Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trees in Borneo among world's most productive in recycling carbon


BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei - Researchers are studying the ability of forests in the Sultanate to uptake carbon, with fresh data indicating that trees in Borneo are amongst the world's most productive in recycling carbon.

Dr Lan Qie from Leeds University who delivered a talk at the Faculty of Science at Universiti Brunei Darussalam yesterday, said that tropical forests were by far the most dominant in terms of biomass - a measure of organic matter - in comparison to ecosystems around the globe.

A study examining the differences in wood production above ground level, published in the Journal of Ecology earlier this May indentified that trees are taller per diameter in Southeast Asia compared with South America, allowing greater uptake of carbon.

The study which examined data from 26 hectares of forest and 12,000 trees monitored for more than 20 years calculated the amount of biomass gained in the woody parts of a tree, which can be estimated from repeated measures of tree diameter and estimates of wood density and tree height.

"From data being collected on the tropics in Africa and South America, the data suggests that the most mature forests are absorbing an increasing amount of carbon as they are still growing," she said.

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Tanjung Aru Eco Development project: Building resilience through inclusivity


KOTA KINABALU: Tanjung Aru beach stands to benefit from a sensitive and thoughtful revitalization that truly returns this historic piece of Sabah to its people, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) said yesterday.

Responding to over a year of debate on the pros and cons of the Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED) project, LEAP Executive Director Cynthia Ong raised the need to appreciate the beach as a commons – a resource that belongs to the whole community.

“LEAP advocates and supports an inclusive process in the revitalization of Tanjung Aru’s historic coastline.

“The development of this public space affects our entire community, and decisions about its future should be made with the community, for the community,” Cynthia said in a statement yesterday.

The revitalization of Tanjung Aru Beach calls for a deeper acknowledgment and understanding of the importance of the commons and a truly inclusive process to determine how it can be developed in a way that builds the resilience of the community and preserves the essence of this iconic beach.

Cynthia shared that the commons refer to cultural and natural resources that are available to all members of society and these include water and air. Such resources are held in common, over which people have certain rights, unless this property is transformed into private property through enclosure or privatisation.

“All over the globe, we are losing our commons – our shared and public spaces – to privatisation, and these decisions impact everyone.

“We need to think carefully about the legacy we want to leave future generations, and care for these precious resources for our future mutual benefit. Whether the decision is to privatise or maintain as commons, or a balance between the two, our concern is that the spirit is inclusivity in both process and decision-making,” she said.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nature fest raising awareness of Santubong Peninsula’s natural, historical heritage


KUCHING: Santubong Nature Festival (SNF) will be held at Permai Rainforest Resort on Nov 8 and 9.

A press statement from the Malaysian Nature Society-Kuching Branch (MNSKB) said the festival aims to raise public awareness about the priceless natural and historical heritage (locally and globally) of Santubong Peninsula.

To kickstart the festival, a cycling event will be flagged off at Kuching City North Commission (DBKU) at 7am for riders to make their way to Permai Rainforest Resort and pick up rubbish along the route.

At the resort, the event is expected to be graced by Datuk Bandar DBKU Datuk Abang Wahap Abang Julai at 9.30am.

The festival will continue with several activities and a series of talk at the resort’s Belian and Sepang rooms in the afternoon, followed by guided walks.

Among the topics for the talk starting at 2.30pm are ‘History of Santubong’ by Sarawak Museum, ‘Rainforest Discovery’ by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and ‘Santubong National Park’ by Sarawak Forestry Corporation.

The festivity will continue with a guided walk named ‘Rainforest Walk’ led by MNS and Society of Wilderness (SOW) at 7pm and an astronomy talk and observation by Sultan Iskandar Planetarium and Sarawak Astronomy Society at 7.30pm.

On Nov 9, the exciting Survivor Race starts at 8.30am. It involves cycling, hiking, kayaking, running, swimming and paddling.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Sabah: Rich foreigners' playground a tourism attraction


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is set to be transformed into a rich foreigners' playground of resort and spa with other leisure properties when the Second Sabah Tourism Master Plan is launched by year end to clarify and define the coastal potential for tourism particularly on the West Coast.

It might just be the boost needed for the success of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) campaign here as expatriates rank Malaysia the 19th most desirable country to live and settle down after Switzerland and Singapore which were ranked first and second due to good law and order.

"This is the optimal time to acquire beachfront lands," said a tourism consultant. According to Christopher Boyd, it is still cheap to obtain resort lands in Sabah with prices around RM10 to RM12 per square foot.

The entry of Alila Resorts to Sabah helps to pull other top players in the industry particularly Club Med, now under Mainland Chinese interest, and Aman Resorts, to seriously look into setting up operations here, given the state's natural beauty.

The growth in such leisure tourism sector is going to provide many employment opportunities for the younger generations affording them the means to pay for their own housing needs.

As an example of what is to come, with strong Singaporean lead in the city centre's largest resort – the Sutera Harbour Resort which changed hands recently to Singapore Exchange-listed GSH Corp Ltd having acquired a 77.5 per cent stake in Sutera Harbour Group Sdn Bhd, the owner and operator of the Sutera Harbour Resort vide its wholly-owned subsidiary, Borneo Ventures Pte Ltd.

The Sutera Harbour Resort comprises two five-star hotels – the 500-room Pacific Sutera and 456-room The Magellan Sutera; the 104-berth Sutera Harbour Marina and Country Club; an award-winning 27-hole championship golf course designed by Graham Marsh; and a host of fine dining and recreational facilities.

