Thursday, October 30, 2014

SNF 2014 lead up activity: Guided Walk on Ambal Ecology by Tony Sebastian,pictures Peter Lai and Addy Siong

On a Sunday morning, 26th October 2014, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) lead a group of people headed out onto the sandflats of Bako-Buntal Bay, with Puan Missi and her two lovely daughters.
They spent two hours walking across the sandflats at low tide, learning first-hand about the Razor Clam. This amazing creature is known locally as Ambal. A simple name for a complex, 500 million old life-form. Most of us know it as a delicious seafood, but we all left Buntal that morning knowing so much more about the biology and natural behaviour of Ambal.

Ambal is a bivalve, from the family Bivalvia. Bivalves are shelled animals, including the clams, cockles, mussels and oysters. They are recognisable by having two symmetrical hard shells, connected by a hinge of cartilage. They are found mostly in the intertidal zone of the sea, but some are also found in freshwater.
Our tidal flats from Lundu, Salak, Buntal and Asajaya are the main areas where ambal is collected to supply our seafood restaurants. This fishery is an old practise along Sarawak’s coasts, and the fisherfolk of our coastal villages have a long tradition of collecting ambal.
Ambal collecting is seasonal, mainly between October and March each year, coinciding with our landas, or monsoon, season. Interestingly, this is also the ambal’s resting period. This bivalve breeds between April and September each year, then goes into a period of rest. Scientists call this period the “spent” period. We don’t know if this is coincidence, but it works out well – ambal is collected when the animals have stopped spawning, and are growing.

There are three known species of ambal along Sarawak’s coasts, but only one is found in Bako-Buntal bay. Its scientific name is Solen regularis. Ambal collecting is done primarily by womenfolk, and they have a curious technique to spot and catch ambal. They keep their traditional practise secret, and so shall we.
Each individual ambal grows where its juvenile form lands in the sand, and will live in that exact spot for the rest of its life. We were thrilled to see that ambal can move, and move really fast. Drop one on the sand, and it can disappear within seconds. They have a muscular foot that can take in water, expand, and expel water with force, thus propelling them across the surface, and right down into the sand.
Spending the morning under the gaze of the majestic Gunung Santubong was a most refreshing experience. It was a real joy walking across the Sg. Buntal at low tide, and watching the hundreds of migratory shorebirds and terns flying about. Learning how the razor clam lives, is caught and how it contributes to the livelihood of so many villagers, was a meaningful experience for all. Until that day, ambal was just a seafood dish!

In the words of one “the next time I order ambal in a restaurant, I will remember Puan Missi and her daughters, the people who go out and earn a difficult living, in a beautiful place. I also realise that nature nourishes us, and we need to appreciate this first, before we will care for such beautiful and important places like the Santubong peninsula”.
This trip was held under the Santubong Nature Festival 2014, an initiative of the Malaysian Nature Society to bring greater awareness amongst all of the values of Santubong, and the urgent need to use it wisely. Santubong is Sarawak’s heritage, and worth keeping as is.

The Santubong Nature Festival is held on 8th and 9th November, at Permai Rainforest Resort. Come join in the many nature activities organised by agencies and organisations from all over Sarawak

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


KUCHING: The mood is upbeat and there is festivity in the air! Santubong Nature Festival (SNF)  is back for the second year next weekend, Nov 8 and 9 at Permai Rainforest Resort. 
So let’s make a beeline to the festival that celebrates Santubong peninsula’s diverse natural & cultural heritage. 
Conceptualised and organized by the Malaysian Nature Society-Kuching Branch (MNSKB), the first SNF was held in November 2013.

The festival is hosted by Permai Rainforest Resort and held in collaboration with Kuching City North Hall (DBKU), and with the support from Sarawak Museum, Geoscience and Mineral Department, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Trienekens (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd, Sultan Iskandar Planetarium, IBEC of Universiti Sarawak Malaysia,  Ika Picture House, Sarawak Society of Prevention of Cruelty for Animal and Society of Wilderness (SOW).

