Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Pin the Map Project: How I Got Lost in the Borneo Jungle


Afternoon in Borneo. The sweat drips down my body, filling every curve and crevice. My knees, my stomach, my neck are all damp as the jungle wraps itself around me like an uncomfortable sweater.

My legs are streaked in dirt, covering layers of mosquito spray and suntan lotion beneath. More than twenty four hours on a riverboat and my transformation from clean-washed city slicker to Jungle Jane has been nothing short of extraordinary.

If given another few days in Borneo, I just might grow accustomed to mosquito net clad beds and mud-streaked limbs. After nearly 48 hours in the jungle, perhaps I already am.

I’m walking along the trails of Camp Leaky—one of the oldest animal research centers in the world—specializing in the conservation and protection of wild orangutans in Central Borneo. Camp Leaky was established in the 1970s and is an ongoing research project exploring the nuances of orangutan behavior and their social dynamics.

Before Camp Leaky, orangutans—native only to Borneo and neighboring Sumatra—were driven to the brink of extinction. More than 8 million acres of South East Asia’s forests have been destroyed in the name of Palm Oil plantations.

The profitability of palm oil—an ingredient used in everything from soaps to snack foods—tosses dollar signs in the eyes of many; leaving wildlife—such as orangutans—as victims. It’s a classic story of greed, profit and collateral damage in one of the world’s last bio-diverse sanctuaries.

Tourism in Borneo is of grave importance now. The need to attract people, showcase the local wild orangutans and inspire action are what draw travelers to this remote island between Malaysia and Indonesia.

I am traveling with a group of strangers; mostly writers brought together from various countries for the sake of shining light on Indonesia’s less visited destinations. I guess you can say I’m a travel writer. Like my fellow trip mates, I have come to South East Asia on the wings of my writing—a reality I still have trouble grasping.

Admittedly, my life as a travel writer is an odd juxtaposition. On one hand, I am afforded travel experiences around the world—a visit to Borneo, a camel trek in Morocco, a market tour in the Philippines—on the other hand, I cringe each time I check my bank account balance when back in my over priced, undersized New York apartment.

Since leaving my career in advertising, calling off my wedding and moving into a new apartment—all in pursuit of a travel writing dream—I have felt both free yet lost. Financial woes nip at my heels while the promise of the next great writing assignment beckons from behind every corner.

It’s why I’m now in Indonesia—despite being in dire need of a reliable source of income—I flipped my life upside down in pursuit of this passion. When it calls me, I come running—even if I’m running across the world for it.

A hike from Camp Leaky’s riverboat dock finds my fellow travelers and I at a feeding observation spot in the middle of the Borneo jungle. Set up like an inverse zoo, humans sit in a roped off enclosure while wild orangutan munch on bananas just feet ahead.

A row of rickety, wooden benches placed in front of a single, nylon rope separates visiting tourists from the large apes. It’s the way animal viewing should be; without cages, crowds and ticket lines. The red-orange fur of the orangutans glows as the afternoon sun hits their backs.

A bald, baby orangutan clings to its mother like life support as she gently feeds him. A younger male orangutan—the ape equivalent of a teenager—proves mischievous as he bundles bananas in his arms and slinks off into the trees with his loot.

I’m inches from the rope, entranced by the orangutans in front of me. Their interactions play out like some sort of Borneo-style soap opera. There’s the doting mother, there’s the trouble making neighbor, there’s the stubborn father. The very word “orangutan” is a Malaysian/Indonesia word for “people of the forest” and as I watch these animals with their human-like tendencies, I can see why.

.
.

Labels: ,

Shot in the arm for Sarawak homestays


MIRI: Tourism and Culture Ministry has included 35 homestay destinations in Sarawak under its promotion packages.

The move will enable the ministry to promote this segment at international tourism roadshows.

The ministry’s Sarawak office director Suriya Charles Buas said the move by the federal ministry would be of tremendous benefit to Sarawak’s tourism players.

Speaking at a recent seminar for Sarawak homestay operators from northern Sarawak here, he said the ministry viewed Sarawak as a place of fascinating and exotic appeal.

“Currently, 35 registered homestays in Sarawak are in the ministry’s list of destinations that we promote during our global roadshows.

“The homestay segment of the tourism industry in Sarawak needs to be more widely promoted because Sarawak has many fascinating spots in rural areas.

“The homestay segment is still not much known due to lack of promotions. The ministry wants to aggressively beef up marketing of these homestay services.

“Sarawak has vast untapped potential in the homestay industry and with more coordinated promotions at domestic and international levels, we can give the rural destinations more publicity,” he said.

Buas said that last year, some 31,379 tourists stayed at homestays in Sarawak.

This number could be raised significantly with the right promotion strategies, he noted.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Shot in the arm for Sarawak homestays
.
.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Price of Travel: Borneo on a budget - Where to go and what to see


Borneo is an amazing adventure destination and one not to miss if you love the outdoors and activities such as hiking and snorkeling. That’s not to say there aren’t things to do for the traveler who likes to take it easy – there’s beautiful beaches to laze about on and luxury hotels that aren’t too expensive to enjoy.

Borneo is one of the more expensive places to visit in South East Asia. But that’s not to say a holiday there still can’t be done on a budget. You can certainly do most things even by spending just US$40 a day, especially if you map out your adventures before you get there.


When to visit Borneo

Borneo is in the tropics so you can expect it to be hot and humid year round. In fact, the average humidity is a steady 80%, so be prepared to get your sweat on. In some areas though, Borneo is quite mountainous and the higher altitudes provide some cool relief.

Down at sea level, you can expect the temperatures to range between 80F – 90F (27 and 32°C) all year long. Rainfall varies throughout the different months and can be sporadic. It generally rains the most between November and March, but even during these months it can be unpredictable – you can visit Borneo during this time and still have a string of bright and sunny days.

Many people come to Borneo to experience the unique wildlife and some of the best times for this are between June and August. This is when it’s the fruiting season, meaning many of the primates, namely orangutans, come down for the tops of the trees to feast on the fruit.


Places to visit in Borneo

Borneo is located in the rugged north of Malaysia and you could really spend a good month travelling around Borneo. However, if you are a bit short on time then I’ve outlined the best parts and must see places to go to.