In the past, GSH, through two of its wholly-owned subsidiaries Ocean View Ventures Pte Ltd and Ocean View Point Pte Ltd, also acquired two separate land parcels totalling nearly 10ha or 25.2 acres (1.1 million sq. ft.) within the 154ha Sutera Harbour property for future luxury condominium development with estimated gross development area of over 2.5 million sq. ft.

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Sabah’s annual Tamu Besar still going 136 years on


KOTA BELUD: Sabah’s annual Tamu Besar celebrates the unique tamu concept which still remains relevant in today’s modern society after it was first held 136 years ago.

“The Tamu is a living symbol of Sabah’s multi-cultural heritage which gathers together people from all walks of life and diverse cultures throughout the state to join in the thrill of trading,” said Kota Belud District Officer Abdul Gari Itam.

Today, the traditional open-air tamu has become an inseparable part of Sabahan life ever since it started in 1878 by the British Resident at Tempasuk who hosted the festival for the leaders to meet the people.

“This festival’s growing popularity eventually inspired other districts to host their own tamu which adds to the vibrant and bustling splendour of Sabah’s multicultural heritage,” said Abdul Gari.

Yesterday’s Tamu Besar festival was vibrant with music, food and smiles from the tens of thousands of people who thronged the affair, one of Sabah’s biggest and most anticipated events of the year.

Great fanfare and camaraderie permeated the festival that put on display Sabah’s profusion of cultures and traditions.

The Tamu Besar transformed into a multi-cultural marketplace, teeming with shoppers and vendors selling an array of traditional snacks, fresh fruits and local handicraft.

The momentous occasion was graced by Head of State Tun Juhar Mahiruddin and his wife Toh Puan Datuk Seri Panglima Norlidah R.M. Jasni.

During the opening ceremony, local talent treated the dignitaries and crowd to a winning display of traditional dances, songs and silat performances.

Among the major attractions was the traditional Ratu Serimpak and the Tanjak Pahlawan – a contest to find the fairest lass and the most dashing lad in town.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Catch Hi Breed in preview of Miri Country Music Fest


KUCHING: The first preview show for Miri Country Music Fest 2015 will be held here today at Utopia.

It will showcase Kuching’s very own country band Hi Breed. The preview show starts from 10pm and Utopia has lined up various interesting programmes before the show.

A household name in the local entertainment scene, Hi Breed will be playing a wide repertoire of country tunes at the show. All band members are self-taught musicians playing country, rock and roll, blues, rock and pop tunes but their passion is for country music.

A well-known country band from Singapore Mel and Joe will join Hi Breed for a jamming session at the preview show.

Both Hi Breed and Mel and Joe will be among bands to perform at the upcoming second edition of the Miri Country Music Fest which is organised by Planet Conventions and Events Sdn Bhd and will be staged at the ParkCity Everly Hotel Miri on Feb 7 next year. Other bands include Kareem Salama from USA, Country Sisters (Czech Republic), Rani and Westom Country Band (Indonesia), Os Pombos (Kuala Lumpur) and Starlet Band (Miri).

With this impressive line-up of bands country music fans can expect another exciting festival next year.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kuching Wetland National Park re-generating with flora and fauna


KUCHING: When Petronas brought some 200 students to plant mangrove (bakau) seedlings on a former dumping ground within the Kuching Wetland National Park (KWNP) in May last year, they never thought that the badly contaminated plot can fully regenerate.

When the students returned with a group of undergraduates from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) to complete their mangrove replanting project at the wetland last week, they were pleasantly surprise to find fish, wetland crabs, birds as well as signs of estuarine crocodiles and mammals such as proboscis monkey and Griffiths silver leaf monkey on the plot they had replanted just 17 months ago.

Coordinator of ecoBako project Violet Tay revealed in a press release yesterday that the mangrove seedlings planted in 2013 with students from seven surrounding schools were growing very quickly.

ecoBako project is a mangrove replanting project at the park undertaken by Petronas in collaboration with Sarawak Forest Department (SFD).

With the help of students and even musicians, Petronas and SFD have replanted more than 3,000 mangrove seedlings on the 5-hectare plot which sits on the bank of Sungai Lemidin that flow across the 6,610 hectares of wetland park.

According to SFD director Sapuan Ahmad, the KWNP are now home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals and fishes.

“The KWNP is now the habitat for 100 species of birds with 42 considered as high conservation value species and the most vulnerable of which is the Lesser Adjutant.

“There are eight species of mammals, of which six are categorised as high conservation value species, such as the Proboscis monkey and the Griffiths Silver Leaf monkey.?The estuarine crocodile can also be found within the wetland,” he said.

He added four species of dolphins, two of which are Irrawaddy Dolphin and Finless Porpoise, were also found swimming at Sungai Lemidin, part of the KWNP.

“The KWNP supports at least 121 species of fishes from 78 genera and 44 families, thus comparable or higher than other mangrove areas in Sarawak in terms of population number and diversity,” he explained.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

All aflutter over Borneo Bird Race


THE sharp granite ridges atop Mt Kinabalu are silhouetted across a blue dawn sky over Sabah, scything through the thin white clouds that are slowly trying to obscure the mountain.

Driving into the park, it looks every bit like the tail of a dragon that one local legend contends is protecting a pearl within.

It is an appropriate place to begin what is known as the Borneo Bird Race 2014.

Deemed a sacred place, the words "kina balu" mean "resting place of the dead". So, over the years, locals never disturbed or cut any of the trees or animals from the area, as they did not want to offend the mountain spirit, and thereby kept the area virtually pristine.

It is truly a beautiful sight.

Kinabalu Park, in Sabah, is undoubtedly one of Malaysia's eco-treasures, covering 754sq km, and is the country's first UNESCO World Heritage site.

