Friday, December 30, 2011

Sabah ‘no’ to flights slash

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah, as a minority shareholder in Malaysia Airlines, is objecting to the carrier's move to slash flights from the state capital to various international destinations.

State-owned Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd said besides affecting investment and tourist arrivals, MAS' move would discourage other airlines from flying out of Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

Warisan Harta, the state government's investment arm, represents the state as the minority shareholder in the airline.

Its chairman Datuk Ramlee Marahaban said MAS should focus on fulfilling its social obligations instead of merely thinking about its commercial ambitions.

Ramlee said there were concerns that the recent share swap deal between Khazanah Nasional the Federal Government's investment arm and Tune Air Sdn Bhd would result in both MAS and AirAsia merely protecting their commercial interests.

He said the Sabah government's views as a minority stakeholder in MAS were not sought before the share swap deal was worked out.

MAS will suspend its twice weekly Kota Kinabalu-Osaka service from Jan 6 and thrice weekly Kota Kinabalu-Perth flights from Jan 31.

Continue reading at: Sabah ‘no’ to flights slash
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

8 things you should know about the Borneo Sumatran rhino

The smallest of all

The Borneo Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrison) is a sub-species of the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). It is the smallest of five living species, standing at about 145cm (4 feet 9 inches) and measuring 3m and 17cm (10 feet 5 inches) in length. It weighs between 500kg and 1,000kg. It can live up to about 30 years.

Unique to Borneo

The Sumatran rhinos are found in Indonesia's Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, southern Thailand and on Borneo island. But the Borneon sub-species lives only on Borneo island. It is one of three species with two horns and is the only one in Asia. Two other Asian rhino species, the Indian and the Javan, have one horn. The White and Black African rhinos have two horns. The Sumatran rhino and its Borneon cousin have a front horn of between 25cm and 79cm long and a smaller one which is shorter than 10cm.

They have reddish brown hair which gives them the nickname of "hairy rhino".

Facing extinction

Nobody knows how many of them are left in the rainforest that straddles the east Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak and Indonesia's Kalimantan province on Borneo island, the world's third largest. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that there are between 30 and 70 of them. A 2005 survey found evidence of only 13 rhinos in Sabah.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: 8 things you should know about the Borneo Sumatran rhino
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Discounts for in-bound tourists to Sabah holding holiday privilege card

KOTA KINABALU: In-bound tourists travelling under the brand, ‘Perfect Holidays’, can now enjoy discounts and value-added privileges from participating vendors and merchants with the launch of Perfect Holidays Tourists’ Privilege Card.

Launched by Perfect Vacation Sdn Bhd, the privilege card covers more than 20 merchants that offer services such as dining, shopping, water sports activities, excursions, scuba diving and more. The card also entitles tourists to discounts on drinks at selected night entertainment outlets.

Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun, who attended the launching ceremony, said Chinese tourist arrivals to Sabah had increased by 37 per cent in the first 10 months of this year.

He added that work would be done to ensure that tourists arrival to the state would not be dampened with the suspension of four direct flights in the regional network by Malaysia Airlines (MAS).

“I believe Sabah has a bright future in the tourism industry and we will work hard to make sure Sabah is the best tourism destination in Malaysia,” he said.

On the other hand, the Perfect Holidays Tourists’ Privilege Card would also benefit retailers and service providers as participating vendors receive free exposure via the vendors’ listing on the card’s website.

Priority is also given to vendors to offer their services to in-bound tourists travelling with “Perfect Holidays”. Vendor registration is free and there are no annual fees.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Discounts for in-bound tourists to Sabah holding holiday privilege card
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sabah Air urged to fill air access vacuum

The Government should heed the call of air travellers in Sabah and Sarawak to review the recently concluded collaboration between MAS and AirAsia because it had effectively ended any competition in the airline industry to the disadvantage of the rakyat.

"The two airlines now being partners in business seem now more interested in profits than in carrying out its corporate social responsibility role with emphasis on international routes," said Labuan Consumer Council (LCC) Chairman Fauziah Datuk Din.

She said when the alliance was developed through a share swap between the two airlines, concerns had been expressed by many that East Malaysian travellers would suffer but the Transport Ministry assured this would not be the case.

She said it turned out that the Government doesn't know best as not only flights between KL, Kuching, Labuan and Kota Kinabalu been reduced but the costs have also soared with KL-KK flights fetching up to RM700.

"And even this depends on availability of seats."

"I was told flights between Sandakan and Penang on AirAsia can go up to RM1,000 and this also is fully booked."

She said Firefly was becoming the public's favourite but was stopped altogether following the MAS-AirAsia collaboration.

"Adding to this, it was reported that four MAS direct international flights to Kota Kinabalu would be suspended from next year," she said.

"If nothing can be done, the other options are to either bring back Firefly or for Sabah Air to consider applying to serve the KK-Kuching-Labuan-KK route by leasing aircraft," she said.

She said air connections were important to Sarawak, Labuan and Sabah and the Transport Ministry should not lose its focus since its has been tasked to improve public transportation under the National Key Results Area.

"The subsidies given to MAS should now be questioned since the rakyat are not benefitting."

Continue reading at: Sabah Air urged to fill air access vacuum
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Pandaw cruise boat cruising into the sunset

RV Orient Pandaw the cruise boat that brings tourists into the heart of Borneo along the mighty Rajang is sailing into the sunset as it will cease operation next year.

It will sail up the longest river in Malaysia for the last time in March and its swansong voyage is already almost fully booked with just a few tickets left available.

The Pandaw newsletter recently announced the cessation of its Rajang cruise explaining that “…logistical and operational difficulties of working are so tough an environment that the project has been commercially unsuccessful”.

Pandaw the largest luxury river cruise operator in South East Asia runs river expedition cruises in four countries in the region – Burma on the Irrawaddy and Chindwin Rivers, Cambodia and Vietnam on Mekong River and Malaysia on Rajang River.

The Sarawak Tourism Board had been notified but there is nothing it could do because as a commercial venture the Pandaw Rajang cruise is subjected to market forces.

Direc tor of Corporation Communication of Angelina Bateman when contacted recently said; “Our role so far has been to help facilitate it by promoting the tour. Other than that we cannot get involved, except in helping them to promote since it is a commercial operation.”

Bateman expressed regret that the cruise failed to succeed as a commercial venture as it had helped to promote tourism in the state internationally.

When it was launched on July 1, 2009 it was hailed as a catalyst for the growth of the tourism industry in the central region of the state but it was also drew flaks from local tour operators who were left out of its travel itinerary.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Pandaw cruise boat cruising into the sunset
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Monday, December 26, 2011

Capture of rare Sumatran rhino gives hope for species

Malaysian wildlife authorities said Monday the capture of a young female Borneo Sumatran rhino had given them a last chance to save the highly endangered species from extinction.

The female rhino, aged between 10 and 12 years old, was caught on December 18 and is being kept in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah on the Malaysian area of Borneo island where it is hoped it will breed with a lone captive male.

"All of us in Sabah are relieved that we have been able to capture this rhino after almost a year-and-a-half," Borneo Rhino Alliance director Junaidi Payne told AFP.

The female rhino, which has been named Puntung, was caught in a joint operation by the Borneo Rhino Alliance and the Sabah Wildlife Department.

"This is now the very last chance to save this species, one of the most ancient forms of mammal," Laurentius Ambu, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, said in a statement.

Puntung had been specifically targeted since early 2010 as the mate for a 20-year-old, lone male rhino named Tam, who was rescued from an oil palm plantation in August 2008.

"It is an ideal age for breeding. Puntung and Tam are being kept in adjacent paddocks. They can see each other and there is some communication," Payne said.

