Author Archives: drizad

About drizad

A self employed General Practitioner who lives with his lovely family in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. He dedicates his spare time serving people with precious information on climbing the Majestic Mountain of the Borneo, Mt Kinabalu. Reachable at drizad(at)gmail.com

Weather issue: When is the best time to go to Mount Kinabalu?

I received at least 3 emails asking about the weather on Kinabalu each week. I think I better write this post and lead the inquirer about the issue here. It will save me a lot of time, answering the same emails over and over again.

After doing some research, I managed to find a good climate details of Kota Kinabalu:

To make your life easy, the higher the precipitation, the higher the amount of rainfall. If you look closely at the table (climate for Kota Kinabalu is for the year 2007), January to April are the driest months where the precipitation are the lowest (i.e. below 150mm per month). This is the best time to come here and climb Mount Kinabalu. However, seasonal variations can occur in any year.

Rain can occur at any time of the year. In Sabah the main rainy seasons are from October to January when the rains come with the north east monsoon, and from May to July, with the south west monsoon.

Mornings are usually clear at any season. Sabah lies below the typhoon (hurricane) belt, though the tail-ends can cause strong winds and rain during the typhoon season.

At Kinabalu Park Headquarters (1,560m a.s.l) the mean monthly temperature is approximately 20 ºC, with a daily fluctuations of 7 – 9 ºC. Mean annual rainfall at this location is 2,380mm.

A common climatic feature to the park are bright early mornings, followed quickly by clouding mid-morning, which obscures the mountains by mid-day. Showers usually occur on the upper slopes in the afternoon.

Although they say ‘the driest time’, a good raincoat is a must. Otherwise, you may get wet when it rains while on the way up to Laban Rata, at the slopes of Kinabalu.

Got raincoat?

Raincoat Adult – 1

How much does mount-kinabalu-borneo.com earn from donations?

I have never revealed how much I earned from donations to my main website, mount-kinabalu-borneo.com. It has been running for the past 2 years, when I received my first donation on September 16, 2006 from a visitor from Thailand, Kamolwan Chongsrichan.

Since then, the website has been self paid by the donation money, i.e. I don’t have to fork out my own money to pay for its hosting. The webhosting fee is RM254 per year with Exabytes.

Do you want to know how much I earned on average for that 2 years time? Okay, let me just thank these 73 people who have donated their money to the website. I also put their name on the first page of mount-kinabalu-borneo.com, as their name deserve to be there:

  1. Robert Nash
  2. Maria Szymczyk
  3. (Chinese name character which I could not find the translation)
  4. Susan Falconer
  5. Asmah Yassin
  6. John-Paul Cusack
  7. BRUNO LE BRIERE
  8. GUO DONG
  9. William Baird
  10. Cleve Rynehart
  11. Siti Khadijah Jaaffar
  12. Julian Bode
  13. Luke Falvey
  14. Ally Spiers
  15. Zoe Gapper
  16. Rhys Arkins
  17. Becky Sundling
  18. Pang Sheue Fong
  19. Sarah Bte Aly Shun
  20. Mikko Manninen
  21. Mae Foon Wong
  22. Jan Kristian Rasmussen
  23. Jenny Dalrymple
  24. Fong Vins
  25. Young Catherine
  26. Adam Zubairi
  27. Matthew Leverett
  28. Bill Cohen
  29. Norman Brown
  30. Emy Castro
  31. Christoph Theisinger
  32. Scott McKinney
  33. Juneta Ideriyan
  34. Bob Pressey
  35. Norul Maslissa Ahmad
  36. Naveen Peter
  37. Mazlan Mastan
  38. Christoph Garditz
  39. Charles Warner
  40. Lily Lam
  41. Ainul Khalidah Idura
  42. Rob de Groot
  43. Gillian Anderson
  44. Simone Lehmann
  45. Francis Seynaeve
  46. Ian Vickridge
  47. Ismail bin Md Yatim
  48. Klaas Bart de Raad
  49. Sarah Hucker
  50. Adam Helman
  51. Bob Packard
  52. Robert Woodwall
  53. Kevin Christie
  54. Ng Alan
  55. Magnus Bertilsson
  56. Vince Jenkins
  57. Pik Kei Yuen
  58. John Simpson
  59. Anne Piyared Puthikarun
  60. Yong Chen Hui
  61. David Pieribone
  62. Guy Smeets
  63. Grant Knisely
  64. Jeevan Prasad Chandriah
  65. Anh Minh Le
  66. Mak Kai Kin
  67. Marilou Tan
  68. Keith Grunow
  69. Tan Suan Bee
  70. Gerd Islei
  71. Ismail Muaharan
  72. Kamolwan Chongsrichan
  73. Terence Neo

