Tag Archives: sutera sanctuary lodges

The story behind SSL & Sabah State Government on Mount Kinabalu management

I received an official call from Mr. Guna, the investigating officer for our complaints against Sutera Sanctuary Lodges on the ridiculous pricing of climbing Mount Kinabalu starting from 2008. For the other 15 complaints that had been submitted (thanks for those who submitted the complaints), you will get a similar call from him soon.

Basically, this was his explanation:

1. Prior to 2003, the accommodation in Laban Rata was managed by Sabah Parks, i.e under direct supervision of Sabah State Government.

2. Starting from 2003, Sabah State Government privatized the management of the accommodation for climbers at Laban Rata, in which, Sutera Sanctuary Lodges have to pay the Sabah State Government RM1.5 million a year. The contract is that Sutera will have to run the place for 30 years.

3. In return, Sutera Sanctuary Lodges will have to manage, maintain, upgrade and do anything that is necessary to make sure the accommodation on the mountain is managed properly.

4. Sutera claimed that for 5 years (from 2003-2007), they never increased the rate. So, in 2008, without any good justification, they decided to increase the price to more than 300% as they wish. They claimed that the cost of running the place is increasing.

5. That is why they published ridiculous pricing structure starting from January 2008, without prior notice to the climbers.

So, are you happy with his explanation?

Further discussion with Mr. Guna revealed that KPDNHEP cannot do much to help us on this increase in the cost of accommodation at Laban Rata by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges.

What we can do now is complaint to the Sabah State Government, as they are the one who knows better about the situation…

Any feedback? Just drop in the comment box…

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!

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.

Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (SSL) website revisited

After they upgraded their office here in Kota Kinabalu, I noticed that they have also redesigned their website. Apparently, they scrapped their SSL office header logo to make way to Sutera Harbour Resort. If you go to Wisma Sabah nowadays, you will not find Sutera Sanctuary Lodges anymore.

They centralized their operating office under Sutera Harbour Resort, which is one of the main player in Sabah’s tourism industry. I am not going to blog about their “new” office, as I have never been there myself. But I used to walked pass by their office, almost everyday on the way to my office. I really hope that their services improves in accordance to their upgrading process.

Back to their website issue. The question that I asked myself before I write this:

  • Is their website new design and set up more user friendly compared to the previous one?
  • Have they change to the better?

Website redesign issue
From the first glance, they still stuck with web1.0. A static website. As more and more website visitors comes to see the emerging of web2.0 (more interactive websites), SSL still left way behind. I am not surprised with that development, however, as it is known that big companies like SSL do not bother to use the power of internet to expand their business.

By the look of the pages, most probably SSL paid some novice webmaster to create a 15-pages website which they think is enough to get the message out to the netizen that they are running an accommodation booking website. But they did not able to specifically state that they provides packages for Mt. Kinabalu climbing.

I just feel that having a static website for SSL is inappropriate, as most of the website visitors nowadays are clever. They need updated information, news, up to date stories, feedback and interaction between them and the site that they are dealing with. They should have created a more interactive platform, like blogs or news feed on the home page, to inform their visitors of what happened in real time. For example, the news about the offices upgrade and renovation was only seen in local newspaper. It should also be announce in the website.

For SSL, don’t just cut cost by having one-off payment to your webmaster. Get a good webmaster who could regularly update the site with more updated information. Create a blog. Create a forum. Get your clients to easily contact you, and be more transparent with the information that you have. It will boost your credibility among netizens.

First time visitor experiences
Most of the netizens who arrived on SSL website will surely be lost. And the worst part, almost all the traffic to the website were directed from here (sorry friends… I don’t have much choice).

As most of us know, a big numbers of netizen who came here have only one thing in their mind: to climb Mount Kinabalu. But their intention met a stumbling block when they arrived on SSL website. They did not see any “Mt. Kinabalu Climbing Package Booking” anywhere. They just do not know which button to click to get their intentions going. They will also be confused on where will they be staying if they decided to go.

If they have enough information from my website and blog that they will be staying in Laban Rata on their way up to the peak, it will be easy for them. Just by clicking “Laban Rata”, much of the problems are resolved, but they will then faces new challenges:

Choosing the accommodation for the climb
Arriving on “Laban Rata” page, you will then be showed 3 options for the accommodations:

  • Laban Rata Room 1, which sleeps 2 – a high class accommodation
  • Laban Rata Room 2, which also sleeps 2, same as Laban Rata Room 1
  • Laban Rata Room 3, which is a dormitory, sleeps 6

For those who never been up there, the information above may or may not confuses you. According to the numbers above, do you notice that the total number of beds at Laban Rata is only 10? The truth is, at any one time, a total number of 140 climbers will be able to get their beds with SSL, plus another 30 beds that is run by Mountaintorq. Did they mention it anywhere on their website?

