KiwiTravelWriter in the capital

Otago Peninsula was a volcano some 10 or 13 million years ago – give or take a week or three!

65-thousand years ago it became an island when sea levels rose and, more recently, it became a peninsula.  Captain Cook and the hardy self-sufficient pioneers fought battles with the elements along the notorious 2000 kilometres coastline which is now scattered with shipwrecks.

The area is not just a day trip from Dunedin but a destination in its own right and during my ten days in Dunedin – traveling in a  car from  NZ RentaCar - and I spent time in Ngaio Cottage in Broad Bay.

This cottage, built in the 1930s,  when my hosts, Julz Asher & Lutz Ritter, bought it I’m told ‘it looked very different’ to the charming, well-appointed accommodation it is today. ‘It was unlivable. In fact, everything is new – except a few boards,’ Lutz said.

The fittings and furniture were chosen with care, resulting in beautiful and tasteful atmosphere. I have no idea how many stars this place has, but I’d give it 4 or 5!

This is a fabulous place to stay and use as a base to explore the peninsula, and the Dunedin region – check out these photos.

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I’m not the only one who rates Otago Peninsula:

  • Neville Peat a local nature writer based in Broad Bay says the whole area is a ‘kind of supermarket for marine life, souped up by currents and adjacent deep-water canyons.
  • Botanist and environmentalist David Bellamy said the peninsula is ‘the finest example of ecotourism in the world’   while Mark Carwardine,  zoologist and outspoken conservationist, writer, TV and radio presenter, wildlife photographer, columnist,  best-selling author, a wildlife tour operator calls New Zealand a “wildlife hotspot”. He also says it’s one of the best places in the world to see great wildlife and recently he was on a whirlwind tour, searching for our equivalent to Africa’s ‘big five’, the New Zealand ‘small five’ – all endangered species: hector’s dolphinkeakiwituatarayellow-eyed penguin all  which are found on or around this amazing outcrop of land.

I have written some stories about the area, and more to come about –  albatross, penguins, castleboat trips, fur seals, settlers museum, bus stops, birds, gardens, heritage city walks, the Taieri Gorge train, Chinese gardens, butterfly house and the Orokonui eco-sanctuary and more.

View of the harbour from the couch

View of the harbour from the couch

 

Otago Peninsula – ‘finest example of ecotourism in the world’ Otago Peninsula was a volcano some 10 or 13 million years ago – give or take a week or three!
Not quite my ducks in a row

… but the swans are!

Not quite my ducks in a row

… but the swans are!

Sarawak’s first marine national park, Talang-Satang was established with the primary aim of conserving Sarawak’s marine turtle population. The park includes the coastline and sea around four islands in southwest Sarawak: this area has 95% of all turtle landings in Sarawak.  I’m thrilled to stay overnight on two of them. One turtle arrived on the first island, ten on this one,  Talang-Talang.

I arrive on Talang Talang - photo by Gustino

I arrive on Talang Talang – photo by Gustino Basuan Sarawak Tourism Board

Marine turtles are amongst the world’s longest-lived creatures, but only about one in one thousand eggs grow to maturity about 30 to 50 years old!

Ten turtles arrive overnight and I watch as they laboriously dig the holes for the nest, lay about 80 eggs, cover them up and go back to sea. We then see the forestry staff carefully dig them up, record the details,  and rebury them safe from predators.

I hope some of the sixty hatched eggs (that had been buried safely about 45 days earlier)  that I was privilege to count into the release bucket, are among those very low odds and return to this island to complete the process.

My photos tell the story. (There are no overnight photos for 2 reasons – one, I wanted to just enjoy the experience and two, it’s hard to photograph at night with no flash allowed!)

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A turtle may lay 10,000 eggs in her lifetime, but once they reach the sea, as few as 10 hatchlings will survive to reach maturity. Some don’t even get to the sea … ghost crabs and birds are always waiting for a meal to appear.

