LitSara®: Borneo’s Natural Gift to Mankind

Blessed with breathtaking views and rich natural resources, one can find endless secrets hidden behind the health and beauty of the different communities in Sarawak.

The Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC), in partnership with the indigenous communities in Sarawak have studied and developed LitSara® products through its Traditional Knowledge (TK) Documentation Programme to bring out Borneo’s natural gift for all to enjoy.

LitSara®, a product derived from the indigenous communities’ traditional knowledge, comes from Sarawak Litsea (Litsea cubeba), a plant well known to the Bidayuh, Kelabit and Lun Bawang communities. It has been used by the communities for generations because of its culinary and healing properties.

The Bidayuh calls it “Pahkak” while the Kelabit and Lun Bawang calls it “Tenem”. Traditionally these communities use the fruit in their cooking, as medication for stomach ailments and its leaves to treat backaches.

The plant produces a scintillating scented essential oil that invigorates, rejuvenates and inspires one’s senses and instantly refreshes intone to the core. It also shows good antimicrobial and insect repellent properties, making it suitable as an active ingredient for personal care products.

LitSara® is a pilot project that utilises the acquisition of Prior Informed Consent (PIC) from participating communities, who are actively involved in implementing Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS). This is to ensure that the traditional knowledge is valued by those who use it and that benefits are shared equitably.

To know more, visit the LitSara official website at https://www.litsara.com/.

Photo shows a few of Litsara’s products. (Photo by Litsara)
Photo shows a few of Litsara’s products. (Photo by Litsara)

Moving the Travel Industry Forward

It is without doubt that the recent COVID-19 outbreak has greatly impacted the tourism industry in Malaysia, including Sarawak, with a drop of 52% in its estimated tourist arrivals.

With health and safety placed as the top priority, people are now resorting to teleconferencing to communicate, rather than exhibitions and conferences as previously done. This has urged the authorities to review strategic plans to regain tourists’ confidence.

The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Youth and Sports Sarawak, Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said that the state is reviewing the industry insights through surveys conducted by the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), Business Events Sarawak (BES) and Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) to analyse the impact of COVID-19 on the industry. It is also looking at ways to improve the current “responsible travel” experience in Sarawak, in addition to being innovative in marketing products after the Movement Control Order (MCO) is lifted.

“Tourism will be slower to pick up its momentum after the MCO is lifted compared to other industries. “It is the right time to do a product audit to improve the standard and quality of current products as well as introduce new products to tourists”, he said, adding that products and packages would be made available on e-commerce platforms by leveraging the Sarawak Travel App and portal.

Photo shows the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Youth and Sports Sarawak, Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah during the interview with the StarMetro. (Photo from The Star)
Photo shows the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Youth and Sports Sarawak, Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah during the interview with the StarMetro. (Photo from The Star)

Domestic Tourism Recovery Takes Off in Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA – The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) launched the domestic tourism recovery programme on June 10, 2020, in its efforts to revive the tourism sector and boost confidence in the market following the onset of the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) starting from June 10 until August 31, 2020.

“Although the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY 2020) has been cancelled, efforts to promote the country as a safe tourism destination will still continue. This campaign also encompasses both the Tourism Recovery Plan and Culture Recovery Plan,” said the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC), Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Haji Shukri.

Detailed standard operating procedures have been proposed by the National Security Council and the Ministry of Health for eight sub sectors. The sub sectors are arts, culture and heritage exhibitions at cultural public facilities; hotel and accommodation; tour operator companies, tour guides, tourism training institute operations; homestay programmes’ adventure tourism, as well as scuba diving and snorkelling.

Several strategies had also been identified, which include prioritising the use of digital platforms such as social media, blogs, websites, as well as e-marketing to regain the public’s confidence to travel again. A survey would also be carried out to strengthen domestic tourism and in preparation for an increase in foreign tourists from nearby countries upon the reopening of the country’s borders.

“A ‘travel bubble’ will be created for green zone countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Cambodia or ASEAN countries and those in the Asia Pacific region, that are safe and acknowledged by the World Health Organisation, the Health Ministry and Home Ministry,” she added.

Photo shows the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC), Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Haji Shukri during the launch of the domestic tourism recovery plan. (Photo by BERNAMA)
Photo shows the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC), Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Haji Shukri during the launch of the domestic tourism recovery plan. (Photo by BERNAMA)

Re-Opening of Four Nature Reserves in Sarawak

KUCHING – Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) has announced the re-opening of four selected nature reserves to the public starting June 8, 2020, based on the decision made by the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) and watch out for more to reopen by June 17.