It is one of the premier birding destinations in Borneo, ranked in the world's top 10 destinations for birding, and home to more than 33 endemic species of birds.

It is the kick-off point for the Borneo Bird Race, which is now in its second year and has nine teams from around Asia competing for the coveted Bornean Bristlehead Trophy, won last year by the Philippines, who are keen to go back-to-back.

This year, the teams will cover the forests from Sabah to Brunei and Sarawak, more than 1000km, with necks craned high in search of more than 200 species of birds in a bird Olympics of sort.

The teams, consisting of three members each, must correctly identify each bird they see each day over three legs and record the information in a logbook with a marshal overlooking each team to ensure legitimate sightings.

Everybody is excited as they exit the bus in Kinabalu Park, as not only is the prospect of spotting endemic birds they have never seen probable, it is likely they could see a new bird not known to science.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: All aflutter over Borneo Bird Race
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bird-catching with a tepee – Kedayan’s blast from the past


BEKENU: The Kedayan traditional art of catching birds in the forest is diminishing with the dying breed but efforts are being made to expose the younger generation to this practice of their rich heritage in indigenous knowledge, culture and traditions.

Yusof bin Lamat, 61, is one of the remaining of his generation of skilled bird catchers using the technique of luring feathery prey into a structure made of nipah palm leaves and rotan which looks like an (American) Red Indian ‘tepee’ or wigwam (a conical tent) from afar.

Called ‘Bumbun’, the catcher will play a “dukuk” made of bamboo to catch the attention and lure the birds into the tent.

“It takes about four to five hours to put up such a structure,” Yusof said.

The Kedayan community in Kelulit, is bringing this traditional structure back to the public sphere, to expose the younger generation to the dying art.

To propagate the art, a Bumbun was built at Kampung Pejuang in Kelulit, the home village of Rosey Yunus, Bekenu state assemblywoman and Assistant Minister of Family Development and Early Childhood Learning.

In her childhood days, Kedayan traditions included ‘Angkatan’ mobile huts which farmers built to rest while keeping their children safe when they are out to work the paddy fields.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Record participation for Sabah Hospitality Fiesta


KOTA KINABALU: A record number of 252 hotels, resorts, colleges and educational institutions are taking part in the 17th Sabah Hospitality Fiesta 2014 which will be launched at the Suria Sabah Shopping Mall here on Nov 1.

“They include three each from Sarawak and Negeri Sembilan and one from Melaka,” said Stanley Lajiun, the organising chairman of the fiesta themed ‘Colourful Scenes of Malaysia’, which is aimed at bringing about the best hospitality presentation through sight, sound and taste.


Non-MAH members participating are college lecturers/trainers from the professional categories from Kinabalu Park; Kolej Yayasan Sabah; Laban Rata; Manukan Island Resort; Mesilau Nature Resort; Politeknik Kota Kinabalu; Poring Hot Spring and PTPL College.

Also taking part are education institutions in and around Kota Kinabalu and Negeri Sembilan, namely, Asian Tourism International College; Ascot Academy; Cosmopoint Kota Kinabalu; Institut Pelancongan dan Perhotelan Negeri Sembilan; INTI Sabah College; Kiara College; Kolej Yayasan Sabah; Sabah Skills Technology Centre; PTPL College; Politeknik Kota Kinabalu and Tunku Abdul Rahman University College Sabah

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Awareness crucial in populating Kuching Wetland National Park


KUCHING: Environmental awareness plays a crucial role in populating Kuching Wetland National Park with mangrove trees, as shown by the planting of 3,500 saplings this month alone.

Park and Ramsar project manager Sulaiman Jamahari said that four sapling planting programmes were carried out by various parties that organised visits to the wetland.

He estimated that between 40 to 50 hectares of land have been planted with mangrove trees.

Sulaiman was speaking to reporters after the launch of the EcoBako Programme at Kuching Wetland National Park yesterday.

The event was organised by the state Environment Department, Forest Department and Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd Sarawak, together with students from Sekolah Menengah Sains Kuching Utara.

Meanwhile Environment Department Sarawak director Ruslan Mohamad said they are committed to holding activities that increase public awareness, including the planting of mangrove saplings by students.

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Preserve textiles as Sarawak cultural heritage


KUCHING: The richness of textile heritage among the diverse communities in Borneo must be preserved for the benefit of future generations, said Social Development Minister Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom.

Pointing out that Borneo is the third biggest island in the world, he said textiles play a very important role in the cultures of its people.

“Borneo communities are rich with the cultural heritage of textiles. For example, pua kumbu, songket and batik have been connoisseurs’ items and they have been exhibited in most of the famous museums in the country.

“Not only that, the uniqueness resulting from the art and inspiration has been enriched by fashion lovers from our country such as Tom Saufi with his pua kumbu theme.

“As for Indonesia, their Batik is the favourite of many across the world.

“This shows that we are not only rich in moral but the art of weaving,” he said in his speech read by Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage Liwan Lagang at the launching of ‘Pameran Wastra Borneo 2014’ at Sarawak Textile Museum, here, yesterday.

In Sarawak, until now, Pua Kumbu was still considered a sacred textile and motifs of the textile depended on the positions of the weavers.

“It also plays a very important role in Iban customs such as during birth, Gawai celebration, marriage and after ‘ngayau’,” said Mawan.

Neighbouring countries also regard textiles as a treasure that must be preserved, he said, adding that in Indonesia batik was worn by warriors and used as dowry during marriage.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The ‘Amazing Sarawak Culture’ photography contest at Sarawak Cultural Village


KUCHING: The ‘Amazing Sarawak Culture’ photography contest held at Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) attracted over 60 shutterbugs on Sunday.

