Sunday, June 30, 2013

Exciting, shocking find in Maliau Basin survey


LAHAD DATU: Despite various efforts to monitor encroachment by the relevant authorities, the Maliau Basin Conservation Area (MBCA), dubbed as Sabah’s ‘Lost World’, is still facing threat of environmental and wildlife disturbance as poachers and gaharu (sandalwood) collectors are occasionally intruding into the protected area.

This was the shocking discovery during a ten-day intensive resource and wildlife inventory survey to the pristine rain forest by local researchers, including this writer, recently.

Several members of the survey team not only found hard and fresh evidence of encroachment such as bullet casings, camping sites, hunting and fishing paraphernalia and graffiti on tree trunks but even came into close encounters with a band of suspected poachers or gaharu collectors.

In fact, three suspected poachers even ‘registered’ their presence by peeping into one of the 132 camera traps set up in scattered places by the survey team to capture wildlife presence in the Class 1 protected forest.

“After we destroyed the suspected poachers’ camping site, we were surprised when they suddenly appeared and fearing for our safety, we had to run away,” said Sharon Koh from World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF Malaysia), who participated in the field study.

A check with the Maliau Basin Studies Centre, an administrative centre for MBCA, revealed that the poaching and gaharu collectors’ activities are mainly confined to the MBCA buffer zone area, which plays a critical role in the protection of the MBCA.

The buffer zone is where most immediate threats to the 58,840-hectare MBCA are addressed in a tactical sense, including blocking the intrusion of hunters, loggers and gaharu collectors from entering the core areas.

Yayasan Sabah rangers with the cooperation of other government agencies, especially the Sabah Wildlife Department have been regularly patrolling the buffer zone as well as MBCA’s core areas to check out intruders, while rangers’ posts were also set up in several places, including Sungai Kuamut and Lake Linumunsut.

The intensive field survey however produced an impressive listing of mammals and birds, including rare and endangered species living in the untouched wilderness, characterized by diverse assemblage of forest types with complex river systems and dozens of beautiful waterfalls.

The local researchers comprising 137 participants were from Yayasan Sabah, University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Parks, WWF Malaysia, Sabah Institute for Development Studies (IDS) and Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Program (HUTAN-KOCP), INIKEA and Sabah Environmental Trust (SET).

The flora and fauna inventory survey, which started on June 14, covered almost the entire conservation area, except the 15,000-ha heritage zone which was set aside for future generations to explore in the next 50 years (no sooner than 2050).

The intensive study confirmed that the protected area, which is slightly larger than Penang island, is home to some of Sabah’s most rare and endangered species, including Pigmy Elephants, Orang Utans and Proboscis Monkeys. Researchers also recorded the presence of other mammals through direct sighting or captured by camera traps such as Clouded Leopards, Malayan Sunbear, Barking Deer, Mousedeers, Banded Palm Civet, Bay Cat, Short-tail Mongoose, Borneon Gibbon, Porcupines, Pangolins and Langur.

The exciting list of birds recorded includes Bulwer’s Pheasant, Giant Pitta, Bathawk, Red-Bearded Bee-eater, Borneo Ground Cuckoo, White-fronted Falconet, Crested Fireback, Borneon Bristlehead, Scarlet-rumped Trogon and Borneon Bristlehead.

Alim Biun from Sabah Parks who is also an expert on birds confirmed that all eight living species of Borneon hornbills, including the Helmeted Hornbill, are also found in the 588.4 sq km conservation area.

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Time for a bird park in Miri


FOR several years, a small group of concerned Mirians have been lobbying to turn a small part of Piasau peninsula into a bird park before some bird species are gone forever in northern Sarawak.

Not because sailors are taking heads of the birds home as souvenirs but because development is zeroing in on prime land in Miri and Piasau Camp is considered one of the best sites for a glorious concrete jungle of the future.

Piasau Camp has been one of the green lungs of Miri and also a wind-breaker which protects the Resort City and Lutong from strong sea winds.

Any tsunami or oceanic surge will be blocked by this stretch of tree-lined peninsula. Miri city, less than 400M from the South China Sea, and the Miri River, must be protected from such storms.

There were ancient tales that the Bakam-Luak region was once washed away by a great wave — not unlike a tsunami — according to a conservationist Yusuf who is now working in Central Asia.

He is knowledgeable in offshore drilling and the geological structures of Borneo Island.

From a young age, he discovered from stories told by his grandfather why the Mirieks never built their houses along the seafront. The waves must have caused Sungei Lusut to split into two. Today, Miri has Sungei Lusut and Sungei Lusut Putus.

According to Yusof, the high ground of Sungei Rait has a strong straight cliff, facing the sea.

That probably represents the end of the waves as his grandfather must have narrated.

A cliff was then formed, leaving a long platform, which is now land, many metres towards Luak Bay.

Yusuf believes no houses should be built along the shoreline from the southern end of Luak in Sibuti, right up to Batu Satu in Lutong. Trees and other natural greens must be allowed to front the shoreline even if they are to only form a kind of windbreak.

Malaysia is only slowly waking up to having bird parks. There is a small one in KLIA to showcase a few birds.

On the other hand, the largest in the world, in fact just next door to Malaysia, is the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore, now in its 40th year.

Challenging time

Mirians are now facing a challenging time where birds are concerned. There have been sightings of some 100 birds of all colours and sizes at Piasau Camp and the surrounding Lambir, Baram River Mouth by members of the Malaysian Nature Society, Miri branch.

A pair of Oriental Pied Hornbill with two chicks have won the heart of Mirians. A small band of bird watchers have written some articles, a few blogs have been started and some facebook groups have gathered enough followers to even get politicians and local leaders involved.

Two recent Walk in the Park events attracted some 500 Mirians and expatriates to save the Piasau Bird Park.

The Oriental Pied Hornbill (OPH — anthracoceros albirostris) is a species in the Bucerotidae family. Its diet includes wild fruits (especially figs) and rambutans along with small reptiles such as lizards and frogs, and larger insects.

Piasau Camp has all the sustenance in its natural state for hornbills and other birds.

Save Piasau OPH is a vibrant Facebook Group supporting a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills and their new nesting at Piasau Camp.