Previous attempts in the 1980s and 1990s to breed Borneo Sumatran rhinos failed but Payne said he was "cautiously optimistic" the latest captive breeding programme would succeed.

The critically endangered Sumatran rhino is a mostly solitary animal except for courtship and rearing young.

Payne said the main threat to the survival of species "is there are so few and they do not mate in the wild."

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Capture of rare Sumatran rhino gives hope for species
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Tough year ahead for Sabah hotels

KOTA KINABALU: Room occupancy rate expected to drop below 60 per cent next year.

The hotel industry in Kota Kinabalu is performing well this year as three-star hotels and above are experiencing an occupancy rate of 64 per cent as of November, an increase of four per cent compared to the same period last year.

However, Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Sabah and Labuan president Alex Cham predicted that the occupancy rate might drop below 60 per cent next year as Malaysia Airlines (MAS) recently announced the suspension of four routes on the regional network starting early 2012.

The suspended routes include the twice-weekly Kota Kinabalu-Osaka (starting January 6), the thrice-weekly Kota Kinabalu-Perth (January 31), the four-weekly Kota Kinabalu-Haneda (February 1) and the four-weekly Kota Kinabalu-Seoul return B737 route (February 21).

In terms of average room rate, there was a slight drop from RM256 last year to RM250 this year, which Cham attributed to the more competitive environment with more new hotels coming up.

Room rates aside, the tourism industry is actually picking up with more tourist arrivals this year with the announcement to make Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) the Eastern hub and the addition of more direct flights from Kota Kinabalu to Korea, Japan and Perth in Australia.

Cham told The Borneo Post in an interview the hotel industry was starting to enjoy a rebound from the financial crisis in 2008 and lower occupancy rate in 2009, but the suspension of direct flights would hit tourism arrivals to Sabah.

In addition, Cham said Japanese or Korean tourists preferred direct flights, instead of stopovers and connecting from Kuala Lumpur and finally to Kota Kinabalu, which was time consuming.

When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March, Sabah actually saw an increase in Japanese tourists arrival, he said, due to the availability of direct flights.

Cham continued to say that there used to be a direct flight from Japan several years ago, and when the flight was taken off the route, the industry immediately noticed a drop in tourist arrival from Japan.

Furthermore, Cham said Royal Brunei had cancelled its flight from Kota Kinabalu to Perth when MAS launched the route, and now he was not sure if Royal Brunei would resume the route again.

“The decision by MAS (suspending four routes in the regional network) is not a good thing for tourism.

“Sabah tourism is a major income source after the oil palm plantations,” he said.

He pointed out that MAS should find a solution to cut their losses instead of suspending direct flights as it would impact on the tourism industry here, and probably reducing national income.

MAH Sabah and Labuan Chapter has 47 members, the majority of them three-star and above.

“If MAS cut down on direct flights, the occupancy rate could decline below 60 per cent next year.

“Because as more hotels come up, the cake is not large enough to share,” Cham stressed.

Meanwhile, Sabah Hotel Association (SHA) president Christopher Chan said larger hotels (three-star and above) had achieved an overall 70 to 80 per cent occupancy rate this year while budget hotels (two-star and below) reported a drop of around 10 per cent in their occupancy rate.

Continue reading at: Tough year ahead for Sabah hotels
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

From the Heart of Borneo

AS we go into the holiday season, perhaps we should reflect on the gifts of Mother Nature.

Think back to Nov 12, 2011, when the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) started a campaign to increase familiarity and appreciation of Pade Adan (commonly known as Bario rice), as part of the three nation — Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia — transnational Heart of Borneo initiative.

The Heart of Borneo, first visualised in the early part of the 21st century, is a vision of the kaleidoscope of all the factors that make the mountainous spine running down the island of Borneo important. The total value of the components — land, water, air, biodiversity of living creatures, including man, is much greater than the individual — so much so that if one is lost, then all are likely to be dramatically negatively affected. This mountainous region acts as the heart and lungs of the island.

The fine-flavoured Pade Adan is the result of man, the farmers in the Krayan-Kelabit Highlands from Bario, Ba Kelalan, Long Semado, Long Pasiah and their counterparts in the Krayan valley of Kalimantan, understanding the natural resources of the highland plateaus and sustainably using them while working with the forces of nature.

The promotion of this indigenous product, in my view, symbolises the vision that WWF and its partners had with the inception of the Heart of Borneo initiative.

The Heart of Borneo aims to develop partnerships at all levels, from the grassroots to government administration, to ensure that effective management of the protected and productive forests and other land uses can be sustained.

This initiative is not about excluding man, but recognises that we are part of the environment. The development and promotion of ‘Green and Fair Products’ originating in the spine of Borneo can provide much needed economic input into the area through sustainable use of resources.

Pade Adan, of which there are three varieties, Adan Merah (red), Adan Putih (white) and Adan Hitam (black), is an example of a traditional product that can be grown through the sustainable use of resources. This high-value crop is recognised within Sarawak and consumers are willing to purchase it at a premium.

Penghulu George Sigar from Ba Kelalan, during the opening ceremony to promote Pade Adan, described the steps in producing this fine quality rice.

Traditional wet rice cultivation practices are largely organic as artificial fertilisers and pesticides are not normally used. The fields are made in the wide river valleys in the plateaus. The choice of location depends on the topography (the flatter the more desirable) and the availability of water.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: From the Heart of Borneo
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Christmas miracle – healthy female rhino found in Tabin

LAHAD DATU: There was Christmas joy in the jungle yesterday as a healthy young female Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni) was safely translocated within the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (TWR).

The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) and the SWD’s special Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) captured the rhino, named Puntung, in a joint operation.

“This is a fantastic gift for our uphill battle in ensuring the survival of this truly unique species and wonderful timing with Christmas, a time to give thanks for our blessings,” said an elated Dr Laurentius Ambu, the director of SWD.

Capturing and translocating Puntung was done after months of observation and careful logistical planning to ensure her safety by the dedicated field staff of SWD, BORA and WRU.

“We have monitored her since 2007, and there is no sign that any other rhino has entered into her range in the past five years. This is a stark indication that so few rhinos remain that they are simply not meeting for reproduction,” elaborated Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne, executive director of BORA.

Puntung had been specifically targeted since early 2010 as the mate for a middle-aged, lone male rhino named Tam, who was rescued from an oil palm plantation in August 2008 and cared for since then in the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS).

“We know all too well that Sumatran rhinoceros is on the brink of extinction with only definite signs of breeding in the wild over the past decade in Sabah and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. However, this rate is still far too low to ensure its survival which is why we have initiated this captive breeding programme,” said Payne.

A key component of the State Action Plan to ensure the continued existence of the Sumatran rhino in Sabah includes captive breeding of the rhinos within a large enclosed area covering 20 hectares of natural forest located within TWR. This area is now known as the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) and is managed by the State Government.

The BRS Programme is also in touch with a similar programme underway in Sumatra, Indonesia. While all possible efforts are being made to ensure that natural breeding is prioritised, advanced reproductive technologies, some yet to be developed, will be needed to boost the number of Sumatran rhinos being born as well.

Continue reading at: Christmas miracle – healthy female rhino found in Tabin
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Merry Tropical Christmas 2011

A Blessed Christmas greeting from all staff at e-borneo.com and our travel company, E-BORNEO.COM TOURS & TRAVEL SDN BHD to all our clients, travel partners and web visitors who are celebrating Christmas.

Please take note that our office will be closed on Monday, 26 December 2011.

For travel and related requests, do note that all your e-mails enquiries may be replied during this holiday period (depending on priority and/or importance) but earliest confirmation can only be processed on Tuesday, 27 December 2011.