It was organised by SUPP Youth Pending Branch here.

SUPP Youth chief Tan Kai said the event aimed to promote the colourful cultures and lifestyle of Sarawak through the lens.

“It is also to encourage youths to participate in social activities and lead a healthier lifestyle through leisure activities related to their passion,” he said.

“More importantly, it provides youths the opportunity and avenue to gather and share their passion, experience or simply have a weekend outing,” he added.

The contest was divided into two categories: professional and Facebook online vote.

Shutterbugs roamed the village, also known as a living museum, that sprawls across 17 acres to capture their masterpiece.

It was the best place to explore the traditional cultures and heritage of the major ethnic groups in Sarawak including Malay, Chinese, Iban, Melanau and Bidayuh.

Participants can only submit one photo per category captured in the village that truly reflects the diversity of Sarawak culture.

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Ethnic Culture Tour a way to promote Sarawak heritage


KUCHING: A recent road trip organised by Cultural and Heritage Department could be a great way to promote the state and its cultural heritage to outsiders.

The four-day ‘Ethnic Culture Tour’, which saw over 60 participants taking part in a convoy from Santubong near here to Mukah via Sibu, concluded its 1,200km journey yesterday.

According to the department’s director Salehhudin Md Salleh, the inaugural event has the potential to become an annual event, which explores several interesting locations across the state.

“Apart from finding and exploring places and the people, it helps promote and spur the growth of homestays available at the sites where the tour goes or make stops at,” he said at the closing of the tour at Dewan Sri Santubong yesterday.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Crocker Range accorded Biosphere reserve status


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has officially declared 350,584 hectares of Sabah's Crocker Range Park comprising its core and buffer zones and an expanded transition zone as a Man And Biosphere (MAB) reserve aimed at improving man's relationship with his ecosystems through education and science.

This historic declaration for Sabah marks the second of such honour for Malaysia, after Pahang's Lake Chini on December 8, 2009, out of a total of 620 in the world.

So, it's a very rare breed in the country. Amidst fanfare and pomp of Unesco Day celebration at Dataran Merdeka last Saturday, Unesco Regional Director Professor Dr Hubert Gizjin presented Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin a certificate of recognition which officially declares the 75km long and 15km wide Crocker Range Park as a MAB reserve.

The event has enlarged the original protected core and buffer zones from 199,000 hectares (1,444.92 sq km) to 350,584 hectares by an inclusion of 1457.79 sq km of forest reserves encompassing eight districts - Kota Kinabalu, Penampang, Papar, Beaufort, Tenom, Keingau, Tambunan and Ranau. Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, later handed the designation certificate to Sabah's Assistant Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Nyuk Ming, who represented his Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, witnessed by Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap.

Effectively, this declaration makes Crocker Range Biosphere part of the Sweden's Jonkoping University, known for being the most international university with an extensive exchange partners of 350 universities worldwide, which may prove a good helping hand to share insights and skills on working out a roadmap to improve the protection of Sabah's stock of ecosystems that are under stress.

But unlike the Kinabalu Park which is a totally protected area, the Crocker Range Park hitherto featured Community Use Zones defined areas where traditional human activities may be continued under an innovative co-management system to manage part of the core zones and also the buffer zones, agreed between the protected area or Park Authority and the local communities, in recognition that they were there before the park was established.

What's new about the Crocker Range Biosphere reserve is that it will henceforth incorporate the eight districts afore-cited, into the decision making process where development is going to be based on verified scientific research and continual monitoring. But besides terrestrial ecosystems, biosphere reserves also include the coastal ecosystems.

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MASwings may shift operations to Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: MASwings is said to be contemplating shutting down its Kuala Lumpur office in an attempt to consolidate the airline's operations.

It is also understood that the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) subsidiary may also shift its present hub in Miri to Kota Kinabalu, while its present Kuala Lumpur workforce may be transferred, here.

However, efforts to obtain a confirmation of the plan were futile. The airline had last month indicated there would be a 30 per cent job cut to right-size its operations and speed up the process of transferring Maswings operations here.

Based on news reports, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which owns 70 per cent in MAS, would offer staff four options including accepting employment in a proposed new firm, accepting a voluntary separation scheme, or be re-deployed.

At a press briefing last month, Khazanah Nasional Bhd Managing Director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar announced that a new company would be set up to take over MAS' operations by July 1.

A new Chief Executive Officer would be appointed and the numbers of employees would be reduced to 14,000, while operations will focus on regional routes, before the new firm took over operations next year.

Although the whole exercise including initiating a recovery plan is estimated a whopping RM6 billion, both local Maswings and MAS staff believed the job cutting exercise had already begun.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Star Cruises returns to Sabah with new destination


KOTA KINABALU: Star Cruises will return to Sabah and homeport in Kota Kinabalu from Nov 8 till March 1 next year.

And this time around its 13-storey SuperStar Aquarius will introduce a new destination to Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan Island in the Philippines.

In the offing is a voyage of 4D/3N Kota Kinabalu/Puerto Princesa City, two-night high seas cruise (available alternate week) and the regular one night high seas cruise.

In conjunction with the deployment of SuperStar Aquarius, Star Cruises in collaboration with the Philippine Department of Tourism organised a familiarisation trip to Puerto Princesa on Oct 14-17 to sample some of the tourism attractions that could be promoted to visitors later.

Also in the entourage were local tour and travel agents as well as local and national media members to help sell and promote the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines, which is home to many beautiful sights and natural wonders.

Among the places that the entourage from Malaysia visited include the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new seven wonders of nature. It was endorsed on January 28, 2012.