The OPHs are often seen sitting on tree branches and sometimes resting on very low shrubs about three feet tall. They seem to be fairly used to humans — unlike their brethren in the jungles. They are often seen resting on tall fences of the PBC tennis courts.

The objective for the Save Piasau OPH campaign is first and foremost to highlight the issue of the destruction of habitat and potential displacement of the OPH family from the Piasau area.

“With that, we also hope to raise the community’s awareness level about hornbills in our midst or this emblematic bird of Sarawak may be found elsewhere other than the Land of Hornbills,” Yusof said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Time for a bird park in Miri
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Sarawak targets Silk Air, other airlines


KUCHING: Sarawak is trying to get Silk Air of Singapore and several other airlines to expand their operations in the state.

Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said resolving the perennial connectivity issues were important as tourist flow depended on it.

“A delegation will be in Singapore next week to discuss route possibilities with Silk Air,” he told reporters after attending an event at Kolej Abdillah yesterday.

Abang Johari, who is also Minister of Housing, said he was also hoping that hybrid airline Malindo Air, which recently received four aircraft from the 100 they ordered, would add at least another connecting route to the state.

“We are also in discussion with Malaysian Airlines.”

He said the state was expecting to receive 4.2 million tourists this year. The figure for 2012 was four million and 2011 (3.8 million).

“With Visit Sarawak 2014 to be launched alongside Visit Malaysia 2014 next year, we are looking at a return of around RM8 billion to the state economy,” he added, adding that RM6 billion was the targeted income from the tourism industry this year.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak targets Silk Air, other airlines
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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival needs to change to stay relevant


KUCHING: Keeping with the time is an important strategy to make Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) sustainable, highlighted Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg yesterday.

“We have to bring the event to another level with latest features to cater to people of all generations, else we will lose people so passionate about the festival,” Abang Johari said.

“To ensure the festival can sustain, we have to change with the passing of time to make the festival more attractive,” he said before the launching of the ‘Rainforest World Music Festival: The Sarawak Success Story’ book at his office at Bailtulmakmur Building here.

These success stories, Abang Johari said, created a platform for us to look deeply into the festival and how far we have come just by starting small.

“This is a book that brings the reader through a 15-year journey of music that became the pride of Sarawak. We will learn to appreciate the festival through this book,” he added.

Permanent secretary to the Ministry of Tourism and Heritage, Datuk Ik Pahon Joyik was also present at the launch.

According to one of the book’s authors Gracie Geikie, the book was a result of a survey conducted at the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) last year.

“Initially, we were conducting a survey to gather statistical data about RWMF 2012,” she said.

“With those rich statistical findings, it was later decided that, with so much information on the event, it would be ideal to weave them into a story type book while capturing the essence of the RWMF’s 15-year journey,” she revealed.

“The book captures views and memories of festive goers, business vendors, local musicians, hospitality and tourism operators and stakeholders,” she added.

The survey, endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism and Sarawak Tourism Board, was conducted by 22 enumerators and three supervisors.

More than 1,200 festival goers responded to the survey over the three-day the event.

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Shooting of ‘White Rajah’ film expected to start next year


KUCHING: The film ‘White Rajah’, with an estimated budget of US$15 million which tells the story of James Brooke falling in love with the beauty, wildlife and the Malay, Dayak, and Chinese cultures of Sarawak,is expected to be shot next year.

The chairman and CEO of Margate House Films, Rob Allyn said his production company is working in partnership with the Brooke Trust, which will serve as the film’s technical advisors, providing advice on historical content, design of buildings and watercraft to be reconstructed for the film.

“There are gorgeous beaches, jungles, rivers, wildlife, tourism amenities and state of the art film studios throughout the region, but to shoot all or part of this film in the country where the story really took place is a filmaker’s dream.

“So we came here at the invitation of the Brooke family and the government to walk in the Rajah’s footsteps, and explore whether it is feasible to shoot film this big here in Sarawak,” he said at a press conference, here yesterday.

Also present were Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg and Jason Brooke from the Brooke Heritage Fund.

“With the technical advice of the Brooke Trust and assistance from the Tourism Ministry and Malaysia and Sarawak governments, we plan to make an action-packed, romantic, swashbuckling adventure in the tradition of big screen epics like ‘Braveheart’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘The Man Who Would Be King’, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘The Last of the Mohicans.

Elaborating on the film, he said Margate House Films and the Brooke Trust envision building a full scale, working replica of the ‘Royalist’, the schooner on which James Brooke sailed to Sarawak in the late 1830’s.

“The ‘Royalist’ is for use in filming the James Brooke journey and pirate battle.The vessel would remain in Kuching as a heritage attraction and living museum exhibit,” he said.

He also revealed that eight of the biggest British-Australian Hollywood actors are in the shortlist of potentials to play as Rajah Brooke in the films, but declined to name them.

“With Hollywood stars, hundreds of local and foreign crew, thousands of extras and the opportunity for substantial employment, film training and worldwide visibility, ‘White Rajah’ could be a significant boon to the tourism industry here. It would be the biggest-budget film ever made in Sarawak,” he said.

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MASwings and Royal Brunei Airlines code sharing a move in right direction


KOTA KINABALU: It is high time for airlines in Asia to look beyond the potential of its own border in order to move further forward.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun, in making the call, said that there is a new trend in tourism promotion, as nowadays, visitors are interested to hop from one region to another, thus raising the need for better collaboration between the airlines to meet the customers’ demands.

“Some people like to visit Sarawak and Brunei after spending some time in Sabah. We should not be worried about them spending less time in our state or place, but instead sell the entire region as one destination, because it means there will be an increased volume of visitors coming to spend their holidays here.

“People may say the visitors may be spending less time here but we should look at the volume of arrivals or the number of people who come here rather than the number of days they would spend in the country, and for that to happen is to have a communication network, and we can do that through smart partnership.

“There is a term that goes ‘winner takes it all’, but I believe it would be more appropriate to say ‘winners take it all’. There is no reason why there should be a winner or loser, because I believe it is better to have a win-win situation for all to enjoy,” he said when witnessing the signing of the Code Share Agreement between MASwings and Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA), here, yesterday.

MASwings chief executive officer, Datuk Captain Mohd Nawawi Awang, signed the agreement on behalf of the airline while RBA was represented by its chief commercial and planning officer, Karam Chand. Also present was Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.