The festival aims to:
1.    To raise public awareness about the priceless natural and historical(local and global) heritage value of the Santubong Peninsula.
2.    To advocate for a holistic and integrated approach to development and management of the area, safeguarding its unique landscape, biodiversity and historical assets.
3.    To showcase the tourism and recreational potential of the natural and cultural values of the Santubong Peninsula.
4.    To stimulate reflection on responsible and sustainable management of the peninsula and its surroundings.
5.    To enhance environmental awareness and inculcate a sense of value for the area among the public, especially our youth.
The different activities are organized and carried out by different organisations and agencies, as their contributions to the Festival. In this way, several organisations have a chance to organize nature-themed activities and events between July and November, focussing on Santubong. 

These organisations will pool their resources again this weekend and hold a variety of indoor and outdoor activities for the young and old. 
On Nov 8, cycling enthusiasts are encouraged to take part in a riding from DBKU to Permai Rainforest Resort at 7am. And along the way to Permai, cyclists will help to pick up rubbish as part of their commitment in leaving small footprint and bettering the environment. 
DBKU Datuk Bandar is expected to officiate at the opening of the festival at Sepang Room at 9.30am
During the opening ceremony, the organizers have arranged a special talk by an ecological restorator and educator from Australia Gerard Proust, who is also MNS member. Proust will speak on “Santubong - A Biological Oasis [A Precautionary Tale of Hope]”. The talk discusses ways of minimising the impacts on a remnant forest and encourage all surrounding stakeholders to take responsibility for minimising their ecological footprint, neutralising their impact on the forest and making their own piece of land (school, resort, home etc) biologically productive.

A series of talk will take place at the resort’s Belian and Sepang Rooms in the afternoon and these talks are followed by guided walks.
Marine and chief scientist of Tropical Research and Conservation Centre Prof Steve Oakley will speak on Life On The Sea Coast at 12.30pm. He works on coral reef and shark conservation.  He created the Green Connection Aquarium & Science Discovery centre in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to promote environmental awareness.
Talks on History Of Santubong by Sarawak Museum will take place at 2.30pm; Rainforest Discovery by MNS (2.30pm); and Santubong National Park by Sarawak Forestry Corporation (4pm). 

The festivity continues well into the night with a guided walk, Rainforest Walk, led by MNS and SOW (7pm); and astronomy talk and observation by Sultan Iskandar Planetarium and Sarawak Astronomy Society at 7.30pm.
The judging session for Eco-Fashion Contest for 25 participating teams will take place at Sepang Room at 4.30pm. Festival goers are invited to give the contestants encouragement and support.
On the next day, the exciting Survivor Race kicks start at 8.30am. The race is for the physically fit as it comprises cycling, hiking, kayaking, running, swimming and paddling.
Other activities are guided walk for children Little Explorers Rainforest Discovery (9 to 12 years old) at Sepang Room, 9am; observation walk in Mandarin focussing on the rainforest at Belian Room, 9am; talk and guided walk on geology of Santubong at Belian Room, 11am; talk and guided walk on life on the sea coast at Sepang Room, 11am; and guided walk on archaeology of Santubong at Belian Room, 1pm
Admission to Permai Rainforest Resort on both days is free. Participation to all activities is also free except for dolphin watching and Survivor Race. There will be two dolphin watching opportunities at 11am on Saturday and 9am on Sunday. Boat charges for adult is RM80, children below 12 years old is RM40. 

The Survivor Race fee is RM100 for team with kayak and RM50 for individual with kayak, RM80 for team with no kayak and RM40 for individual with no kayak. Registration for the race closes on Nov 5
There will be booths selling handicrafts, merchandise from MNS and its partners, 
Festival goers are also encouraged to visit booths set up by partners and learn more about their conservation work and astronomy. 

Early registration is necessary to take part in these activities. Intending participants are to provide their name, mobile phone number and identity card number for the indemnity form and email to

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Archaeology of Santubong

Last year's archaeology walk at Sungai Jaong & Batu Bergambar was a big hit among festival goers.

Guided walk: ARCHAEOLOGY OF SANTUBONG by Sarawak Museum
Date: Nov 9, Sunday
Time & duration: 1pm (about 2 hours)
Meeting point: Belian Room, Permai Rainforest Resort
Notes: Wear shoes, bring insect repellent (certain sites many mosquitoes), sun block, sun hat, poncho or umbrella, drinking water. 
Participation is FREE, but early registration is advisable. Email to
Last year's archaeology walk at Sungai Jaong & Batu Bergambar was a big hit among festival goers.