Monday, 30 November 2015


Asian Glossy Starling
Mantanani is indeed a bird paradise. There are so many on this island. Multiple varieties. This Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis) is one of them. It is found all over Southeast Asia including Bangladesh and India. I think it is related to the crow, and believed me, it seems intelligent. Why I said this is because it is quite wary when you stare at it. It knows you are watching them! It is also the noisiest bird on the island.

Pink-neck Green Dove
The Pink-neck Green Dove (Treron vernans) or in Malay called Burung Punai Daun is also common all over Southeast Asia. Any species of Punai is a protected species in Borneo but many people here just find it enjoyable to hunt them. They say Punai is tasty; but what difference are these birds compared to pigeons? It is very hard to comprehend men! They still go after the wild ones when the same meat is available domestically.

Blue Rock Thrush?
I think this is a female Blue Rock Thrush. Males are colorful. When this bird sing, she appears bigger and fluffier. She is quite unfriendly to her own kind. There is a mirror hanging outside our kitchen and this bird spent all night "fighting" with her intruder. She never gave up. The pecking of the mirror is so noisy and at night it is very difficult to sleep as she keep on pecking without getting tired. Finally, we have to turn the mirror and the battle stopped.

I believe this one is a Coastal Whimbrel (numenius phaeopus) which is found all over the world; Asia, Africa, Europe and Americas.

Frankly speaking I am not a birdwatcher. But being on this island, I find the time to appreciate what God had created. I start remembering how I observe this common birds behavior when I was a kid especially the Glossy Starling. It's red eyes, it's glossy black feather and also their favorite food; colorful fruits! If you have ripe papaya at your backyard, then you will never have chance to eat them. This bird love them.

Friday, 27 November 2015

MANTANANI ISLAND: In Search of the Philippines Megapode

The Philippines Megapode Bird (picture by The Sabah Society)
The real reason why we were on this island was because of this bird (above picture). THE SABAH SOCIETY who are responsible for protecting and preserving the natural, cultural and historical aspects of North Borneo sent us to this island to search, identify and peg the Megapode bird nests found all over the island using GPS coordinate. I wish to thank The Sabah Society for getting me involved in this project.

The Megapode nests (two pictures above)
Mantanani is the home to the Philippines Megapode birds. Megapode means "large foot" in Greek. It is also known as the Tabon Scrubfowl. It belongs to the Megapodiidae Family. Its natural habitats are the tropical or subtropical dry or lowland forests. Mantanani is quite dry and almost all flat. So the Megapode should be able to thrive here. The Megapode are also known as incubator bird or sometimes call the mount builders.

This bird is slightly bigger than chicken. It is considered solitary but do comes in pair to build their nest. The bird is considered an inefficient flyer and spent time foraging on the ground like most big birds. The bird build huge massive mount of either decaying vegetation or sand to cover its single egg because it doesn't use its body heat to incubate the egg. Instead, the rotting vegetation or the sand which is heated by the sun does the work for them. When I look at the mount, I wonder why does the Philippines Megapode take all the trouble to build their very big nest just to cover one egg. Once hatch, the chick are left to defend itself.

The Sabah Society undertake this project so that they can get a map of the nesting sites and to know the exact areas where the birds are. There are more than 300 of these mounts on this small island. As I say before in my previous posting, the island lack natural predators and thus this island became a paradise for birds including the Philippines Megapode. However, the threat comes not from the natural predators but from men themselves. The village elder told me that the locals will take the trouble to dig the nest just to get one of this egg! He told me he also don't understand why people likes to eat this egg because it taste so horrible!

A villager looking for the egg warily looking at us

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Monday, 9 November 2015

MANTANANI ISLAND: Paradise in Peril

Eastern part of Mantanani Besar, best location to see the sunrise
Mantanani has the most beautiful white sandy beach with crystal clear water, nice village and villagers and the most wonderful jungle home to the Megapode; an almost flightless bird, and other bird species common on this islands, all packaged together by the Almighty Creator.

The island facing the north
And this one facing the South China Sea in the southwest
Mantanani are a small group of three islands northwest of Sabah (North Borneo). The largest island is the Mantanani Besar, where all the local Ubian people live. The other islands are Mantanani Kecil and the smallest one is Lungisan. Both are uninhabited. Since the story of the Dugong became famous, thousands of tourists from all over the world came here hoping to see this magnificent creatures. Mantanani is famous also for its recreational diving where many of the corals are still intact and there is also a dive wreck from World War Two.

