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Saying hello to the proboscis monkey in Tarakan’s Bekantan and Mangrove Conservation Park

While we call it’ ‘monyet belanda’ in Malaysia, in Indonesia it is called ‘bekantan’. The proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) is endemic to Borneo and can be found in all three countries on the island.

But it can also be found on the island of Tarakan, in the eastern part of Borneo in North Kalimantan province of Indonesia.  

Here visitors can see them at the Bekantan and Mangrove Conservation Park, about 1km from the city center of Tarakan.

The Bekantan and Mangrove Conservation Park

The park is a conservation effort led by Tarakan city’s local government. In the beginning, the area only spanned three hectares, now it has increased to 22 hectares.

It was officially opened on June 5, 2003. Besides a conservation place for proboscis monkeys, it also served as the green lung for Tarakan city.

At first there were only two proboscis monkeys living in the park, now they have about 35 individuals.

Over the years, these proboscis monkeys have become used to human visitors, so it is easier to spot them and catch them on camera.

Plus, their reddish brown fur and unusually large noses make them easier to spot among the mangrove trees.

The best times to visit the Bekantan and Mangrove Conservation Park are between 11am to 2pm. This is because these are the extra feeding times for these bekantan.

Being seasonal eaters, these animals eat mostly fruit from January to May and leaves, especially mangrove leaves during June to December.

But the park rangers still feed them fruit with extra nutrients like bananas.

What to bring to the park

Visitors can walk around the park along its walkways that make it convenient to bring young families around.

Besides proboscis monkeys, visitors can also watch out for other animals such as crabs, birds, monitor lizards, squirrels, and mud fish. During high tide, you might even spot see snakes swimming through these mangrove roots.

Since the park is located near the city, visitors cannot escape from urban noise pollution, especially with noises coming in from a nearby school.

But with plenty of mangrove trees around, it is still a good place to see some greenery.

Although you can take photos of proboscis monkeys from a distance of 5m, it is still best to bring long-focus lenses to take their photographs.

Be respectful toward these animals and do not provoke them. Ever.

In Indonesia, proboscis monkeys are protected by Law Number 5 of 1990, Article 21, paragraph 2, which states that it is prohibited from capturing, injuring, killing, storing, possessing, maintaining, transporting and trading protected animals in living conditions. Anyone who intentionally violates the provisions of Article 21 paragraph 2 can be punished with a maximum imprisonment of 5 years and a maximum fine of Rp100 million (about RM28,000 or USD 7,000).

Besides Bekantan and Mangrove Conservation Park, proboscis monkeys can also be found in 16 protected areas in Indonesia.

These include Danau Sentarum National Park, Gunung Palung National Park, Kendawangan Nature Reserve, Kutai National Park, Lesan Protection Forest, Muara Kama Nature Reserve, Mandor Reserve and Tanjung Puting National Park.

What Sarawak nature looked like in the 19th century according to Harriette McDougall

Harriette McDougall was the wife of Francis Thomas McDougall, the first Anglican Bishop of Labuan and Sarawak from 1849 to 1868.

They first arrived in Sarawak on June 29, 1848 then subsequently established a medical mission as well as a home school here.

The couple spent the next 20 years -on and off- in the Kingdom, visiting various areas in Sarawak.

In 1888, Harriette published ‘Sketches of Our Life at Sarawak’, a book sharing her experience while staying in Borneo.

While some of her accounts were controversial, arguable and biased; she cited the deaths of the Great Kayan Expedition as “their own fault” and stated Islam as “not a faith which teaches mercy or respects life”, Harriette did give descriptions of Sarawak nature during the mid-19th century that would be important for historians or ecologists today.

They not only gave glimpses of how the state appeared back then, but how much has changed in term of biodiversity:

Here are some of the places Harriette described in her book ‘Sketches of Our Life at Sarawak’:
1.Buntal Bay
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Welcome to Buntal Esplanade!

Over recent years, scientists identified Bako Buntal Bay as the wandering site for at least 27 migratory bird species in their annual migration between Southeast Asia and Australasia.

However, can you imagine that the number of bird species could be more during the mid 19th century?

According to Harriette, there was no settlement at Buntal bay when they occasionally visited the area.

Harriette wrote, “As the tide ebbed the birds arrived–tall storks, fishing eagles, gulls, curlew, plover, godwits, and many others we did not know. They flew in long lines, till they seemed to vanish and reappear, circling round and round, then swooping down upon the sand where the receding waves were leaving their supper. I never saw a prettier sight. The tall storks seemed to act like sentinels, watching while the others fed.”

She continued, “And there are many such spots in Borneo where no human foot ever trod, and where trees, flowers, and insects flourish exceedingly; where the birds sing songs of praise which are only heard by their Maker, and where the wild animals of the forest live and die unmolested. There is always something delightful to me in this idea. We are apt to think that this earth is made for man, but, after many ages, there are still some parts of his domain unconquered, some fair lands where the axe, the fire, and the plough arc still unknown.”

2.Muara Tebas
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The view of Muara Tebas.

When Harriette and her companions needed to enter Sarawak, they used the Muara Tebas route.

Along this route, she took in the view of villages and environment along the river banks.

Though Harriette mistook crocodiles for alligators, she did describe how the mangrove forests came alive with glittering fireflies during the night.

During this 21st century, one can only imagine how beautiful that sight was.

