Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Borneo jungle expedition unforgettable


Confrontations with tarantulas, leeches and gun-wielding tribesmen was the lifestyle for Picton lad Cameron Robertson during a three-week jungle expedition in Borneo.

The 17-year-old set off on a search for self-confidence and motivation in South East Asia last month.

He joined Operation Raleigh and was the only person from a country south of Malaysia on the expedition. The 77 other venturers came from Iceland, the United States and countries in Europe and Asia.

Operation Raleigh is a British-based youth development charity designed to help youth explore the world and discover their potential as leaders while working together to make a difference for poorer villages.

Cameron, who left Queen Charlotte College in November last year, aspires to be a helicopter pilot in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, but first he wanted an adventure.

At first he was hesitant, but on reflection it was the "best thing I could have ever done".

"For me I need to feel comfortable when I choose to pursue something, but for once I just jumped straight into Operation Raleigh, and man, I don't regret it at all."

The troops were split up into groups of 10 to 14 and deployed in remote locations across Borneo.

His group were responsible for building a kindergarten in the Sonsogon Magandai village in the Pitas district, near Sabah.

"It was amazing. It was hard work in tough conditions, but seeing the end result was so worth the effort."

Cameron recalls coming face-to-face with what he thought was a head-hunter on his way back to base camp – an experience he will never forget.

"One of our group members said, `hey let's go back the river way, follow it round back to base', so yeah, we didn't think anything of it and away we went.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Borneo jungle expedition unforgettable
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Monday, August 29, 2011

British heroes of Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches remembered


There was a solemn air at the Kundasang War Memorial as large crowds gathered to remember British prisoners of war (POWs) who fell in the infamous 1945 Sandakan-Ranau death marches.

Local dignitaries, led by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai, and top brass from the British army, led by Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery Major-General CC Wilson, were present at the ceremony to pay tribute to the fallen heroes.

A total of 641 British PoWs died in the Sandakan-Ranau death marches.

A series of forced marches through marsh land and dense jungles in Borneo also caused the deaths of over 2,400 allied PoWs.

Of the figure, many also died in prison camps in North Borneo (Sabah) after they were captured by the Japanese during World War II.

Only six people, all Australian servicemen, survived the horror after they managed to escape.

“This is a simple yet important ceremony to remember all those who sacrificed their lives for a Sabah that we now cherish,” Dr Yee said.

Describing the event as a very moving ceremony, Gen Wilson said while all these were history, the past continues to haunt people these days.

“We had not really understood what the ordeal was sixty-six years ago until Major Tulloch John did all this research and we came to know that the Royal Artillery suffered very badly.

“The death march is a terrible thing to have happened,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: British heroes of Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches remembered
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Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Happy Merdeka Day 2011



To all our Muslim visitors, clients and partners,

E-BORNEO.COM wishes you a joyous Eid Mubarak, or how we greet in Malaysia:

'SELAMAT HARI RAYA AIDILFITRI'

and

'MAAF ZAHIR BATIN'.

May you have a wonderful, prosperous and safe celebration with your family, relatives and friends.

As this year's Hari Raya festival will coincide with Malaysia's 54th Independence Day, we would like to wish all Malaysians, here and abroad

'A HAPPY MERDEKA DAY'

Sabah and Sarawak gained its independence from the British 48 years ago on 31 August 1963, before forming Malaysia 16 days later, together with the Federation of Malaya, and Singapore (who left the Federation in 1965).

In conjunction with the Hari Raya and Merdeka Day public holidays, please kindly be informed that our office will be closed for a week starting Monday, 29 August 2011 and will only re-open on Monday, 5 September 2011.

For travel and related requests, do note that your e-mails enquiries may be replied during this holiday period (depending on priority and/or importance) but earliest confirmation can most likely only be processed on 5 September 2011 (working hours +0800 GMT MYT).

Any inconvenience caused is very much regretted.

Happy Holidays and Best of Health.

Best wishes,

The e-borneo.com Team
E-BORNEO.COM TOURS & TRAVEL SDN BHD (862652-M ; KPL/LN 6169)

Lot No. 7, 2nd Floor, Block C
Lintas Jaya Uptownship
88200 Penampang
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Malaysia

Tel: +6-088-722606
Fax: +6-088-727606
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Information on the Maliau Basin Conservation Area


The following is a content from at our sister site called Borneo Tropical Vacation for your Sunday reading pleasure:

Maliau Basin Study & Research Centre


Maliau Basin or Meliau Basin, or also Maliau Basin Conservation Area, is a region in the Malaysian State of Sabah, which represents a geological catchments surrounding the Maliau River.

Located in the South central part of Sabah in the Sandakan Division, it was designated as a conservation area by the Sabah Foundation (Yayasan Sabah) in 1981.

Dubbed as Sabah's "Lost World", the 588.4 square kilometers Maliau Basin Conservation Area was upgraded to a Protected (Class 1) Forest Reserve by the state government in 1997. The region also features Mount Lotung (1,667 metres), Maliau Falls, and Lake Linumunsut.

The Maliau Basin contains an unusual assemblage of 12 tropical forest types, comprising mainly of lower montane forest dominated by majestic Agathis trees, rare montane heath forest and lowland and hill dipterocarp forest. The incredible Maliau Basin rim is about 25 km in diameter, which is slightly bigger than the Island of Singapore.

A partial view of the rim of the Basin from Lobah Helipad

The main gateway for visitors to Maliau Basin Conservation Area is the Shell Maliau Basin Reception and Information Building, which was officially opened in April 2007. This building aims to strengthen the role of Maliau Basin as a centre of knowledge and learning on biodiversity conservation.

For tourists, the highlight of the adventure is to trek through the rainforest to reach the Camel Trophy Camp and later, to reach the Luba Camp, all the way to the majestic 7 tiers Maliau Falls.

The picturesque Maliau Falls



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Bird-watching at Sabah’s Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sandakan


WE recently went with a group of photographic and birding friends to Sabah’s Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC), after hearing so many good stories about birding there.

RDC is located in Sepilok and the world famous orang-utan sanctuary run by the Sabah Forestry Department is only 2km away. The Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve (4.294ha) and the Sepilok Forest Reserve (1.835ha) are adjoining.

The primary function of this area is to create public awareness of the importance of conserving the rainforest and natural resources. A large part of this forest is made up of old growth lowland mixed dipterocarp forest. There is a visitor centre, orchids and pitcher plants arboretum, ginger and associated plants arboretum and many more attractions.

The 300-metre canopy walkway with two watchtowers is a great facility for bird-watching. Present records show that Sepilok forest is host to over 300 bird species in 52 families, with 15 endemics including the rare Bornean bristlehead, the blue–headed pitta and the white-fronted falconet; all of which are much sought after by bird-watchers from all over the world. It is also home to the superb barred eagle owl – the largest owl in Borneo.

RDC opened to the public in 2006 and the trails are well marked. On the first day, we saw a black-naped monarch breeding and the male and female took turns to sit on the eggs. It is sad that people still have to learn that they should not disturb the animals by using a flash. Visitors should not make noise too. When we checked a few days later, we discovered that the poor bird was not sitting on its nest but standing near it and we worried that it had abandoned the eggs. In the daytime it’s not necessary to use the flash, plus the pictures are so much better without.

It’s a great bird-watching area and you can see, if you are lucky, several different species of kingfishers including the beautiful ruddy kingfisher, along with hornbills and pittas.

The first day when we arrived at around 5pm, we went straight to the place where we saw a flying squirrel and its nest last year.