Through the collaboration, effective July 1, MASwings will add its ‘MH’ code to Royal Brunei-operated flights serving Kota Kinabalu-Bandar Seri Begawan sector 15 times weekly, while Royal Brunei will add its ‘BI’ code to MASwings-operated four times weekly flights serving Bandar Seri Begawan-Kuching sector.

Masidi has described the smart partnership as moving towards the right direction, adding that both airlines needed to collaborate to realise a better potential in their working relationship.

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Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival performers take stand on environmental issues


KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) started yesterday with performers sharing their thoughts on environmental issues.

In a press conference held at the Media Centre at Damai Beach Resort which was attended by more than 20 media professionals, both local and international, the performers collectively agreed that a petition on rainforest conservation should be signed.

“As a musician, it is also our duty to raise environmental issues and RWMF is among the right platforms to voice this concern,” said Donald Dodd of Nunukul Yuggera of Australia.

He added that the haze issue due to open burning should not be taken lightly as it also involves the burning of the rainforests.

Meanwhile, Gema SLDN SCV representative Johari Morshidi, when answering a question on the effects of RWMF on local performers, said the event had contributed to the confidence and self-belief of local performers to play at an international stage.

“It is an honour for us to play side by side with international acts. In fact, it also provides ideas for us to expand our musical style,” said Johari.

He added that with such exposure of the native music through RWMF, the younger generations now are not shy to learn musical instruments such as sape and gong.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Sarawak festivals can become international events


SIBU: Sibu International Dance Festival (SIDF) and Borneo Cultural Festival (BCF) may be turned into international events with the public and corporate sector giving their support.

In saying this, Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh added there was no reason why SIDF and BCF could not be on par with the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF).

RWMF, he said, could draw spectators from 40 countries every year.

“The 3-night event has recorded some 24,000 spectators with 60 per cent of them being foreigners.

“To start off for BCF and SIDF, I hope it can be elevated to the national level and later on to international level.

“We can try to attract not only the locals but also international audiences including dance and music lovers. They can come in to share the joy of the event,” he told a press conference to announce the organising of SIDF 2013 on Wednesday.

Among those present were Sibu Municipal Council chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King, deputy chairman Daniel Ngieng and Sibu Hornland Dance Theatre (SHDT) director Chen Ing Kuan.

SIDF 2013 is scheduled for Aug 15-17 here, with SHDT as the coordinator and the council as supporter.

Chen said seven foreign dance troupes from Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, China and Lithuania comprising 130 performers had confirmed their participation.

“They will be joined by six dance troupes from Kuala Lumpur, Johor and Sibu,” he said.

He said the troupes were Ku and Dancers and Tsoying High School from Taiwan, Wu Yue Dance Studio Arts and Frontier Danceland from Singapore, Thaksin University Songkla from Thailand, Guangzhou Art School from China, Papartelis from Lithuania, Geethashankaran from Kuala Lumpur, Foon Yew High School Ku Lai Dance Society and FY Dance Ensemble from Johor and from Sibu, SHDT, Sri Swangsa and Sibu Martial Art (Quan Shu) Association.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak festivals can become international events
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Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre aims to raise RM500,000 for the construction of bear house


SANDAKAN: The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is aiming to raise RM500,000 to partially fund the construction of a second bear house before the Centre is opened to the public early next year.

Part of the money raised will also go to creating a one hectare enclosure for the new bear house, and to meet this year’s operational costs to sustain the Centre that started in 2008 with seven rescued Sun Bears and which now provides refuge to 28 bears.

A fundraising dinner will be held on July 20 at the Hakka Association Hall here almost five years after a similar event in Kota Kinabalu in which RM1.3 million was generated for the Centre including the construction of the first bear house.

BSBCC chief executive officer and founder, Wong Siew Te, said this year’s operational and construction costs run into RM2 million and that despite commitment of generous donors, the Centre needs to meet shortfall in expenses.

“We appeal to Malaysians, especially the Sandakan business community to support this fundraiser. We believe that by doing your bit, and attending the event, you will be able to better understand the significance of Sun Bears and the types of threats that this species faces.

“This Centre is the first and the only facility of its kind in the world. We are the only facility that does rescue, education, research and rehabilitation, and we should be proud that the Centre is located in Malaysia, and specifically in Sandakan,” Wong said in a statement to announce the fundraising dinner.

The Centre, located next to the world-famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, is also close to the increasingly popular Rainforest Discovery Centre.

Habitat loss, poaching for parts used in traditional medicine and the pet trade are among key threats that have led to a decline by at least 30 per cent of the Sun Bear population in the last three decades. Sun Bears are the smallest of the world’s eight bear species.

Found throughout mainland Asia, Sumatra in Indonesia and Borneo, the exact number of Sun Bears in the wild is unknown, making it even more pressing to reduce pressure on a species that is classified as “Vulnerable” on The IUCN Red List, and at risk of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival improve.

Sun Bears are also classified as a Totally Protected Species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, providing it the same status as Orang Utans and Sumatran Rhinoceros.

Prior to the setting up of the Centre, Wong said Sun Bears were kept illegally as pets while confiscated bears were housed at a government facility.

He said the Centre provides care and a chance for Sun Bears to learn what it is like to live in the forest by accessing an attached natural forest within an enclosed area.

Wong said an observation platform and boardwalk were completed last year, and the Centre was poised to become an important education and awareness facility, and could additionally serve as an eco-tourism destination.

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Wallace Gallery to be set up in Sarawak Museum


KUCHING: The Sarawak Museum Department will be dedicating a gallery in Sarawak Museum to Alfred Russel Wallace as recognition for his contribution to the state’s history.

The department’s deputy director Dr Charles Leh said with the establishment of the gallery by the end of this year, to be named Wallace Gallery, the public will be able to have a close view of Wallace’s legacy and also the Wallace Bust.

“We will be dedicating a Wallace Gallery in State Museum by the end of this year because without Wallace, there is no museum,” he said during the presentation ceremony of the Wallace Bust to the Sarawak Museum Department yesterday.

Jason Brooke, who is the grandson of the last Rajah Muda of Sarawak Anthony Brooke, represented The Natural History Museum of London and A.R Wallace Memorial Fund in presenting the Wallace Bust to the department.

