Monday, October 31, 2011

Conservation boost for pygmy elephants in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Efforts to establish forest corridors along the lower Kinabatangan region – where isolated groups of wildlife are under threat – have received a boost with the recent collaring of five Borneo pygmy elephants.

Wildlife researchers said the four female and one male pachyderm would provide researchers with crucial information on the available elephant habitat in the region.

Dr Benoit Goosens of the wildlife research unit, Danau Girang Field Centre, said: “Extensive agriculture through oil palm plantations has considerably reduced the habitat of elephants in Kinabatangan, increasing human-elephant conflict.

“The herd there, estimated at about 200 to 250, is having difficulty moving between flooded lands, swamps, fenced plantations, villages and nature lodges,” he said yesterday.

To complicate matters, Dr Goosens said uncontrolled tourism with up to 20 boats along riverbanks increased the pressure on the elephants when they drink from the river.

“It is time we act to re-establish quality habitat and provide space for the elephants in the Kinabatangan region,” he added.

Three Bornean elephants were fitted with a satellite collar last week in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary as part of a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department, the non-governmental organisation HUTAN and the centre.

Continue reading at: Conservation boost for pygmy elephants in Sabah
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Kota Belud Tamu Besar Festival on world tourism map

KOTA BELUD: Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman wants the culturally-rich Kota Belud Tamu Besar Festival to be given an international flavour.

He wants the festival — a gathering of people of different races, religions and cultures — highlighted on the world tourism map.

Musa welcomed the various initiatives and latest developments in organising the festival, including the parade of Bajau horsemen in their full regalia, and handicraft products such as cloth, mat, hat and rotan products which could be commercialised as tourist items.

“The festival display the rich, unique and special cultures of the local communities. This is actually one of the special features or uniqueness of Tamu Kota Belud which was inherited several decades ago,” he said when opening the Kota Belud Tamu Besar at the Cultural Stage here yesterday.

Continue reading at: Kota Belud Tamu Besar Festival on world tourism map
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Jong Regatta to be upgraded to welcome international participation

BAU: The Jong Regatta Festival in Tasik Biru needs to be improved to be promoted as a national

event before invitations can be made to international participants, said Assistant Minister of Community Services, and Industrial Estate Development Datuk Peter Nansian at the closing of the Jong Regatta 2011 yesterday.

Nansian said he was currently working with the relevant government departments to upgrade the facilities and infrastucture near Tasik Biru so that the event could handle the volume from events of national standard.

Nansian who is also Tasik Biru assemblyman said he hoped the goal would be realised in two years through strong collaboration and support between the government and the community.

“What we’re trying to do now is to work with the relevant government departments and the people to look into all the facilities, programmes and side activities to further improve the event so that it will be more exciting and festive,” he said.

He also urged the community to take advantage of the Jong Regatta to earn extra income by selling handicrafts related to the event.

“We need to encourage people to promote and sell crafts such as miniature Jongs as souvenirs,” he added.

The two-day regatta has several categories namely Jong Skuci A and B, Jong Kotak A and B, Jong Bandung A and B, Jong Jenis Skunar A and Jong Jenis Barong A and B.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rope bridges a critical lifeline for orang utans in Sabah

KINABATANGAN, Sabah - The construction of seven bridges in eight years has made a difference in the effort to ensure the survival of the orang utans here.

This temporary measure has helped the primates and other species to move within forests fragmented by man-made rivers.

Sabah Wildlife director Dr Laurentius Ambu said ultimately, however, reconnecting forests via corridors or patches of forests was the next crucial step to better preserving wildlife in the state.

"Even though it will be an expensive and long process, reconnecting isolated populations which were originally linked together, will ensure the long-term survival of not only orang utans but other unique species, such as the Bornean Pygmy Elephants, the sunbears, the clouded leopards and many others," he said.

Surveys carried out by the department and non-governmental organisation, Hutan-KOCP (Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Programme), shows that there are 700 orang utans within protected and non-protected areas of the lower Kinabatangan.

Sabah has an estimated 11,000 orang utans, which is 80 per cent of the nation's wild orang utans.

However, due to agricultural activities, many forests are fragmented, trapping animals such as the orang utans because of their inability to swim.

To tackle this problem, rope bridges were built for orang utans to cross small rivers and large drains since 2003, and also to connect pockets of isolated forest, said Azri Awang of Hutan-KOCP.

In the past, orang utans would use old-growth forests as "natural bridges" over small rivers.

However, at present, orang utans no longer have this luxury since most of the tall trees in such forests have been logged.

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Turn Sarawak Bird Race into international event

KUCHING: The Malaysian Nature Sociey (MNS) has been challenged to turn its Sarawak Bird Race (SBR) into a full-fledged international event.

Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Talip Zulpilip made the call yesterday when launching this year’s race, held together with Borneo Highlands Resort and Permai Rainforest Resort.

“From being a humble mini bird race four years ago, this event now has drawn bigger participation and the involvement of those from outside the state and nation.

“So it is fair enough to challenge the organiser to turn this event into a well known international event,” he said.

He pointed out that the Rainforest World Music Festival, which only drew around 300 festival-goers in its first year, has now reached 20,000 festival-goers from around the world.

“We at the Tourism Ministry are sure to assist in all possible ways to lure more to come and I also promise to put SBR in the state tourism calender next year,” he added.

On the event, Talip said bird-watchers are important to the state as they assist in keeping records of all the species found in Sarawak.

Continue reading at: Turn Sarawak Bird Race into international event
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Kuching's Four Points by Sheraton HACCP certified

KUCHING: Four Points by Sheraton Kuching restaurant and banquet kitchens are now Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certified.

The hotel also had its ‘halal’ certification renewed in line with the new guidelines issued by the Sarawak Islamic Council.

The hotel has implemented a food safety programme whereby the certification process entails audits under stringent conditions by qualified RABQSA (an Australian personnel and training certification body) and registered food safety auditions appointed by Australia-based Environmental Health Consultancy (EHC).

The hotel food safety programme has been verified as complying with the international CODEX principles of HACCP whereby key hygiene controls are applied on all potentially hazardous and low risk foods at all stages of preparation before they are served to guests to ensure food hygiene and safety.

“Our HACCP certification shows our commitment to food hygiene safety. Hotels and restaurants with HACCP certification are safer from those without because of the prevention systems in place,” said Four Points by Sheraton Kuching general manager Paolo Campillo at a press gathering on Friday evening.

He added in the event of a hazard, certified restaurants have a system with which they treat the affected customer and examine the cause of the problem.

This system helps to ensure consistent food quality and prevent re-occurrence of the problem.

“The renewal of our ‘halal’ certificate allows all our Muslim customers to know that food prepared in our kitchens exceeds the requirements of the Sarawak Islamic Council,” said the hotel’s executive chef Liou Chong Yaw.

Continue reading at: Kuching's Four Points by Sheraton HACCP certified
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Teaching Orang Utan The Ropes To Evade Isolation

KINABATANGAN -- Wild orang utan in the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain in Sabah are being taught the ropes, literally, to evade isolation owing to the logging of the tall trees which have served as their natural bridges across small rivers and large drains.

Rope bridges built by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), in collaboration with French grassroots non-profit organisation HUTAN and the Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Project (KOCP), are now enabling the orang utan to get cross these waterways.

HUTAN-KOCP co-director Dr Marc Ancrenaz said oil palm companies are being asked to help by not planting oil palm all the way down to the river but to set aside at least 500 metres along the banks as wildlife corridors.

