Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Clean As You Go, Adventure Race Organisers!

The rugged terrain of the Mat Chincang rainforest, the swampy mangroves of Kilim and right out to the rocky coastline of the surrounding islands of Langkawi. These are ideal factors that any outdoor and adventure enthusiasts would fall in love with. Langkawi is a much desired platform for sports tourism especially adventure racing where her natural challenges are bountiful and still pretty much undiscovered. 

In this year itself, Langkawi has attracted the following adventure racing events such as the Langkawi Ironbound , Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge and the most recent one was Raid Amazones, which was held from 19-28 November 2013.

Setting up adventure racing is never an easy task. Safety procedures must be carefully outlined to ensure the participants do not go beyond the boundaries and their well being are monitored. Routes must be carefully planned to ensure everyone's safety. As such, race organisers often tag the competition routes with plastic ribbons so participants do not get themselves lost. Water and snack stations must be placed accordingly to ensure that the racers do not drop dead of dehydration. 

Sadly, the things that were brought into or along the racing routes do not usually come out and be put to where they belong. They left huge impacts on the jungle trails and other stuffs as well. On their path to their so-called "glory", some of these racers would blazed the forest trails and the sea with their water bottles, junkie power-gel packets and Red Bull cans.

 The above and below pictures were taken on 24 June 2013 by a frequent visitor to Gunung Raya. Trash were seen left behind at the end of the 4000 over steps to Lubok Sembilang  after the racers have passed through. This event in June was Langkawi Ironbound

I do not entirely blame the brains and the brawls (the racers, I meant) as their aim is to win. Only a handful will be mindful of not leaving their rubbish behind. But sometimes, they do drop stuffs on the ground by accident while in a hurry. The entire responsibility lies in the event organiser. So, who says that organising a adventure racing event is easy?

Red and white plastic ribbons were found tied on the branches in the mangroves after the Raid Amazones event. Emails enquiring about the ribbons were sent to the Race Director, Gill Mention. One of the emails was ignored and Gill replied to the other email sent by saying, "
je vous précise que je n'utilise que de la rubalise blanche et verte raid arbre vert et que celles ci sont systématiquement enlevés par l équipe qui ferme la course, je suis surpris par par votre remarque car depuis que je fais des recos sur cette il magnifique j ai constate le nombre tres important de dechets qui se trouvent un peu partout et en particulier dans la mangrove, je suis un fervent défenseur de l écologie et je vous invite puisque vous vivez a Langkawi , a vous rapprocher des autorités afin de sensibiliser tout le monde sur ces problèmes, juste pour vous donner un exemple le challenge international de VTT les forets et les routes sont balises avec de la rubalise jaune qui n a jamais été enlevés.
Je vous souhaite une bonne continuation dans cette région"

In English (after Google translation),
I only use the white and green rubalise raid green tree and those are systematically removed by the team that closes the race, I'm surprised by your remarks because since I do it on this recce beautiful I have seen the very important number of waste that are everywhere and especially in the mangrove, I am a strong advocate of ecology and I invite you as you live in Langkawi, get closer to the authorities to educate everyone about these issues, just to give you an example of the international challenge of forests and mountain bike routes are tags with yellow barrier tape that was never removed. I wish you good luck in this region."

Well, Gill Mention... are you sure about what you have written? Recently, these ribbons were found still tied on the branches in the mangroves after 3 weeks of the event. These tags were spotted in five different spots along the channel. 

 Gill used the white and green ribbon nicely tied next to the red and white ribbon

RAID AMAZONES on a Sonneratia tree
This one is yours too, Gill?

A nature lover helping to remove the raid amozones ribbon from a Avicennia tree

Hey Gill, you are right! Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge yellow ribbon was found tied to a tree in the mangroves. Glad that you highlighted this in your email. What in the world was this yellow ribbon doing in the mangroves??? Did they bike in the swamp too? These yellow ribbons can still be seen along the road of Langkawi after the events have ended months ago.

Raid amozones should not be using L'Arbre Vert label at all

Being an outdoor enthusiast myself, I very much welcome such events to be held on this beautiful island. These events benefit the island's economy a lot. However, we do not appreciate if such organisers are slackers in practicing "Clean As You Go". None of the Langkawi's authority or government agencies will be bothered on such petty issues. One of them is only good at promoting events and nothing else even though letters were written to them. Have they ever acknowledge or responded?