Kuching

Kuching is one of the main cities in Borneo and a good starting point for your trip. It is a modern city and there’s a lively nightlife with a beautiful riverside walk that is spectacular at sunset.

The museums in the town and activities nearby, such as the Sarawak Cultural Village and the orangutan center, should keep you occupied for a few days at least. Bako National Park is also a brilliant place to spot wildlife and is only about an hour from Kuching.

Sandakan

Located in the north-east of Borneo, in the state of Sabah, Sandakan is a historical place that holds a lot of significance for World War II.

Learn about the region’s brutal history by visiting the site of Japanese prisoner of war camps, housed in a beautiful forest. The Sandakan Memorial Park is the site of ‘death marches’ in which more than 2,000 prisoners died walking from Sandakan to Ranau. Just six Australians survived their horrific imprisonment in the area: and only because they escaped.

Another historical place to visit is the Japanese cemetery where many prostitutes from the war are buried. A prominent madam founded by the cemetery, which also hosts a monument dedicated to fallen Japanese soldiers.

Sandakan is a good jumping off point for exploring the rest of the Sabah region. From here, you can travel about four hours to reach the Kinabatangan River. This is a great place to see amazing amounts of wildlife in Borneo.

.
.

Labels: , ,

Tea break at breathtaking Sabah Tea Garden


RANAU: The final piece to Sabah Tea’s RM1 million makeover was complete with the launching of its all-new restaurant on Saturday by Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun.

“Giving priority to eco-tourism initiatives on natural attractions and promoting unique local products is proving to be highly rewarding ventures that promise stronger profits for the long-term, while conserving the environment,” he said.

Masidi, in his address, commended the reopening of the restaurant and tea house highlighting Sabah Tea Garden soaring tea fields, nestled at 2,480 hectares of lush rainforest, possessed some of the district’s most prized natural and historical attractions has to offer for tourists.

“Sabah Tea Garden is a refuge to some of the best natural attractions in Ranau and has everything it takes to emerge big winners in the eco-tourism industry,” he said.

Being the one and only certified organic tea in Malaysia, Sabah Tea Garden offers visitors a unique experience and Sabah’s authentic agro-tourism destination.

The newly redesigned Tea Shop and English-style Sabah Tea restaurant offers visitors stunning views of its tea plantation facing the iconic Mt Kinabalu, serving up brand new menu, including in-house specialty green-tea ice-cream, waffles, scones and pancakes made fresh from the finest, home-grown tea leaves and spread of Borneo-inspired cuisine.

Apart from nature-adventure tours, the Sabah Tea Garden is also refuge to the historical Quailey’s Hill Memorial which was built to commemorate Australian Prisoners of War (POW), who were killed by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War in 1945.

Stressing the importance of preserving Sabah’s prized natural attraction, Masidi said the resort owners should focus on preserving the plantation’s pristine jungles, develop its ecotourism potential instead of opening land for oil palm plantation.

“Although palm oil plantation is a cash crop but it’s not going to entice tourists from coming to the resort – I hope there won’t be any more expansion of palm oil plantations here,” he said, adding more priority needs to be given to preserve the surrounding jungles, forests to tap into its ecotourism potential.

“It makes more sense for Sabah Tea to develop the ecotourism potential of the jungles, forests and natural attractions right here at the resort, for instance – an eco-friendly chalet in the middle of the jungle or activities for tourists to indulge in the spread of tropical fruits from a nearby orchard,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tea break at breathtaking Sabah Tea Garden
.
.

Labels: , ,

Indonesia to enhance tourism ties with Sarawak


KUCHING: The Indonesian Consulate General in Kuching is aiming for more active collaboration between Indonesia and Sarawak’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to mutually boost their respective tourism industries.

Its consul general Jahar Gultom said several steps were discussed during a recent meeting with the Ministry of Tourism in Kuching to ensure that the tourism industries in Malaysia and Indonesia will continue to flourish.

“This includes organising regular tourism activities near the borders.

“We have agreed to help each other in promoting tourism destinations and products along the border, as well as in matters regarding infrastructure including transportation. We have also set up a working committee to tackle issues that may arise in our efforts to boost economic activities and tourism industries in both Indonesia and Sarawak,” said Jahar when met during the Wonderful Indonesia Festival in Entikong recently.

Jahar emphasised that the Wonderful Indonesia Festival could strengthen ties between locals and foreigners as well as enhance the good relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia.

“The Consulate has been making great efforts to promote the event through websites, local and social media, as well as word-of-mouth to locals in Sarawak and other places outside Indonesia.

“We aim to have regular activities near the borders so that people, especially from Sarawak, can come here often,  maybe during weekends, to watch live performances and have a good taste of the local food products here.

“This will also help in fostering better relationships between locals and visitors as well as increase economic activities,” said Jahar.

The Indonesian products being offered near the borders are very much different to what Sarawak has, and according to Jahar, these must receive greater promotion.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Indonesia to enhance tourism ties with Sarawak
.
.

Labels:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ikimasho!: My base in Brunei - Badi’ah Hotel, Bandar Seri Begawan


The sights and sounds of the city within walking distance – or water taxi.

I first visited Borneo seven years ago, spending three weeks in the Malaysian state of Sabah with my ex from Northern Ireland.

On that particular trip I always remember toying with the idea of going to Brunei, but for whatever reason it just never happened.

Perhaps it was because to get to Borneo we had to fly from Belfast to London to Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu – the thought of any more travel most likely put us off.

This time around, however, I had no excuse. Already based in Kota Kinabalu, my flight to Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan, took just 30 minutes – with the return ticket only costing $60 / £50.

As a side note here I have to say that Royal Brueni Airlines is perhaps the best low-cost carrier I have ever flown with.

The plane and staff were immaculate – and despite it being such a short flight, passengers were offered newspapers and cold juice. I was also told I could sit wherever I wanted after take-off.

It just goes to show that you can indeed run an airline with great service while still keeping the costs low. Ryanair in Europe in particular could learn a few things here.


Arrival in Bandar Seri Begawan

I got chatting to the guy in the row next to me while on the plane. He was from Nagoya in Japan, on his was to Brunei for just one night to meet a friend.

Once we landed we both came out into the arrivals hall only to find out we were both staying in the same hotel, the Badi’ah.

