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#JOM! GO: 4 snorkelling spots in Malaysia - April 19, 2022

To get a closer look at the marine world at some of the country's island destinations, David Bowden puts on a (different) mask and snorkelers away. MALAYSIA is known as a dive destination with many islands that are well-established for scuba diving.  For example, Sipadan Island off Sabah's east coast is rated AS one of the world's best dive sites, with the late and great marine biologist Jacques Cousteau calling it, "an untouched piece of art".

Snorkelling is a different proposition altogether and usually the first step for those who have a remote interest in the marine world and are on their way to learning how to scuba dive. Just as you need to walk before you can run, you need to snorkel before scuba diving. With the high cost of scuba diving, it's best to do the snorkelling at the less developed dive islands. There's not much to snorkelling although it always helps to know how best to use the mask, snorkel and fins so that you don't end up with a mouthful of saltwater. Here are some Malaysian island destinations where you can get a closer look at the marine world. 

PULAU PAYAR, KEDAH

Pulau Payar is part of the Pulau Payar Marine Park (there are four islands in the group) and is located just one-hour's boat ride south of Langkawi. It's a well-established snorkelling destination with facilities like a pontoon so when you get tired, you just return to rest on the floating facility moored in the middle of the Malacca Strait. The islands are uninhabited although the Fisheries Department has a Marine Park Centre with interpretation facilities. Snorkelling and dive equipment are available for hire on the pontoon and while the visibility varies (this is quite a popular location so the water can get turbid with all the fins thrashing about) it's a good location to snorkel.

Boulder and brain coral can be seen on the bottom and organisms like black barracuda, giant grouper, clown anemone fish, black-spotted puffer fish and even the harmless black-tipped reef shark may be seen. Because this gets more crowded than the other sites, there's a temptation for some to feed bread to the fish. Do something positive for the marine environment: don't feed the fish; they don't eat bread or cake; let them eat other marine organisms.

PULAU REDANG, TERENGGANU

Like Tioman, Redang is an attractive proposition for snorkelling as it's accessible by direct flights from Kuala Lumpur. While most snorkelers are happy to float on the surface, it's possible to dive slightly deeper once you have mastered the skill of not swallowing water via the snorkel. One of the best snorkelling beaches here is Tanjung Dalam where the Berjaya Resort is located as the waters have good visibility ('good vis'). Head across to the Marine Park Centre for more wonderful snorkelling locations. While divers have a better chance of seeing turtles, it's not impossible while snorkelling. Coral, batfish and nudibranchs are more likely sightings though. 

PULAU TENGGOL, TERENGGANU

Tenggol's snorkelling charm is that the island is located seemingly in the middle of nowhere but actually just 45 minutes by fast boat (two hours by slow fishing boat) from Kuala Dungun. It's the most remote of all the islands but that's part of its charm. Facilities on the island are limited to simple wooden chalets that are a mere hop, step and a jump from the turquoise waters. Put on your mask, snorkel and fins and step straight into the island's rich marine life thriving in the clear waters off the main beach of Teluk Air Tawah. The visibility is good and in the deeper waters you may see groupers, parrot fish and batfish. The rocky foreshores on either side of the main beach are the best places for more serious snorkelling. Like all the islands on the East Coast, the best time to visit is from April to October.

PULAU TIOMAN, PAHANG

Tioman Island is one of Malaysia's most popular islands due to the laidback lifestyle and quality of diving. For snorkelers who want to progress to being a fully-fledged scuba diver, this is a great place to learn. There are several bays and beaches (mostly on the western shoreline) with Kampung Salang on the northwest coast, being one of the best to snorkel. The jetty here is as good a place as any. From the water it's also possible to admire the island's twin peaks rising above the carpet of emerald rainforest. Tulai Island, accessible by one of many boats for hire along the beach, is another good snorkelling location for angelfish, jacks and puffer fish.

Source : NST

Astrotourism Pahang Series to woo tourists tourists once border reopens - March 21, 2022

KUALA LUMPUR: Stargazing and other astrotourism activities will soon become the latest official tourism products of Pahang. This initiative was unveiled today during the pre-launch of the Astrotourism Pahang Series. Through the project, domestic and foreign tourists will be able to experience Malaysia's one and only International Dark Sky Park. This first-of-its-kind facility in the country will allow visitors to enjoy nature spots in Pahang that have naturally clear dark skies, especially at night. 