“The British Museum is very active in conserving the legacy of Wallace and also the Brooke family. We are lucky today because a family member of the Brooke family, Jason came from afar to present us with the Wallace Bust,” he said.

Leh said the Wallace Bust will be exhibited to the public in conjunction with the Second International Conference on Alfred Russel Wallace to be held here from Nov 7 to 8 this year.

“The chairman of the A.R. Wallace Memorial Fund Dr George Beccaloni came to Sarawak last year and met with us. During the meeting, he had agreed to contribute the Wallace Bust to be exhibited here.”

Besides establishing Wallace Gallery, Leh said the Sarawak Museum Department will also dedicate a gallery to the Brooke family at Fort Margherita by the end of this year, which will show the special relationship between the Brooke family and Sarawak.

Meanwhile, Jason who is the honorary secretary of Brooke Trust Fund said he is directly involved in helping the Sarawak Museum Department to bring artefacts and documents on the history of the Brooke family and Wallace to the state.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Wallace Gallery to be set up in Sarawak Museum
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Sarawak Tourism Board holds tree planting programme at Rainforest World Music Festival


KUCHING: More than 200 Rainforest World Music Festival performers, foreign media, and students took part in the Sarawak Tourism Board’s (STB) tree planting ceremony yesterday.

A total of 150 Golden Shower tree seedlings were planted around the Bangunan Baitulmakmur lake compound.

Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Gramong Juna said STB’s programme to offset the festival’s carbon footprint was an example for all to emulate.

“Sarawakians are proud to have the world’s oldest tropical rainforests and they along with our efficient sustainable forest management are valuable tourism assets and a legacy we are but custodians of,” he said, adding that the state had 1.2 million hectares of protected forests including national parks and wildlife centres.

He acknowledged that the Rainforest World Music Festival has made a name for itself over the years to become an international phenomenon that has put Sarawak on the world tourism map.

Gramong, who is also Assistant Minister of Land Development, added that he hoped the programme would pave the way for the young people to grow with the trees they planted and in turn safeguard their ‘green treasure’ for their children’s children.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sabah International Folklore Festival 2013 - folklore promotion in schools mooted


KOTA KINABALU: Folklore and traditional music and dance will be widely promoted in Sabah if the ‘powers that be’ in the educational and cultural fields have their way.

Realising the importance to keep this tradition alive, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun has proposed that the relevant authorities work closely with the State Education Department to ensure that the message gets across, especially to the young children.

“We will look for a way to work with the State Education Department on how we can incorporate the folklore and traditional music and dance into the system, It will not be absorbed as part of the curriculum but more like a friendly competition to instil the love and interest amongst the schoolchildren so as to keep our tradition alive,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after launching the 8th Sabah International Folklore Festival 2013 (SIFF) on Tuesday evening, he described Sabahans as natural when it comes to music.

“We are exposed to traditional music from young, and our interest builds up from there. But of course, we have to find ways to ensure that the interest can be expanded. Take the SIFF this year, for the first time, the Sabah Cultural Board has decided to focus on folklore and traditional music, this is a trial basis and if we see the potential, we will adsorb this event as part of the festival’s highlights, apart from the dancing, which has obviously lured a lot of enthusiasts since it was introduced,” said Masidi.

He said maybe in the near future, apart from luring more participation, they would also come up with other programmes that would attract more people to come in.

“Because the reason of having such event is to have people watching. It will be a failure if we do not have an audience. If an event is only held just for us to enjoy, then we would not have achieved our target, which is to educate, share and promote our tradition, culture and folklores for all to know,” he said.

He said SIFF is an avenue for both participants and the audience to learn the global folklores.

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Losing Autofocus: A Fraction of a Second in Borneo


It’s hard being a travel writer when the jungle technology gods are against you.

The day before Kattina and I leave Singapore on our trip to Borneo, I dash out to buy two needed items: hiking shoes, and a camera lens to replace my lens that’s been malfunctioning since our trip to Burma last October. I find a zoom lens at a great price, and Gore-Tex shoes that cost more than I normally spend on shoes, but good shoes are important when you’re anticipating scary jungle blisters.  I’m pleased with my purchases.

One week later, we’re motoring down a river a longboat, headed to Clearwater Cave in Mulu National Park. The riverbed is lined with large, round stones. There’s no pier when we reach the cave because, hey, it’s the jungle. Getting out of the boat will require stepping into three inches of water.

This is bad. Several kilometers of hiking, plus wet feet, equal blisters. I should have brought my flip-flops.

But I devise a clever plan to avoid getting my feet wet. There’s one stone bigger than the other stones. It comes up almost to the water’s surface. If I step just right and stretch my leg a little farther than normal, I can land on that stone and make a quick hop to shore.

So I step toward my special, big, round rock, which, it turns out, is a special, big, round, slimy rock. My new hiking shoes are no match for the slippery slime. As my right foot flies out from under me, I manage to land on my left foot – albeit in three inches of water.

“Phew!” I think. “Close one!”

Then I think, “Damn. I got my feet wet.”

Then I realize I have not regained my balance.

Then I crash face-down into the river.

This all happens in less than a second. I land on my right palm, attempting, with my left hand, to keep my camera above water.

“Are you okay?” Kattina gasps from the boat.

“I’m all right,” I shout back as I lay in the river, though I’m not sure that’s true. My hand is throbbing and my backpack is filling with river water. But I’m thinking, “At least I saved my camera.”

Kattina jumps from the boat to help me up. As I get to my feet, 97 gallons of river water spill from my lens.

I don’t know at what point my camera got dunked. Did I submerge it when I landed? In my dazed state, did I land okay, but let go of it as I was standing up? It doesn’t matter. The lens drips for the next hour, and condensation forms on several layers of glass.

Kattina has heard that when you drop electronic gadgets in water, putting them in a bag of uncooked rice will pull out the moisture.

We try this. Fortunately, rice is a staple food in Malaysia. Alas, two days later, the condensation is still there.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Losing Autofocus: A Fraction of a Second in Borneo
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Sarawak Tourism Board targets turning Borneo World Music Expo into premier event in Asia


KUCHING: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) has set its sight on turning the just concluded Borneo World Music Expo (BWME) into a premier event in Asia within the next five years.