You don't need to bother to return to the island to clean up the mess, Gill. Some good nature lovers have already done your job. 

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

St Regis It Is!

This is the banner at Beringin Beach three days ago.

I had a quick chat with a local from a village nearby about this place and he said to me, "Sayang oh". Which means, "What a waste". What a waste indeed to have a beach taken 
away from the public.

And since there is nothing can be done when the land has been sold, we might as well look at things from a different perspective. The cleanliness of the beach will be looked after (provided that these contractors are not spilling in more sediments into the sea while constructing this resort). Once the resort is up and running, there will be people in near future to clean the beach everyday! More jobs will be created to clean the beach. Unlike the elderly couple who stayed there for more than two decades and they cleaned up the beach without being paid! 

The government's aim to increase more tourists coming into Langkawi and so more resorts are needed to accommodate the numbers. Actually, they want more tourists with high spending power to flock into the island and that is why more luxurious resorts are being built now. With more resorts coming up and this will mean more jobs for the locals. And so with more tourists and more development, which will mean progress for the local community here. When Langkawi is fully developed, it will be entirely different from now. It may have a new tagline, for example, "Luxuriously Langkawi" instead of "Naturally Langkawi", perhaps?

Come on folks, smile... progress and money are coming in. The government is helping and making lots of efforts to uplift the economy of Langkawi folks. The community here wants progress and they are getting it. I am sure they are thankful and grateful.  

Here are glimpses of the Beringin Beach before development takes place:

The remains of the old army barrack (ex National service camp)

Some local used to stay on the cliff. No longer now.

Does anyone wants to adopt these abandon plants like Drynaria, Mother-in-law's tongue, etc. There are Traveller's palms left behind.

If the banner is giving the true facts that St Regis will be here, then you may want to know that St Regis is under the management of Starwood hotels and resorts. You can google, please. I hereby giving  free promotion to the public for this coming five star luxurious hotel. To the tourists, keep your eyes and ears open and make sure you will be the first to book your stay here. To those tour and travel operators, go grab your opportunities! And folks, update your resume for you may find new ventures in this brand new resort.

Isn't this exciting? 

Progress is fast as they were very quick to build this guardhouse and the gate

By the way, St Regis, we do hope you will oblige to make a public pathway to access the beach because there is no such thing as a private beach. People still have rights to use the beach, you know? And I know that they will simply ignore me for I am just a small fly.

I wonder if they will change your name to something else..???

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Hip Hip Hooray for Dolphins!

Good news finally! I am afraid that this good news isn't coming from Langkawi. This comes from our neighboring continent, India! 

I have been hearing stories about a dolphinarium to be set up in Langkawi. How true this is, I am uncertain. However, I am praying hard that this will not become a reality. Visitors can have opportunities to see wild dolphins in the coast of Langkawi (depending on your luck) when they take up island hopping or mangroves boat tours.

Below is the story extracted from this link: India Bans Captive Dolphin Shows as "Morally Unacceptable"

NEW DELHI, India, May 20, 2013 (ENS) – India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to forbid the keeping of captive dolphins for public entertainment anywhere in the country.
In a policy statement released Friday, the ministry advised state governments to reject any proposal to establish a dolphinarium “by any person / persons, organizations, government agencies, private or public enterprises that involves import, capture of cetacean species to establish for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever.”
Ganges river dolphin in Bangladesh waters (Photo courtesy BCDP / WCS)
The statement issued by B.S. Bonal, the member secretary of the Central Zoo Authority of India, acknowledges that cetaceans in general do not survive well in captivity, saying, “Confinement in captivity can seriously compromise the welfare and survival of all types of cetaceans by altering their behaviour and causing extreme distress.”
Noting that India’s national aquatic animal, the Ganges River dolphin, as well as the snubfin dolphin are listed in Schedule-I and all cetacean species are listed in Schedule II part I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, the ministry said it is important to protect these endangered species from captivity and exploitation.
“Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphin should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose,” the ministry said.
dolphin show
Dolphiin show at Connyland, Switzerland (Photo byVivek Madwaskar)
The grassroots Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization, FIAPO, was pleased with the decision. This group took the lead in campaigning to ban dolphinaria in India, meeting with key ministry officials and garnering local grassroots support.
FIAPO spokesperson Puja Mitra called the decision “a huge victory for the dolphins!”
“India has become a beacon of hope for the global movement to protect cetaceans from captivity, and we thank Minister Jayanthi Natarajan for setting the benchmark in animal protection for the world,” Mitra said.
FIAPO has been working with their partners Born Free Foundation, Global Green Grants Fund, Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project and Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation to bring about this prohibition in India for the past year.
Ric O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer who now serves as director of the U.S.-based Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project, applauded India’s new policy.
“This is a huge win for dolphins,” said O’Barry. Not only has the Indian government spoken out against cruelty, they have contributed to an emerging and vital dialogue about the ways we think about dolphins – as thinking, feeling beings rather than pieces of property to make money off of.”