The selected nature reserves are Sama Jaya Nature Reserve (Kuching), Bukit Lima Nature Reserve (Sibu), Piasau Nature Reserve (Miri) and Bukit Sembiling Nature Reserve (Limbang). During this time, visitors must comply with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that SFC has put in place.

Activities such as ecotourism tours, picnic, children playground recreational activities and physical fitness area, group physical exercise, religious or social functions, trekking outside authorised tracks, as well as disturbing, touching and feeding of wildlife are not permitted.

Children below 12 are not allowed to enter and all names and contact numbers of each visitor must be recorded. Priority will be given to those who had booked prior to their visit. The SOP pointed out that a maximum of 100 visitors are allowed per day, depending on the discretion of the respective wardens.

SFC has also designated separate trails for jogging and walking, while facilities such as café and the park shop will remain closed. Opening hours for senior citizens are from 7am to 10am, and adults from 2pm to 6pm. The reserves will be closed between 10am to 2pm.

For more inquiries, the public can contact the respective nature reserve offices; Sama Jaya Nature Reserve (+6082-365194 or +6011-25181901), Bukit Lima Nature Reserve (+6082-228108 or +6019-4685402), Piasau Nature Reserve (+6085-644487 or +6016-8898590) and Bukit Sembiling Nature Reserve (+6085- 215121 or +6013-8121930).

Bukit Lima Nature Reserve is one of the selected nature reserves which re-opened on June 8. (Photo by Sarawak Forestry Corporation)
Bukit Lima Nature Reserve is one of the selected nature reserves which re-opened on June 8. (Photo by Sarawak Forestry Corporation)

Piasau Nature Reserve’s Newest Member – Marco!

Piasau Nature Reserve, Miri welcomed another successful nesting of its Oriental Pied Hornbill, with the birth of Marco in April this year.

Marco is the seventh successful breeding of the Oriental Pied hornbill species by Piasau’s lovebirds, Jimmy and Juliet.

The name Marco was officially announced in the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) Facebook page after it was chosen by the public via a Facebook poll created by SFC on May 30.

It has received the most number of votes among other names suggested. These included Louis, Quarantino, Green and Covid.

Photo shows Marco, the new born Oriented Pied Hornbill in Piasau Nature Reserve. (Photo by Sarawak Forestry Corporation)
Photo shows Marco, the new born Oriented Pied Hornbill in Piasau Nature Reserve.
(Photo by Sarawak Forestry Corporation)

Reconnecting with Nature at The Village House

Dreaming of sinking your feet into flour-soft sand, forging through the depths of the rainforest and enjoying the beautiful evening sunsets? While we wait to get the OK to travel again, plan out your trips to enjoy the outdoors at The Village House, located near Santubong.

Fun In the Sun
The Village House one (1) night stay with breakfast, lunch and dinner provided and Bike Tour for only RM180 nett per person
*Twin sharing basis in Village Double/Twin room

Get Wild at the Wetlands
The Village House one (1) night stay with breakfast, lunch and dinner provided and Bike Tour for only RM300 nett per person
*Twin sharing basis in Village Double/Twin room.

Summit Mount Santubong
The Village House one (1) night stay with breakfast, lunch and dinner and Bike Tour for only RM250 nett per person
*Twin sharing basis in Village Double/Twin room.

Book now till June 30, 2020 for stays from June 10 to December 31, 2020.

The Village House only accepts guest above 12 years of age.

For further enquiries, visit The Village House at https://villagehouse.com.my/.

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Legends of Sarawak’s Floating Natok Kon Sebauh Temple

Located about 48km from Bintulu, Sebauh is a small town with over 20,000 residents. Seated on an island directly opposite Sebauh is the floating Natok Kon Sebauh Temple.

Locals believed that the temple houses three deities that possess immense powers and will come to aid anyone in need. To get there, one must take a boat from the jetty. Upon arrival, you will notice that the temple is completely separated from land, surrounded by water. There are many legends on how the temple came along. The Chinese have their own version while the Ibans have theirs.

According to the local Chinese community, the legend involves three fishermen on board looking for wild ferns across the river before their boat was struck by a storm, flipped over and disappeared at the scene. A huge rock that resembles a boat then appeared at the spot where the boat sank. Apparently, when the moon is high, three figures in white robes can be seen lurking on the island.