Lets calculate together:
(a) Minimum donation for the PDF copy of the ebook is USD7. It means; USD7x73=USD511 for 2 years.
(b) For 1 year, the donations would be USD511/2=USD255.50 (around RM860 per year)
(c) On average per month, USD255.50/12=USD21.29, i.e. or about 3 donors per month.

Although on average visitors donate USD7, there are donors who donate USD10 and USD15. In one special occasion, Adam Helman donated USD300!!!

What was the secret that they want to donate their hard earn money?

Provide them ‘value’ for their donation. Putting a donation button with “Please donate for my Nikon D40 fund” is not a good move as it sounds self-centered. That sentence shows that the potential donors will not earn anything by donating. If you look closely, it’s a win-loose situation.

But if you provide value to the donors like for example a PDF copy of the website that I give out without the ads, easy reading and printability, donors will want to donate, as they will get something for their donations. It’s a win-win situation.

Try doing that to your website and blogs. You may be surprise that there are people out there who are looking for something that you have, in which, you may give it with a small donations.

Underwater creatures around Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Kota Kinabalu

It’s just not right.

I don’t think I do justice to the wonderful underwater creatures when I do not share them with you. My last few post about my Open Water course was only about me. No photos of them.

So now I would love to share the things I saw underwater, so that you will know how beautiful life is down there. Oh, have I mentioned that it’s just 20 minutes away from where I live?

Kudos to Roslan, the aspiring underwater photographer who took all the shots. I saw all the creatures in this page.

You may have seen them unedited in my Facebook photo album, but these 15 photos were edited & cropped professionally with GIMP. All photos were taken with Canon Powershot A95 with underwater casing. I auto-leveled all the photos to eliminate the blue-green component of the photo, so that it will shown with it’s original colours.

I learned a lot every time I went down there. And I think you should too. Enjoy!

I must admit that those photos are only less than 5% of what I saw underwater…

Amazing Animals Video: UnderWater Animals

Why I choose PADI OW license with Borneo Divers

This is NOT a sponsored post. Although I really admire Borneo Divers (BD) for their friendliness & hospitality, I found out that other scuba diving operators around Kota Kinabalu are equally good and professional in what they do.

I received a comment from one of our blog readers who asked me why I choose PADI for my OW license. While you can actually get your PADI OW license from any certified PADI scuba diving operators around here, I chose Borneo Divers, particularly because:

  1. I know Borneo Divers staffs. Some of them are regular patient in my clinic. And yes, we are also a panel clinic for BD.
  2. My good friend Roslan is really a Borneo Divers fan. If you talk to him, he can give you 1001 reasons and excuses why you need to be with BD – although he is not BD staff. Well, maybe partially…
  3. The course fee for their diving course is one of the lowest in KK (for PADI). And you will be sure that you get a quality teaching from their experienced world class diving instructor.
  4. They have their dive center in one of the island in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, i.e. Mamutik Island. This is a big advantage for BD students and divers as they don’t have to lug their scuba units and tanks from the mainland for each dive.
  5. Oh, by having a dive center in Mamutik, all of the main activities are concentrated there, including preparation of meals. While other scuba diver operators have to look for third party meal provider for their students and divers, BD have a regular in-house cook to cook for us.
  6. Although their equipments are old – yes, some of it has served for 15 years – their services and hospitality are excellent.
  7. Their main office in Wisma Jubilee is just 3 minutes walk from my clinic. Hehehe…

Well, I can give you another 99 reasons why I took BD course, but then, it’s up to you to choose from numbers of scuba diving operators here in KK. You may have a slightly different experiences with different PADI operators, but generally, what they teach are all the same. I must tell you that it’s worth all your money spent.