"In May 2010, at the conclusion of the State Action Plan workshop, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun stated that he would like to see plantations, particularly those located in the Kinabatangan, to set aside at least 500 metres along riverbanks as wildlife corridors," Ancrenaz said in a statement here today.

With support from various partners, such as Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Borneo Conservation Trust, Shining Hope Foundation and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), more rope bridges with different designs have been built over the years, including by using old fire hoses from Japan.

"This was to see if different designs would be used by the orang utan, and what we found is they seem to prefer to use the simple two-line rope bridges," said Ancrenaz, who has been working on wildlife issues in Sabah from 1998.

During a visit to Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom, Ancrenaz found that rope bridges used at the zoo's orang utan enclosure were of much lighter material and yet able to withstand ultraviolet rays.

"Our partners from Chester Zoo have come to Sabah, bringing with them these rope material so that we can pull down the old bridges and put up new bridges along the sites we know where the orang utan are using the rope bridges, as well as at new identified areas," he said.

With assistance from Ropeskills Rigging Sdn Bhd (RRSB), a team of professional tree climbers based in Sabah, the new rope bridges are being built and the old bridges pulled down or repaired.

In all, seven rope bridges have been put up and/or repaired with the collaboration of the SWD, RRSB, Chester Zoo, DGFC, HUTAN-KOCP and Barefoot Sukau Lodge.

Continue reading at: Teaching Orang Utan The Ropes To Evade Isolation
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Sabah has one of richest biodiversities

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah has one of the richest biodiversities in the world with an area of 59 per cent covered by forests, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency's (JICA) chief representative in Malaysia, Tsutomo Nagae.

However, he said, it was faced with the threat of extinction due to the rapid economic development in the state.

As such, biodiversity conservation measures were considered necessary to be implemented as soon as possible in order to improve the situation, he said in his remarks at the closing of the Third Country Training Programme (TCTP) at 1Borneo, near here, today.

Nagae said the Japanese government, through JICA, strongly committed itself to biodiversity conservation and had implemented the Bornean Biodiversity and Ecosystem Conservation (BBEC) programme in Sabah since 2002, in cooperation with various implementing agencies including the Sabah government and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

On the first phase of BBEC, he said the project focused on technology transfer with regard to building up the monitoring and research skills of different agencies, while the second phase focused on policy aspect by linking conservation activities with the decision-making process.

Nagae thanked the 21 participants from eight countries - Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, Tanzania, Thailand and Uganda for their successful completion of the 24-day training course.

Continue reading at: Sabah has one of richest biodiversities
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sarawak Bird Race: Bird and nature lovers set for an enjoyable weekend

KUCHING: It is going to be a big weekend for birds when the 4th Sarawak Bird Race kicks-off this Saturday at the Permai Rainforest Resort, and then ‘migrates’ to the Borneo Highlands Resort the next day.

It also promises to be a big weekend for bird and nature lovers, with side activities being planned for everyone, including adults and children and curious members of the public who wish to know more on birds and biodiversity.

There will also be nature talks by local and international bird experts at Permai Rainforest Resort on Oct 29, to start at 9.30am.

Nils Müller, a biology graduate from Lund University, Germany, who specialises in bird migration and genetics, will share his knowledge and experience about bird migration: why, when and how far they migrate, and how they orientate themselves along their migration route.

As a young lad, he was enthralled by the eerie but fascinating raptors while travelling through the Pyrenees, and his love for ornithology was sealed forever.

Muller believes that bird races are a great way to draw attention to the diversity of birds that surrounds us.

“Birds have the largest range of species on earth and many of them are found in our own backyard! I like to think that learning about birds means learning to appreciate nature and its value to the society,” he said.

He believes that having a majestic bird like the hornbill on the Sarawak Flag showed the inspirational power birds could give.

“With their capability to fly and cover great distances, birds can serve as a great indicator of the state of nature for example, the effects of global warming and human impacts to the fragile environment.

“As we struggle to save endangered birds, we may find that they could possibly provide solutions to save humankind from ourselves,” he said in a press release.

The Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch’s Bird Group is jointly holding the 4th Sarawak Bird Race with Borneo Highlands Resort and Rainforest Permai Resort.

The race aims to promote bird conservation, the importance of birds in the ecosystems and bird-watching activity among members and the general public. It also aims to promote the Bako-Buntal Bay and Penrissen Range, and Sarawak in general, as ideal places for bird-watching.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Bird Race: Bird and nature lovers set for an enjoyable weekend
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Musical Sundays at Sarawak Museum to create ‘city with a soul’ next month

KUCHING: Musical Sundays will be held at the Sarawak Museum gardens every second weekend of the month starting from Nov 13 at 4.30pm.

The programme is organised by Kuching City North Commission (DBKU) in line with the call by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to nurture creativity and talent in youths and to make Kuching a “city with a soul”.

It will showcase bands and musicians from schools and institutions of higher learning here.

“We hope that with this programme, we will provide an avenue for the talented musicians in our city to contribute towards the local arts scene as well as help the local tourism industry by livening up the cityscape with their music,” said a press statement from DBKU yesterday.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Musical Sundays at Sarawak Museum to create ‘city with a soul’ next month
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Outcrop along Airport Road as Miri's tourist and research attractions

MIRI: The outcrop along Miri Airport Road will be developed into a tourist and geological research destination soon.

Mayor Lawrence Lai yesterday said Miri City Council (MCC) would improve and enhance the landscape, including fixing some facilities such as tables and benches, for the benefit of visitors to the historical geological site.

MCC would also be working with Sarawak Shell to enhance the safety of visitors by constructing an overhead bridge crossing along Miri Airport Road – from Taman Awam to the outcrop.

“Shell has set aside some allocation for the construction of the bridge. We are going to call for tender for the project soon. Work is expected to start either by the end of this year or early next year.”

Lai said this when Philip Lesslar, one of the six authors of ‘Geological Excursions Around Miri, Sarawak’ paid a courtesy call on him. The call was meant to promote the hardcover book to the public through MCC.

The other authors are Mario Wannier, Charlie Lee, Han Raven, Dr Rasoul Sorkhabi, and Abdullah Ibrahim.

Currently, visitors are exposed to danger when crossing the busy road to get to the outcrop from the parking lot at Taman Awam. They have to park there as there are no parking lots at the outcrop.

Meanwhile, Lesslar said the guidebook was invaluable for visitors, especially students and researchers going to the site.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Outcrop along Airport Road as Miri's tourist and research attractions
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Couple set to save orangutans in Borneo

An adventurous couple from South Lanarkshire are getting ready to save orangutans from cruelty on a rainforest trek through Borneo.

Angela Wood and Iain McArthur leave Scotland on November 3 for the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)’s Borneo Jungle Explorer trek.

The Bothwell duo will have to journey through the Kalimantan rainforest and climb mountains in the heat and humidity in order to reach the Nyaru Menteng sanctuary.

The Nyaru Menteng sanctuary is the world’s largest orangutan sanctuary and rehabilitation project and contains over 1000 traumatised, orphaned and injured orangutans.

Keen hillwalkers Angela and Iain have been following a four month fitness regime in preparation for the trip.

Angela, a hypnotherapist, said: “I was quite excited about the trip up until this week when I’ve been getting lots of injections and having to get mosquito nets and wear in my boots.

“It's all getting so real - I'm concerned about the humidity and the heat, the closer I get to the actual trip the more I think about all the negatives, like the creepy crawlies and leeches which are a big problem.

“The mosquitoes are really bad and I’m taking lots of tablets for malaria at the moment, it’s not like mosquitoes in Spain or Tenerife, these have serious consequences.