Its chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said the board was mulling on organising the expo as an annual event — entering onto the World music exposition — considering the tremendous opportunities to brand the world music festival due to the vast ethnicity in the state.

Rashid said the inaugural expo was already planned as part of the strategy to climb the value-chain for the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) which caters to the leisure market segment.

Improving the value chain would see both events evolved into stronger business tourism products which will create vast economic opportunities.

“We are not looking at this expo as a local event, but it should be seen as a platform for musicians and festivals from throughout Asia to come to the state. I am happy that this inaugural event managed to attract many music festival programmers from throughout the world,” he told a press conference on the last day of the expo at Pullman Hotel here yesterday.

BWME director and consultant Gerald Seligman was also present.

Throughout the three-day programme (June 24-26), he mentioned that panellists and speakers have been very generous in sharing their experiences about organising festivals, talent management, subject of copyrights and other behind-the-scenes know-how to run a music festival.

The expo had attracted 71 programmers and 186 delegates from throughout the world.

Five conference papers were delivered during the expo.

Rashid also suggested for the academic fraternity to be involved in the event.

Students could be involved in mentor programmes to learn about festival organising, performing and event programmers among others.

Apart from promoting the various ethnic groups here, he pointed out that the aspiration of this expo provides an economic impact and opportunities for the younger generation to be involved in the preservation of culture, to become musicians and professionals in the world music industry.

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MASwings to acquire four new aircraft for Sabah and Sarawak


SIBU: MASwings will acquire four new aircraft to service the Sabah, Sarawak and Bimp-Eaga region, says its chief executive officer Datuk Capt Mohd Nawawi Awang.

He said they would be getting the new aircraft in three to four months’ time and three Twin Otter aircraft to boost its rural air service.

He added the Kota Kinabalu-based MASwings was also looking into a coupon system to allow passengers to buy tickets online.

“We are also looking into increasing flight frequencies, for example, additional three or four flights a day for the Sibu-Kuching route. The same goes to all other point-to-point between secondary towns in Sabah and Sarawak. Probably, in three to four months’ time, you will see marked improvement especially in flight frequencies.

“We hope to receive the two new aircraft by Sept 1 at the earliest, and the rest in October.

“We note of good response from the community on our flights and this is a good opportunity to expand our fleets,” he told reporters after handing over donation, collected from the company staff, to Kampung Datu fire victims at SK Lakis here.

He said the increase in flight frequencies was through their own initiatives on top of what had been asked by the government.

“There is also good response from people from Pontianak to fly to Kuching, and Malaysians going there.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Semenggoh welcomes new addition


KUCHING: The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre family of orangutans has welcomed a new female baby.

Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) said in a press statement that mother orangutan Saddamiah was first spotted with her baby last Friday at the feeding platform, her first appearance since June 16.

The first-time mother, who is the second offspring of Seduku, was born at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre in 2002.

“We have named the newborn baby orangutan Ruby,” said SFC managing director and chief executive officer Datu Ali Yusop.

“To-date, 20 orangutans have been born at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and this brings the total number of orangutans at the centre to 26 individuals, where they freely roam at the Semenggoh Nature Reserve.”

Ali advised that because mother orangutans are usually very protective of their infants, visitors are advised not to get too close to them.

SFC will continue to monitor the progress of Saddamiah and Ruby.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Semenggoh welcomes new addition
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Borneo World Music Expo to act as yardstick to to gauge tourism potential


KUCHING: The inaugural Borneo World Music Expo (BWME) which ends tomorrow will act as the yardstick to gauge the potential of business tourism in Sarawak.

The expo which revolves around trade, networking, information dissemination and business side of the entertainment industry is also a prelude to the 16th Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) from June 28 to 30.

“It is high time that we climb up the value chain by bringing in more business tourists,” said Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan prior to the official launch of the expo at Pullman Hotel on Monday night.

Business tourism in Sarawak, said Rashid, is one of the major contributors to the state’s economy as business tourists tend to be big spenders as compared to leisure tourists.

He also said STB is aiming to make BWME a premium world music expo in Asia just like the annual Rainforest World Music Festival, which is among the top 25 international festivals listed in Songlines Magazine from the United Kingdom.

Among the key highlights of BWME, said Rashid, is the keen participation of Sarawakians in the expo, which is already a measure of success.

Also speaking was Assistant Tourism Minister (Local Events and Products) Datuk Gramong Juna, who described the expo as a brilliant idea to bring all the cultures of the ethnic groups in Sarawak under one roof and share them with the world.

“Besides showcasing their talents, BWME will also give a chance for local acts to be highlighted at the international stage,” added Gramong.

The expo, which is supported by the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau, is open to anyone who wants to build networks, share, distribute their press kits and create more awareness of their own music events.

In an unrelated event, STB is also mooting to organise events during the off-peak tourist season forecasted to be between Sept and Nov.

Among the plans is the Asean Music Festival which will be staged in Miri.

Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) is also mulling to organise an International Ethnic Drum Festival in the near future, which according to its commissioner Datuk Abang Abdul Wahap Abang Julai is to infuse music, art and culture among the local community.

“This is part of the bid to seek out the ‘soul’ of Kuching City,” he said.

In a press conference yesterday, BMWE event consultant Gerald Seligman said an event like the inaugural BWME can help bring the local music scene to a higher level.

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Sabah International Folklore Festival 2013 - Folk art exhibition to boost cultural awareness


KOTA KINABALU: The Folk Art Exhibition (FAE) held as part of the annual Sabah International Folklore Festival (SIFF) could be utilized as an effective platform for promoting cultural awareness and understanding, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

He said taking concerted efforts towards cultural awareness, especially among the younger generation was important as culture is the reflection of the identity of a community.

“My hope is that with event such as this, we can build the understanding and awareness towards other cultures in the hope that it can be an eyeopener to the local society to appreciate the value of our own unique culture, our heritage,” he said, launching the 4th FAE 2013 here, yesterday.

Masidi commended the Sabah Art Gallery, the organizing body of the event, for their initiative to bring in foreign artistes and their works this year.

Themed ‘Understanding Eastern Culture’ the FAE this year features 14 artistes, including from Japan, who will be showcasing their various works such as paintings, photography, bead weaving, pottery, calligraphy and music.

