Borneo's top 5 travel secrets
24th October 2012
Borneo is a land of intrigue, popular with travellers the world over. Award-winning guide Kevin Albin reveals how to avoid the honeypots, starting with sun bears
1. Sun bear sanctuary, SepilokSepilok is a popular destination to see the orang utans but right next door is a brand new sanctuary for sun bears (helped along by Kevin's Guide Award bursary). These bears are the smallest of all sub-species and, like the orang utan, they are arboreal and are losing their habitat through deforestation. Sadly, they are also poached, captured for pets and used in Asian medicine.
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre currently has 25 bears in residence. Conservationists are nursing them back to health and where necessary, educating in how to be a wild bear. The intention is then to release them into the forest. As so few people know about the sun bears, including Malaysian and Indonesians, the Centre is also involved in education and raising the animal's profile.
2. Lupa MasaPicture an eco-camp made from giant bamboo with palm thatched shelters, solar powered lighting and reed bed toilet disposal. There's no roads, no hunting and it employs solely local people.
The real beauty though lies in the forest, which is full of jungle animals who live undisturbed. Track down exotic birds, curious insects and a range of primates, such as gibbons who make the most enchanting noises. Clear rivers and stunning waterfalls complete the experience.
Lupa Masa means literally to 'forget time' and near to Poring Hot Springs, surrounded by the beautiful Mt Kinabalu National Park it's easy to see why.
3. Picnic with the PenanIf you are looking for a genuine experience in the jungle with local people, this one is exceptional. The Penan, once a truly nomadic tribe, know exactly how to live in harmony with the forest. You'll need to take a light aircraft flight to Long Lellang, deep in the rainforest and maybe a boat journey in a dug-out canoe.
Witness how the jungle provides for its inhabitants with food, water, and shelter as well as those comforts such as baskets and bracelets made from rattan, and even musical instruments from bamboo. The area is stunning and the guides who will take you trekking are very knowledgeable.
4. The Kinabatangan RiverThis is a remarkable place to see wildlife. Pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, and even saltwater crocodiles. Cruise the river at dawn and dusk, stay in a bamboo hut at Sukau or Abai Village and savour the great food being served.
Take a night walk in the jungle with a local guide who will find things you would never have spotted on your own. The nearby Gomantong Caves are worth a visit for the bats and swiftest and their nests – a spectacle straight out of a David Attenborough documentary.
5. SantubongThis is across the bay from Bako National Park near to Kuching and is a little known area. It's where 19th century British explorer and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace carried out some of his research, thought to have been instrumental in Darwin's evolution theory. For wildlife enthusiasts there's the chance to spot rare hornbills, turtles, and the Irrawdy dolphin.
If you're feeling fit, Mt Santubong is worth the four-hour trek to the summit.
Kevin Albin won Bronze in the 2011 Wanderlust World Guide Awards. He used his prize bursary to help set up the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
Find out what makes him an award-winning guide here.
Text and photo by Tee Thye Lim
"Is the Koala a bear species?''
Asked our Project Manager, Wai Pak to the primary school students of SK. St. Gabriel who visited our centre on the 23 Oct 2012.
"Yes, because it looks like a bear!''
A little girl raised up her hand and answered.
"No! Koala is not a bear!"
A little boy refuted from the opposite side. The argument continued for about 3 minutes until Wai Pak announced the answer.
"No, Koala is not a bear species, it is a type of the Marsupial, same family with the kangaroos" said Wai Pak.
Most of the kids have an idea of a sun bear. They've seen it on TV programmes, perhaps on the internet, however not in a natural environment.
Some of them also mentioned about the local TV programme, TV3 which aired a documentary about BSBCC last week end: <Sunshine in Sepilok: Tales of the Bornean Sun Bears>
Later, knowing that they were about to see real, life Bornean sun bears, the smallest among the smallest of the bears in the world, the kids couldn't wait.
The SK St. Gabriel students at first did not see the Sun Bears roaming at the visible spot.
Fortunately, they were able to join the second group of visitors on that day which was the students of the American International School of Hong Kong, guided by the Animal Projects & Environmental Education (APE) Malaysia team.
This time everyone was able to spot the sun bears. More excitingly, sun bears climbing the trees!
At the end of the visit, SK. St. Gabriel presented a drawing to BSBCC. It was inspiring! Thank you so much!
Also, many thanks to APE Malaysia team for your donations! Not forgetting the hessian sacks you brought us. The bears will definitely love rubbing themselves on them!