“I know it will be worth it though. The sanctuary saves hundreds of orangutans and I can tell I’m going to cry when I get there. It will be very emotional.”

All the orangutans at the centre in Borneo are in need of physical and emotional care. Before arriving at the sanctuary many have been injured in machete attacks, rescued from the pet trade or found starving.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Couple set to save orangutans in Borneo
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Divers find wreck of Dutch WWII sub off Borneo

THE HAGUE: Sport divers off the northern coast of Borneo have discovered the wreck of a Dutch World War II submarine, missing for the past 70 years, the Dutch defence ministry said Monday.

“The HR. MS. KXVI, which has been missing with a crew of 36 since 1941, has been found,” it said in a statement released in The Hague.

“It was discovered by Australian and Singaporean sport divers in the waters ‘above’ the island of Borneo after a tip-off from a local fisherman,” the ministry added.

It did not state the exact location of the wreck out of respect for the dead crew and their descendants.

The 1,000-tonne KXVI was part of the Allied fleet tasked with stopping the Japanese invasion of the then Dutch East Indies.

Continue reading at: Divers find wreck of Dutch WWII sub off Borneo
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Biodiversity at our doorstep: Brunei's commitment to the Heart of Borneo

By Azaraimy HH

Complementing the BIMP-EAGA vision of turning the sub-regional area into a single-tourism corridor dubbed 'Equator Asia', Brunei has proven its unbending commitment to the Heart of Borneo (HoB) concept.

Currently there exists a proposal for the establishment of a 'Trans-boundary Eco-Tourism' within HoB member countries, which will benefit the tourism sectors of the three nations directly involved - Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia - with the Sultanate having committed a large portion of its undisturbed forests to the project. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is also assisting in the project.

Deputy Director of Forestry Department at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR), Mahmud Haji Yussof, in his capacity as Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Brunei HoB Centre said, "I believe Brunei offers a strong position in eco-tourism potential because it is a country within the BIMP-EAGA sub-region where tourists do not have to travel far to experience rich biodiversity. In Brunei biodiversity is at the doorstep".

The Bulletin interviewed Mahmud Haji Yussof during a forestry briefing presented to a 17-member Chinese delegation that was led by Minister of State Forestry Administration of the People's Republic of China, Jia Zhibang, in which the delegation was informed of Brunei's current forestry status by the Director of Forestry Department, Haji Saidin bin Salleh. Also present at the briefing were the Permanent Secretary at the MIPR, Dayang Hajah Normah Suria Hayati binti PJDSMDSU (Dr) Hj Awang Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri, and other senior level officers.

During the briefing Mahmud Haji Yussof highlighted the importance of the HoB project, which has the potential to prevent hundreds or maybe even thousands of species from facing extinction. Successful rainforest conservation requires joint efforts as forests are inter-connected, he added.

He mentioned there are several projects being undertaken as part of the HoB initiative that require the involvement of the relevant authorities across all the nations involved, such as the continuous study of fauna and flora within protected areas.

He also linked the importance of the overall conservation effort to potential economic benefits, particularly the tourism industry, which will ultimately benefit the Sultanate.

"The forest is not there simply for its timber or other by-products. Today we can apply leverage on the forest itself to grow eco-tourism", which he labeled as being a very promising industry for Brunei. The forests can basically "generate money for us by itself and also benefit the local people as eco-tourism is about the local people", he added.

Environmental and forest protection remains a strong issue in Brunei, where the issue is being strongly supported by the political leadership as he referred to His Majesty the Sultan's 2007 Titah in Sydney, which touched on the HoB initiative.

It is important to note however that external financial support is crucial for the initiative's success and that currently Brunei Shell, HSBC and SCB are private sector businesses that are supporting the initiative.

In conclusion he maintained that the committee will continue to try their best to secure sponsorship from other countries as it also contributes to the global environmental conservation effort as well.

Under a trilateral meeting, a project such as trans-border eco-tourism is being proposed, which will benefit member countries. "What else can we say but Brunei is a city inside a forest," he stated.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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Era FM to promote Sabah tourism

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is expecting 60 per cent increase in its domestic tourist arrivals to the State in 2012.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Bolkiah Ismail said this yesterday following the commitment of national radio station, Era FM in promoting tourist destinations in Sabah on air and through its official website.

“From January to August this year, we received 21.1 per cent domestic tourist arrivals in Sabah compared to the same period of last year, which is 1.07 million tourists.

“We are positive that we will achieve 30 per cent increase by end of this year as our national radio station is making a move to promote our State to potential tourists in Peninsular Malaysia,” he said at a press conference at Sabah Tourism Board office yesterday.

“Riuh Pagi Era” hosted by number one TV host in Malaysia, Aznil Haji Nawawi together with two other DJs, Ray and Hanif airing Mondays to Fridays from 6am to 10am will be in the State for three days to talk about Sabah and its attractions.

Music executive of Era Fm, DJ Uno who attanded the press conference yesterday said the radio station breakfast show, “Riuh Pagi Era” will be broadcast live from its Kota Kinabalu studio from tomorrow, October 26 to 28, with support from Sabah Tourism Board.

During the three-day trip, the “Riuh Pagi Era” crew members will embark on adventure field trips to several interesting places around here including Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Kiulu White Water Rafting and Rasa Ria’s Orang Utan Sanctuary after their on-air show.

Continue reading at: Era FM to promote Sabah tourism
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Runners fear format change will make Mount Kinabalu climbathon less attractive

KOTA KINABALU: Top-ranked male runners in the just-concluded 25th Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon feel that the popular mountain race will lose much of its novelty when the competition takes on a different format next year.

This is because the race will not culminate at the peak any more.

Italian Marco de Gasperi believed that the race to the summit was the main attraction and was the reason why the world’s best mountain runners took part.

“A change in the format will have a negative effect as the race to the peak and down is already a tradition,” said the 34-year-old who has competed in three Mount Kinabalu Climbathons, winning in 2003 and 2010.

“I hope the organisers will retain the present format,’’ he said, adding that he might not compete next year if they did not.

Local runner Saffrey Sumping echoed de Gasperi’s views.

He said the race should be retained and held separately from the proposed new competition – the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon: Adventure Series.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Runners fear format change will make Mount Kinabalu climbathon less attractive
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Brunei Tourism goes big in China

By Hakim Hayat in Nanning, Guangxi, China

Brunei Darussalam has marketed itself very well to the China consumers as more awareness on Brunei gets infused to targeted markets of holidaymakers through mediums such as social media, TV and magazines. It has proven to be a success as Brunei sees the prospect of an increase in Chinese tourist arrivals this year. Brunei is also marketing itself as a high-end tourist destination, emphasising on its Royal Heritage and legendary customs, which garnered much amusement from the China market.

The Brunei Tourism Board has also set KPI (Key Performance Indicator) targets for its tourism marketing representative offices in China, instituting a competitive edge for each office to perform well and reach their specific targets in attracting more tourists from China.

Speaking to the Bulletin yesterday was Salinah Salleh, Tourism Officer for Promotions and Marketing at the Brunei Tourism Board, who is in charge of the Brunei City of Charm Pavilion at the 8th China-Asean Expo and Raymond Kong from Beijing Longway, who is the Deputy Chief Representative of the Brunei Tourism Representative Office in China.

According to Salinah, "Tourist arrivals from China is up by 75 per cent from January to February this year as compared to the same period last year. Overall, the tourist arrivals from the China market between 2009 and 2010 are up by 56 per cent."

The Bulletin asked Raymond to share their marketing methods and strategies to attract more visitors to Brunei, to which he responded, "We are more focused on the leisure group and the MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) grouping in the China market. But our main focus is on the leisure groups."