The Sarawak Forestry has conservation programmes at which volunteers can help (holidays with a purpose) : the eggs are either removed from nests and placed in guarded hatcheries, or left in place and guarded round the clock by Sarawak Forestry wardens. After 40 to 60 days incubation, young hatchlings are released at night to reduce losses from predators.

Please note: The Sarawak Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme is not suitable for everyone. Accommodation facilities are basic and everyone is expected to help with cooking and cleaning-up. Volunteers join a team of dedicated conservation experts whose mission is to monitor every turtle landing on the island and so help to preserve Sarawak’s natural heritage. Volunteers can expect a rewarding ‘Back to Nature’ experience but should bear in mind that the programme is not a beach holiday.

More Info http://www.sarawakforestry.com/htm/snp-np-satang.html 

Reef-balls similar to this protect the sea from nets and dredging. Great!

Reef-balls similar to this protect the sea from nets and dredging. Great!

Turtles Galore … my bucket-list item achieved in Sarawak, Malaysia! Sarawak’s first marine national park, Talang-Satang was established with the primary aim of conserving Sarawak’s marine turtle population.

“You are lucky I’m a pacifist’ I tell Gustino, from the Sarawak Tourism Board, “if  not, I would slap you!”

“Don’t worry”, he tells me, “many will come tonight”.  I remind him of the old saying about birds and how one in the hand is worth two in the bush – and that that specific turtle was the one in the hand. He laughs, “don’t worry, you will see them tonight” he reassures me.

We leave Sematan town for the national park

We leave Sematan town for the two hour trip to the national park

We are on an island which is part of the Tanjung Datu National Park the smallest in Malaysia’s largest state : the tonight he’s talking about is the island where we will be in a few hours, Talang-Talang. (all National Parks are managed by Sarwawak Forestry)

He, as our host, was woken at about midnight by the ranger who was patrolling the beach to watch for landings. Perhaps they thought we were exhausted (true) after a week at the Borneo Music Expo and the Rainforest World Music Festival but seeing turtles lay eggs has been on my bucket-list for ages and I’m scared I’ll miss out!

no lifeguards here!

no lifeguards here! 

Anyway, miss out that night I did but this is what I’m told:

  • it was her second egg laying visit in 10 days
  • she laid 104 eggs (80 last time)
  • the eggs were transferred immediately to a safe area (the monitor lizards must hate the rangers)
the eggs are buried at the same depth as the mother did .. but now safe from predators

the eggs are re-buried at the same depth as the mother did .. but now safe from predators

Despite being disappointed I did hear gibbons calling early in the morning – they remained out of sight but it was thrilling to hear them again, my first time had been in Sabah last year.

After breakfast we boarded our fishing boat for a one-hour trip to the island where I’ve been told “you will see them.”

See my next blog to see if I was able to tick off one of my bucket list items or, if I had to abandon my pacifist leanings and slap my host!

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Here is a pictorial journal of our stay on the island.

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One turtle arrives in the middle of the night “You are lucky I’m a pacifist’ I tell Gustino, from the Sarawak Tourism Board, “if  not, I would slap you!”
A gift for my daughter … who grew up believing this before Google existed. (she now knows better)

A gift for my daughter … who grew up believing this before Google existed. (she now knows better)

Turtles studied and protected in National Marine Park, Malaysia

I arrive on an island (Talang-Talang) to see where turtles are being studied and protected in the…

Turtles studied and protected in National Marine Park, Malaysia

I arrive on an island (Talang-Talang) to see where turtles are being studied and protected in the…

17th annual Rainforest World Music Festival is bigger than ever

The Rainforest World Music Festival  has begun and this 17th event (#Sarawak, #Borneo) is the biggest so far.
* 22 bands
* 190 performers
* 27 workshops

The tree stage has been enlarged; a 3rd stage has been created as the ‘the theatre stage’ and this indoor, seated, more chamber music style, will have 2 bands performing each afternoon.