A driver was waiting to take us to the hotel – always a major bonus when you are arriving somewhere new, allowing you to avoid the logistical worries of getting yourself into town.

I still always find it funny when someone holds up my name on a card at the airport, it’s a good feeling!

On our short ride back to the hotel our super friendly driver, Atoi, pointed out many landmarks along the way.

One thing I immediately noticed was how calm it was compared to Kota Kinabalu.

The streets of Bandar Seri Begawan are wide, clean and in great condition.

It’s evident that Brunei as a country is financially better off than its neighbours.

.
.

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Miri set to become an international dive destination


MIRI: Miri is set to become an international dive destination within the next five years because of its rich marine biodiversity.

According to world dive industry icon Clement Lee Ngak Yeo from Sabah, among the attractions are the untapped wonders in the 28 diving sites.

The sites are home for over 3,000 species of fish and breeding grounds for 600 of 800 species of coral reefs in the world, making Miri waters the richest in coral reef species and marine life.

The sites cover 100,000km of coral reefs which is about 34 per cent of the total worldwide. But the question is how will these coral reefs and other marine life able to withstand threats and challenges from both human being and natural phenomenon like bleaching.

thesundaypost had the opportunity last Saturday to attend a talk on Reef Check Miri project by its coordinator Joyce Sivalingam, from the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Miri Chapter, and another MNS member Iqbal Abdollah who shared some insights into the recent coral reef check project in Brunei.

Coincidently on Thursday (Aug 25) there was Shell Sustainable Development (SD) Grants Showcase Event 2016 in Miri, where MNS Miri and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) were the beneficiaries of the fund. RM60,000 was allocated this year for Coral Reef propagation, a continuation of the coral reef conservation programme in Miri, which Shell had provided grants in 2009 and 2015.

Managing director of Sarawak Shell Berhad Simon Durkin in his speech, said the reef conservation programme was part of Shell’s efforts to conserve Miri’s pristine underwater world for all to enjoy. The fund was part of the RM125 million pledged for the next 10 years.


Reef Check Miri

Joyce, during her talk entitled ‘The Beauty Beneath – Coral Reefs’ said since 2004, Reef check efforts in Miri were predominantly conducted by Shell employees. With the grant, MNS Miri was able to expand the pool of eco-divers, to empower recreational divers to play an active role in monitoring and conserving the reefs in Miri.

The eco-divers, comprise individuals from Petronas, Shell, Curtin University Sarawak and local agencies including MNS Miri.

The project covers six selected dive sites within the Miri-Sibuti Marine Protected Area namely Siwa 4A, Siwa Penyu, Anemone Centre, Anemone North, Sunday Reef and Eve’s Garden.

“Miri is one of the few locations where Reef Check efforts are driven and sustained for 12 years now by the local community independently. This was possible with the continuous support of volunteer divers, dive marshals of Piasau Divers, support from relevant authorities and funding from the Shell SD grant,” she said.

According to Joyce, the 2015 Annual Survey Report by Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) reported that from the survey data submitted for these sites, 50% were in fair condition, 33% in good condition and the remaining 17% were in poor condition.

“The reefs surveyed were found to have 45.7% live coral cover below the average of 58.2% for the Sunda Shelf Region. Two fish indicator species (Bumphead parrotfish and Humphead Wrasse) were absent from the survey while snappers were the highest species recorded.

The abundance of invertebrates however was observed to be low. The survey report highlights that as fish populations recorded on these surveys seems to be consistently low, over fishing may be a problem impacting coral reefs in Miri,” she added.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Miri set to become an international dive destination
.
.

Labels: ,

Gazetting Bukit Sarang and Binyo Penyilam as national parks


Backgrounds of the two proposed areas

DO you love nature and photography? Do you like flora such as pitcher plants and wild orchids or do you love fishing or even caving? If you do, then you might want to put down these two new places — Bukit Sarang and Binyo Penyilam — in your personal notebook.

Apart from the oil and gas industry, little is known about Bintulu’s unique forests and landscapes.

Bukit Sarang and Binyo Penyilam are two unique forest landscapes, located in the Bintulu region of Sarawak. Both areas are well-known for their rich natural resources. Binyo is a breeding ground for fish, especially Tapah (wallago leerii), while Bukit Sarang is known for natural bird’s nests and limestone caves.

Apart from these highly valued commercial resources, little is known about what these areas have to offer. Hence, it is important to know both are now undergoing transformation into National Parks.

Currently coming under the Planted Forest Project is an industrial tree plantation area covering Binyo and Bukit Sarang. Both are considered as conservation areas which are important for the unique landscapes as well as the rare, threatened or endangered species.

“The gazettement of both areas as National Parks will further enhance the protection of the biodiversity and recognise the importance of the areas as a reservoir for some rare, threatened or endangered species, including some new species” said Joanes Unggang, conservation manager for GP Pusaka, and leader of group of experts in biodiversity inventories in the areas concerned.

Research and inventory works in both areas have begun since 2004 and are on-going today in collaboration with numerous researchers from local and international institutions such as Smithsonian Institution, USA; Lund University, Sweden; National University of Singapore (RMBR); Nanyang Technological University; University of Canterbury, New Zealand; UNIMAS (Kuching); UTAR (Kuala Lumpur), Singapore Herbarium and AFSID, SFC.

“We’re not only conserving these two areas under our project but also connecting them with the largest existing wildlife corridor in Sarawak called the Bukit Mina Wildlife Corridor.

“The purpose is to have a virtual connectivity between the two areas for conservation. It’s the first of its kind in Sarawak. Everythihg is already in place and ready for legal protection,” Joanes added on the key conservation works in the Planted Forest Project.


1. Bukit Sarang – where white bats and lingering mystery

It was about three in the afternoon and the sky was suddenly getting darker when we were about to leave Kampung Keseng, a remote Punan village about two and a half hours drive by 4WD from Bintulu Town. Our destination was Bukit Sarang, another two hours and 45 minutes by boat from the village.

Our boatman 42-year-old Suring Jaweng assured us his top priority was our safety and getting us to our destination before sunset.

We set off from the makeshift jetty at Kampung Keseng amidst the grim prospects of a deluge.