Christmas is not a time nor a season,
But a state of mind.
To cherish peace and goodwill,
To be plenteous in mercy,
Is to have the real spirit of Christmas.

May the good times and treasures of the present
become the golden memories of tomorrow.
May the joy and peace of Christmas be with you all through 2012.

Merry Tropical Christmas to Everyone from sunny Sabah Malaysian Borneo!

Best regards,

Management and Staff

E-BORNEO.COM TOURS & TRAVEL SDN BHD (862652-M ; KPL/LN 6169)
[ Travel Company of e-borneo.com ]

Lot No. 7, 2nd Floor, Block C
Lintas Jaya Uptownship 88200 Penampang
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Malaysia
Tel: +6-088-722606
Fax: +6-088-727606
URL: http://www.e-borneo.com/

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Flights cut to hit Sabah tourism

KOTA KINABALU: The latest decision by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to suspend four routes involving Sabah regional network early next year will have a short-term negative impact on tourist arrivals in Sabah, said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun.

He said the state tourism industry will take some time to realign its marketing strategy and priority.

Masidi, who revealed his Ministry was aware of MAS’ impending move to suspend these routes as they have had a series of high level meetings with MAS management to discuss the issue and to appeal to them not to proceed with this drastic move, said they are nevertheless “not going to cry over spilled milk”.

“We are moving on. We have in fact started strategising our next moves to overcome this latest challenge and believe that this MAS episode would be a temporary setback,” he said.

MAS announced on Thursday that the suspension of the four routes is in addition to its rationalisation exercise involving eight routes of its international network announced last week.

The four routes and dates the suspensions take effect are twice-weekly Kota Kinabalu-Osaka return B737 route (January 6, 2012); thrice-weekly Kota Kinabalu-Perth return B737 route (January 31, 2012); four times weekly Kota Kinabalu-Haneda (Tokyo) return B737 route (February 1, 2012) and four times weekly Kota Kinabalu-Seoul return B737 route (February 21, 2012).

MAS Group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said: “This suspension is until further notice and is part of our regional network consolidation involving single-aisle aircraft operations.

“We will be reviewing this situation in about three months time from the date of the first route suspension and will be deciding further by early April 2012″

“During the suspension, we will take advantage of our existing code-share operations with Korean Air to provide direct connectivity between Sabah and South Korea using the Korean carrier’s Seoul-Kota Kinabalu return direct flights.

“We will also continue offering direct international connectivity to Kota Kinabalu through our existing daily B737 flights from Hong Kong and Taipei.

“In addition we will also use our existing 86 weekly flights between Sabah and KL International Airport (KLIA) to provide immediate connections for passengers who prefer full service flights between Sabah and the cities of Perth, Tokyo, and Osaka,” he added.

Continue reading at: Flights cut to hit Sabah tourism
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Friday, December 23, 2011

A boost for Sandakan Rainforest Discovery Centre

6.5m ringgit expansion opens door to better understanding of Sabah forests

Last year 40,000 people visited the Rainforest Discovery Centre at the Sepilok forest reserve in Sandakan since it opened in 2007.

Covering 200 hectares, it has long and winding trails that allow visitors to discover some of the rare species of gigantic tropical trees that may be about 1,300 years old, birds such as the hornbills, the endangered orang-utans and other wildlife.

It is indeed an educational and tourist attraction. And this year the centre has won Sabah’s best nature tourism award.

Sam Mannan, the director of Sabah Forestry Department, has announced a 6.5m-ringgit ($2m) expansion that he says will boost its “standing as a top environment education facility.” There will be a car park, an outdoor stage and the 300m canopy walk will be extended by 80 metres by November next year.

A 120-seat theatre was added to the centre early this year. And the Borneo bird festival was held there in October.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A boost for Sandakan Rainforest Discovery Centre
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Giant Clam Culture in Semporna To Help Conserve Marine Heritage

SEMPORNA -- The Giant Clam Culture Centre on Buhey Dulang Island plays a vital role in conserving the marine ecosystem at the Tun Sakaran Marine Park off the coast of Semporna, Sabah.

The centre, the first of its kind under Sabah Parks, conducts research and cultures giant clams with seeds supplied to the local community to help them reduce their over-reliance on natural marine resources.

The centre, established in 2006 under the Semporna Islands Darwin Project, is the result of cooperation between Sabah Parks and the Marine Conservation Society-United Kingdom.

Sabah Parks' Marine Research Officer Nasrulhakim Maidin noted that the culture centre serves as an attraction where outsiders can learn more about the clams.

"Giant clam culture is important because their numbers have depleted from over-harvesting around the waters of Semporna," he told Bernama during a visit to Buhey Dulang Island of the coast of Semporna.

The giant clam is a mollusc in the Bivalvia class that thrives in Indo-Pacific waters.

There are seven species of giant clams in Malaysian Waters, and some can grow up to 60cm in length.

According to Nasrul, giant clams not only thrive on plankton but also produce their own nutrients through photosynthesis, with the help of the algae.

"The giant clam plays an important role in the marine ecosystem as it filters the water," he said.

SEEDING THE CLAMS

So how to culture the giant clams? First, the giant clam brood stock is selected and its size is recorded for future reference.

Then the clam shell is cleaned with a nylon brush and numbered for future reference. The seeding is done by injecting diluted serotonin, a hormone, to stimulate spawning.

Within minutes, the giant clam stock reacts and produces eggs and sperm that are collected in big plastic bags to fertilize in a few days.

Six months after hatching, the seed is released into the sea within the reef area, initially in cages to protect them from predators.

The seeds that hatch at the centre are mostly relocated near Ribbon Reef, an area within the national park allocated for education on marine life.

Continue reading at: Giant Clam Culture in Semporna To Help Conserve Marine Heritage
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Win a week's holiday in Borneo, Malaysia

You could win a 7 day/6 night holiday for you and a friend to Sarawak, Borneo courtesy of Malaysia Tourism and the Telegraph Adventure Travel Show.

On this amazing trip to Malaysia you will discover a wealth of surprises, eclectic cultures and natural wonders.

Start your journey at the incredibly city of Kuching - the capital city of Sarawak. A modern city with all the creature comforts of a growing metropolis, yet one that still retains its old charms with a picturesque waterfront, sidewalk cafes, colonial historical buildings, museums, markets, and pockets of gardens and parks.

As this fantastic Malaysian trip moves on, you will get to visit such places as the wonderful Semenggoh Wildlife Centre which works to rehabilitate Orangutans, and you will experience the Iban Longhouse and meet the headhunters! The Iban tribe is the largest ethnic group in Sarawak.

They will welcome you to their home, the longhouse, and experience their communal lifestyle. There are opportunities to learn how to dance their traditional dance “Ngajat”, play their musical instruments, fish using fish nets, follow them to the farm, join a hunting trip, see traditional tattooing, and discover their culture and beliefs - if you have the time that is!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Win a week's holiday in Borneo, Malaysia
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MAS To Suspend Four More Routes Via Sabah Regional Network

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will be suspending four more routes involving Sabah regional network early next year.

This is in addition to the rationalisation exercise involving eight routes of its international network announced last week.

The suspension covers the twice-weekly Kota Kinabalu-Osaka service from Jan 6, thrice-weekly Kota Kinabalu-Perth from Jan 31, four times weekly Kota Kinabalu-Haneda from Feb 1, and four times weekly Kota Kinabalu-Seoul from Feb 21.

"This suspension is until further notice and is part of our regional network consolidation involving single-aisle aircraft operations," its group chief executive officer, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said in a statement Thursday.

"We will be reviewing this situation in about three months time from the date of the first route suspension and will be deciding further by early April 2012," he said.

During the suspension, Ahmad Jauhari said MAS would take advantage of its existing code-share operations with Korean Air to provide direct connectivity between Sabah and South Korea using the Korean carrier's Seoul-Kota Kinabalu return direct flights.