“The river winds continually, and every new reach had its interest: a village of palm-leaf houses built close to the water, women and children standing on the steps with their long bamboo jars, or peeping out of the slits of windows at the schooner; boats of all sizes near the houses, fishing-nets hanging up to dry, wicked alligators lying basking on the mud; trees of many varieties–the nibong palm which furnishes the posts of the houses, the nipa which makes their mat walls, and close by the water the light and graceful mangroves, which at night arc all alive and glittering with fire-flies. On the boughs of some larger trees hanging over the stream, parties of monkeys might be seen eating the fruits, chattering, jumping, flying almost, from bough to bough.”

3.Batang Rajang

When Harriette arrived at Batang Rajang, she described it as a glorious river saying “It is not visited by a bore, and eighty miles from the sea it is half a mile broad, and deep to the banks.”

She also had high praises for the flowers in Borneo.

Harriette wrote, “They seldom grow on the ground, though you may sometimes come upon a huge bed of ground orchids, but mostly climb up the trees, and hang in festoons from the branches. One plant, the Ixora, for instance, propagating itself undisturbed, will become a garden itself, trailing its red or orange blossoms from bough to bough till the forest glows with colour.

The Rhododendron, growing in the forks of the great branches, takes possession of the tall trees, making them blush all over with delicate pinks and lilacs, or deepest rose clusters. Then the orchideous plants fix themselves in the branches, and send out long sprays of blossom of many colours and sweetest perfume.”

At the Rajang river, Harriette also paid attention to the sounds or birds.

According to her there were not many singing birds in Borneo but she did notice the curious creaking noise made by the wings of Rhinoceros hornbills as they fly past.

(We bet Sarawakians nowadays may not be aware of how hornbills’ wings sound.)

Regardless, the biggest noisemaker of the Borneon jungle was none other than the gibbons or as Harriette called them, the Wawa monkey.

Here is how she lengthily described the sounds of gibbons:

“More musical is the voice of the Wawa monkey, a bubbling like water running out of a narrow-necked bottle, always to be heard at early dawn, and the sweetest of alarums. A dead stillness reigns in the jungle by day, but at sunset every leaf almost becomes instinct with life. You might almost fancy yourself beset by Gideon’s army, when all the lamps in the pitchers rattled and broke, and every man blew his trumpet into your ear. It is an astounding noise certainly, and difficult to believe that so many pipes and rattles, whirring machines and trumpets, belong to good-sized beetles or flies, singing their evening song to the setting sun. As the light dies away all becomes still again, unless any marshy ground shelters frogs. But to hear all this you must go to the old jungle, where the tall trees stand near together and shut out the light of day, and almost the air, for there is a painful sense of suffocation in the dense wood.”

20 things to do during the Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III


For those who dream of an authentic adventure through Borneo, the Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III will take you on a truly unique adventure where you can relive history, experience culture firsthand and appreciate the stewardship of nature .

Organised by the Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo or Formadat, this year the event will be happening from June 27 till July 10.

Overall, there are seven packages for participants to choose from, ranging from moderate to strenuous level.

For five days to two weeks, participants will roam the jungles of the Borneo highlands in a cross-border adventure that will take you to Long Semadoh (Sarawak), Long Pasia (Sabah), Ba Kelalan (Sarawak), Bario (Sarawak) and South Krayan (Indonesia) and Krayan Induk (Indonesia).

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A view of the hilly landscape and paddy farms from a plane.

The event is limited to 50 participants only. Each stage of the Eco Challenge comes with activities that take participants on a journey in the footsteps of the ancestors of the highland peoples.

During a trip organised by WWF-Indonesia to the Krayan Highlands (Apr 2-5), KajoMag and several other media practitioners from Indonesia had the opportunity to experience some of these Eco Challenge activities.

So here are 20 things to do when you join the two-week long Heart Of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III:
1.Come and appreciate the beauty of Heart of Borneo highlands’ biodiversity
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Pitcher plants are commonly found at these central Borneo regions.

Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III will take participants through the Maligan, Kelabit and Krayan Highlands.

These highlands offer unique flora and fauna as they stand about more than 760m above sea level.

Though divided by political boundaries, the Heart of Borneo Highlands share the same beautiful landscape and biodiversity.

From pitcher plants, orchids to other various vegetation forest, hiking through the highlands is definitely different from passing through hot and humid Borneo lowlands.

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Locally known as Anggerik Hitam (black orchid), this plant is also found in Sumatera and Borneo.
2.Experience the culture of indigenous people living in the Heart of Borneo Highlands
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Experience the rich culture of Lun Bawang and Lundayeh people of Borneo Highlands.

The Heart of Borneo Highlands are home to the indigenous Lun Bawang people in Sarawak, or Lundayeh as they are called in neighbouring state of Sabah and Krayan highland in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Besides them, the Kelabit and Sa’ban people have also been living in the highlands for centuries.

In the Ba Kelalan highlands for example, there is a population of around 1,030 people, with the majority being Lun Bawang.

Meanwhile located 1,110m above sea level in the Kelabit Highlands, the majority of the 1,200 people who call the place home are the Kelabit people.

Coming down to the Kalimantan side of South Krayan, there are about 2,400 people of the Lundayeh and Sa’ban with a small of group people.

Over the course of Heart Of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III, participants will have the opportunity to visit some the villages of these indigenous people.