Even though the jungle is small, it still display impressive flora
Just imagine! Nearby is the white sandy beach, and a minute walk into its hinterland, Mantanani does have a thick jungle; sort of. Walking around could take hours and occasionally we could get lost.... but don't worry! No matter which direction you go, civilization is not far away! There is no wild boars in this island and that is one reason why this place is a birdwatchers paradise. In fact this island lack the terrestrial predators which otherwise could have wiped out the birds. Beside the Megapode bird, Mantanani is also home to the Scops Owl.

But Mantanani Islands is threatened by over-fishing, especially fish-bombing, piling up garbage and waste and also the threat from development itself. Fish bombing is the major contributor to the destruction of corals on this islands. At this moment, nothing much is done to solve this critical problems. Thus, Mantanani Islands are Paradise in Peril!

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Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Forgotten Hill (Part Two)

Kokol Hill covered with thick cloud. Here Chris Lammert is checking the temperature
Paraglider Take Off Base is the highest point at Kokol Hill towering at 920 meters (roughly 2700 feet) above sea level. Paragliders like Chris Lammert will jump from this peak either flying solo or tandem and it takes roughly about 15 to 20 minutes to reach Pulutan or Taman Flamingo six kilometers away.

I love Kokol Hill when the peak is enveloped by cloud. It is so cool. At this time the average temperature is about 24 degrees c but sometime though rarely it can go as low as 18 degrees c. When I was 6 years old, I thought clouds are made up of snow, described in some fairy-tale children's book. I experienced "touching" cloud for the first time at the age of eight when my father took me up to a distant peak call Bukit Alab. But yet Kokol Hill is so close by for such an experience.

Rivers in Kokol Hill

Five minutes drive from the Take Off Base down into the valley, we can see many villages with beautiful rivers by its side. Among the villages are Kampong Natai, Kampong Tombongon, Kampong Poring-Poring and Kampong Bambangan. I notice in every village there are homestays, a village motel some sort. The villagers practice some sort of environmental control when come to harvesting the local river fish. It is call Tagal. They can only harvest the fish once a year and that is where the villagers take the opportunity to congregate and celebrate with feasting and drinking.

The primary forest of Kokol Hill
As I say over and over again, walking into the thick primary forest of Kokol Hill is a wonderful experience. It make our mind so peaceful. Among these wild flora, we can also find human interference in a constructive way; they planted fruit trees like durian, jackfruit and tarap. Tarap are native to Borneo and the Southern Philippines islands of Palawan and Mindanao. Tarap are related to jackfruit and breadfruit which came from the same genus, Artocarpus.

The first English romance-thriller from Borneo

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Sir William Goode

Sir William Goode (left) bidding farewell to the people of North Borneo

"To Uphold the Sarawak Constitution and the Nine Cardinal Principles of the White Raja" was the promise by the Queen of Great Britain to the people of Borneo. I asked Zainnal Ajamain, the author of the book, The Queens Obligation what does the statement really mean and  its significance? Zainnal patiently and carefully explained to me one more time. He told me The Malaysian Agreement 1963 is an International Treaty between Great Britain, Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak, which is not enacted by the Malaysian Parliament. Therefore, if the treaty is breached by one of the parties to the agreement, the Malaysian Constitution or the Malaysian Parliament cannot arbitrate the grieving partners. We have no choice but to refer back to those responsible for the agreement. Since the Malaysian Agreement 1963 was signed in London, therefore Her Majesty the Queen is the rightful Trustee to this agreement. So we go back to her said Zainnal.

Zainnal Ajamain
Zainnal told me there was this British Officer who bent over backward to provide safeguards and caveats to North Borneo and Sarawak, especially North Borneo in the form of Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) and the Malaysian Agreement 1963. He was none other than Sir William Goode.

Sir William Goode is the forgotten hero for the people of Borneo. According to Zainnal, the Malayan representatives who signed and witness the Malaysian Agreement 1963 were not happy with Mr Goode because he was too demanding; in making sure the people of Borneo who was about to be part of Malaysia will not be in a disadvantage position. Among the safeguard for the people of North Borneo that was overlooked is that 40% of the tax revenue collected from North Borneo MUST BE CHANNELED BACK TO HER! Nowadays, the Federal Government collected the taxes, but disburse back to North Borneo (Sabah) annually in a form of Federal Grant; far smaller than the 40% as stipulated in the Malaysian Agreement 1963.

Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode, born in 1907, was a British Colonial Officer who served as Governor and Colonial Secretary to various stations of the British Empire in the East. In fact, he was the last Governor of the Crown Colony of Singapore and the British Protectorate of North Borneo. He joined the Malayan Civil Service in 1931. When Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, Goode became the Japanese prisoner of war and was sent to work at the Burma Railway in Siam (Thailand) from 1943 to 1945. Goode died on 15th September 1986, one day earlier from the day and month of the birth date of Malaysia (16th September).

Also see my blog post The Queens Obligation. To know more about the Malaysian Agreement 1963 as well as the Queen's pledge Zainnal can be contacted at 016-8194556 or his assistant Mike Govind at 010-7661788. His book is sold at RM65.00 per copy. The forward message of this book is written by the honorable Malaysian Foreign Minister Mr Anifah Aman.  

Friday, 16 October 2015


The Island of Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world located in Southeast Asia. In fact it is the largest island in Asia. Three countries owned Borneo; Malaysia (Sarawak and North Borneo), Indonesia (Kalimantan) and the tiny kingdom of Brunei. Seventy percent of the island belongs to Indonesia. Borneo is surrounded by South China Sea in the West, the Sulu Sea in the north, the Celebes Sea in the East and the Java Sea in the south.

The Manau Rattan used to make furniture
The Borneo Jungle
Borneo is unique because it has the oldest rainforest in the world (about 140 million years old!) with 15,000 species of flowering plants, 3000 species of trees, 220 species of mammals and 420 species of birds. It is among the most endemic species of plants and animals in the world. For example, the Proboscis Monkey can only be found in Borneo. Their elephants are so tiny that they are called the Pygmy Elephant; only found in Borneo. But sadly, because of the inability of the governments to take serious action to save these flora and fauna from extensive logging and land clearing, the natural paradise of Borneo will one day be extinct! Every year thousands of acres of land are being burnt to make way for oil palm plantations. Many people of Southeast Asia had to endure the annual haze that enveloped the continents because of open burning and land clearing. By the way, even the surrounding seas are home to the most diverse species of sea creatures! Yet nothing much is done to prevent over-fishing and the menace of fish-bombing activities.

Probably the few big trees left in Borneo

Wild flowers of Mount Kinabalu
Borneo also have interesting history and culture. Probably the first true settlements ( people who stayed and thrived) are those who migrated 3000 years ago (see Tribes of North Borneo). The culture of the Borneo people are quite similar to those from Indo-China. But I cannot help myself wondering why does the early tribes of Borneo do have striking similarity with the natives of tropical South America. The way their men trim their hair, the dress they wore, the used of blowpipes to hunt animals and of course, the tradition of the head-hunting! According to ancient manuscript, traders feared going deep into Borneo but these islands are once an important source of gold, shells, ivories (from hornbills, elephants and rhinos), rattan and of course bird nests. Believe it or not, the Chinese colonists set up a Republic in Southwest Kalimantan when United States got their independence from Britain in 1776 and lasted for 100 years! Only the Dutch was able to defeat them in 1877. The history of Borneo became more colorful when they were colonized by the Dutch and the English in the 1800's. Just imagine the native of Sarawak accepted James Brook to be their White Rajah (King) in 1842. Japan invaded Borneo in 1942 and surrendered it back to the respective government of Netherlands and Great Britain in 1945. Kalimantan is now part of Indonesia, while Sarawak and North Borneo formed Malaysia in 1963, and Brunei got its independence from Britain in 1987.

Tribes (Dayak) of Central Borneo

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Chanteek Borneo Gallery

The Gallery
Welcome to the Chanteek Borneo Gallery! was the charming greeting given to me by Saiful Man and Eric those in charge of promoting this gallery. The word "chanteek (cantik)" in Malay means beautiful; and indeed the things here are indeed beautiful! Not only that, they also present me and any guests that come here with traditional North Borneo music. It was so impressive. Chanteek Borneo Gallery charge an admission fee of RM15 for adult and RM10 for children. Their operating hours are from 8.00am to 8.00pm.

Like their wonderful treatment, Chanteek Borneo Gallery also gave out a good impression. Chanteek Borneo Gallery is actually a House of Dolls! and these dolls seems to be friendly; always smiling. But these dolls are dressed in traditional costumes and there are 250 of them and their numbers keep growing.

Chanteek Borneo Gallery have a dual purposes; to promote and maintain the various North Borneo and Borneo tribes cultural identity and at the same time commercial interest. To mean what they say Chanteek Borneo Gallery sub-contracted the doll costumes to the various tribal craft men and women all over North Borneo. And honestly speaking, only at this gallery did I found out there are so many ethnic and sub-ethnic groups in North Borneo alone which make this island truly unique.