"We will also continue offering direct international connectivity to Kota Kinabalu through our existing daily B737 flights from Hong Kong and Taipei."

In addition, he said, MAS would also use its existing 86 weekly flights between Sabah and Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to provide immediate connections for passengers who prefer full service flights between Sabah and the cities of Perth, Tokyo, and Osaka.

Continue reading at: MAS To Suspend Four More Routes Via Sabah Regional Network
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kuching city to organise 2012 ‘Regatta Bandarayaku’

KUCHING: Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) will be organising a regatta known as ‘Regatta Bandarayaku’ to kickstart riverine activities at Sarawak River for the New Year, 2012.

According to DBKU principal deputy director Kartina Zamhari, the event from Jan 28 to 29 is a platform to enhance the relationship between DBKU and the community.

“The event offers opportunity to statutory bodies, Ipta, governmental agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector to get together to improve knowledge and experience in implementing their duties or responsibilities.

“It will also make DBKU area known as a water sports tourism area. The more the merrier,” she said at a press conference yesterday.

Participation is open to all, with attractive prize money to be won.

Besides the regatta, there will be other interesting side activities such as car boot sale, expo exhibition, karaoke competition, power boat, pump ski, auto shows and more.

Continue reading at: Kuching city to organise 2012 ‘Regatta Bandarayaku’
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Could orangutans help scientists understand human obesity?

Indonesian orangutans may help scientists understand the underlying reasons for eating disorders and obesity in humans, according to new research from an evolutionary anthropologist at Rutgers University.

Erin Vogel, who recently published the results of her five-year study in the journal Biology Letters, looked at how orangutans survived during times of extreme food scarcity. The extensive research is the first time a scientist has explored the relationship between the apes and their protein deprivation, according to a news release from Rutgers.

“There is such a large obesity epidemic today and yet we don’t really understand the basis of the obesity condition or how these high-protein or low-protein diets work,” Vogel said. “I think studying the diets of some of our closest living relatives, the great apes, may help us understand issues with our own modern-day diets.”

In her field studies, Vogel observed that the orangutans added extra pounds only during periods of high caloric and protein intake. “The orangutans put on fat when caloric intake is greatest, and this also coincides with a period of high protein in the diet,” Vogel wrote in an e-mail to New Jersey Newsroom. “What (our) study does is demonstrate that when caloric intake is high, orangutans are able to store fat due to excess calories in their diet.”

When the calorie levels dropped, the apes started burning their stored fat and breaking down muscle tissue. “For orangutans, it is caloric intake, not necessarily the amount of carbohydrates or protein or fat, that seems to be most important for weight gain or weight loss,” she continued.

Vogel, an assistant professor of anthropology at the School of Arts and Sciences, gathered the data for her study by examining urinary metabolites and nitrogen stable isotopes.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Could orangutans help scientists understand human obesity?
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MASwings soars BIMP-EAGA way this coming Feb 1

MIRI: MASwings will spread it wings into Brunei, Pontianak, and Tarakan effective February 1 next year.

Its chief executive officer Datuk Capt Mohd Nawawi Awang said these new routes formed the initial phase of its expansion plans to penetrate the BIMP-EAGA region.

The Kota Kinabalu-Brunei and Kuching-Brunei sector will commence on February 1, to be followed by Kuching-Pontianak on February 6, and Kota Kinabalu-Tawau-Tarakan on February 16.

Speaking at the close of Golf Escapade Final Round at the Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club (EVGCC) here on Sunday, Nawawi believed that the availability of these flights would increase the mobility of people in Brunei, West and East Kalimantan, Sabah, and Sarawak.

“I believe there is a considerably big number of golfers in Brunei and Kalimantan who will travel to Sabah and Sarawak once we introduce the flights.

“Similarly, I am confident that some Sabahan and Sarawakians golfers will take the opportunity to travel to Brunei and Kalimantan to discover what they could offer to us.”

In view of that, he said MASwings planned to capitalise on the increasing popularity of golf in the region, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: MASwings soars BIMP-EAGA way this coming Feb 1
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Sarawak’s air connectivity must provide for high, medium and low-budget travellers to capture more tourists

KUCHING: Uncertainities concerning air connectivity to Sarawak are making it difficult for the Tourism Ministry to set a target for next year’s tourist arrivals.

Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the volume of tourist arrivals to the state relied heavily on air connectivity and the lack of it certainly hampered further growth.

It was therefore pivotal to ensure there were sufficient airlines to serve the high, medium and low budget travellers, Johari reasoned.

“Not every tourist will want to travel using low-cost carrier and we need to find a solution that caters to all,” he told reporters after launching the Cuti Cuti 1Malaysia Dance Carnival at the state hockey stadium here yesterday.

According to him, as of last October Sarawak recorded about three million tourist arrivals.

“Next year maybe we will get between three million and 3.5 million,” he said, adding, however, that too depended on how much the state had done to improve air connectivity.

On efforts to make MASwing, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), a regional airline, Joha-ri said talks were still at formative stage, therefore, he “cannot divulge any details for the time being”.

He said if the federal Tourism Ministry wanted to achieve an average of three million tourist arrivals nationwide by 2020, better air connectivity to Sarawak and Sarawak was essential.

Both states had the products to lure more visitors but present air connectivity woes, following the MAS and AirAsia share swap, was hampering tourism development, Johari argued.

As far as Sarawak was concerned, the state would go for a holistic approach to ensure a healthy number in tourist arrivals next year and beyond, he said.

“We’ll have to go beyond eco-tourism. We need to promote Sarawak as a destination for adventure, culture, nature, history and romanticism. The model that we use will be based on Venice in Italy,” he said.

For instance, Johari said the ministry hoped to tap emerging markets among the middle class in China and India who normally went overseas for their annual holiday trips.

He said the state also hoped to get more adventure seekers and nature as well as culture lovers to the state.

“Our tourism tagline will continue to be ‘Where Adventure Lives’ next year,” he said, adding that his ministry hoped that MICE participants would extend their stay to visit nearby destinations like Bako National Park and Semenggok Wildlife Centre.

Continue reading at: Sarawak’s air connectivity must provide for high, medium and low-budget travellers to capture more tourists
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Homestay in rustic Bario

HOME away from home aptly describes Leminan Lodge, a Sarawak homestay in Bario.

It offers guests the comfort and privacy of home in the midst of the rustic Kelabit highlands.

Perfect for guests who are less adventurous, the Lodge provides them the feel of home – at the same time, adventure at its doorstep. It also gives them the feel of space and privacy as it does not have the ‘commonness’ of a longhouse-styled homestay.

The interior of the Lodge is styled after that of a mountain cabin; the warm hue of the wooden panelling on the wall exudes coziness that provides guests a comforting respite from the nippy highland temperature at night.

During the day when the sun is high and the temperature turns warmer, the huge sliding windows allow the cool highland breeze to waft through creating a prefect environment for a midday snooze.

The three-storey homestay is modelled after the Dutch architecture with an attic converted into a bedroom typical of that of a Swiss loft. The cozy loft is for sale, according to Shep Bala, owner of the homestay, but only upon request.

The first floor consists of a living room, kitchen and dining room while the second floor has bedrooms, a sitting room with a panoramic view of the highlands, a village centre and a wash and bath room.

Two bedrooms have the luxury of a veranda that overlooks to the rustic backdrop of Bario while all the rooms have splendid view of Nature.