Another first is the RWMF Community Drum Circle which will…

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The dangers of travel

The dangers of travel

Once again I see the dangers of travel. Not the rare physical danger of airline or vehicle crashes; not the occasional danger of being robbed or becoming sick, but the every-day common danger of your heart getting to know people and places. People we would not usually met. Then each week, hearing of train accidents, deaths in the Middle East, and riots in India, earthquakes or floods somewhere…

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Last showcase at the Borneo World Music Expo

On our last night of the Borneo World Music Expo, the Sarawak Tourism Board introduces us to groups from Indonesia,  Singapore,  and the Malaysian state, Kelantan.

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Geng Wak Longcomes from one of my favorite states of Peninsula Malaysia,  Kelantan.  A traditonal area known for its arts and crafts like shadow puppets and kite-making, it’s also a musical region so I’m not surprised that all the…

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Music showcase at Borneo World Music Expo

Last night the display of music continued at the evening ‘Showcase’. The Sarawak Tourism Board is introducing us to not only local Sarawak and Malay music and instruments but also groups form the wider Asian region. Tonight the musicians were from Thailand,  Myanmar,  and a local Sarawak group.

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Preparing for the expo stage

Korphai, Thailand, has been performing since 1980 is also new as it seems…

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hoponhopoffbus (28)WEBThe concierge at Berjaya Times Square  (this link is to my blog about the hotel) told me how to get to the closest stop for the Hop-on Hop off bus and off I set for my last day in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - it was a good choice of ‘things to do’. If time is short, this is an ideal way to get an overview; however,  if you are time-rich it gives a good idea of where things are and will help you decide on what to do over the next few days – and this is plenty to do in KL – including …

But back to the jump on jump off bus. This tour is by double-decker bus and runs on a half-hourly schedule (it would help if bus stops had real-time info as I waited 25 minutes for a bus after dinner – I had obviously just missed one  - but you can’t leave the stop for fear of missing the next one :( .  Still it was good people-watching time!

The good thing about getting off was the first bus was a closed top one, my next one was an open deck top which was good for photos and viewing, (others prefer the air-con I guess!)

Lunch in Little India was great too.

The stop I started/finished at was stop 6 – which was hard to find as its hidden from the footpath by a large restaurant at the side of the road. I asked locals 3 times and then found another couple searching and asking – we joined our search talents and found it. The stop needs moving or a big sign needs to be on the footpath between the food place and the shops.

As I only had the day I only hopped-off for lunch (in Little India) and my fellow passengers seemed a mix of staying on for the full length or were hopping off at favourite spots.

Tickets can be bought on the bus, its website or authorised agents.

I think its best for the pictures to tell the story …  so, sit back and relax and spend some time in Kuala Lumpur with me.

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Hop-on hop-off in Kuala Lumpur – a good choice The concierge at Berjaya Times Square  (this link is to my blog about the hotel) told me how to get to the closest stop for the…
Back in the rainforest #RWMF2014

Back in the rainforest #RWMF2014

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Only  2 days until the acclaimed Rainforest World Music Festival starts again here in #Sarawak.  Malaysian Borneo. The rhythm of the jungle fits well at the foot of the legendary Mount Santubong. For three days an eclectic mix of traditional, fusion and contemporary world music will delight us all I’m sure. Last year I valued the workshops and ethno-musical lectures and jam sessions during the…

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Borneo World Music Expo introduces talent to programmers

The Sarawak Tourism Board  is this week Introducing musical talent to about 20 world  music festival programmers, and media such as me.  What a privilege to get up close to such talent and hopefully help music lovers  find new talent they would not usually hear or see.

From Germany to New Zealand,  Belgium to India, and the UK to Korea, they, and other programmers are attending the Borneo World…

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I’ve arrived in Kuching,  Malaysian Borneo.  Lovely 31 degrees☺ (at Hilton Kuching)

I’ve arrived in Kuching, Malaysian Borneo. Lovely 31 degrees☺ (at Hilton Kuching)

The trip begins … off to the Rainforest World #Music Festival in #SARAWAK #MALAYSIA (at QBA APARTMENTS,  WELLINGTON)

The trip begins … off to the Rainforest World #Music Festival in #SARAWAK #MALAYSIA (at QBA APARTMENTS, WELLINGTON)