3.Take a thing or two about the traditional knowledge of the local people
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Harvested dried ant nest.

Speaking of indigenous people, the Eco Challenge will give participants the opportunities to learn more about them and their heritage.

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A hot glass of ant nest tea.

Hence, take this chance to learn about their traditional knowledge, especially in medicine. For instance, did you know that you could make tea out of dried ants’ nest? This happens to be a particular delicacy among some of the Lundayeh people in Krayan, and it is believed that this tea can lower blood pressure and be beneficial to your heart.

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The traditional method of boiling ant nest.
4.Enjoy the local fruits and vegetables
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Tarap or terap ( Artocarpus odoratissimus ).

There’s a saying: “Only lazy people go hungry in the jungle”, showing how important the jungle is as a source of food.

The Borneo Highlands are like free grocery shops that Mother Nature offers for the local people.

By 4 o’clock in the afternoon, you can see some of the women with their traditional woven baskets at their backs looking for wild ferns and vegetables to make dinner.

Heart Of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III gives participants the perfect opportunity to enjoy the local fruits such as tarap and wild ferns such as sayur pakis fresh from its source.

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Ellias showing how you can eat one of the edible orchids.
5.Listen to the local legends
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A hill in Krayan which was named after Yuvai Semaring. Legend has it Yuvai watched out for his enemies from the top of this hill.

Although the Lun Bawang/ Lundayeh people are separated by international borders, they still share the same roots, including legends.

It doesn’t matter if you are on the Malaysian side or Indonesian side, each has its own legend of Upai Semaring (spelled Yuvai Semaring in Indonesia).

Believed to be as tall as a giant, this local legendary hero has traces all over the Heart of Borneo Highlands.

The local Lun Bawang and Lundayeh people believed he was their protector defending them from their enemies, especially headhunters from other communities.

6.Visit ancestral burial grounds
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One of the ancient burial grounds at Terang Baru.

Besides local legends, the Lun Bawang and Lundayeh peoples also shared similar ancestral burial rituals.

Hence, you can find ancient burial grounds in both countries. Nobody is 100% certain who some these tombs belonged to, but everyone is sure they belonged to important figures in their communities.

One of the stages of the Eco Challenge is to visit an old burial site called ‘Lengutan Anak Adi’ to see the ancient remnants of skeletons and broken jars.

This is because like most ancient communities in Borneo, jars were important as a a secondary burial tool in sending off their dead.

7.Take a look at the rock art of Heart of Borneo Highlands

Another important archaeological site included in the Heart Of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III is an ancient stone carving site by the legendary giant Upai Semaring.

Although there are similar carving sites found in the Krayan Highlands, the one included as part of this Eco Challenge itinerary is the one found in Ba Kelalan.

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A stone carving made by Upai Semaring in Long Midang.
8.Have a taste of the local cuisine

Since participants will have the chance to stay at homestays together with the local people, it serve as a great chance for them to have a taste of local cooking.

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The brown rice of Krayan highlands.

If you had the chance, give biter (vegetable porridge) or any of their traditional cakes a try. They are definitely a new gastronomic experience!

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Biter, a traditional cuisine of Lundayeh people made from rice and vegetables.
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A variety of Lundayeh cakes.
9.Enjoy the beautiful scenery of paddy farms

While half of the beauty of Borneo Highlands landscape comes from the misty highlands, another half comes from its vast paddy farms.

This scenery is something one should experience on your own to appreciate its serene beauty.

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10.Learn about how mountain salt is processed
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Salt processing at Long Midang.

Have you ever wondered how people living miles from the sea such as the Kelabit and Krayan Highlands get their salt from in ancient times?

All thanks to Mother Nature, these people did not rely on trade to buy salt to season their food.

There are salt springs spread out in several locations all over the highlands. The communities then came together to process them for personal consumption as well as to sell as an extra source of income.

Though there are several villages had its own salt processing house, the participants will visit the one in Long Midang near Indonesia-Malaysia border.

11.Watch how the local people make soap

Again, have you wondered how the olden communities washed themselves? During this Heart Of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III, participants will have a chance to make a quick stop at a local soap production site.

There, the locals use Tenem tree essential oil extracts to make natural soap.

12.Pick up an indigenous musical instrument or two
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Ellias Yesaya, Head of The Cultural Field School playing bamboo flute.

A visit to the Krayan Highland during this Heart Of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III would not be complete without a visit to the Cultural Field School, Terang Baru.

It is a space for cultural celebrations and to learn traditional music and dances.

From string instruments to traditional percussion, the school gives its visitors a rare opportunity to learn the musical heritage of Lundayeh people.

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The Cultural Field School
13.Say a prayer at Prayer Mountain

While taking a tour around Bario Valley, visitors will have the opportunity to trek to the top of Prayer Mountain.

During Bario Valley stage, visitors will also have a chance to visit the oldest longhouse settlement in Bario as well as the biggest green energy farm in Sarawak.

14.Learn a thing or two about World War II history in the area
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Local guide Alex Ballang pointing out the helipads built by the allied forces during WWII.

Unknown to most people, both Kelabit and Krayan highlands played an important role during the Second World War against the Japanese.

Talk to the local guides or villagers, some might still have stories which part of the highlands were used as helipads for allied forces and how Tom Harrisson and several Z Special Unit operatives parachuted onto the plateau.