Hosted at the Sabah Art Gallery (SAG) building located near the National Department of Culture and Arts (JKKN) Complex at mile 2 Jalan Penampang, the exhibition will be opened to the public for free until June 30.

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Sabah International Folklore Festival different this time


KOTA KINABALU: The eighth Sabah International Folklore Festival (SIFF) is taking on a different concept this year, Sabah Cultural Board general manager Dato Rosmadi Sulai said.

This year, folk songs and music would be performed by the participants, including those from Sabah, he told reporters at the welcoming dinner for SIFF participants on Monday night.

“In the past it was about folk dances but the 8th SIFF focuses on folk songs and music and this is one of the reasons why the participation is less. This is also the first time we are trying to showcase folk songs and music of the participating countries.

“We took this step as the Sabah Cultural Centre, which is the normal venue, is being upgraded. God Willing, the work will be completed by next year and we will bring back the folk dances. At the moment we have received about 80 participation for the folk dance competition next year,” he said.

Rosmadi also said the concept change for SIFF was to ensure the continuity of the festival.

This year, the event is being held at the Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara auditorium from June 25 to 26th.

“The auditorium’s capacity is for 600 and the stage is not big enough for dancers. That is why we have to change the concept this year,” he said adding that this year’s participants were from Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea and Sarawak.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Producer to recce Sarawak for the shooting of epic film ‘White Rajah’


KUCHING: American film producer Rob Allyn, who has a string of epics and international box office attractions to his name, is in Kuching this week to evaluate Sarawak as a location for a major Hollywood feature film on the ‘White Rajah’.

Rob is travelling with Jason Brooke, grandson of Rajah Muda Anthony Brooke, according to a press release from Sarawak Tourism Federation yesterday.

With global stars and an estimated USD$15 million budget, the film is scheduled for shooting in mid-late 2014. Other options for the shoot are Singapore/Batam Island, Indonesia, Thailand, Fiji and Australia.

Rob and Margate House Films are working in partnership with the Brooke Trust, which as the film’s technical advisor, will advice on historical content, building design and watercraft to be reconstructed for the film.

Margate House Films and the Brooke Trust envision building a full scale working replica of the Royalist, the schooner on which James Brooke sailed to Sarawak in the late 1830s, for filming his journey and pirate battles. The vessel would later remain in Kuching as a heritage attraction and living museum exhibit.

At Brooke’s encouragement, Margate House Films chairman Rob and his son associate producer Jake will meet Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry, Datuk Ik Pahon and other officials and business leaders while in Kuching.

The trip is in response to Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari’s recent announcement on the ministry’s plan to entice foreign filmmakers to Sarawak.

Brooke and tourism officials will bring the Allyns to see the rivers, beaches, jungles, cultural and historical sites of Sarawak to convince Margate House Films to work with the support of the ministry to shoot this epic film in Sarawak.

‘White Rajah’ could be a boon to the tourism industry here with Hollywood stars, hundreds of local and foreign crew, thousands of extras and the opportunity for substantial employment, film training and worldwide visibility. It would be the biggest budget film ever made in Sarawak.

“We appreciate the support of the Brookes and the warm welcome of the Tourism Ministry and leaders of Sarawak,” Rob said in a press release.

“The saga of James Brooke falling in love with the beauty, wildlife, peoples and cultures of Sarawak is a great untold saga on film. With the technical advice of the Brooke Trust and assistance from the Tourism Ministry and government of Sarawak and the Federation of Malaysia, we plan to make an action-packed, romantic, swashbuckling adventure in the tradition of big screen epics like ‘Braveheart’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘The Man Who Would Be King’, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘Last of the Mohicans’.”

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Malaysia tourism sector not affected by the haze


The haze, which has been shrouding Malaysia since a week ago, does not affect the country’s tourism sector, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said yesterday.

He said there was no drop in tourist arrival and tourists arriving in Malaysia were able to carry out their activities as planned.

He also said there were still some places in the country, like Sabah and Sarawak, which were not affected by the haze.

“Malaysia is not a small island like Singapore, which is also affected by the (haze) problem.

“If the southern part of our country is shrouded with haze, tourists can go to other places where the air quality is good,” he told reporters at the Wedding promotion festival at the Handicraft Complex here yesterday.

Also present were Tourism and Culture Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Ong Hong Peng, Kraftangan Malaysia chairman Datuk Sohaimi Shahadan and its director-general, Mohd Kamil Mohd Ali.

In view of the haze, Mohamed Nazri advised tourists to wear masks for health precaution.


Latest API Reading at: Malaysia's Department of Environment
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Brooke Heritage Trust sign agreement on transfer of historical documents, artefacts


KUCHING: Sarawak State Library and the Brooke Heritage Trust has entered an agreement to begin the transfer of historical documents and artefacts from the White Rajah era to the state.

At the library yesterday, Jason Brooke, grandson of Rajah Muda Anthony Brooke, handed over a hard disk drive containing 36,514 digital documents.

“The first of the documents are family letters from 1823 while the last documents are formal discussions on Sarawak becoming part of Malaysia from 1963,” said Jason, who is the honorary secretary of the trust.

The digitised records include never before made public photographs from the private collection of the Brooke descendants.

The photos and written documents, including handwritten letters, memos, official government business, reveal both private family moments as well as key turning points in Sarawak’s history.

Most of these important records are now available for the first time in Sarawak.

In September, the trust is expected to deliver another 15,000 digitised files of other documents, including 3D computerised captures of scanned objects like ink bottles used during the signing of Sarawak’s secession to the British.

The originals, for now, will remain at the Rhodes House Library in Oxford. However, the Trust has indicated that it would hand them over once proper archiving facilities were in place in Sarawak. Towards that end, the State Library is now working with Oxford University to set up better equipped repositories.

“The transfer of records will make it ever more possible to look at history directly in the face and learn what it offers to teach us,” said Jason, paraphrasing his grandfather’s words.

“His words echo from another age in Sarawak’s history, yet they are appropriate.”

Documents of the Brooke era, he added, would allow historians, sociologists, and even movie makers to interpret for themselves the state’s heritage.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Mango Garden Restaurant, Rumah Terbalik, Tamparuli


Alright, let’s talk about food this time!