We braced for impending storm and quickly wrapped up our cameras — and other personal belongings to ensure we at least had warm clothing for the cold night to come.

However, when the rain came, it was not as heavy as anticipated. We rejoiced at not having to endure the woeful consequences of getting all soaked up.

As we journeyed along the murky Kakus River, the weather improved and our boat cruised uneventfully upstream towards our destination.

About an hour later, the sky turned bright and as our boat headed towards the much smaller Sungei Maing, the murky water of Sungei Kakus slowly diminished.

The water of Sungei Maing was dark due to the peatland vegetation. But the river is still pristine and we came across many species of birds such as black hawks, colourful kingfishers and even some large owls. An hour later, we reached Sungei Sarang which had skrung due to the current dry weather.

Suring had to slow down due to the shallow steam and protruding deadwood and branches. It took almost 45 minutes of manoeuvring along the shallow and narrow Sungei Sarang before we finally reached the Bukit Sarang research station where we spent the night.

On our arrival, we met Su Lee Seng, 47, and his fellow workers who have been staying at their own quarters near the research station.

Su, fondly called Jimmy by his colleagues, has been working in the deep jungles of Bukit Sarang with eight others for a company, set up by the Bukit Sarang cave-owners from Kampung Keseng and a businessman, to manage the caves mainly for the lucrative bird’s nests’ industry.

Su has taken over the job as supervisor from his late younger brother who had mysteriously disappeared some time in February and his remains were found just last week about half an hour of boat ride downstream.

Jimmy said he and his family were now trying to come to terms with his brother’s tragic death, saying the investigation was still on-going (optional).


Bukit Sarang Limestone hill

Bukit Sarang is a small limestone hill, surrounded by peat swamps. It comprises two limestone hill complexes, the larger being Batu Anyi and the smaller Batu Lebik, both riddled with numerous caves of various sizes with underground water passages that support rich aquatic wildlife and other biodiversities that depend on the caves and the peat swamp ecosystem.

There are over 20 caves in Bukit Sarang whose systems create a suitable condition for bird’s nests production. Here is where sustainable harvesting of bird’s nests has been successfully carried out.

Some of the well-known Bukit Sarang caves are the Pakan Cave, Padong Cave, Bintawa Cave, Lebih Cave, Gua Rusa, Tanjung Cave and Mahkota Cave. Around Bukit Sarang area, there are several high hills but only two are of significant heights — namely Up 33 and Up 3. We had the chance to ascend Up 3, taking us about half an hour to reach the summit.

The panoramic view from the peak was breathtaking. We were in awe of the verdant canopy of the lush pristine rainforests. Visitors would definitely find scaling the hill well worth the effort.

In recent years, Joanes revealed, their research collaborators had discovered two new species of plants, one new species of lizards and frogs, and 26 endemic snail species which is the highest endemic snail concentration on the smallest surface of limestone bedrock in Borneo.

.
.

Labels: ,

Two national parks proposed in Bintulu, Sarawak


BINTULU: GP Pusaka Sdn Bhd’s recommendation to the state government to gazette Bukit Sarang and Binyo Penyilam in the hinterland of Bintulu as National Parks is most opportune and laudable as it represents the cumulative efforts and resources the conservation-conscious organisation has put into preserving the two areas and more importantly, a geniune endeavour at environmental protection on their part.

According to GP Pusaka Sdn Bhd conservation manager Joanes Unggang, their conservation initiatives actually began in 2004 and since then, Bukit Sarang and Binyo Penyilam have been attracting many  researchers for valuable studies on the rich biodiversities of the two areas.

“We hope Bukit Sarang and Binyo Penyilam could be gazetted by the state government as National Parks as they are rich in flora and fauna. By doing so, international environmental bodies especially, will see we are very serious in preserving and conserving our rainforests.

“At the same time, this will also show how serious we are in preserving at least one million hectares as totally protected areas (TPAs) as envisioned by our State government,” Joanes told thesundaypost yesterday.

He reiterated that although both areas had been allocated to the Sarawak Planted Forest (Pulp and Paper) Project LPF 0043, they had been set aside as conservation areas.

“Thus, we hope the state government will recognise our efforts to conserve these two areas and it’s our fervent hope both Bukit Sarang and Binyo Penyilam will be gazetted as National Parks,” Joanes said.

Besides the appeal from GP Pusaka, the people in Bukit Sarang and Binyo Penyilam have also given their undivided support for the two areas to be gazetted as National Parks as the move will enhance and sustain their long-term livelihoods.

They say the two areas should be preserved and conserved for their rich flora and fauna and unique landscapes.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Two national parks proposed in Bintulu, Sarawak
.
.

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Stargazing in Sabah's Tip of Borneo


KOTA KINABALU: For years, local astronomy buffs have known that Borneo’s northernmost tip of Tanjung Simpang Mengayau is among the best places in the country for stargazing.

The isolated part that is far from populated areas faces no problem of light pollution and has an almost clear sky all year round.

Such conditions make Tanjung Simpang Mengayau ideal for astrophotography enthusiasts as well.

It also makes Sabah an attractive place for stargazers and astrophotographers, said Tourism Malaysia Sabah director Awang Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar.

He said Tanjung Simpang Mengayau could be promoted as a “One Million Stars” spot where visitors could spend the night under a million stars.

“Sabah can be one of the best locations to observe the stars.

After all, the costs involved are minimum,” he said after a recent joint programme between Tourism Malaysia and a group of local amateur astronomers, Sabah Stargazers, to witness meteor showers at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Stargazing in Sabah's Tip of Borneo
.
.

Labels: ,

Rhythms of Rimba Wildlife Festival draws 2,500


SANDAKAN : The Borneo Rhythms of Rimba (ROR) Wildlife Festival drew an audience of close to 2,500 individuals on Aug 20-21 at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sepilok Sandakan.

The festival’s multi-disciplinary programme, spread over five zones, offered endless activities to encourage a greater appreciation of the natural environment and the life that it supports.

As in previous years, programme presenters and contributors brought their latest ideas and contents to make each and every element, a new experience.

Some of the highlights included the first floating multi-purpose platform in a Sandakan lake/forest setting, with BiBi McGill (Beyonce’s former lead guitarist) and Heather Craig’s yoga and workout sessions attracting colourful crowds. The 100m zipline feature also attracted endless queues.

