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MALAYSIA’S 8 BEST KEPT SECRETS FOR BIRD LOVERS!

If you’ve watched animation movie Rio (2011) or The Big Year (2011) played by Steve Martin and Owen Wilson, you might have changed your perception about the winged animals prominently featured in these films. Yes, birds are actually one interesting type of reptile, attracting the attention of ornithologists and the casual nature lover alike.

These creatures – some of them rare, nomadic, mysterious, and beautiful – occupy a variety of habitats. They nest in urban parks, while some others hide away in forests. There have been stories of people venturing deep into the jungles of continents for a single satisfying glimpse of these feathered friends.

We may observe them, but they remain “untouchable.” Perhaps that is what makes them such fascinating creatures to us all, and the reason why birdwatching is a passionate pursuit for many, especially among the hipster generation now.

Malaysia, blessed with its tropical nature and greenery, is certainly one of the best bird-watching destinations in the world, with many species easily observable.

 

Let’s see why Malaysia should be your next birdwatching destination!

  1. After South America, Asia has the second largest concentration of birds in the world, and Malaysia boasts a total of 790 species nationwide in both Peninsular and East Malaysia, plus over 100 species of migratory birds.
  2. Malaysia has 55 Important Birds Area (IBA) covering a total of 5.1 million hectares of mangroves land, forests and parks (www.birdinginmalaysia.com). There are 63 species of endemic birds in Malaysia (nowhere else in the world can you find them but here) along with other rare and endangered species such as Silvery Pigeons, Christmas Frigatebirds, Spoon-billed Sandpipes and Helmeted Hornbills.
  3. The migration season for birds coming from Siberia, Manchuria and China to Malaysia starts around September annually, up until early April when it’s time to return to the north. This is the perfect time to observe the arrival of Oriental Honey buzzard, Siberian Thrush and Yellow-rumped Flycatcher after a long flight from home.
  4. The well-known birding sites in Peninsular Malaysia are Fraser’s Hill and Taman Negara which are easily accessible over a 2 or 3 hours’ drive respectively from the nation’s capital of Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile, over in Sabah, Kinabalu Park, Kinabatangan River and Danum Valley are well known birding destinations. In Sarawak, there are 20 IBAs which are home to 500 species of birds, especially in Bako National Park. Good transport infrastructure allows quick and easy travel between the different birding sites. 

  5. There are several interesting birding routes in Malaysia that each offer different experiences and allow birdwatchers to observe different species of birds. In Peninsular Malaysia there are the Central Route, Central Route Plus and the captivating Northern (Hornbill) Route. These routes cover the crowd–favourite venues such as Taman Negara, home to 350 bird species including Hornbills, Trogons, Barbets and Great Argus. Migratory birds also can be viewed in Langkawi, Kedah and Tg. Tuan, Melaka.
  6. Up north in the state of Perak and just a 2-hour drive from Penang is The Royal Belum Park. The Royal Belum Park is home to an impressive 10 species of hornbills. Some even call it the Hornbill Capital of the World! There is no other place on the planet relative to the size of the area where tourists can find that many number of species of hornbills.
  7. Meanwhile, in East Malaysia there are two well-known routes, namely Borneo (Sabah) Route and Borneo (Sarawak) Route – that covers lowland forest to montane and lower montane which promise many species – such as Malaysian Treepies, Ashy Drongos, Mountain Leaf Warblers or bulbuls.
  8. In the care of skilled and experienced Malaysian birdwatching guides, your chances of seeing your target birds are greatly enhanced. With the right equipment such as potable blinds (camouflage tents), the guide can bring you up close to view the beautiful and vulnerable Malayan Peacock Pheasant and – when the timing is right – even to witness its behaviour during the courtship season!  A well organised birdwatching tour, lasting approximately 14 days, may result in an impressive 200 to 230 species of birds!

