KOTA KINABALU: A record-breaking number of 357 four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles and 987 participants are taking part in the 26th Borneo Safari International Offroad Challenge which was flagged off here yesterday.
Event director Faez Nordin said a 350 target was set this year but an exception was made for seven vehicles only for one of the most challenging expeditions in the Borneo Safari history whilst more applications had to be rejected due to the set limit.
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun flagged off the eight-day and seven-night expedition at the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) building on Gaya Street where the 4WDs will drive 680km through the Kota Kinabalu, Tuaran, Ranau, Kota Marudu and Kota Belud districts.
“The logging road has been abandoned for 20 years, I think. A lot of landslides, broken bridges and as you know right now in Ranau and Marudu, it’s raining a lot.
“It will be more challenging because there are more participants ever. Last year only 318 vehicles,” said Faez, adding a majority of the participants are Malaysians and the international participants hailed from Brunei, Indonesia, China, Japan, Thailand, Ireland and Portugal.
“There are a lot of newcomers, and we have more than 20 vehicles from Indonesia. Last year, there were only two from there. We also have a lot from Semenanjung as well as Kuching, Sarawak. There are 42 from Brunei so it is good for our tourism,” he added.
Faez said the annual event, which started in 1990, is the ‘new year’ for 4WD adventure enthusiasts and reckoned a 380 target would most likely be achievable in 2017 based on the overwhelming response of this year’s Borneo Safari.
“We set a limit of 350 cars but people were still registering. But we had to reject the applications which were still coming in one week before the event. We had no choice because we have to limit the number of participants. So next year maybe we will set up a big quota for 380 vehicles only for example,” added the event director whilst recalling that the 2014 limit was 300 only but an exception of 18 vehicles was made due to encouraging response.
“We hope through this event the people will continue to enjoy our environment. Through this event, participants will go through the jungle from the Forestry Department and Sabah Parks, where ordinary people are not really permitted to enter so they can see the environment, flora and also the wild animals,” said Faez.
The event is organized by the Sabah Four Wheel Drive Association with STB and mainly supported by its Diamond Sponsor Isuzu and Platinum Sponsor UMW GRANTT, as the main vehicle oil lubricant.