NEW FLIGHTS FROM MELAKA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

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Recently new routes have been added.


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LEARN FROM JAPANESE HOSPITALITY

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During my recent visit to Kyoto, Mt. Fuji and Tokyo, I find the rural hotels and resorts very gentle and humble.

Their staff including the owner of these resorts, cooks, hotel staff, will line up and wave Malaysian flags to send us off. Give us a very good impression. Malaysian resorts should try and follow as well.



Mount Fuji, Japan

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REJUVENATED MELAKA RIVER

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Live fishes have been put into our Melaka River.


Live fishes in Melaka river.

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Beautiful Birds Of The Blue Bornean Skies

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The jungles of Borneo are a world like no other. Alive with a smorgasbord of magical wildflowers, exotic, wide-eyed creatures and a cacophony of noise. But what goes on above the dense, magical jungle that keeps our world alive? On a typical day, the skies over Borneo feature a breathtaking array of vibrant colours. Our beautiful birds feature remarkably vivid plumage that paint a delightful canvas against the baby blue tropical backdrop.

Surprisingly, while many people are aware of Sarawak’s diverse ecosystem, not many know we are also home to an array of stunning birds.

So whether you’re an avid birder or just love the site of magnificent creatures swooping effortlessly across the jungle canopy, when you come to Sarawak, don’t forget to look up!

To make it easier, we’ve created a compilation of some of the birds you can expect to see on your next visit. Oh and one other thing, just remember the best time to see these birds is at first light and for an hour or so afterwards.

The Bornean Banded Kingfisher

These skilful divers are rare in Java, scarcer in Sumatra, and extinct in Singapore! Luckily for you, they are flourishing in Sarawak. Although they are small and sometimes difficult to spot, they are strong, excitable and sometimes aggressive, especially when humans are around!

You should be able to recognise them from their sturdy red bills. Once you’ve spotted one, try to track it to a water source and watch it catch fish effortlessly.

All rights reserved by liewwk – www.liewwkphoto.com

You can differentiate males from females by their plumage: The male has a bright blue crown with black and blue banding on the back while the females are rufous with black banding on their head and upperparts.


The call of a Bornean Banded Kingfisher captured by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Where to spot them: These nifty hunters can be found in the lowland rainforests of Kubah National Park.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher

Sporting long fancy tails, these birds require a bit more effort to see but are definitely worth the investment. Especially the male as he struts about, flaunting his elegant tail. Chestnut, white or a mixture of both – The plumage of males come in several interesting variations depending on where they are from!

Source: Lawrence Neo 2015

The females look like their chestnut male counterparts, except they have significantly shorter tails and smaller crests.

The call of an Asian Paradise Flycatcher captured by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Where to spot them: They are mostly found in Northern Sarawak, especially in Gunung Mulu National Park and Pulong Tau National Park.

Banded Broadbill

This bird stands out because of their vibrant plumage – against their purplish-black plumage are yellow/lime green markings! They also have piercing blue eyes and a luminescent blue beak that looks like it has been been made-up with “black lipstick”.

Source: Lawrence Neo 2012

In photos, they may look canary-sized, but these birds are actually quite big! Measuring at 21.5cm to 23cm, they feast on insects, especially grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars and larvae.

The call of a Banded Broadbill captured by Tan Kok Hui

Where to spot them: The Banded Broadbill usually lurk in lowland forests, so you can expect to see them at Kubah National Park, Mulu National Park and Batang Ai National Park.

Bornean Bristlehead

This enigmatic bird gets its name from its crown, which are short projections that resemble bare feather shafts. They are often compared to crows wearing red muffler scarves!

In many parts of Borneo, the Bornean Bristlehead has had a tough time and its population has declined significantly. Amongst the birdwatching community, they are on the ‘most wanted’ list and some will even pay good money for local knowledge on where to see them!

Birds of Borneo - Bornean Bristlehead

Source: http://www.hkbws.org.hk (Godwin-C)

So if you are one of the lucky ones to see this beautiful native of Borneo, make sure you whip out your camera, take a picture and remember where you are because it might just be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you also get paid for!

The call of a Bornean Bristlehead captured by Marc Anderson

Where to spot the Bornean Bristlehead: These birds can be spotted in a few locations. Most recently, they have been sighted in Similajau National Park which is 25km northeast of Bintulu. They are also more regularly seen in Lambir Hills National Park.

Scarlet-rumped Trogon

Nope, these birds aren’t characters from Angry Birds, even though they look like one! The Scarlet-rumped Trogon sport a black hood and red body, along with white-black wings and tail. You can definitely tell them apart from their distinctive blue ‘eyebrow’, which gives them their grumpy look!

Birds of Borneo

Source: Ryan Maigan Birds

The call of the Scarlet-rumped Trogon has been used in many Hollywood films that feature lush green jungles! Many people have associated this bird’s call with the tropics of the southern Pacific Ocean. It’s interesting to think that even though most of the world has heard their voice, they belong to our very own forests!