A slightly light-hearted version involves three Malay fishermen; Haji Salleh, Tuanku Silai and Mohammad Su who were fishing at Kuala Sebauh a month before the Lunar New Year.  While having lunch on their boat, two fishes suddenly jumped up from the river and landed on Haji Salleh’s plate which made his friends laugh out loud. Then, a lizard from the roof of their boat dropped on to his plate, making them laugh even louder. They laughed so hard that the boat sank. Half a year later, an island appeared at the very site the boat sank and the three figures can often be seen on the island when the moon is high.

Meanwhile, the Iban folklore tells that there were three Malay sailors on a boat from Kuala Bintulu to Sebauh. One day, the cook had made some sago porridge. Instead of eating it, they played with the porridge by stretching and stirring it around each other’s heads. Their foolishness angered the Almighty, turning them into stones. A powerful shaman came along and charmed the stone boat, moving it to the current site. A long time ago, the island resembled a boat however, over the years, erosion took its toll.

Floating Temple Sebauh

Sarawak To Woo Local Tourists

The global COVID-19 outbreak has severely impacted the Tourism industry in Sarawak. In an effort to kick start recovery of the tourism sector, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak, Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said that the state is shifting its strategy, to focus on ASEAN and domestic markets.

“We are narrowing our focus to key markets, to be more integrated but achievable post-Covid-19,” adding that the state would be participating in domestic and regional marketing initiatives for this purpose. Domestic travel will play a huge role during this recovery. Hence, the reason for realigning our marketing strategy”, he said.

While travelling is unlikely at the moment due to health and safety reasons, Sarawak will focus on digital marketing as its core approach to increase destination visibility and connect with consumers to create confidence among partners, as well as travellers. We need to leverage on digital marketing to create ripple effect messages and remind travellers that Sarawak is waiting to be explored”, he added.

In the meantime, Sarawak is looking into improving the standards and quality of the state’s tourism products which includes creative packages, new tourism infrastructures, facilities and identifying other “wow” factor to push for arrivals.

Darulhana V2

Bung Sadung Climbathon Challenge 2020 Postponed

KUCHING – The 3rd Bung Sadung Climbathon Challenge scheduled to take place on August 30, 2020 has been postponed to a later date due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Those who have registered for the event will be reimbursed accordingly.

“It is unfortunate that the climbathon will not take place this year, but the safety and wellbeing of participants and the community is our top priority. We need to do our part to help break the transmission of COVID-19”, said the organising committee’s spokesperson.

This year’s climbathon is organised by Kampung Bunga’s Development and Security committee in collaboration with the Serian District Council and supported by Serian Resident Office and Tarat Sports and Recreation.

Photo shows the Bung Sadung Climbathon flag off in 2018. (Photo by Bung Sadung, Serian Sarawak)
Photo shows the Bung Sadung Climbathon flag off in 2018.
(Photo by Bung Sadung, Serian Sarawak)

Discovering The Heart Of Borneo: Bario Highlands

Bario, or pronounced as ‘bariew’, is a village located at the northeast of Sarawak, bordering the Indonesian Kalimantan. It is home to the Kelabit tribe, one of the many Orang Ulu (upriver) tribes in Sarawak.

Lying at an altitude of 3,500 feet above sea level, Bario surrounds you with air that is cool and light, where one long breath would instantly refresh you, hence, its name ‘bariew’ – which means wind in the Kelabit language. The wind here is as gentle as life itself mainly for farmers who still call it home.

It is also affectionately known as the ‘Land of a Thousand Handshakes’, which signifies how friendly the locals are as they will greet you as you wander around the community.

The Kelabit population is only about 6,000 in Sarawak, out of which only about 1,200 Kelabit are still in Bario and the Kelabit highlands as most of them, especially the younger generations have migrated to urban areas such as Lawas and Miri.

There are two ways of getting to Bario; by air and by road. The most popular method is to fly using MASWings from Miri to Bario, which takes about 45 minutes. However, for those who favour more adventure and have extra time at hand, take a road trip through the oldest rainforest in the world, from Lawas to Ba’kelalan via a 4-wheel drive and then a two days trek on foot to Bario.

Places like Bario and Ba’Kelalan are almost untouched by the modern, fast-paced, technology-driven world. This is why they are perfect for when you need to disconnect and unwind from the outside world while reconnecting with yourself.

To know more, visit Sarawak Tourism Website  https://sarawaktourism.com/story/bario-highlands-the-heart-of-borneo/

Photo shows a breathtaking view of one of the villages in Bario.  (Photo by Bario Travel Network)
Photo shows a breathtaking view of one of the villages in Bario.
(Photo by Bario Travel Network)