Only a stone’s throw from the village centre, the Lodge has the best of both worlds – it’s within minutes from the hustle and bustle of civilisation, at the same time, far enough to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the highlands. It’s less than 10 minutes from the airport.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Homestay in rustic Bario
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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Discovering the rainforest at Sandakan's Rainforest Discovery Centre

MOST visitors to Sandakan and Sepilok go to see the orang-utans, but for those who have time to stay a bit longer, the Rainforest Discovery Centre at Sepilok is well worth a visit and should be included in every tour.

This year it won the award for the Best Nature Tourist Attraction which it well deserves.

But it is not just for tourists.

Its educational programs have reached over 27,000 Sabah students since 1997, when the programme first started as well as youth groups from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and the UK, and it plays a valuable role in helping many young people discover the rainforest for themselves.

Centered around an old reservoir that is now a beautiful lake, on the edge of the Kabili - Sepilok Forest Reserve (where the orang-utans are), the Discovery Centre covers 200 hectares with trails winding through an arboretum of about 20 hectares of pristine dipterocarp forest as well as experimental trials of plantation trees.

It is possible to see the main attractions of the Rainforest Discovery Centre in a day, but to enjoy it fully and to walk some of the trails it is best to stay overnight, which is what we did.

In the early morning after watching hornbills breakfasting in a fig tree near our lodge, we followed one of the forest trails to Sepilok's "Giant", a large dipterocarp (Shorea acutissima), that is called 'giant' not so much for its height, (there are several taller trees), as for its girth.

The tree is about a half hour walk from the Visitor Centre, on top of a ridge from where it overlooks the surrounding forest, supported by massive buttress roots. Measurements taken by the Forestry Department give it a girth of 7m (22 feet), a giant indeed and big enough to give you some idea of what Borneo's dipterocarp forests must have been like, long ago.

On our way back to breakfast, another trail led us past a tree that may be Sepilok's oldest, an ancient 'belian' or Borneo Ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri).

This was much closer to the Visitor Centre, only about ten minutes walk, and with a diameter of around 120 cms it is certainly the largest 'belian' I have ever seen. Cut stumps of 'belian' trees in the Kubah National Park in Sarawak, measuring between 90 and 120 cms in diameter were estimated by carbon-dating to be more than 1000 years old!

So how old is the Sepilok 'belian' tree? No-one knows, but undoubtedly it has seen thousands of orang-utans come and go in the surrounding forests, and was there long before Borneo's colonial days.

Perhaps it was a seedling when the first trading junks of the Chinese Tang Dynasty sailed up the Kinabatangan river in search of bird's nests, 'gaharu' wood, and hornbill ivory.

After breakfast we explored the Visitor Centre, a mine of fascinating information on the history of Sepilok as well as the plants and animals that make up Borneo's forests.

This was followed by a visit to the Discovery Garden, which really is a "garden of discovery".

Continue reading at: Discovering the rainforest at Sandakan's Rainforest Discovery Centre
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Sabah tourism industry urged to learn tourists’ languages

KOTA KINABALU: Operators in the tourism industry in Sabah have been urged to master foreign languages for them to go far.

Minster of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun said during the 2011/2012 Sabah Young Tourism Ambassador programme organised by the Sabah Tourist Association (STA) yesterday that they cannot sell the industry if they only knew the local dialects.

“I am proud of my language, but if I were to use the Dusun language to sell to foreign tourists, I won’t go far,” he cited, as an example.

He urged those in the industry to perfect their command of the English language and not be shy to learn and use it.

“Our problem is our shyness. But if we look at the foreigners, they are not shy to speak in our language when they are learning it. They don’t care if it is imperfect. So why are we scared to learn English?” he said.

He added that in China, 300 million people are learning the language.

Similarly important is the Mandarin language, he said.

“We are experiencing an increase by 38 percent of Chinese tourists. And we’re expecting more tourists to come by the end of this year,” he said.

The other language that should be given importance is Korean, he said.

In his speech, Masidi also urged those in the industry to be passionate about their career.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah tourism industry urged to learn tourists’ languages
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MAS celebrates the spirit of 1Malaysia with 30 pct discount on fares to Europe

KUCHING: Malaysians have an excellent opportunity to start 2012 with a bang by enjoying 30 per cent airfare discounts for travel on Malaysia Airlines Systems Bhd (MAS) from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to its five destinations in Europe namely London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris and Istanbul.

All they need to do is plan and travel together in groups of three, six or nine friends and they must be from at least three different Malaysian ethnic or cultural backgrounds to enjoy a fantastic European holiday, 1Malaysia style.

The national carrier is offering this discount on business and economy class fares for this promotion covering air travel from January 1 to March 31, 2012.

To enjoy these offers, Malaysians have to produce valid Malaysian passports and Mykads of the ‘muhibbah’ group members at MAS’ ticket offices to purchase their air tickets.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Borneo-China 4×4 Autumn Expedition

MIRI: Extreme expenditure lovers are invited to join the third series of Borneo-China 4×4 Autumn Expedition organised by Borneo Automotive Leisure Tour Agency to be held in Oct next year.

According to the organising chairman, Dr Ling Tung King, registration has been launched and members of the public are invited to register fast to avoid disappointment.

“The fee will only be informed later as we have not worked out the full details yet.

“You can either join us as passengers or drivers of your own vehicle. I can assure that this journey will be very special because we will be going various places in China,” he said.

He added that some places which they would visit might not appear in travel agents’ list making the journey worthwhile.

The co-organising chairperson, Irene Xie, of China City Zone Tour is in Miri to work out the details of the journey with Dr Ling.

To promote the event, Miri Photography Society will be holding a day photo exhibition on the first and second series of the expedition at Pustaka Miri today.

There will also be similar exhibition to be held on the third floor of Bintang Megamall from Dec 16 to 26, which would be officiated at by Mayor Lawrence Lai at 7pm today.

Dr Ling revealed this after his meeting with Lai at the latter’s office to discuss the matter yesterday. Also present were Xie and other members of the organising committee.

Among objectives of the expedition is to promote Miri to tourists in China and to allow the participants to enjoy China on a bigger scale by paying less.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Borneo-China 4×4 Autumn Expedition
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

How Borneo orangutans avoid starvation in lean times

They use body fat and muscles as energy until bounty of food is available, study shows

Orangutans in Borneo can survive potential starvation by using their body fat and muscles as energy until a bounty of food is available, researchers find, adding that the results may someday shed light on the eating habits of our earliest ancestors.

The findings may also speak to various low-carb, high-protein diets, because essentially weight comes down to caloric intake for these orangutans as it does us, the researchers say.

In Borneo, an island in Southeast Asia, forests go through periods of high fruit yield, where around 80 percent or more of the plants will produce fruit all at once. Following these "masting" periods, the forests endure stretches of sparse fruit availability that can last anywhere from two to eight years. To survive in this unpredictable environment, orangutans put on fat by gorging on fruits when they're available, and then live off of these reserves until the next masting year.

Researchers have now learned that the orangutans start to metabolize their own muscles for protein after these fat reserves are gone.

"In this stage there is evidence of tissue wasting, the same kind that you would observe in anorexic patients," said Erin Vogel, an evolutionary anthropologist at Rutgers University and lead author of the new study.

Vogel and her colleagues also learned that the primates avoid extreme protein deficiency by eating tough foods, such as leaves and bark, using highly adapted molars, not unlike those found in modern humans and our hominin ancestors. By comparing the physical properties of orangutans' teeth and food with those of other primates, scientists may someday be able to tease out the diets of our ancestors, Vogel said.

The importance of protein

Protein is important for the growth and reproduction of all animals, but few studies have investigated how wild animals maintain protein balance, the researchers said. This question is especially interesting for species in Borneo because of the island's seemingly inhospitable fruit-crop cycles.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: How Borneo orangutans avoid starvation in lean times
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Borneo: Small wonders at every step

It's the little things that really matter in Borneo's lush, exotic and life-giving rainforests

When naturalist Mark Watson pursed his lips and pretended to kiss a beautiful - but carnivorous - pitcher plant, I could almost understand how he felt.