SSL did not declare that they actually have different kind of accommodations with different numbers of climbers per room. For old timers like me, seeing the accommodations page without Gunting Lagadan Hut, Waras Hut and Panar Laban Hut really disappoints me. Why did SSL hide the information?

Yes, the other huts that I mentioned are not heated and not the same “standard” as Laban Rata Resthouse (I suppose where the Rooms they mentioned are situated). But who cares? Some of the climbers did not even care about comfort and convenience, as long as they are able to climb. And most of them are actually ready to camp at Laban Rata if they are allowed by Sabah Parks. Why not just tell the truth about the accommodations and let climbers decide?

The climbing package

Yes, the prices has gone up 3-4 folds. I used to climb Kinabalu with less than RM250 – complete with transportation from Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu Park HQ. I just need to fork out my own money to buy foods up there, but most of my foods were self-prepared. It was a couple of years ago.

Now, the price that are stated on their website are RM546 (Room 1 & 2) and RM1688 (Room 3). Bare in mind that the price does not includes your transportation, your park fee, mountain guides and certificate. Care to calculate how much it will cost you yourself by following the rate in their “Climbing Mt Kinabalu” page?

Okay… Okay… I complained too much. But I think it is for the company’s good image. I have nothing to loose here, my friend. I am hoping that SSL can improve their services up to our client’s expectation.

Oh, should I go to their customer relation issues?

In conclusion, I think:

  1. SSL still sucks big time on explaining how to go about (the straightforward way) on booking the Mt. Kinabalu climbing package, despite the new website redesign.
  2. They failed to inform us the whole truth about the accommodations at Laban Rata – Gunting Lagadan, Waras and Panar Laban.
  3. They failed to tell us that at any one time, SSL could accommodate up to 140 climbers at Laban Rata area.
  4. They still left behind with static web1.0 on their website. SSL, you may need to fire your webmaster and get a new one with web2.0 or even web3.0 oriented.

Good Luck.

I am not for hire as a webmaster – unless I am paid RM500k (hint) per year… HAHAHAHA…. (with evil laugh!)

Book your Kinabalu climbing package from Kumuka.com

I started to accept quotation requests for Mount Kinabalu climbing since February 2007. Statistically, I have received more than 500 request, but from that number, Aiden and me could only process and handle less than 5% of it.

The major reason why we could not deal with the other request for the climb is that most of the request is made to close to the climbing dates. As I have mentioned before, climbing Kinabalu is selling like hot fried-bananas this year 2007, as it happens to be the Visit Malaysia Year. Most of the climbers who sent us the request, plan to go within 3 months from their request date. It is almost impossible to get a place for climbers to climb within that period of time as it is always full when we contacted Sutera Sanctuary Lodges. Sadly, we have to turn the request down because of this.

Sutera Sanctuary LodgesSecondly, Sutera Sanctuary Lodges has not given us a good cooperation on dealing with the bookings. It was really difficult to get through them – especially by telephone – and Aiden have to go to their office almost every other day to get the latest feedback on our bookings. It wears us down.

Lately, I heard that Sutera Sanctuary Lodges is going to increase the accommodation rate in Laban Rata starting from 2008. They are also going to have new rules and regulations on climbers of Mount Kinabalu pertaining the lodges in Laba Rata and the climbing packages. This is the highlight of our challenges.

So, at the moment, I am going to put down the reservation form for climbers, temporarily. As an alternative, climbers can check out our new affiliate partner, Kumuka.com which will be handling all the climbing packages, until our problems is solved.

Kumuka.com have 2 packages specifically for Mount Kinabalu climbers – 2D1N package and 3D2N package – which will cost US$315 and US$370 respectively. The packages are meant for international climbers. I would suggest that Malaysian climbers to contact Sutera Sanctuary Lodges directly for Malaysian rate.

Book your climbing packages here:
http://tinyurl.com/6cmb98

Click “Asia” and search for Mount Kinabalu Package. I really hope that you can get a bed for the climb.

Good Luck!