 

Contacts:

Tour Agency: Natural History Tours (bird-malaysia.com or junglewalla.com)
Address:        1C, Lot 1392 Jalan Tanjung Rhu, 07000 Langkawi
Website:        www.jungewalla.com
Email:             [email protected] or [email protected]
Contact:         + 6019 5902 300 or + 6012 4870 600

Tour Agency: Ecotourism Conservation Society (ECOMY)

Address:        28, Jalan Spektrum U16/21, Taman Bukit Subang, 40160 Shah Alam, Selangor
Website:        www.ecomy.org
Email:             [email protected]
Contact:         +6019 3745246

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A TALE OF THE RAGING KAMPAR RIVER

White water rafting is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Since I survived to tell the tale, let me share with you the excitement of rafting in the Kampar River surrounded by the greenery of the Gopeng rainforest.

White Water Rafting in Kampar River, Gopeng, Perak

Gopeng, a small town about 90 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur, has many pre-war shop houses. This quiet and unassuming place is the gateway to some of the most adventurous outdoor activities in Peninsular Malaysia.

The most popular adrenaline pumping fun is white water rafting in the Kampar River. The scenic waterway is created by the merging of three rivers, Geruntum River, Geroh River and Pacat River in Perak. Rated as a Grade I to III river, it offers a great combination of water ranging from gentle flows to challenging and technical white water. It is also perfect for beginners.

From Gopeng town, it takes about 15 minutes to reach the starting point located at Kg. Ulu Geruntum. The journey itself is a memorable experience as visitors will pass by some of the most picturesque places in Gopeng with a whole spectrum of landscapes. During the fruit season, you will be looking with envy at the fruit orchards flanking both sides of the narrow, winding road. You can also enjoy the beauty and the tranquillity of the quaint traditional villages along the way. A 100-year-old water pipe stretches from the nearby mountains through the major settlements to the old mining area and the villagers are still using the water supply from it.

Upon reaching the white water rafting site, you will find many resorts there as well as several adventure specialists offering white water rafting and other outdoor activities. These are all a stone’s throw away from the starting point of the white water rafting. Whichever adventure company you go with, you will be given a liability form to sign before you can proceed further. Your river guide will brief you about paddling commands, safety measures and the do’s and don’t’s of white water rafting. Then, armed with a life jacket, helmet and paddle, you are all set to face the raging river.

The number of passengers per raft depends on river conditions and other factors but generally it ranges from two to six people.

It helps to have a skillful and friendly river guide as he will calm you down with his jokes and fascinate you with local anecdotes. Our guide, Max, who sat at the back of the raft, helped us to avoid rocks, kept us on the right path, cracked jokes and made sure we had a great time. Besides the guide, a safety kayaker cum photographer will follow rafters throughout the journey to ensure their safety and capture images of their ride.

Water Confidence Test
One of the most important things a rafter has to do before continuing his or her journey down the breathtaking twists, turns and drops of the white water course is the water confidence activity. Depending on the level of the water, there is a possibility of you being thrown out of the raft. The water confidence activity helps you prepare for the worst. It requires you to do body rafting along a short stretch. Your guide will steer you into the current and then he will let you go. If your water confidence is low, the three-minute body rafting will feel like ages and you will end up swallowing a lot of water. This is definitely not an activity for the self-conscious. However, the most important thing is to have faith in your guide and not panic.

After your water confidence has been tested, it is time for you to try your first rapid. White water rafting is an exhilarating activity that provides you with the ultimate adrenaline rush. Cascading down the rapids is only part of the fun. The whole journey is not one huge “liquid chaos” as it provides scenic and relaxing experiences. There are also flat sections in the river for you to take a breather after conquering tough rapids.

Up, Close and Personal with the Rapids of the Kampar River

Kampar River has been a popular spot for white water rafting since 2003. A trip on this river is a two-hour, adrenaline-fuelled journey along a seven or nine kilometres stretch depending on the water level. There are 10 prominent rapids along the stretch and every rapid has a tale to tell.

The first rapid was named Broken Ledge to reflect the concrete ruins of a dam at the river that was once built for the tin mining industry in the Gopeng area.

One of the toughest rapids in the river is called Easy Drop as rafters including the river guide have the tendency to be thrown overboard. Basically, the rapid has two drops of approximately three metres high. Upon reaching this rapid, the river guide will shout the word “Boom! Boom!” to indicate that everyone has to sit in the centre of the raft to avoid falling into the river. It is very exhilarating as your raft is thrown through the rapid and you are left to the mercy of the powerful water.