We waited without knowing if it still lived in the dead tree. Suddenly around 6pm, I saw his head popping out to just look around and then it went back into the hole and nothing further happened. At 6.30pm, his head came out again and this time he left the cavity; climbed higher up the dead tree and took off to the next tree. We all got a shot of him in the tree but not of him flying since we had no clue which direction he would jump. It was great to see this animal flying (or gliding really).

The next morning at 6.30am, we set off to the RDC, which is only 400 metres away. We immediately saw three oriental pied hornbills flying, playing, eating and all cameras came out in a flash. It was so amazing to see hornbills flying above gardens.

After shooting a lot off good pictures, we headed of to the trail where we heard a strange knocking. Two orange-backed woodpeckers, male and female, were tapping their way around the stem of a huge dead tree. We also saw the ruddy kingfisher, black monarch, and the very interesting black-capped babbler, which mainly forages for insects on the forest floor.

I checked the canopy walkway for birds, but not so many were seen. Then I went up the 40-metre tall tower with my husband and saw the incredibly brightly coloured male and female scarlet minivet as well as a beautiful green leaf bird. In addition we saw many large-winged butterflies gracefully manoeuvring just above the leaf canopy. We also saw oriental pied hornbills and raptors overhead. Finally we heard the distant call of the rhinoceros hornbill.

Some of you might remember that excellent talk by Dr Pilai Poonswand from Thailand about a year ago. She succeeded in putting up nest boxes on tall trees, as most tall nesting trees have been removed through logging operations. Hornbills have made their nests in them. We saw quite a number of these boxes attached in several high trees in Sepilok, but I don’t think it has been done here in Sarawak yet.

In the evening, as we were resting at the first pondok (shelter) to wait for the squirrel we saw the evening before, we checked the hornbill nest box that had been put up on a tall tree opposite the pondok and discovered a flying squirrel peeping out of the opening. I decided to stay there while the others went to check on the flying squirrel we saw the previous evening. It is interesting to note that squirrels have taken to hornbill nesting boxes. Around 6.30pm, I saw it coming out through my lens. When it went up into the tree, I found another following it and realised that there were two in the nest box and caught them on film, but only my husband got a good shot of them flying.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Bird-watching at Sabah’s Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sandakan
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Cultural treasures from Sarawak highlands


Traditions and heritage still alive and kicking in Bario and Ba Kelalan

WHEN young Jenette Ulun first saw her great-aunt expertly crafting the famous Kelabit beadwork, she knew then it would be her calling to continue the legacy.

Little did she realise, however, that her own daughter would carry on the tradition in her own right.

“I was delighted when Nicolette, my eldest daughter, showed interest in the beadwork,” the 53-year-old craftswoman told thesundaypost during a recent visit to her handicraft shop – Bario Unique Trading – in the town centre of Bario.

“I’m proud and happy to see that the tradition will be preserved, at least by another generation.”

Born and raised in the highlands, Jenette opened her shop in Bario about 10 years ago after spending most of her adult life with her husband in Miri before the couple decided to retire in their hometown.

Cosy and quaint, Bario Unique Trading showcases a kaleidoscope of intricate beadwork items – most noticeably the traditional Kelabit women headdress called ‘peta bao rawir’. A simple piece without much elaborate beadwork design would take Jenette at least two days to complete.

She cautioned with a smile: “Simple as it is, don’t make any mistake about it being cheap. The lowest it can go is about RM800 per piece. The highest offer I ever got was RM1,500. This is only for the ladies’ headdress.”

The fully-adorned traditional costume worn by Kelabit women, called ‘sapa harit’, could go for twice as high or even higher.

Apart from the meticulous details and toilsome effort needed to produce even a plain peta, Jenette said the high price would also be factored into the main raw materials – the beads, either clay or glass – which have to be imported from neighbouring Indonesia.

“While I’m happy to see that Nicolette and other young women here are keen to continue the tradition, I believe more should be done to encourage the younger generation to do the same.

“I truly believe Bario should have an industrial centre for manufacturing beads – just like what I’ve seen in Lawas. Apart from manufacture, the centre should also provide beadwork classes to those interested who now have to travel to Miri (the nearest point) to learn the craft,” she suggested.

Jenette, a member of the Sarawak Craft Council, also highlighted the government’s efforts in upgrading the basic infrastructure such as roads, electricity and clean water supply in the area.

“Still, much more can be improved – perhaps 24-hour electricity supply for all of Bario soon,” she added.

Bario is home to about 1,200 people, predominantly Kelabit. While regarded as quite isolated compared to the other towns, it has, however, seen tremendous growth over the past 10 years with the latest development project being the e-Bario, an information and communication technology (ICT) community programme undertaken jointly by National ICT Malaysia Council, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and Mimos Bhd.

As much as beadwork is regarded as the trademark of the Kelabits, the traditional bamboo windpipe instrument, collectively named as ‘bas suling’, will be identifiable with the Lun Bawangs of Ba Kelalan, a sister highland town about 70km north of Bario with a population of about 1,500.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Cultural treasures from Sarawak highlands
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Family Adventure Vacation at Sarawak Cultural Village


The following article is from our archive for your reading pleasure. It is for families or those who want to explore the best of Sarawak in half a day. The Sarawak Cultural Village, the venue of the annual Rainforest World Music Festival since 1997, will showcase Sarawak's cultural heritage and colourful cultures, which boasts 27 ethnic groups.


Click on Image above for a larger view


The Sarawak Cultural Village is a MUST visit destination for anyone who is visiting Sarawak, Malaysia Borneo, especially on a Family Adventure Vacation.

Located about 35km from Kuching city and tucked away on the foothills of legendary Mount Santubong, the Sarawak Cultural Village is built on a 14-acre site of equatorial vegetation, next to a scenic man-made lake.

Sometimes referred to as a living museum, the Village depicts the heritage of the major racial groups in Sarawak and conveniently portrays the respective lifestyle.

The village boasts seven ethnic houses representative of the Malay, the Chinese, the Penan and the longhouses of the Bidayuh, Iban, Orang Ulu and the Melanau.

Take a stroll around the village and observe the inhabitants of the various houses displaying their skills in making traditional handicrafts such as beading, wood-carving, bamboo-carving, pua-weaving, etc. You can also view traditional methods of making sago, and crushing sugar cane.

One of the highlight is to take a look at how the Penans make blowpipes and other hunting instruments, and try out your blow piping skill..., aimed normally at a balloon from a distance.

Another highlight is the 45 minutes live cultural dance show at the theatre. You will be entertained in the comfort of the air-conditioned mini-theatre where award-winning dancers and musicians present their famous multi-cultural performances.

Continue reading at: Family Adventure Vacation at Sarawak Cultural Village

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Friday, August 26, 2011

British soldiers re-trace routes of Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches


RANAU: Lieutenant Harry Hyslop thought that after five months of strenuous training, he would be ready for one of the biggest challenges he had ever embarked on.

Although the 23-year-old British soldier knew he was in for a surprise, Hyslop was very much determined to pursue this lifetime opportunity.

Just a few months back, he found out about the Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches.

“I knew that British soldiers served in Myanmar and Vietnam, but not in Borneo. What was more intriguing was the death marches involved Australian and British soldiers. I have never heard of that part of the history until recently,” he said.

And when he heard about a selection process to pick British soldiers to embark on the first ever journey to re-trace the routes of the death marches, it did not take him long to sign up for the challenge.

