Friday, August 31, 2012

Prince William and Kate's 'deadly' Borneo jungle trip


Royals could face poisonous snakes and spiders in rainforest visit

PRINCE William and wife Kate could walk across this dizzying tree-top walk next month — complete with killer spiders and snakes.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will jet off to a rainforest in Malaysia as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The Royal couple, both 30, may come face-to-face with orang-utans, poisonous frogs and deadly snakes when they arrive in Sabah, an Eastern territory in Malaysian Borneo, in September.

The pair will also stroll along a 100ft tree-top rope bridge and will have to wear special leech-proof socks while trekking in the jungle.

A spokeswoman for the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur said: “Sabah is abuzz with the news of the visit.

“The Duke and Duchess are going to Danum Valley where they will be experiencing the jungle.

“To my knowledge Kate and Wills will be the first Royals to visit Danum Valley.”

She added: “The main reason for the trip is the Duke’s longstanding interest in conservation, and Sabah is home to some of the last remaining areas of tropical rainforest in South East Asia.”


Further reading on Danum Valley:

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sabah protects 700 sq km of rainforest in Borneo

Sabah, a state in Malaysian Borneo, has reclassified 183,000 hectares (700 sq km) of forest zoned for logging concessions as protected areas.

The Sabah Forestry Department recently re-gazetted Ulu Segama Forest Reserve and Northern Gunung Rara — formerly Class 2 commercial forests — as Class 1 protection forests, effectively protecting them from further logging or conversion to plantations.

The reserves border the Danum Valley conservation area, which is world-renown for its research facilities and high levels of biodiversity. Although the area has been selectively logged, it remains key habitat for endangered orangutans, Bornean clouded leopards, Sumatran rhinos, and pygmy elephants, according to conservationists.

“This re-gazettement will serve to secure habitat for Malaysia’s largest orang-utan population, as well as for a wide range of biological diversity,” Marc Ancrenaz, scientific director of Hutan-Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme, said in a statement.

“The main merit of this plan is to make it more difficult for any governments in the future to convert the lowland parts of these Forest Reserves to oil palm plantation,” added Junaidi Payne of Borneo Rhino Alliance.

The move boosts Sabah's protected areas to 1.3 million hectares, about 18 percent of its total land area. Oil palm plantations, a major driver of forest conversion in Sabah since the mid-1980s, cover about 1.4 million hectares across the state.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sabah protects 700 sq km of rainforest in Borneo
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Partnership positions Imbak Canyon as learning centre


KOTA KINABALU: Yayasan Sabah and Petronas have struck a partnership to embark on a collation and documentation on ethno-foresty with the view to positioning the Imbak Canyon as a centre of learning for the indigenous community in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

The partnership also aims at creating a gene bank conservation and exploring into the pharmaceutical and bio-technological potentials, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun when lauching the Ethno-Forestry Study and Workshop on Accessing and Commercialising Biodiversity yesterday.

He deemed the study and workshop as a step towards catapulting Sabah to a leading position in bio-technology and pharmaceutical by harnessing the State’s biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.

He also disclosed that the ethno-forestry study will explore and collate indigenous knowledge and practice of the communities in the surrounding areas of the Imbak Canyon.

“The elderly people and healers have knowledge about the medicinal plants and their uses in healthcare. With their long experience and practice, they have acquired rich knowledge about the utilisation of plant resources in various ways,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yayasan Sabah director Tan Sri Datu Khalil Datu Jamalul, who was represented by the Senior Group Manager for Human Resource and Corporate Service, Rosmawati Lasuki, said the future activities at Imbak would aim to facilitate the non-destructive use of one of Malaysia’s remaining pristine and undisturbed forests, in particular, for research activities to be carried out on the non-destructive uses of Malaysian forest such as weighing the potentials of the medicinal values, carbon retention and sequestration and bio-prospecting.

Emphasis would also be stressed on eco-tourism as an alternative commercial venture which is environmentally friendly and socially acceptable, he said.

“The area aims to host activities that would improve and strengthen technical knowledge and skill in forestry, biological research, forest conservation and environmental management,” he said.

In the quest to make the Imbak Canyon known, the area must be made accessible through the provision of necessary logistical support to facilitate research and study, he stressed.

“Access into the area is equally important in order to raise public appreciation of their heritage. A gateway into the area needs to be established and a management plan to be formulated,” he said.

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Inaugural Sarawak River Tourism Treasure Hunt in October


KUCHING: The Sarawak River Tourism Treasure Hunt 2012, to be held for the first time this year on Oct 28, would require participants to look for clues and answers while on a river.

It is organised by Ma’asa Event Management in collaboration with the Kampung Danu Development and Security Committee at Sungai Sarawak Kiri, also locally known as the Semadang River, in Padawan near here.

Ma’asa Event Management general manager Ceasser Robert said the event is open to local and foreign participations.

He said each team will comprise of two persons and the participating teams can choose to use either a kayak, boat or raft in the competition.

“They are required to answer questions prepared by the organisers and to look for the hidden treasures along the way,” he said.

He also mentioned that the participants would be flagged off at Kampung Bengoh, Padawan and the finishing point would be the river bank at Kampung Danu.

On the prizes, he said he champion team will receive a RM1,000 and a trophy while the first runner up will pocket RM500 plus a trophy and the third winner to receive RM300 plus a trophy.

‘There will be three consolation prizes of RM100 and a trophy each,” he said.

The registration fee is RM50. Those interested to participate in the event are required to bring along their own kayak, boat or raft.

Ceasser said the organisers can assist participants to source for the kayaks and boats but they must place their booking at least two weeks before the event.

“For those wanting to use rafts in the competition, they can make arrangement with the organisers or the local people near the event venue, to book their raft,” said Ceasser.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shrewsbury native fights to build refuge for orangutans in Borneo


In desperation, a mother and baby orangutan who had not eaten in days wandered into a village in Borneo in search of food. All of the trees nearby, their natural food supply, were cleared for palm oil plantations, a booming business in that part of the world.

An angry mob stoned the animals, beat them, and tried to drown them, according to Laurence E. Van Atten-Holyoak of Berlin, manager of the U.S. office and development coordinator of International Animal Rescue, a U.K.-based nonprofit organization.