For Sada Borneo, a music group that gained fame on the Asia’s Got Talent show, this performance was their very first in Sabah, and the crowd was mesmerized by music which merged contemporary sounds with traditional Bornean elements.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Rhythms of Rimba Wildlife Festival draws 2,500
.
.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Midnight Blue Elephant: Me and my Monkey - Finding Orangutans in Borneo


Back in the jungle. I almost sigh in relief.

Life as I know it is not only thousands of miles away, it feels like a lifetime ago, away, gone.

I didn’t even know I was going back to Borneo.

My itinerary said Tanjung Puting and something about orangutans.

I didn’t put two and two together – wild orangutans can only be found on Borneo and Sumatra today.

You should have seen my face when I realized – back to Borneo!

The island holds a special place in my heart and so do those beautiful, fun creatures.

I don’t think you can ever have too many orangutan pictures, can you?

Now I know how parents feel when they want to share 1001 Facebook photos of their offsprings, but I cannot help it.

These faces… (and for those parents who feel offended that I inadvertently compared their kids to orangutans, I am sorry!).

We are on a boat, a wooden boat going down the Sekonyer River.

I think of African Queen and it feels wildly romantic and adventurous.

I don’t even mind the heat and the humidity, we get ice cold towels whenever we return from an excursion and a fresh breeze when the boat is in motion.

I write this a few weeks later while I sit in a taxi in traffic, of course.

I wish I was back on the boat. Sitting at the stern and staring into the water, watching out for crocodiles and Proboscis Monkeys in the trees.

The water from the Sekonyer River is muddy and brown.

Later, once we have moved to the Black River, the water while dark, almost inky becomes crystal clear – much better for crocodile spotting as it turns out.

.
.

Labels: , ,

More Chinese tourists may spur more air routes to Sarawak


KUCHING: The increasing number of Chinese tourists to the state may lead to more inbound flights with routes from Hebei in China and Taipei, Taiwan in the works.

According to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, delegates from the state had recently made a trip to Hebei, and several tourism agencies and airlines there had shown great interest towards the Kuching route.

“The Hong Kong route had received a tremendous response and I was told that several tourist attraction areas in Kuching were recently packed with Chinese tourists,” said Abang Johari who is also Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister.

“The flight operator is in the midst of increasing the frequency of their flights and should the Hebei and Taipei routes materialise, we can expect a boost to our state’s tourist numbers,” he said.

He was speaking at the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony between City One Megamall and Mydin Mohamed Holdings Berhad yesterday.

On the MoU, Abang Johari praised Mydin Mohamed Holdings Berhad’s efforts to enter the Kuching market which will see the opening of three Mydin Hypermarkets here.

.
.

Labels:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Orangutan Foundation: Adventures in Borneo


This summer I had the unique opportunity to visit Central Kalimantan to see the area in which the Orangutan Foundation operates.

I have been interning with the Foundation for 4 months, and I’m familiar with many of the areas they protect, although by name only.

Therefore, it was a pleasure to see these landmarks in the flesh and meet the Indonesian team that work so hard to protect them.

The various camps are most easily reached via Kalimantan’s river systems.

As I travelled down river by speedboat, the waterfront houses of Pangkalan Bun quickly turned into dense forest.

Noteworthy sightswere various indicators of habitat loss, such as logs being transported towards the town.

Kingfishers darted in front of the boat so fast that getting a good photo was impossible!

I first visited the site of the new guard post where this year’s volunteers were making excellent headway into its construction.

The volunteers were a hardworking, dedicated bunch from all walks of life!

They were all dedicated to the cause and felt genuine, collective concern for the threat of habitat loss, highlighted by the constant stream of reminders around them.

They spoke of awaking to the sound of chainsaws, highlighting the need for a guard post in the area.

Afterward, I got to visit Camp Buluh. This is the current home of Sugih, a 5-year-old female who was rescued by OF, previously kept as a pet.

Foundation staff informed me that she had made good progress, she was behaving as a wild orangutan should – encouraging news.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Orangutan Foundation: Adventures in Borneo
.
.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon makes a comeback



KOTA KINABALU: The annual Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon, which was put on hold for one year following the June 5 earthquake in 2015, is back.

The climbathon this year promises new challenges for climbers due to the new route that was carved out after the previous trail was damaged in the quake.

Up to 120 experienced climbers are welcomed to join in this event come Oct 16.

The race will be flagged off at Kinabalu Park and runners will make their way up to the summit of the 4,095.2m-high Mt Kinabalu before descending down and crossing the finish line back at the park.

However, participants will have to use the newly opened trail located on a higher elevation, promising new challenges for runners and a breathtaking view.

For safety reasons, the race this time is only opened to qualified participants recommended by their respective national federations or have finished the race within the time limit in previous years’ Climbathon.

.
.

Labels: ,

Spelunking in Sabah’s heartland


IT ALL started when a friend of mine posted a video of a trip packed with adventure and activities on Facebook. Being a “couch potato”, the video looked a bit extreme to me at first glance, but still, I was intrigued.

After thinking about it, my friends and I decided to take a four-day, three-night trip to Sabah.

We started our journey by travelling from Kota Kinabalu to Keningau, a district about 130km away, by bus. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a group of facilitators of a programme we had signed up for.

They quickly ushered us into a minivan and we then continued our journey to Pungiton Camp by boat.

After a quick tea-time snack, we quickly geared up for a trek to Pungiton Cave.

We had to trek through the jungle for less than 15 minutes before reaching the mouth of the cave.

As we descended into the cave, we were greeted by the cold, underground stream that washed beneath our feet. Venturing on inside the cool and dark cave, we were amazed by the formation of stalactites and stalagmites.

It took us approximately two hours to trek through the cave before we headed back to camp.

After descending from Batu Punggul, we had a picnic lunch by the riverbank, followed by a quick swim. Then we were transported to the modern longhouse where we stayed for the night.

During our stay at the longhouse, we were treated to a traditional Murut tribe dance by the village’s children and even took part in the dance and learnt the moves from the locals.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Spelunking in Sabah’s heartland
.
.

Labels: , ,

Fun-filled Siniawan Festival on the cards


BAU: Siniawan Festival 2016, a four-day event of food and music, cultural and various health activities, should be able to turn the once bustling Chinese village into a vibrant tourist destination.