Pitcher plants, which lure insects with the promise of sweet nectar and then devour them, are certainly ... intriguing ... and the elegant red plant he was puckering up to was a particularly attractive one.

But perhaps more importantly, they're typical of the rich diversity of plant, fungus and insect life which makes a walk through the Borneo jungle such a fascinating experience.

The animals may be the stars of the show - the woop woops of gibbons from the treetops or signs of rooting by bearded pigs in the forest floor are always exciting - but, unless you're lucky, you probably won't see them.

What you will see, if you look carefully, are massive strangler figs looking poised to walk on their roots like Ents from The Lord of the Rings, or prettily patterned fungi creating works of art amid the leaf mould, or delicate orchids blooming colourfully in the gloom created by the thick canopy of leaves, or great armies of ants on the march along fallen branches.

During a cruise around Borneo on the expedition ship Orion II, we had the chance to explore several jungle national parks, all different and all fascinating.

At Tanjung Datu National Park, for instance, four of us wandered slowly along the Pasir Antu Laut Trail, managing to make its 2.7km last about 3.5 hours, pausing every few metres to admire some ornamental bracket fungus, a particularly twisty liana, a tall, thin tree supported by a massive set of buttress roots, or a butterfly with elegant black and white patterns on its wings.

There were certainly animals around. From time to time we heard monkey calls and the birdsong was superb. At one point I heard the beating of heavy wings overhead and caught a glimpse of the massive black shape of a hornbill. On another occasion I spied a small, dark brown squirrel poised unmoving on a branch above the path.

There were plenty of signs of pigs rooting and a group on another trail actually saw "a particularly ugly" Borneo bearded pig.

Down on the beach, which served as our return pathway, three sets of tracks showed where green turtles had come ashore to lay eggs during the night (the park staff dig the eggs up and rebury them in safe enclosures). In a cave at one end of the bay, dozens of tomb bats swooped around us while we explored its recesses.

But it was just as interesting to watch a route march of thousands of large, brown, ant-like creatures carrying white eggs - our guides later had an argument about whether they were termites or ants - a bright orange fungus glowing in the gloom, a magnificent yellow and black butterfly floating just under the leaf canopy, or one remaining flower from the night-blooming putat tree, whose glorious pink and white blossom produces a poison used to kill fish.

On the island of Pulau Tiga, we found the same incredible biodiversity ... plus mud. That was partly because of the heavy rain that fell as we landed from our zodiac, making the jungle track a bit slushy. But it was also because the island was formed by a volcanic eruption as recently as 1897 and there's still a sort of mud volcano in the jungle where crazy people like me can have a soak.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Borneo: Small wonders at every step
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Call for Labuan Marine Park to be tourism centre

LABUAN: The director general of Marine Park, Dr Sukarno Wagiman, disclosed that the marine park here needs to be turned into a tourism hotspot to boost the local economy.

In his speech during ‘Majlis Ramah Mesra’ programme with heads of government departments and agencies here, he said the marine parks in the peninsular were now successful as tourism products.

“The marine parks in the peninsular are becoming significant tourism centres.

For example, at Payar Island, Kedah, the island is receiving around 200,000 tourists annually.

“The biggest tourist arrivals to the island are from the Middle East countries, China, Korea and Japan. The island does not have any dwellers but they still go there. “My target is to turn the marine park here into an important tourism product just like Payar Island and at other marine parks,” he said.

“Before, the turtles here were not that well known and only after the initiative undertaken by the department with direct funds from Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd for the turtles’ hatcheries, scientific study and others, then the turtles are now getting well known. “About a thousand turtles had been set free to the open sea this year,” he said.

Sukarno commented that Malaysia had joined the biodiversity agreement with the other countries whereby each country must have a marine park for ten percent from their respective waters.

“We are now collaborating with Sabah Parks and agencies in Sarawak in our effort to achieve the ten percent as we are only having one percent of the marine park from our waters in this country.

“The marine park is a sanctuary or breeding spot for various types of marine lives either for commercial or non-commercial purpose,” he said.

The marine park in Labuan comprises Kuraman, Rusukan Besar and Rusukan Kecil islands. Sukarno explained the importance of the coral reefs in correlation with the forests which absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air.

“When the sanctuary (coral reefs) are protected, the fish will breed a lot and finally they will move from the reefs to outside the marine park area.

Continue reading at: Call for Labuan Marine Park to be tourism centre
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Bakun islands to be Sarawak tourism draw

KUCHING: More than 20 islands created as a result of Bakun dam impoundment.

More than 10 major islands will become permanent features of the Bakun hydroelectric dam area covering an area almost the size of Singapore.

Sarawak Hidro managing director Zulkifle Osman said that more than 20 islands had been created as a result of the impoundment of the dam since Oct 13 last year.

He, however, said that when the dam had reached its maximum requirement of 228 metres, many islands would be submerged. Currently, the water level is at the 219 metre mark.

“Of course these islands have great potential to be tapped as tourism products,” Zulkifle said when contacted yesterday.

Chairman of Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) who is also Assistant Minster of Tourism, Datuk Talip Zulpilip, had said that they would build a resort in Bakun dam area soon.

Minister of Tourism and Minister of Housing Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg had also said on many occasions that the state would explore the possibility of providing air linkages via amphibious planes to the Bakun dam area.

On another issue, Zulkifle said the people of Kapit were now able to travel up to Belaga by express boats, after the water level had risen to an almost normal level, after water from the dam was released through the spillway recently.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Bakun islands to be Sarawak tourism draw
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MASwings can benefit from ‘link-ups’ with private sector

KUCHING: MASwings Sdn Bhd (MASwings) should explore ‘link-up’ opportunities with the private sector in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) region.

Industry sources observed that the recent annoucements that MASWings was gearing itself to venture into the BIMP-EAGA routes as early as February 2012 would be far more successful if the rural service airline paid attention to further ‘tie-ups’ with third parties.

They explained that for long-term sustainability, a common package among the destinations in the regions should be established, and that required the involvement of the private sector in all fields such as travel agencies, hotel associations and so on.

“When common packages are in place, only then can joint promotion and marketing strategies be explored between the region. In order to retain viable routes, study as well as research should be done within the private sector too,” BIMP-EAGA Tourism Council Malaysia chairman Datuk Wee Hong Seng told The Borneo Post.

He further pointed out that tourism is a private sector driven initiative. “The private sector plays a vital role in contributing to the country’s economy and also helps to maintain the sustainability of the airline industry.”

“Within the BIMP-EAGA region, there is a massive population base of more than 60 million, covering an area of 1.56 million square kilometres. Considering the vast tracks of unexplored routes, it augurs well for the region to ?et cracking?and connect the dots,” he stressed.

Within the region, there existed a memorandum of understanding on ‘Expansion of Air Linkages’ between the governments of BIMP-EAGA, which was signed back in January 2007. It granted the Fifth Freedom Traffic Right (FFTR) airports in the EAGA countries to cater for EAGA carriers.

The FFTR arrangements allowed an air carrier of one EAGA member country to pick up traffic in the territory of the other EAGA member country and carry it to a third EAGA member country as part of the service to/from the home country of the operating carrier.

“Technically the MoU should propel BIMP-EAGA air services into a whole new scenario – an ‘open sky’ era, however that has not yet materialised. With the support given from the region, MASwings should be able to create a niche in the hotly contested air routes competition provided it takes into account other private sector participation startegies,” said Wee.