Rajah Corner is the longest rapid in Kampar River. It is aptly named after the big colony of Rajah Brooke butterflies swarming over the rocks along the area, especially in the morning.

Whenever a raft passes through the Hyside rapid, it has to be in a 30 degree angle so that it can get through the rapid without capsizing. Everyone must move to the “high” side of the raft so that the raft will be in a slightly tilted position.

Slide rapid is a little tricky and slightly technical as it requires the raft to go through most of the right side before sliding to the middle. A raft can easily get stuck in this rapid, especially when the water level is low. If it happens, rafters must shift to the front or the back of the raft depending on the situation and in the meantime, the guide will push the raft back into the main current. It requires skillful manoeuvering because of frequent obstructions.

One rapid called Paddle Breaker marks the site where a guide had his paddle broken in half while going down it. Snake rapid got its name simply because the curve of the river looks like a snake. Your raft will go through a zigzag pattern to clear out of this rapid.

Enders Rapid refers to a skillful trick river kayakers love to do at this rapid. The play manoeuver involves nosing the boat’s bow down and deep and the stern up resulting in the kayak popping vertically upward.

Seeing a flock of chickens running around the area during their first recce, the guides decided to name one rapid Chicken Run. Another is called Eddy Point, the white water terminology for an area where two currents from the opposite direction met to create a circular or spiral motion in the water.

All these rapids offer different kinds of thrills to rafters. You can never run a river the same way twice as the changes of the water flow make each trip unique.

During the journey, you will find yourself resting between rapids, relaxing and listening to your guide talking about the river. There are several rest stops at some areas of interest.

End of the Journey

The journey ends at Kampung Jahang where you will be transported back to your resort for a quick shower and a change of clothes. Your guide will then take you to a nearby restaurant for a hearty meal after all the hard work and excitement.

No one ever walks away from white water rafting experience in Kampar River untouched. You will either get addicted to this extreme activity or fall in love with the sheer beauty of the river area or both. Either way, you will want to return to this unique place again and again.

If white water rafting is not challenging enough for you, there are other extreme activities that you can try such as water abseiling from the top of a three-storey high waterfall, advanced-level kayaking, mountain biking, jungle trekking and caving.

Getting There
From Kuala Lumpur, get off the North-South Plus Expressway at the Gopeng interchange. It is advisable to join organised groups as they will guide you to the starting point and make all the arrangements necessary.

Who to Contact

DESTINATION PERAK SDN. BHD
(A subsidiary of Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak)
Level 11, Perak Techno-Trade Centre, Bandar Meru Raya, Off Jalan Jelapang, 30020 Ipoh, Perak Darul Ridzuan, Malaysia.
Tel:1800 22 8772
Email: [email protected]

 

 

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BEING IN THE ZEN

Ahhh…who doesn’t love a good massage? In fact, just entering a spa centre and inhaling its pleasant aromas already melt away half of your aches and pains. Imagine what a good hour of pummeling and kneading would do to the rest of it!

 

Due to our multi-cultural population, Malaysians are the lucky recipients of some awesome traditional treatments that combine massage techniques, tools and local ingredients that are prepared into massage oils and potions.

 

After a tired day of touring your favourite spots in Malaysia, surely a massage would be a welcome relief? If you have a chance, book a session at these award-winning spa centres, who were duly recognized at the 20th Malaysia Tourism Awards 2016/2017. You won’t be disappointed!

 

SPA VILLAGE BY TANJONG JARA

WINNER OF BEST SPA (HOTEL/RESORT CATEGORY), MALAYSIA TOURISM AWARDS 2016/2017

 

Location: The Tanjong Jara Spa Village is located by the sea in Terengganu’s beautiful coastal village of Dungun. It sits within the sprawling grounds of Tanjong Jara luxury resort, a relaxing hideaway reminiscent of a Malay kampong.

Ambience: The spa pavilion faces the South China Sea and offers the chance for quiet reflection and contemplation. It is nice to have the wide open sea right in front of you as well, and one can easily be lulled into a restful state just by watching the waves come to shore. This beautiful complex of structures, gardens and pools, houses a therapy centre featuring programs for relaxation, reinvigoration and stress relief based on traditional healing methods.