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Fate of Beringin Beach

While most of the tourists here are familiar with  Cenang Beach and Pantai Kok or even Tanjung Rhu beach, how many of them are aware of Beringin Beach? Not many. In fact, my neighbor who has been living on the island for all of their life, was not sure of where Beringin Beach is. 

Beringin Beach or locally known as Pantai Beringin, is located less than five kilometers from Kuah town. It is a neighbour to Westin resort, separated by a limestone hill. The beach is looking at Pulau Dayang Bunting and some parts of Bukit Malut. Pantai Beringin is only well known to a handful of local community, not a very popular beach and it is a quiet recreation spot.

Pantai Beringin looking at Pulau Bumbun Besar and Pulau Dayang Bunting

Only a small resort with chalets were once there, which was known as Beringin Beach Resort. And the first Langkawi National service camp was built next to Beringin Beach resort. At the edge of the limestone hill, there was a makeshift hut which was made as a home to a couple. 

So, what is happening to the beach now?

As time went by, Beringin Beach resort wrapped up their business and I am not sure of the reason. The national service camp was relocated to Bukit Hantu. In order not to have the structures of the national service camp go wasted on Beringin Beach, the business went on by providing budget accommodation package for groups. 

This is the beach where my friends and I would go to if we want to head out to the sea for kayaking. On the evening this week when we were there ready for another round of paddling, we were shocked to find the chalets, the old national service camp and the makeshift hut were almost demolished. 

 The remains of the old Beringin Beach Resort as at 22 July 2013

 The remains of the old National service camp as at 22 July 2013

  The remains the old National service camp as at 22 July 2013
The remains of the makeshift hut as at 22 July 2013

An elderly man was there and seemed to be clearing up the area. And so I went over to him to find out. With a very sad teary face, he told me that a private resort has bought over the land from the government. He is the one who was staying at the makeshift hut. I didn't know until now...sigh...He told me that he was staying here for more than twenty five years. Both of them have looked after the beach by cleaning up the rubbish left by the public and brought up by the high tides. He and his wife were asked to leave the place which was once their home sweet home.

And so, another public beach gone! Eaten up by resorts. Langkawi's remaining public beach are Pantai Cenang,Pantai Tengah, Pantai Pasir Tengorak (which has created an issue when people are now charged entrance fee at RM2 per pax) and the beginning of Tanjung Rhu beach. Pantai Kok is gone as well, monopolised by the resort next to it. This is happening everywhere in Malaysia. Public have to pay to enter a recreational area which was once a public spot. 
Beringin Beach will now be haunted

Many thanks, M Facer, for your photos.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Brown Sea

This is how the sea surrounding Kuah town in Langkawi looked like after a heavy downpour for more than six hours since last night. These pictures were taken early this morning.

Siltation from land development?? What goes into the river will end up into the sea, right?

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Botak Hill

It simply means "Bald Hill". 

This image above was taken at bird eye's view from the cable car. From my previous post, the forest of Pantai Kok has fallen to resort development and very likely a butterfly park. 

More and more of Langkawi's precious hill with lush rainforest will become "Botak Hill" due to unsustainable tourism. Long time ago when there was no water pipeline from the mainland, the locals here depended on their wells for water source. And where did the water source come from? The rain and maintained by the rainforest! Not anymore when people are now taking things for granted. 

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