Currently, MASwings owns 10 ATR 72-500s and four DHC-6 Twin Otters. It was required to acquire at least four jetliners in order to fulfill the requirement of being a regional airline. Speculations were rife that MASwings may be acquiring the 737-800s aircraft from one of its sister companies Firefly under MAS.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: MASwings can benefit from ‘link-ups’ with private sector
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sarawak to seek air connectivity with Australia

KUCHING: The state will be looking at air connectivity with Australia, as it is an important factor for closer economical and cultural ties with South Australia.

According to Housing and Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, air connectivity between the state and Australia is an important factor proven previously when the state had direct flights to Perth and from Sydney.

The flights, which were provided by Malaysian Airlines (MAS), were withdrawn during the financial crisis.

Abang Johari said this during a dinner held to welcome Australia’s Multicultural Affairs, Police, Correctional, Emergency and Road Safety Minister Jennifer Rankine on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Rankine in her speech invited Abang Johari and in particular his ministry to visit Adelaide to promote Sarawak, its unique culture as well as its indigenous arts and craft during the AusAsia Festival to be held in 2013.

The AusAsia Festival 2013 will have a theme and country focus on Malaysia.

Rankine, who was in the state for a visit organised by the Australian Business Centre, was accompanied by the Lieutenant Governor of South Australia and chairman of South Australia Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission Hieu Van Le and her staff chief Blair Boyer.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak to seek air connectivity with Australia
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Tourists can be attracted to celebrate Xmas in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Christmas has the potential to be used as a drawcard to attract tourists, especially Europeans, to Sabah to spend their yuletide holidays here, says Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman.

“Christmas is universal and synonymous with holidays, so the potential of having this event as a drawcard is tremendous.

“Europeans, especially, fleeing the cold over Christmas, could be attracted to come over to Sabah to spend their yuletide holidays if they are aware that Christmas is also widely celebrated,” he said in his speech at the Gaya Christmas celebration at Lintasan Deasoka here last night.

Musa, who was represented by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, urged organizers of the event, namely the Sabah Council of Churches and Kota Kinabalu City Hall, to discuss with the relevant authorities, including the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment and the Sabah Tourism Board, on how best to further promote the annual event.

“With proper planning and marketing, as well as indepth preparations made, Gaya Street and the vicinity can be transformed into a vibrant and colourful Christmas fairy land.

“This is the challenge that I pose to the organizers, and next year, I hope to see an even bigger, better and brighter Gaya Christmas Carnival,” he said.

On the other hand, Musa said the Gaya Christmas celebration communicates an important message that the harmony and wellbeing among the communities in Sabah is still intact, particularly in Kota Kinabalu.

“It is a pleasure to note that events such as the Christmas celebration helps promote social harmony, caring and goodwill among the various ethnic and religious communities in Sabah.”

Continue reading at: Tourists can be attracted to celebrate Xmas in Sabah
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Heroes Memorial Monument latest tourist destination for Limbang

LIMBANG: Heroes Memorial Monument located in front of Limbang Police Station is listed as a new tourist destination under the Ministry of Tourism to promote the acts of the warriors, who died in 1962, in conjunction with the town’s 49th anniversary.

Limbang Resident Maria Hasman said the monument had to be promoted because it has its own history as a tribute to the warriors who were killed fighting against British colonialism.

According to him, the Resident’s Office will list the tasks to the Information Department for the purpose of promoting, upgrading and beautifying the monument from time to time.

“The Heroes Memorial Monument has been listed as a tourist attraction in Limbang. Therefore, various efforts will be made to upgrade and beautify the monument to attract both domestic and international visitors,” he said, yesterday.

Also present were District Police Chief Mohd Bukhori Saffai and Limbang Chinese Chamber chairman Lim Chwee Ching.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Sabah tourism board confident of 2.63 million tourist target

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Seri Tengku Dr Zainal Adlin is confident that the 2.63 million tourist arrival target this year would be achieved as the arrivals to the state had shot up by 15 per cent from January to September.

He said about RM4 billion income had been contributed by the tourism industry where most of the tourists were domestic tourists.

“China and Hong Kong tourist arrivals had increased 38 per cent, but at the same time we are encouraging domestic tourists.

“Apart from China and Hong Kong, Japan and Australia had also shown very positive increases,” he said at a press conference after the Karnival Pelancongan Tarian Cuti-Cuti Malaysia at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Sports Complex.

He said tourist arrivals in the state had always been good where 50 per cent of them were repeat tourists.

During the event yesterday, about 1,300 students, homestay operators and civil servants around the state participated in the carnival where they performed traditional dances such as the Joget, Sumazau and many others.

The programme was in collaboration with the tourism ministry aimed to foster closer relationship among Malaysians who are living in a multiracial community.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah tourism board confident of 2.63 million tourist target
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bako National Park: Eco-tourism hotspot lures Nature lovers

THE Bako National Park has become the latest eco-tourism hotspot with visitor arrivals increasing manifolds over the years even though the tropical getaway is accessible only by boats.

Its general manager Siali Aban revealed the park received a total of 38,810 visitors last year, exceeding the number as of October this year.

“There were 28,793 foreign and 10,017 local visitors last year. We have not totalled up the number of arrivals this year as we are just about to do our year end report,” he told reporters on a visit the park recently.

“However, our records show the figure (38,810) has exceeded the total number of visitors as of October this year.”

Siali also presented interesting statistics on visitors from 1980 to the present.

According to him, in the whole of the 80’s, the park recorded 127,336 visitors, of whom 93 per cent were locals.

“There was a sudden surge in local visitors after Kuching-Bako road was completed in 1985 – from 5,579 in 1984 to 29,247 a year later,” he said.

In the 90’s, however, overseas visitors increased greatly, forming 48 per cent of the total 161,559 visitor arrivals.

“There was an increase in foreign visitors in 1994-5 because of Visit Malaysia Year – from 3,634 in 1993 to 8,675 in 1994 and 9,795 in 1995,” Siali added.

Statistics on local visitors to the park show a steady trend while overseas visitor arrivals escalate annually.

“From the millennium to 2010, we have recorded a total of 286,203 visitor arrivals, of whom 74 per cent were foreigners,” he said.

A comparison between decades, the overall statistics show a distinct rise in foreign visitor arrivals from just seven per cent in the 80’s to 48 per cent in the 90’s and 74 per cent today.

As for local visitors, the graph reveals a strong turnout with 93 per cent in the 80’s followed by a sudden 52 per cent drop in the 90s to a small 26 per cent today.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Bako National Park: Eco-tourism hotspot lures Nature lovers
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Gaya Christmas celebration has something for all

Kota Kinabalu: This year's Gaya Christmas celebration has been thoughtfully prepared to give visitors to the four-day event the chance to share in the unity among the various communities.

Organising Chairman Neil Mah of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kota Kinabalu said a host of activities is being put up during the entire four-night carnival and "there will be something for everyone to take part and enjoy."

The carnival this Monday will open at 6.30pm.

All are welcome for the official opening ceremony at Lintasan Deasoka commencing at 7.30pm, which will end at about 10.30pm with a fireworks display.

Events on the other three nights also begin at 6.30pm.

Apart from various stage performances - solo and group singing, bands, choirs, dances and nativity skits, hawkers' stalls will be set up through the entire Block A to Block C of Gaya Street.

It's a mixture of stalls set up by members of the various Christian denominations as well as the regular street hawkers.

They will be selling all types of food and drinks, Christmas cakes and cookies, decorations, gifts, household items and a host of other necessities.

The Gaya Christmas celebration started in 2005 when then SIB Pastor Jerry Dusing, now President of the SIB Church, was asked to organise that year's "Christmas by Candlelight" and event that used to be held at Merdeka Padang.