Salinah mentioned that Brunei Tourism Board in the past has been participating in exhibitions, seminars and roadshows on travel in many parts of China and Hong Kong but the problem is they only come once during the expo and there are no proper follow up agents. "Whereas now, ever since we appointed Beijing Longway, our tourism marketing representative here in March, they are now the faces of Brunei Tourism. If the people here have queries and want to know more about Brunei, our representatives will be of great help," said Salinah.

She also revealed that the Beijing Longway also represents Royal Brunei Airlines and The Empire Hotel and Country Club. "This is the only way. They have a firm grip of Brunei as a market so they can help promote it better, because in China, we need a Chinese-speaking person and for their part, they are one of the biggest travel companies in China," she added.

Raymond said that their efforts are bearing fruit now as more people in China know about Brunei. "It is coming through and going forward," he said.

Salinah said in terms of volume, it will, for sure take time to get a significant influx of Chinese tourists into Brunei and it will not happen in just a short period of time. "For now, I think they have done quite a good job in raising the awareness."

Raymond also revealed that they are using social media as an effective platform in promoting Brunei Tourism in China. "Webo is a popular social network website based in China and works on the same platform similar to Twitter and Facebook. It is a very powerful social media tool now and people like to 'follow' each other's news feeds in order to be alert of the latest happenings and issues going around here," he said.

On the Brunei Tourism Webo site, Raymond said people can get the latest news on Brunei Tourism and also the latest information on Brunei. "For instance, we can transfer topics on China superstars on Webo that they are coming to Brunei for a visit. This has generated a lot of attention."

They are also on the look out for celebrities from China to come to Brunei to do their filming. "We will have one coming soon, where a a movie will be shot in Brunei, featuring a top celebrity from China," he added.

The largest TV network in China, CCTV will be in Brunei next month for a familiarisation film shooting and once ready, it will reach to millions of TV viewers in China. "This will allow more exposure on Brunei to China and the viewers will have an idea and feel on what it is like to visit Brunei. From this exposure, we hope to attract more tourists and get more TV stations to go to Brunei to film their documentaries or shoot their films there," Raymond revealed.

Raymond also mentioned that their marketing strategy is not only limited to tourism as they are also constantly on the look out for trade partnerships from China to Brunei. "There is a big potential for the industry, we are looking out for trade partnerships in the media, industries and commercial businesses as well."

Raymond commented that travelling to Brunei may not come cheap. "We always tell them that Brunei is not a cheap travel destination and is considered as high-end, so we are constantly looking at a niche market of high-end holidaymakers and people looking for a reasonable priced trip."

Salinah said Brunei is not exactly a mass tourist destination and they are not targeting millions of arrivals annually and they are not competing with other countries in the region. "We are on the look out for the niche market, a market segment who travel the world and wants to see something different."

The Royal Heritage of Brunei is also the main attraction making the Chinese market more interested in visiting the country and this is the main image that they would like to unleash. "Unlike other countries, Brunei still preserves this majestic heritage. Brunei might be a simple destination but royalties are such a fascination to the Chinese because it links to their legendary dynasties and empires way back," Raymond said.

A Brunei Tourism Official Website dedicated to the China market has also been actively implemented in China, according to Raymond. Bruneitourism.com.cn is also linked to the main website in Brunei. The website, in Chinese language, is also updated constantly, publishing latest news and promotions on Brunei Tourism.

"Having four representative offices here in China at Shanghai, Shenzen, Beijing and Nanning and with television, magazines and newspapers featuring advertisements about Brunei Tourism, we are all out here now," Raymond said.

Salinah said the expansion reach of the company in China has led them to select Beijing Longway as their representative office. "They have KPIs to reach a specific target and have all the collaterals, brochures, information and equipped with everything the people here need to know about Brunei and how to get about here," she said.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

New Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon route promises more fun

SINCE its inception 25 years ago, the Mount Kinabalu Climbathon has tested the mettle of so many participants, who have endured the gruelling climb up the 4,095m-high peak for the glory and lucrative cash prizes.

Next year, as part of celebrations to mark the 26th year of the race, the organiser will introduce several key changes to the route but will maintain the race's iconic name and the RM100,000 cash prize.

Instead of scaling the mountain, participants will run the 23km route from the Mount Kinabalu Park to Kundasang town.

Three-time open and three-time veteran champion Guainus Salagan said the new route would remain competitive for seasoned athletes and, at the same time, friendly for the thrill-seekers.

"The race to the peak, at present, has a cut-off time and participants who cannot reach the summit in about three hours will be disqualified. Not many can do this, but they take part simply for the fun of it.

"Hopefully, we will see more runners participating with the new route, which covers the summit trail from the park to the Layang-Layang area, at 2,800m above sea level, and then down the Mesilau trail.

"People may find it not as tough but I believe it will offer a different kind of challenge," said Guainus, 42, who finished third in the Men's Veteran race on Saturday.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: New Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon route promises more fun
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Spaniard wins 25th Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon title a third time

THREE races, three wins. That sums up Spaniard Killian Jornet, who clinched the Men's Open title in the 25th Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon in Kundasang yesterday.

The 23-year-old university student clocked two hours, 37 minutes and four seconds in the race up and down the mountain to beat defending champion Marco De Gasperi from Italy, who was 44 seconds behind.

Jornet, who studies sports science, was also the winner in his debut race in 2007 and repeated his feat when he returned in 2009. He bagged the top prize of RM13,500, while Gasperi won RM12,500.

Third-placed Luis Alberto Hernando, also from Spain, won RM10,500 after clocking two hours, 42 minutes and 36 seconds, while the best Malaysian finisher was park ranger Saffrey Sumping, who came in sixth in two hours, 55 minutes and 12 seconds.

A total of 203 runners started the 21km race and Gasperi, who won the race twice before, was the fastest to climb the 4,095m-high peak at one hour, 37 minutes and 49 seconds, an effort that won him a 24-carat gold pendant.

The 31-year-old runner kept his pace on the way down but Jornet, who was four minutes behind Gasperi in the climb, proved to be stronger in the descent.

"I caught up with him once we reached the steps (after clearing the rocky surface near the summit) on the way down and stayed closely behind all the way," Jornet said.

In the last 3km, Jornet overtook Gasperi and did not look back.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Spaniard wins 25th Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon title a third time
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Rubber tapper claims fourth title in challenging Mount Kinabalu race

KOTA KINABALU: Wearing only a pair of RM8 shoes locally known as adidas kampung, a rubber tapper broke an eight-year Malaysian jinx by grabbing the women's title at the 25th Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon.

Danny Kuilin Gongot outpaced New Zealander Anna Frost and American Brandy Erholtz, who came in second and third respectively, to bag the US$4,500 (RM14,000) prize and the gold medal in the women's category of the annual event at this World Heritage Site, near here, yesterday.

It was the fourth title for the 44-year-old Sabahan from Kampung Nadau, at the foothills of the majestic mountain in Kinabalu Park in Kundasang, about 75km from here, after her last wins in 2003, 1998 and 1997.

No Malaysian woman had won the race since 2003.

Danny clocked a time of 3:41:29 to beat 101 women climbers, who raced 21km up and down the 4,095m-high peak, the nation's highest.

Interviewed after she completed the event, Danny said she was dedicating the win to her parents, who never stopped encouraging and supporting her.

“They are not in good health now, so this win is for them,” she said, thanking the heavens for her victory.