Don’t take all my words. Go experience it yourself.

Go dive. Your life will not be the same.

Can Sabah Parks be more embarrassing?

Hahaha. I sounded that I am always looking for Sutera Sanctuary Lodges and Sabah Parks embarrassing moment since the beginning this year. Well, maybe I am. But I don’t think that I am the one and only person who did it.

Today, I found another good article by a couple of Mount Kinabalu climbers, Matt & Joanne Stamplis, who climbed the Western Plateau of Mount Kinabalu, spend some times in Gurkha Hut, summit the South Peak & standing on the edge of Low’s Gully. A very long and nice write-up, I must say.

However, when I arrived at about 3/4 of their post, I was a bit dissapointed when I saw what they wrote. Not to them, but to our Malaysian government when it comes to the management of the mountain.

Yeah… It is always like that on Kinabalu: Climbers praise the mountain so much, but at the same time, very dissappointed with the management. I am just not sure how long this issue will be the thorn in the flesh of Kinabalu. Click to enlarge.

You may be able to read their post here:
http://joannestamplis.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/borneo-part-2-mt-kinabalu/

Or this screenshot from their part 1:

You can get it here: Borneo Part 1 (Mt Kinabalu)

If you are a hardcore climbers from anywhere around the world, their write-up is one of a very good basis for you to get the most of Kinabalu’s Western Plateau.

Good Luck!

Submit your complaint to Malaysian government about Sutera Sanctuary Lodges

I have been writing about SCUBA diving in this blog for the past few months. Yeah… I am shying away from Mount Kinabalu temporarily as the issues with Sutera drags my feet away from the highest peak of Borneo. However, it does not mean that I am not writing about Kinabalu anymore. I will write about Kinabalu – almost about anything – until it is free from human greed.

I feel ashame to tell you the pretty part of Kinabalu, when in the real situation it is getting more and more difficult (and annoying) for you to get the chance to climb the majestic mountain and see it for yourself.

So, I have decided to divert this blog a bit – to scuba diving –  without forgetting the main issues on Kinabalu, in which we shall and can do something about it.

As I write this post, the number of members who joined the cause “Mount Kinabalu – belongs to NO ONE” in Facebook is increasing to 540. It was a huge achievement, although it was not me who started the cause, moreover, I hardly know them all. I would like to congratulate KaKiAyAm who started the cause, and hopefully it will be able to change Kinabalu for the good.

GOOD NEWS FOR US

I don’t know how effective Malaysian government will act to this matter, but I think it’s worth a try. Lets go to Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri & Hal Ehwal Pengguna (Ministry of Domestic Trade & Consumer Affairs) website.

They have provided an online complaints submission by the public (e-Aduan). I have used this form once before when I submitted a complaint against Microsoft monopoly of software installation last few months.

Luckily for us, they provides Bahasa Malaysia and English platform for the complaints. Here is the link:

http://e-aduan.kpdnhep.gov.my/

I have submitted my complaint. My complaint number is 00809940. You can submit yours. I just your 5 precious minutes to change the future of Mount Kinabalu.

If you don’t know what to write, you can just copy and paste this in the complaint box:

1. 500% INCREASE IN PRICE FOR CLIMBING MOUNT KINABALU IN 3 YEARS, IN WHICH ARE UNJUSTIFIED AND EXORBITANTLY HIGH.
2. POOR MAINTENANCE OF ACCOMMODATIONS FOR CLIMBERS OF KINABALU IN LABAN RATA RESTHOUSE, WHICH IS RUN BY THEM.
3. SUTERA MONOPOLIZE THIS TO REAP THE PROFITS, WITHOUT THINKING OF THE IMPACT TO SABAH STATE TOURISM INDUSTRY, IN WHICH THE ONE WHO BADLY AFFECTED ARE MALAYSIANS.

You can select “False Indication of Prices” in the Complaint Category and “Others” in Against Premise. This would be the screenshot of the complaint form. (Click to enlarge)

I have sent mine. Please send yours. And thank you very much!