15.Enjoy the beauty of sunrise and sunset from different angle everyday on the highlands
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You could always wait for the morning mist to be lifted.

For this, it does not matter if you sign up for the five-day or the two-week challenge. Since the participants are moving from one stage to another, you can enjoy the beauty of the sunrise and sunset from different angles everyday through out the event.

While sunrise is usually difficult to see because of the thick morning mist at the highlands, one could still enjoy the scenery on how the mist is slowly lifted revealing gorgeous view of the highlands.

Plus if the weather is good, each view sunset is just unique and breathtaking on its own.

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Catch this sunset at Krayan highlands
16.Pick up a set of binoculars and do some bird watching

It doesn’t matter if you are an amateur birdwatcher or not, these Borneo highlands are the perfect place to do some birdwatching, so don’t miss out on that.

There have been sightings of rare and endemic Dulit frogmouth (Batrachostomus harterti) as well as the Black Oriole (Oriolus hosii) in the area. Perhaps you might be the lucky one to spot them during this
Heart Of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III.

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You never know what you might spot while trekking at these highlands.
17.Come and take a stroll on the rocky beach of Borneo

From the mountain to the sea, Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III has it all!

One of the final stops of the challenge is a trip to Tusan Beach in Miri. The beach is famous for its horse-like rock formation and the blue tears phenomenon.

18.Visit one of the oldest human settlements in Borneo

While in Miri, the participants will also make a short visit Niah National Park.

The star attractions here are the Painted Cave featuring prehistoric drawings and site where remains of human skeleton from 40,000 years ago were found.

19.Come and watch the Milky Way without the light pollution

Calling all stargazers out there! Imagine having to gaze on the Milky Way without any light pollution.

From KajoMag’s first-hand experience, one can look up at the sky and just stare at it for hours from the Borneo highlands.

It is a breathtaking sight that you can never get from the city. To enhance your experience even more, download a star chart app on your smartphone before you go and see how many constellations you can spot during the event.

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Enjoy the skies of Borneo Higlands without any light pollution.
20. Join to unwind and let the nature of Heart of Borneo highlands heal you

There are plenty of scientific studies out there that have proven being outdoor in the nature is one of the best medicine to improve your mental health.

It lowers your chances of getting depressed as well as the risk of having mental illness.

Furthermore, making trips to the forest can actually improve your immunity. So, what are you waiting for? It is time to sign up for Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge III!

For more information, download this brochure.

Get to know two species of gibbons found in Borneo

The Borneo orangutan is the only great ape found in Asia. Here in Borneo, it shares the rainforest with 12 other primate species including two gibbon species.

Although they more closely resemble monkeys, gibbons are actually called smaller or lesser apes, and like all apes, gibbons lack tails.

Compared to great apes, gibbons are small, exhibit low sexual dimorphism (meaning there’s not much difference in size or appearance between male and female) and do not make nests.

They are also known to be the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling, nonflying mammals.

Here are the basic things you need to know about the two gibbon species that can be found in Borneo:
1.Bornean white-bearded gibbon (Hylobates albibarbis)

It is also known as the Bornean agile gibbon or southern gibbon. Before this, it was considered as a subspecies of the agile gibbon (Hylobates agilis). However, based on DNA research it is classified as a completely different species.

They are commonly seen with grey or dark brown fur, a black face and white beard.

According to Borneo Nature Foundation, gibbons are harder to study than orangutans because they travel very quickly through the forest canopy and are difficult to habituate.

It is crucial to study more about this particular species of gibbon since it is an endangered animal.

Additionally, it is endemic only to southern part of Borneo, between the Kapuas and Barito rivers.

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Kapuas river in Kalimantan.

Additionally, the Bornean white-bearded gibbon is endemic only to southern part of Borneo, between the Kapuas and Barito rivers.

Sixty-five percent of their diet comprises fruit, while 23% is made up of leaves and insects.

They rely heavily on dense and tall forest areas for safety and travelling. Hence, logging and mining are huge threats to their survival.

Gibbon Behaviour Project by Borneo Nature Foundation is the only project in the world dedicated to the long term study of Bornean white-bearded gibbon.

They found out that the 2015 huge forest fires in Central Kalimantan had a long term impact of the gibbon population even two years after the incident.

After a large part of the forest habitat was lost to fire, the gibbons had to fit into a smaller space and forced to compete for more food and other resources.

Just like humans during home intrusions, some of these gibbons were moving to a new area after the fire and raising conflicts with other groups.

2.Mueller’s gibbon or Bornean gibbon (Hylobates muelleri)
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Hylobates muelleri is one of the gibbon species that can be found in Borneo.

According to A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo by Junaidi Payne and Charles. M Francis, Hylobates muelleri is basically grey-brown but with a wide range in coat colour and pattern.

It is endemic to the island of Borneo and can be found in the northern and eastern part of the island.

In Indonesia, they are distributed in a number of protected areas including Betung Kerihun National Park, Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park, Kayan Mentarang National Park, Kutai National Park, Sungai Wain Protection Forest and Tanjung Puting National Park.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, Hylobates muelleri occurs in Pulong Tau National Park, Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Semenggoh Nature Reserve.

How do you spot this mammal in the forest? Payne and Francis stated that they are most often detected by the loud, bubbling call of the adult female, heard during the first hours of daylight and carrying for a distance of over 2km under suitable conditions.

