Starry, starry night

You need not travel to for­eign lands to gaze at the mes­meris­ing starry night sky. Sabah is home to some sites where you can cap­ture the beauty of the night skyscape.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - Sto­ries by MING TEOH star2­travel@thestar.com.my

IS trav­el­ling to places in the north­ern hemi­sphere like Alaska, Ice­land and Green­land, to view the aurora bo­re­alis ( North­ern Lights), or stargaz­ing in Chile’s Ata­cama Desert, South Africa’s Kruger Na­tional Park, and New Mex­ico, the United States, your cup of tea?

You’d be thrilled to know, then, that you have the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy your favourite ac­tiv­ity closer to home.

Tourism and Cul­ture Min­istry ( Mo­tac) Sabah of­fice di­rec­tor Ag. Ah­mad Zaki Abu Bakar said that astro- tourism and as­tropho­tog­ra­phy ( as­tron­omy tourism and pho­tog­ra­phy) is fast be­com­ing pop­u­lar in the tourism industry.

Ah­mad Zaki added that Sabah, with its low lev­els of light pol­lu­tion and less cloudy skies, makes it easier for as­tron­omy and pho­tog­ra­phy en­thu­si­asts to en­joy and cap­ture the night sky and hori­zon. It could be­come one of the best lo­ca­tions in the world for stargaz­ing.

“Astro- tourism in Malaysia was in­spired by the Mil­lion Stars Ho­tel con­cept, which is about trav­ellers spend­ing the night un­der a blan­ket of stars,” he ex­plained dur­ing the re­cent Per­seid Me­teor Shower View­ing Party pro­gramme at the Tip of Bor­neo in Sim­pang Men­gayau, Ku­dat, Sabah. The pro­gramme was a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Mo­tac and the Sabah Stargaz­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to Sabah Stargaz­ers pres­i­dent Dr Es­mar Ab­dul Hamid, the event brought to­gether 500 club mem­bers, stu­dents and mem­bers of the pub­lic to view the phe­nom­e­non ( where me­te­orite frag­ments hit the earth’s at­mos­phere at about 64km to 96km above the planet’s sur­face, cre­at­ing a daz­zling light show in lo­ca­tions with less in­ter­fer­ence from other nat­u­ral and ar­ti­fi­cial light sources).

There are me­teor show­ers just about ev­ery month, but the two main ones which as­tron­omy en­thu­si­asts usu­ally watch out for are the Per­seids in Au­gust, and the Gem­i­nids in De­cem­ber.

Usu­ally, view­ings de­pend on the weather. If it’s cloudy, you won’t be able to see any­thing; also, nat­u­ral light ( from the moon) and ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing ( from street lamps, car lights, and build­ing lights) will lessen vis­i­bil­ity. So, the best places to stargaze are open spa­ces, such as fields and beaches, where there are no build­ings or other ar­ti­fi­cial light sources.

Here are some places in Sabah where you can en­joy stargaz­ing and skyscape pho­tog­ra­phy, and more.

La­had Datu

One par­tic­u­lar good spot for view­ing the night sky and astro pho­tog­ra­phy is Silam Coast Con­ser­va­tion Area and Felda Sa­ha­bat 16, Tam­bisan. This coastal town also has many other at­trac­tions. Be­sides sev­eral mar­kets – a dried fish mar­ket, a veg­etable and fruit mar­ket, a chicken mar­ket and a fish mar­ket – there is the nearby Danum Valley Con­ser­va­tion Area, where you can go jun­gle- trekking, swim in the rivers, go bird- watch­ing, and en­joy night jun­gle tours. At the Tabin Wildlife Re­serve, you can go on jun­gle treks, view wildlife, and do film­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy.

Tawau

Check out the skies at Ta­man Bukit Tawau ( Tawau Hills Park), which of­fers pic­nic ar­eas, camp­ing sites, and chalets. This park has a rugged vol­canic land­scape, with a hot spring and ma­jes­tic wa­ter­falls. Its high­est point is Gu­nung Mag­dalena. To the lo­cals, this park is also known as Ta­ble, Na­tional Park, Ta­man Ne­gara, Abacca or No. 4 Gu­dang.