At least 40 soldiers signed up for the challenge, but after thorough screening, the number was reduced to 14. Hyslop was among the lucky ones.

“It was a challenging experience one could ever feel throughout the march, but it was also equally fascinating. It was fantastic.

“I have always like challenges, it is for physical development. When I learned about the death marches, I was very much intrigued. The more we talked about it, the more I wanted to do it (the walk).

“In a way, I believe it is a way for me to show tribute to the fallen heroes. It is a historical moment that should be re-liven,” he said when met at the Kundasang War Memorial yesterday.

Although he was happy to be able to complete the challenging walk, Hyslop admitted: “I do not think I would have survived if I had walked the walk about six decades ago.”

The Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches were a series of forced marches in Borneo which resulted in the deaths of over 3,600 Indonesian civilian slave labourers and 2,400 allied prisoners of war held captive by the Japanese during World war II at prison camps in North Borneo (now Sabah).

By the end of the war, of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated at Sandakan and Ranau, only six Australians survived, all of whom had escaped.

It is widely considered to be the single worst atrocity suffered by Australian servicemen during the Second World War.

The idea to re-trace the routes was mooted by retired Major John Tulloch of the Royal Regiment of Artillery in England.

“I was visiting Sandakan in 1999 and made a shocking discovery. Of the 641 British soldiers who served here, 400 were from our regiment. So I thought to myself, something must be done to honour them.

“And so I set my course, met up with some expatriates and locals who introduced me to the right group of people. They gave me the encouragement and told me that it can be done,” he said.

Tulloch spoke to several others who shared his passion, and he was more determined than ever to make his dream a reality.

Well like any beautiful stories, Tulloch’s determination and passion pushed through. Fast forward several years later, and after getting the green lights from the relevant authorities, he managed to inspire enough people to re-trace the death marches routes. And as the saying goes, the rest is history.

For the 65-year-old, what was more interesting was the involvement of the Sixth Malaysian Royal Regiment which also sent 15 soldiers to accompany the Britons in their journey.

“We have the memorial service to honour the dead on August 27 annually, but I felt there was something lacking. So by having the walk to re-trace the death marches routes which ends with the memorial service, it would bring a lot of difference, it is like the pinnacle on top of everything,” he said.

Tulloch understands the challenges one has to endure when trekking through the thick jungles.

“I know the jungle very well but that does not mean I lived in the jungles. I grew up in Penang and as a child, I used to run in the hutan (jungle) a lot, as oppose to doing homework … that was my early exposure to jungle life, an early jungle training.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: British soldiers re-trace routes of Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tourists bask in Sarawak's culture and nature


KUCHING: Borneo’s rainforest and its beauty are the attractive features that draw tourists to Sarawak and make it their favourite holiday destination.

“We love Borneo Island. This is my third time coming here. Twice Kuching, once to Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan,” said Rhonda Laffar from Busselton, Western Australia when met here yesterday.

The 51-year-old is here with her husband Mike. The couple has been here for a few days after their trip to the peninsula.

“It is interesting. Here, we saw the State Legislative Assembly building by the river side. We visited the orchid farm, it’s beautiful. We love nature, the greens, everything,” said Rhonda.

She said she and her husband had a great experience at Bako National Park. They enjoyed jungle trekking, and the spectacular sceneries of the rocks and the blue ocean amazed them.

“It’s magnificent. But one thing saddened us. We saw a lot of rubbish on the beach. We were thinking of how we could help to clear it all.”

She said when they travelled here they did not just sit inside the hotel and wonder around the bar and the pool.

She added that she likes the culture here, noting that people of different races live together in perfect harmony.

“It’s a very good thing. Actually it is the people that make the place so good. This place is so nice. I enjoy going out mixing with the locals. We go to places where locals go,” she said further.

On food, she said they loved to select from the array of different types of food which reflected the multi-ethnicity of the state.

“We had tried seafood and some vegetables at a seafood centre at Jalan Bukit Mata Kucing. Delicious! This is the best food I have ever eaten in my whole life,” said Rhonda.

Mike added that they loved to eat in places where there is a crowd.

“If that shop has less people, the food might be not so great.”

Besides the food, the couple also likes the warm weather.

Mike, a 57-year-old real estate agent said: “It is a bit hot but better than cold.”

They said they knew about this place from a hairdresser in Australia, prompting them to come to Sabah for the first time four years ago. They made their first visit to Kuching last year.

Rhonda said they felt safe walking around in town as they had prepared themselves to face incidents like snatching.

Rhonda bought some jewellery and accessories as gifts for her family.

“I hate shopping in Australia but I enjoy shopping here. We bought anything we like – clothes, shoes, bags and so on. Definitely we will come again,” she said.

Mike added: “Almost everything is good here. There is only one, the Tourism Information Centre should provide us information about tours in Kuching.

“They should be proactive organising some tours for tourists.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tourists bask in Sarawak's culture and nature
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Sighting Of Rare Bay Cat In Sarawak Captures Worldwide Interest


KUCHING -- The recent sighting of the elusive Bay cat (Catopuma badia) within the timber concession area of the state's Forest Management Units - Anap Sustainable Development Unit (ASDU) in central Sarawak - has captured the interest of wildlife enthusiasts worldwide.

Sarawak Forestry Corporation chief executive director and managing director Datuk Len Talif Salleh said the Bay cat, considered the least known cat species in the world, was sighted and captured on video by camera traps at two locations by a research student from Sarawak who is currently studying in the Kyoto University.

"This sighting, in an area of over 110,000 hectares, has marked a new distributional record, which is approximately 120km from the nearest previously documented record in 2005," he said in a statement here today.

He said the site was managed by Zedtee Sdn Bhd which carries out logging operations under the strict management regulations of reduced impact logging in line with sustainable forest management (SFM) practices.

Previously rare sightings had only been made at the Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Pulong Tau National Park that borders Indonesia about 120km to the south and 300km to the north of ASDU respectively, he said.

"This significant finding is the direct result of conservation and forest management efforts by the state to promote high standards and good practices in logging areas," he said.

He added that the state government had signed a memorandum of understanding to implement the Innovative Rainforest Conservation and Management Plan, involving Sarawak Forest Department and the Sarawak Forestry, in January this year.

Continue reading at: Sighting Of Rare Bay Cat In Sarawak Captures Worldwide Interest
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Thrilling Padawan Raft Safari 2011 calling for entries


KUCHING: The annual Padawan Raft Safari 2011, which be held on Oct 30, will see the debut of Expert Rafting and Kayaking categories to woo more local and foreign participation.

Covering a total distance of 41km, from the riverbank of Kampung Annah Rais to the finishing point at Kampung Git, it would take mental toughness and physical endurance to win the ‘Raja Sungai Semadang’ title.

Organising chairperson Isabell Julau Mejat said nature lovers should not miss this safari if they yearned adventure.

“The added 15 km, combined with the famous Keyu and Giam rapids, will be a good test of one’s physical endurance.”

In a press conference held here yesterday, Isabell enthused that other challenging categories include the ‘26 km Rafting Men’s Open’, ‘15 km Rafting Women’s Open’, `Rafting Government Departments’ and ‘Rafting Hotel and Tour Agencies’.

She added that the organisers hoped to attract 500 participants, to better the 436 recorded last year. There were two foreign teams in 2010.

Cash prizes totalling RM21,800 await winners in all four rafting categories, while a total of RM2,700 would be offered to winners in the Kayaking category.