Visitors will take a paddled boat ride inside the underground river to see the many fascinating rock formations, large bats and deep water hole in the river.

Those who like swimming, snorkelling, diving and enjoy the sandy beach, can take a ride on board the banca, a traditional boat for islands hopping at Honda Bay.

For a day trip, visitors can stopover to see the many type of fishes at Pambato Reef which is a floating platform before heading Pandan Island and Cowrie Island.

There are also many interesting sites within the city to explore and discover and one of such is the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre, formerly known as the Crocodile Farm and Nature Park.

Endangered species like the Philippine Crocodile, as well as other endemic wildlife to the island such as the bearcat, are also protected in the sanctuary.

Also, take a glimpse of the unconventional religious structures by visiting the Immaculate Conception Church, which is famous for its angular structure as well as visit the flea market to find its cultured freshwaters pearls and local crafts.

Activities in the evening beside dinner, the visitors can also go for a quiet paddled river cruise at the Mangrove Eco-Tourism & Wildlife Park for the Iwahig firefly watching.

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Cabbage Festival - It’s raining cabbage in Kundasang


KUNDASANG: Thousands of people from all walks of life thronged the three-day Cabbage Festival to celebrate some of the best and freshest locally-grown produce around.

Due to its cool mountain climate and fertile landscape, the Kundasang highlands is ideal for growing a wide array of temperate vegetables ranging from cabbages, lettuces, spinach, beets, tomatoes and broccoli all year round.

“While it’s a great way to promote local produce, such festival is a great opportunity to promote modern agriculture methods to help farmers grow quality produce more consistently,” said event organising officer, Ramlen Nordin.

Moreover, he added that there is a greater need to help local farmers adopt modern agriculture practices such as fertigation technology which are mainly being operated by companies operating in the area.

Every year, the townsfolk would hold the Cabbage Festival from 17-19 Oct, which provides an opportunity for the local farming community to showcase their wide range of locally-grown cabbage varieties.

“This is a great way to show that local farming communities are just as capable of producing fresh and quality temperate vegetables that meets market standards,” said Farmers Association official, Paimin Wasimin, adding that there were many local and international tourists seen visiting annual cabbage fair.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mount Kinabalu limited to 192 climbers daily


KOTA KINABALU: Policy makers have been urged to think of the future generations when they enact new policies.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun made the call yesterday during the Asia Pacific Ecotourism Conference 2014 (APECO 2014) at the Pacific Sutera Harbour near here yesterday.

He urged policy makers to stop merely thinking of the needs of the present and to also consider the needs of the future generation.

“The present thinking is to take everything now which is very selfish. We need to think of how our policies are going to impact on the future generation,” he said.

Masidi commended the current government, stating that it has already taken steps to create policies that were unpopular yet crucial for the State.

Among the policies that have benefited Sabah, particularly the eco-tourism sector is the State government’s policy of reducing its dependency on logging activities and to protect its forests. The State Government aims to protect 55 percent of its forests.

“It was not a popular policy but we need to differentiate between striving to become popular or striving to make the right decision…we need to work towards what brings bigger benefits to Sabah,” he said.

He also urged leaders, namely policy makers to have the common sense to leave a good legacy.

“It will not be easy but we have to plan beyond our lifetime,” he said.

During the event, Masidi said the government had decided to limit visitors to Sipadan and Mount Kinabalu to 120 divers and 192 climbers, respectively on a daily basis.

He said that the carrying capacity for both the tourism destination in Sabah was fixed so as to protect their pristine nature.

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Only licensed boats to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park will do in future


KOTA KINABALU: Boat operators ferrying visitors from the city to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park will need a special licence from Sabah Parks to do so in the future.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun on Friday said the ministry is now looking into allowing only licensed operators to the marine park, which is already troubled by overcrowding and rubbish.

"This is to ensure only bona fide boat operators can ferry tourists to the islands. We no longer need to close one eye over the issue even though they (the boat operators) may be our friends or if they claimed that they were only out there to fish," he said after officiating at the Asia Pacific Ecotourism Conference 2014, here.

According to Masidi, officers from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture had recently reprimanded several boat operators ferrying visitors to the island illegally.

While several city tourist guides claimed such operators had been behind the massive numbers of visitors on the island, some of them were also found not abiding by any safety ruling.

He said this is one of the reasons why the ministry had been mulling a carrying capacity on Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, which was becoming more like a "night market."

"I have seen the crowd and rubbish and we take this matter seriously.

"Perhaps there are two reasons for this, either Sabah Parks is not doing its job or the islands have reached their limit," he said.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

The Death of the Orangutan


There are many critically endangered species in the world, yet none are more intelligent and gentle than the famous orangutan.

OK, I admit: I have ventured into the jungles of Sumatra myself to see these amazing apes. So why am I moaning that other people are doing the same, you may be asking yourself?

Well, for me, it’s all about responsible tourism. The guides you use in places such as Bukit Lawang in Sumatra, and also over in Borneo (Kalimantan, Indonesia, and Sabah, Malaysia) form a big part of how we can be responsible when thinking about getting close to these amazing and endangered orangutans.

I don’t think it is a problem to enjoy marvelling at the orangutans before they become extinct in the wild, and there are many great ‘voluntourism’ opportunities when you are in the area if that is your kind of thing.

However, it is important not to get too close and touchy-feely with the red apes as they can catch deadly diseases from Humans. Additionally, do not feed the orangutans, as this will discourage them from hunting (although you can sometimes see them being fed by the rehab centre staff on feeding platforms in the jungle).

The Orangutan Conservancy estimates that there are only 40,000 orangutans left in the wild as of 2014, and this number has been reduced drastically from 60,000 as recent as 2004.