Lastly and most importantly, thank you for sparing time and efforts to visit our Centre. It was such a great opportunity for us to share the needs of this small small bear species!
By Wong Siew Te
The weekend of the October 14th was a busy weekend for BSBCC and the sun bears in Malaysia. First it was the TV3's hour-long documentary on sun bear and BSBCC in their popular TV program Majalah 3 broadcasted on Oct 13th. Then the momentum picked up when another hour-long BSBCC documentary Big Dream Little Bears was being screened at the 5th Kuala Lumpur Eco-Film Festival.
This screening of the Big Dream Little Bears not only raise awareness on sun bears and the story of BSBCC to the audience in KL, but also brought Howard Jackson and Audrey Low to KL and have a big reunion after two and a half years. Howard and Audrey owned Wildhoop Production, the film makers who produced, filmed, and directed Big Dream Little Bears. Without Howard and Audrey, we would not have stood there in front of the audience during the film festival.
The weekend long even started with the screening of Big Dreams Little Bears together two other films at Palate Palette Restaurant and Bar on the evening of October 11th. It was a cozy event where audiences and fans packed the function hall on the second floor of the restaurant. The screening was well received with questions and answers at the end of the screening.
Special events and screening of other eco-films continued on the following three days at the Experimental Theater, University Malaya. The finale of the film festival was scheduled on the 14th at University Malaya where the screening of many eco-films started from the late morning to the evening. Big Dream Little Bears was screened to a much larger audience than the Palate Palette at the very last of the event. The audience enjoyed learning the facts of sun bears and challenges to save the least known bear on Earth.
Thanks to the KL Eco-Film Festival organizer, especially Yasmin Rashid, founder of Eco-Knights for their kind invitation for us to join the eco-film festival. The festival has been an important event to make more and more Malaysia know about our very own species of bears that live in our forest and serve important ecologic roles to maintain the health of our forest ecosystem!
Please watch "Big Dream Little Bear" here: http://muvi.es/w538/37115
By Wong Siew Te
Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) was first discovered in Malay Peninsula and described to science by American naturalist in 1825. Ironically, after 187 year, many Malaysians, along with most people in the world, do not know about this world's smallest bear species. One of the reasons for this phenomenon is the lack of education materials on sun bear in the school's curriculum in this country. However, this phenomenon is about to change.
Penerbitan Pelangi Sdn Bhd (Pelangi Publisher Ltd. Co.) (www.pelangibooks.com) is determined to help BSBCC and to raise awareness of sun bear and BSBCC among the secondary schools students in Malaysia. The publishing company is producing 300,000 copies of science reference books for Malaysian schools with BSBCC's logo and website printed on the book's cover. In addition, Pelangi Publisher also donated RM10,000 to support BSBCC as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project. Soon, more and more Malaysian students will learn and know more about sun bears and the important roles that they play in the forest ecosystem.
BSBCC would like to thank Penerbitan Pelangi Sdn Bhd for their generous support and their initiative to help educate students about sun bears. We hope this CSR project will catalyze more corporations to play their parts to protect sun bears in this region and support BSBCC in the future!
If you miss Wong's talk at TEDxKL 2012, here is the chance to view it youtube:
Please remember to share it! Together we can make sun bear become the most well known bear!
A huge success for the TV program Sinar di Sepilok: Kisah Beruang Matahari Borneo (Sunshine in Sepilok: Tales of the Bornean Sun Bears) broadcasted last weekend October 13th at Malaysian TV Channel TV3. The one hour program was produced, directed, and narrated by TV3's journalist Irin Putri in her Majalah 3 (Magazine 3) documentary. The program has been overwhelmed by the general Malaysian viewers. To most of the viewers, this was the first time that they know about sun bears and the work we do at BSBCC. According to TV3's survey, at least 1.8 million viewers have watched this program on prime time last Saturday.
If you miss the show or if you from oversea, you now can watch the program online at:
Just register with tonton.com.my and you will have access to view it online.
Enjoy the show!
One additional notes: Irin first contacted me on July 2010 about her interest to do a program on sun bear. This is what Irin wrote more than 3 years ago:
From: Irin Putri Azmi
Sent: Thursday, July 15, 2010 11:01 AM
Subject: TV3 Majalah 3 On Sun Bears
I'm with TV3's magazine-documentary programme called Majalah 3. I've been interested to do a special feature about you and the sun bears for a while now. I would like to know if you're interested to be featured.
As the very few sun bear experts in Malaysia, I believe you are the best person to convey the message about sun bears and their conservations efforts to the local audience.
