Tuesday, January 24, 2017

THE SUN BEARS OF BORNEO

The sun bear is found in the tropical rain forest habitats of Borneo and in some parts of Southeast Asia. The large scale of deforestation in the past many decades has dramatically reduced suitable habitat for the sun bears. The Borneo sun bear is also known as the "honey bear", as they have a strong appetite for honeycombs and honey. Honey, beetles, termites, ants and fruits make up their daily diet. 
The sun bear's fur is usually jet-black, short and sleek with some under wool.

The major threat to the sun bears are the habitat loss where deforestation is still actively happening in Borneo for plantation development. Because of the threat, in 2008, sun bear researcher Wong Siew Te, imitated a joint project between Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Sabah Forestry Department to establish the Bornean Sun bear Conversation Centre (BSBCC) in the Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve of Sandakan.  
 Viewing platform at BSBCC

The mission of BSBCC is not a zoo or a main tourist attraction, but a centre to improve sun bear welfare, and for education, research and rehabilitation. The objective is to create the capacity to confiscate, rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild. The centre aims to be a strong base to educate the public about the plight of the sun bears, to raise conservation awareness about this species, and to conduct more research on this species. Currently there are 30+ rescued sun bears residing in the centre. 

Visitors who wish to visit the centre, the opening hours daily is from 09:00am to 3:00 pm. The admission fee: RM15.00 for local Malaysian and RM30.00 for adult foreigner, Child under 12 years old is free. The centre is located 23 km from Sandakan town. It's just next to the Sepilok Orang Utan rehabilitation Centre. Public bus services and taxi are available.

** Pictures: courtesy of BSBCC. 


Thursday, January 12, 2017

THE WONDERS OF BORNEO - RAFLLESIA

Rafflesia is a genus of parasitic flowering plants found in S.E.Asia. 9 species are found in Borneo. It is the official state flower of Sabah. Recent flowers found were measuring up to 95cm across and weighed up to 10 kilograms.   
 Blooming Rafflesia, biggest flower in the world.

Bloom with striking colour, Rafflesia flowers are beautiful, however, the flowers smell like rotting flesh and that the foul odor attracts flies and other insects.     

Visitors who are interested in the Raflfesia flowers, can try their luck at the nearest forest reserve in the Crocker Range which is about an hour drive from the city of Kota Kinabalu.    
Located at the roadside of the edge of a forest reserve is the Rafflesia Information Centre. The centre is solely established for the conservation of the remarkable Rafflesia plants.

This Rafflesia Information Centre is open daily to visitors from 8am to 3pm. Subject to the blooming Rafflesia flowers, visitors can opt for a jungle trekking adventure escorted by the "Forest Ranger" to take a closer look of the  plants and flowers.

Rafflesia flowers usually bloom for a week or so. During this short blooming period, the flowers are   pollinated by flies and insects attracted by the foul smell.
 
Rafflesia plants are also found in the Poring Hot Spring area, near Mt. Kinabalu National park. Some Rafflesia plants are found in the land belonging to the local villagers. Whenever there is a bloom, visitors on tour to Poring are allowed to enter their area and view the flowers at a token entrance fee. That's if you are lucky, you do not have to trek hours into the jungle to see this amazing flower.





Monday, January 2, 2017

THE WONDERS OF BORNEO - KINABATANGAN RIVER

A very HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone! May 2017 be a joyful year to all especially my home - Borneo!

The Kinabatangan is the longest river in Borneo Sabah with a length of 560 kms from its headwaters in the mountains right to it's mouth at the Sulu sea, east of Sandakan. Kinabatangan is known for its remarkable wildlife and fascinating habitats such as Limestone caves, dryland dipterocard forest, riverine forest, freshwater swamp forest, oxbow lakes and salty mangrove swamps near the river month.
Though the upper parts of the river has been severely deforested for plantations, the original lowland forests and mangrove swamps near the coast have largely survived, providing a sanctuary for a population of saltwater crocodiles, and some of Borneo's highest concentrations of wildlife like the Borneo's indigenous proboscis monkeys, orangutan, the pygmy elephants and a great variety of birdlife.
 Orang Utan.
Proboscis monkeys
 A Pig-tailed Macaque enjoying it's afternoon snacks.