A veterinarian from the rescue organization arrived, tranquilized both orangutans, and took them away. Sadly, the mother had water in her lungs and never woke up. But the baby, later named “Peni,” was brought to their temporary rescue facility near West Kalimantan, Borneo.

That center, with 50 rescued orangutans, is at capacity, and does not have rehabilitation facilities.

“We can’t rescue any more orangutans until we raise enough money to build a center,” Ms. Van Atten-Holyoak said. “We really need funding. I am putting all my efforts into raising the $1.7 million needed to build the new center.”

It would be located just a few miles away from the temporary refuge.

So far, approximately $500,000 has been raised, including some funding from the Arcus Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department.

The new center would consist of a quarantine unit, socialization enclosures (secure open areas of forest,) medical facilities, including a clinic, treatment room, surgical unit, and laboratory; education and research center, a kitchen and storeroom, and staff and volunteer accommodations.

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Borneo Post Run has tourism potential


SIBU: The annual Borneo Post Run that had gathered people from far and near can help put Sibu on the tourist’ map, spurring economic activities for the town.

Sibu Municipal Council deputy chairman Daniel Ngieng said that if the event became an attraction, people would flock here for a time of relaxation and camaraderie.

“It has to build up from the community level, gathering people for a health run. When it gradually becomes an attraction, people from far and near would converge here.

“They would also be enticed to shop – this is one of the areas where we can create events to make Sibu more dynamic and give something to look forward to,” Ngieng said when asked on the tourism potential of the run.

He said people from outstation would not mind travelling here to participate in something such as the run, and later spend money on food and shopping.

“I do agree that this is one of the activities that can bring people from the surrounding areas – call it domestic tourism or sports tourism – it is part of it,” Ngieng said.

When contacted yesterday, Sibu Tourism Board (STB) executive Rudy Anoi too believed there was tourism potential in the run.

He believed if it was well promoted, it could attract foreign participants.

Citing an example, he noted that the Mount Kinabalu Climbathon had enticed foreigners to take part.

“While here, the runners would not only take part in the event but would bring their families to shop or visit places of interest,” Rudy added.

Continue reading at: Borneo Post Run has tourism potential
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Study on Imbak Canyon Ethno-Forestry


KOTA KINABALU: Efforts are being made through the partnership of Yayasan Sabah Group (YSG) and Petronas to study and document forest products and natural resources used by local communities surrounding the Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (ICCA).

The study will be carried out under the Imbak Canyon Ethno-Forestry Study with the launching to be held tomorrow (Wednesday) by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

According to Yayasan Sabah director Tan Sri Datu Khalil Datu Haji Jamalul, ICCA is unique compared to the other conservation areas under the purview of Yayasan Sabah Group.

Khalil added to date three scientific expeditions had been conducted in ICCA.

“Although the expeditions were conducted in a short period of time, the works carried out have revealed that the area has a high density of medicinal plants-a true pharmaceutical haven,” he said.

“Hence, we see the need to conduct such study in identifying the medicinal plants used by the community surrounding ICCA. The study also aims to engage with the local medicine man in order to document the knowledge from their group about the usage of the medicinal plants.

“Yayasan Sabah Group hopes to work with the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) and expertise from the relevant institutions/organisations to assist in the effort to ensure all medicinal values are recorded and all Intellectual Properties are properly recognised,” he explained.

“Much work needs to be done to classify and document its usage especially as medicinal plants. It will take a comprehensive study to unveil the secrets that lie within the conservation area that is dubbed as a ‘living pharmacy’, and which may possibly hold the cure to many of today’s sickness,” he added.

The in-depth social study and documentation will include collecting and documenting local knowledge on plants’ usage (including plant’s part, detail description of preparation of plants parts and user groups), distribution and management of all plants, species of interest, gathering of findings on the local’s classification systems for plants and the environment (vegetation, soils, climates, geology, vegetation types, species diversity etc), the people (ethnic group, language, population size and distribution, migration, social groups, education etc) and the interactions between them (land-use systems, tenure systems and human disturbance).

The study will cover the three “mukim” in Tongod District, namely Karamuak, Tongod and Pinangah, consisting of 48 villages surrounding ICCA.

The study will be conducted in two parts. The first outing is a preliminary study which aims to collect information on the socio-cultural structure for every village and at the same time identify the medicine men/elders who can provide information related to ethno-forestry and medicinal plants.

Through the second outing, the researchers will interview the medicine man/elders identified in the preliminary study concerning their knowledge on the usage of medicinal plants.

Khalil said the study and documentation of forest products and natural resources used by the communities surrounding ICCA is in line with Imbak Canyon Conservation Area’s positioning goals, i.e. to be a Centre of Learning for Indigenous Community in biodiversity conservation and for gene bank conservation and the exploration of pharmaceutical and biotechnological potentials.

Khalil also voiced his concern that conserving Southeast Asia’s forests and promoting traditional knowledge are of great challenges especially in these days of rapid economic and social change.

He said, Sabah, like many areas around the world is facing many cultural and ecological challenges.

“In the last few decades, Sabah is in danger of losing the plant and animal diversity on which the people depended. Over a few generations, the traditional botanical knowledge that local communities have built up over several millennia is slipping away,” he added.

Continue reading at: Study on Imbak Canyon Ethno-Forestry
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Kuching’s Colonial Heritage


Kuching – Explore the narrow streets filled with Chinese shophouses, the Astana and Fort Margherita in Sarawak’s most beguiling city.

The most populous city and capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, Kuching is a beautiful and clean city with an intriguing history and a captivating character.

Known as “Cat City” due to the similarity of the city’s name with the Malay word for cat (kucing), Kuching residents have embraced their home’s feline association, with several cat themed sculptures and even a cat museum.

Malaysia’s historical multicultural character is alive and well in Kuching, with the traditionally ethnic neighbourhoods of Little India and Chinatown as well as customary Malay houses and colonial-era architecture. One bonus is that the city centre is unusually pedestrian friendly and many sites can be covered on walking tours. If you’re like me and enjoy exploring on foot, you will appreciate this feature.

Here is a list of some of the colonial-era heritage buildings Kuching has to offer.

The Bishop’s House – The private residence of the Anglican Bishop of Kuching, and therefore not a building generally open to the public, this colonial gem features the classic white walls and exposed woodwork associated with Tudor England. Completed in 1849, the Bishops House is thought to be the oldest European-style dwelling in Sarawak. Read more here.

