Cache me if you can

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TECHNOLOGY -

ON FEB 29, a group of geocachers came to­gether at a spe­cial Leap Day Event in Kuala Lumpur. Held at Suria KLCC and or­gan­ised by Geo­caching Malaysia’s Steven Tim­mer­mans and Daniel Vic­tor, the event re­ceived promis­ing at­ten­tion from both lo­cal and a cou­ple of Bri­tish geocachers. The twohour meet- and- greet saw ev­ery­one join­ing the search for the of­fi­cial 2016 Leap Day Cache fol­lowed by a multi- stage cache hunt.

Pop­u­lar in the United States and Europe ( most likely be­cause most caches are hid­den there), geo­caching is slowly gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity here in Malaysia.

With 300 caches read­ily avail­able – most of them lo­cated on the west coast of the penin­sula – geo­caching is still in its in­fancy here. In con­trast, al­most 500 ac­tive caches can be found in Sin­ga­pore. At first glance a dif­fer­ence of 200 caches might seem any­thing but dra­matic, but con­sid­er­ing that Malaysia is roughly 470 times larger, boast­ing a pop­u­la­tion more than five times that of Sin­ga­pore, the dif­fer­ence in cache- den­sity is ac­tu­ally enor­mous!

The good news is that lo­cal geocachers have united to pro­mote the game na­tion­wide through the ac­ti­va­tion of new caches, the or­gan­i­sa­tion of reg­u­lar events and the cre­ation of “Geo­caching Malaysia”, a page on Face­book where all Malaysian geocachers, as well as vis­i­tors, are able to in­ter­act, high­light po­ten­tial prob­lems, or sim­ply learn about the lat­est caches and events in Malaysia.

For the unini­ti­ated, geo­caching is a fun and fam­ily- friendly tech- driven game, which takes par­tic­i­pants to var­i­ous points of in­ter­est through­out the world. A bit like old­school ori­en­teer­ing, geo­caching uses hand­held dig­i­tal devices in­stead of a com­pass and pa­per. Ask geocachers about their hobby and “I use multi- bil­lion dol­lar satel­lites to find Tup­per­ware hid­den in the woods” might be their dry but apt re­ply. Since the sig­nals of GPS satel­lites ( pre­vi­ously re­stricted for mil­i­tary pur­poses), were made avail­able to the pub­lic 16 years ago, geo­caching has blos­somed into a global game with 15 mil­lion par­tic­i­pants and a mind- blow­ing 2.8 mil­lion caches hid­den across the world.

Nat­u­rally, a cache hid­den in a rel­a­tively eas­ily nav­i­gated and densely pop­u­lated ur­ban area would at­tract more geocachers than one that re­quires a five- day ex­pe­di­tion through dense jun­gle fo­liage or climb­ing Mount Kinabalu.

How­ever, no mat­ter how re­mote or dif­fi­cult your cache might be, sooner or later it is bound to be found – some­one, some­where will be com­pelled to track it down to record that of­ten elu­sive but highly de­sired “FTF” ( First To Find).

For geocachers the adage “If you hide it, they will come” cer­tainly holds true.

“Geo­caching can be an ex­cel­lent way for peo­ple to learn more about places you did not know ex­isted,” says Tim­mer­mans, 41, who has been geo­caching for four years now. “Some peo­ple might en­joy search­ing for a cache in peace and quiet and go at it alone, while oth­ers pre­fer to team up with friends or use it to spend qual­ity time with their fam­ily. Some might even ar­gue that geo­caching is an ex­cel­lent way burn some calo­ries!”

On a larger scale, Tim­mer­mans feels that geo­caching could po­ten­tially have an im­pact on lo­cal tourism.

In­stead of stick­ing to clas­sic hotspots – places such as Kuala Lumpur, Malacca or Pe­nang – a rich geo­caching land­scape would per­suade tourists to ven­ture deeper into the coun­try, to places where they nor­mally would not go. Tim­mer­mans feels this would be an ex­cel­lent way to un­lock Malaysia’s hid­den tourism gems. So, just how does one get started? As­sum­ing you al­ready own a de­vice ca­pa­ble of pro­cess­ing co­or­di­nates, your first step would be to visit the of­fi­cial geo­caching web­site at geo­caching. com and join the com­mu­nity. Once reg­is­tered, you then use the site or the geo­caching app to search for a “hid­den trea­sure” ( or “cache”) in your neigh­bour­hood. Once you’ve se­lected the cache of your choice, you will be given the co­or­di­nates to its lo­ca­tion.

It is then up to you to find that cache and log in your name on the log sheet pro­vided. Once you’ve done this, you can also log your find on­line, where you will also be able to fol­low a wide range of sta­tis­tics re­gard­ing your geo­caching ac­tiv­i­ties.

Once you’re fa­mil­iar with geo­caching, you’re only a small step re­moved from find­ing caches to cre­at­ing them. There are many types of caches, but the most com­mon type, the tra­di­tional cache, can be found in any form or shape, with nano con­tain­ers the size of a fin­ger­nail, to caches the size of a truck. It’s all pos­si­ble!

Some are magnetic, oth­ers are de­vi­ously cam­ou­flaged to blend in with their sur­round­ings. There are re­ally no lim­its to the size or ap­pear­ance of a cache; the only re­quire­ment is that your con­tainer of choice is wa­ter­proof as it sup­posed to hold a log sheet. Once a cache has been cre­ated, you can pub­lish its co­or­di­nates and other de­tails on the web­site for oth­ers to find.

Time to cache in and have some fun!

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit Malaysian Geocachers on­line on www. face­book. com/ geo­caching­malaysia.

Left: Found it! At the 2016 Leap Day Event, Mandy Huckle, flanked by Zi- Lie Chan and Bern Sia, claim­ing ‘ FTF’. — Steven Tim­mer­mans

Below: Ex­am­ple of a geo­cache. — Geo­caching Malaysia

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