In 1997, 270 square kilometres of the lower Kinabatangan was declared a protected area and later gazetted under the Sabah State's Wildlife Conservation Enactment as the  Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.
 
 Borneo Pygmy elephants.
Kinabatangan crocodile.
 
The Kinabatangan is an ideal location to experience the Borneo wildlife and the tropical jungle. For birds lovers, there are many varieties of birds, like the Kingfishers, the Oriental Darters, species of Hornbills and etc, etc.
 A Kingfisher.
A Rhinoceros hornbill
 An Oriental Darters

In the recent years, Lower Kinabatangan has developed into an adventure location for nature explorers and wildlife lovers. Lodging is available in a number of eco-friendly guest houses situated along the river that providing guests with all-inclusive package during stay.
 
 
Accommodation.
 Cruise to spot wildlife.
Awesome river views in the evening.

The Kinabatangan is accessible by road from Sandakan, the gate way to the East coast of Sabah. Take a 45 minutes flight from Kota Kinabalu, then continue on a 2 hours or so drive to Kinabatangan.

For cave lovers, Gomantong caves, the largest in Sabah is just within reach from Kinabatangan. 
The cave is located in 3,297-Hectares Gomantong Forest Reserve of Kinabatangan district. Gomantong Caves is a limestone cave system consists of 9 caves.
Entrance of the cave.

Advance booking is required for accommodation packages inclusive of meals, jungle activities, river or oxbow lakes cruise in search for wildlife. Packages available are 2D/1N, 3D/2N or more are available. Look into the websites of the lodges.    

Recommended lodges are:
Borneo nature Lodge,  Bilit Rainforest Lodge, Myne Resort, Kinabatangan River Lodge, Sukau Rainforest lodge and others.






Sunday, December 25, 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS !

 Sunset on Christmas eve.
 Merry Christmas to everyone!!!
Wishing you all the best and may your Christmas sparkle with moments of love, laughter and goodwill and may the year ahead be full of contentment and joy! 

Friday, December 23, 2016

THE WONDERS OF BORNEO - SIPADAN

The only oceanic island rising 600 metres (2,000 ft) from the seabed in Borneo is Sipadan. It is located in the Celebes Sea off the east coast of Borneo Sabah. The island was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct valcano cone that took thousands of years to develop. It is the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem. It is one of the "Top Dive Destinations" in the World.
 
Green and hawks-bill turtles, schools of barracuda in the tonado-like formations as well as large schools of big eye trevally and bum head parrot fish are frequently seen in the waters around Sipadan.
Other marine species like manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks often visit the water of Sipadan.
 
 
An underwater limestone cave with tunnels and chambers lies underneath the column of the island has been discovered as a turtle tomb as many skeletal remains of turtles were found.
 
 The underwater limestone cave.

The gate way to Sipadan is TAWAU which is accessible by flights from KOTA KINABALU and  KUALA LUMPUR. From TAWAU, it's about an hour drive to SEMPORNA where it's 40 minutes or so to the dive accommodation.

There are a number of luxury Resorts in the area. The popular ones are, The Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort, The Sepadan Mabul Resort, Sipadan Water village, Pom Pom Island Resort, Seaventures Dive Rigs and Mataking Island Resort.
 
 
 
Some of the luxury Resorts.

If you plan to go Sipadan, advance booking is necessary. Diving and non-diving packages including land and sea transfers, accommodation, scuba diving, snorkeling, meals and refreshment are available. Packages from 3D/2N - 6D/5N or more start from RM2,500 more or less pending on your selection of accommodation. Go to the websites of the Resorts to find out more.  


Friday, December 16, 2016

THE WONDERS OF BORNEO - MALIAU BASIN, THE LOST WORLD

The conservation Area of Maliau Basin is 58,840 ha, also known as Sabah’s Lost World. It is a huge bowl of pristine forests described as one of the few remaining relatively untouched wilderness areas in the world.

Bounded by a formidable escarpment reaching over 1,675m above sea level, the almost circular Basin, one of Malaysia’s finest remaining wilderness areas, encompasses 390 km² of pristine forest, a virtually self-contained ecosystem, never permanently inhabited and with large areas still remaining to be explored and documented.
The whole Basin is a large water catchment area. Water is drained by one river, the Maliau River, which flows out through a gorge in the southeast of the Basin and eventually towards the Kinabatangan river, the longest and largest river in Sabah.
 