PADI Open Water certification course with Borneo Divers – Part II

Continued from Part I…

Then we had a one week rest (the whole week) as I could not continue our final day of open water session on the subsequent day. So it was brought forward to yesterday (Sunday, 2nd November). And praise the Lord… The weather yesterday was really, really awesome!

I could not sleep the night before as I was over excited. I end up sleeping at about 2.30 am after watching Liverpool-Totenham match, in which Liverpool lost. Hahaha. I did not finished watching it as I thought Liverpool would win after Kuyt scored after 3 minutes.

It was a bright sunny day yesterday. The sky was clear and the water was calm. Our first boat dive was held at Sulug Reef, just nearby Sulug Island. This was the time when Roslan thought us how to do back flip safely from the boat. The water was clear and the visibility was excellent. We went down to 12 meters deep, in which I could feel the pressure inside my ears. I had no problem equalizing though.

We still have to do basic skills in the water during this dive. We have to remove our mask and put it back on, with our regulator in the mouth. It was one of the basic open water skills that we need to master, so that we wouldn’t easily get panic when our dive buddies kick our mask off with their fins. The salt water temporarily hurts my eyes, but then, I get used to it.

While diving at about 10 meters, we saw one of the ugliest view underwater – damaged coral reefs by a fishing net, with the fishing net in-situ. We failed to remove the net from the corals as the net was too long and heavy and we did not bring knives to cut it loose. We have to abandon the net there as we still did not manage to entangle it after 15 minutes of trying.

The one thing that I noticed when I was underwater – I lost the sense of time & direction. I only know how deep I went and how much air I have left in the tank from the SPG (submersible pressure gauge). But unless I wear a compass and a dive computer, I would not know the time and the directions. I only know up and down, left and right. Just to give you the reasons why I need to work hard to get myself MARES Nemo Excel…

Our second boat dive was held at Pyramid Reef, a reef that is situated between Mamutik Island & Manukan Island. Emerged from the sea floor, this reef is not attached to any island around it. They call it Pyramid Reef because of the obvious reason – it has a pyramid shape.

Yes, it was another back flip from the boat and we went down to 12 meters. I saw stone fish, scorpion fish, a lot of anemone (Nemo) fish, few colorful nudibranch, a group of barracudas and numbers of soft coral damaged by sea turtles. It was like an AWARE fish identification dive. Barye, our divemaster brought down a writing plate to tell me what we saw underwater.

That 2 boat dives really makes me hungry. I ate an additional plate of rice and more crackers during lunch at Borneo Divers Dive Center, Mamutik Island. The food (chicken curry & mixed vegetable) was really delicious. It was lucky for Borneo Divers to have a good cook. I am sure I will be back for more dives and of course, food!

Our final dive for the day was a shore dive. We went down to 10 meters following an anchor. This time we learn how to navigate a compass underwater. And this was also the time that I tuned up my buoyancy skills. I felt that I could hover better as I could stay still near to the corals without bumping and crushing them to ashes…

It’s a bit sad when I know that I have to finish the course that day, leaving our HOT scuba diving trainer. Luckily I pass with flying colors. During those 4-days course, Roslan, our guru/mentor/cifu/promoter/photographer/teacher/friend/dive buddy never disappoint us. He followed us all the way from the beginning, making the course much more fun, relax and alive. If not because of him, I won’t be able be with the Nemos & barracudas at 12 meters below sea level! Oh, I have to treat him lunch at Little Italy the week after…

Anyway, to be underwater and breathing effortlessly was really an exhilarating experiences. I could not describe the feelings to you, unless you join me down there.

My next stop will be Sipadan & Mabul. I have decided to take advance open water before proceeding to Layang-Layang. In between I would love to tweak my buoyancy & underwater photography skills.

Damn… I need to consider investing in underwater photography gears next. Nikon + Ikelite + Strobe. How’s that?

Anybody wants to sponsor? Anybody?

PADI Open Water certification course with Borneo Divers – Part I

The weather was really not good during the first 3-days of the course.

On Saturday 25th October, it rained the whole day. Luckily for us, it was only the classroom session. The session was held in Borneo Divers main office in Menara Jubilee, Gaya Street. It started around 9.30am and ended at around 3.30pm.