Such locations are known among astrotourism enthusiasts as being ideal spots for stargazing. Pahang Tourism, Culture and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin, who was the guest of honour at the pre-launch event, said the initiative's main strategic focus was to develop an astrotrourism system in Malaysia. He said the project will also engage communities to raise awareness about Pahang's iconic dark night sky and use it as a valuable asset.

"The location of Pahang, which is a Penisular Malaysia tourism icon, is suitable for stargazing and astronomy related activities. "Such activities depend on spots which have very low amounts of artificial lights from the city. We will facilitate the protection of Pahang's dark night sky," Sharkar said at the pre-launch event at a restaurant in Subang Jaya here today. Also present was Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) president, Uzaidi Udanis.

Based on MITA data, the association estimated that it received 2.2 million domestic tourists due to multiple movement controls measures. This year, the association estimated that it could welcome 9 million tourists following the reopening of the international border. When commenting on this issue, Uzaidi said that MITA and its members were ready for the reopening of the international border on April 1. He said that he was thankful for the community in MITA for persevering during the extremely tough times brought about by the pandemic. He said like many other tourism-related entities, MITA has been coming up with new and innovative ideas to sustain the tourism industry, which has been hard-hit due to Covid-19 during the last two years. "We have been ready and we are prepared for the border opening. Our basic aim is to get the maximum amount of tourists. "We are still here. Our executive council (exco) members have not given up and all of us have renewed our licences," he said.

On a separate issue, Uzaidi said the recent announcement by the government to raise the country's minimum wage may still pose a problem for workers in big cities. He said even with the implementation of a RM1,500 minimum wage starting from May 1, the amount was insufficient especially when living in Kuala Lumpur. "We have employed more than 3.6 million employees, and it is not easy to get new talents. As time goes by, the cost of living is getting higher, and RM1,500 is not enough especially when one lives in the city where everything is pricier," he explained.

Pahang's international tourism events set to return after two-year hiatus - March 10, 2022

KUANTAN: International tourism events that fell victim to Covid-19 for two consecutive years are set to make a comeback in Pahang this year. The annual Royal Pahang Billfish International challenge, Start in Tioman (diving) and Southeast Asia's longest running International Bird Race event, the Fraser's Hill International Bird Race were last hosted in 2019 before the pandemic wreaked havoc. State Tourism, Culture and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin described the move to reopen the country's borders on April 1 as timely and will allow Pahang to host several events of international interests.

"We are grateful for the Prime Minister's (Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob) announcement as it will help to restart the tourism industry. Pahang began initiatives in January by introducing 'This is Pahang 2022-Unlimited' as the state's new tourism theme so we must step up and keep the momentum going. "Now we must work hard to become a top choice destination when the borders reopen. Hosting these international events will be an advantage to lure visitors to Pahang. When the pandemic struck, popular events like the annual bird race and billfish had to be called-off," he said in his speech when opening the Pahang International Tourism Symposium 2022 which was held virtually today.

The symposium jointly organised by the Pahang government, Tourism Pahang and University College of Yayasan Pahang (UCYP) saw 11 local and international panellists sharing their expertise on various perspectives themed "Green Tourism & Sustainability Strategies". Meanwhile when contacted, Sharkar said Pahang which had previously hoped to attract between seven and eight million visitors this year, will not set any ambitious targets with the reopening of the border. "We are not going to revise the target and if we can achieve more than eight million visitors in 2022 then that is certainly good. Tourist destinations across the state including islands and national parks are all geared up for tourist arrivals," he said.

He said the Pahang Ocean Canoe International Challenge is scheduled to make its debut in the tourism calendar this year. "The multi-day canoe ocean race will see participants travelling about 240km from the Chendor beach in Cherating (Terengganu border) to Pantai Hiburan in Rompin (Johor border). The event will be held in the second half of this year. "Our aim is not only to attract holidaymakers to visit popular destinations across the state but to participate in various events to help accelerate the economic spill-overs. Besides hotel and resort operators, it will help traders and transport providers recover after the recent setbacks from the pandemic," he said. Source- NST

End of monsoon season perfect time for border reopening - March 12, 2022

ROMPIN: Reopening the country's borders on April 1 could not have come at a better time, especially for tourism operators in Pulau Tioman near here. They said with the east coast monsoon season drawing to a close and the previously rough choppy seas getting more calm, there would be uninterrupted ferry services between the mainland and the duty-free island. Following the monsoon season in October last year, the resorts and chalet operators were forced to close businesses as the ferry services had to stop. Salang Pusaka Resort owner Abdul Khalid Mohamad, 65, said the resort had been getting bookings consistently over the past few weeks.  "The monsoon season will end this month and the decision to reopen the country's borders is timely.