“Registration fee in the expert rafting category has been set at RM200 per team, while fees in other categories are RM140 per team. These fees are inclusive of personal accident insurance and raft disposal.

“As for the kayaking competition, the fee is RM60 per team, including insurance coverage.”

She pointed out that each team was required to register an extra member to act as reserve. Substitution can be made anytime at any part of the race.

Continue reading at: Thrilling Padawan Raft Safari 2011 calling for entries
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Surviving the WWII Borneo Death Marches


Trekkers are uncovering more sections of a gruesome WWII Death March that claimed thousands of Australian lives.

AS WHISTLING SCREAMS ERUPTED overhead, allied bombs thumped the Japanese airbase in Sandakan, northern Borneo, in January 1945. Emaciated Australian and British POWs scattered with their Japanese guards in a hunt for cover. The tide of war was changing; the allies were advancing. The bombing had destroyed the POW-built airstrip, and now, there was no longer use for these already debilitated men.

Nearly 2000 Australian prisoners were tortured, executed and starved to death by their Japanese captors in Sandakan POW camp and Death Marches. Of 2671 prisoners, 1812 Australians, and 641 Britons never made it out alive. This little-known event is one of the most devastating losses of life in Australian history.

Forced into slave labour by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in 1942, thousands of Australian and British men were taken to Sandakan, northern Borneo where they were forced to build a Japanese military airstrip. In an effort to quash any resistance among POWs, 170 captive officers were removed from Sandakan and transferred to the Kuching south west of Sandakan.

Following the officers' removal, conditions deteriorated rapidly. Beaten, malnourished, and suffering severe tropical diseases, the men became slaves - forced at gunpoint to build a Japanese airfield. "The sick were gradually given less and less rations than the ones that could work," says 94-year-old Lt Russ Ewin, a former Australian officer who spent 15 months in Sandakan before moved to Kuching.

Death Marches begin

When advancing Allies successfully destroyed the military airstrip in January 1945, the Japanese began a retreat to the western coast of Borneo. In an attempt to prevent POW liberation, Lt Gen Masao Baba, commanding officer of the 37th Japanese Army, ordered Australian POWs westward to Ranau - 265km through dense, treacherous jungle, in the shadows of Mt Kinabalu.

These POW treks became known as the Death Marches for the enormous number of lives lost along the way.

The first Death March of 350 men, most of whom were extremely weak, left on 29 January 1945 - shortly after the bombings. "Men who had stopped, too weak to press on, were often bayonetted or shot where they lay," says Dr Kevin Smith, historian and author of Escapes and Incursions and several other books about the events. "The men [who] were selected were sick, starved, malnourished and carrying wounds from previous battles."

They also suffered the mental trauma of repeated beatings. For many, including men as young as 16-year-old - often bare foot and ill with malaria and malnutrition conditions such as beri-beri - were doomed before they began.

"You can really imagine the spirit and determination of these guys when walking the track," says Wayne Wetherall, an expert trekker who operates historical tours along the trail and has help redisover sections of it. "The stories that I've heard are the most horrific and terrible stories you could ever imagine."

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Surviving the WWII Borneo Death Marches
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Malua Biobank lowland rainforests important for orangutans in Sabah


Malua Biobank in Sabah supports the highest density of a sub-species of the orangutan family when compared to other parts of the world.

KOTA KINABALU: Ground and aerial surveys of 34,000 hectares of lowland rainforest known as the Malua Biobank in Sabah has revealed the area to be one of the most important refuges for the orangutan in Borneo.

Sabah Forestry Department’s Malua Wildlife unit leader, Hadrin Lias, who led the surveys, said the population of orangutan was increasing with the current conservation activities in Malua Biobank.

Logging in Malua ceased in 2007 and since then the habitat for orangutan has remained undisturbed and the area is regularly patrolled.

Dr Marc Ancrenaz, an international expert on orangutan, assisted and trained the Malua Wildlife Unit to undertake the surveys and believes that the Malua Biobank supports the highest density of this sub-species (Pongo pygmaeus morio) of orangutan anywhere in the world.

“Malua Biobank is critically important for the survival of this subspecies, though all three sub-species of orangutan in Borneo are endangered due to extensive habitat loss,” Ancrenaz said.

“For orangutan to survive in Borneo, it is vitally important to preserve large contiguous blocks of lowland rainforest such as Malua Biobank and the nearby Danum Valley Conservation Area,” he added..

He said the orangutan density was found to be particularly high in eastern Malua.

The individuals in this part of the reserve are physically and genetically isolated from the rest of the population due to the presence of the Malua River which cuts across the reserve and which orangutans are unable to cross.

In an effort to connect populations, the second of two suspended orangutan bridges across the Malua River has been constructed and remote cameras will be installed to record any wildlife movements across the bridges.

The new orangutan bridge consists of a lattice of chains that provides the orangutan hand and footholds to cross the river, mimicking the function of overhanging tree branches in areas where large trees are now absent.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Malua Biobank lowland rainforests important for orangutans in Sabah
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Celebrate Hari Raya with Hilton Kuching


KUCHING: Celebrate this coming Hari Raya Aidilfitri with Hilton Kuching’s delicious and beautiful layer cakes.

Hilton Kuching’s pastry chef Zaleha Abdullah, fondly known as ‘Mommy Leha’, is famous for her exotic and legendary kek lapis creations. Some of her popular original recipes from previous years include Lapis Pertemuan and Lapis Sarawak Kumbu.

Especially for Hari Raya Aidilfitri this year, Zaleha has came up with a new and exciting kek lapis recipe, namely Kek Lapis Labecka, which promises to be her best recipe yet with its eye-catching colours, enticing aroma and pretty mille feuille effect of many layers.

Hilton Kuching is also showcasing Zaleha’s Lapis Book, a traditional Horlicks-flavoured layer cake and Lapis Masam Manis, which is layered with haw flakes.

The kek lapis are priced at RM140 each for a cake size measuring eight inches by eight inches.

In addition, the hotel offered attractive packages for breaking of fast during Ramadan or for ‘Ramah-Tamah Aidilfitri’ parties. The packages are affordably priced from RM58 per person (minimum of 35 persons) for private group dining at its function room.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Celebrate Hari Raya with Hilton Kuching
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Borneo Death March


The 264-kilometre hike from Lolosing to the summit of Taviu Hill in the central highlands of north Borneo has been dubbed the toughest hike in the world. But a group of 14 British soldiers have set off in the hope of becoming the first to complete the full length of the infamous Borneo Death March.

Only six Australians survived the death marches enforced by the Japanese towards the end of World War II. Three marches claimed another 1,781 Australian and 641 British troops. All who managed it were malnourished, many afflicted with malaria or beriberi. They were beaten along the way, and those who survived were shot or bayoneted.

The atrocities were considered too great for public consumption and were hushed up by governments in London and Canberra for decades after the war.

In more recent years, the trek has been transformed into a pilgrimage for veterans of all wars and people wanting to pay their respects to the fallen along the Sandakan to Ranau route. In doing so, many have attempted to complete the historic trail, but the journey has proven too arduous and none have finished.

The latest expedition was put together Maj. John Tulloch a retired veteran of many conflicts, including Vietnam, where he served with the New Zealand army, and Northern Ireland after transferring to the British military, where he served with the Royal Artillery Regiment.

Tulloch came to North Borneo, now the East Malaysian state of Sabah, in 1999 to commemorate the fallen. After some basic research he realised the vast majority of British soldiers who perished here were from his own regiment and this made it all the more personal.