"I felt that a more meaningful event, one that would send out the true message of what Christmas is all about, would be more meaningful than just singing Christmas carols," said Jerry.

"The objective was to show the message of the birth of Christ.

It was to be a celebration of peace and goodwill and to build a bridge between the Christians and the other communities."

Jerry and his Pastor friends had a tough time convincing the Sabah Council of Churches (SCC) as to why a better Christmas event, without over-commercialising it, was necessary. The green light was given.

A plan was put in place but there was a need to convince the authorities, i n particular, the Mayor and Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK).

"(The then) Mayor, Datuk Iliyas Ibrahim, must be given credit for giving the green light, even agreeing to allow City Hall to co-organise the carnival," added Jerry.

"It gave us the chance to show others that the Churches can work together, and, that Gaya Street Carnival was not a venue to preach, but more to share with the other communities."

Continue reading at: Gaya Christmas celebration has something for all
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

46,000 divers visit Sabah annually

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin said there are about 46,000 divers from across the globe visiting Sabah annually as the state has an astounding array of islands off its coastlines on both its eastern and western boards.

“An income of about RM200 million has been derived by the State from diving activities every year and this serves as a positive indicator respecting tourist arrivals in Sabah,” he said.

According to Tengku Zainal Adlin, the Miss Scuba international pageant which is held in the State will contribute to more divers visiting the islands in Sabah.

“We hope this pageant will send a clear message to the world and create an awareness that Sabah has the most amazing diving destinations,” he said at a press conference after launching the mini dive exhibition in conjunction with the pageant at 1Borneo Hypermall yesterday.

Tengku Zainal Adlin said there are many certified agencies in the State like Padi and Naui which provide diving lessons and promote safe diving practices.

According to Robert Lo, the chairman and founder of Miss Scuba International, the pageant’s contestants underwent a scuba diving course at Mabul Island from Nov 24 to Dec 6.

The 15 contestants representing China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand also attended a catwalk choreography course and marine conservation workshops organised by the Marine Research Foundation and WWF.

“They also participated in two underwater and beach clean-ups, one at Mabul and the other at the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Marine Park here,” Lo said at a press conference.

The contestant who is crowned Miss Scuba International 2011, will proceed to become the marine ambassador to promote diving worldwide at diving events, exhibitions and shows.

Continue reading at: 46,000 divers visit Sabah annually
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Waiting anxiously for Singapore-Sibu direct flights

SIBU: The recent announcement on the proposed Sibu/Singapore direct flight augurs well for local travel agents who are also calling for cheaper landing facilities to attract more low-cost carriers.

Managing director of Equitorial Tours and Travel Sdn Bhd Robert Tan for one said the much awaited route would do wonders for the tourism industry here as more Singaporeans would be motivated to come to Sibu.

“The announcement is certainly timely for Sibu people who have been waiting for the route for as long as I can remember.

“Among other merits, the Sibu/Singapore route would also benefit the Sibu/Johor Baharu sector. This will certainly excite the tourism market here,” Tan told The Borneo Post when asked to respond to Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri’s comment that the much awaited Sibu/Singapore direct flight may become a reality soon as Silk Airlines is believed to be eyeing the route.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Abdul Rahim said airlines would come based on the study of demand and being private operators they needed to see if the route was economically viable.

He added that airlines were now more cost-conscious as the cost of fuel had rocketed to US$130 per barrel.

To this, Tan added: “There are so many low cost airlines looking for new routes such as Sibu to expand their network and business. But for this to happen, we need to offer them cheap landing facilities to entice them here.”

Continue reading at: Waiting anxiously for Singapore-Sibu direct flights
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Friday, December 09, 2011

Sarawak Government eyes medical tourism as good income earner

KUCHING: The state government is serious in tapping revenue from medical tourism as there is a demand for our healthcare services from neighbouring Kalimantan Indonesia.

In saying this, Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg also disclosed that he had just came back from Kalimantan with representatives from two well-established private hospitals in Kuching to promote their services.

He said the response they received was very good and encouraging for Kuching to be promoted as a medical tourism destination.

“With the low cost flight by Kalstar and Batavia Air and now MASwings, a lot of people from the city of Potianak can come here to Kuching for medical treatment,” he told reporters on Wednesday night after feting officials from Sabah Ministry of Tourism to dinner on a river cruise.

However, its success would depend very much on flight connectivity, he added, while agreeing that it could be a major contributor to the country’s overall tourism revenue.

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Rest In Peace, Jenna O'Grady Donley

On behalf of E-BORNEO.COM, we wish to convey our deepest condolence to Jenna's family and friends.

You have our heartfelt sympathy, and our thoughts and prayers are with you.

May Jenna rest in peace.

"You shall live in the hearts of those who loved you
and will thus never die or be forgotten."

Management and Staff

E-BORNEO.COM TOURS & TRAVEL SDN BHD (862652-M ; KPL/LN 6169)
[ Travel Company of e-borneo.com ]

Lot No. 7, 2nd Floor, Block C
Lintas Jaya Uptownship 88200 Penampang
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URL: http://www.e-borneo.com/

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Sabah Government Extends Condolences Over Elephant Attack

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government today extended its condolences to the family of an Australian tourist who was gored to death by an elephant in Lahad Datu yesterday, and advised all quarters against pointing fingers over the incident.

"It is an unfortunate incident resulting in the loss of a young life. On behalf of the Sabah government, I would like to convey my heartfelt condolences to the parents and family of Jenna Donley," said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Veterinarian Jenna O'Grady Donley, 26, was gored to death by a bull pygmy elephant at the Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary at about 8.30 am as she was taking photographs of the lone animal.

"I have just been informed by the management of the Tabin Wildlife Resort where Jenna was staying that they are doing everything they can to assist the family, and the Australian High Commission is making arrangements to fly Jenna's body for burial in her hometown," Masidi said

Continue reading at: Sabah Government Extends Condolences Over Elephant Attack
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Family says Sydney woman killed by elephant in Borneo was 'gifted'

AN Australian woman who died after being gored by an elephant in Malaysia was a gifted veterinarian with a keen interest in wild animals, her mother says.

Sydney-based vet Jenna O'Grady Donley was attacked by a pygmy elephant in a remote wildlife park on the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo yesterday.

The 25-year-old was trekking with a friend and a local guide in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah state when the elephant turned on them.

Her mother Liz Donley said the sanctuary said it was a very unusual occurrence.

She said Jenna and her friend were very respectful of animals' environments but believed the group had startled the bull elephant.

"Bull elephants are fast, they can move with unpredictability, and they're aggressive and they're protective,'' Ms Donley told ABC radio today.

"This was an animal by itself and they startled it.

"This is an accident that's happened, a very tragic accident.''

Her daughter had a keen interest in large animals and had volunteered in Africa to help injured animals at a wildlife sanctuary.

She had recently completed a thesis on renal failure in big cats, which her mother said would hopefully assist in finding a cure.

"Jenna was a very gifted child in the veterinary science field,'' Ms Donley said.

"Like a lot of the students that attend veterinary science they have to have a mixture of passion, intelligence and a complete devotion to the health of animals.''

Ms Donley said losing her only child at the age of 25 was difficult but she hoped Jenna's work would leave a lasting legacy.

"It has happened and from that we have to move on with a positive note - that from Jenna's work and from the type of person that she was, we know that she had many friends, good family - and someone else now will take on that research and continue it.''

One of young vet's university internship supervisors, Edla Arzey, said she had great potential.

"She was a very talented student, she was full of life, full of adventure, and this is what got her into trouble,'' Ms Arzey told AAP.

"She was doing something she really wanted to do, she was certainly enjoying everything here, interested in absolutely everything

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Family says Sydney woman killed by elephant in Borneo was 'gifted'
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