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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : June 2000 : Trouble in paradise despite recent kidnappings, safe Malaysian vacations skill exist.
 

Trouble in paradise despite recent kidnappings, safe Malaysian vacations skill exist.

 
By JULIE SCHMIT, USA TODAY
The Edmonton Sun
June 10, 2000

KOTA KINABALU Malaysian Borneo - Maurice Lewis, 67, a retiree from Kent, England, looks at it this way: "I have more chance of being run over in England," than being kidnapped by Muslim rebels, he says.

The April 23 kidnapping of 21 tourists, including 10 foreigners, from a dive resort on the island of Sipadan in Malaysia is hurting tourism.

Cancellations are running about 10-to-20%, and the U.S. and Canada warn travellers to be extra cautious when near Sipadan.

But tourists recently visiting Sabah, the Malaysian state that Sipadan belongs to, had only glowing reports about their travels. "This is paradise," says retiree Brenda Percy, 60, of Newcastle, England.

Sabah markets itself as a "soft adventure" destination for those who appreciate nature but also like modern comforts.

It isn't a cheap trip when compared with Thailand, Indonesia or other parts of Malaysia.

But it offers a smorgasbord of delights, especially for nature lovers.

Mount Kinabalu, at 435 metres, is popular with climbers of all levels. Sabah's rainforests are home to brilliant flowers, rich bird life and rare mammals, including the orang-u-tan, proboscis monkey and Sumatran rhinoceros.

Many of Sabah's resorts are relatively new, along with its tourism industry.

Just 305,000 international tourists visited last year.

Hotel occupancies run about 60%.

Still, Kota Kinabalu, the main city, has numerous four- and five-star resorts, including the popular beachfront Shangri-La Rasa Ria.

Recently, it offered a walk-in rate for a twin, sea-view room of $ 157 US per night, including breakfast and dinner.

Sabah's nature resorts, such as the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, have fewer resort-like amenities but are closer to nature.

The Rainforest Lodge offers simple but comfortable cabins, ranging in price from $ 92 to $ 180 US. Meals and guided nature walks are included.

Most Sabah travellers use tour operators to arrange hotels, guides and transportation, which isn't always available in remote areas.

In the main cities, taxis and English speakers are plentiful.

When assessing his experience, Victor Lewington, 57, of Essex, England, gave the ultimate compliment: "We would come back."

IF YOU GO GETTING THERE: Kota Kinabalu is accessible by air through Asia's major gateways, including Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore and Taipei (Taiwan).

Malaysia Airlines offers frequent flights to Sabah's four main cities. The resort arranges transportation from Kota Kinabalu.

Tourist visas are issued upon arrival in Malaysia.

Sabah has dozens of tour companies, arranging travel within the state or Malaysia overall.

A couple of them: Diethelm Borneo Expeditions at 011-6088-266353, dbex@tm.net.my or http://www.diethelm-travel.com/borneo, and Discovery Tours at 011-6088-221244, distour@po.jaring.my or http://www.infosabah.com.my/discovery.

WHERE TO STAY: Rooms at the Pulau Tiga Resort cost $ 30 to $ 92 US per night. Information: Sipadan Dive Centre at 011-6088-240584, sipadan@po.jaring.my or http://www.jaring.my/sipadan.

Park department housing on Pulau Tiga costs about $ 63 US per night for the four-bed chalet and $ 8 US per night for the hostel.

Information: Sabah Parks office in Kota Kinabalu, 011-6088-211881 or fax 011-6088-221001.

MORE INFORMATION: Contact the government-run Sabah Tourism Promotion Corporation in Kota Kinabalu at 011-6088-212121, sabah@po.jaring.my or http://www.jaring.my/sabah.

GRAPHIC: 2 photos 1. Greg, a yellow team member on the Survivor series, fashions a hut on the isolated island, which will - or so the Malaysian government hopes - become a popular tourist destination. 2. Cast members of Survivor at the beginning of the series.

 

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