Guests coming to this gallery
Chanteek Borneo Gallery also produced real size traditional costumes for sale. Eric told me that they did exported some of these clothes overseas such as Switzerland. Many West Malaysian tourists also came and bought these costumes. Finally, as I was about the leave, I was presented with one more traditional show; traditional blowpipe shooting. It was indeed a wonderful experience visiting this place.


Kampong Lakang, Jalan Telibong-Tamparuli
89200 Tamparuli, Sabah, MALAYSIA
(GPS coordinate N 06 08' E 116 14')

The first English romance-thriller from Borneo

Monday, 24 August 2015


I am not fond of reviewing books, neither am I good at it. But the book THE QUEEN'S OBLIGATION attracted my attention. It has something to do with the History of Borneo. The book was written by my friend, Zainnal Ajamain who is an economist by profession, graduating with a Master Degree from the University of East Anglia. After reading the book, I think the destiny of North Borneo and Sarawak is very closely link to her former mother country, Great Britain until eternity, like it or not.

The Queen's Obligation by Zainnal Ajamain
There is a lot of controversial dramas when we read about the history of the Borneo states; North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak. After 52 years of independent from Great Britain, the dust of the Empire in Borneo should have settled down into oblivion, but instead like a phoenix, it always rise from the ashes whenever there is a new light surrounding to the mystery of The Malaysian Agreement of 1963.

The two Borneo states was ruled by the British since the mid 1800's. On September 16, 1963 the British grant independence to North Borneo and Sarawak. These two Borneo states, together with Singapore and the Malayan Federation HELP TO FORM MALAYSIA. That was the understanding. According to Zainnal Ajamain, after independent, the facts had been twisted and today North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak had become part of the Malayan Federated States which is totally wrong! He pointed out Sabah and Sarawak should have an equal standing with the Malayan Federation, NOT becoming part of her! He gave example saying Sabah and Sarawak should be equal to Malaya, NOT the same status as any of the 11 Malayan states like what is happening now.

One interesting point Zainnal brought up is that if the people of Sabah and Sarawak is not happy with the Federation, they can bring up their grievances to the Queen of  United Kingdom based on Her Majesty assurances to the natives of Baram who are concern about the British leaving them that is "To Uphold the Sarawak Constitution and the Nine Cardinal Principles of the White Rajah". According to Zainnal this pledge is a universal pledge, without any constrain by time, covering both the people of Sarawak and North Borneo. Thus this becomes the Queen's Obligation.  

To know more about the Malaysian Agreement 1963 as well as the Queen's pledge Zainnal can be contacted at 016-8194556. 

Zainnal (right) giving me a copy of his book. Mike is on my left

The first English romance-thriller from Borneo

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Forgotten Hill (Part One)

Hello guys! I'm back. Sorry to be "lost" for so long. The reason; so engrossed with helping out my cousin, Chris Lammert on his paragliding activities. I have to admit, it was a fantastic and challenging experience that I have ever encountered. For more about paragliding, please log on to the Facebook CHRIS KOKOL PARAGLIDING

I have never set foot on Kokol Hill for half a century until I got involved in paragliding activities. Since, childhood I could see Kokol Hill very clearly, but never thought of going up here. Kokol Hill is actually part of the Crocker Range, the mountainous backbone of Borneo. It stretches all the way to Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Saint Joseph Church
The most iconic scenery is the Saint Joseph Church, towering over the central highland of Kokol Hill. Overlooking the City of Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu), the view is so majestic and inspiring. I have said this before, this place looks like Tropical Switzerland!

Even though Kokol Hill is close to the city, it is relatively an un-visited destination! How sad! It is only less than 45 minute drive from the city center of Kota Kinabalu, the roads are very good and there is a lot of interesting places to visit around this hill. The highest point of Kokol Hill is the Paragliding Take Off Base which is about 800 meters high (2800 feet above sea level). Not only you can see the whole view of Jesselton and its surrounding islands and sea, but also Mount Kinabalu on the other side.

Jesselton from Take Off Base Kokol Hill
 Kokol Hill is also home to the secondary dipterocarp (tropical rainforest) growing together with fruit and rubber trees planted by the local people. On several occasions, I heard deer barking and through my gliding experience, seeing eagles building their nests in the forest canopies. From above, I could also see so many varieties of wild flowers which make Kokol Hill such a wonderful place to go.