The Astana – The official residence of the governor of Sarawak, the Astana or “istana”, meaning palace, was built in 1870 by Charles Brooke, the second White Raja, as a gift to his bride Margaret Lili Alice de Windt. Though the building itself is not generally open to the public, its gardens are accessible via a boat ride across the Sarawak River. The Astana is made up of three buildings and resembles a castle with its square towers and long sloping roofs.

Kuching Courthouse – Built by Charles Brooke in 1883 on the waterfront to house government offices and ceremonies, the courthouse incorporates Ancient Greek columns, wooden walkways, large sloping roofs and a baroque clock tower into a pastiche of colonial styles. It is now home to the Sarawak Tourism Complex.

Fort Margherita – Also built by the second Raja in 1879 to protect Kuching from pirate attacks from the Sarawak River, the fort resembles an English castle. Located near the Astana, Fort Margherita is now a tourist attraction.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Kuching’s colonial heritage
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China’s biggest airline to fly to Kota Kinabalu


KOTA KINABALU: China Southern Airline would be flying direct to Kota Kinabalu from Guangzhou twice weekly starting November 11, this year.

“What we are interested in is that it is the biggest domestic airline in China with the widest network. Guangzhou will be the hub for them to come to Kota Kinabalu,” Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said after launching the Rafflesia Spa Essentials here yesterday.

He also said his ministry was having serious talks with Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to restart direct flights from the state capital to Tokyo, Japan.

“We are hopeful that MAS will restart the flight once they have new aircraft,” he said.

According to the minister, the national airline is unable to provide the route for Sabah as it does not have enough aircraft.

Masidi also said that he would provide more input to the media on the results of the talks in the future.

Meanwhile, Masidi reiterated his call to the oil palm mills in Kinabatangan to keep their words and stop polluting the river.

Continue reading at: China’s biggest airline to fly to Kota Kinabalu
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Boosting tourism exchange between Brunei and Korea


By Khairil Hassan

The Asean-Korea Centre will be organising the Asean Tourism Human Resources Development (HRD) Programme on September 3 and 4 in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. Co-organised with the Brunei Tourism Development Department, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, the Tourism HRD Programme aims to build the capacity of tourism professionals and boost tourism exchange between Brunei and Korea by further enhancing awareness of Korea in Brunei Darussalam.

With 40 participants from both public and private sectors related to Bruneian tourism, the two-day HRD Programme will provide a series of lectures on Korean tourism, culture, and language.

Specifically, lectures will have an in-depth analysis of tourism trends and prospects of the Korean tourism market; a general overview of Korea including its history, culture, lifestyle that will facilitate the understanding of Korean tourists and a practical language training course on basic Korean expressions that can be used by tourism professionals in providing better services for Korean tourists.

By utilising its assets of beautiful nature and historical monuments, Brunei plans to promote eco-tourism, culture, heritage and Islamic tourism through the Brunei Tourism Master Plan 2012-2016. Through this Master Plan, the country has set its target to increase tourist arrivals from 242,061 in 2011 to 417,157 in 2016, as well as to double the tourism revenue from B$155 million to B$351 million in 2016.

Given such developments, this upcoming programme, which offers feasible ways on how to provide better services tailored to the needs of the Korean travellers, is expected to further enhance the capacity of Bruneian tourism professionals.

Bandar Seri Begawan is the centre of Brunei's commerce, finance and government, and is also the heart of Brunei's cultural landscape. Grounded in Islamic traditions, the city's breath-taking golden mosque, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien, and the world's largest water village, Kampong Ayer, offers a glimpse of the nation's Islamic charm and a sense of peace that makes it one of Asia's most distinctive capital cities.

The Asean-Korea Centre is an inter-governmental organisation aiming to increase trade volume, accelerate investment flow, invigorate tourism and enrich cultural exchanges between the Asean Member States and the Republic of Korea.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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Sibu Heritage Centre ideal for cultural activities


SIBU: There is a possibility that the town’s anchor event, International Folkdance, may be staged at the Sibu Heritage Centre.

The unique entrance to the centre, which doubles up as a stage with its open atmosphere, had been likened by members of the public to that of an ‘open amphitheatre’, making it an ideal venue for the event.

In fact, the final night of the International Dance Festival, featuring 10 dances from various countries were staged there on Saturday, which proved to a crowd puller.

Tourism players had also repeatedly called for more cultural activities to be staged there given the centre was associated with culture and heritage.

Pansar Bhd chairman Datuk James Tai said they were looking at ways to better utilise the place, which is strategically located in the centre of town.

“Of course, we can always foresee that the place will be better utilised given its strategic location. There is that possibility (for the folkdance to be staged there), but it depends on what type of folk dances.

“Nothing has been confirmed. Maybe there are certain types (of folk dances) that can be accommodated here, but might not be for all types,” Tai told reporters after the dance festival.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sibu Heritage Centre ideal for cultural activities
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Monday, August 27, 2012

Sabah's Potential High To Be Among World's Best Spa Services Providers


Sabah has the potential to be among the best spa services providers in the world, says Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Comparing it with Bali, the world's leading spa provider, he said Sabah had an abundance of natural resources for the production of spa products as well as in the provision of spa treatment services.

"According to Tourism Malaysia's forecast, the spa industry can expect to generate as much as RM830 million by 2020.

"In view of this potential, the Sabah spa and wellness industry players must upgrade its standards and professionalism in all areas in order for the services to be on par with international standards," he told reporters after opening the Rafflesia Spa Essentials, a wholesale and retail outlet of spa products, here.

Masidi said due to increasing demand in spa services, spa outlets will soon be rated based on star ratings in order to give the industry credibility and confidence to potential customers.

However, he warned that the industry should not be interpreted as an activity for vice.

"Too often the word 'spa' has been misused for illegal activities. We hope the star rating would change people's perception so that the industry could be seen as a healthy activity in improving one's beauty and wellness," he said.

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Health tourism as an attraction in Kuching


KUCHING: Kuching can include health tourism as one of its attractions through the collaboration of hospitals with Singapore-based Parkway Pantai Limited (PPL).

Padawan Municipal Council chairman Lo Khere Chiang said health tourism was a lucrative business in many countries.