In the past decade alone then, we have seen the number of wild orangutans reduce by one third.

Most of this is down to habitat loss and the threat of human danger in the form of illegal poaching, and it is believed that within 25 years orangutans could be completely extinct – that’s as early as 2039!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Death of the Orangutan
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Borneo International Kite Festival 2014


It was Friday, I knew it was Friday, it was Friday the 26th, September. It was a sleepless night, though I knew exactly why it was a sleepless night. Bed seems to be a roll-all-over place instead of a sleeping crib.

Arghh! I knew I shouldn’t have drank before sleep. Too much drinking makes me heaty and sleepless. Woke up and I looked at the clock, it was 4am.

From the small opening under my rooms’ door, I can see a throbbing light coming in from the kitchen. Damn! My mom is up early. Owh! Today is the day, it is that one day that I have to travel early to the airport and catch an early flight.

Today is the day that I’m flying to Bintulu, Sarawak for the Borneo International Kite Festival 2014.

Woohoo~

I have to bug my dad to drive me to the airport that morning. Accompanied by my mom, we reached the airport about 15min before 6am. I didn’t wait long to check-in myself because my flight is scheduled to depart at 7.10am.

Checking in early gave me enough time to roam the airport and make my final check on my luggage. For this trip, I packed both my Stylus 1 and 60D. Hopefully they are sufficient to cover for the assignment.

Reaching at Bintulu around 8am, I met with the other team members from Sarawak Tourism Board which will assist and guide me to cover the BIKF event.

During the entire trip, we were staying in Kemena Plaza Hotel, one of the biggest hotel in Bintulu town, and is also the official hotel for the participants and media for BIKF 2014.

While having our breakfast, we discussed and planned the activities for the day. We decided to check out the festival ground and events in the afternoon.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo International Kite Festival 2014
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sarawak Forestry investigating tours of Lanjak Entimau Wild Life Sanctuary


KUCHING: Sarawak Forestry is currently gathering information regarding the alleged encroachment of the Lanjak Entimau Wild Life Sanctuary by tour agencies and their clients.

Its chief executive officer Datu Ali Yusop said in a statement yesterday that permission to enter the strict conservation area would only be given to researchers and selected persons whom the controller of wild life has determined to have legitimate business with the management of sanctuaries.

“We hope that all members of the public, as well as the tour operators are aware of this law. These areas have been identified as critical wildlife habitats and are highly sensitive.

“We are preserving them by ensuring that no human activities other than permissible research are conducted there. We would advise all tour operators that advertise tour packages in Lanjak Entimau Wild Life Sanctuary boundaries to stop those advertisements immediately,” he said of recent events where certain parties had offered Lanjak Entimau ecotourism activities and tour packages via their blogs.

He stressed that strict action would be taken against the perpetrators as Wild Life Sanctuaries in Sarawak are totally protected areas under which Section 24(1) of the Wild Life Protection Ordinance, 1998 stipulates: “No person shall enter a Wild Life Sanctuary unless he first obtains a written permission from the Controller of Wild Life thereof authorising him to do so.”

Those contravening the Section would be liable to one year in prison and a fine of RM5,000.

Lanjak Entimau Wild Life Sanctuary comprises a large part of hilly terrains between Batang Rajang in the north and Batang Lupar in the south of Sarawak.

It is home to the endangered orangutan Pongo pygmaeus and rare Rafflesia, as well as other totally protected species such as Bornean gibbons and hornbills.

Also found in Lanjak Entimau Wild Life Sanctuary are 21 species of flora which are critically endangered, while another 20 are endangered.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rebranding of ‘Sarikei Pineapple Fest’ - New ‘menu’ from fruits to Sarikei Food Basket


SARIKEI: The rebranding of ‘Sarikei Pineapple Fest’ is a bold step aimed at propelling the development of the division in various aspects.

Whatever the new name it is given, including ‘Sarawak Fruits Festival’ as suggested by Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg recently, the whole idea is to widen its scope by incorporating as many sectors as possible such as economy, agriculture, education, social, etc., into its fattened ‘menu’.

Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office, Datu Len Taliff Salleh, who stated this when officiating at the closing ceremony of Pineapple Fest 2014 here on Sunday night, said the rebranded festival would be directed at promoting the division as the state’s main food producer or “Food Basket of Sarawak” and as a tourism destination.

“No doubt, this is a big challenge for various agencies in particular and the people of Sarikei in general as it requires a new ‘chemistry’ and ideas,” he pointed out.

He hoped all parties concerned would be open-minded in anticipating new challenges and ideas.

In that respect, Len concurred with Sarikei Resident Dahim Nadot in calling for the public to channel feedback on ways to improve the standard of the event from time to time.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

White Water Rafting in Padawan


Just last August I was invited by Sarawak Tourism Board on behalf on Sarawak Bloggers to participate in Padawan White Water Rafting Safari, which takes place annually for the past ten years in Padawan, Kuching.

And for someone who came all the way Borneo, I never knew white water rafting even existed here back home – what more to say that it’s been ongoing since 2004. I was practically living in the dumps.

And if you’re imagining this type of white water rafting, think again. Our version of white water rafting leans more to basic, hardcore version of the borneo rainforest style…

…with massive supplies of bamboos.

Yes, the Padawan Raft Safari is a bamboo rafting competition held annually in Padawan, Kuching, cruising all the way along the Sarawak Kiri river. I was accompanied by Hilda, another fellow blogger who made it through the trip and together we made such a quirky team! It felt as if we’re both major paparazzis, trying to capture every snapshots, moments and pictures throughout the event like nobody’s business.