Our MSDT (Master Scuba Diver Trainer) for the course was Merrilyn Semoring (aka May). Yeah… she’s one HOT SCUBA diver trainer. After introducing ourselves, paid the course fee and received our Open Water Diver Manual, log book & dive table, we started the session with a video. We finished all 5 chapters in the manual with all 5 videos. It really cuts the learning session short, as I don’t have to read the thick manual and dozes off just before lunch.

With the videos, May does not have to give any talks. She just need to get the computer running and answered our questions during the discussion. Honestly speaking, things that I have learned in underwater medicine was a whole lot difficult compared to this whole course knowledge.

When we finished the classroom session, the day is still wet. The rain continued till the next day.

On Sunday 26th October, we started our course with the the confine water session. Still, the weather was really not on our side when I arrived at Borneo Divers booth at Sutera Harbour. Borneo Divers boatman said the water in Mamutik was like ‘Milo’ – a local drinks which consist of cocoa and milk – a direct way of saying that the visibility underwater was bad. Our instructor, May said that we have to abort doing it in the island. Instead, she brought us to Sutera Harbour swimming pool where we learn all the open water skills.

Yay! I was really disappointed at the beginning as we could not do it the usual way in saltwater around Mamutik. But then, I changed my mind after the 2 and half hour lesson ended. The excellent visibility in the swimming pool really made our lesson smooth the whole session. If we were to go the island during that ‘gloomy’ weather, I was afraid that we would not be able to concentrate on the lesson because of the harsh wave & poor visibility. During the confine water session in the swimming pool, we were thought a lot of basic scuba diving skills that we have to learn and do. 2.5 hours in the water really made me freeze, tired and hungry. I went back home and drop dead (deep sleep) the whole night.

On Monday 27th October, a holiday for Malaysian, (Deepavali holiday) we went to Mamutik Island for our 1st open water session. It was a shore dive, means that we have to walk about 100 meters with our BCD, regulators and tank to the shore. The weather was still not good, but then, that was our only chance.

Oh, now I know how to put my fins on while in the water. My fins were the full foot type – means that it is more difficult to put it on compared to the open heel one.

The visibility was really bad. I think it’s only about 1 meters only at the surface. We went down to 10 meters, where the visibility was slightly better. The teaching session started again with more basic diving skills. May thought us how to sustain our neutral buoyancy in the water by controlling only our breath. It was really difficult at first, as I sunk on the sand on my first full exhale.

It was just a matter of controlling your low pressure inflator (LPI) to fill your BCD with just enough air to keep you neutrally buoyant – staying still in the water, not up or down – using only your inhale/exhale air. The second time I inhaled full breath, I was moving up, shooting like a rocket which my divemaster, Barye had to pull me down. I didn’t know why I could not let my body slowly descent back down then. Funny…

As the visibility was bad, Roslan did not take much photos. Yes, he followed us, from the start of the course till finished. He took a lot of videos in which quite hilarious to watch. You know it when you watched bunch of anxious divers (me and Rahman) doing a lot of funny movements in the water, trying very hard to get our buoyancy right underwater. Hahaha… I laughed myself when I saw my videos.

Anyway, we went through the day with 2 dives, in which with the second dive, I tried to tune up my buoyancy skills. I have to master ‘Hovering’; a skill that every diver should master, in which you control your buoyancy to stay still at one point in the water, without kicking or moving your arms. To tell you frankly, my buoyancy skill still sucks although I took the next 3 dives to practice. But I think it was a bit better last Sunday, 2nd November.

Continued to Part II…

PADI: Go Dive

Join “Mount Kinabalu – belongs to NO ONE else” cause in Facebook

A lot of complaints.

A lot of rants.

A lot of rage.

The issue: Sutera Sanctuary Lodges monopolize Mount Kinabalu for their own profits.

They never wants to listen to our grouses on how expensive their climbing packages are, as long as they are the only available solution for Kinabalu climbers.

It started early this year, January 2008, when they packaged their climbing trip. They also pre-sold all the beds to big travel & tourism company increasing the price, to reap all the profits. That moves had also make us difficult to book a bed in Laban Rata.

Try calling them and ask for a bed 6 months in advance. They will say that their booking is not open yet.