He said there is market for health tourism in Kuching as many Indonesians come here for treatment.

“If there is collaboration between experts in Singapore and Kuching with more seminars and dialogues held, I believe it will be an advancement for medical tourism,” Lo said at the opening of the Public Health Seminar yesterday.

The seminar was organised by Maybank Berhad Pending Branch and sponsored by Parkway Health.

Topics presented were ‘Colorectal Cancer: Early Detection and Treatment’ by Gleneagles Medical Centre Singapore general surgeon Dr Quah Hak Mien; ‘Abnormal Menstruation: Diagnosis & Treatment’ by Gleneagles Medical Centre Singapore senior O&G Dr Anthony Siow and ‘Advance Treatment in Lung Cancer’ by cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Su Jang Wen.

Lo commended those who turned up for the seminar as it shows the people are aware of the importance of health.

PPL is one of Asia’s largest healthcare providers with branches in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam and Brunei.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Health tourism as an attraction in Kuching
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Sarawak homestay operators expected to do better this year


KUCHING: Homestay operators in the state are expected to record better income this year following the allocation of RM5.6 million by the federal government to upgrade Sarawak homestay facilities, said Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said last year the 28 homestay operators in the state managed to amass income amounting to about RM1 million.

Speaking at a Hari Raya gathering jointly organised by Santubong Homestay and both the state and federal Ministry of Tourism, Abang Johari said for the industry to continue growing all homestay operators must give priority to safety issues and hygiene and also keep proper records of all their guests.

“Registration of all guests is mandatory in case of emergencies so that their next-of-kin can be notified etc.”

As for security and hygiene, he said it was necessary in order to prevent any unwanted incidents from happening.

“Safety and hygiene must be given emphasis by all homestay operators so that guests feel secure.

“If all these aspects are given the proper attention, our homestay industry can grow as more tourists will want to have the experience of staying with our local communities.”

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

The orangutan population is on the brink


The natural home of the orangutan is the leafy rain forests on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, but development has devastated their numbers. There are less than 30,000 of the species left today.

Orangutans can fill us with wonder partly because they are so much like us.

But two of the orangutans at the Oregon zoo, 52-year old Inji and 18-year-old Kutai, are part of a species fast disappearing.

"All of the apes are endangered but orangutans, I think, are at a critical point right now," said Jennifer Davis, who runs the Oregon zoo's primate program.

She recently wanted to see their plight first-hand in their most important habitat.

"So I flew to Sumatra," Davis said. "I expected to see just lush tropical rainforests, and as far as I could see, it was just palm oil plantations."

Huge plantations for producing palm oil are wiping out the rainforests in Sumatra where most orangutans live.

"It 's a very, very precarious situation," said Ian Singleton, who heads the Orangutan Conservation Program in Sumatra.

Singleton said the biggest threat is the growing demand for palm oil.

"You'd be amazed just how many products it's in. It's in shampoos, it's in soaps, it's in your biscuits, in chocolates. It's everywhere," Singleton said.

So those working to save the animals are asking consumers to start looking for a label that says "orangutan friendly."

Continue reading (Incl. Video) at: The orangutan population is on the brink
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Many Sabah eateries now offering international cuisine due to demand


KOTA KINABALU: Known for its sandy beaches and seafood, Sabah is not only a seafood haven but also is fast becoming a place for great food and wine.

Apart from local cuisine, there are now many eateries offering international fare ranging from Japanese, Thai, Italian and Mexican.

Driving this development is Sabah's rapidly growing travel industry.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai said demand for good food and wines had led to more diversity and quality in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.

“Visitors want to enjoy good food, not just seafood but food similar to what they are accustomed to, and this is where the food and beverage industry needs to play its role well,” he said when opening Sabah's first Food and Wine Fair at a mall here yesterday.

Event organiser Johnson Or, the director of operations of Vino Vino Bistro, agreed that the food sector had progressed.

A telling sign, he noted, was that many people in Sabah no longer thought of wine as just a beverage.

“Now that we have so many varieties of wine from all over the world, people are more knowledgeable about what good wine is all about,” said Or.

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Sarawak homestay operators need to be more creative


KUCHING: Sarawak homestay programme has contributed some RM1 million to the state economy last year, said Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Gramong Juna yesterday.

Speaking at the annual general meeting (AGM) of Sarawak Operators Homestay Association (SHOA) at Kampung Santubong near here, he said the programme had attracted 11,000 tourists, out of which 9,409 were domestic tourists and 1,591, foreigners.

To date, the state has recorded 28 homestay programmes involving 418 operators, he added.

He believed the sector could play a bigger part in the tourism industry if the programme was further improved and added with creative ideas based on the surrounding culture and nature.

“Homestay operators, you need to be creative apart from your passion in sustaining the programme. You cannot do it like on and off.

“Maybe, you could make your programmes into a package to combine with other similar activities, for instance, the concept of farm house, which is quite popular in some countries,” he said.

Gramong pledged that his ministry and its counterpart in the federal government would continue to support the programme through various forms of assistance.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak homestay operators need to be more creative
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Sarawak’s flora and fauna inspire writers


KUCHING: The diverse flora and fauna in the state are the source of inspiration for writers including those who write Chinese novels.

A group of 50 members of the Southeast Asia Chinese Writers Association even went as far as the traditional Bidayuh village of Kampung Annah Rais yesterday to seek new ideas for their work.

They were led by Brunei Chinese Writers Association president Sng Teck Ann, who said they were enticed to come to Sarawak after reading a book on the state’s beautiful nature, written by a famous writer.

He said they were in Brunei earlier, for a writers conference and had come to the state by bus, stopping first in Sibu to tour the Rajang River before proceeding to Kuching and Annah Rais.

“Actually, Sarawak is not uncommon in Chinese literature. In fact, there is a popular book among us which touched on the Rajang River. That’s why we chose to come to Sarawak,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak’s flora and fauna inspire writers
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sarawak keen for airline tie-up with Brunei and Sabah


MIRI: The state government is serious in tapping the great prospect in the tourism industry and would seek airline cooperation with Brunei and Sabah next year.

Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said Sarawak was keen to make Brunei its international gateway to lure more foreign tourists to the state.

“It is timely for us to work closely with Brunei as the country has lots of flights to Australia.