‘I was determined there must be official regimental recognition for the members of the Royal Artillery and their attached arms and services who tragically lost their lives in such unspeakable conditions,’ he said. ‘Moreover, I felt that in addition, the Royal Artillery should conduct a remembrance march of the 164-mile Death March route in memory of the POWs.’

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: The Borneo Death March
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No more zoning policy for Sabah tour guides after 1 Oct 2011


Tourist guide services in Sabah will no longer be regulated by the zoning policy after October 1 this year as they will be issued a special badge, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said.

Masidi, who was replying to Luyang assemblywoman Melanie Chia’s question in the State Assembly sitting yesterday, said this will resolve the current confusion over the zoning policy, which has caused dissatisfaction among the tourist guides in Sabah.

He said tourist guides issued with the Blue or Green badges before October 1 this year will have to undergo a special course to qualify for the special badge.

“Blue badge holders will need to go for a one-week course while Green badge holders will have to undergo a three-week course,” he said, adding that once they pass the course, they would be issued the special badge that allows them to guide only in Sabah.

For those who want to get the special licence after October 1, 2011, will be required to go for the special tourist guide course.

Masidi said the Tourism Ministry together with the cooperation of state agencies and departments including the Sabah Tourist Guides Association (STGA), Malaysia Tourist Guides Council and Federation of Tourism Training Institutes is now in the process of building a module for the course.

Chia had asked about the ministry’s stand on the tourist guide zoning issue and the steps being taken to resolve the problem.

Last month, tourist guides in Sabah were up in arms over the Tourism Ministry’s ‘restrictive’ zoning policy which only allowed the Blue badges guides to do tours in the city while all nature based tours are to be conducted by the Green badge or nature guides.

Naturally, the tourist guides were unhappy with the policy as most of the tours in Sabah are nature based.

Masidi said, “We are an eco-tourism destination and most of our tourism spots are less than 10 minutes away from the towns in the state, so it does not make sense if our Blue badge tourist guides are only allowed to conduct tours in the city and towns.

Continue reading at: No more zoning policy for Sabah tour guides after 1 Oct 2011
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Monday, August 22, 2011

A Battle Is Under Way For The Forests Of Borneo


A spry 80-year-old cruises through the thick vegetation of western Borneo, or western Kalimantan, as it's known to Indonesians. Dressed in faded pinstripe slacks and a polo shirt, Layan Lujum carries a large knife in his hand. The chief of the island's Sekendal village is making his morning rounds.

Layan is a member of an indigenous ethnic group called the Dayaks, who once had a reputation as fierce headhunters. As on most mornings, his first job on a recent day is to tend to his rubber trees.

He uses a blade to cut a few grooves in each tree, allowing its white latex sap to trickle into a cup. Then he plucks a handful of fern leaves and snaps off the tops of a dozen or so bamboo shoots and puts them in a bucket. In a few minutes, he has enough for lunch. He goes to the river to wash and chop the shoots.

Environmentalists say Layan's lifestyle is a form of "indigenous knowledge" that has allowed the Dayaks to both use and protect Borneo's forests. But those same forests are now a staging ground for a complicated clash. It involves economic growth, land rights and environmental concerns, development and traditional cultures, as well as a broader fight in Indonesia against entrenched corruption.

'This Is Our Sacred Grove'

Back near Sekendal, Layan explains how the Dayaks in his community view ownership of the surrounding land.

"These stands of bamboo don't belong to anyone in particular. Anyone can take some," he says. "The rubber trees belong to me. The bamboo here is very abundant. If you go upstream, there's even more."

This is not virgin forest, Layan says. It's owned by the community, and it's been cleared and replanted with useful flora such as cocoa and rambutan trees. There is one stand of virgin forest left in the area, but it's used for something very different.

"This is our padagi, or sacred grove," Layan says in a hushed voice. "It's been here since the time of our ancestors, and we come here to pray."

Birdsongs resonate through the forest canopy towering overhead. Down below, moss grows on an altar for making sacrifices. The spirits of the Dayak ancestors inhabit this hallowed glade, Layan says, and it is forbidden to take any plants or animals out of it.

"We come here to ask for help in times of trouble, for example in times of war, and then we are victorious," he says. "We ask for bountiful rice harvests. We ask for the sick to heal. We make offerings to the spirits, even though we can't see them."

Conservation Efforts Under Way

Indonesia remains Asia's most-forested nation, but it has suffered serious deforestation in recent decades, contributing to Indonesia's status as the third-largest emitter of carbon after the U.S. and China.

And perhaps there is no starker example than Borneo — roughly three-quarters of which belongs to Indonesia, the rest to Malaysia and Brunei.

Conservationists are urging Indonesia's government to respect the Dayak's rights to their traditional lands and to affirm their stewardship of the forests based on their animist religion. But in much of Borneo, it appears too late.

Where forests once stood, towns now hum with traffic and commerce. According to Indonesian government statistics, 60 percent of Borneo's rainforests have been cut down. Only 8 percent of its virgin forests remain, mostly in national parks. Western Borneo is the most denuded.

Efforts to combat deforestation are under way. In May, the Indonesian government announced a two-year moratorium on cutting down virgin forests. As well, a U.N.-backed scheme will see developed countries paying Indonesia to protect its rainforests.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Battle Is Under Way For The Forests Of Borneo
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Places of Interest in Sabah: Sabah Agriculture Park, Tenom


The Sabah Agriculture Park (Taman Pertanian Sabah) in Tenom is situated on a 200 hectare site and was developed and maintained by the Agriculture Department. It is a park that offers visitors both recreational and educational activities.

Native Orchids - The Native Orchid Centre has been known and recognized as one of the most important centers in the world for the collection and conservation of native Bornean orchid species. There are at least 400 species with more than 1,500 collection being kept here, including many rare and endangered species such as the Elephant Ear orchid (Phalaenopsis gigantea), the Rat-tail orchid (Paraphalaenopsis labukensis) and the Bella orchid (Renanthera bella), also not forgetting the many species of Slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum spp.), many of which endemic to Borneo.


Crops Museum - This is an 8-acre living museum of Crop Plants where there are some 400 species of plants systematically planted according to their uses. There are those that are fruit trees, some for medicine, spices, fibers and beverages. Yet there are some that provide essential oils that are very aromatic and are used for the perfume industry. There are also some which are exotic and their uses are also explained.

Ornamental Garden - The Ornamental Garden comprises 21 distinct and well-landscaped gardens with each garden exhibiting its unique plants and flowers. Here you will see a variety of Bougainvilleas, Ixora, Hibiscus and cactus as well as other very interesting plants such as the Hoya. There is also collection of parasitic and carnivorous plants. You will very much enjoy going through the various gardens and perhaps pick up some ideas on how to set up your own garden.


Plant Evolution & Plant Adaptation Garden - Take a walk through this park and learn about the 3.5 billon years of earth's history. From the early unicellular organisms and plants, learn how through the process of evolution, that we have now the huge varieties of plant life on earth today. Get to see how plants adapt to the environments, from pond-life to semi-arid habitats. You will also get to see the amazing giant water lily from South America.

Model Garden - This garden has five smaller theme gardens to illustrate the different styels in which a garden can be modeled. The Sub-urban Garden is simple and pleasing while the Family Garden has more features for the children. The more formal garden are the Paved Town Garden, the City Garden and the Sabah/Malaysia Garden. It is pleasure to walk through all these five gardens.