There’s this question when everyone asked me, even tourists from overseas asked me, “Chloe, where can I find local food in Kota Kinabalu (KK)?” Oh how I wish I could answer them “Try out Hinava, Tuhau, Sayur campur, Paku Pakis …". You will know what I am talking about if you are a Sabahan but if you don’t, Hinava is actually a raw fish which normally is the Tenggiri Fish mixed with lime juices and all and Tuhau is the Wild Ginger stem. Sayur campur (mixed vegetables) is always my favourite one because I learnt to cook this special dish at Walai Tokou Homestay during my pageant few years back. Paku Pakis is the Wild Fern.

In January 2013, here comes the miracle, finally. Remember the last year when I wrote something about an Upside Down House in Borneo in several magazines here in Borneo? It’s a blast! Once again, the owners of Rumah Terbalik contacted and asked me if I am able to make a review for his new restaurant.

A beautifully structured building mainly designed with glass panel windows (I like this kind of buiding, it makes me think of Europe again), the new restaurant is situated alongside of Rumah Terbalik. I was told that it was an old Mango farm that transformed to a Mango Garden Restaurant.

Carefully planned, visitors no need to pay for the parking and entrance. Unless your main reason is to visit the interior of Rumah Terbalik, then you need to pay the entrance fee. Seriously, if any of the local or international travellers who would like to try local native food, you might need to travel all the way to other district of Sabah which is far from Kota Kinabalu town itself. Now, you can enjoy local native food here in Tamparuli (30 mins drive from Kota Kinabalu, if the traffic is good).

Firstly, Mango Smoothies and Mint Tea - Both are great but the Mint Tea is special. For your info, Mint Tea is not on the menu so you may need to have a special request on that. (Both rating: 5/5)

Sayur Kailan Masak Dua Rasa - If you are able to remember, there was a restaurant called the Penang Restaurant in 1Borneo Hypermall which no longer operate that served the same dish. That was the first time ever that I tried deep fried kalian and I get couldn't get it from other restaurants here in Kota Kinabalu. I did mention and interesting story about this dish just came to us that it was the same chef who made this special dish! Well, what a small world. The Kailan is served in two styles of preparation, deep fried and stir-fried with seafood, topped with crispy anchovies. It is a fusion dish between the Bajau Semporna tribe and Chinese method's of cooking. (Rating: 4/5)

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Mango Garden Restaurant, Rumah Terbalik, Tamparuli
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Sarawak has more tourism spots to offer


KUCHING: The state has many unexplored potential tourism spots that should be explored and promoted.

In citing Padawan as an example, Assistant Minister of Culture Liwan Lagang said more emphasis should be given to promote potential tourist spots that are still unexplored in the area.

The Belaga assemblyman said he was amazed with the many beautiful areas and tourist spots Padawan had to offer not only to locals but also to foreign tourists.

“I understand that there are still many areas in Padawan that are still not being explored as tourism destinations yet this event is good for us to market our tourism products to the world,” he said when offciating at the ‘Discover Padawan Experience – Your Gateway to Culture, Adventure and Nature 2013’ exhibition at Kuching Sentral here yesterday.

Liwan said Padawan has a few established Sarawak tourism destinations such as Borneo Highlands Resort, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and Jong’s Crocodile Farm which had attracted many local and foreign tourists.

“The government has also identified and developed a few tourism destinations in Padawan such as Annah Rais Hot Spring, caves, waterfalls in Padawan and Rafflesia in Kampung Temurang and Kampung Belimbing.”

In view of the richness of nature that Padawan has, he said various activities could also be offered to tourists such as jungle trekking, kayaking, cycling and other interesting activities in the tropical rainforest.

Liwan said Padawan had the advantage as a potential popular tourism destination due to its location which is not far from the city, beautiful and attractive tourism products and destinations as well as the good facilities maintained by Padawan Municipal Council (MPP).

“One of the products that you can highlight is your ‘Pansoh Lamb’ which is special because normally we only have Pansoh Fish and Chicken. This is the product that you should highlight, especially to the foreign tourists.”

Liwan said he is very interested with the activities that would be organised by MPP such as Padawan Raft Safari as well as Borneo Highland Nature Challenge and therefore, he had offered himself to be the participant of the activities.

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KK French’ip to help attract more French tourists to Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: Collaborative effort is needed between France and the state of Sabah to develop the French language and culture in the state in order to attract French tourists to Sabah.

KK French Friendship Association (KK French’ip) founding president, Veronique Chapeland, said, Sabah is the most exotic place in the world and there is a need to attract French tourists to come here.

Chapeland believed that learning French culture would benefit Sabah and its people in terms of cultural exchange and tourism.

“Not many French people know about Sabah, and we need some sort of collaboration to make them know about the state and we want to be able to welcome them.

“It would be a bonus point to learn French, especially among Sabah tourism players, to lure French people to visit East Malaysia,” she said.

Chapeland, who is French and is currently residing in the state, added that most French tourists are making their stop in Kuala Lumpur and only a few fly onwards to Sabah.

“I have met with several Sabah people who have expressed their interest in learning our culture and this is where KK French’ip can plays its role.

“Bringing French culture here is new to the people and we hope to promote the language and culture through organizing social occasions, classes and workshops,” she said.

KK French’ip, established in 2012, currently has 47 members and have organized various activities such as free French and Malay language classes, cooking lessons and also co-organizing the European Union Film Festival.

On Saturday night, the association celebrated the official opening of its new office at Wisma Wanita here, where members gathered to exchange views and were entertained to performances in French.

The event was in conjunction with the French World Music Day also known as FĂȘte de la Musique.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

The posse determined to save Orangutans


DISCOVER the posse of Aussies armed with big hearts, intent on helping to fight for the future survival of endangered orangutans, now only left living in Sumatra and Borneo

As a child, I pronounced orangutan, O-R-A-N-G-E utan (and the u with a monkey uhh sound).

My pronunciation was way off kilter, and so it turns out was the meaning breakdown, despite them being a type of great ape of orange colour - the name orangutan is a combination of oran, meaning person, with the second syllable derived from hutan, meaning of the forest.

However first we encounter orangutans, it is shocking to think that in some short years, this spectacular great ape may no longer be around to share with our children and grandchildren.

