Stars don't play hide and seek in Sabah
EVER dreamed of travelling to faraway places like Chile's Atacama Desert and South Africa's Kruger National Park for a spot of stargazing?
You will be thrilled to know that there is a place closer to home where you can enjoy a spectacular night under the stars - in Sabah, Malaysia.
Tourism and Culture Ministry (Motac) Sabah office director Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar said astro-tourism and astro-photography are fast becoming popular in the region's tourism industry.
He 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.
"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 said during the recent Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing Party programme at Simpang Mengayau, Kudat, Sabah.
The programme was a collaboration between Motac and Sabah Stargazers.
According to the latter's president Dr Esmar Abdul Hamid, the event brought together 500 club members, students and members of the public to view the phenomenon.
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 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.
Cloudy skies will obscure the stars.
Natural light, such as from the moon, and artificial light - street lamps, car headlights and building lights - will also reduce the visibility of the stars.
Open spaces like fields and beaches are your best bet.
Here are some places in Sabah where you can enjoy stargazing and skyscape photography.
1. LAHAD DATU
One particular good spot is the Silam Coast Conservation Area and Felda Sahabat 16, Tambisan.
This coastal town also has many other attractions. Besides several markets - such as for dried fish, vegetable and fruit, chicken and fish - there is the nearby Danum Valley Conservation Area, where you can go jungle-trekking, swim in the rivers, do bird-watching and enjoy night jungle tours.
You can also have similar outdoor activities at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, on top of photography.
The Taman Bukit Tawau (Tawau Hills Park) 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.
This third largest city in Sabah offers an old-world charm and many tourist attractions, such as the Tanjung Markets, Japanese War Cemetery, Confrontation Memorial, Teck Guan Cocoa Museum, Ulu Kalumpang Forest Reserve and Taman Bukit Gemok (Bukit Gemok Park).
To view spectacular night skies, head to Tanjung Simpang Mengayau (Tip of Borneo).
Alternatives are 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.
The name Kudat comes from the Rungus word kutad, which refers to the coarse grass that grows abundantly there.
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 well-known for its fresh seafood.
Besides experiencing the Rungus culture, other attractions also include the central market, fish market, Sidek Esplanade and Kudat Golf Club.
4. KOTA BELUD
Be one with the stars at Kampung Sangkir and Melangkap.
There is another good spot along the Kota Belud-Ranau Bypass.
Head on to Kampung Tambatuon, in the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, next to the Kedamaian River.
Located along the west coast of Sabah, Kota Belud is known as the unofficial capital of the indigenous Bajau (Nomads) people.
It is famous for its Sunday tamu (open air market) where you can see buyers and sellers haggling over prices.
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.
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 as well as Kundasang Golf Course.
ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Stay safe when stargazing
Inform the relevant security officers of your location and activities, so that they can patrol the area and keep an eye out for you as you might be carrying expensive equipment.
The locations listed above are open to the public.
But there are many other good locations for stargazing
Before you go to these other places, obtain permission from the relevant parties to enter those areas, and do not trespass on private property.
Go in a group. If you do not have like-minded friends, consider signing up for
mass stargazing events.
Looking up at the sky for
a prolonged period can cause neckache. To prevent this,
lie on the ground to stargaze (unless you're trying to photograph the skyscape).