“I never thought I could win against many younger and fitter runners,” added Danny, who trained for just two weeks running three times up the mountain in preparation for the competition that was billed “the world's toughest mountain race”.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Rubber tapper claims fourth title in challenging Mount Kinabalu race
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Countdown to Sarawak Bird Race 2011

WHAT is a bird race? Despite the name, a bird race is not a race (flying, walking, running or swimming) between two or more birds. It is a race between teams of birders out to spot and identify the greatest number of species of birds in a specific period of time. It is a fun way to get in touch with nature, increase awareness of birds and be a citizen scientist.

However, there is a serious side. The data collected provides wildlife researchers with background information on bird populations and an understanding of their dynamics, for example f luctuations in populations and species composition.

This is important because bird populations around the world are generally declining, reflecting the deterioration in the global environment. In Malaysia, the most well known is the Fraser’s Hill Bird Race, which started in 1999 and has found international recognition.

The Sarawak Bird Race, which began with a mini-race in 2008, has gradually been put on the bird-watching map. This year, the race, which is jointly organised by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Borneo Highlands Resort and Permai Rainforest Resort, will run from the sea to the mountain.

Next Saturday (Oct 29), the race will begin with talks, walks and workshops about birds and the natural world; all of which are open to those who wish to spend the day (from morning to evening) by the seaside at Permai Rainforest Resort.

Dr Pilai Poonswad, an international expert on hornbills will enlighten visitors on this key indicator and trophy family. There will also be talks on swiftlets and migratory birds.

John Arifin, a Singapore-based photographer who contributes to various regional magazines including Asian Geographic, will facilitate a workshop on photographing wildlife. In addition, members of the MNS Bird Group will introduce birding to beginners. A night walk will take you out of your comfort zone and into the sights and sounds of the deep dark jungle.

Next Sunday, the race heads off to the mountains where the half-day Sarawak Bird Race will begin from the Borneo Highlands Resort.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Countdown to Sarawak Bird Race 2011
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Falling in love with Brunei's landmarks

An Asean meeting on social issues and services, including housing, sent Darlene Marie B Berberabe, chief honcho of the Philippines' premier housing fund institution, to Bandar Seri Begawan last week.

Darlene's yearning for Brunei food prompted Brunei Pag-ibig Representative Arlina D Feliciano to bring her to the sultanate's showcase of Malay cuisine, Terindak D'Seni Restaurant and Cafe, on Jalan Residency, Brunei's oldest street.

"I'm sold on the view alone," said Darlene, looking at the panoramic view across the Brunei river of the rows of stilt houses standing in the centuries-old Water Village, of which Italian chronicler Antonio Pigafetta wrote, in the first detailed European description of Brunei in the 16th century: "The city is entirely built in salt water, except the houses of the king and certain chiefs.''

Today, the Brunei government is mulling the building of 420 low-rise, vertical housing units in a 47-hectare site near the Lambak Kanan mosques for its citizens.

In 1952, Kampong Ayer villagers moved to Kampong Bunut in Mukim Kilanas under the government's first national housing resettlement programme.

In 1906, when Jalan Residency was opened and named after the first British Resident's house, the 12-roofed Bubungan Dua Belas, the government encouraged Bruneians to move into dry land and build their houses away from the water.

Jalan Residency, where the jetty going to Temburong is located, leads to the Arts and Handicrafts Centre, a $22 million, 10-storey Malay style building opened in 1984, to train locals in making handicraft like traditionally woven sarong, using gold thread called jong sarat, used for centuries for royal ceremonies, hand-made silverware and ornaments, the snake-like dagger called keris, traditional bronze castings giant decorative wooden spinning tops, colourful cover dishes made of plaited leaves, and native baskets, on display and for sale.

Very near the centre's location was a factory producing cutch, a brownish red, sticky substance used to dye nets and sails, colour clothes khaki and tan leather. Mangrove trees growing along the riverbank were cut for its barks, which were crushed and boiled to make cutch, which were exported as hard blocks or balls, to Britain, US, China and Japan.

After commercial oil was found in 1928 and oil revenue gushed into Brunei in the late 1930's, the water community became officially known as Kampong Ayer and the capital on land as Brunei Town.

Tucked behind the Arts and Handicrafts Centre is the two-storey Terindak Café and Restaurant, offering the best in Brunei cuisine since 2009. Melanaus, the people of the river and Sarawak's earliest settlers, wear the terindak, the conical sun hat stitched from nipa leaves and reinforced on the outside with bamboo strips. A mini version used as a food cover is called tudung dulang in Brunei.

Pulau Terindak was an enclave in 12th century Brunei, 200 years before the era of Brunei's first sultan. Located beside Kampong Ayer in Kota Batu, blue and white plates, and jarlets mostly from China during the Ming dynasty were dug up in the 250 sq-m man-made island elevated 3.64 metres from the sea level.

Darlene Berberabe is a University of the Philippines-educated lawyer who gave up a promotion in Singapore for a multinational firm to be the chief operating officer of the Philippine government's Pag-ibig Fund, a shelter agency which channels savings for housing financing needs.

Pag-ibig, (meaning love in the Filipino language), is an acronym for helping each other for the future: you, the bank, industry and the government. It is symbolised by the bayanihan spirit, the Filipino version of gotong-royong: a house literally carried by several persons to be transplanted to a permanent site.

The Philippine government housing agencies aims to provide 1.5 million houses for its informal settlers and poor dwellers in 2016. From January to July 2011, 1.2 million Filipino Pag-Ibig members benefited from multipurpose loans, mostly for school-related expenses and tuition fees during the month of May.

After lunch, the Manila visitors motored to the largest and most magnificent mosque in Brunei, the Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque in Kiarong. Known as the Kiarong Mosque) it covers 20 acres.

Darlene and her inseparable classmate since Primary 2, and now Chief of Staff, Nanette Abilay, who celebrated her birthday in Brunei, were awed by the mosque's 29 marble domes and 29 white marble steps, the symbols of His Majesty Sultan Hj Hassanal Bolkiah as the 29th ruler of the 600-year-old Bolkiah dynasty, one of the world's oldest ruling monarchies. Before the house of worship's large, gold-topped domes, striking mosaic patterns, manicured landscaping and gushing fountains, the visitors had their pictures taken for posterity.

On the way to Brunei's first green building, the Philippine Embassy in the Diplomatic Enclave, stand the infrastructure landmarks "the country's pride", architect Edgardo Feliciano, working with Architect Abdullah Ahmad, helped erect during his 16 years' stay here: Magistrate's Court Building, Mabohai Condominium Apartments, RIPAS Outpatient Department, Kiulap Commercial Complex, and Pusat Da'wah Islamiah, the New Convert's Hostel.

Having experienced the comforts of the opulent Empire Hotel in Jerudong, viewed the historic Water Village and tasted the hospitality of Terindak the self-described Manila visitor said: "I'm single, available and willing to relocate in Brunei."

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday
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Unesco Geopark to revive Sarawak’s tourism industry

KUCHING: A Unesco Geopark in the state is in the works in an effort to propel the state back on top as the country’s top tourism destination.

In view of the of the poor air connectivity which plagued the state’s tourism industry this year, Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit said his ministry is currently working on various strategies to revive the state’s tourism industry.

He said the Geopark under Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) would be along Jalan Borneo Heights, Bau and Santubong.

“The Department of Mineral and Geoscience here is currently working on the dossier which will be submitted to Unesco for consideration.

“It’s halfway done and we can expect to submit it in the middle of next year so that Unesco can come to assess the areas,” he said at a press conference held at Sarawak Club on the reconstruction of James Brooke’s cottage at Mount Serembu.

