Friday, December 02, 2016

World.Wide.Webb: Malaysian Borneo – Kota Kinabalu, Sepilok and Kinabalu National Park

WOW! What a country, hands down the most incredible place I have ever visited. It’s an amazing contrast of leafy green jungle and towering mountains, and home to some of the most magnificent animals on the planet.

Borneo is actually a huge place and supposedly the 3rd biggest island on the planet. It is split into two main parts, Malaysian Borneo (the smaller part in the north) and Indonesian Borneo (much larger part).

Malaysian Borneo is again split into different sections, the part that we visited was called Sabah and covers the most northern tip of the island.

Despite all the apprehension about our visit mentioned in my previous blog we had a really great time, although I still don’t think it is somewhere I would chose to visit on my own.

I also feel quite strongly that it won’t be the last time I come here, 6 days wasn’t enough time to soak up the uniqueness of this country and there is far more to discover beyond the reaches of what we saw.

We flew into Kota Kinabalu from Kuala Lumpur landing late afternoon. We had a few hours exploring the city but it’s more of a local place so there isn’t too much to see or do.

It also has a bit of a dodgy feel in that we didn’t really see anyone else there who wasn’t Asian, and we got some strange leery looks off the seedy locals.

The next day we headed out of town on the bus to Sandakan, 6 hours of windy mountain roads later and we were dropped off at a empty road junction.

It was 3km from there to our final destination of Sepilok, and luckily for us there was one man with a car waiting to take us up to our hotel.

Sepilok is the home of the Orangutans, the main reason we came to Borneo. So we thought we would do it properly and pay to stay in the nicest resort there.

There is no town just a few accomodation places around the Orangutan sanctuary which is set deep in the jungle.

Our resort was AMAZING, a little pocket of complete solitude worlds away from anywhere else we’ve been so far.

We had a wooden cabin to stay in amongst the trees with a balcony, awesome outdoor shower and the most stars we have seen so far.

We had two nights here so for our one full day we went to visit the Orangutans or ‘man of the forest’ as it directly translates.

Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation centre is one of the best places we’ve been with a remarkable programme in place for this endangered species.

Orangutan infants are dependent on their mothers until at least 6 or 7 years old, meaning if they become orphaned they are in real danger of not surviving.

Unfortunately due to large amounts of deforestation in their habitat this occurs all too often.

The parents are either killed or separated from their young leaving them abandoned, sometimes plantation workers may find them and take them home to be a pet keeping them in poor conditions.

The centres rescue programme takes the orphaned Orangutans and after some time in quarantine and a health check acts as their surrogate parents.

They have an indoor nursery where they teach them not only the skills they need to survive in the wild but also to trust humans again.

When they reach 5-6 years old depending on their progress they are released into the outdoor nursery.

This is just the open jungle and Orangutans are encouraged slowly to venture further and further away from the sanctuary.

Some will take to this and may never be seen again, whilst the less confident will be dependent on the centre for the rest of their lives.


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Kampung Santubong Homestay best in Malaysia

KUCHING: Kampung Santubong Homestay (KSH) added another feather to its cap when it won the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award for Clustered Homestay at the national-level ‘One District One Industry’ (SDSI) 2016 showcase held at the Melaka International Trade Centre recently.

For this recognition as the best managed homestay in the country, KSH bagged a cash prize of RM3,500, a trophy and a certificate.

Since its inception in 2008, KSH has won numerous recognitions and awards including Best Homestay during the 2009/2010 Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards and the Asean Homestay Award from Asean Homestay Standard (AHS) last year.

“I feel happy to receive this award as it means a lot to us after eight years of struggle,” said KSH coordinator Jamilah Shukri,

“It is hoped that by winning this award, we can motivate and inspire other homestay operators in Sarawak to achieve (their) greatest potential and make the state proud by winning local and international homestay competitions.”

Jamilah plans to help develop the state’s tourism industry by actively promoting and selling local products especially those from Santubong.

“We want to make our tourism products known throughout the state, country and the world.

“I am also planning to organise training programmes to encourage more homestay operators to be among the best in the country and win awards like what KSH has achieved throughout the years,” said Jamilah.

The winners for the recently concluded national-level SDSI 2016 showcase were selected by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kampung Santubong Homestay best in Malaysia

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Tip of Borneo - Feeling on top of the world

THE road to Kudat was bumpy. The six of us in the eight-seater van were tired after three hours of travelling on Sabah’s inland road from Kota Kinabalu.

My bottom was bruised from all the bumping. I was so relieved when we reached our destination — the very tip of Borneo, the third largest island in the world, after Greenland and New Guinea.

Its northern-most tip is the meeting point of two big seas, the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea.

My heart pounded hard as I walked the tiled road on a small shrubby hill fronting the coast.

The wind whipped past as I reached the top and touched a bronze globe that had a map telling me exactly where I was.

The spot where I planted my feet was Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, famously known as The Tip Of Borneo.