The organising chairman Kapitan Liew Jiu Fung said the inaugural festival which would take place from Sept 15 to 18 at Siniawan old bazaar, would feature an array of activities that cater for all.

To kick start the event, a jungle trekking and cycling challenge would be held including a host of other sports activities such as futsal, sepak takraw, blowpipe demonstration, street and traditional games, and a state-level photography competition.

Those interested to visit historical sites in the area could participate in a programme to explore Rajah James Brooke Heritage Trail. Brooke’s first fort in Sarawak – Fort Berlidah – was in fact built near Siniawan. He also built a bungalow on the summit of Mount Serembu where prominent anthropologist Alfred Russel Wallace had stayed for over a year in 1854.

On Saturday, visitors would be treated to a ‘Western country and Cowboy night’ and live band performances of country western music including classic songs from the 60s to the 80s. The theme coincides with the single-street bazaar’s reminiscent of a typical American ‘Wild West’ cowboy town.

Liew hoped the festival would be successful in attracting a large crowd and make it to the state’s tourism calendar of activities for next year to create a domino affect that would spur economic growth for the local community.

“Before 2010, most people called Siniawan an ‘old people’s town’ because not much was happening economically and job opportunity was scarce. This led to the youngsters moving away to seek jobs elsewhere.

“The situation has since improved after the establishment of the popular Siniawan Night Market and we hope to further boost economic activities in the area,” he said before a briefing to representatives from various state and tourism agencies as well as local authorities here yesterday.

Serembu assemblyman Miro Simuh, Bau District Officer Inting Nyami and Councillor Bong Ngim Swee were also present.

Liew went on to say the festival would also host the mid autumn festival (moon cake), calligraphy exhibition, Chinese chess competition, lantern-making demonstration, lion dance competition and the worshipping of ‘Yue Niang’ (Moon Goddess) and Ghost festival. There would also be a traditional Teochew Opera show and Mandarin ‘Yue Liang’ songs singing competition.

A Bidayuh section would also be set up at the festival with stalls selling handicraft and local delicacies, and Bidayuh cultural performances.

Liew said the committee was planning to turn Siniawan Festival into an annual event. He believed it would be easier to propose for the conservation of Siniawan Bazaar and other heritage sites in the vicinity.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Fun-filled Siniawan Festival on the cards
.
.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rhythms of Kinabalu back to showcase traditional Borneo music


KOTA KINABALU: The fifth edition of Rhythms of Kinabalu (ROK) 2016 is back with its musical concert that showcases not only traditional Borneo music, but also the diversity of music genres of the various ethnic groups.

ROK 2016, themed ‘Sabah Authentic Musical Concert’, will be held on September 9 and 10 at the National Department of Culture and Arts (JKKN) Sabah Complex auditorium.

The concert on both days will showcase musical instruments made from bamboo such as sompoton, flute, bungkau and saxophone; metal instruments like kulintangan and gong; and wood-based instruments such as gabang and gambus.

Apart from musical concerts, JKKN Sabah has come up with a musical parade as an additional programme in the two-day event.

JKKN Policy and Research Division director Rodzuan bin Ismail said the musical parade, coordinated by Persatuan Anak Wayang Sabah and Kinabalu Amatuer Radio Transmitting Society (KARTS), aimed to uncover young talents in the music industry.

“The musical parade is held in the form of contest in groups by using various traditional and modern musical instruments, including waste products,” he said in a press conference at Hard Rock Cafe at Oceanus Waterfront Mall here yesterday.

The champion of the parade will win RM1,500 cash prize, followed by RM1,000 and RM800 for the first and second runners-up respectively.

“We are working on having the parade from Suria Sabah to Lintasan Deasoka.”

To date, nine groups involving 200 participants have confirmed their participation in the musical parade and more are expected to sign up in due course.

Rodzuan said the programme would display the diversity of music genres from various ethnic groups as well as enhance the appreciation of music amongst Malaysians, especially the people of Sabah.

.
.

Labels:

Sabah eyes Eastern Russian tourists to boost tourism


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is eyeing Eastern Russian tourists in an effort to boost the state’s tourism industry, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said.

He said the state government would be intensifying its efforts to attract tourists from Russian cities such as Vladivostok, Sakhalin and Khabarovsk, as well as other new markets.

“The year 2016 has been a challenging year for the tourism industry in Sabah following a number of unfortunate incidents befalling the state.

“In view of the current state of affairs, the state government will continue its efforts to restore the confidence of international tourists in travelling to Sabah,” he said at the Sabah Branch of the Malaysia International Chambers of Commerce and Industry luncheon here today.

His speech was delivered by Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

.
.

Labels:

Monday, August 22, 2016

Long Banga perfect site for Heart of Borneo expedition


MIRI: The selection of Long Banga in Ulu Baram as the site for this year’s Heart of Borneo (HoB) Sarawak Scientific Expedition is perfect as the area is rich with flora and fauna which have yet to be discovered.

Long Banga, a settlement of the Sabans – one of the smallest ethnic groups in Sarawak – also has virgin jungle that is worthwhile to be explored. In saying this, Deputy State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Speaker Datuk Gerawat Gala also expressed his hope that the participants would succeed in documenting the flora and fauna in the area.

“I was informed that the scientific expedition is aimed at studying the area’s diversity fauna and flora, geology, aquatic habitat, sociological and anthropological characteristics of local communities and potential tourism areas.

“I do hope that this expedition will be beneficial not only for research purposes but will also contribute to the local communities’ well-being and enhance flora and fauna conservation in Long Banga,” he said when launching the 2016 Long Banga Scientific Expedition, HoB during a dinner held at a leading hotel here on Saturday.

Gerawat, who is also Mulu assemblyman, also called for the expedition’s results to be documented so that it would benefit the state government in planning policies and as a reference for future generations.

On another note, Gerawat said Sarawak will continue to uphold the principles of sustainable forest management to sustain the multi-functionality of its forests.

Meanwhile, acting deputy director of Forest Department, Jack Liam in his welcoming speech said Sarawak had developed its forestry sector in a manner similar to the other states in Malaysia which involved different phases of development.