Their diets are mainly made up of fresh, ripe fruits, young leaves and small insects.

They are social animals, just like all primates. Plus, all gibbons are strongly territorial. Mueller’s gibbons usually can be found in small groups consisting of one adult male, one adult female and one to three young.

Each group defends a territory of 20-30 hectare. So, it is sad and depressing to see them after being rescued in a small, confined cage such as in Matang Wildlife Centre.

They wouldn’t be there in the first place if it weren’t for irresponsible human acts like keeping them as pets or wildlife trafficking.

5 things you need to know about Bako Buntal Bay

Most travellers visiting Sarawak might not have Bako Buntal Bay as part of their itinerary….unless they are avid birders.

Located about 40km from Kuching city, this vast bay area is an ecologically important site for birds.

The Bako Buntal Bay covers roughly 3,590ha from Mount Santubong at its west to the sandstone plateau of Bako National Park at its east.

Here are five things you need to know about Bako Buntal Bay and why we need to protect it:
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The observation point of Buntal Esplanade.
1.Bako Buntal Bay is one of 55 IBAs in Malaysia

IBA stands for Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, an area identified and agreed as being globally important for the conservation of bird populations.

These sites are identified by BirdLife International. It is a global partnership of conservation organisations that work to conserve birds and their habitats.

Currently, there are over 12,000 IBAs worldwide with 55 of them located in Malaysia.

This number includes 18 in Peninsular Malaysia, 14 in Sabah, 22 in Sarawak and one oceanic island.

2.It is the first East Asian-Australasian Flyway Site in Malaysia.

Malaysia became a partner of EAAFP in 2012. Then on Aug 23, 2013, Bako Buntal Bay was recognised as the first East Asian-Australasian Flyway site in the country.

A flyway is a route migratory birds follow every year from breeding ground to non-breeding sites across different countries and continents.

There are nine flyways of waterbirds in the world covering an area of roughly 350 million square kilometers.

That being said, the birds of Bako Buntal Bay belong to the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. They migrate from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere and back every year.

3.Buntal Bay Flyway Network is an important site for wintering birds.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway spans over Russia, Japan, China, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

So these birds stop at this bay as a wintering and refueling site for this particular flyway.

About 25,000 migratory birds are lured to Bako Buntal Bay between October and April every year to escape winter in their habitats.

After flying long haul from the northern countries such as China and Korea, here is where they stay for two to three weeks to feed and rest, before making their way southwards to New Zealand or Australia.

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The bay is a vast mud and mangrove area.
4.Rare birds have been sighted at Bako Buntal Bay.
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Nordmann’s Greenshank. Photo credit: [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

There are at least 27 species of migratory birds make a pit stop at Bako Buntal Bay.

According to EAAFP, most of them are threatened species including Nordmann’s Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher and Far Eastern Curlew.

In 2009, two rare bird species sighted at Bako Buntal Bay made headlines on the local news. There were the globally-threatened Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) and Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus).

5.At least 10% of the world population of threatened Chinese Egret stop at Bako Buntal Bay.

The Chinese egret (Egretta eulophates) is a a threatened egret species from east Asia. They usually breed in Russia, Korea and mainland China.

The total population of this bird is estimated at 2600 to 3400. According to Sarawak Forestry, the highest number recorded of Chinese egret at Bako Buntal Bay is 40, that is more than 10 per cent of its population.

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The bay at low tide.

No tigers in Borneo? Thank the smart-ass kancil

Everybody knows what a tiger looks like; it is known for its one-of-a-kind fur pattern of dark stripes against reddish-orange fur.

Besides Malaysia, it is also the national animal of India, Bangladesh and South Korea.

Although Borneo is home to around 222 mammals, 44 of them being native to this island, no tiger has been officially recorded here.

It is believed that there used to be a Bornean tiger, which could possibly have been from an extinct tiger population thought to have lived in the Sunda island of Borneo in prehistoric times.

Archaeological excavations in Malaysian Borneo found an upper canine tooth and bones that were identified as belonging to a tiger.

However, some believed that these items had been obtained through trade.

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It has been assumed that the Bornean tiger might have been rather small in size, similar to the Sumatran tiger. Credits: Pixabay
The legend behind why there are no tigers in Borneo

According to a legend recorded by Harold Courlander, we can put the blame on the kancil, or lesser mousedeer (Tragulus kanchil).

Kancil, or Sang Kancil, is a popular character in Indonesian and Malaysian folktales and is widely known for its wit and cunning.

Long ago, when tigers were rulers of Java island, a great famine broke out.

The tigers came together to discuss how to overcome the famine. They came to the decision that the only way out was to take over Borneo island. There, they hoped to find food and force the inhabitants to pay them tribute.

So the tiger king appointed three messengers to meet the King of Borneo and deliver an ultimatum: “Send us food and gold, or we shall came with an army to conquer you!”

To ensure the threats were real, the tiger king even plucked his largest whisker to show the King of Borneo as proof of his strength.

The three tiger messengers crossed the Java sea and landed on Borneo. There, they began their mission to look for the King of Borneo.

They searched high and low but could not find anybody. (This is because the creatures had heard about the tigers and went into hiding.)

Unexpectedly, the messengers came across Kancil, who had heard of their arrival and been waiting for them. The tigers demanded he bring them to the King of Borneo so they could deliver the message and the whisker.