Standing next to the globe was a tall pole bearing the Malaysian flag. It fluttered in the wind, reaching for the blue sky.

I gingerly made my way to the edge of the headland, rising from the sea like a rocky loaf. Below, the waves pounded mercilessly.

The churning waters and the strong winds over the ages had left natural patterns on the slope of the cliff face.

The patterns looked like sea waves, tinted with pastel shades of light brown and off-white against the rugged greyish-black rocky headland.

The Tip of Borneo is one of the most stunning spots I have ever come across in our country.

And being there felt as awesome as being at the southernmost tip of mainland Asia at Tanjung Piai in south-west Johor.

Standing at both tips made me feel like a tiny pinhead on the world map.

But I must say that the view at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau is far more spell-binding than at marshy Tanjung Piai.

The coastline in this part of Sabah is treacherous. Ships had sunk in the area.

A lighthouse on Pulau Kalampunian, visible from the headland, is a reminder of past shipwrecks. The cape was also a battleground in the old days.

It was originally called Tanjung (cape) Sampang (junction) Mangazou (battle) in the language of the Rungus, the natives of Kudat.

Their forefathers had fought fierce battles to defend Rungus territory against invading enemies, including the Moro pirates who terrorised the Sulu Sea.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Tip of Borneo - Feeling on top of the world

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Diamond Princess cruise ship docks in Sabah, lured by its natural and cultural gems

KOTA KINABALU: Singapore’s Diamond Princess made its first stop in Sabah today, cruising in with 3,806 international tourists and crew members on board.

Princess Cruises Southeast Asia said the Diamond Princess is making its debut in Kota Kinabalu for the first time in its homeporting season for 2016-2017 in Southeast Asia.

According to Farriek Tawfik, Princess Cruises Southeast Asia director, the company has been exploring possibilities to include Kota Kinabalu into its cruise itinerary thanks to Sabah’s natural beauty and exotic cultural elements.

“We are venturing here because the Malaysian government has identified Kota Kinabalu as one of the three ports in the country that has significant potential to attract more visitors. 

“Princess Cruises is answering this call by bringing in inbound tourists to experience first-hand Kota Kinabalu’s many historical landmarks and attractions in our specially curated shore excursions.”

Speaking to reporters during a media briefing, Farriek said the move to make Sabah as one of its port of call was planned about three years ago.

“We took two to three years to explore and do our research on what Kota Kinabalu has to offer and (realised) that there is a big potential.


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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sarawak’s rich history, culture a tourism draw

ONE of the factors drawing tourists to Sarawak is the state’s rich history, heritage and culture.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the construction of the new Sarawak Museum Campus would once against put Sarawak museum back on the world map as among the best in the region in terms of collections such as ethnographic, archaeological, zoological and historical specimens.

“The construction of the new museum building is expected to be completed in 2018 and will be opened to visitors by 2020 once its displays and exhibits are put in place,” he said during his ministerial winding up speech at the State Legislative Assembly yesterday.

Abang Johari said conservation and upgrading works on old forts throughout Sarawak would be carried out under the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020).

“Five forts will be conserved and upgraded into regional museums. Work on three of the forts will start in early 2017 and the remaining two will commence in 2018.”

He stated that the construction of the Santubong Archaeological Park which would incorporate the Wallace Centre would start in 2017, adding that this new product development would enhance the tourism attraction in and around Santubong Peninsular.

“To uplift the cultural aura of Kuching as the City of Unity and to provide a permanent venue incorporating the latest state of the arts facilities, and technology, the Old State Legislative Assembly (DUN) building will be converted into a performing arts centre.

“This will act as a centre for arts, music and dance enthusiasts to congregate and showcase their skills and talents. Consultancy work to upgrade the old DUN building will commence in 2017.”

Moving out from the city area, Abang Johari said the homestay programme which was becoming more popular, would be further enhanced in terms of capacity building and product diversification in line with the Community Based Eco-Tourism Stategy (CBET).

“The number of homestay operators has increased from year to year – 35 homestays and 515 operators have so far registered under this programme and a few more have undergone training and awareness programmes.

“As of September 2016, a total of 23,292 tourists visited the homestays bringing in an estimated revenue of RM3 million to the local community.”

He said events and festivals continued to lure both domestic and foreign tourists and at the same time providing business opportunities to the locals.

Abang Johari said the 19th edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival, which was held at Sarawak Cultural Village from August 5 to 6, was attended by a ratio of 63 per cent Malaysians to 37 per cent non-Malaysians with the highest percentage from UK, US, Australia and Singapore.

The spin-off to the economy was estimated at RM35 million, he added.

For the first time this year, he said Sarawak Tourism Board collaborated with Malaysia Association of Hotels (MAH) and Malaysia Shopping Malls Association to create activities for two months prior to the festival, which ensured that festivities were not centred around the Damai area only.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak’s rich history, culture a tourism draw