Bee Centre and Museum - Sabah is home to five of the nine species of honey bees found in the world. The Bee Centre and Museum is a place where you can find them. There are also exhibits of equipment used in honey extraction and you can watch honey bees working in their hives up close. There is an orchard of food plants for the honey bees in the Bee Centre and Museum where you may want to take a walk.

Animal Park - The Animal Park is likened to a mini zoo and various animals and birds are put on display. Many of these animals and birds are examples of those already used for the commercial livestock industry. This park also gives visitors a rare chance of seeing some of the animals and birds up close.

Getting There

Visitors to the park can choose three routes to travel:

* Kota Kinabalu - Tambunan - Tenom : 3 hours
* Kota Kinabalu - Papar - Tenom : 2½ hours
* Kota Kinabalu - Sipitang - Tenom : 3 hours

Visitors can also travel by train to Tenom via Beaufort from Kota Kinabalu, a journey that will take four hours. There are taxis, buses and other forms of public transportation which you may wish to use and they are easily available in Kota Kinabalu.

Opening Hours

Tuesday to Sunday - 9.00 am - 4.30 pm
Closed on Monday (unless a Public Holiday falls on a Monday)

Source: Sabah Tourism

NOTE: Photos Copyright to e-borneo.com

ED NOTE: The Sabah Agricultural Park can be considered a hidden gem of remote Tenom. It is truly a haven for botanists or those interested in plants as the Park houses a wide collection of plants and flowers. If you are into fruits, you will never find any location with so many fruit trees in one place. One of the most interesting (or infamous) fruits is a red little thumb-nail size fruit, which is also known as the "Miracle Fruit" (scientific name for the plant - Synsepalum dulcificum) or commonly known as miracle berry. It is fast becoming one of the main attractions of the Park. What so miracle about this berry? Nothing that is out of this world. It just that after eating the berry, you may eat anything that is sour or bitter with ease, as you will immediately get a sweet response. Yes you heard it. Your lime or lemon will taste sweet instead. A quick Wiki found that this effect is due to miraculin, which is used commercially as a sugar substitute. A bit of disappoinment when I discover that this plant/species originates from West Africa. Would be marvelous if it is endermic to Tenom only. This plant can be found in the Model Garden. Do check it out (ask the botanist in charge) and do your own experiment when you visit the Sabah Agricultural Park.

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Aussie trekker claims to have made a Borneo Death March track discovery


AN Australian trekker says he has uncovered two new sections of the infamous Sandakan Death March track in Borneo which would help with the preservation of one of the country's most tragic and heroic wartime histories.

More than 2400 Australian and British prisoners of war died on the mountainous track during World War II, where they were sent to build an airstrip for the Japanese and were beaten, tortured and executed.

Only six Australians escaped and survived.

The route was lost for 60 years but opened to the public in 2006.

But trekker Wayne Wetherall, whose company Kokoda Spirit trains Victorian hikers, says he has discovered two new sections of the route after intensive research and interviews with those who witnessed the attacks on Australian soldiers.

"The real answers for us have been actually walking through the jungle and talking to the local people aged in their 90s now who were the carriers," he said.

His research also included piecing together information from the Australian Office of War Graves recovery maps, Japanese death certificates and the Australian War Memorial archives.

Continue reading at: Aussie trekker claims to have made a Borneo Death March track discovery
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Places of Interest in Sabah: Murut Cultural Centre, Tenom



The Murut Cultural Centre is situated in Kampung Pulong, about 10 kilometers away from Tenom town.

The location of this cultural centre is conspicuously located just by the roadside, on the left hand side of the road if you’re heading from the direction of Kota Kinabalu.

The centre covers an area of 33 acres and lies next to the Pegalan River. The humongous building of the Murut Cultural Centre alone stretches out to 20 acres large. The cultural centre houses an interesting gallery which displays many artifacts such as jars, gongs, and traditional designs of the indigenous Murut inhabitants.

The impressive buildings of the Murut Cultural Centre are mainly constructed out of local timber. The gigantic pillars epitomize elements of Murut architectures. Chiseled carvings on the pillars and the buildings’ interior panels offer a glimpse of the authentic Murut architecture.

The Murut Cultural Centre is open daily from 9am to 5pm.

Source: Sabah Tourism

NOTE: Photo Copyright to e-borneo.com

ED NOTE: A recent visit on a sleepy Sunday found the Murut Cultural Centre to be 'sleeping'. We were not greeted by anyone and we simply tour the compound on our own. The Centre normally only comes alive once a year during the Pesta Kalimaran cultural celebration in April. It would be a shame if this impressive work of art and culture is left lifeless during the majority of the year. It would definitely be hard to impress tourists (both local and foreign) who walk-in to the Centre. More crucially, the colourful Murut culture will lose the opportunity to be introduced to visitors. But, it is still worthwhile to drop by at the Centre when you are in Tenom. With well-written information along all the displays and exhibits, a self-guided tour will be equally intriguing to learn more about the culture of the Muruts, one of the indigenous people of Sabah.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Air Accessibility A Strategic Issue For Sarawak Tourism


KUCHING -- Air accessibility into Sarawak has become a very strategic issue, in view of the positive growth of visitor arrivals, said Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer, Datuk Rashid Khan.

Expressing concern over the recent share swap agreement between Malaysian Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia, he said tourism players would need to lobby for other airlines to land here.

"Their plans to rationalise operations will definitely have a negative impact on the tourism industry, which depends very much on air accessibility to bring tourists into Sarawak," he told reporters during the breaking of fast with tour agents and media representatives here last night.

MAS and AirAsia had on Aug 9 entered into a collaboration agreement to establish a framework to explore the possibilities of mutual co-operation.

He said Firefly, whose average load factor into Sarawak was about 70 per cent, could not operate as a low cost carrier at present.

"However, the move by Malaysia Airports to increase the airport tax, will not have any major impact, especially for medium and long haul customers as it represents only a very minimal portion of their travel expenditure," he added.

Continue reading at: Air Accessibility A Strategic Issue For Sarawak Tourism
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Sabah, Sarawak feel chill wind of MAS and AirAsia's move


BURIED in the headline news about the share swap involving Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia last week was the announcement of boardroom changes in MAS that caught most people unawares.

For the first time ever, the Sabah and Sarawak governments are no longer represented on the MAS board of directors.

The opposition Sabah Progressive Party was, however, quick to spot it. Its president, Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee, lamented that it was symptomatic of how his state has systematically been relegated from matters of national concern that touched on Sabah.

As of this writing, there has been nary a public explanation or reaction from either the Sarawak government or the opposition on the matter.

Unless it has quietly sold out, the Sarawak government remains a shareholder of MAS and it was on that basis that either the state secretary or the state financial secretary traditionally sat on the MAS board.

That has to be a matter of some import for the state. Air travel remains a critical service in Sabah and Sarawak despite improvements in other modes of transport.

Already, travel industry players in Sarawak are expressing concern about the implications of the airlines' share swap, particularly as they relate to a possible curtailment of healthy competition and any detrimental effects on fare pricing and travel choice for air passengers.

Initial misgivings about the supposed airline industry rationalisation a few years ago in Sarawak had proven correct although the advent of competition in the industry later on blunted some of the concerns if not entirely removed them.

Any lessening of competition among the domestic airlines now will only revive earlier concerns such as a further reduction in the number and frequency of air services between the major towns of the two states.

Then again, in the case of Sarawak, there is the additional concern that Kuching will further lose out as an air hub with direct links to international destinations as both MAS and AirAsia consolidate their investments in major hubs in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.