Just like our modern day version of “Please leave a message after the beep”, Kancil replied that his king was busy hunting, but promised to convey the message and return with the king’s own whisker in answer.

The role of a porcupine

Instead of looking for the ‘king’, Kancil went to the cave of the thick-spined porcupine (Thecurus crassispinis). It is one of the three species of porcupines that can be found in Borneo.

Kancil asked the porcupine to pull one of its quills from his back. Then, he returned to the tigers with the quill.

Besides his cunning and wit, Kancil is known to trick his opponents with falsehoods and exaggerations. He then told the tigers that he found his king resting while his servants sharpened his claws by grinding them between two mountains.

He related that the King of Borneo’s message to the tiger king was that his soldiers were tired of their peaceful existence and burned to go to war.

To show his readiness to go to war, the king of Borneo had plucked a whisker from his face.

With that he produced the porcupine quill and gave it to the tiger messengers.

When the messengers returned to Java with the quill, the tiger king was surprised to see the so called “whisker”, as it was 20 times thicker than his.

Imagining defeat at the hands of a giant adversary, the tigers were quick to abandon their plans to Borneo, and that is why there are no tigers on Borneo today.

Tebedu’s KLB Garden makes the perfect visit for families and couples alike

If you are running out of ideas on where to spend quality time with your families and partners, here is a KajoMag-approved suggestion: KLB Garden.

Located about one hour and thirty minutes from Kuching city in the sleepy town of Tebedu, the garden provides a variety of activities for you to spend with your loved ones.

This border town of Sarawak and Kalimantan is also a trading hub for both Malaysians and Indonesians.

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Beginning to look alot like Christmas in KLB Garden.

A huge garden for families with small children to explore

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Zodiac Kids Playground for children.

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A kiddy pool for the children to play in.

Overall, the garden prides itself on being able to house more than 100 different species of birds, fishes and animals such as deer, cows and goats.

They also have other animals such as peacocks, porcupines and rare fowls too.

Visitors can also see more than 20 different kinds of tropical fruits like rambutan, jackfruit, and dragon fruits.

Unfortunately, there were no signs to mark these trees. Thus, it was not entirely educational for those who were unfamiliar with these tropical species.

However, KLB Garden’s patrons can always keep a watchful eye on their surroundings. When you sit in one of its swings, for example, just look up and you will find a bunch of jackfruit hanging right above you.

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Swing underneath this jackfruit tree.

The wide variety of flora and fauna makes it an ideal place for young children to learn and explore their natural environment.

Plus, visitors are allowed to feed the cows, goats and rabbits. This gives young children first-hand experience with animals.

For those who are not thrilled with the idea of ‘caged animals’ or a zoo, KLB Garden might not be the place to visit.

Nonetheless, the animals all looked well taken care of and the cages were clean. Rest assured, all plants and animals were allowed in with permits from the Forest Department.

KLB Garden – a perfect place to go on a date

Additionally, the garden made a perfect date idea for couples looking for other options besides the usual movie and dinner dates.

There are 2-seater bicycles provided for rent, conveniently romantic for couples in love.

Take your sweet time to explore the area on your bicycle while enjoying your surroundings.

And if your partner is the Insta-boyfriend kind, there are a wide range of Insta-worthy spots inside the garden itself.

Social media enthusiasts can away pose to their hearts’ content on a covered walkaway with arches of greenery.

Then, there are two old buses refurbished into cute dining halls with colorful interiors.

If you have a keen eye, then you might notice the small details put into the garden.

For instance, there was a wishing well with statues of Snow White and Seven Dwarfs.

Disney fans would definitely be reminded of Snow White’s song ‘I’m Wishing’; the part when she is pulling a bucket of water out of the well and The Prince makes his sudden appearance.

Speaking of details, rubbish and recycle bins as well as washrooms were located almost at every corner. Hence, making it convenient for all visitors.

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Sing ‘I’m Wishing’ with Snow White at KLB Garden’s wishing well.

Giving visitors a reason to visit Tebedu

KLB Garden was named after Kueh Lau Boo, a prominent Tebedu businessman. During the war against the communists, Kueh’s family was one of the four selected businessmen allowed to continue to do business in the town.

The 13-acre garden is expected to be a main tourism attraction for Tebedu. For local Kuchingites, the garden makes another perfect excuse to escape the city.

Read about other day trips you can make while in Kuching:

What to do in Gunung Gading National Park, Lundu?

What to at Santubong, Sarawak?

Kuching-Serian Itinerary: What can you do in one day?

Ranchan Recreational Park, Serian’s Famous Picnic Spot

Soak your body in Panchor Hot Spring

3 Easy Trails in Bako National Park you must visit

Top News in Sarawak in 2018

We scrolled back through this year’s news so that you don’t have to. 

There are only a few weeks left before this year is over and here are some of the top news in Sarawak in 2018.

  1. Larissa Ping Liew is Miss World Malaysia 2018

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Winner of Miss World Malaysia 2018, Larissa Ping Liew (Image source: Miss World – Malaysia)
At just 19 years old, Sarawakian Larissa Ping Liew was crowned Miss World Malaysia 2018.

Larissa beat 11 other contestants, also winnning Top Talent and Miss Photogenic award.

Born in Kuching, the Chinese-Kenyah lass will represent Malaysia at the 68th Miss World 2018 in Sanya, China on December 8th.