Dawos mentioned if the application is approved, the state would be home to the second Geopark in Malaysia after the one in Langkawi and the third in South East Asia after the Dong Van Rock Highland Geopark in Vietnam.

According to Unesco’s website, a Geopark is a “territory encompassing one or more sites of scientific importance, not only for geological reasons but also by virtue of its archeological, ecological or cultural value”.

Continue reading at: Unesco Geopark to revive Sarawak’s tourism industry
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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sabah Mulls Turning 'Rhythms Of Kinabalu' Into An International Event

KUNDASANG -- The Sabah government is mulling over the idea to turn 'Rhythms of Kinabalu' into an international event to promote the annual musical performance at the base of Mount Kinabalu as another tourist attraction in Sabah.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the organising of the event by the Information Communication and Culture Ministry, with cooperation from Tourism Ministry, had inspired the state government to turn the event as a new entertainment-based tourism product.

"We want to take this opportunity to promote Sabah's music and culture to the international community.

"Coincidentally, the event is being organised to complement our annual Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon," he told reporters after representing Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman at the opening of the event here Saturday.

Masidi said the state government was also prepared to be the main sponsor for the event next year and would hold further discussions with the ministry on the proposal.

Deputy Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Maglin Dennis D'Cruz said the Rhythms of Kinabalu was one of the 20 programmes to be organised by the ministry, with cooperation from Tourism Ministry, over the next three years.

He said the ministry had also fixed Oct 19-20 for the organising of the event next year.

Continue reading at: Sabah Mulls Turning 'Rhythms Of Kinabalu' Into An International Event
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Sabahan Reclaims Mount Kinabalu Climbathon Women's Title

KUNDASANG -- After an eight-year drought, Malaysia's Danny Kuilin Gongot today reclaimed the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon women's champion title.

Kuilin, 44, who last won the race in 2003, clocked 3:41.29s to win the race dubbed the world's toughest mountain race.

However, she came in second at the summit with a time of 2:20.17s behind United States' Brandy Erholtz, who romped home in 2:11.19s.

Danny Kuilin was ahead of last year's first runner-up Anna Frost of New Zealand, who finished the race in 3:50.38s, followed by Erholtz in 3:52.21s.

"I'm happy that I'm in good health today. I didn't expect to win, just to finish the race," Danny Kuilin told reporters after crossing the finish line.

Continue reading at: Sabahan Reclaims Mount Kinabalu Climbathon Women's Title
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Hornbill expert to speak at Sarawak Bird Race 2011

KUCHING: Dr Pilai Poonswad, one of the leading conservationists for hornbills in Thailand, will be the guest speaker of Sarawak Bird Race 2011, to be held from Oct 29 to 30 at Permai Rainforest Resort in Santubong here.

She will deliver two topics on hornbills, ‘Hornbills and their significance’ and ‘Seeking suitable nesting trees for hornbills’.

According to Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), the co-organiser of the event, Pilai’s field of expertise is Avian Parasitology and Avian Biology and Ecology.

She was the representative of Thailand in the International Ornithological Committee, a founder and committee member of Hornbill Research Foundation and elected as Honorary Fellow of American Ornithologists’ Union.

She is currently Professor of Biology at the Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok.

Lately, she has received numerous honours and awards for her scientific work and contribution to conservation.

MNS said in a press statement yesterday that four out of eight species of hornbills had been recorded at Borneo Highlands Resort and Permai Rainforest Resort, the co-organisers of the event.

The species are the white-crowned hornbill, wreathed hornbill, black hornbill and rhinoceros hornbill.

The other four species of hornbills are the bushy-crested hornbill, wrinkled hornbill, oriental pied hornbill and helmeted hornbill.

Continue reading at: Hornbill expert to speak at Sarawak Bird Race 2011
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MasWings eyes Brunei

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) subsidiary MasWings is in the midst of expanding its network of routes and destinations, with plans to introduce Brunei as a central "eastern hub" for international visitors in the BIMP-EAGA region being mooted for implementation next year.

The move could dramatically provide a significant impact on the frequency of visitors arriving at the Brunei International Airport.

The proposal to secure Brunei as the latest route could signal major progress and development because it will provide the new city code (BWN) more flexibility in terms of passengers' alternative routes and will offer visitors more opportunities to fly to Brunei which could subsequently further improve the country's tourism prospects.

However, accessibility and flexibility will not be the only benefits to be enjoyed by frequent and new visitors to Brunei, as travellers from nearby cities in both Sabah and Sarawak would have the added option of stopping over in Brunei before continuing their final leg of the journey towards other cities via Malaysia Airlines.

MasWings' proposed flights include daily flights to Kota Kinabalu and Brunei Darussalam-Kuching routes - and vice versa - three times a week, said Munirah Omar, MAS Executive, MasWings Division.

"We would definitely obtain our services once we receive approval from the Brunei Government. We will offer afternoon (around 1pm) and evening flights for Kota Kinabalu. The (flight) times are yet to be advised," she said in an interview with the Weekend Bulletin yesterday.

According to Munirah, Brunei will be a favourable destination given the fact that other major airlines in the region regularly fly in and out of the country. "By having these services in Brunei, we hope that it would attract easier international connections out of Kota Kinabalu," she said.

MasWings is currently waiting for approval from the government after having submitted the proposal to begin its operations in the Sultanate as the latest to join a host of destinations in the BIMP-EAGA region.

MasWings, which travels to 22 destinations mainly in Sabah and Sarawak, aims to ensure greater accessibility by establishing closer links for connecting flights to continental or global cities.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend
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Sabah Travel Fair in Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Darussalam recorded top place in terms of international visitor arrivals to Sabah last year with an overall count of 109,141 visitors, averaging 299 visitors per day, and is well positioned to set a new record this year if the current rate continues.

As of the first eight months in 2011, 63,165 new and returning Bruneian visitors made up a huge portion of international travellers, indicating an 11.2 per cent jump compared to the same period in 2010.

The rapid growth of travellers could escalate in the near future given that Sabah will continue to enhance the image and outlook of tourism in the country with new hotel launches, travel packages, new products, exciting destinations not limited to Kota Kinabalu but encompassing other areas such as Sandakan and Tawau.

Sabah has long been admired as a popular holiday destination for independent travelers, most commonly in Kota Kinabalu. "Basically, the main purpose of the exhibition is to update on new products and new packages including promoting hoteliers and other management and services and evidence also suggests that the increasing number of visitors comes from independent travellers. This makes it easier to directly reach out to our target consumers," Zarinah Hj Amiludin, Marketing Manager of Sabah Tourism Board told the Bulletin in an interview during the first day of the 5th Sabah Travel Fair at the Mall yesterday.

Novotel, an internationally-recognised hotel brand with countless number of hotels in the United Kingdom is offering a promotional rate of B$80, which translates to RM192.

With reference to the current exchange rate, that amount equates to 39 pounds sterling, which is far cheaper than any hotel in Central England and more than half the price off in most of the hotels in the Central London District.

A representative confirmed that this promotional rate will only last for three days and will end on Sunday when the fair ends.

"Hoteliers and tour operators will offer special packages to Bruneians especially targeting customers during the school holidays," Zarinah said, outlining the purposes of the main fair in addition to updating the new launches of hotels in Sabah.

Sabah is also a popular destination for meetings and cultural performances could also be arranged to entertain delegation members upon request, said Zarinah.

She said that main attractions will not only be based in Kota Kinabalu and encouraged groups of independent travellers and families 'to experience and explore nature' in nearby places and discover Sabah as a whole.