Try calling them again next 2 days – 5 months 29 days. And they will said that the beds are full in Laban Rata. Who do you think have the power and money to book all 140 beds in Laban Rata in that very short time?

Try call them at this number: +6088-243629. Considered yourself lucky if you can get through.

Considered yourself double lucky if there is still bed for you in Laban Rata. They won’t tell you whether you get a heated or non-heated one.

Considered yourself triple lucky if you got the Laban Rata Resthouse – where the restaurant and heated rooms are.

Gone are the days when you can D-I-Y your trip up to Low’s Peak, where you could pay merely over RM150 for all the expenses – provided we bring our food ourselves.

The package that they created is compulsory. You cannot omit even a single item in the package – that includes the food. And that move have skyrocketed the prices, even worse during this uncertainty of fuel prices and inflation.

Sigh…

I pity those solo climbers, backpackers and budget travelers. Even more for our own Malaysian citizen & students. The revised pricing structure really did not help us all.

It also hurts Mount Kinabalu’s image. Somebody wrote a bad review on climbing Kinabalu in Lonely Planet Borneo, it’s latest edition. It seems that climbing the mountain is actually the easy part. The hard part is getting the accommodation booking.

Buy the Lonely Planet Borneo if you have money and see it for yourself. I don’t think I would waste another RM79.90 just to get to see the bad reviews on Kinabalu.

It also hurts my last climb up the mountain with Special Olympics athletes. They have to revise their expenses to divert the money to Sutera Sanctuary Lodges. A big chunk of it. A lot of volunteers also complaints, not about the organizer, but about the accommodation provider.

You will be surprised, despite the price increase, that Laban Rata Resthouse is still in a pity mode.

Frequent heated water disruptions.

Leaks – not the roof leak, but plumbing leaks, which leads to flooding of the restaurant by the water from somebody bathing & maybe peeing upstairs.

The food taste really horrible.

The price of their a la carte menu & are ridiculous.

Well, this post really sound seditious. I could get caught and put behind bars because of my writings. But did I tell lies?

No I don’t.

Yesterday I spoke to one of my patient. A senior expatriate who have live here in KK for the past 30 over years. He also aired out his concern on what Sutera did, and how they really hurt the industry. He said he is going to speak directly to Sutera manager and get things straight.

I hope he could at least help us all.

At this moment, what we could do is to get together and voice out our concern. I could not do this by myself through this small blog. Sutera never cares. They know that my writings won’t even dent their cashflow.

Join me in the facebook. (Get one for yourself. It’s free.)

Poke me inside. Add me as your friend.

And the best thing to do is join the cause by KaKiAyAm; Mount Kinabalu – belongs to NO ONE else.
http://apps.facebook.com/causes/125792?recruiter_id=13322243

We need a big number to get the ball rolling.

Writing to the government is a waste of time.

They don’t read your letter. They don’t care about your email, and most probably your email will end up in their spam box.

The Sabah state government knew. Maybe they also have vested interest with Sutera? Who knows? They just don’t care.

If they really care, they should regulate the pricing structure.

If they really care, they would not have agree on the price increase.

Try asking for quotation for 2009 climbing package from Sutera. Get ready to get shock.

Stay tune to this blog.

You may want to climb other mountain first – Tambuyukon or Trusmadi, here in Sabah. They don’t have this much issue, but the climb are harder. Good thing is, Sutera is not involve with these 2 beautiful mountains.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri (I know it’s late)… Maaf Zahir & Batin.

Sutera Sanctuary Lodges – the biggest rip-off merchants in Asia

No. I did not write those words. I quoted from a travelogue entry by staffyandlyddy in Travelpod.com.

They also gave a breakdown of what they had to pay those ripp-off merchants to climb the mountain (for non-Malaysian):

Dorm Room at Park Headquarters – 85RM each
Permit to Climb Mt Kinabalu – 100RM each
Insurance (even though we have our own) – 7RM each
Guide – 85RM short trek / 100RM Long Trek – shared
Taxi from Park HQ to Start Point – 85RM – shared
Room on Laban Rata (halfway point) – 208RM each (including really poor meals)
Total cost (if climbing individually on short trek) – 555RM (111 Euro) for the 2 nights.

You can read their entry here.