The Majestic 7 tiers Maliau Falls.

Maliau Basin was designated conservation area, for the purposes of research, education and training, along with Danum Valley Conservation Area further to the east in 1981. Later, the Sabah State Government upgraded the whole area into a Class 1 protection forest reserve.
 
Nature explorers will love the Maliau Basin as it is an excellent site for jungle activities, like  tropical forest trekking, wildlife, bird watching. The basin contains an unusual assemblage of 12 forest types, comprising mainly of lower montane forest dominated by majestic Agathis trees, rare montane heath forest and lowland, and hill diperocarp forest. The highlight of the adventure is to trek the majestic 7 tiers Maliau Falls.
 Pitcher plants are common in the Basin
 Many Huge trees.
A trail in the Basin.
If you are lucky!

Maliau Basin conservation area is reachable by road from either Kota Kinabalu or Tawau. It is a leisure drive for the first 5-6 hours on the tarred country road to the gate of the "Basin". To reach the base camp, a 4WD vehicle is recommended and depending on the weather and most the way will be on the jungle road.
 
 
Our team faced some very difficult challenge during the last outing as the weather was not in our favour.  

The other option is flying if you have extra allocations for such luxury. There are several helipads in the conservation area.

It's worthwhile to explore this Maliau Basin if you are a nature   

Some Tour operators do have 5D/4N or 6D/5N package or more to Maliau Basin. It is quite costly from RM5000 +. The package is value for money to such a destination, the lost world.      

Thursday, December 8, 2016

THE WONDERS OF BORNEO - Mount Kinabalu

Mount. Kinabalu is the iconic mountain of Sabah in Borneo and it's located within the Kinabalu National Park, a World Heritage Site. The summit is known as Low's Peak at the height of 4,096 metres (13,438 ft) above sea level and It's the highest peak in South East Asia and also the 20th most prominent mountain in the world. The original height was 4,101 metres (13,455 ft) as previously published.
Mount Kinabalu includes the Kinabalu montane alpine meadows ecoregion in the montane grasslands and shrublands biome.
The mountain and its surrounding areas are the most important biological sites in the world, with between 5,000 and 6,000 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and more than 100 mammalian species identified. Among this rich collection of wildlife are famous species such as the Rafflesia plants and orangutans.
Magnificent view of Mount Kinabalu in the morning.

This spectacular mountain is opened for anyone, both local and foreigner who is interested to challenge the summit. It's the best way to discover the breathtaking wonders during climb.
 
 
 
 
 The breathtaking views near the summit.     
Low's Peak can be climbed quite easily by a person in good physical condition and there is no need for mountaineering equipment at any point on the main route. Other peaks along the massif, however, require some rock climbing skills.

The common climb tour is the 2D/1N or the 3D/2N package which is inclusive of transfer from the city,  climb permit, Mountain guide, food and accommodation at Laban Rata located at  3,270 metres or 10,730 ft. The package price is around RM1350 per person more or less basing a minimum 2-3 persons.

No specialized mountain climbing skills are required to climb, though along some sections on the summit trail, you need to rely on guide ropes to make the ascent and descent. Definitely, one will enjoy the climb depending how fit you are and how well you acclimate to thin air at the higher levels.

Just a precaution, this mountain can be a dangerous place, especially during the rain or when there is mist. The higher slopes can be very slippery when it rains and dense fog reduces visibility to a few feet. Following strictly to the instructions of the mountain guides, the climb can be a piece of cake.
 
 
Trekking up to Laban Rata.(average 6 hours)
The final climb to the summit from Laban Rata usually is from 2:00-2:30am in complete darkness in order to catch the sunrise when reaching the summit. These pictures, taken after 06:00am show a clearer view of the rope climb as our team started the climb after 05:30AM.    
Returning to Laban Rata.
Descending to Park HQ
Just before the sunset - view from the mountain.

For those who are to the climb of Mount Kinabalu, I wish you all the best and success in challenging this spectacular mountain.