Ever since its debut back in 2004, the Padawan Raft Safari has been gaining various supports from locals and tourists itself, and has been accommodating up to 200 participants per year. Divided into several categories, the competition hosts Expert, Men Open, Women Open, Government Departments and Hotels and Tour Agencies up to one’s strength and comfort zone.

Each categories has its own course of rafting throughout the river, with 40km for the Expert categories and 26km for the rest.

And of course, being no expert ourself both Hilda and I joined the ‘rest’ categories…on a long boat. You surely did not expect us to make the 26km worth on rafting on our own do you? ;) I’m sure we wouldn’t even last 10 minutes if we did!

It was definitely not an easy task to maneuver the 5m long worth of bamboo raft across the Sarawak Kiri river. The entire journey took us roughly three and a half hours and even on the long boat it seemed like an eternity.

You’ll need a very good raft to proceed, preferably those made from larger and dried bamboos for it to stay afloat and lighter to maneuver.

Bamboo rafting has been a traditional mean of transport for the Dayak tribe for the longest of time, and while most had upgraded theirs to a slightly modern long boat – the tradition still remains.

Bamboos are generally sustainable as it grows pretty quick, and most Dayak tribes used bamboos in many ways – from building longhouses to cooking and many more.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: White Water Rafting in Padawan
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Community service schemes prove successful at Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary


IN the past, there was so much misconception and protest over the gazettement of Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (LEWS).

When the government gazetted the forests as national parks, the local people said the area would be given away for logging.

Now, they realise the gazettement is a government effort to conserve the environment and they are helping to stop unscrupulous people entering the area to catch their fish or hunt the protected animals.

The mindset of the people living near LEWS has changed. They no longer depend solely on the forests for their livelihood.

Fish rearing and fruit farming have not only helped solve their food supply problems but also brought additional income to families and longhouses surrounding the Sanctuary.

As headman of Rumah Anthony Bau confessed: “We’re very grateful to the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), for sponsoring the community development project (CDP) in our longhouse.

“We also thank the Sarawak Forest Department for implementing the project which has helped improve our livelihood.

“Besides, the initiatives undertaken by the two agencies have also raised awareness among us not to be too dependent on the natural resources found in LEWS for our livelihood.”

The CDP was implemented by the Forest Department’s Community Service Initiatives (CSI).

Anthony recalled at one time the relationship between the local communities, including those from his longhouse, and Sarawak Forestry was a bit strained.

This, he noted, was due to the community’s own fault, as they had blindly protested the setting up of LEWS.

“We protested because we weren’t aware of Sanctuary’s importance to us, especially when we relied solely on the forest and its resources for a living.

“Now, I thank the two agencies for their community projects which have made it easier for us to earn a living from other sources,” he said at the launch of the tagang system at his longhouse.

The headman said families at his longhouse were learning to become more enterprising and had been earning additional income from the indigenous fruits they planted and fish they reared in valley ponds.

He said aside from that, the relationship between the local community and Sarawak Forestry had become more cordial, adding that they always fully supported any development involving the local community in his longhouse.

The 19-door Rumah Anthony Bau is one of the longhouses located near LEWS. It’s  about 40km from Sibu and between three and four hours boatride from Nanga Entabai in Jalau.

LEWS, covering 193,039 hectares of relatively undisturbed primary forest, is located in southwestern Sarawak.

The area includes patches of rugged terrains and hills, and Bukit Lanjak forms the highest peak which stands 1,285 metres above sea level.

Formerly constituted as a protected forest, the area was reconstituted as a Wildlife Sanctuary in February 1983 due to large presence of orangutans and hornbills.

It is believed there are over 30 Iban longhouses in the area, located along Sungei Engkari, Katibas, Ngemah, Kanowit and Mujok.

When the Sanctuary was set up, the longhouses were granted rights to collect forest produce in three designated areas. The activities, however, impacted negatively on the Sanctuary.

Cooperation from the local communities was also lacking in the past as they did not understand the purpose of conservation and felt the government was depriving them of the use of the forest in LEWS that provided their many daily needs.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Asia Music Festival 2014 - "Rock and Roll" All Night Long


This is the second year Asia Music Festival held. Had so much fun this year covering it under media. Drop by last year but just as a spectator. I had only went for a day and couldn't do much comparison on it. Definitely with a different status, there's much "behind the scene" that I get to explore compare to the crowd that is just a spectator. An experienced that you can never buy!

Sarawak Tourism Board had always aware of CSR and Tree Planting is something that will never be sorted out of the list of an event. For every event that they had organised they will do the least to contribute back to the society and definitely to the mother nature. Therefore, the starting of any event will always begin with the Tree Planting ceremony.

Everyone were contributing their little efforts to the mother nature. Us, the Sarawak Bloggers were doing our part too! How can we be missed out for such meaningful ceremony!

Before the real show starts, we have a chance to gets closer with the performers in accordance to know anything about them, of course something related to their music and performance. Either from their background, history, their genre of musics to their line of story who made them who they are today.

You will be surprise to find there's so many talented bands that is yet to be explored across Asia. Bringing them here to the Asia Music Festival sharing their hard work and music across the globe, the least we, Mirian, fellow Malaysian, get to know who they are. I am glad STB had found this hidden gem!

DRUMCALL, MALAYSIA

Just the perfect selection to kick start on the first day! They say you have to start your day with a good breakfast in order to be energetic and fresh, DrumCall is definitely the most awesome "breakfast"! The massively loud drum definitely not gona makes you feel uncomfortable. Combination of the drum blending well just like a cup of coffee that are mixed with their best partner, sugar and creamer! That's how smooth their performance were!~

PISCO, TAIWAN

Energetic band from Taiwan, music genre with combination of Piano and disco music and that's also the combination of their name, PISCO! Their hyper performance especially the lead singer and the bassist heat up the crowd. Their music definitely keep your heart beating but their lyrics is totally the opposite of it. Just like how they described, "fierce look but with a soft heart"! That's the proverb which I think is the closest to described them. When both comes together, it work just like ying & yang which is inseparable!