Customers started to flock the Sabah Travel Fair, which began yesterday and will be launched today, to inquire on the availability of accommodation as the end-of-year school holidays are coming by.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend
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Friday, October 21, 2011

'Civilised' orangutan store knowledge and pass it down between generations - just like humans

Many people think 'culture' is what divides man from the apes.

But a group of University of Zurich researchers have proved that orangutan societies can learn behaviour and pass it down through the generations, just like human cultures.

Orangutans in different areas of Sumatra and Borneo behave differently - and researchers were puzzled as to why.

But it turns out the differences are not down to genetics - instead, the 'local cultures' are learned and passed down among local groups of apes, similar to how people behave differently in, say, Aberdeen and Plymouth, or New York and Ohio.

The finding hints that the roots of human societies may go back for millions of years.

The roots of our culture could be shared with the roots of ape cultures.

The researchers analysed 100,000 hours of orangutan behaviour and genetically profiled 150 orangutans.

About a decade ago, biologists who had been observing great apes in the wild reported that behaviour 'changed' with geography, in a way that hinted that the apes had cultures that stored and passed on ideas.

The finding triggered an intense debate among scientists.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: 'Civilised' orangutan store knowledge and pass it down between generations - just like humans
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Discontinued FireFly services to have minor impact

KOTA KINABALU: Firefly’s decision to discontinue its flight services to Sabah could have some minor impact on the number of domestic tourists visiting the State but the effect would be short term, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

“Yes, there will be an impact in the short run but I believe they (Malaysia Airlines) are in the business to make money, so eventually if there is demand obviously it would make sense for them to add the number of flights between here and KL or other destinations,” he said.

Malaysia Airlines Group on Tuesday embarked on a network rationalisation programme which would see its subsidiary, Firefly, concentrating on serving short-haul turboprop operations and Malaysia Airlines focusing on enhancing its premium full-service offerings.

The programme will be undertaken over a two-month period on a sector-by-sector basis and will result in all Firefly jet aircrafts being redeployed into MAS’ operations by December 4.

The group assured that it would remain committed to Sabah and Sarawak and will continue to operate all services to Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

Masidi said Firefly had contributed to the increased availability of flight services to Sabah, resulting in an increase of 21 per cent in domestic arrivals in the State as of August.

In this regard, he said it was hoped that MAS or AirAsia would add more flights between Kota Kinabalu and destinations in the peninsula to make up for the termination of FireFly’s services.

“MAS wants to ensure it is profitable. The demise of Firefly is obviously one of the steps they need to do in order to rationalize their operations, at least in East Malaysia,” he said, while expressing hope that the matter would be resolved soon.

Continue reading at: Discontinued FireFly services to have minor impact
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MATTA Sabah regrets Firefly pulling out from Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Sabah Chapter regrets to note the network rationalization program of Malaysia Airlines group which will see the impending pullout of Firefly routes to Sabah by the end of this year.

The chapter’s chairman, KL Tan in a statement yesterday, said that pulling out from Sabah appeared to be a commercial decision without taking public interest into consideration.

He added that the demise of Firefly operations to Sabah is expected to have an adverse repercussion on tourist arrivals to the state as travellers will no longer have an option to pay low cost fares and travel in comfort.

“This has been a growing new segment of frugal tourists which is due to the gloomy economic conditions in the USA and Europe,” he said, adding that more than 90 per cent of Sabah’s tourist arrivals are by air and Firefly provides this comfort and reasonable price travelling structure which entices leisure and business travellers to visit the state.

Tan pointed out that if travelling by Firefly, foreign tourists have the luxury and convenience of connecting their flights from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) instead of the hassle of having to check in at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT).

“By December 2011, this option will cease. In addition, MATTA Sabah noted that 60 per cent of Sabah’s arrivals comprised domestic tourists,” he said, adding that since the commencement of Firefly service to Sabah on January 15 this year, domestic arrivals have recorded a steady increase of 1,304,981 from January to August compared to 1,077,830 arrivals for the same corresponding period last year.

Among the contributing factors are the flight frequencies of six flights daily to and from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu and the option available for Malaysians to pay affordable cost air tickets and yet experience the comfort of travelling and enjoying the international standard airport facilities and aerobridge facilities.

With the Firefly pullout, surely domestic tourism will be affected and holiday makers will consider neighbouring countries instead of Sabah, he lamented.

Continue reading at: MATTA Sabah regrets Firefly pulling out from Sabah
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sabah Wants More MAS, AirAsia KL-KK Flights

KOTA KINABALU -- Sabah hopes Malaysia Airlines (MAS) or AirAsia would add more flights between Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu following the termination of Firefly's services.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said Firefly, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines Group, had contributed to the increased availability of seats resulting in an increase of 21 per cent in domestic arrivals in Sabah as of August.

"There will be an impact on Sabah's domestic tourist arrivals in the short run.

"But I believe airlines are in the business of making money and eventually, when they know there is demand, obviously it will make sense for them to add on more flights," he told reporters after opening a seminar on Sabah's prospects and retrospects after colonial rule here today.

Masidi said the airline group needs to rationalise its operations in East Malaysia to ensure it does not lose more money.

While hoping the matter could be resolved in order to meet increasing demand, he expressed gratitude that passengers can still choose to travel by either MAS or AirAsia.

On Tuesday, the group said it had embarked on a network rationalisation programme with Firefly concentrating on short-haul turboprop operations and MAS focusing on its premium full-service offerings.

Continue reading at: Sabah Wants More MAS, AirAsia KL-KK Flights
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Oldest Sumatran orangutan in U.S. dies at age 56

Ginger, the oldest known Sumatran orangutan in the United States, was euthanized on Tuesday at the Sacramento Zoo to prevent further suffering from various age-related ailments. She was 56.

Born on the western Indonesian island of Sumatra in 1955, Ginger arrived in California's capital in 1984 after previous stints at zoos in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago, the Sacramento Zoo said.

"As the matriarch of the orangutan group, Ginger was a spectacular ambassador for wildlife. She inspired and motivated zoo visitors to take an active role in conservation," Leslie Field, the zoo's mammals supervisor, said in a statement.

Field described Ginger as "strong-willed."

Ginger had been treated for some time for a variety of age-related maladies, such as arthritis, the zoo said. More recently, neurological issues had impaired the ape's eyesight and coordination, and she was unable to move herself into her enclosure on Monday night.

Ginger, who had no offspring, is survived by two other orangutans at the zoo -- Makan, an 8-year-old male, and Cheli, a 29-year-old female.

The formerly oldest orangutan in captivity, Molly, died in May at the age of 59 at Tokyo's Tama Zoological Park. She was famous for her crayon drawings. Upon Molly's death, another orangutan at the Tokyo zoo, Gypsy, age 57, assumed the world's oldest title, according to news reports.

The oldest living orangutan in the United States is now Tia, a 55-year-old female residing at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas.

Continue reading at: Oldest Sumatran orangutan in U.S. dies at age 56
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Sabah Parks Improving Conservation Of Marine Park Corals

SEMPORNA -- Sabah Parks is stepping up efforts to conserve marine parks in the state through dissemination of coral identification skills among its workers involved in field work.

Its marine research officer, Nasrulhakim Maidin, said skills in identifying corals were important and if they could be carried out in a short period, it would help in the collection of data.

He said the dissemination of coral identification skills among workers could be carried out at workshops and fields, using more efficient equipment.

"As many of those deployed as field workers are part-timers, they are the main focus of marine park conservation efforts," he told Bernama here Wednesday.

Nasrulhakim was speaking at a five-day coral-identification seminar which began on Monday.