The call of a Scarlet-rumped Trogon captured by Mike Nelson

Where to spot the Helmeted Hornbill: These birds can be found chirping their days away in lowland primary forests like Kubah National Park, Mulu National Park, and Batang Ai National Park.

Peregrine Falcon

If you think the cheetah is the fastest animal on earth, think again! OK, well technically it is but in the sky, you’ll find a bird that can glide effortlessly past a cheetah in full flight. The peregrine falcon has no problem cruising at speeds of 40-60 mph, but when in pursuit of their prey, they can reach up to 200 mph. That’s 293 feet per second and almost 3 times as fast as a cheetah!

© Jesse Gibson

At one stage on the verge of extinction, thanks to robust recovery efforts in North America, the Peregrine Falcon population has now recovered. However, only a lucky few spot them in Sarawak, and with their their bullet-train like speeds, you need to be extra observant when trying to spot one!

The call of a Peregrine Falcon captured by Lard Edenius

Where to spot the Peregrine Falcon: Peregrine Falcons are an elusive species in Sarawak but the best place to spot them is at the peak of Batu Lawi Hill, which now serves as an extension to Pulong Tau National Park.

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Delving into Sarawak’s Magnificent Caves

Bizarre wildlife found in the jungles of exotic Borneo

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Delving into Sarawak’s Magnificent Caves

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It takes a lot of geological ducks to line up neatly in a row and stay there for a few million years to create a cave. All over Sarawak, home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world, those ducks have lined up numerous times as many of the most spectacular caves in the world were discovered and continue to be discovered right here.

Many of those already discovered are now ready for you to explore. But a word of warning, not all of these breathtaking, stunning subterranean caverns are easily accessible, but that just makes the most beautiful caves in the world all the more alluring.

Source: STB Photo Gallery

Sarawak is a big state and the tropical weather can make travel to certain parts of the state challenging and exciting. And with so many outstanding caves, it can be difficult to decide which ones to visit first and in which order.

So, while each cave has its own unique beauty and each is incomparable to another, this post will help you appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature’s masterpieces in Sarawak while visiting at least some of them while you are in Kuching or Miri.

1. Sireh Cave, Serian

Located about 70km South of Kuching, Sireh Cave or Gua Sireh is a true hidden gem with its stunning rock paintings believed to be about 20,000 years old, large chambers and caved parts with clean underground water.

Gua Sireh. Source: Sarawak Tourism

A trip to Gua Sireh can be made within a day. However, it isn’t an easy hike as there are some wooden steps and narrow passageways that one needs to get through. It is recommended to take a tour from Kuching where you can arrange to be picked up at your hotel. You can book tours to Gua Sireh here.

Upon arriving at Bantang Village, your journey continues on foot up a flight of wooden stairs that lead you up to the cave entrance. This is where you will be greeted with cave paintings estimated to be 20 millennia old and peculiar cave residents such as Cave Racer Snake, bats, insects and catfish.

Gua Sireh’s ancient charcoal paintings. Source: Sarawak Tourism

The interior of the cave has some unique yet stunning shapes that are warm-toned swirls and curves decorated for effect. Believed to be one of the earliest human settlements, archaeological materials such as pottery shreds, animal bones and food debris from the Stone Age, New Stone Age, and the Iron Age, have also been recovered inside Gua Sireh.

Caves - Gua Sireh

Inside Gua Sireh. Source: Klook.com

It takes approximately 4 hours to tour the cave and remember to bring a change of gear when visiting Gua Sireh as the tour takes you through to the neighbouring Broken Jar Cave that requires you to walk through a pool of water.

2. Deer Cave, Gunung Mulu National Park

The magnificent Deer Cave. Source: National Geographic

This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to millions of bats. It is said that between 2 to 3 million of them reside in here! The Deer Cave, which is probably Sarawak’s most famous cave, is located at Gunung Mulu National Park, about 90 minutes flying time from Kuching, or a 30-minute flight from Miri.

Deer Cave was only discovered in 1979 by British caver Andy Eavis whilst helping Malaysia better understand and appreciate the potential of the newly established Gunung Mulu National Park.

Deer Cave is the largest cave passage in the world. The entrance is so enormous-nearly 500 feet high- that the sun reaches deep inside and fresh air flows through the caves, allowing a peculiar, awe-inspiring habitat to exist.

As you walk through the cave, you’ll see millions of dark patches on the walls. Those are bats resting so try not to disturb them!

Source: STB Photo Gallery

As the day ends and after you’ve explored Deer Cave, stick around for one of the most spectacular phenomena you’ll ever see.

The Deer Cave bat exodus happens every day at dusk. Millions of bats leave the cave to search for food. It’s an awe-inspiring event.