He said Sarawak is fortunate to have political stability and a small population that enabled it to sustain development in the forestry sector.

“Sarawak gives equal attention to promoting conservation of its natural resources and environmental protection and to utilising forest resources’ sustainability particularly for the benefit of the people, while focusing on economic growth and development,” he said.

.
.

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ikimasho!: Staying at the Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo


Five-star luxury in Sabah – with design that gets better at every turn.

As a travel writer you usually know right from the off what your money-shot is going to be – that is, the photo you’re gonna lead with when writing an article.

For my stay at the Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, however, I was pretty much spoiled for choice. It seemed everywhere I turned I was faced with either an amazing view, an amazing piece of interior design, or plate after plate of amazing food.

In the end, I settled on the above shot as I think it sums up what the hotel does best: offering five-star luxury right on the edge of the South China Sea, overlooking the five tropical islands that make up Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

My first introduction to the Hyatt brand was actually way back in 2003 when I attended a three-day conference at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo – but despite having travelled the world since then, this was to be my first actual stay at one of the Hyatt’s famous five-star hotels.

And I can say first-hand that it lived up to the hype I had awarded it in my own head. It was very, very good.


Naturally good design

My huge room on the fourth floor (0445) was basically a giant portal into the vast South China Sea.

Huge panoramic windows framed the scene, with the sunset being the star attraction every night, filling the room with a red and pink glow. Borneo sunsets are famous, and it’s easy to see why.

The deign of the room itself shone in its simplicity. Quite often, hotel rooms are rather formulaic, with a boxed-off bathroom put in as an afterthought, doing nothing to enhance the living space.

.
.

Labels: , ,

Green Screen: Reflections on Borneo


Volunteering in Borneo, the ‘land below the wind’, was the most rewarding experience I have ever had and I’d like to thank the organisations who sponsored me in my fundraising.

These included Looe Music Festival, Ocean and Earth Thai Restaurant, Mama J’s Italian Kitchen, Winter Sports Company, Big Rib Charters, Mountain Warehouse, Dance with Jodie, Adrenaline Quarry, Cornish Orchards, Summers Cleaning Service, Commonwood Manor, Street Motion Freerunning Academy and Simon Hannaford Computer Solutions.

Project work during the mornings and afternoon, as well as socialising and speaking to the locals in the evening, provided an entirely different way of life to my routine back at home but one which was simply beautiful.

Up at 6.15, a cold shower, noodles and egg for breakfast and then work at 8.

Our first project was to help build the new kindergarten for the local children, so that early childhood education could be provided to more of the population in Bongkud.

This consisted of making over 25 batches of cement the traditional way (gravel, sand and cement mix with shovels and hoes) as well as digging a 10 ft long, 1 ft deep channel to lay a pipe through.

We also helped to build a place for traders to come and sell their local produce, clearing the ground for cement to be layered to provide a platform to set up stalls.

During our stay at Bongkud, we had the opportunity to teach a group of kids English, who were lively, excited and had passion for learning rarely seen in England.

The project work was tough but the achievement felt by all of the group was immense.

Being the first group to arrive at Bongkud that year, we certainly made our mark.

After the first camp, we prepared for our jungle trek, learning how to set up our hammocks, as well as being briefed by our guides on jungle safety and the upcoming journey.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Green Screen: Reflections on Borneo
.
.

Labels:

Direct Sibu-KK flight connectivity needed to make Visit Sibu Year 2017 a success


SIBU: The air connectivity between here and Kota Kinabalu needs to be strengthened in view of the ‘Visit Sibu Year 2017’ (VSY 2017) campaign.

According to Dudong assemblyman Datuk Tiong Thai King, the route is served by MASwings – the community carrier under Malaysia Airlines.

In this respect, he assured all that he would do his level best – in both his capacities as the people’s elected representatives and Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) chairman – to request for MASwings to increase the frequency of flights for the Sibu-Kota Kinabalu sector.

“(Another) alternative (is to) approach AirAsia to service this important sector,” Tiong told reporters at Wisma Sanyan here yesterday.

The assemblyman observed that although MASwings had been serving the route for almost 10 years, it still kept the same level of service throughout.

For the record, AirAsia discontinued its direct Sibu-Kota Kinabalu route in August 2009 after operating for only four months. MASwings, on the other hand, holds the exclusive rights to handle rural flight routes by the government.

On the petition seeking 300,000 signatures to convince airlines and the Ministry of Transport of the need for an open sky policy launched here on Jan 16 this year, Tiong said this would be submitted to the ministry soon – adding that there were several issues to be sorted out first.

.
.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Rainforest World Music Fest pulls in 18,340 revellers


KUCHING: The recently- concluded 19th Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) has clocked in a staggering 18,340 people in attendance throughout the duration of three days.

This represents an increase of two per cent from the previous year.

Ticket sales for RWMF this year have also increased by 14 per cent, as opposed to last year’s sales.

Survey forms at the event have made it easier to gauge what can be improved in the festival, and the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) will continue with greening efforts including composting, to ensure improvement  in more than just performance standards.

“This gradual growth is very promising, as we evolve to keep up with and incorporate international standards of festival excellence, and we hope to see an even greater increase next year,” said STB acting chief executive officer Mary Wan.

STB promises even better results for next year’s RWMF as new ventures are being taken to improve the quality of the festival, including ‘headhunting’ local talents and extended greening efforts such as recycling and composting – all of which has garnered positive feedback from the public.

“It is not good enough to be an internationally recognised festival – we want to be internationally lauded, and we hope that in time we can achieve our objectives of being an acknowledged benchmark in the world music festival scene,” said Tourism Ministry permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik when asked about future plans for the festival.

.
.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 19, 2016

Tourism academy to boost rapid growth of Sabah's tourism industry


TAWAU: The rapid growth of the tourism industry in Sabah will be boosted with the Kota Kinabalu Tourism Academy (KKTA) next year.

Higher Education Minister, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the academy is now in the final stages of discussions and will offer diploma and certificate programmes in the field of tourism.

It will accommodate up to 400 students and cost between RM30 million to RM40 million.

“This is the promise of the federal government. We want to continue looking after the people of Sabah through education. Students who enroll in the academy do not have to worry about jobs because the tourism sector in Sabah is very wide,” he said.