“We can use their international flight frequencies as our tourism marketing strategy to bring in more tourists from Australia to Sarawak,” he stated in his address when officiating at a Hari Raya open house organised by the Miri Malay Welfare Trust Board (LAKMM) at ParkCity Everly Hotel here onThursday.

Taib said the state government had discussed the matter with Brunei and Sabah for mutual tourism benefits.

The government through the Ministry of Tourism is now making the necessary preparation to turn the aspiration to reality.

He looked forward to such cooperation, to bode well with the Sarawak tourism industry.

“We are going to celebrate our 50th anniversary of partnership in the formation of Malaysia next year. Let’s turn this aspiration to greater tourism development as the biggest event to commemorate the celebration.”

In view of that, Miri being a resort city and the neigbouring city to Brunei would kick off the effort as the first tourist service centre for the state.

It is because, he said, the city had various tourism attractions such as Mulu, Niah National Park, beautiful beaches, foods and offered the best shopping facility in the state and many others.

He was impressed with the local tourism operators here for their successes in promoting rural tourism through the Internet, having attracted tourists from various countries, including Brunei.

In view of that, he called upon the tourism players here to work hand-in-hand to intensify the existing tourism promotion and marketing.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Sabah NGOs support protection forest move


KOTA KINABALU: Three Sabah-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have expressed their support for the move by the Sabah Forestry Department to re-gazette 183,000ha of heavily logged Class 2 Commercial Forest into Class 1 Protection Forest, which makes it a protected area.

Responding to an announcement recently that the Department had decided to convert the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve and the northern part of Gunung Rara Forest Reserve to a protected area, Scientific Director of HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme Dr Marc Ancrenaz said: "This re-gazettement will serve to secure habitat for Malaysia's largest orang-utan population, as well as for a wide range of biological diversity".

"HUTAN has been assisting in surveys and monitoring of orang-utans in this area for the past few years, so we are especially pleased to see this move by the State Government," said Marc said in a joint statement, here Friday.

Founder of LEAP (Land Empowerment Animals People) Cynthia Ong said in the same statement that nationally and regionally, Sabah was emerging as a leader in pushing the boundaries in management of natural ecosystem services, and for treating forests as stores of water, carbon and biodiversity rather than just as timber sources.

"We still have major problems and issues to address, but this is the sort of change that we do want to see," she said.

Continue reading at: Sabah NGOs support protection forest move
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Malaysian Palm Oil Council At The Forefront Of Wildlife Conservation In Sabah


The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) is tasked with promoting the market expansion of palm oil through creating awareness of various technologies, economic advantages, nutritional wholesomeness and environmental sustainability of Malaysian palm oil.

But, very little is known about the council's forefront role in protecting wildlife through conservation efforts especially in the interiors of Sabah, the country s top palm oil producing state.

One may wonder why the council is involved in such wildlife conservation and rescue work and the answer may lie in its need to showcase to the world that Malaysia does not continue to destroy rainforests and wildlife habitats, particularly orang utans, to produce palm oil.

"In fact, Malaysia currently boasts of 56 per cent permanent natural forest cover while developed nations, on the other hand, have less than 30 per cent.

"Most in the West claim to have a deep interest and desire to protect the already protected orang utans, but often no funding is contributed for these groups for initiatives to protect them," said MPOC Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Datuk Dr Yusof Basiron.

A recent visit to an orang utan nesting area in Sukau, Sandakan, organised by MPOC, revealed the extensive research and conservation work being done from dawn to dusk to collect a wide range of data ranging from dietary observation, feeding behaviour, social aspects and ranging patterns.

The findings show that orang utans in Kinabatangan spend about 40 per cent of their time resting and 40 per cent feeding and make a new nest on tree tops to bed daily.

Dr Isabelle Lackman, Director of HUTAN - Kinabatangan Orang-Utan Conservation Programme, who presented the current situation on orang utans in secondary forest (previously logged), said the distribution of orang utan in Borneo had rapidly decreased, due to human encroachment.

This has reduced the available habitat for these apes especially through felling by logging interests.

"Orang utan thrive in secondary forests, and efforts are underway to ensure that these habitats are also not lost in the near future, she said.

Isabelle, a primatologist by profession, said crucial and urgent steps were needed to solve these conflicts to prevent the possible extinction of the orang utans.

This can be achieved with active engagement and support from stakeholders in creating innovate mechanisms where local development becomes compatible with the long-term conservation of the orang utans and its habitat, she stressed.

In Sabah, there are more than 200 species of mammals, around 540 species of birds and about 100 species of reptiles.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF) was mooted by the MPOC in 2006 at the height of challenges faced by the industry in the form of negative campaigns mounted by Western non-governmental organisations.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Taste of Aidilfitri in Interior areas of Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: Aidilfitri has already become synonymous with certain favourites like ‘lemang’, ‘ketupat’ dan ‘rendang’. Hari Raya would not be complete without them on the table, it seems. But in the interior areas of Sabah, traditional food from the forest is the choice.

‘Sambal tepu’, ‘linupit’, ‘sayur bukaruk’, ‘jeruk’ and linompuka are among the popular traditional favourites to fill up the table for guests to enjoy. ‘Lemang’, ‘ketupat’ dan ‘rendang’ will be served too. For the rural folks, traditional food reflects their identity.

For the Muslim members of the community in Alab Lanas, their traditional food is their pride and there are no better days to prepare them for their guests than a festive season like Aidilfitri.

Kg Alab Lanas is a remote village in Sook, Keningau. It is located 80 kilometres from Keningau town and is accessible through a long drive along a gravel road. The village has a small population of 600 and are mostly Catholics. Another village, Kg Kuit Lanas which is about 2 kilometres away, has a majority Muslim population. All the villagers originate from Sungai Lobou.

As always on the eve of Aidilfitri, several Muslim families in Kg Alab Lanas would make all the necessary last minute preparations like decorating the house, making cakes and cooking traditional food. Work is carried out by all members of the family and their relatives, including those do not share the same faith. What is shared is the spirit of togetherness, of lending a hand whenever it is needed.

In the morning of Aidilfitri, the Muslim families would make a 2-kilometre walk to a nearby mosque to perform prayers after which they would start exchanging visits to one another’s house, an age old tradition that is practiced during all festive seasons in the country.

But house visiting here is unique. The Christians from Kg Alab Lanas would walk together in a large group to visit their Muslim neighbours in Kg Kuit Lanas. It is a distinctive display of faith solidarity hardly seen in any other places.

The main highlight of house visiting is the traditional food offered by the hosts. These include ‘jaruk’ (or also known as ‘sinamu’), traditional cakes made of glutinous rice and tapioca wrapped in banana leaves (linempuka) and boiled or fried tapioca.

Continue reading at: Taste of Aidilfitri in Interior areas of Sabah
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tenom Agricultural Park - Walk in the Park


LAGUD Seberang Agricultural Park in the interior division of Tenom is a must-visit for tourists.

Situated within the Park, which doubles as a research centre, are the Native Orchid Centre, the Living Crop Museum, the Ornamental Garden, the Hoya Garden Evolution Garden, the Agro-forestry area and two lakes – Sapong and Rundum.

One can trek along the trails or spend the whole day, admiring the various species of orchids, both natural and hybrid.

Bringing along a guide will enable visitors to understand and appreciate the wonders of Lagud Seberang.

Our guide during an outing to the Park was Alexius Making who showed us the interesting aspects of the place that would otherwise have escaped our notice.

According to him, the Park is located within 500 acres of the 1,500-acre research station, administered by the Agriculture Department Sabah.

It comprises the Agriculture Research Station, the Seed Production Centre for Cash Crop, the Farmers’ Training Centre and Taman Pertanian Sabah itself.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad officially opened the Park in 2001 although the public were already able to visit it the year before.

There are visitors throughout the year, notably during the fruit season.

“There is an abundance of fruits to choose from,” Alexius said, adding that the Park also had a wide collection of indigenous and introduced plants species – for instance, the native Orchids of Borneo which were rescued from logged out areas in the forests.

According to the Orchid Centre guide Samuel Tion, there are about 300 wild orchids with the most fascinating being the Elephant Ears and the Lady’s Slippers.

Some 3,000 people visit the Centre annually.

Meanwhile, Alexius said within the natural orchid garden, there were many other plants, including those previously grown for food.

The four-acre Hybrid Orchid Garden itself boasts 400 species. The colourful hybrids are a sight to behold but they are only for public display as the cuttings are not for sale.

Our next stop was the Evolution Garden which highlights changes in the heritable traits of a population (flora and fauna) over successive generations.

The mutation of genes over time could have resulted in the evolution of certain species or development of new species from existing ones.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Tenom Agricultural Park - Walk in the Park
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Award winning US film crew to document Mount Kinabalu climb


KOTA KINABALU: Coalition Duchenne, a leading charity raising funding and awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (Duchenne), will climb Mount Kinabalu as part of its second annual Expedition Mount Kinabalu on August 24-26.

An award winning documentary team from Dreamquest Productions will accompany the international team of 60 climbers, led by the Coalition Duchenne founder Catherine Jayasuriya, whose grandmother was a Kadazandusun and whose 19-year-old son Dusty Brandom has Duchenne.

The documentary, which has the working title “Dusty’s Trail – The Summit of Borneo,” catalogs the inspirational life of Dusty, a young man with Duchenne, and his family’s quest to raise global awareness about the disease.

It is being produced by Present Moment Yogi Productions, a fledgling Californian production company. Filming began in California in July 2012.

The team will be filming at locations in and around Kota Kinabalu and the Kinabalu Park August 19 through September 2.

“Sabah is my home, and it is also a wonderful filming location,” said Catherine. “It has tremendous beauty, a deep cultural diversity, and caring people. Last year, so many Sabahans embraced our cause and our inaugural event. This year, we are excited to return with a film crew and a bigger expedition. Sabah is truly a place where the world can come together to bring change.”

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a progressive muscle wasting disease. It is the most common fatal disease that affects children. Duchenne occurs in 1 in 3,500 male births, across all races, cultures and countries. In Duchenne muscle cells quicklybecome unstable and lose their functionality. Life expectancy ranges from the mid teenage years to the mid 20’s. Minds are unaffected by Duchenne.

“Twenty thousand boys are born each year with Duchenne, more than

50 each day. There are many cases in Malaysia. Most only live into their 20s. We lose many in their teens,” said Catherine. “We need to focus on changing the course of the disease. ‘Dusty’s Trail’ will raise awareness and help fulfill our mission to bring humanity together to find a cure for Duchenne.”

The award winning team from DreamQuest Productions is donating its time to help Catherine fulfill her mission. DreamQuest has over 30 years of experience in the film and television industry. The company produces outdoor adventure shows for network and cable broadcasts and documentary films.

DreamQuest specialises in extreme production environments like the Everest base camp; the 120 degree heat of California’s Death Valley; under the sea 40 meters deep on a sunken freighter in Truk, Micronesia; the icy extremes of Alaska; or the humid jungles of Indonesia.

The leader of the documentary team visiting Sabah is DreamQuest’s president Allan Smith, an award winning producer and director who started his career as a child actor at the age of six, being involved in such films as “Chinatown”, “Day of the Locust” and “They Only Kill Their Masters”.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Eco Voluntourism in Borneo


Exotic wildlife is Borneo's number one tourism drawcard, but the region is also home to some of the world's most endangered species.

ORANG-UTAN

Dire straits:

Known as the man of the forest, a sighting of this swinging redhead is high on the agenda of most visitors to Borneo. For good reason too, as wild orang-utans are found only in Borneo and Sumatra and their existence is increasingly tenuous. Historically, the apes have had the misfortune of inhabiting tracts of land that humans use for housing, farming and palm oil plantations. If that's not tough enough, the world's largest tree-climbing mammal is also hunted for food and illegal trafficking. The World Wildlife Fund predicts that wild orang-utans may be extinct within a few decades, so the work being done now to protect them is crucial.

What's being done:

Borneo has many orang-utan sanctuaries that care for orphaned and trafficked apes. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah allows visitors to interact with the rehabilitated primates in a semi-wilderness environment. At feeding times - when the apes are provided with bananas and milk - a sighting is guaranteed.

Orphaned orang-utans have a tough time as the bond between mother and baby lasts for seven years and is one of the closest in the animal kingdom. Tourism is crucial to the survival of the species, improving awareness and providing a financial incentive for their protection.

Lend a hand:

For clients who want to help some of our shaggy relatives, Orang-utan Odysseys offer tours where participants must raise a minimum of $1500 each before embarking on the trip. The fundraising allows participants to access the Care Centre where they can hold and play with the young orang-utans. The funds are then distributed to orang-utan initiatives such as the Australian Orang-utan Project. For more information, visit www.orangutanodysseys.com

GREEN AND HAWKSBILL TURTLES

Dire straits:

Beaches are crucial to the survival of turtles, who swap the sea for the shore only to lay their eggs. They return to the same beaches year after year and are very sensitive to changes in the coastal environment. This is compounded by the hunting of turtles and their eggs for meat and the illegal trade of hawksbill turtle shells. Another great strain on the turtle population is their accidental capture in fishing nets.

What's being done:

It's vital that egg-laying beaches are protected and monitored. This work happens in the aptly named Turtle Island Park - three islands that lie off the coast of Sandakan in Malaysian Borneo. Green turtles lay their eggs between July and October while Hawksbill turtles prefer to deposit theirs from February through to April. The egg-laying takes one to two hours and is an unforgettable encounter with nature. The mother uses her flippers to excavate a sand chamber and appears to be crying as glands behind her eyes secrete salt during the laying process.

Lend a hand:

Turtle landings happen at night so an overnight stay is a must. If you visit during peak season you are likely to see the turtles scooting up the sand to dig and deposit. At other times, you can observe the baby turtles tackle the life-or-death drama of their first swim. It's survival of the fittest or perhaps the luckiest as seagulls wait to snatch the hatchlings on their maiden voyage. Visitors can watch the rangers tag each new hard-shelled arrival with a label that reads "return to Turtle Island Park". Adventure Destinations offers a four-day Turtles, Orang-utans and Wildlife Safari, which includes an overnight stay on Turtle Island, is priced from $1013. For more information, visit www.adventuredestinations.com.au

Continue reading (incl. Pics) at: Eco Voluntourism in Borneo
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Enjoying the hospitality of headhunters in Borneo


Rumah Bundong is a 60 year-old, 50-door longhouse near Kapit in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is inhabited by about 40 families of Iban ethnicity, who are famed, amongst many things, for headhunting.

Yes that’s right—headhunting—and 40 families means there are a lot of them. Still, I’m encouraged to learn they ceased the practice around WWII because I’ve elected to stay with them for two nights and frankly I don’t want them getting any ideas.

When I first arrived at Rumah Bundong, one of the first things I saw were skulls swaying from rafters in front of the headman’s bilik (door). Whether it was a warning for unruly guests or a gruesome souvenir for tourists, who knows? In any case I soon took little notice of it because there were so many other things to take in.

The longhouse was located about an hour’s bumpy drive from Kapit and across a suspension bridge; in many ways a dramatic arrival that added to the experience.

A ruai (verandah) connected the 100-metre long structure with doors leading to individual family areas. The verandah was a communal area where women dried grains, divided the fish catch, worked on handicrafts, minded children and chatted. The men also grouped together to smoke, mend fishing nets and carve hooks. There was a real sense of a close-knit community.

I was given accommodation for a fee with the headman, Tua Rumah Bundong Tajok, and his family. His married children lived with their own families in a series of rooms in the same quarters, while single members slept in the lounge or near the guest quarters – a loft above the living area.

There was electricity, a television, they had mobile phones and lived in basic but comfortable rooms. An outhouse was used for washing and toileting, but most people bathed down at the river.

Few in the family spoke English but it didn’t matter. The headman’s wife and daughters prepared delicious meals of meat and vegetables that we ate communally on the kitchen floor. It was wonderful to be included in family life and not treated differently and I dived into the bowls with everybody else.

The first day I spent playing with the headman’s grandchildren, bathing in the river and exploring to get a sense of the rhythms of the longhouse. Most people were farmers and spent the days working in the fields. There was also a school on site for younger children. In the afternoon the workers would return home and gather on the verandahs.

Continue reading (incl. Pics) at: Enjoying the hospitality of headhunters in Borneo
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Regatta Lepa – a boating festival Sabah style


Most people go to Semporna in far southeastern Sabah for the world class diving sites that lie just off the coast – Sipadan immediately springs to mind for many. But for me, it was a small notation in Lonely Planet that got me hooked: “This mainly Bajau town really comes alive at the end of March when a colourful regatta takes place, but normally it’s quiet.”

A regatta in Sabah? A Borneo festival with traditional, single-mast sailing boats? I was in.

I arrived in Semporna a few days before festivities for the Regatta Lepa got underway when tents and stalls were just being set up. The 2012 event was Sabah Tourism’s 19th annual version of the colourful local festivity and it promised an intimate view into some of the traditions of the region.

Semporna itself seemed a pretty little place with stilt houses sprawled across the bay, which in turn was filled with boating activity, markets and trade. It looked promising already but I headed over to Mabul Island first for the customary diving experience and then returned to the mainland several days later.

By the time I returned on the Friday evening, the festivities had begun. In what had been empty streets when I first arrived, were numerous stalls piled high with all manner of goods – scarves (for Muslim women), kids’ toys, clothing, hats, jewellery, local food and drinks.

There were so many of these stalls they literally clogged the streets – many of which were closed to traffic. Wandering further afield into what might have actually been permanent market areas, I also came across numerous stalls grilling up various types of seafood.

There were also some cultural events taking place on the town field with dancing in traditional dress, music and singing. And there were some traditional wooden hulled lepa boats already sailing around, decorated and ready for the boat parades of the morrow. These single-mast sailing boats of the Bajaus of Semporna give the festival its name and it was exciting to see them finally.

However I’d really come for the excitement of the boating events on the Saturday and it was worth waiting for. These were held on the waters in front of the Seascape Hotel so I trudged down there to join an enormous crowd heckling for key viewing spots on the river. A word of advice for future festival goers – get here early for the best views.

There were single kayak or group canoe events, an event in which competitors had to climb a pole and try to push each other off, and even a tug of war competition in which boat competitors could use their legs only to row. It was noisy, raucous and thoroughly enjoyable with teams getting resounding cheers when they returned to the docks.