"Although we see the number of guests increasing during the ongoing school holidays, we hope to see the return of foreign tourists especially from Singapore soon." He said ferry services from both the Mersing (Johor) and Teluk Gading (formerly known as Tanjung Gemok) jetties had resumed their normal timetables. "The sunny weather has allowed visitors on the island to participate in beach activities, snorkelling and scuba diving," he said when contacted.

Khalid, who operates 56 units of chalets, said he expects businesses to be a little slow during the fasting month of Ramadan before holidaymakers return during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays. "Visitor arrival is usually slow during the fasting month but the chalets and restaurants here will operate as usual, so people can still plan their trip to Tioman. "The past two years have been a real challenge due to the Covid-19 and movement control. I hope businesses will return to normal and there will be no further setbacks," he said. Damai Tioman Resort owner Syed Rizalman Syed Abu Bakar said the move to reopen international borders next month which coincides with the end of the monsoon season had given much relief to the resort operators on the island. "Before the monsoon season, domestic tourists have been providing a lot of support for Tioman, with bookings consistent until October this year. We hope to see foreigners returning to the island in stages after April.

"There are about 100 chalet and resort operators on the island and we have been actively doing online marketing to promote our business on social media. "It would take some time before we can actively participate in tour and travel agent exhibitions to extensively promote the island," he said, adding he hopes to see businesses to return to how they were before Covid-19. Syed Rizalman, who has been operating his 50-room resort for about 30 years, said resort operators there only had eight and nine months of good businesses on the island before the start of the monsoon season. Meanwhile, Tourism Pahang general manager Kamaruddin Ibrahim said Pulau Tioman along with Taman Negara in Jerantut would be among the popular destinations for foreign travellers when the international borders reopens next month.

 Source : NST

 

Pahang tourism, hotel sectors happy borders will finally reopen - March 9, 2022

KUANTAN: The much-awaited announcement that the hospitality industry had been eagerly looking forward to for a long time was finally made. That is how the hotel and tourism associations in Pahang described the government's decision to reopen the country's borders after some two years beginning next month. Malaysian Association of Hotels Pahang chapter chairman Patrick Tee described the news as a 'special moment' for hoteliers as they can now start making plans, including offering promotions.

"It will likely be a slow start but something is better than nothing. Maybe popular destinations like Pulau Tioman, Taman Negara and Cameron Highlands will be top choices followed by other areas but it will be best to take one step at a time. "We hope the government will not be too strict with the standard operating procedures (SOP) for tourism as this might jeopardize arrivals. A clear SOP offering a win-win situation for both hoteliers and holiday-makers has to be implemented," he said when contacted.

Tee said the reopening of borders in April certainly brings more good news as hoteliers will be busy promoting their Ramadan buffets which will be followed by the Aidilfitri holidays. "It could be back to busy days again with the arrival of both domestic and foreign visitors. This could be the first step to revive the economy, hire more staff and get the industry back on track," he said.

Meanwhile, Pahang's Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Chapter deputy chairman Chea Sin Cheak said although things might not be the same as before the Covid-19 pandemic era, it might allow industry players to breathe a little easier. "We had tourists arriving in huge groups before the pandemic and it might need some time to return to the old days. Industry players have a role to play by promoting new tourist destinations along with attractive holiday packages. "Now everyone is waiting for the SOP announcement before they can get down to work. Let's hope that there will be no further setbacks and the tourism sector can resume operations in full swing next month onwards," he said. Pahang recorded 13.9 million tourist arrivals in 2019, bringing in a revenue of RM15 billion. However, the sector was severely affected after the country shut its borders in March 2020. Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced Malaysia is finally ready to fully reopen its international borders from April 1. Source - NST

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