Chris (white t-shirt) explaining to tourists mystery of the Kokol Forest
BUT ALL THESE IS NOT GOING TO LAST LONG! Ignorant local landowners, developers and land speculators are going to destroy these beautiful hills. The natives who owned most of the lands are damaging the environment by their practice of the traditional shifting cultivation, BUT worst still greedy developers and speculators are buying over from these people. AND these buyers come with one thing in mind, to open up the land for rubber or oil palm plantations or simply just to clear the jungle! To them, clearing the vegetation means higher value for their property! And any new plantations will destroy the natural bio-diversity of this area.

Kokol Hill, with its remaining flora and fauna can offer more benefits to the local people if it remain intact compared to their clearing just to give way for other development. Something must be done to save this hill, otherwise it is condemned to destruction.  

The first English romance-thriller from Borneo

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Farm Nearby

About paragliding, see PARAGLIDING IN BORNEO ( or Facebook CHRIS EXOTIC SPORTS. For inquiry please e-mail or apps him at 013-8645606

The Signal Hill Valley

First of all, I would like to thanks The Sabah Society and its Committee for accepting me as the member of the club. That is why I got this opportunity to see the Signal Hill Eco-Farm. I was made to understand, prior to joining The Sabah Society, the objective of this organization is to instill awareness about North Borneo (Sabah) cultural, environmental and historical heritage.

In the middle of the City of Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu), only less than 10 minutes from her historical old town, we still have this green valley, fill with secondary forests, mangrove trees, and also fruit orchards! Signal Hill Valley used to be the center of vegetables and fruit farms that supply Jesselton with all the greens from the colonial period right until the early 1980's. Nowadays most of the farm products comes from outside Jesselton such as from Kundasang, Tuaran and Papar. There is still a very few farms operating from Signal Hill Valley and one of them is Mr Lee's Eco-Farm.

Mr Lee (blue jacket)
Mr Lee told us that the reason why he goes into eco-farming is because of passion. He has no experience as a farmer before, but because of his concern about modern diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart problems, he decided to contribute to society by venturing into eco-farming. Eco-Farming is actually ecological farming. The main theme of eco-farming is helping to prevent soil erosion, protect the water from unwanted or hazardous infiltration and of course, bio-diversity. Organic farming is more to do with crop rotation, biological composts and natural pest control.

Ginseng Java
The most interesting topic that Mr Lee explained to us is about Tongkat Ali and Ginseng Java. He told us that he doesn't use any synthetic anti-biotic for his chickens and ducks. Mr Lee believed it is harmful for the consumers if they eat the meats that have been injected with this serum. As an alternative, he feed his poultry with natural herbs such as Tongkat Ali and Ginseng Java! Until today, his animals are healthy and disease-free. Mr Lee told us that he is thankful to Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) for this important knowledge. To know about Mr Lee's farm, please log on to the Facebook SIGNAL HILL ECO-FARM.

Picture above are view of the farm
The Sabah Society members enjoying the natural meal at the farm
To know more about The Sabah Society, please contact 088-250443 or e-mail at or come to their office at No.46, 1st Floor Block E, Damai Plaza, 88300 KOTA KINABALU


Wednesday, 1 July 2015


Bohey Dulang

These are some small chain of islands very close to Semporna. In fact it is just 15 minutes boat ride from the Semporna town jetty. There are homestays resorts build on top of the sea near these islands. The sea is crystal clear and it is a diving and snorkeling paradise. Contrary to what people think, these islands are very safe because of the constant patrol by the Malaysian coast guard, marine police and navy.

Beautiful crystal sea

Homestay resort

Semporna is located in the east coast of North Borneo (Sabah). The town was established by the British North Borneo Charted Company in the early 1800's and the majority of the people are Bajau. Semporna is famous for its tourism site and also marine products. Semporna is also close to the Sipadan, an oceanic island rising 600 meter from the seabed. Sipadan itself was formed by living corals which took thousand of years to develop. There are about 3000 fish species in Sipadan. It is one of the world top diving destination.

PLEASE CLICK TUN SAKARAN MARINE PARK and SIPADAN ISLAND to know more about Semporna and its surrounding.

 The picture on the left is Awang Suzaini Bongsu. He works for a construction firm and he loves hiking and traveling. He said he is on top of Bohey Dulang highest peak, which is about 600 meter high. He said the resort here are relatively affordable and he wish to assure the readers that the place is safe. Once again, I wish to say thank him for his contribution to this article.

The first English romance-thriller from Borneo
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