jubilee Anniversary of His Majesty on the throne. Numerous rides, colourful playhouses, new shelters and gazebos have been provided by the relevant authorities for the visitors.

After the extensive renovation which was completed some few years back, the river-view of Jalan Sungai, located at Kg Melayu Asli in Kuala Belait town, is another recreational spot in town which has quickly become one of the choices for many residents in the area. Located in the heart of the Belait town, this picturesque area has turned into another fascinating location with a great view in town. This was after so many years without any considerable upgrade. Along the freshly-painted steel fence barrier running along the river bank, a new and wider pavement made up of neatly-laid tiles has been build to replace the old grass-covered sidewalk. Apart from this, several new electrical lights, with an elegantly-designed post, replacing the old ones has also been added to provide better lighting to the area during night times.

Jalan Sungai is also well-known as a fishing spot, especially during the night when scores of enthusiastic anglers can be seen spreading along the stretch of the river. Some also make use of the old wooden shed as their spot. The wooden shed also served as a pick-up point for the residents in Kg Sg Teraban, across the river, who decided to use boats as their mode of transportation to travel between their village and the mainland. Occasionally, it also becomes a meeting point for some residents in the village.

Meanwhile, the row of fishermen's wooden and fibreglass boats lining up along the river, on the other hand, added a truly classic landscape to the already stunning view. Now well-known for residents in the nearby area to spend some time with families and friends, the sky during sunset is renowned to be quite spectacular when viewed from here. As the distance of Jalan Sungai from end to end is considerably good enough for a jog and brisk walk, it has turned into a perfect place for the health-conscious citizens to carry out their exercises.

In addition to the Jalan Sungai river-view and the Jubli Perak Park, Belait town also boasts another park which is also a very prominent and distinctive landmark, known as the Menara Cendera Kenangan. Although perhaps not as frequently visited as the others, this park still receives visitors on daily basis. This majestic memorial tower was built as a gift from the residents and the people in the oil district of Belait to His Majesty the Sultan in conjunction with the 50th birthday celebrations of the caring monarch which fell in 1996.

The tower, standing tall right next to the Belait River, which by the way is the longest river in the country, was designed in such a way that it symbolises every aspect and characteristic of the country and its people. Each part of this soaring structure, the umbrella at the very top of the tower, the column, its 29-metre height and its Air Mulih Design, each and every one of it has its own meaning and individual representations. Despite other attractions found at other places in the district, lots of people can still be seen spending some time at this tower, which is located, quite literally, a stone throw away from the decade old Kuala Belait Boat Club.

Apart from the public parks, some of the housing areas in the town also happen to have its own recreational park and one of them is the Perpindahan Kg Pandan. The park, which boasts a huge lagoon, has provided the much-needed spot not only for the residents in the neighbourhood, but also for those around the town area.

Everyday after working hours, countless number of parents with their kids, individuals as well as group of youngsters can be seen enjoying themselves at these recreational places.

The latest attraction to be added in the district is the Belait waterfront and foodstalls. First constructed on May 2008, it was completed more than a year later and was finally officiated by the Minister of Home Affairs in January this year. Located just a few minutes away from rows of shophouses at the town centre and right next to the Belait River providing visitors with scenic view, this waterfront is complete with concrete benches, lamp posts and neatly laid-tiles. In addition to that, it also boasts a stage for performance, parking space and a decorative landscape.

In addition to that, all these places have also boosted the profile of the district. Apart from those coming from the town area, visitors to these beautiful parks also include those from outside the Belait District which, in some ways, has supported the authorities' campaign towards promoting the domestic tourism.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday
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Saturday, June 26, 2010

North Borneo photo safaris

Almost everyone can take a photo but only a select few can produce great work.

Hailing from Lahad Datu, Sabah, Cede Prudente’s interest in photography started in the early 90’s when he purchased his first Nikon camera working as a nature guide in Sandakan. During his daily “tour of duty”, Prudente had the opportunity to observe various wildlife, giving him the inspiration to pursue wildlife photography.

North Borneo Safari was established in 2003 to create an appreciation for Sabah’s nature and wildlife through tailor-made photography trips, attracting both local and foreign photographers.

“We will recommend the best possible locations to capture desired images. Clients can share photography tips, updates on the latest technology and gadgets, participate in field workshops, coaching clinics and much more,” explains Prudente.

Wildlife photographer Bjorn Olesen, who has participated in seven safaris arranged by Prudente over the past five years, says that he has found the trips to be extremely satisfying.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: North Borneo photo safaris
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Go native at Hilton Kuching’s ultimate dinner buffet

KUCHING: Hilton Kuching’s ultimate dinner buffet ‘Hilton Goes Native’ is now wooing patrons at its Waterfront Cafe.

Menu comprises mainly traditional dishes from various cultures and races in Sarawak, with ingredients derived from local producers and organic ingredients from sustainable sources.

Among the hot dishes guaranteed to satisfy every taste bud are the Batang Lupar fried rock salt prawns, fried long beans with shrimp paste, local spinach cooked with coconut milk and smoked fish and lamb cutlet with local spices.

Seafood lovers who crave for local flavours can opt for the seafood platter, mussels, snapper and terrine, and have the poached fish fillet with local herbs infused dressing.

Those who enjoy a good bowl of soup can try the clear chicken soup with coconut and Sarawak pepper, while the Batang Ai smoked fish with sour eggplant soup will please those who love fish soups.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Go native at Hilton Kuching’s ultimate dinner buffet
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Tip of Borneo Music Fest 2010


Date: 3 July 2010
Venue: Simpang Mengayau, Kudat (Tip of Borneo)
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MASwings eyes BIMP-EAGA this year

KOTA KINABALU: MASwings is exploring the possibility of operating into the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) this year, according to managing director Datuk Mohd Salleh Ahmad Tabrani.

“With the recent completion of our fleet renewal programme, we have completely phased out all eight Fokker aircraft and replaced them with 10 new ATR72-500 aircraft.

“We are currently exploring the possibility of launching some international routes from Sabah and Sarawak into BIMP-EAGA,” he told reporters after the launch of self check-in kiosks by MAS managing director and chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport yesterday.

However, Mohd Salleh said MASwings would sought approval from the Ministry of Transport, a key stakeholder, before embarking on the new route.