Continue reading at: Sabah Parks Improving Conservation Of Marine Park Corals
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Tun Sakaran Marine Park to have more diving spots

SEMPORNA: The Tun Sakaran Marine Park (TSMP) here will be used as a springboard to encourage eco-tourism when over 50 areas boasting of attractive corals and marine life are transformed into diving spots.

Sabah Parks director Paul Basintal said 56 spots were identified in the vicinity of the 35,000-hectare park which was gazetted a marine park in 2005.

Currently, he said, two areas near Pulau Mantabuan and Pulau Sibuan were open to tour operators to lure divers in limited numbers.

“The other diving areas would be open in stages to enable close monitoring, especially by limiting the number of divers at one time,” he told Bernama after opening a Coral Identification Workshop in Pulau Buheydulang near here yesterday.

There are eight islands in the marine park, namely Boheydulang, Tatagan, Mantabuan, Bodgaya, Maiga, Sibuan, Selakan and Sebangkat.

Continue reading at: Tun Sakaran Marine Park to have more diving spots
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gomantong Caves: Vital source of edible bird's nests in Sabah

SANDAKAN: The Gomantong Caves are the largest and most important source of edible bird’s nests in Sabah.

It is an intricate cave system inside Gomantong Hill, which is the largest limestone outcrop in the Lower Kinabatangan area. Situated in a forest reserve, nearly two hours’ drive from here, the caves and the surrounding area are a protected area for wildlife, especially orangutans.

The main cave system is divided into two parts: the more accessible Simud Hitam (Black Cave), and the larger Simud Putih (White Cave) which lies above.

The cave system is home to many other animals, including massive populations of cockroaches and bats. Outside one can see crested serpent eagles, kingfishers, and Asian fairy bluebirds.

The caves have been renowned for their valuable edible swiftlet nests, which are harvested for bird’s nest soup. The most valuable of the nests, the white ones, can fetch very high prices.

Twice a year, from February to April and July to September, licensed collectors climb to the roof of the caves, using only rattan ladders, ropes, and bamboo poles, to collect the nests.

Harvesting is regulated by the Sabah Wildlife Department to ensure the swiftlets are given enough time to make new nests to lay their eggs and hatch them.

Continue reading at: Gomantong Caves: Vital source of edible bird's nests in Sabah
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Bukit Tengkorak Archeological Site Needs Added Value As Tourism Product

SEMPORNA - Bukit Tengkorak Archeological Heritage Site should be given added value to make it an attractive tourism product to tourists.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said efforts should be undertaken to attract more tourists to visit the archeological site and museum costing RM4.2mil.

"This product has so much potential. Visitors who come here and explore places while waiting for transport to the resort islands," she told reporters after climbing the 152 metre high archeological site recently.

Dr Ng suggested that a tourist guide with archeological expertise be staioned at Bukit Tengkorak to brief tourists on the archeological site.

This is necessary as without a specialist tourist guide, it is difficult to promote it as an atractive archeological tourism product.

Bukit Tengkorak has been identified as one of Southeast Asia's largest pottery making site in the Neolithic period about 3,000 years ago.

Researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia's (USM) Center for Archaeological Research with collaboration of Sabah Museum Department had done scientific and systematic research at Bukit Tengkorak since 1994.

They found thousands of prehistoric pottery fragments and studies showed that the methods used are still being practised in Semporna to this day.

Continue reading at: Bukit Tengkorak Archeological Site Needs Added Value As Tourism Product
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Monday, October 17, 2011

Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort Waste Management System To Become Case Study

SEMPORNA -- The Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort's waste management practice will be made a case study by the Ministry of Tourism as part of efforts to preserve and conserve the beauty and natural environment of islands marked as tourist destinations in the country.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the case study was important since it could be made as a guideline before the ministry comes out with a certain policy on good waste management practice for island resorts and hotels.

"We will be looking at this (waste management in Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort) as a case study to see how the ministry can look at a policy to implement such a system.

"It is not an overnight study but definitely we need the advice of consultants," she told reporters after visiting to the resort recently where she was briefed on the resort's waste management practice.

Dr Ng was convinced that the waste management system in the Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort could be practiced by other resorts as it was not so complicated but involved more mechanical aspects.

"Now I am here in a small resort with 120 capacity that can deliver. If they can deliver other resorts can deliver too," she added.

Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort is one of five dive resorts operating in the Mabul Island, about 40 minutes from the mainland of Semporna and about 15 minutes from Sipadan Island.

Another dive operator in the island, Borneo Divers Sabah, a resort with a 60 max capacity also practices an environment friendly waste management which followed the Environment Impact Assessment guidelines.

Continue reading at: Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort Waste Management System To Become Case Study
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The Borneo Story: Video Archive

The Borneo Story is a much applauded nine-part TV series documentary on Borneo (mostly in Sarawak), first broadcast on the BBC in 1957.

The documentary was produced by British film-makers and anthropologists, Tom Harrisson (1911–1976) and Hugh Gibb (1915-1990).

A special thanks to The Doozer, who had converted VHS tapes of the hard-to-find The Borneo Story into digital format.

The series included are as follows:


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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gilt-edged adventure in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

"EAT some chocolate," Nathan Wedding says, thrusting four squares from a bar studded with hazelnuts in my direction. "It's really important for you to eat more chocolate," he says again with an uncharacteristic note of venom in his voice.

Under normal circumstances it is not necessary to force-feed me chocolate but this morning is anything but normal.

It's 4am, the temperature is just above freezing and I'm at 3800 metres on an exposed mountainside in a biting wind. I have an altitude-induced headache, my pace has slowed to a shuffle during the 90 minutes I've been climbing and it's probably going to take me another hour to get to the top of Borneo's Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in south-east Asia at 4095 metres.

Wedding warned us this would happen. "It's the altitude. You probably won't feel like eating but it's really important to keep your energy levels up," he said to us in the cosy confines of our four-bunk room in Pendant Hut the night before.

Wedding's specialty is putting ordinary mortals into extraordinary places. Correction: ordinary mortals with deep pockets who are ready, willing and able to take on some of the most remarkable experiences in the world of travel.

The visionary and chief guide of Seven Skies, Wedding has cherry-picked the best of local culture, wildlife, cuisine, accommodation and guides in select parts of Asia to stitch together a concept he calls "luxury adventure travel". Usually backpackers are the pioneers of the sort of trek he's offering but Wedding serves up the experience when it's still close to its raw state and then edges it with gold.

Our Borneo adventure begins with a sea-kayaking trip through Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah's capital and gateway. Wedding began his adventure career as a sea-kayak guide and paddling comes naturally. After a quick introduction, including how to wear the spray skirts that look like neoprene tutus, we launch our kayaks in the shallow waters off the beach just south of Tanjung Aru.

First stop is Mamutik Island, which is crowded with day trippers from Kota Kinabalu. But when we beach 40 minutes later at the comma of sand extending from Sulug Island, it's completely empty. The only sign that anyone has ever been here is a table that awaits us at the water's edge and is loaded with tropical fruit, iced drinks and cold towels.

As pampered paddlers, we're accompanied by a boat carrying our overnight gear, plus snorkels and masks and a grinning crew of three.

Wedding escorts all his trips, a level of commitment that you don't often find in the travel business. Group sizes can be anything from two to eight but six is about a perfect number, according to Wedding. On this trip there's Nancy, who cycles, hikes, paddles, does an hour of yoga each morning and climbed Kilimanjaro last year. The trip is a present from her son, Adam, who works for a London fashion label.

On the second day, we paddle around the seaward side of Gaya Island, the largest in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Gilt-edged adventure in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo
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