He was speaking at a media conference after launching the Tawau Community College Culinary Arts Building yesterday.

He said the tourism academy aimed to enable more Sabahans to venture into the tourism industry in the state and hence, generate the local economy.

Meanwhile, Idris said the Culinary Arts programme at the college not only gave students skills but also improved their opportunities in seeking jobs.

“Do not underestimate community colleges because 97 per cent of the graduates are able to find work compared to other institutions of higher learning and I believe these graduates are able to contribute to the country’s progress,” he said.

At present there are 94 community colleges nationwide, including nine in Sabah. Ten more community colleges will be built throughout the country next year.

.
.

Labels: ,

Sabah green conservation efforts and ecotourism goes global


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s remarkable success in green conservation efforts and ecotourism had put the state on the world map and continues to be a role model for developing countries in tropical biodiversity management “Sabah is well-positioned to lead conservation initiatives in the country given its growing reputation as an ecotourism destination and success in managing biodiversity,” said Prof Dr Charles S. Variappan, Director of the Institute of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ITBC) of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

Contrary to claims of deforestation for oil palm, Prof Dr Charles highlighted that conservation efforts headed by the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) has expanded the number of forest reserves, wildlife corridors in the state for the last 5-10 years.

“Sabah is very unique in nature tourism and tropical biodiversity, which is why UMS is selected as the training institution for conservation,” he said during the press conference of the Third Country Training Programme (TCTCP) yesterday.

The programme, now in its 3rd cycle (2016-2018) is derived from the United Nations Triangular Cooperation Initiative with expertise provided by the government agencies such as the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Parks, as well as Sabah Biodiversity Centre (SABC).

A total of 20 participants from 11 countries which include national park officers and wardens, agriculturists, government officials and agriculturists will be joining the TCTP programme from Sept 8 until Sept 27 at various designated training venues at the west coast, including Penampang, Keningau, Beaufort and Klias.

“We are keen to share the knowledge, expertise and experience on integrated biodiversity and ecosystem conservation acquired through years of conservation efforts in the state, “said Prof Dr Charles, who noted participants will also get the opportunity to join field visits learn first-hand on biodiversity management and conservation initiatives in Sabah.

The participating countries in the 3rd TCTP programme include Malaysia, Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, India, Sri Lanka, Botswana, Kenya, Mali, Uganda and Tanzania.

.
.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Borneo Rhythms of Rimba wildlife festival


SANDAKAN: Borneo Rhythms of Rimba (ROR) wildlife festival will be held on August 20-21 at the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok, here.

Conservation talks and documentary screenings will feature in the Kabili theatre throughout the day.

A floating yoga platform, a 100-metre long zipline over the RDC lake and a Man vs. Wildlife challenge will be the highlights of this year’s adventure zone.

There will also be more than 15 creative personalities and orgnisations running activities, such as Catama Borneo from Sarawak with an indigenous dance workshop, and Eijau group from Kuala Lumpur with their eco drums and wayang kulit performances.

There will be music in the evenings.

Both days will start from 10am until 10pm.

The vision and mission of the festival is to bring environmental knowledge and awareness to people, and to encourage a greater love for Borneo’s natural environment by exploring and playing in the forests.

.
.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Kuching Heritage Race to raise interest in Kuching’s cultural and built heritage


KUCHING: The Kuching Heritage Committee will hold the Kuching Heritage Race 2017 on Jan 14 to stoke interest in and appreciation of Kuching’s cultural and built heritage.

Teams will race through central Kuching answering questions or carrying out activities based on clues and instructions given to test their knowledge.

“Proceeds will be given to worthwhile heritage-related projects as well as to under-funded charitable organisations,” Kuching Heritage Committee chairman Philip Yong told a press conference yesterday.

The first race on Jan 30 this year had 156 participants from 42 teams including Sarawak Society for the Deaf members, as well as visitors from New York, Paris, Tasmania, China, United Kingdom, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

“With the support of many tourism and heritage organisations including the Sarawak Tourism Board and Sarawak Convention Bureau, the event raised RM20,000, which was able to provide customised wheelchairs for handicapped children,” Yong said.

“With the experience of the first race, the next race promises to be more challenging and exciting as this focus on the undiscovered parts of Kuching that many local residents may not be aware. Kuching Heritage Race 2017 will be a bigger, better and tougher race.”

He said the upcoming race promises to be even more fun and fast-paced, with young and old, visitors as well as residents standing a good chance of winning top prizes.

According to the Sarawak Tourism Federation president, the race is ideal for a boutique destination like Kuching, which is rich in heritage, has a strong community feel and is relatively unknown to most travellers outside of Sarawak.

.
.

Labels: , ,

Sabah eyes more domestic tourists


The Sabah government is committed in its efforts to introduce Sabah as a tourism destination not only to foreign visitors but also to domestic tourists.

Assistant Minister of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Kamarlin Ombi, said the domestic market is important for Sabah especially with the approximately 64 percent of domestic tourist arrivals to the state recorded last year.

“In 2015, 2.19 million domestic tourists arrived in Sabah, while this year, as of May 2016 we recorded 882,109 domestic tourist arrivals, about 0.6 percent decrease compared to the same period last year.

“However, tourist from China and Korea increased tremendously due to the increased numbers of chartered flights to Sabah.

“We, in the ministry, will continue with our efforts to restore the confidence of tourists coming to Sabah after the spate of kidnapping incidents which had badly affected the industry,” he said in his speech at ‘The Sabah Destination Presentation and Mini Travel Mart’ at the Grand Riverview Hotel here yesterday.

Twenty-two travel agents from Sabah, led by Kamarlin, will be presenting tourism products to their counterparts from not only Kelantan but also Terengganu and Thailand.

“We are hoping this event will give us the chance to discuss ideal packages to promote Sabah, and at the same time become a platform to channel the latest information on the tourism industry,” he said.

Also present at the event were State director of Tourism Malaysia Kelantan, Hafiz Hazin, and director of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, Kelantan office, Mohd Aidil Afzie Daud.

Mohd Aidil, at a press conference, said that the opportunity to promote Sabah as a tourism destination to tourists from the southern part of Thailand is there, in view of the stronger currency of the Baht compared to the Ringgit.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah eyes more domestic tourists
.
.

Labels: