Unique Tun Mustapha Park potential tourism game changer

KOTA KINABALU: With its unique biodiversity, the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) is a potential game changer to help boost tourism sector in Malaysia, particularly Sabah.

The 898,726.26 ha TMP area has more than 50 islands and islets located in the Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu districts in the northern part of Sabah.

The TMP is also home to Sabah’s third largest volume of fishery products from coral reefs, bays and open waters, and the source of livelihood to 80,000 coastal inhabitants, with great potential for eco-tourism.

The area’s unique biodiversity supports and linked habitats and is home to endangered marine animals, such as green sea turtles and dugongs.

A small community of the distinctive Palauh (pelaut) or sea gypsy people is also found inhabiting the open sea area in TMP.

A team of scientists and researchers from local universities and Non-Governmental Organizational bodies (NGOs) have recently completed a five-week (from April 15 to May 19) scientific expedition in TMP.

The findings of the research works were presented during a two-day seminar, organized by Sabah Parks, at a leading hotel in Kota Kinabalu, last month.

The expedition, organized by the Sabah Parks, was to collate information for the Park management to focus on conservation activities as well as to have better control of the Park.

Participants of the open sea and land expedition were from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), UiTM, University College Sabah Foundation (UCSF), Sabah Environmental Trust (SET), WWF Malaysia, Politeknik Sandakan and Sabah Parks.

The first scientific expedition was launched in the same area in 2012 to gather marine scientific data for the gazettement of the park.

TMP was gazetted on May 19, 2016 under the Parks Enactment 1984 with an area of 898,726.76 ha, covering only the sea area.

According to WWF Malaysia, TMP is the largest marine protected in Malaysia. As a signatory to the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, Malaysia has developed a National Plan of Action to protect its portion of the CT area.

Tun Mustapha Park is one of Malaysia’s CTI Priority Conservation Areas.

The focus of research during the recent scientific expedition include community interrelation with forest eco-system services of the islands in TMP, tourism resources assessment, the role of TMP in the conservation of cultural heritage and conservation of TMP marine resources.

Some researchers used the expedition to update their earlier study on the land cover change in TMP’s three main islands – Pulau Banggi, Pulau Balambangan and Pulau Malawali.

It was suggested that inter-agency cooperation and collaborative management approach supported by remote sensing monitoring strategy to ensure long-term sustainability of TMP.

Landsat imageries of 2000 and 2016 revealed a significant reduction of forest area in the land area, while mangroves had declined about 1,400 ha in 16 years.

Bird investigators recorded 102 bird species found in TMP, of which 17 species in 12 families are new additions. For marine species, researchers recorded 18 species of elasmobranches, comprising 11 sharks (Whaler Sharks) and 14 rays (Stingrays of the family Dasyatidae).

Researchers also raised concerns about poaching of the endangered marine species like sea turtle in TMP, citing a discovery of 19 rotting Green Turtle carcasses in the TMP area in 2015.

Ironically, most of the identified tourism attractions are located outside the TMP area. According to Dr Rahimatsah Amat, CEO of Sabah Environmental Trust, Tanjong Priok, which was gazetted as a cultural heritage site, is located at Pulau Balambangan.

Additionally, he said Pulau Guhauan, Pulau Balundangan Besar and Balundangan Kecil are known as sea turtle landing sites and Pulau Bangau is an important nesting site for egrets.

“All these potential tourism attractions are iconic and scarce, and possess added value in term of conservation as well as tourism sector,” he said.

It was also observed that currently, tourism in TMP is limited to small lodging operators and adventure activities by private operators.

Sabah Parks on the other hand has yet to generate revenues from activities in places within TMP.

“Therefore, tourism can be used as a platform to generate as well as to promote sustainable development and conservation in TMP,” Dr Rahimatsah said.

He also suggested that Pulau Balambangan, Pulau Kalutan, Pulau Simanguak, Pulau Guhuan, Pulau Balundangan Besar and Balundangan Kecil and Pulau Bangau be integrated into TMP.

Dr Rahim observed that Pulau Balambangan is an essential location for the purpose of establishing a station/post for Sabah Parks to manage TMP.

In addition, Pulau Balambangan and its cluster are also suitable as concessionaire sites. It’s important as it can generate revenue for TMP.

He said there was also a need to improve and diversify activities for tourists in TMP, especially in the Kudat coastal area.

Low impact water activities such as snorkeling, canoeing, banana boat and para-sailing can also be promoted along the stretch from Pantai Terongkongan up to Simpang Mengayau and towards Kg Parapat Laut.

In addition, attractions such as geological features, sea stack, marine mammals, aquaculture farm or experiencing sea gypsy life style.

“These resources can be promoted to diversify tourism activities and to promote trip packages (day trip or more) with a fee.

“The fee is imposed as conservation fee on both visitors and tour operators (as concession fee for boats).

“Through these actions, sustainable financing can be generated for TMP and responsibility in protecting TMP can be shared with the tour operators,” he said. (By EMIN MADI)


Source: New Sabah Times

Ocean heroes spreading marine awareness

KOTA KINABALU: Marine conservation is important and people are encouraged to become ‘ocean heroes’. The Downbelow X Rip Curl Marine Conservation Programme 2017 held here yesterday was to reiterate and bring across the message.

It was held at a dive centre at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park near here.

This joint event between Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventure and Rip Curl Malaysia was aimed at raising awareness towards the global problem of marine debris.

Duty Manager Mohd Fauzi Mohd Sofian said that programme is a step towards educating the people about many issues related to the ocean.

“We aimed to raise awareness, educate and encourage action towards the global problem of marine debris and the importance of preserving our coral reefs.

“Downbelow and Rip Curl Malaysia hope to motivate people to become ocean heroes in protecting our ocean,” he said to New Sabah Times yesterday.

About 100 local and international participants took part and acquired some tips on why everyone must fight the good fight to save the ocean environment.

Some of them were marine science students from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), staffers from Hyatt Regency Kinabalu and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Kota Kinabalu (SPCA).

Beach cleaning and coral planting were also held as part of the day’s activities. About 400 corals were planted onto 200 cement blocks.

Meanwhile, Managing Director and PADI Platinum Course Director, Richard Swan, conducted the coral reef conservation awareness presentation. They learnt about coral, their importance to the environment, the threats it face and what public should or should not do as a diver, snorkeler or non-swimmer.

Speaking to the public about the importance of preserving coral reefs, Richard highlighted that coral is the life of the ocean and people should realise that coral help in maintaining our marine ecosystem and beach.

“We hope that people will know about the importance of care and preserve our precious coral reefs. “We play our roles as a part of living things by sharing our harmonious with marine.”

Participant Chrizz Diver, 31, shared his experiences in marine conservation programme saying that many people are unaware the negative impact of dumping rubbish into the sea.

“As humans living together with other inhabitants on this earth, we can contribute by recycling plastic or reducing the usage of plastics in our daily life while maintaining the cleanliness or our beaches and oceans.

“One time, I saw a turtle was badly injured from eating plastic, and it shows how badly the effect of throwing rubbish into the sea can do to the marine life… it kills them.”

The one-day programme was also joined and supported by local celebrities like Daphne Iking, MMA Fighter AJ “Pyro” Mansor and MMA Fighter Ann “Athena” Osman.

Downbelow Marine and Wildlife Adventures were doing their part to lead the public towards conservation. They have been education providers locally and internationally for the past 15 years.

The companies pledged commitment to responsible tourism and provide courses that foster appreciation, awareness and conservation of our environment of local people.


Source: New Sabah Times

17 mln turtle hatchlings released to sea – Masidi

KOTA KINABALU: The RM1 million allocation for turtle conservation under the State Budget 2018 reflects the State Government’s seriousness in conservation efforts, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.Masidi said an estimated 17 million turtle hatchlings have been released to the sea since the government became involved in turtle conservation.

He said this at a press conference after witnessing the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) and Sabah Parks Board of Trustees yesterday.

Masidi said the signing of the MoU will enable Sabah Parks to receive continuous guidance in its publications from Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, besides enhancing the cooperation between the two bodies in terms of the quality and types of books produced.

He said the cooperation between DBP and Sabah Parks have been established since 2004. To date, eight books authored by Sabah Parks staff have been published under the guidance of DBP.

The two bodies are also in the process of producing an encyclopedia on Sabah Parks that will enlighten readers on the biodiversity, conservation efforts and uniqueness in all the parks.

Masidi hoped that the natural treasures under Sabah Parks could be shared with Malaysians and even the international community through the publication of such books.

He said Sabah Parks was among the most successful government agencies not only in book publications, but also in terms of efforts to expand its activities on land and sea.

Sabah Parks is actively expanding the scope of marine parks to be gazetted, the latest being the Tun Mustapha Park in Kudat which is the largest marine park in Malaysia with an area close to one million hectares.

To date, Masidi said seven percent of the seas in Sabah, equivalent to two million hectares, have been gazetted as marine parks.

“Our goal is to increase (marine parks) to 10 percent as recommended by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),” Masidi said.

All these efforts were undertaken to achieve balance in progress and environmental conservation, he explained.

“This is clearly reflected in the (State) Budget 2018 by the Chief Minister, that we want conservation efforts and physical development to be carried out in parallel. Meaning to say that we can be a progressive state but also maintains the beauty and wonder of the environment in Sabah,” Masidi said.

The MoU was signed between Sabah Parks Board of Trustees chairman Datuk Seri Dr Tengku Zainal Adlin Bin Tengku Mahamood and DBP deputy director-general (policy) Datuk Haji Abang Sallehuddin bin Abg Shokeran.

Also present were Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministers Datuk Pang Yuk Ming and Datuk Kamarlin Ombi, and Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais.


Source: Borneo Post

Diving campaign takes four years to plan

SEMPORNA: As the ‘End in Sipadan’ dive trail campaign finally came to an end, the question on everyone’s mind was “How did it all come about?”

What makes ‘End in Sipadan’ campaign so unique is that it will attract tourists to come to Sabah not only to dive in Sipadan but also to explore the many dive sites in the state.

According to Sabah Backpackers Association president Richie Lee, the ‘End in Sipadan’ idea materialized after four years of brainstorming and planning.

“The idea first came about when I was elected as president of the Sabah Backpackers Association (SBA).

“We wanted to create something different and to promote and put Sabah on the world map as one of the great dive sites our state can offer.

“Octavius (Mari Mari Sepanggar Island Lodge owner Dares Saham Asaad) came out with an idea of creating dive trails to connect several dive sites in Sabah.

“After many hours of hard work, brainstorming, planning and collaborating with Sabah’s Tourism and Culture Ministry (Motac), we finally launched ‘End in Sipadan’ in April at Mari Mari Sepanggar and ending its dive trail in Sipadan Island in Semporna.

“So I dare say that the ‘End in Sipadan’ is actually the brainchild, or how I like to put it, the “Octavius Blue Print” because without his knowledge and years in this industry, ‘End in Sipadan’ would never materialize,” said Lee during a three-day stay at ND Diver Lodge in Semporna.

The ‘End in Sipadan’ campaign started its dive trail in Sepanggar and making its way up to Mantanani Island, then to Kudat and back down along the east coast to Lahad Datu and finally ending in Sipadan.

Lee added that to ensure the backpackers market continued to grow, SBA had to connect all its members to make the campaign a success.

“In tourism, the longer our tourists stay the more they will spend and the more they will stay and spend, the more they will learn about our country.

“So to provide our backpackers, who may also be divers, an experience of a lifetime, we created this dive trail which connects one city or location to another city or location around Sabah,” he said.

Lee, however, said that most tourists would only learn about Sabah because of Sipadan Island, considered to be the best dive site in Malaysia and top 10 dive sites in the world.

“Yes, everyone knows that Sipadan is one of the best dive sites in Malaysia and they will usually come to Semporna via Tawau, and end up diving only in Sipadan, but there are more dive sites our country has to offer.

“As I said many times, Sabah is blessed with three seas surrounding us, we have the South China Sea, the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea, and we have so many beautiful dive sites that are still unexplored.

“So by connecting SBA members all over Sabah and providing a dive trail, tourists will stay longer and will have a memorable experience, which we hope they will bring their experience and share it with their friends and family and maybe even blog and write a good review about Sabah,” he said.

So how did SBA come out with a suitable location for their dive trail?

Lee said that each location or each city must have something interesting to offer beside diving activities.

“We do not want our tourists to just come here, have a couple of dives and go back home.

“We want them to experience our culture, our people and our city. There are many activities they can join in and participate and we hope, will bring memorable experience to them.

“When we first launched our programme in April in Sepanggar, we started with the artificial reef which carries the ‘conservative’ theme of coral planting.

“Octavius once again came out with this idea of artificial reef planting at his resort in Mari Mari Sepanggar as part of their theme and it was adapted by ND Divers in Semporna which has since made it part of their product to offer to their customers,” said Lee.

For Mari Mari Backpackers Lodge Mantanani Island in Kota Belud, their theme offers marine conservation, while Kudat Blue Fin Diver, founded by Camuel Tsen, took a different direction by engaging local home stays on a joint venture while offering local kids a chance to be dive masters.

Pirate Divers founder, Glen Hapirullah, in Lahad Datu meanwhile offers 44 breathtaking dive sites with beautiful reefs and shipwreck.


Source: The Borneo Post

Marine Protected Areas to be gazetted – Pang

KOTA KINABALU: Efforts are now underway to submit for the State Cabinet consideration additional areas throughout Sabah that are to be gazetted as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and this will definitely go beyond the 10 percent threshold recommended by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said Sabah currently has about 1.02 million hectares of MPAs.

As had been announced by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, during the Pacom Conference recently, Pang said the waters around Mantanani would soon be submitted to the State Cabinet to be gazetted as a MPA.

“This move is the first among many more to come in efforts to meet IUCN recommendation for all nations to have at least 10 percent territorial waters to be conserved through MPAs,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Pang, who chairs the Sabah Anti Fish Bombing Committee, lauded the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on its seizure of close to 50 pieces of explosives used for fish bombing during a raid on five pump boats at Mantanani Kecil in Kota Belud recently.

“I would like to dearly congratulate the MMEA Sabah and Labuan branch under the capable leadership of First Admiral Mohd Zubil Mat Som and Kota Kinabalu MMEA director, First Admiral Adam Aziz, on the seizure.

“This latest apprehension will surely go a long way to safeguard the waters around Mantanani, which is currently a hotspot for tourism activities,” he said.

Pang said MMEA’s recent string of success against criminals operating in our territorial waters, especially the detention of foreign vessels caught fishing in our waters, has greatly helped the State in its efforts to protect our precious marine environment and its precious resources.

“We applaud the commitment of MMEA and know that they will continue do the best in discharging their duties.

“With the recent budget announcement by the Prime Minister cum Minister of Finance, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, allocating quite a handsome amount for our security forces, I hope additional assets will be deployed to MMEA so that they can achieve the same success in the north and east coast region of Sabah, especially on turtle poaching, as they have done here in the west coast,” he added.


Source: Borneo Post