KOTA KINABALU, 25 February 2022: Turkey is putting Sabah on its map to promote the state as an ideal destination for scuba diving vacation.

A Turkish delegation led by Turkey’s Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Merve Safa Kavakçi arrived in Sabah earlier this week for a familiarisation trip that will include a visit to Semporna.

YB Datuk Jafry Ariffin presenting a memento to HE Merve Safa Kavakcı. (L to R) Datuk Sr Yusrie Abdullah, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah, Ms Sahika Ercumen, World Record Holder Freediver, Pn Noredah Othman, CEO of Sabah Tourism Board.
(L-R) HE Merve Safa Kavakcı , Ambassador of Turkey to Malaysia handing over postcards to freediver Sahika Ercumen to be posted at Malaysia’s first underwater postbox in Mataking.

Hosted by the Sabah Tourism Board (STB), the educational visit is also joined by renowned Turkish diver and world record-holding freediver Şahika Ercümen.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Jafry Ariffin, hosted the delegation to dinner together with Permanent Secretary Datuk Sr Yusrie Abdullah and Sabah Tourism Board.

“Turkey has been on STB’s radar as an emerging market. In late 2021, I was in Istanbul and met with outbound agents who were keen to explore travel offerings to Sabah. The embassy’s trip to Sabah further reinstates its confidence that Sabah is a potential destination for Turkish travellers”, he said. 

During the visit, the Universiti Malaysia Sabah invited Kavakçı and her delegation to a talk session, during which Ercümen spoke about her passion for freediving and marine conservation. She will then proceed to the east coast to produce a video on diving in Sabah.

Sabah is home to six protected marine parks managed by the Sabah Parks. The world-famous Sipadan Island Park and Tun Sakaran Marine Park are located in Semporna.

The Tun Sakaran Marine Park comprises of eight islands with crystal-clear water namely Bodgaya, Boheydulang, Tetagan, Selakan, Sebangkat, Maiga, Sibuan and Mantabuan.

The east coast district is also a gateway to paradise islands and some of the best muck diving sites such as Mataking, Kapalai, Mabul, and Bum-Bum.

STB chief executive officer Noredah Othman said Sabah, particularly Semporna, is rich in marine biodiversity, making it an ideal destination for ocean tourism.

“Killer whales, whale sharks, and dolphins are known to use Semporna waters as a migratory route, and these incredible sea creatures have been sighted numerous times by divers.

“Academicians have also been drawn to Semporna’s seabed to research marine life, and the potential for discovering new macro species is enormous. We do hope to get scuba divers in Turkey excited about new places to dive when our international borders reopen,” she said.

“Ambassador Kavakcı, in her concluding remarks, also drew attention to the importance of sustainability of the collaborative efforts between parties.

“Exchange of experience between Turkish and Sabahian scholars, scientists and academics would contribute to the well-establishment of our interaction thus the longevity of our collaboration,” she stated.

(Your Stories: Sabah Tourism Board)

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