Nestled in the lush wilderness of Borneo, Gunung Mulu National Park is accessible by river and road but we recommend light plane. MasWings, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, provides direct flights to Gunung Mulu National Park from Miri, Kuching, and Kota Kinabalu.

Upon arrival at Mulu Airport, book guided tours here or here. Most of the tours are all-inclusive and provide airport transfers. Accommodation is varied so do your research!

One other point, local communities who have lived off the land for thousands of years and respect and appreciate what it has provided them, have been trained as tour guides and will escort you throughout your visit to the caves. Make sure you pick their brains about the caves and ask about their beliefs!

The Bat Exodus. Bats fly in a spiral manner to avoid predators like hawks. Source: STB Photo Gallery

3. Clearwater Cave, Gunung Mulu National Park

When you visit Gunung Mulu National Park, you will find a unique environment that stimulates all the senses. One of the many gems of this Park is the Clearwater Cave that is the 8th longest cave in the world at 227 km and the largest interconnected cave system in the world. No wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage site!

Source: Pinterest

The Clearwater Cave system contains an underground river and a plethora of unique rock formations. The amazing thing about these caves is that their true size is still unknown and even now, is still being explored.

Caves - Clearwater Cave

Source: STB Photo Gallery

Visiting Clearwater Cave in Sarawak is a real adventure that begins with the journey. There are two ways of getting to Clearwater cave.

From the park HQ, you can either trek the gentle 4km nature trail that takes approximately one and a half hours, or you can experience a long boat along the Melinau River with a stop at Wind Cave.

The Melinau River at Mulu National Park. Source: STB Photo Gallery

The Wind Cave features ancient, undisturbed stalactites and stalagmites that have, over hundreds of thousands of years, reached each other to create long structures known as pillars or columns. Once you’ve explored the Wind Cave, you can walk to Clearwater Cave in about 5 minutes.

When booking your tour for Gunung Mulu National Park, a visit to the Clearwater Cave and Wind Cave should be included as it is one of the must-visit sites at the park. If it isn’t, ask your agent to include it.

4. Sarawak Chamber, Gunung Mulu National Park

If you are into adventure caving, you must check out the Sarawak Chamber, one of the planet’s largest enclosed areas, natural or manmade. It is so huge, that it has enough space to house 8 jumbo jets in a row!

caves - Sarawak Chamber

Spot the person in the picture! Source: MuluPark.com

Getting to the Sarawak Chamber from the park HQ requires a full day of challenging adventure caving but some say that it is truly a once in a lifetime experience. The whole circuit takes about 10-15 hours which entails a 3-hour hike to Good Luck cave and then an 800m hike through a river channel to the Sarawak Chamber.

Source: MuluCaves.org

There are guided tours available to this magnificent chamber and you can find more information on the tours both here and here.

Before we move on from the Mulu Caves complex, if you seek even more adventure, you can attempt to hike the pinnacles of Mount Mulu. The hike is reportedly the most challenging hike in Malaysia (yes, even tougher than Mt. Kinabalu!) and requires a high level of fitness so make sure you train before you get here!

5. Niah Caves, Niah National Park

Located a mere 90kms south of Miri, the Niah caves are home to 65,000-year-old artefacts and cave paintings. It’s no wonder they are on track to be the next UNESCO World Heritage site. If that happens as expected, there will be a massive increase in visitors so you might want to get there soon, before the crowds!

Caves - Painted Cave

The ancient cave paintings at Niah. Source: TravelBlog.org

The site is also home to the oldest human remains found in Southeast Asia which indicate the caves were inhabited at least 65 millennia ago. You can check out fascinating artefacts including prehistoric utensils and turtle shells that will be on display at the Niah Archaeological Museum from January 2020.

Most importantly, the park is a major source of income to the local tribes people who also earn a living collecting edible birds nests built by Swiftlets high in the cave walls. The sustainably collected birds’ nests are prized by Chinese gourmets around the world and are exported under a supervised environment.

caves - Entrance of Niah Cave

Source: STB Photo Gallery

Getting to Niah Caves is easier than Mulu National Park as it is accessible by road. The journey by bus from either Miri or Bintulu takes approximately 2 hours so you can easily make a day trip out of it.

If you’d rather join a tour, there are guided tours from both Miri and Bintulu and you can get more information on these tours from here and here.

Source: STB Photo Gallery

No visit to Sarawak is complete without visiting her outstanding natural caverns. Whether you are a hardcore spelunker, an open-minded adventurer or an inquisitive visitor, Sarawak’s caves will provide memories and stories forever.

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Beautiful Birds Of The Blue Bornean Skies

Bizarre wildlife found in the jungles of exotic Borneo

National Geographic: Exploring a Massive Cave

The Best of Mulu National Park

Harvesting edible bird's nests at Niah National Park, Miri Sarawak

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