 

Treatment philosophy: Spa Village’s treatment philosophy is rooted in the ancient Malay way of life that emphasises purity of spirit, health and well-being, a philosophy they call “Sucimurni.” Local ingredients are sourced and concocted into potent oils, creams and scrubs.

 

These unique restorative Malay treatments have been handed down from generation to generation, ensuring their authenticity, and therapeutic value. With a history of more than a thousand years, the practices are believed to have their origins in the convergence of Malay, Arab, Indian and Chinese influences during the days of the Malacca Sultanate.

Signature touch: Try out the Malay Signature Experience that extensively uses parts of the Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) in a “three-course” experience consisting of the asam relaxing massage and the Roselle cream scrub, ending with a perfect cup of Roselle tea. The Roselle flower has vitamin C, fruit acids, calcium, iron, potassium and has long been used in traditional medicines. Together with other local herbs and spices such as galangal, ginger, nutmeg and coconut, the treatment delivers a soothing and aromatic experience.

 

Tip: Being in the east coast by the sea will get you closer to the traditional Malay way of life and it’s an opportunity to see how the farming and fishing communities here survive in such a beautiful and relaxing environment. Dungun is a fantastic small town that delivers on great food, beautiful seaside scenery and the authentic Malay lifestyle.

 

BANYAN SPA, IPOH

WINNER OF BEST SPA (INDIVIDUAL PREMISE CATEGORY), MALAYSIA TOURISM AWARDS 2016/2017

 

Location: Banyan Spa is strategically located right in the middle of Ipoh town in the state of Perak. While the vibe within this wellness centre is so “zen,” the central location means that we get the best of Ipoh, too, recently hailed as a hip and happening destination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ambience: What used to be a century-old colonial house has been transformed into a warm and cozy wellness centre that’s very inviting. Considered one of the best wellness centers in Ipoh, it brings about a “kampong feeling” despite being located within a busy city. The tropical-styled zen garden is home to individual attap sheds where private treatments are carried out.

 

Due to its location within a thriving city centre, Banyan Spa intends to provide a sanctuary for its guests to escape the hustle and bustle. The spacious compound, soothing sounds of water and aromatic air immediately lend a sense of peace.

 

Treatment philosophy: It provides a full range of treatments such as massages, facials and manicures and pedicures for the busy person working in the city. As a one-stop centre, it offers detox, lymphatic drainage, body peeling, Chinese traditional massage, reflexology, aromatherapy massage and others. In other words, you can get all your wellness needs addressed here.

 

Signature touch: The Banyan Exclusive Spa Treatment begins with a luxurious rose bath, which then proceeds on to a bamboo-and-lotus body scrub. The client is then wrapped up in clay, algae and marine minerals, before finally receiving a gentle aromatic massage to bring balance and harmony.

 

Another unique treatment here is the Chroma Therapy which uses the seven colours of the spectrum to enhance the body’s seven chakras and stimulate the healing process.

 

Tip: When in Ipoh, one must certainly indulge in its street food offerings. After all, in a New York Times article “Why Ipoh, Malaysia, should be on your travel radar,” its vast choices of local fare was highlighted as a star attraction. Ipoh is also a great starting point to learn about Malaysia’s colonial history and a walking tour of its heritage area is highly recommended as many of the old buildings and landmarks still stand.

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REDISCOVER REDANG AT THE TAARAS BEACH & SPA RESORT

Redang Island has long been a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. With long stretches of sparkling white sand overlooking gorgeous turquoise water and complemented by a protected marine park, it has become a destination of choice for weddings, honeymoons, family getaways, corporate retreats and those seeking adventure and thrills.

Most will head to Long Beach where there are plenty of accommodation and restaurant choices. But for those who want to escape the crowd and want to feel like they have the whole island to themselves, head to the Berjaya Redang Island, a self-sufficient island, where the aptly named Taaras Beach and Spa Resort, Sanskrit for Goddess of the Sea, is located.