  1. Rabies

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Image source: Pexels

Another top news in Sarawak in 2018 that dominated headlines (unfortunately) is the rabies outbreak.

Since the first outbreak last year, 12 people have been reported dead and 110, 000 stray dogs have been removed by 26 local council as of November 14th.

In efforts to control the rabies outbreak, the Sarawak government has carried out mass anti-rabies vaccination drives. You can check the Sarawak Disaster Info site here for the next round or go to any Sarawak Veterinary Division office and get your dog vaccinated for RM25.

New dog licensing and control by-laws will also come into effect on Dec 1, so consult your respective city councils and get your dogs registered.

  1. Sarawak LRT news

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Image source: Pexels

Earlier this year, there was some buzz when it was announced that Sarawak could have its first LRT by 2024. The first LRT was to cover congested routes like Samarahan and downtown Kuching.

It was announced later, however, that the LRT project would be put on hold to focus on rural development.

  1. The 14th General Election (GE14)

News on GE14 made headlines not only in Sarawak but across the globe.

Sarawak was put under the spotlight during one of the most memorable moments during GE14 when political analyst Karim Raslan took a swipe at Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Mohd Hashim Abdullah on TV for the delay in delivering the polling results.

Karim was quoted saying:

“We’ve all been waiting for you to make these announcements and there are 47 seats to come. And what is going on in Sabah? We’ve been asking this. How is that Sarawak, this enormous state, the head of the SPR, could have sorted it all out?”

Dubbed the most historical Malaysia election, GE14 saw the end of the country ruling party’s administration after being in power for 60 years.

  1. The Sarawak Report Book

After the ban was lifted on whistleblower website Sarawak Report, its founder Claire Rewcastle Brown released her expose on 1MDB this year.

The 528-page The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story Of The 1MDB details evidence of money trails leading to the allegation that billions of dollars were stolen from 1MDB.

  1. Anthony Bourdain’s passing

Hearts were broken everywhere when traveller Anthony Bourdain passed away on June 8 from suicide.

As one of the most beloved TV personalities and celebrity chefs, Anthony has a special place in Sarawakians’ hearts.

His death became one of the top news in Sarawak in 2018 when people shared emotional tributes to him all around social media.

He not only put Sarawak on the CNN screen for the world to see, he joyfully embraced our local favorite dish, laksa, and the longhouse life as he celebrated Gawai with the people of Rh Entalau in Ulu Skrang.

  1. NatGeo picks Sarawak as one of 2018’s best summer destinations

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National Geographic picked Sarawak as one of the best summer destinations in 2018.

Click here to read the full description of Sarawak to know why it is one of the best summer destinations this year.

  1. Hiker found alive after going missing for six days

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For almost a week, Sarawakians followed the news of 22-year-old Stanley Kho who went missing when he went off on a hike at Mount Singai in Bau.

He was found alive but dehydrated six days later with a curious tale. It was reported that Stanley told his rescuers that he followed a “beautiful woman resembling a princess” who gave him flowers plucked from the forest until the night before they discovered him.

  1. Henry Golding from Crazy Rich Asians

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Travel host turn Hollywood actor, Henry Golding (Image source: Henry Golding)

Boy-next-door Henry Golding is basically Sarawak’s latest sweetheart.

The British-Iban actor became one of the top news in Sarawak this year when he was announced to star as one of the main leads in Crazy Rich Asians. 

He also landed a hot role in A Simple Favor (2018) alongside Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively which is currently in theatres.

But if you want to know more about his Sarawak roots, then check out his documentary called Surviving Borneo.

How to avoid lightning strikes when you travel

Did you know that Malaysia has the third highest lightning activity in the world?

According to US National Lightning Safety Institute records, Malaysia recorded an average of 180 to 260 thunderstorm days a year, after Indonesia (322) and Columbia (275 to 320).

If you are living or travelling to these countries (or anywhere else), here are ways to avoid getting hit by lightning:

When you are indoors(!)

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You still need to take precautions when you stay indoors when lightning strikes.


When a thunderstorm hits, get yourself under some shelter. Once inside, avoid using corded phones or electrical appliances.

Plus, the US National Weather Service urges the public to avoid showering during a lightning storm because a bolt might strike the water pipes and electrify your bathroom.

Even MythBusters, an Australian-American science television programme, proved that showering during a thunderstorm might not be a good idea.

So it doesn’t matter how filthy or stinky you are, do not wash your hands or take a shower.

The rainy weather might look beautiful for some but it is advisable to stay away from the windows.

When you are outdoors

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Avoid the beach during thunderstorm. Credits: Pexels

Lightning can strike even when you think you are some distance away from the thunderstorm, so as soon as you hear a distant rumble, that’s when you should scramble for safety.

Even if there aren’t any in sight, never use a cliff or rocks for shelter. The same goes for trees.

What if you get caught in a thunderstorm while surrounded by trees? The best thing you can do is to get far from any trunks and avoid low-hanging branches.

Additionally, get as far as you can from street lamps, wire fences or power lines. These tall, metal objects attract lightnings like flies attracted to lights. You do not want to go near them.

When you are in open spaces

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Check out the weather forecast before you go out. Credits: Pexels

In March 2018, it was reported that a lightning strike on a Penang beach instantly killed a man while injuring another. This is not an isolated case. There have been many reports of lightning strikes in open spaces like the beach all around the world.