Kuching requires a major and concerted effort to realise its aspirations for international air connectivity and that effort may not be forthcoming if left entirely to the two major airlines, with no one from the state government side pushing the state's agenda from within the airlines' top decision-making structures.

The Federal Government has said that it would remain an integral player in the airline industry. That may prove both a blessing and a millstone for all those with a stake in the success of the industry.

Continue reading at: Sabah, Sarawak feel chill wind of MAS and AirAsia's move
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sabah's Danawan Island is home to sea gypsies


Even a short visit to this island in east Sabah will leave a lasting impression.

DANAWAN is one of the bigger islands in the 9,300ha Semporna Marine Park in east Sabah, but it is not as well-known as neighbouring Sipadan or Mabul. Although located along the Ligitan reef complex which offers some of the best dive sites in the world, Danawan is not a tourist draw like those other islands.

There are no resorts or beachside chalets on this 0.63sqkm island in the Celebes Sea and no tour or boat companies to rely on for scheduled itineraries. If you’re lucky, you might catch the three-hour ride back with one of the island residents who come to the mainland for supplies or to trade. Your return passage is another story.

The Star’s assistant chief photographer Raja Faisal Hishan recently spent a few hours on Danawan as a guest of the Malaysian Armed Forces, along with other members of the media, when Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi visited its joint forces command base there.

The military set up camp on the island after the hostage crisis in 2000 when the militant group Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 21 people from a resort in Sipadan.

Danawan, also called Denawan (but not to be confused with Dinawan, a private island with a resort in the South China Sea off Kota Kinabalu in west Sabah), has about 1,400 residents, most of whom are Bajau, or sea gypsies. Their homes are built on stilts by the water’s edge but a few still live in their traditional boats called lipa-lipa.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sabah's Danawan Island is home to sea gypsies
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MAS-AirAsia Collaboration Places Tourism Players In Uncertainty - Sarawak Tourism


MIRI -- The recent collaboration agreement between Malaysian Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia has created uncertainty among tourism players in Sarawak.

Following this, the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) plans to discuss issues regarding its effects with the two airlines soon.

Speaking to reporters during the breaking of fast with tour agents and media representatives here last night, STB Chief Executive Officer Datuk Rashid Khan said tourism players in Sarawak were concerned as the airlines had also announced that they would rationalise their operations.

The rationalisation plan would raise the issues of flight frequency, air fare and the roles to be played by the airlines and its subsidiaries, he said.

"All these are issues that put us to be uncertain. We want to engage them (MAS and AirAsia) and we have already indicated that," he said.

He described the MAS-AirAsia deal as "a worrying issue" as compared to the move by Malaysian Airports to increase the airport tax.

"Airport tax in Malaysia is relatively low and represents a small portion of the cost of fares," he said.

MAS and AirAsia had on Aug 9 entered into the collaboration agreement to establish a framework to explore the possibilities of mutual co-operation.

Continue reading at: MAS-AirAsia Collaboration Places Tourism Players In Uncertainty - Sarawak Tourism
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Sarawak's traditional craft can draw international visitors to boost rural economy


KUCHING: Sarawak’s traditional beads have the potential to be a tourist attraction besides boosting the rural economy.

Tourism and Heritage Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state’s bead-making industry, mainly found in the northern region, had yet to reach wide exposure beyond local shores.

“I feel it is time for us to expose the value of our beads in terms of their heritage and potential economic value,” he said when announcing the second Borneo International Beads Conference yesterday.

Johari said his ministry was currently in the planning stages of developing the rural economy through ecotourism, and that beads could play a part.

“One of the economic activities in rural areas is making beads. If we add value to bead-making, such as ensuring quality and good design, it can be an attraction that will lure tourists to visit the rural areas. The community can participate in rural economy by producing high quality beads that have a certain value,” he said.

As such, Johari said the conference from Oct 7 to 9 was a platform for the ministry to work with bead enthusiasts in promoting and developing the local bead industry.

“They can do research on the economic potential of beads and whether beads can become a designer item. A lot of research also needs to be done on bead making itself.

“Ultimately, if we have the infrastructure, Kuching or Sarawak will be known as a regional centre for bead research. That is the long-term plan,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak's traditional craft can draw international visitors to boost rural economy
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Encounters with Borneo’s wildlife


HANG AROUND WITH ORANG-UTANS

Up close and personal: The imposing dominant male in a family of apes may well make an appearance, cheeky juvenile males could swing down from nearby ropes onto the feeding platform from nearby, while a mother and baby might be nestled in the boughs of a tree.

Feeding time at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre provides a great opportunity to see these fascinating natives of Borneo in their natural habitat, chowing down on their beloved milk and bananas as well as other fruit. A walkway connects visitors to a viewing gallery where they can see these creatures in the semi-wilderness.

What’s the big deal: These creatures are in the process of being re-introduced into their natural habitat; the primary goal at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre is to rescue orphaned orang-utans from mistreatment in such forms as illegal hunting or being kept as pets. The rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only parts of the world where you can view orang-utans.

Plan your encounter: The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is located in Sandakan, in the Malaysian state of Sabah. The apes are fed twice a day at 10am and 3pm by rangers. For the more adventurous, there is also the opportunity to trek through the mangrove forest. As this activity falls under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Department, you will have to get a permit from them before trekking the five kilometre trail. You can also arrange for a boat return or accommodation in chalets in the forest.

SEE SOME TURTLE POWER

Up close and personal: Crouching beside a massive mum-to-be turtle after her slow journey up from the water then watching her dig a nest in the sand and lay perhaps more than 100 eggs, under the cover of darkness, is a profound experience.

Selingan Island is the largest of three islands that make up Turtle Island Park, located one and a half hours by boat from Sandakan. The area is home to the endangered green and hawksbill turtle species. One of the most important turtle breeding grounds in South East Asia, this island is a designated marine park that is home to nesting and hatching turtles every single night of the year. As well as witnessing the nesting process, visitors can get involved with transferring the eggs to a protected hatchery area as well as helping newly hatched turtles make it down to the water safely.

Continue reading at: Encounters with Borneo’s wildlife
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Sarawak State-level Gawai at Annah Rais Sept 3


KUCHING: State level ‘Gawai Celebration’ organised by Tourism Malaysia (Sarawak) and Ministry of Tourism and Heritage will be held at Kampung Annah Rais in Padawan on Sept 3.

The organising chairman Edward Kurik said the celebration was the second time ever aimed at promoting tradition and culture of the Bidayuhs in Padawan.

He said the festival more popularly known as ‘Gawai Tourism’ will also provide opportunity for tourists to see and understand first-hand the unique culture of the Bidayuhs and their traditional dances and games.

There are a lot of things that tourists can learn from this experience, he said yesterday.

Agencies involved in the event are Padawan Municipal Council and Village Security and Development Committee of Kampung Annah Rais.

He explained that there would also be a cultural exchange programme involving residents of Kampung Annah Rais when they received the visitors from Kampung Semban, during the celebration.

Those from Semban, a traditional village, will also display their own brand of unique culture which may be a bit different from those of Annah Rais, he said.

Continue reading at: Sarawak State-level Gawai at Annah Rais Sept 3
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

66th Sandakan Memorial Day - Shared history strengthens ties with Australia


SANDAKAN: Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia, Miles Kupa, said the shared history of bravery and tragedy in Sandakan and Ranau, and the interactions between the people, are the foundation of the warm personal links between Australians and Sabahans, and between the peoples of Australia and Malaysia.