Continue reading (incl. Pics) at: Regatta Lepa – a boating festival Sabah style
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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Close encounters of the primate kind – visiting the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre


Borneo is famous for its orangutans and the highlight for many travellers here is to see them in the wild. While it is possible to join trips going deep into the jungles of Sarawak and Sabah, these can be expensive and while there are an estimated 20,000 or so orangutans in Borneo there’s no guarantee you’ll actually come across them.

Orangutans are naturally shy creatures and live solitary lives mostly up in the trees so it can be hard to come across them.

So many short on time that want guaranteed sightings will visit places like the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre, just outside Kuching (Sarawak) or the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary near Sandakan (Sabah).

I visited the former during my visit to Kuching as I was very keen to see these “people of the forest” – the direct translation of the name orang utan. What’s important to note about the orangutans at Semenggoh is that while they aren’t purely living in the wild, they are largely free to come and go as they please.

Food is provided twice daily to supplement their needs as there simply isn’t enough protected forest left for them to roam. Apparently large adults will naturally roam a large area of forest each day just to find enough to eat, so without the supplemented diet at Semenggoh there wouldn’t be enough food for them all.

Orangutans are of course an endangered species and thankfully protected by law in Malaysia. Authorities have been trying to counteract their loss of habitat, and the live animal trade, that has decimated their numbers, by setting up these rehabilitation centres.

We had a car and driver to take us to Semenggoh from the hotel in Kuching as there were quite a few of us. This saved us a 20 minute walk from the gate, as the public bus, number 6, only drops you at the entrance. It also returns at 5pm so you have to watch the time if you go in the afternoon.

It is best to visit during the feeding times which take place daily from 9-10am and 3-3.30 pm. There’s usually a considerable crowd gathered for these so it’s not a completely unique or camera free experience, but once the orangutans start arriving you forget about everything else.

Around 9am workers at the sanctuary started putting out fruit for the primates. This seemed to be predominantly bananas and pawpaw but apparently they are fond of figs, eggs and even the pungent durian. For awhile we all stood there with our gaze skyward to the trees hoping to catch a glimpse of them.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Borneo: Top 3 jungle parks


GUNUNG MULU NATIONAL PARK

Situated just below the equator, Gunung Mulu National Park is comprised of thick jungle and the best way to see it is by walking the Headhunter's Trail. The name is apt given that a five hour hike leads to the Pinnacles, a landscape of limestone peaks situated 45 metres above the rainforest. The site looks like an overrun graveyard of barbed tombstones and laying eyes on it makes the taxing hike all worthwhile.

Mulu is also home to a 480 metre canopy skywalk that features 15 platforms pinned to tall trees, allowing you to catch a glimpse of the life the rainforest supports. Beneath the teeming jungle, vast limestone caves extend for 300 kilometres and maintain their own diverse ecosystems. The Sarawak Chamber is the largest cave in the world, the size of 16 football fields. There is a skinny centipede in this subterranean world that leaves a glowing trail if placed on your palm. You'll still need a torch, however.

In Deer Cave there are an estimated 3.5 million bats hanging each day and at dusk they emerge from the cave en masse. Locals call the spectacle the "black dragon".

BAKO NATIONAL PARK

The oldest national park in Sarawak is reached via a longboat that passes fishing villages and lands on a beach that meets the South China Sea. Sandstone formations on the beach usher visitors into the lush mosaic of ecosystems that make up the park, ranging from beach to cliff, heath to mangrove and forest to grassland. You can take a hike through the thick jungle, negotiating tricky tree roots as you go, or opt for an easier boardwalk stroll over the peat swamp.

The jungle leaves are a vivid green and picking at the vegetation are monkeys native to the island. The easiest to recognise are the proboscis monkeys who have to move their dangling nose to one side in order to get the leaves in their mouth. The macaque and silver leaf monkeys are just as engaging.

The wildlife here has been protected for more than 60 years so the animals do not shy away from humans. The macaques, however, take this to the extreme and are known to pilfer any food you don't keep a close eye on. They congregate near the park's headquarters along with bearded pigs, creatures that are at about the same level as proboscis monkeys on the looks scale.

Continue reading (incl. Pics) at: Borneo: Top 3 jungle parks
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

New Sibu airport good for medical tourism


SIBU: The much-awaited medical tourism is given a timely boost with the commissioning of the new multi-million ringgit airport terminal building here.

Beaming with rekindled hope, local healthcare professionals expressed optimism that this could be the start of something new for the medical tourism, as the improved facility would provide the needed ‘runway’ for the industry to take off.

But, they all agreed that collective efforts from the government and private sector would be necessary to thrust the medical tourism industry forward.

One of them, chief executive officer of ITA college of nursing Datuk Seri Dr Benny Lee reckoned that the new airport terminal building complemented by full-fledged medical facilities and direct international flights would give the industry a head start.

“The thing is, you see, the impressive new airport terminal building provides the catalyst to entice this specific segment of tourists to the riverine town.

“The excellent facilities that come with a state-of-the-art design would convenience tourists seeking medical treatment here,” Lee said yesterday, stressing it was a combination of factors that would make medical tourism flourish.

He explained: “The new airport terminal building is the starting point and it has to be backed by best healthcare service.

“This means a fully fledged medical facility accompanied with the latest medical equipment, and medical specialist teams.”

He believed having direct international flights would help grow the medical tourism as foreign investors would be attracted to invest in the industry.

He further suggested that attractive tour packages could be created to target this segment of tourists.

“In fact, after seeking treatment, these visitors may want to go sight-seeing to take advantage of their trip to Sibu. For starters, our night market could be a place of interest for them.

“When these people shop, it will help stimulate the economy of the town. A visitor can easily spend on average a few thousand ringgit here and this certainly augurs well for all facets of industry here. So you see, it is a combination of factors that make medical tourism work,” he enthused.

Lee recalled in Australia, tourism and education sectors topped the list as main revenue generators for the country down under.

A senior private medical practitioner Dr Hu Chang Hock too felt the improved facility could provide opportunity for medical tourism to grow.

He recalled the topic of medical tourism was talked about some 10 years back, but had yet to really pick up.

Seeing more rosy prospects ahead, Dr Hu said Sibu has two private medical centres, a well equipped government hospital and private clinics collectively.

Continue reading at: New Sibu airport good for medical tourism
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