The Taaras itself is a vision of paradise. No matter which part of the resort you choose to stay in, it will give you visual pleasures, be it overlooking the ocean waters, or gorgeous landscapes of the garden, or the scenic steep cliffs of the island.  With 184 rooms and suites in various layouts, there is a perfect option for everyone. Even though everything about Taraas screams luxury, the ultimate in luxury and opulence is its Taaras Villa, with its dedicated butler service, gorgeous cliff-side location, and impressive 16m-infinity pool overlooking the bay.

Now, you can travel to Taaras in style following the recent partnership between the Berjaya Hotels Resorts with Prima Air, which provides chartered flights between Subang Airport and Berjaya Redang Island. Guests of The Taaras will be flown to the island using Prima Air’s 10-seater Cessna Grand Caravan EX light aircraft.

Imagine yourself strolling barefoot along a sandy beach while an aircraft flies low over the island. It is reminiscent of the opening scene from the 1980’s Fantasy Island TV show where one of the characters, Tattoo rings the tower bell while screaming “The plane, The plane” whenever he sees a plane coming to the island.

The Taaras has its own private beach with its powdery white sand and crystal clear water. Be warned though that in such an idyllic setting, you may not want to do anything except laze around on the beach or perhaps take a dip in the beautiful ocean in between that.

Knowing the thrill-seekers though, they will want to partake in both water and land activities such as diving, snorkeling, island hopping, kayaking, jungle trekking, and beach volleyball, to name a few. The resort has one of the best diving spots with a 5-star PADI Dive Resort Instructor Development Centre, if you are too lazy to go to the nearby marine park. There are also swimming pools for both adults and children at the resort, where you can rent various shapes of inflatable floats. Mind you, who can resist a unicorn and doughnut-shaped floats.

Guests can also charter the Berjaya Belle Private Yacht for a half or full day experience on the South China Sea exploring the nearby islands in search of dolphins or even whale sharks.

As for food and beverages, you can fill your stomach and quench your thirst at these in-house restaurants comprising the Beach Brasserie, the Asean All Day Dining, the Asean Terrace Lounge and the Bayu Bar.

In the evening, you can sit at the bar by the beach to enjoy the beautiful sunset and at night, have a quiet conversation at the same open bar with the sound of soft and gentle waves hitting the shoreline in the background. You can listen to a live band or check into the karaoke rooms to belt out your favourite songs, watch a movie, or simply read a book at the modest library.

Taaras is indeed, a self-sufficient resort. It has everything that you need while holidaying in a secluded island. It even has a small village outside of the resort, where you can interact with the locals, if you feel like it. Oh, if you are in Taaras, don’t forget to look out for Jojo, Taaras’ very own resident turtle who might show up when you are snorkeling at the resort’s reef or turtle watching by glass-bottom boat.

GETTING HERE:

By Road:

All express/long-haul bus and coaches are available daily via the central bus terminal for eastern region (Hentian Putra Station) located near PWTC. The journey will take about 7-8 hours with several stops and the final stop will be at the Kuala Terengganu Terminal (MPKT). The Kuala Terengganu Shah Bandar Jetty is 5 minutes away where you can opt for public ferry transfer to Redang Island.

 

By Air:

The closest airport to Redang is the Kuala Terengganu Airport . There are various airlines flying in and out of this airport daily. Land and sea (at Merang Jetty) transfers are available with prior reservation. The accumulated journey is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

 

Chartered Flight – Prima Air:

The Wednesday, Friday and Sunday flights between Subang Airport and Redang Airport are scheduled as below:

Subang Airport to Redang Airport:

Depart at 11.30 am

Redang Airport to Subang Airport:

Depart at 2.30pm

 

WHO TO CONTACT

For more information, please contact:

The Taaras Beach Spa Resort,

Pulau Redang, 20928 Redang, Malaysia.

T : + 60 (3) 2149 1788 F : + 60 (3) 2149 1499

E : [email protected]

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Three Award-Winning Attractions To Explore In Malaysia

When planning a visit to Malaysia, don’t forget to include these three award-winning attractions into your itinerary. They were recently given the highest Malaysian honours at the Malaysia Tourism Awards for being the best tourist attractions in the country.