“We are currently discussing the issue with them and we hope the ministry will consent to us operating in BIMP-EAGA.

“Should we secure the approval from the ministry, we hope to launch the first international BIMP-EAGA route sometime in October or November.

“We are looking at Malaysia specifically Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, southern Philipines, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Irian Jaya, Indonesia,” he said, adding that other destinations under evaluation included Pontianak in Kalimantan, Balik Papan and Tarakan in East Kalimantan, Brunei and Davao and Cebu in the Philippines.

Continue reading at: MASwings eyes BIMP-EAGA this year
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Paradise found at Mabul Resort

MELBOURNE: There are few places worth traveling across the world for, and Mabul Sipadan Resort, on the east coast of Sabah is one of them, says Australian jounallist Annie Hall, who recently holidayed in Sabah with her family.

She said tourists from Europe, America, Japan, China and Australia visited Mabul to enjoy the peaceful tropical paradise there.

“They have another reason to come to Mabul. It’s a short boat ride from Sipadan Island, renowned throughout the world as a diving site and described by the late Jacques Cousteau as an untouched work of art,” said Hall.

Hall is the deputy chief sub-editor of the Leader Group of Newspapers, which has a readership of 1.8 million people here.

“We weren’t diving at Sipadan, but snorkeling for the day at three sites,” she said.

“The brilliant blue waters of the Celebes Sea give no clue to the remarkable treasures that lie beneath. But pull on the flippers, put on a goggle, then fall out of the speedboat, and you’re in for a shock”.

SIPADAN

Hall said the reefs around Sipadan were a landscape of extraordinary form and colour, the result of coral growing on an extinct volcano.

“Swimming in it is the most incredible profusion of marine life. Hawksbill turtles had an effortless grace underwater, they swam close by and were so numerous, some small as a hand, others the size of a table.

“Darting among them was the most amazing array of tropical fish that could be imagined; suffice to say that more than 3,000 species have been classified around Sipadan.”

Continue reading at: Paradise found at Mabul Resort
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Gomantong Caves - Borneo’s living cave

The stench of ammonia was unmistakable. From the thick forest, the smell assaults you from all directions. Finally you get the whole whiff as you come to a clearing marked by a cluster of stilt houses. Beyond the clearing is the largest chamber of the Gomantong Caves.

The Gomantong Caves are located in Sabah, at the northern tip of Borneo, the world’s third largest island. The caves have been described by conservationists as "the best-managed edible bird’s nest cave in the world." The caves are also said to have been in use many years ago, supplying the Emperor of China with the delicacy for centuries.

Borneo itself (divided between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia) is a hothouse of diverse flora and fauna. Generally, caves in tropical climates can host more living things than caves in cooler parts of the world, and the deeper you go, the more interesting the cave fauna becomes.

Two cave complexes make up Gomantong Caves and within them about 20-plus chambers. The two complexes -- Simud Hitam (Black Cave) and Simud Putih (White Cave) -- are where bird’s nests are harvested. The White Cave yields the expensive "white" bird’s nest, so named because the nests are free of the droppings and debris that characterize the "black" bird’s nest.

The Black Cave is about 30 meters wide and approximately 100 meters tall. It is the more accessible of the two cave complexes and can readily be visited from ground level. An elevated, circular wooden walkway has been built along the wall of the cave in order to let visitors observe the cave and watch the harvesting of the nests.

The curious can witness the harvesting between February and April, and again between July and September, when the eggs would have hatched and the nests abandoned. On off seasons, the show turns to the cave and its fauna.

Gomantong Cave is clearly a living cave. Guano (bat droppings) is commonly harvested and sold as fertilizer. Not so here. The guano has been left uncollected on the cave floor and now resembles a black undulating hill. This is to let the natural cycle of cave life go on uninterrupted by humans.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Gomantong Caves - Borneo’s living cave
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Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Folk to the fore

The 13th edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival reflects a distinct Western folk-based influence.

THERE isn’t a barn for miles on the rural road to the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in Santubong (45-minutes from Kuching), Sarawak. But you’d be forgiven to think that the 13th edition of RWMF next month is all about fiddles, accordions, old-time square-dancing and a frolic behind the haystacks.

The upcoming RWMF 2010 will be held from July 9 till 11 at the Sarawak Cultural Village, and as seen on the line-up list, barn-storming action features heavily across the three-day festival with Western folk-based acts like De Temps Antan (from Quebec, Canada), Monster Ceilidh Band (England), Minuit Guibolles (France), Corey Ledet and Zydeco Band (United States) and ReelRoad (Russia).

The pick of the fiddle lot, you ask? It might very well be De Temps Antan, formed in 2003, which has been exploring and performing time-honoured melodies from the stomping grounds of Quebec’s musical past. Armed with fiddle, accordion, harmonica, guitar, bouzouki and a number of other instruments, these three virtuosos blend boundless energy with the unmistakable joie de vivre found only in traditional Quebec music.

As tradition dictates at the Rainforest festival, you might not be familiar with the names on stage but once the music sounds great to the ears, you can bet the masses will be partying until they drop.

Hailing from Newcastle, England, is the Monster Ceilidh Band, a twisted folk-driven quartet that is built to fuel the good vibes and stomping mayhem. Renowned for rave party energy and heavy metal chord progressions, Monster Ceilidh Band has also been championed by influential British-based fRoots magazine and concert dates with The Levellers and Eliza Carthy have edged the group closer to mainstream visibility.

When it comes to barn dancing, you can’t keep the Americans down. Just like how Carolina Chocolate Drops have revived rural and roots music in the United States, you have a similar proposition waiting to explode at RWMF.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Folk to the fore
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sarawak Borneo - Experience the exotic

Borneo has a fascinating history, a rainforest swinging with wildlife — and terrific street food

KUCHING, Sarawak, on the Island of Borneo — The roof of a multi-storey parking lot is not the first place you’d expect to find some of the best food in town, but like much in Kuching, Top Spot comes as a pleasant surprise.

It’s loud, lively, colourful and, in the balmy night air that always seems to bless this place, an exceptional venue for people-watching and getting a sense of the exotic.