The Australian Orangutan Project that supports orangutan conservation has certainly captured the hearts of Australia's celebrities, who have become its ambassadors, but given the plight of the orangutan, many more hearts need to be clasped.

Wild orangutans are confined to just two islands in the world, with two distinct species, one in Sumatra, Indonesia and the other in Borneo, an island divived among Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. They are critically endangered in Sumatra (6000 remaining) and endangered in Borneo (55,000).

The first ambassador for the Australian project was actress Cornelia Frances, who joined in 2011, and who is perhaps best known for her long running performance (20 years) of the character Morag on TV's Home and Away.

The idea of "Redheads for Redheads" came from her family.

"It was my son's idea - we gave the idea to the project and they loved it," Cornelia says from a very cold Sydney on Tuesday.

Cornelia travelled to Borneo and fell passionately in love with the orangutans.

"They are so intelligent and they react to you like no other animal," Cornelia says.

"One offered me a pineapple while we were sitting on a bench, and then offered it to me again - normally it takes months and months for them to build up that trust.

"We had an instant love affair and it was quite extraordinary."

Cornelia has adopted many orangutans as presents for friends and believes she is very fortunate to have seen and interacted with orangutans both in care centres and in the wild.

"In one place by the river there were about 100 and they scamper all around you - it really depends on the habitat," she says.

Cornelia visited the Orangutan Care and Quarantine Centre in Pangkalan Bun, where there were 300 orphaned infants.

"We trekked miles every day, I spent a week on a boat, and stayed in a "hotel" that was very basic," she says.

At Camp Leakey she discovered more orphaned orangutans, in a national park she saw orangutans in the wild, and at the Pesalat Reforestation Project, she helped plant trees.

"I left my heart and a few tears over there," she says.

"There was one poor orangutan who had been shot and he was in a cage - he looked like an angry old man."

As there are only 6000 Sumatran orangutans in the wild, and an estimated thousand are killed each year, there is a distinct possibility they will be driven to extinction within six years - it was 10 years just a year-and-a-half ago.

The problem is principally deforestation in Borneo and Sumatra, where enormous tracts of forest are being felled by double-dipping governments and privateers, who enjoy the benefits of a burgeoning timber industry and the profits made from subsequent palm oil plantations.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: The posse determined to save Orangutans
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Friday, June 21, 2013

Endangered Orangutans Up Close in Borneo


Many visitors to Borneo who are interested in eco travel make a bee-line for the well-known orangutan rehabilitation sanctuary at Sepilok, near Sandakan in the Malaysian province of Sabah. Fewer people know there is another orangutan sanctuary just 45 minutes’ drive from Kota Kinabalu.

The 64-acre nature reserve was established by the Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort and the Sabah Wildlife Department in 1996. Rasia Ria is a fancy beach-side hotel, but it is possible to visit without staying there – to experience the nature reserve, including the orangutan sanctuary and jungle canopy walkway, as well as the hotel restaurant and beach.

Adjoining the hotel grounds is a protected ecological space dedicated to supporting the endangered wildlife of Borneo. The nature reserve is home to 67 different species and there is a veterinarian clinic, ranger station and food preparation kitchen all on site.

The Rasia Ria Nature Reserve works in conjunction with the Sepilok centre, taking in the youngest rescued orangutans and helping them through the initial phase of rehabilitation. The youngsters stay here three to five years until they are big enough to fend for themselves in the jungle and ready to be transferred to Sepilok for subsequent phases of rehabilitation.

The team here has seen 29 orangutans successfully rehabilitated and there are currently four babies aged between three and six years: Katie, Wulan, Tenten and Itinban.

The stories of these beautiful creatures are all too common; of rescue by workers at the huge palm oil plantations in Tawau. Orphaned and robbed of their habitat they would stand little chance without human intervention.

As well as welcoming visitors to view the orangutans, the Rasia Ria Nature Reserve also runs programmes for local students, with the aim of raising awareness about the need to protect this precious species.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Endangered Orangutans Up Close in Borneo
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Borneo: Sabah's Top Five


Outstanding natural beauty, five star luxury and enough wildlife to satisfy even the most budding of Richard Attenborough types - North Borneo's Sabah has it all.

From spotting forest-dwelling orang-utans to climbing the highest mountain in South East Asia, here are the top five Sabah 'must-dos' that you won't want to miss.

SANDAKAN HERITAGE TRAIL

Sandakan - the former capital of British North Borneo - is a bustling, character-filled town that is the entry point for most visitors to the area. While the abundance of wildlife in the region is obviously its biggest drawcard, Sandakan itself is rich in history and definitely worthy of a visit. To maximise your time here, take the self-guided Heritage Trail – a comprehensive hour-long walk that covers the town's important and interesting sites.

Highlights include: the restored colonial house of famous American authoress, Agnes Keith, the Masjid Jamek mosque and the Australian Memorial, dedicated to almost 3,000 soldiers who died in Sandakan as Japanese prisoners of war. Also, for the best view of the town and its beautiful bay, make the climb to the stunning Puu Jih Shih Buddhist Temple.

BORNEO NATURE LODGE

In Sukau - a two-hour drive from Sandakan - nestled on the banks of the Kinabatangan River is the Borneo Nature Lodge. A base from where to explore an area that has the richest concentration of wildlife in South East Asia.

Playing home to everything from crocodiles and pygmy elephants to proboscis monkeys and orang-utans, this is a nature-lovers paradise. The lodge offers guided river cruises both at dawn and dusk (when animal activity is at its highest) though spotting the elusive red haired ape isn’t guaranteed.

SEPILOK ORANG-UTAN SANCTUARY

For a more guaranteed viewing of Sabah's most famous resident, the orang-utan, a trip to the largest and oldest rehabilitation centre in the world is a must. This place has been an environmental success story long before the prevalence of 'eco-tourism'.

One of only four in the world, the centre aims to rehabilitate and educate the world about some of our closest relations - and the crises affecting them. A short walk through the forest from the adjacent visitors centre - amidst the screech of hornbills – is a raised feeding platform, where feeding takes place twice daily. Like any family gathering, there’s a mixed bag of personalities – some orang-utans are shy, some cheeky (guides will recount the time one unfortunate tourist was stripped naked by an unruly ape).

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo: Sabah's Top Five
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