It wasn’t easy to get on the list – these three were shortlisted by a panel of judges comprising leaders in the industry, after a thorough and long process of evaluation. The awards show comes around only once every two years, so it’s worth checking out these prime selections!

OLD-WORLD RAIL TRAVEL

Fancy the Orient Express ala Malaysia? Then you’ll definitely love a ride on the North Borneo Railway’s British Vulcan wood-fuelled steam locomotive. Stepping inside the old-style train carriage will transport you to the nostalgia of train travel in the early 1900s.

What is it? The North Borneo Railway offers you the experience of train travel on Borneo’s oldest running steam locomotive. Plying between Sabah’s state capital, Tanjung Aru and Papar, an agricultural town known as the rice bowl of Sabah, this 58 km route takes passengers through scenic villages and coastal towns, paddy fields, rainforests and plantations of rubber and coffee. During the four-hour journey, you’ll see the heart of Sabah unfolding before your very eyes and and get a glimpse of the colourful and unique local lifestyle. Stops are made along the way to visit traditional temples, heritage shops and the local markets. A local breakfast is served on board, while lunch is presented in a tiffin carrier, reminiscent of the old days, and highlights Sabah cuisine using local produce such as their brown hill rice and jungle ferns.

The experience: This is definitely for the dreamers who love a good dose of culture and tradition mixed into their holidays. After all, rail travel has always been romanticized with beautiful vistas, excellent service and comfort…something that you can certainly expect with this North Borneo Railway experience.

Website: www.suteraharbour.com

A PASSAGE TO THE PAST

The island of Langkawi in the northern region of Malaysia is full of legends, folklore and beautiful geological landscapes at the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, a 100 square km nature reserve. The best way to experience it? By taking a slow and lazy ride down the Kilim river that will transport you to a place hundreds of millions of years old.

What is it? Here is a collection of geo-sites full of amazing flora and fauna, and stunning geological formations like mammoth limestone rocks, fossils, caves, lagoons, beaches and seascapes that will astound and mesmerize you. One of the best ways to explore and appreciate the area is with a boat or kayak ride down the Kilim river, an area said to be some 500 million years old. Your passage down the river passes dense wetland mangroves on one side and gigantic limestone rocks on the other rising from the river bed. Expect to see white bellied eagles and other species of birds, crocodiles, mud crabs, monkeys, monitor lizards, and if you’re lucky a dolphin or two. Stop to explore caves with amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations, fossils and limestone cliffs, and chance upon hidden lakes, mysterious caves and small uninhabited islands.

The experience: This is geology and natural history classes rolled into one, and what a great way to learn! The experience here is nothing short of fascinating as you personally witness life and nature unfolding before your very eyes. A great excursion for the entire family.

Website: langkawigeopark.com.my

A PLAYGROUND FOR YOUNG AND OLD

Looking to “escape” from the hustle and bustle of urban life? Try out this adventure theme park called “Escape” in Teluk Bahang, Penang. Think of it as a huge outdoor playground for all ages, but be prepared to do lots of jumping, leaping, crawling, running, sliding and more…just like when you were kids!

What is it? Escape is basically an outdoor jungle gym that offers kids and adults alike an opportunity to play with abandon at its two themed parks, namely “Escape Adventureplay” and “Escape Waterplay.” There are over 20 attractions within the “dry” park, Escape Adventureplay, consisting of obstacles and challenges of different difficulty levels. Face your fear of heights and challenge your stamina, core strength and balance as you swing from tree to tree like a monkey, leap through the air, climb trees and towers, bounce down slopes on tubby racers or become a cave explorer. Meanwhile, at Escape Waterplay, prepare to get wet! Here, you can opt to swim at a beach-pool with constant waves, slide through the Banana Flip that will launch visitors into the air and send them flying into a 5-metre deep pool, play with your children at the Tots Pool, or even race with your friends and zoom down at 45 km per hour on the slides called Speed Racer.

The Experience:  This place is like your long-lost playground from your childhood days. Spend a whole day here and re-live childhood memories of outdoor adventures with friends and family. Be warned that it is both fun AND will challenge your physical strength.

Website: www.escape.my

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