RAS MUHAMMAD, INDONESIA

Legendary icon in his home country and also ambassador of Reggae music, none other than Ras Muhamad! Inspired and influenced by Bob Marley since he was a kid had lead him to who he is today. His music were more genuine reggae with Indonesia element specially inserted his own home country culture. Strong and influencing performance. Reggae never failed to make everyone have their body move along with its music!

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Sabah Beads, a tourist’s love Sabahans may take for granted


Beads, once worn by men and women to show their status in society, have evolved to become a global fashion trend. In Sabah, it only comes second in popularity as a heritage, after the traditional tribal attire. Perhaps changing of the times has altered the cultural regard for the importance of beads as a symbol of wealth and social status.

“In the old days, these beads were used as adornment, endowed with spiritual power and used as collateral or currency and even as a healing implement. Beads were worn as a display of beauty and indicator of wealth and prominence in society as a currency and as methods of counting and reckoning,” said Sabah Museum Director, Joanna Kitingan.

According to her, back then, beads were made from precious material, such as fossil, coral, pearl, amber, iron, gold, silver, copper and even animal teeth. In contrast with today, beads are mostly made from plastic and rubber. From being highly valued accessories, beads are now commonly seen as tourist trinkets given to visitors as souvenirs and as trendy accessories for the “hip” youth.

“It’s a good thing if you look at it from a different perspective. Seeing many people wearing our local beads means more than just living the Sabahan culture,” said Joanna. Many local women earn their livelihood by selling the beads as accessories, she added.

Recently, Joanna gave a talk on Sabahan beads entitled, “Importance of beads in our society” at the Sabah Society secretariat in Damai. The talk was attended by locals as well as foreigners. She said beads are treated as heirlooms and played a major part in the cultural history of Sabah having existed through many civilisations.

Knowing that beads played a very significant role in Sabah’s history, the Sabah Museum has been collecting original beads since 1965 while tracing the sources of these beads.

“We have collected more than 100 beads so far and we are still locating and tracing some other beads,” she said adding that it is the role of the museum to preserve the historical objects and to create a safe and trusted haven for objects that have cultural and spiritual potency.

It is also our duty to make sure the public will gain the utmost access to these historical treasures,” said Joanna.

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Santubong Nature Festival to be held from Nov 8 to 9



KUCHING: Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) in collaboration with Malaysian Nature Society, Kuching will be holding Santubong Nature Festival from Nov 8 to 9.

The event at Permai Rainforest Resort aims to improve the level of understanding and create awareness among members of the public on the nature and history of Santubong.

With its focus set to include both the local and international crowd, the festival will look into the aspect of landscape management, biodiversity, assets and potential tourism attraction and recreational activities around Santubong.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Borneo Dream: Conquering Mount Kinabalu Part 2 [ Way Up To The Summit ]


We woke up at 1.30am to prepare ourselves for the final stretch of the climb to the peak.

Had an early breakfast to gain some strength for our way up the notorious trail going to the summit.

We met our guide, Francis outside the Laban Rata and we started our climb to the peak at 2.30am.

Coupled with our headlights, thermal wear, jackets and windbreakers, we headed off in the dark and cold night into the dark, always mysterious forest.

The blinking headlamps of the climbers served as a kind morse code for others to keep going.

The journey up was dark, windy and lots of hikers at the beginning of the trail.

The terrain gradually changes from dirt tracks to steep boulder-like tracks.

It became difficult as boulders gets slippery. Due to the absence of trees and easily accessible branches, there were strategically placed ropes at certain spots.

The strong wind became our companion throughout the climb. Sometimes I was on all four just to get myself up another step.

And then I saw the stretch of the trail with rope and steep stone granite path.

I remembered staring at the trail for a while thinking “How am I going to get up there with that rope?”

At one point we sat to rest and could hear the loud sound of the winds, which sounded like the waves in the ocean.

The strong the winds were blowing at that elevation. For us Filipinos who have never experienced winter or extreme cold weather were felt foreign in this kind of weather.

It is this same air, silently thinning as we go up, that threatened the breaths of several climbers.

As we go along, some people had thrown up due to nausea from altitude sickness.

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Baby Orangutans in Borneo


As part of our upcoming trip, we just got tickets to an “orangutan experience” this weekend at Rasa Ria Resort in Borneo, AND I AM SO EXCITED!

I have this weird thing where I really love observing animals but am seriously terrified of getting up close and personal with them.

I’m not too proud to admit that during first grade I sobbed from fear when someone brought in their bunny rabbit for show-and-tell…. and I remember seven-year-old me frantically bicycling away from a barking chihuahua…

And I am currently, and probably always will be, terrified of anything that slithers (I’m looking at you, Thai lizards).

But put me behind the safety of binoculars or behind a car door, and I am all about animals. I eat that shiz up.

So checking out these semi-wild orangutans from the safety of a viewing platform? Right up my alley.

We tried to go whale watching while we were in Iceland last year, but stupidly, we booked the boat tour for our last day in Reykjavik and the weather ended up being too bad for us to go out on the water safely that day.

So no whales for me :( Even after living in Hawaii for a while, I have still never seen a whale in the wild *sigh* Someday…

This time, we made sure to book the orangutan visit for the first day of our trip. Lesson learned.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Baby Orangutans in Borneo
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