Friday, November 21, 2014

Surfing in Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: Surfing in Sabah is relatively still a new adventure sport but it is catching up among a very small fraction of the local population, who are mostly youths and young adults.

But when people think of surfing in Asia, Indonesia comes to mind, having established itself as a destination for surfers much earlier because of its big waves.

And it was about five years ago when a surf enthusiast, local Ivan Nicolai, banded with some friends and decided to give the waves, initially at Tanjung Aru, a go.

From thereon, there was no turning back for the small group of friends and as word spread around, the number swelled to more than 20.

Ivan started with bodyboarding about 1990 and switched to surfing only eight years later in 1998 after he went to Bali and got his own board.

"Most of my bodyboard buddies left the scene and back then I never see or hear any surfers (in Sabah) so I stopped (surfing).

"I only started to really surf again when I met my friends Charles and Kanesh in 2005," he said.

While the waves in Sabah are considered mild, which are more suitable for beginners, it didn't stop the interest on it from growing.

There is even a surf lesson that will be held soon for those who want to give surfing a go.

For the benefit of those who are unaware of it, there is the Sabah Borneo Surf Club or Sabah Surfing Association (SSA), which is about to be formed soon.

A website that is dedicated to surfing in Sabah said Ivan and his friends regularly invite friends from other parts of the globe such as Japan, Brazil, Australia and the UK.

And they usually hit the waves at Simpang Mengayau in Kudat where the size varies from two feet to nine feet.

"December to March is when the wind changes to the Northwest monsoon and that's when the swells start coming in more frequently in Tuaran and further up north in Kudat," according to Ivan.

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Adventures along Borneo's Kinabatangan River: A Malaysian Wildlife Holiday


We hadn’t been at the Borneo Nature Lodge more than an hour when we hopped on a boat and headed down the fabled Kinabatangan River in Sabah State on the Island of Borneo. As we snaked our way along the banks of the river on a two hour cruise, wildlife stirred in every corner of the jungle.

Pigmy elephants, a mother and a calf, trundled through the thickets; a host of birds, including four species of hornbills, darted in and out of the canopy; a family of orangutans foraged for fruit from a tall fig tree while nearby, a group of proboscis monkeys hung out in leafy branches.

That, as Joe Harry, our wildlife guide, pointed out, is what makes the 26,000 hectare Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary so special.

“In terms of birds, reptiles and big mammals,” he noted, “the lower Kinabatangan has the richest concentration of wildlife in Southeast Asia. It’s great for visitors because animal viewing times are pretty predictable.”

Every day at around 4 pm as the jungle bursts into life, if you head out to the river, you can be sure you’ll discover an abundance of wildlife moving in its natural habitat.

Harry, a native of Sabah and an independent guide with 17 years of experience, has witnessed first- hand the remarkable transformation of the Lower Kinabatangan area over the last two decades. It has gone from a region dominated by a palm oil plantation economy to one that includes a growing eco-tourism industry. The formerly unpaved tracks built for the palm oil plantations are now roads that transport visitors to a variety of eco-lodges situated along the river.

Prior to the opening of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in 1997, the palm oil industry had encroached on much of the rainforest, especially the fragile areas bordering the river. In the 1970’s and 80’s, over-logging altered landscapes and impacted animal populations. Where cloud leopards once roamed, clear cutting and the growth of palm plantations decimated their populations. The entire ecosystem suffered, prohibiting the development of eco-tourism.

Since then, animal populations have begun to return, including primates such as the proboscis monkey and orangutan, as well as big mammals like the pygmy elephant.  There is hope that the cloud leopard will also rebound.

“The Sabah Government is on the right track,” says Joe.

According to our guide, in the past 15 years wildlife numbers have increased. Sabah state is also negotiating to buy land from plantation owners to widen animal corridors to promote their movement between areas bordered by plantations. 

Furthermore, the government is purchasing land adjacent to both sides of the river where wildlife traditionally feed and gather. This is because in many areas, plantations extend to the river banks, thus encroaching on animal habitat. Sabah state is now open to foreign NGOs helping to promote and expand the ecotourism industry.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sabah safe and secure


SABAH is safe, said Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, hoping many people will continue visiting the state.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said about RM1.28mil is spent monthly on operations for 43 army control posts. Besides that, nearly RM770,000 is spent on 42 police and auxiliary control posts under the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), he said when replying to Datuk Seri Abdul Ghapur Salleh (BN - Kalabakan).

Shahidan added that security personnel were placed on every tourist island resort.

“Even Singamata, which is a reef and not an island, is guarded by policemen,” he said, adding that the ratio was two security personnel for every tourist on specific islands.

He said priority was given to Semprona, Lahad Datu and Tawau, owing to their proximity to the borders of Indonesia and the Philippines.

He added that security was beefed up at Pulau Sibatik to curb cross-border smuggling involving subsidised items.

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Foreign participation at international conference proves Sabah is safe


An ongoing international conference, which attracted more than 100 foreign delegates to come and talk on lifelong education, proves that Sabah is indeed a safe state.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the participants, who converged for the 3rd Lifelong International Conference 2014 (3LInC’14) need not worry, and may deliberate on their topics of discussion in peace.

Masidi made the comment, slamming Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, who recently stated several areas in Sabah were unsafe, and that he would not order his officials abroad to promote Sabah as he could not guarantee tourists’ safety until the two kidnapping cases were solved.

Since Nazri’s negative statement on Sabah, many had come forward to slam the minister, describing it insensitive and an unfair remark.

A total of 115 delegates from all over Malaysia, Indonesia, Oman, Thailand and Qatar attended the two-day event, organised by Universiti Utara Malaysia’s (UUM) Executive Development Centre (EDC).

Previously it was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 and Bangkok in 2012.

On another note, Masidi disclosed that more Malaysians were going back to school to be better trained and knowledgeable, attributing it to many public and private learning institutions available to meet their needs.

Masidi, who is also the Minister in charge-of Education in Sabah, in disclosing this, said the change in society’s attitude was essential to effectively promote lifelong learning.

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Pesta Lawas 2014 to pull in crowds


KUCHING: Pesta Lawas 2014 is expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors compared to 80,000 visitors last year as more exciting and interesting activities have been lined up.

According to Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, committee members came up with many improvements.

Many unique and interesting things about Limbang will be portrayed in the five-day event from today (yesterday) until Sunday.

‘Among the highlights are local food products including the popular smoked Tahai fish, cultural and heritage, handicraft, regatta, Lawas Kitchen, 1Malaysia community stalls and autoshow,” said the Bukit Sari assemblyman during a radio interview with RTM which was broadcast live from the studio yesterday.

The minister of public utilities and industrial development said in preparation for the three-day event, an entrepreneur seminar for local entrepreneurs to exchange ideas was held yesterday, while a primary forum today.

He said 15 cooperatives from throughout the country will take part in the event including those from Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Brunei.

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