Top Spot is a sort of co-operative of seafood vendors who share the open-air space — there’s a ceiling but no walls. They compete vigorously for each customer, or group of customers, as they walk in, pointing excitedly at their employer’s neon sign.

It’s respectful hustle. Once the customer has chosen, the "losers" back away and move on to the next target.

Some customers have their favourite spot. Others, typically visitors without local knowledge, are swayed by the hawkers, but if there are major differences in the food quality or quantity, it isn’t obvious.

Locals will tell you that one vendor is better than the other, but I ate there three times and couldn’t detect any significant difference. On each occasion, the food was perfectly cooked and remarkably inexpensive — spend more than $5 or $6 (not including a local Tiger beer) and you’re probably overeating.

Each vendor displays an exotic array of fish and shellfish. The diner buys by weight and sits while it’s cooked and served. There is no ownership over the chairs and tables, most of which are large, round and occupied by extended local families.

Where locals go to eat, tourists would be wise to follow — especially when there is lots of choice in town.

Food is one of Sarawak’s major selling points and eating is one of its favourite pastimes, but beyond the belly there is a whole exotic world for visitors to explore. It’s fair to say that Sarawak is not on the Canadian tourist radar, but for those with a flair for the exotic it should be. It’s a long, relatively expensive journey to the other side of the world, but once you’ve made that leap, there’s a wonderful world of nature, history and culture to explore — and once there, you can do it comfortably on a relatively tight budget.

Kuching, the state capital, is a good place to land. It is the largest state in Malaysia and sits on the island of Borneo.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sarawak Borneo - Experience the exotic
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Sabah Dragon Boat Race - A silver jubilee augurs well

The Chinese dragon boat race has taken the world by storm

The 25th Sabah dragon boat race on June 19 and 20 was a double joy. The silver jubilee race had the most number of participants:1,900 in 78 teams, five of them foreign. And though the number is less than half of Sweden’s, Europe’s biggest, it has been celebratory.

The Sabah race has to compete with bigger and more prestigious races around the world such as those in China, Hong Kong, Europe and Canada which are held at the same time every year in June; not forgetting the 1Malaysia international dragon boat race at Putra Jaya on the peninsula. Its first race in 1986 had about 30 local teams to mark a traditional Chinese Duanwu dumpling festival before it became a tourism event that courted foreigners two years later.

The prize money is small. Yet the enthusiasm is immense. A crew of 44 of the Sandakan Fishing (Tongkang) Association won races in the men’s and mixed events which gave them 5,000 ringgit ($1,500) in total prize money. But the association has spent more than 14,000 ringgit on airfares and hotel accommodation, according to team manager Bartholomew Pang.

Yet, it has never missed a festival race. Last year it took part in China’s second biennial Minxi Shanghang festival and finished 8th out of 12 teams.

“It’s our way of keeping our culture alive,” says Lee Fung Mei, 16, the youngest participant of the race. “I like the race because it is tough and challenging.”

It is for this reason that the dragon boat race has been included in this year’s Asian Games at Guangzhou, China, from November 12 to 27. It has become the fastest growing water sport in more than 60 countries since the International Dragon Boat Federation was formed 25 years ago to regulate the race.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sabah Dragon Boat Race - A silver jubilee augurs well
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Duo to feature the shamisen at Sarawak Rainforest fest

TRADITIONAL Japanese music will be played in exciting new styles by innovative musicians Shusunke Kimura and Etsuro Ono at the Rainforest World Music Festival next month.

The musicians, who formed Kimura-Ono-Duo in 2008, play the shamisen, a traditional three-stringed Japanese instrument.

Their improvisations and fresh interpretations of Tsugaru Shamisen, a genre of shamisen music originating from northern Japan, have received recognition and respect in the world music circuit.

Last year, the duo were awarded the Golden Prize for their original piece Cross Road at the third Japan Traditional Music Contest.

Kimura is a renowned composer and performer of Japanese traditional instruments while Etsuro has been a member of the folk theatre company Warabiza.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Duo to feature the shamisen at Sarawak Rainforest fest
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Sarawak Rainforest fest ticket sales rising despite clash with World Cup

THE response to this year’s Rainforest World Music Festival is said to have been affected by the Fifa World Cup 2010 but the organiser remains hopeful of a good turnout.

The three-day event at Sarawak Cultural Village will begin on July 9 and the World Cup final coincides with the last day of the festival.

A spokesman for the organising committee said that ticket sales were picking up and the organisers were confident of achieving a turnout of more than 20,000.

“Despite the festival coinciding with the World Cup, we are optimistic of a good turnout,” he said.

Last year, due to the influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, there was a drop from 22,000 to 20,000, he added.

He believed there were serious music lovers, Sarawakians and non-Sarawakians, who would not miss the festival even with the ongoing World Cup.

According to the spokesman, hotel bookings especially in Damai had picked up fast over the past week.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Rainforest fest ticket sales rising despite clash with World Cup
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Sabah, Sarawak Airports To Get More Self Check-In Kiosks

KUCHING -- Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will install more self check-in kiosks at the airports in Sabah and Sarawak, said its managing director/chief executive officer, Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin.

He said the kiosks were now available at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) and Kuching International Airport (KIA).

"We are actively identifying airports in Sabah and Sarawak where there is a demand for the kiosks," he told a media briefing after the launch of six kiosks at KIA on Thursday.

Earlier, Tengku Azmil, who is also MASwings Sdn Bhd chairman, said for the next three months, MAS and MASwings staff at KIA would be stationed at the kiosks to help passengers familiarise with the system.

"KIA has, on average, over 2,000 passengers per day, of which 95 per cent are domestic travellers.

"These six kiosks will be able to cope up with the passenger volume and we expect to achieve a take-up rate of 50 per cent within the first three months," he said.

Continue reading at: Sabah, Sarawak Airports To Get More Self Check-In Kiosks
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Events to lure visitors to Sarawak during non-peak periods

MAJOR tourism events will be held every month from next year to attract visitors particularly during the first few months of the year when visitor arrivals are low.

Tourism and Heritage Ministry permanent secretary Ik Pahon Joyik said that visitor arrivals climbed after May and peaked in July with events like the Rainforest World Music Festival which lured thousands.

“We’ll try to slot in events every month next year. The first four months 1,003,032 visitors, an increase of 1% compared to the same period last year.

“The volcanic eruption in April affected the arrival of European visitors because they could not fly out,” he told a press conference in Kuching yesterday.

Ik Pahon said, this year, Sarawak targeted visitor arrivals at 3.6 million as against 3.4 million last year.

The majority are expected from Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Europe.

Earlier, Ik Pahon said the Hornbill Hash House would host the Rainforest World Interhash 2010 in the city from July 2 to 4.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Events to lure visitors to Sarawak during non-peak periods
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Swinging time for fans at ‘must-go’ KK jazz fest

KOTA KINABALU: For many among local music lovers, the Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival has become one of those events on their calendars marked as “must go”.

The just concluded annual music extravaganza did not disappoint the hundreds of jazz fans who braved rain to enjoy a variety of performances at Sutera Habour Marina, Golf and Country Club’s covered tennis court here.

The festival not only featured the main concerts on two nights, but also music and jazz workshops conducted by the invited artists.

This year, the organizers decided to bring it a few steps ahead and decided to host a boat-load of activities prior to the actual festival.

It started with the Sabah Jazz Talent Search competition, which was an effort to unearth local jazz talents and give them an opportunity to shine.

To cater for the many talents found, several fringe events were organized to provide an avenue for them to showcase what they have to offer.

With a slightly different setting from past years, this KKJF was packed with body-moving beats and music.

As in the words of Will Grealish of Mood Indigo, a UK group who performed on the second night of the festival, all the musicians tried to weave a tapestry of sounds in the festival.

Continue reading at: Swinging time for fans at ‘must-go’ KK jazz fest
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Kunak’s hidden tourist attractions

KUNAK: The district of Kunak has some of the best tourist attractions in Sabah which many people are unaware of.

Besides the Madai Cave which is well known for its bird’s nest farming and ancient history, the other attraction is the underground tunnel built by the Japanese during World War Two.

Recently, a group of State Information Department staff from the National Policy Publication Section discovered the beautiful attractions of Kunak.

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

It is big enough to allow a 10-wheel truck to pass through and was accidentally discovered in the 1970’s by the Ibans who were tasked to clear up the jungle. They initially discovered a section of the tunnel that had collapsed.

The tunnel that is four meters in diameter leaves many questions unanswered like where it begins and ends.

Even now there are no official records on the tunnel. There are even some who believe that the tunnel reaches the Sulawesi Sea.

According to the elders in the district, some have tried to explore the tunnel to reveal its secrets but failed to go in further as there was no air in the tunnel.

Continue reading at: Kunak’s hidden tourist attractions
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Coral reefs in Miri under threat

MIRI: The corals within the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef Marine Park easily rank as one of the ‘best and healthiest’ in the country, but threats from climate change and human activities are a growing concern.

A member of the Malaysia Nature Society (Miri), Kumareson Paranthaman, said one of the major threats was sedimentation.

“If deforestation accelerates in watersheds feeding the shore water, additional silt run-offs could begin to kill the reefs nearest to the shore,” he cautioned.

Kumareson explained that coral reefs closest to the shore grow in shallow waters, around seven metres, while the deepest one thrive far out in the shelf, in nearly 30 metres of crystal clear water.

He pointed out that there were already indications that coral reefs in Miri were under siege when there was an outbreak of coral bleaching in 2009.

“Bleaching is a sign of coral stress and represents a threat to the health of the reefs and their associated eco-system. Bleaching can be local or regional and there are several known causes,” he said.

Among the causes are climate change, sedimentation, and chemical pollution, while indiscriminate fishing and large fishing nets snagged on the reefs are equally damaging. This leads to the reefs becoming unattractive algal reefs.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Coral reefs in Miri under threat
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cluster tourism package for Mambong, Kuching in the offing

KUCHING: A cluster tourism package is in the works for Mambong constituency to tap into its potential in eco-tourism, said Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit.

The package, which will link nature and culture to attract tourists, will be promoted next year, said Dawos, who is Mambong MP, after declaring open the new Kampung Giam suspension bridge, about 40km from here, yesterday.

He revealed that the cluster package would include the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, the Giam Waterfall, the Garden of Eden in Kampung Timurang, cultural attractions in Anah Rais, and a spa at the hot springs.

Local folk can promote these places by means of their own, thus generating income for themselves and promoting tourism in the area, he suggested.

“In fact the SME Bank is offering RM200 million of loan for those interested in tourism industry entrepreneurship like Sarawak homestay programmes, being tour guides, improving the infrastructure at the attractions, and many more tourism-related products, especially for the Bumiputeras,” pointed out Dawos.

Those interested should also apply for a licence from the Tourism Ministry, he reminded.

Dawos stressed that with the government’s effort in increasing the per capita income, villagers within the constituency, especially along the Borneo Heights road, must utilise the various nature attractions and include them in tourism packages.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Cluster tourism package for Mambong, Kuching in the offing
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Sarawak big co-operatives told to venture into tourism industry

MUKAH: Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud yesterday called on big co-operative establishments to venture into the tourism industry in a big way to attract more domestic and foreign tourists to the state.

Additionally, Taib also proposed that all local tourism players should create a strong common brand name for their tourism products for easy identification by their prospective customers, especially those from overseas.

“It is imperative for all local tourism players to create a strong common brand name for their tourism products in order to become respected global players in the tourism industry.

“Additionally, local tourism operators and players should also think of merging their products and services with that of other industries, particularly the sago-based cottage industry in Mukah and other parts of Sarawak, to be offered at premium prices for greater income and revenue,” said Taib, stressing that the government is prepared to support big and reliable local wholesale tourism players by providing grants, professional training and promotional opportunities locally and overseas.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak big co-operatives told to venture into tourism industry
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Friday, June 18, 2010

KK Jazz Fest platform for Sabahan musicians

KOTA KINABALU: The first batch of musicians performing for the Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival (KKJF) was introduced at a press conference yesterday, which was also held to finalise the details for the event. Counting as its fourth edition thus far, the KKJF is expected to be the largest yet, featuring a full stable of 10 talented performers.

A strong representation of musicians from Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia has raised questions as to the festival’s objectives when it comes to planning its lineup of performers. Co-organising chairman Roger Wang explains that the festival is largely meant to support and highlight local talent.

“The ratio has changed, definitely,” said Wang. “Before, it was harder to find good enough acts to fill the list. Now we’re at the stage where we have more than enough talented local jazz performers.”

The Society of Performing Arts, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (SPArKS) Advisor Datuk Adeline Leong adds, “We usually have two or three international bands for every concert.”

The committee has indeed strengthened its initiative behind promoting local talent, as displayed in a long string of fringe events that were held leading up to the festival.

These mini-performances were meant as teasers to raise public awareness and interest in KKJF, also serving as platforms to showcase both the Sabahan musicians who count as performers for the main festival as well as guest artistes invited solely for the purpose of playing at the fringe events.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: KK Jazz Fest platform for Sabahan musicians
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Preparations for Sarawak Regatta going on schedule

PREPARATIONS for the Sarawak Regatta from July 30 to August 1 at the Kuching Waterfront are going on schedule.

Advisor to the organising committee Datuk Ose Murang said they were ready for the annual event and are expecting some 6,421 paddlers to take part.

“We are also inviting participation from the higher institutions, hotels, tour agencies to make this event more interesting,” he told a press conference on Wednesday.

Entry forms for the regatta are available from the Sarawak River Board at the Electra House and must be returned before July 9.

Ose, who is a deputy state secretary, said the Sarawak Regatta had been uniting the multi-ethnic population of Sarawak since its early days.

“The Sarawak Regatta is the mother of all regattas in Sarawak. Apart from being the first regatta to be held, it was also created for the purpose of uniting the people of Sarawak,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Preparations for Sarawak Regatta going on schedule
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

God save Sabah's Wildman of Borneo!

Sabah’s orang-utans won’t entertain tourists in Kuala Lumpur

As a lawyer, Masidi Manjun couldn’t have made a stronger case against relocating Sabah’s endangered orang-utans to the peninsula to entertain tourists. Why, he asks, didn’t God put them there in the first place? The last 45,000 of the primates are found only on Borneo island, the world’s third largest, and the Indonesian Sumatra province.

That’s why they have been nicknamed The Wildman of Borneo. But 11,000 of the pongo pygmaeus morio are in Sabah. In the 1980s, there were more than 20,000 of them, but down from 500,000 a century ago. “The state government's stand is very clear,” says the minister of tourism, culture and environment. “We will not relocate our orang-utans.”

There is enough scientific evidence that the orang-utans would not survive in the peninsular forests: their eco-system is different from that of Sabah and tigers, none in Borneo, threaten the red apes. But the most compelling reason is that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says that endangered great apes cannot be removed from its original habitat.

“This means that we cannot simply put the orang-utans in a peninsular jungle or park,” Laurentius Ambu, director of the Sabah wildlife department, tells Insight Sabah. “They are given high priority for conservation by the IUCN Species Survival Commission in the Asian Primate Specialist Group.”

Earlier this year the federal government announced plans to set up an “ape sanctuary in the city” by taking orang-utans from Sabah’s Sepilok rehabilitation centre in Sandakan to live in a man-made forest close to Kuala Lumpur city.

The aim is to attract more tourists to the national capital as part of an eco-tourism strategy, according to federal deputy tourism minister James Dawos Mamit. Tourism is Malaysia’s second income earner. Last year almost 24m tourists visited the 13-state federation and gave it 53 billion ringgit ($16 billion).

But the plans were quickly shot down by primatologists, environmentalists and Sabah government officials who fear the arboreal anthropoid apes will not survive in a different eco-system. Mr Mamit, a scientist by training and who calls himself an environmental expert, spoke enthusiastically of the city ape sanctuary to reporters three days after he was made deputy tourism minister on January 13.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: God save Sabah's Wildman of Borneo!
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Sabah International Folklore extravaganza starts July 19

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s exciting and colourful international cultural extravaganza – The Sabah International Folklore Festival (SIFF) – is back again this year.

Troupes from nine countries, Latvia, India, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and China have already confirmed their participation.

The show is scheduled to kick off on July 19, with a total of 19 international cultural dance troupes expected to perform during the seven-day festival until July 25.

A promotional stint was launched by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman at Wisma Innoprise yesterday, with the unveiling of official posters and stickers that will be distributed to the public.

Similar to last year’s show, the event will be held at the Sabah Cultural Centre in Penampang, where people can enjoy and witness the beauty, uniqueness and authenticity of other cultures in the world.

First held in 2001, SIFF is the brainchild of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, to promote Sabah as an attractive cultural and tourism destination in Asia, in line with the slogan ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’.

Through the Sabah Cultural Board, Masidi initiated the prestigious international event which today is among the biggest shows in Sabah’s tourism calendar.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah International Folklore extravaganza starts July 19
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Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort implements “Say NO to PLASTIC” campaign

KOTA KINABALU: Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa, Kota Kinabalu is fulfilling its responsibility towards the environment by implementing a “Say NO to PLASTIC” campaign in the resort.

Developed as an ongoing initiative, the campaign’s main objectives are to reduce the resort’s dependence on non-biodegradable plastic and to fulfil its responsibility towards caring for the environment.

Part of the resort’s “Say NO to PLASTIC” programme includes implementing the use of biodegradable plastic bags for the collection of wet and dry garbage and for composting. Made from thermo-oxidative degradable material, these bags will disintegrate into small fragments when exposed to heat and oxygen. Subsequently these fragments are devoured by micro-organisms and eventually excreted as water.

The resort has also provided canvas shopping bags as an alternative to regular plastic bags. These eco-friendly canvas bags are provided complimentary in each guestroom and have been introduced to encourage guests to use and reuse them while they are out shopping, and can be taken home as a souvenir.

The resort, as a popular caterer for outdoor events and confectionery, uses paper boxes instead of polystyrene for takeaway items such as cakes, pastries, packed breakfasts and lunches. Currently the resort is in the process of substituting its plastic take-away boxes with palm-based food containers. The containers are made from renewable resources such as palm and other agriculture crops and do not contain PVC, which can cause long-term health problems.

Recently, the resort implemented the use of eco-friendly rice husk children’s dining ware in all of its restaurants to reduce the use of plastic and to help conserve the environment. Made using heat compression and without toxic substances, rice husk dining ware is high in density, durable and able to withstand temperatures of between -30 and 120 degrees Celsius. Made from biodegradable fibre, it is reusable, easy to clean, suitable for raw and cooked food, and is dishwasher and microwave-safe.

Continue reading at: Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort implements “Say NO to PLASTIC” campaign
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Tune Hotels.com Waterfront Kuching gets one-star rating

TUNE Hotels.com Waterfront Kuching which opened for business in March last year, has been recently awarded a “1-Star” rating by the Tourism Ministry.

The hotel star rating system is methodological and each hotel has to meet the criteria set up by the ministry to ensure that the hotels are rated based on its own category’s merit and class in design, arrangement, fit-out, facilities, amenities and services.

The hotel is owned and managed by Limar Management Services Sdn Bhd.

Its chief operating officer for property investment K S Wong said: “The hotel has led the way by being the first franchise hotel in the Tune Hotels.com Group to open in East Malaysia and to be awarded 1-Star in Sarawak.”

The hotel was built as part of an urban re-habitation project undertaken by Limar Group Property Investment in Taman Sri Sarawak Kuching to give the commercial centre a new lease of life.

It involves the re-configuration and fitting-out of 10 units of four storey shop-offices at Block H with a gross floor area of approximately 60,000sq feet.

The hotel was carefully planned and retrofitted accordingly to the specifications of Tune Hotels.com in areas of design, functionality, ambience, comfort level, cleanliness, value, facilities for disabled, quality of furnishing and fittings, with traditional motif flavour finishing.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tune Hotels.com Waterfront Kuching gets one-star rating
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sabah - A land of folklore

Cultural dances from around the world on show in Kota Kinabalu

Sabah, the land below the wind, is fast becoming a land of folklore. Chief minister Musa Aman launched a campaign to promote the 5th Sabah International Folklore Festival on June 16 in Kota Kinabalu, coming on the heels of a month-long Kaamatan (harvest) celebration of the indigenous Kadazandusuns and Muruts. Organisers expect a sold-out crowd for the week-long extravaganza from July 19 to 25. About 25,000 tickets will sell for between 10 and 1,000 ringgit ($3 and $304) for cultural dance performances of 19 countries at the Pusat Kebudayaan Sabah (Sabah cultural centre) in Penampang.

Mr Musa was busy distributing promotional car stickers of the festival to motorists outside his Wisma Innoprise office at Jalan Sulaman. Through folklore, he hopes to give foreigners another reason to visit Sabah which draws slightly more than 2m tourists a year; about a third of them are foreigners. Tourism gives Sabah about 4 billion ringgit a year, making it the state’s third largest earner after palm oil and petroleum.

Last year 10 countries took part in the festival and the Sabah Cultural Board raked in 162,000 ringgit from ticket sales. It aims to earn more this year. Nine countries have confirmed their participation. They are China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Taiwan. Others expected are Bulgaria, Egypt, Ghana, Greece, Libya, Romania, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Togo and Uzbekistan.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sabah - A land of folklore
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Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival celebrates 13th glorious year

TWO Sarawak groups are among the world class performers at this year’s Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF).

The two are Pingasan’k, a Bidayuh band from Kampung Benuk, and Bakieh, a group from Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV).

This year’s festival will see 20 groups representing various countries performing at the festival.

The line-up include Reelroad’b (Russia), Novalima (Peru), I Beddi (Italy), Braagas (Czech), Bisserov Sisters (Bulgaria), De Temps Antan (Canada), Minuit Guibolles (France), Layatharanga (India) and Farafina Burkina Faso (Mali), Kimura-Ono-Duo (Japan), Debu (Indonesia), Galadum Galundaina (Portugal), Monster Ceilidh Band, (UK) Shanbehzadeh Ensemble (Iran), Leila Negrau (Reunion Island), Yerboli (China), Musafir Gypsies, (Rajasthan), Codey Ledet and his Zydeco Band (USA).

The 13th edition of the festival will take place at its permanent venue at Sarawak Cultural Village, about 30 kilometres from Kuching, from July 9 to 11.

The festival is expected to attract over 22,000 weekend revellers of which 60% of them are expected to be from outside Sarawak.

Continue reading at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival celebrates 13th glorious year
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sarawak facing shortage of tourist guides to meet increasing tourist influx

SARAWAK is facing a severe shortage of trained and licensed tour guides, said a veteran tour guide Rose Au.

With the state forecasting 3.6 million tourist arrivals this year, the 79 active trained and licensed guides registered with the Sarawak Tourism Board will not be able to meet the demand.

“To cater to the rising needs, unlicensed tour guides are still very much sought after,” said Au, who is a lecturer at the UCSI University.

She said tour guiding offered good income and she advised young Sarawakians to take up the job.

She also added that untrained guides were not competent as they did not have the professional knowledge to handle tourists.

“The standard of local guides were far behind those in Thailand, Europe and United Kingdom.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak facing shortage of tourist guides to meet increasing tourist influx
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Sarawak hotels' promotions of imported beers of World Cup countries

RAJANG Lobby Lounge of Grand Margherita Hotel and The Club Lobby Lounge of the Riverside Majestic Hotel in Kuching have come up with a string of promotions to celebrate the World Cup this year.

From June 1 till July 31, the lounges are offering a variety of imported bottled beers from the qualifying countries air-flown to Sarawak just for the occasion.

Football fans will be able to collect their very own exclusive Fifa World Cup mug, shaped in none other than the form of the World Cup trophy with any purchase of the World Cup cocktail at RM35, a World Cup mocktail at RM25 or just purchase the mug at RM22 each.

Both lounges will also have a lucky draw where exclusive World Cup merchandise will be up for grabs.

Grand Margherita and Riverside Majestic marketing and communication officer Eileen Chong said customers are entitled to a lucky draw with every purchase of RM30 at the lounges. A name will be called out during half-time of every World Cup match.

Continue reading at: Sarawak hotels' promotions of imported beers of World Cup countries
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Monday, June 14, 2010

The Green Connection - Turtles, sharks and stingrays all under one roof

KOTA KINABALU: The only place in the city and even in the whole of Sabah where one gets to view live sharks, stingrays, turtles and even hold non-poisonous snakes all under one roof has opened its doors to the public.

The Green Connection, situated at Mile 2.5 Off Jalan Tuaran (near Wisma Wanita) is home to more than 1,200 species ranging from the smallest of insects to slimy snakes and huge sharks.

Its technical director, Professor Steve Oakley, in an interview with the New Sabah Times recently said the centre was set up for education and conservation.

“We built this place so that people can come here and see things they won’t normally see and learn things they won’t normally learn. We want to educate and get the conservation message across to the masses that we need to conserve the environment and its biodiversity,” he said.

He added that it is difficult for children, members of the public and policy makers to go to the jungle to look at plants and wildlife, as well as dive at great sites around Sabah such as the likes of Sipadan.

“So we are bringing the experience to them,” he said.

At the centre, visitors are shown all the glorious animals that live on the reefs and are educated on the importance of conservation and preservation of the environment.

And to make it fun and interesting, visitors get to touch snakes (non-poisonous), starfish, sharks and even handle coconut crabs, which are endangered throughout the world because they are very tasty and easily caught.

Oakley hopes that centres such as theirs will help spur interest in conserving biodiversity, particularly among policy makers as these are the people who have the power to control the destiny of the planet.

Continue reading at: The Green Connection - Turtles, sharks and stingrays all under one roof

Also Read: The Green Connection Aquarium and Discovery Centre KK Sabah
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Decline of Orang Utan population due to forest exploitation

TUARAN: Forest exploitation and conversion to agriculture remains the main reason behind the drastic population decline of orang-utans in Sabah.

According to HUTAN Director, Marc Ancrenaz at the Species Action Plan for Orangutans, Borneo Elephants and Bornean subspecies of the Sumatran Rhinoceros workshop held recently, habitat loss, compaction, fragmentation, degradation, as well as complete disruption of the ecosystem and illegal killing and fires are the main threats to the orang-utans population.

Most of Sabah’s landmass was covered with tropical forests in a recent past. Yet today, only 50 percent of the land is still under some sort of forest cover, 15 percent of which are protected areas.

Natural forest are converted with commercial crops such as oil palm, industrial tree plantations (rubber, acacia) and other types of land uses such as for roads, human settlements, cattle or fish breeding.

Marc warned that further habitat loss will without any possible doubt lead to additional population crash.

The establishment of oil palm, other industrial tree plantations and expansion of infrastructure development have also led to the fragmentation of commercial forest reserves and other range forests for the orang-utans.

“Fragmentation prevents a proper gene-flow between different orang-utan subpopulations and results in inbreeding and deleterious genetic effects. Over time, human pressure and encroachment on the natural landscape and the excessive fragmentation of the remaining forests will make the last orang-utan populations more susceptible to local extinction,” he said.

Continue reading at: Decline of Orang Utan population due to forest exploitation
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Study on how ‘rehabilitated’ orangutan cope in the wild in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: An extensive study on rescued and “rehabilitated” orang utan that have been released back into the forests has begun in Sabah as part of efforts to ascertain how the animals are coping in the wild.

Three orang utan, implanted with tracking devices, were freed into the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, an area twice the size of Singapore and covered with primary and secondary forests.

It is part of a research by the Sabah Wildlife Department and The Sepilok Orangutan Appeal UK, a non-governmental organisation based in Britain.

James Robins, a primatologist from the NGO, said the study began last month and that it was the first time that the primates were implanted with telemetry devices to enable researchers to track them in the forests.

“This would enable wildlife researchers and me to keep tabs on the orang utan in Tabin,” he added.

“We track them on a daily basis. One of the most important aspects of our research is to document the behaviour of the newly released orang utan including the type of fruits they are feeding on and whether they are getting enough to eat.

“If we are unable to immediately identify the food that they eat, we will collect the samples and identify them at a later date,” he said.

Continue reading at: Study on how ‘rehabilitated’ orangutan cope in the wild in Sabah
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Turning Annah Rais hot spring into a tourist attraction

KUCHING: Hot spring in Annah Rais will be developed into a tourist attraction, said Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit.

Dawos said his ministry is collaborating with Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) to come up with a tourism package.

“We have held meetings with MPP on the project and MPP has been entrusted to monitor it. The project will start once the planning is completed. I think we will start sometime this year,” he said when closing the Gawai Dayak celebration in Kampung Annah Rais on Saturday night.

He said the tourism development in the village would hopefully help to boost the socio-economic status of the people there.

“If the hot spring and its surrounding area are developed well, I believe a family’s monthly income from such development will be more than RM300,” he said.

Dawos said he hoped for all round cooperation from the people there so that efforts to improve the tourism sector would run smoothly.

Continue reading at: Turning Annah Rais hot spring into a tourist attraction
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Miri Crocodile Farm and Mini Zoo

By Rosli Abidin Yahya

One place worth visiting during this school holiday is the Miri Crocodile Farm and Mini Zoo which is only a short drive from the Brunei border of Sungai Tujuh in Kuala Belait.

Located at Lot 164, 24km Miri-Kuala Baram Road, near Kuala Baram River Mouth (previous ferry terminal for Bruneians to go to Miri), students and visitors can take a leisure and educational tour around the farm to learn about the animals and their habitat.

Visitors can reach the farm and mini zoo through a pleasant scenic coastal drive along Miri-Kuala Baram Road.

From the new control posts and past the Asean Bridge, it will take Bruneians only about 10 minutes to reach the farm. From Miri itself, the farm can be reached in 20 minutes.

Bruneians will need to pay RM20 (about B$8) to gain entrance while Malaysians will only be charged RM15 (B$6).

The farm opens seven days a week from 9am to 6pm and visitors may find it worthwhile to come around the feeding times of the crocodiles at 10.30am, 11.30am, 2.30pm and 4.30pm so they can see how crocodiles are fed.

The crocodile farm cum mini zoo is the first and the largest crocodile farm in the northern region of Sarawak and is registered and recognised by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Visitors will come face to face with more than 2,000 Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus Porosus) and Malayan Gharial (Tomistoma Schlegelii) in a 22-acre landscaped setting with natural breeding enclosure and perfectly man-made sanctuary ponds specially carved out for the creatures.

A stroll around its perimeter allows visitors to safely view an amazing collection of crocodiles up close. But do not try to put your hand over the fence as the crocodiles may jump and snapped them, as a warning sign shows.

Visitors will learn why crocodiles need to be conserved.

The crocodiles were captured mainly in Southeast Asia and Northern Australia where their natural habitat can be mangrove swamps, rivers and open sea.

The diet comprise of marine and land animals such as wild pigs, monkeys, deer and water birds.

A crocodile lays about 20 to 50 eggs in a nest mound of earth and vegetation, which it zealously guards. The young call from inside the eggs when they are ready to emerge, after an incubation of 86 to 90 days.

Solitary by nature, crocodiles gather in small groups during the breeding seasons, where males compete for the female's attention.

Wild estuarine crocodiles have been greatly reduced in number due to habitat destruction as well as hunting by man for the valuable skin. This species thrives in large numbers in crocodile farms throughout their range.

A good example of this was seen when the crocodiles were exterminated in the Nile and the tilapia fishery declined. This was because the crocodiles controlled the numbers of catfish which fed predominantly on the eggs and the young of the commercially valuable tilapia fish.

Crocodiles also help to improve the genetic quality of other species by feeding on weak, sick and injured fishes, birds and mammals.

At the farm, the crocodiles are bred not only for conservation but also for their commercial value. The crocodiles were also slaughtered for their flesh (a delicacy for some) and skin.

Aside from crocodiles, visitors can take an adventurous stroll through the farm, you come face to face with some exotic animals such as Southern Cassowary, Python, Binturong, Sun Bear, Gibbon, Porcupine and a band of cheerful monkeys.

The different species of foreign and domestic animals are kept in spacious cages separated from the visitors. Visitors are allowed to feed the animals with bananas available at the canteen.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday
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Saturday, June 12, 2010

'Right of way' for Sabah Borneo wildlife

Tuaran: State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun pledged to seriously push in the State Cabinet for the reconnection of fragmented forests deemed high value wildlife habitats.

"This is to make sure conservation works in Sabah, the most critical component is to reconnect the fragmented wildlife corridors," he said, when closing the two-day workshop on Species Action Plans for Orang-Utan, Elephant and Rhinoceros at Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort in Dalit Bay, Friday.

"The time to do it is now while we have all the experts here helping us because the window of opportunities may not come knocking at our door again," Masidi said.

"This is the challenge now. Even with a 55 per cent forest cover, we cannot conserve if we cannot reconnect the fragmented forests that are spread all over and without the forests and our iconic wildlife, tourists have no reason to come to Sabah," he told participants of the workshop organised by the Wildlife Department, the Bornean Rhino Alliance (Bora), Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), French NGO Hutan and WWF-Malaysia.

He said the present wildlife predicament is a legacy of a spate of land alienation in the 1980s and 90s to meet a desire for fast development, especially in agriculture, as it emerged as the biggest revenue earner.

In the process, everyone "overlooked" the need to maintain animal corridors.

"The suggestion of creating a 500m riverine buffer in wildlife-rich areas is a good idea. We'll take it as a guideline but where to get it, I would like to think it will be donated by the planters. I know forcing is bad so we would like to give them ownership of the programme out of a desire and love to do it," said Masidi.

Continue reading at: 'Right of way' for Sabah Borneo wildlife
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Kinabatangan Orang Utan population now only 800

THE Orang Utan population in Sabah's key nature tourism spot - the Lower Kinabatangan - has declined by one third from 1,100 to only 800 over the last 10 years because forests are getting too small and compounded by fragmentation and isolation, said French primatologist, Dr Marc Ancrenaz.

Similarly, the population of Proboscis monkeys has also declined by 10 per cent over the last five years.

Dr Ancrenaz joined speakers in highlighting the "predicament" of these flagship species, including the low number Sumatran rhinos (Dr Junaidi Payne) and the conflict-prone pygmy elephants (Dr Benoit Goossens), underscoring the need to step up conservation actions without delay, especially on habitat restoration.

Dr Ancrenaz' s findings on the orang utan confirmed the long term declining trend cited in an opening address by the Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr Laurentius Ambu who said that the oranag utan population in Sabah had dropped by 50 per cent over the last half century.

His speech was read out by Dr Sen Nathan.

"The biggest problem we face today is forest fragmentation and isolation," noted Dr Ambu.

Asked what he meant by the forests getting too small, Dr Ancrenaz said although the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is 26,000ha in size plus an adjacent 15,000ha , "the problem is it is not one block of forest but split into eleven lots separated by drains, roads and plantations.

"So the orang utan population is not one single group but at least 20 different units," he said.

Continue reading at: Kinabatangan Orang Utan population now only 800
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New airport for Lahad Datu

The Transport Ministry proposes to build a new airport in Lahad Datu under the 10th Malaysia Plan following the rapid economic growth in the district.

Deputy Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said the existing airport near Lahad Datu town did not meet the standard of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

"A new airport is sorely needed in view that the population there has breached 380,000. Lahad Datu is also a region facing rapid economic growth with vibrant plantation and tourism activities.

"We hope that this project (airport) will be given priority by the Economic Planning Unit in listing the Transport Ministry's major projects in Sabah," he told reporters after visiting the runway extension project of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) here Friday.

Continue reading at: New airport for Lahad Datu
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Friday, June 11, 2010

BraAgas to inspire Sarawak Rainforest World Musical Festival 2010

KUCHING: BraAgas will inspire festival-goers at Rainforest World Musical Festival 2010 (RWMF) with splendid vocals and danceworthy rhythms.

The four women from Prague play folk songs from across Europe.

They interpret traditional songs including from the Pyrenean peninsula (Sephardic, Galician), Provensal, Scandinavia as well as secular medieval songs from central Europe.

“Also they like to infuse their music with influences of oriental and Balkan rhythms,” said the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) in a press statement yesterday.

BraAgas use replicas of old instruments such as cister, fiddle, shawns, chalumeaux, different knids of flutes and recorders and oriental percussion, as davul, darbuka, daf, riq and others, to give their music an exotic touch.

The band has played together since 2007 with many concerts in the Czech Republic and around Europe.

The band won the 2010 Andel Award (Czech Republic’s Grammy Awards) in Best World Music.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: BraAgas to inspire Sarawak Rainforest World Musical Festival 2010
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