He said that those bonds between our people and nations, would forever be strengthened by this shared history and common story.

“The story of Sandakan is one of the most tragic and important in Australia’s World War II engagement.

“It is a story that remained neglected for too long, but the story is becoming increasingly prominent in Australia’s consciousness,” said Kupa at the Sandakan Day Memorial Service yesterday.

He said the Australian Governor-General, Quentin Bryce AC, spoke here at last year’s Sandakan Day, and it was another important step towards ensuring the terrible events in Sandakan occupy a crucial and important place in Australian history.

“Two thousand and seven hundred Australian and British prisoners of war were taken to Sandakan. The conditions were appalling. The prisoners were beaten and fed meager rations of rice. :They became ill and malnourished and nearly everyone died when the death marches to Ranau began in 1945,” said Kupa.

Of the 1,060 men who originally set out on the marches, only six survived – two men escaped into the jungle during the marches, and four survived after arriving at Ranau.

For the six Australians who survived, Sabahans provided them with food, shelter and safety.

“We must also acknowledge the bravery and selflessness of the local Sandakan population, and the people of Sabah more generally. During the occupation of North Borneo, 28 local community leaders were murdered, 16 per cent of the community were killed, and their land, homes and resources were decimated. For these local people who risked their own lives to help the Australians, and for that, we will be forever grateful,” he added.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: 66th Sandakan Memorial Day - Shared history strengthens ties with Australia
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66th Sandakan Memorial Day - Future generations should know Death Marches


SANDAKAN: Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Peter Pang En said the history of war and the Death Marches more than 65 years ago must be passed on to the future generations.

“Today marks the 66th anniversary of the end of Second World War. Our shared wartime history between Malaysia, Australia and Britain is a reminder of not only the sacrifice and endurance of those who perished but also the loss and longing of family members,” said Pang at the Sandakan Day Memorial Service at Sandakan Memorial Park yesterday.

“We must also remember the local communities who took the risk and lost their lives in helping those Allied soldiers.

“They are classified as our honoured heroes,” he said. He added that as we reflect our continued desire for freedom and peace, we must remind ourselves that there is nothing noble about wars.

Sandakan Municipal Council (SMC) president Datuk James Wong said that we must ensure the endurance, suffering and sacrifice of those brave servicemen and the local people who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of our country must never be forgotton.

Continue reading at: 66th Sandakan Memorial Day - Future generations should know Death Marches
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Speechless in Sipadan


The only oceanic island in Malaysia, it is a divers' paradise teeming with marine wildlife

Finding a hotel with a dive centre is an important preoccupation mostly reserved for scuba divers. Some travellers will prioritise a spa, swimming pool or kids' club. But if you want to dive, all day, every day of your holiday — like I do — then finding a dive resort that revolves around surface intervals and hot coffee is a godsend.

Borneo Divers Mabul Resort, on Mabul Island, off the coast of Borneo, is one such pearl. Blessed with healthy corals on its doorstep, the locale begs for guests to strap on a weight belt and explore the house reef, appropriately named Paradise 1, with either snorkel or scuba, just a few metres from the shore.

Paradise 2 is not far off. Dinner table-sized green turtles, cuttlefish and minute mandarin fish are all residents.

The resort, and the island, fully qualify for tropical-island-getaway bliss. Accompanying non-divers will be able to laze around the pool, acquire a hammock or chill out at the beach bar overlooking the wooden pier and jetty to watch their beloved backroll into an underwater haven.

But the bigger draw is — and has been for decades — Pulau Sipadan, another island about 40 minutes by speedboat.

Jacques Cousteau came to Sipadan, as it is more commonly referred to, and was left breathless. In his 1989 film Borneo: The Ghost of the Sea Turtle, Cousteau said: "I have seen other places such as Sipadan 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art."

As the dive boats approach the island, the sea turns lighter than the sky with a greenish-transparent hue, reassuring one and all that, yes, this is going to be amazing. On the white sandy beach, a young monitor lizard creeps towards the coconut palms and other vegetation swaying in the breeze for shade.

Haven of solitude

The island was declared a marine reserve in 1981 but it was not until 2004 that resorts on the island were asked to vacate in order to protect the water quality and environment further.

A permit system was introduced to limit the area to just 120 divers per day (40 ringgit or Dh50 per day for all visitors, diving or not, payable in the resort). There are no inhabitants and visiting the island is not allowed. A few military guards oversee security.

Since then, Sipadan has been referred to as a "sub-aqua Shangri-La" for serious divers in more than one travel guide. After seeing green turtles mating for the first time, schools of jackfish, barracuda and big-eye trevally and reef sharks fighting over a cave in just one dive, the statement rings true. It is also a stopover point for migratory birds and was originally declared a bird sanctuary in 1933.

One of a kind

Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia; it is not attached to the continental shelf and stands on a limestone and coral stalk, rising 600 metres from the bed of the Celebes Sea. The limestone pinnacle mushrooms out near the surface, but a few metres offshore it drops off in a sheer underwater cliff to the seabed.

At several sites, people drift-dive in the current along this coral wall which disappears into the deep. Black- and white-tip reef sharks are common, hawksbill and green turtles glide like jumbo aircraft coming in to land, troops of bumphead parrotfish nibble the shallow corals and each dive will leave you more mesmerised than the one before.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Speechless in Sipadan
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Sandakan war memorial puts right an ‘oversight’


SANDAKAN: A memorial to honour Allied troops who died fighting to liberate North Borneo from Japanese occupation towards the end of World War II was unveiled here yesterday.

The statue of a standard issue 303 rifle with its barrel in the ground and a slouch hat slung across the butt symbolizes the military practice of marking where a soldier has fallen.

A crowd of more than a hundred local and international dignitaries, including veterans from the Australian invasion force, were on hand for the unveiling of the memorial marking the 66th anniversary of the end of the war and the liberation of Sandakan.

For Roy Atkinson of the Royal Australian Air Force, the memorial also commemorated the civilian deaths and the atrocities committed upon them by the Japanese, including a barbaric practice he called ‘hamstrung’, which he discovered upon landing here in 1945.

‘Hamstrung’ was a practice wherein the Japanese would simply sever the hamstrings, behind the knee, on both legs with a knife.

It was inflicted on men, women and children and was designed to stop them from running away or causing trouble.

“We visited the kampung out of curiosity and here was this little boy on the ground dragging himself along by his elbows – he’d been hamstrung – unfortunately we couldn’t do anything for him.

“It makes you bitter and I can understand people who retaliate and do things equally as bad.

“This is how war affects men. I can understand if you lose a mate, you are affected but when it’s callously done (like this), it’s not warfare…but that’s me,” he said.

Historical oversight

The memorial is also designed to address a historical oversight. It is the first of its type constructed in Borneo by Malaysia dedicated to the fallen from all nations in World War II.

North Borneo was a British colony, only joining the Malaysian federation on Sept 16, 1963.

As such responsibility for war graves and memorials in this part of the world has remained almost solely under the auspices of Canberra and London.

Some like Dr Kamarulnizam Abdullah, Associate Professor of Strategic Studies and International Relations at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, believe that this war memorial represented much more to Malaysians, particularly in light of the country’s sometimes tense relations with the West.

He said recent trips by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to the United States and Europe – where formal ties were established with the Vatican – and the deal struck between Australia and Malaysia involving the processing and resettlement of refugees were enormous strides designed to improve Malaysia’s standing.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sandakan war memorial puts right an ‘oversight’
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