This third largest city in Sabah of­fers an old- world charm and many tourist at­trac-

tions, such as the Tan­jung Mar­kets, Bell Tower, Ja­panese War Ceme­tery, Con­fronta­tion Me­mo­rial, Teck Guan Co­coa Mu­seum, Ulu Kalumpang For­est Re­serve, Maliau Basin Con­ser­va­tion Area, and Ta­man Bukit Gemok ( Bukit Gemok Park).

Ku­dat

To view spec­tac­u­lar night skies, head to Tan­jung Sim­pang Men­gayau ( Tip of Bor­neo), Kam­pung Marang Parang, Tin­dakon Dazang Beach, Terongkon­gan Beach and Ku­lambu Beach.

Ku­dat, sit­u­ated north of the cap­i­tal Kota Kin­a­balu, was orig­i­nally in­hab­ited by the Run­gus, part of the Kadazan in­dige­nous peo­ple who tra­di­tion­ally lived in long­house com­mu­ni­ties in­land. In fact, the name Ku­dat comes from the Run­gus word ku­tad, which refers to the coarse grass that grows abun­dantly in the lo­ca­tion.

The coastal town is fa­mous for some of the most pris­tine beaches in the state, in­clud­ing Pasir Pu­tih, Bak Bak and Kalam­pu­nian. It is also fa­mous for its fresh seafood. Be­sides ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the Run­gus cul­ture, other tourist at­trac­tions in­clude the cen­tral mar­ket, fish mar­ket, Sidek Es­planade and Ku­dat Golf Club.

Kota Be­lud

Be one with the stars at Kam­pung Sangkir and Me­langkap. Along the Kota Be­lud- Ranau By­pass, there is an­other good spot.

Head on to Kam­pung Tam­bat­uon, which is lo­cated in the foothills of Mount Kin­a­balu, next to the Kedama­ian River.

Lo­cated on the west coast of Sabah, Kota Be­lud is known as the un­of­fi­cial cap­i­tal of the in­di­gen­u­ous Ba­jau ( No­mads) peo­ple. It is fa­mous for its Sun­day tamu ( open air mar­ket) where you can see buy­ers and sellers hag­gling over prices. But in Oc­to­ber, the tamu is held on a larger and more vi­brant scale, and this is known as the tamu be­sar ( grand mar­ket).

An­other in­ter­est­ing sight is the golden mosque on the hill.

Kota Be­lud can be a stopover en route to Ku­dat, Man­tanani and Manana Beach.

Kun­dasang

Look sky­wards at Bundu Tuhan. ( In the Dusun lan­guage, Bundu refers to a type of fruit tree, and Tuhan means land­slide or felled.) Lo­cated in the Ranau district, Kun­dasang is the clos­est town to Mount Kin­a­balu, and of­fers a breath­tak­ing view of the moun­tain. It is also close to Kin­a­balu Na­tional Park, Malaysia’s first Unesco World Her­itage Site.

Kun­dasang is fa­mous for its veg­etable mar­ket ( open daily), and is in­hab­ited by the na­tive Dusun who work as farm­ers, park rangers, moun­tain guides or porters in Kin­a­balu Na­tional Park.

Other tourist at­trac­tions in the area in­clude the Kun­dasang War Me­mo­rial and Gar­dens, and Kun­dasang Golf Course.

For more in­for­ma­tion on stargaz­ing in Sabah, visit: www.face­book.com/SabahS­targaz­ers/

Savour the skyscapes at Kam­pung Tam­bat­uon, Kota Be­lud- Ranau By­pass. — LUQMAN AL- HAKIM

The gor­geous night skyscape over Kam­pung Marang Parang, Ku­dat. — HAR­RIS JEFFREY

Stars twin­kling above a lone sam­pan at Kam­pung Jangkit, Kuala Penyu. — HAR­RIS JEFFREY

En­joy the breath­tak­ing view from Hounon Ridge, Bundu Tuhan in Kun­dasang. — LUQMAN AL- HAKIM

The Orion con­stel­la­tion over Mount Kin­a­balu as seen from the Kota Be­lud- Ranau By­pass to Kg Tam­bat­uon. — DR ES­MAR HJ AB­DUL HAMID

Look up into the sky and be amazed at Tan­jung Sim­pang Men­gayau ( Tip of Bor­neo), Ku­dat. — HAR­RIS JEFFREY

— CHRISTIANTO SONING

The beau­ti­ful night hues above Kam­pung Li­mau Li­mauan, Ku­dat.

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