I look forward for your reply. You may contact me at 012-xxx xxxx for further information.
Irin Putri Azmi
Executive Broadcast Journalist
Wow! I did not realize that it has been 3 years. Thank you Irin for your persistency to make this TV program a reality. Along with millions of viewers, I would like to thank you and TV3 for helping us to spread the words and make sun bear no longer a forgotten bear!
Text by Gloria Ganang and photo by Tee Thye Lim
The BSBCC team was expecting a visit from the local primary school, SRK (C) Chi Hwa, Sandakan on the 16th October 2012. A total of 236 standard 6 (12 year olds) pupils came to the Centre on that day . They were accompanied by 17 dedicated teachers and their headmistress, Mdm Ooi Mee Har.
Yes, it was a big number! In fact the biggest number of visitors we had so far coming in one day. They all did not come at one time. Instead, the pupils were separated into 7 groups and 1 group came at one time.
The first group arrived at 9.30 am. Not having much idea of what to expect, all were excited when they were told that they were about to see the smallest bear in the world! It was amazing how silent they were along their way to the platform. Perhaps their teachers have taught them well of how to respect and appreciate nature. We were so impressed.
As soon as they reached the platform, all spread around and took their best place to look for the sun bears hiding in the forest enclosure. Some groups were lucky and saw the interesting behavior of the sun bears climbing up the trees. The BSBCC team took this opportunity to share about the sad stories of why the bears are currently at the Centre.
The visit ended at 3.00 pm. I think the team did a wonderful job. Now an additional 253 people know about the sun bears! Special thanks to Madam Ooi and her team of teachers who had made all this possible!
Sinar di Sepilok: Kisah Beruang matahari Borneo - Sunshine in Sepilok: Tales of the Bornean Sun Bear
Text & photo by Gloria Ganang
It was such a precious and meaningful weekend for two of the BSBCC team members, Wai Pak and myself where we traveled to different towns of Sabah to be part of two outstanding events, the Animal Welfare Awareness Concert and the Borneo Bird Festival 2012.
The Animal Welfare Awareness Concert was held on the 5th October 2012 at the KDCA Hall, Penampang, Kota Kinabalu. The concert started at 7.30pm. However there was an exhibition session earlier that day which started at 2.30 pm. The exhibition was attended by groups of students from the local schools and of course animal lovers from across the state. This was a great opportunity to encourage the public to love the sun bears as well!
The Borneo Bird Festival was held on the 5th – 7th October 2012 at the world famous Kinabalu Park. Apart from the spectacular scenery, the different birds occurring at the high elevation makes it a perfect spot for bird watching competitions. How did it go for the BSBCC booth? I could say we had a big hit!
It was an overwhelming experience to see a lot of our local people have not yet heard or knew of the sun bears and that these bears exist in our forest! We made the visitors guess the name of the animals in the pictures showing a sun bear cub. The answers varied. “Panda!”, “Beruang kucing (meaning Cat Bear in Malay)!”,”Puppy”, or simply “a bear?”. “Panda” was the most common answer and people RARELY answered the sun bear! People who knew about the sun bears mostly are those who’ve heard of the worthiness of its bile or paws when sold or traded. Perhaps not many knew of their shrinking habitat, their reducing numbers or the penalties of keeping them as pets. Therefore, the BSBCC is glad that we are at both events to promote the word of this “forgotten” species. Special thanks to Valiant Events & Entertainment and the Borneo Bird Festival 2012 organizing committees for working so hard and made these awesome events successful. You guys rock!
Text and photos by Wong Siew Te
Malaysian TV station TV3 came to make a TV program for their popular TV documentary series Majalah 3 from September 14 - 19, 2012. The filming crew is consisted of the host and producer of the program, Irin Putri, a camera man, and a sound technician. The film crew has taken many rare footages of the sun bears in both the forest enclosures and in the bear house, and filmed the daily busy routine of BSBCC. They also managed to film the moving of Fulung and Bongkut, the sun bear yearlings, to the new bear house, interviewed Wong and Wai Pak, and many others.
In conjunction of the broadcasting of the TV program, Wong will be interview in TV3's morning talk show Malaysia Hari Ini (Today's Malaysia) from 7:30 am - 9 am Friday Oct 12. The program is schedule to be air nationally through TV3 at 9 pm on October 13. On the following day, "Big Dream Little Bear" will be premier at the Kuala Lumpur Ecofilm Festival ay al 6 pm Sunday October 14, Experimental Theatre, Universiti Malaya.
This weekend, millions of Malaysians will learn about Malayan sun bear!