Safety experts advise the public to stay away from water including ocean, lakes and rivers because water is a conductor of electricity.

If you’re in a group of people in an open space stuck in a thunderstorm during a futsal match for example, spread out so that everyone is at least three meters away from each other. This is to avoid any live currents travelling between you.

Three people were struck by lightning during in a futsal match in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month. Unfortunately one of the three died in the hospital a week after the incident.

For safety precaution, crouch down in a ball – low to the ground – but make sure to make as little contact with the ground as possible. (Which means no lying flat on the ground during a thunderstorm.)

When you are planning your travel itinerary

As much as you want to make full use of your time during travelling, always remember that safety comes first.

Check the weather forecast before making any plans. If a thunderstorm is on its way, ditch the park, beach, river, trekking trail, golf course and any sports in open fields.

Just relax and stay indoor with a good book, a cup of cocoa… or maybe a glass of wine.

8 scientific reasons why nature is good for your health

You’ve heard or read it on the Internet before; nature is one of the best medicines out there. So much so that doctors in Scotland have been authorised to prescribe nature to their patients.

Here at KajoMag, we searched high and low for the scientific proof of why nature is good for you:

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If you are picking a vacation spot, why not pick somewhere near the nature instead of a metropolitan city? Credits: Pexels.

1.An experience with nature helps to reduce depression

According to a study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) in 2015, nature experiences reduces rumination.

So what is rumination? It is a repetitive thought which focuses on negative aspects of the self, a known risk factor for mental illness.

This research showed that participants who went for a 90-min walk in nature reportedly had lower levels of rumination compared with those who walked through an urban environment.

In other words, being outdoor does helps you to lower your chances of getting depressed and the risk of having mental illness.

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It has been scientifically proven that being in the outdoors helps to reduce depression risks. Credits: Pexels.

2. Living in an urban area with more green space is also beneficial

Even if nature is not that accessible to you, living in an urban area with more green space is also beneficial.

A study has shown that individuals have lower mental distress when living in places with more greenery.

Although the effects are relatively small, it does have cumulative benefits when you have some trees or plants outside your doorstep.

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It is better to live in a residential area with more green space. Credits: Pexels.

3. Spending time in the forest has proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure

Forest bathing has been a part of the Japanese national public health program since 1982. It is basically the practice of being in the presence of trees.

In a study conducted by Japan’s Chiba University, the researchers measured the physiological effects of 280 subjects. These parameters included salivary cortisol (which increases with stress), blood pressure, pulse rate and heart rate.

They compared these results from subjects who spent a day in the city and of those who spent 30 minutes in the forest.

Surprisingly, the study concluded that the forests did actually have a visible effect as subjects in lower concentration of cortisol, pulse rate and blood pressure.

4.A day trip to the forest can also improve immunity

If you haven’t hear of NK cells, they are natural killer cells that are important to the innate immune system.

Renowned for their healthy lifestyles and longevity, the Japanese have also proven that simply making a day trip to a forest park can increase human NK cells activity. They also found that making that just one day visit to a forest park can increase the number of NK cells in your body.

Apart from that, the group of researchers from Nippon Medical School, Tokyo found that such a trip can increase levels of intracellular anti-cancer proteins and all of these effects can last for at least 7 days after the trip.

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Practice forest bathing just by spending a day in the forest. Credits: Pexels.

5.Children who spend more time in green and blue (beach) spaces have lower ADHD symptoms

In 2012, a group of researchers in Barcelona, Spain was investigating the impact of contact with green spaces and blue spaces (beaches) on children’s mental health.

Then the result came back that there beneficial impacts of spending longer time in green spaces and beaches as well as living in residential area surrounding greenness on children.

Evidently, these factors reduce symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in schoolchildren.

6. The sounds and sights of nature help to reduce pain during flexible bronschoscopy

Flexible bronschoscopy is a procedure which allows a clinician to examine the breathing passages of the lungs. The clinician will insert a thin tube called a bronchoscope is placed in the nose or mouth.

There has been a study in Chest Journal that showed that distracting patients with the sounds and sights of nature can reduce their pain during this intrusive procedure.

Perhaps next time you are going through any painful medical procedure, try playing some sounds of nature.

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Try to play the sounds of nature such as the sounds of waterfall to soothe yourself next time. Credits: Pexels.

7.The closer you are to nature, you have higher tendency to exercise

Danish researchers were trying to study the relationship between distance to green space and the level of physical activity among the population of Denmark.

Later they found that those who are living more than 1km from green space had lower odds to exercise and keep shape compared with people living closer than 300m to green space.

Additionally, the scientists found that people who are living more than 1km from green space had higher chance of being obese.

With more and more news on the effects of climate change, it may be time to move closer to nature rather than the gym, don’t you think?

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Instead of spending your time in the shopping mall, how about spending a day in a nature reserve with your friends and family. Credits: Pexels.

8. Lastly, nature lower risk of you dying

Forget about the Fountain of Youth, nature is the real deal to prolong your life.

A study proved that middle-aged men living in high amounts of green space have 16 per cent lower risk of dying compared with similar group living with less greenery.

Another research showcased that older people are more likely to live longer if they live near walkable greenery filled public areas.

Overall, people are just healthier, happier and have better well-being when they spend more time or live closer to nature.