BY SHOBA MANO
First held in 2004, this event expects to see a record number of participants this year, what with the fee at just RM120 a person in conjunction with the country’s 50th Merdeka celebrations and Visit Malaysia Year 2007.
The fee covers the cost of transportation by coach from Kuala Lumpur, boat ride and accommodation from Aug 24-Aug 26 at the Race Village – basically tents spread over two beachfronts with full toilet facilities.
It also includes meals and entertainment programmes, T-shirts, goodie bags and race certificates. There will also be a food fair and handicraft exhibition.
“This low fee is made possible because the Terengganu state government is subsidising the costs. Sponsors have also contributed prizes and cash worth a total of RM50,000,” said Tim Ho Wooi Choong, 34, the project manager for PIC Adventures Sdn Bhd, the race organiser.
Ho said those who are less athletic could participate in the Novice race, which is being held for the first time this year. It is far less strenuous and offers the opportunity to enjoy the island’s beauty on specially arranged routes.
The Novice race involves running, swimming, mystery tests, and brainteasers, while the professional level, called Elite, involves additional events like kayaking, trail and beach running, cargo net and water orienteering.
Ho said planning for the Challenge began months ago when venue, route and other matters were inspected for safety and access.
“We also identified the location and type of food stalls and drink stations to have, and have ensured that ample tents and kayaks would be made available for participants.
“No one individual or company owns a few hundred kayaks, so we have to borrow from several resorts. This is one of the many challenges in organising a major event like this,” said Ho.
Ho has visited the island to test the route with PIC’s race director and former Olympic swimmer, Chan See Seng and technical director, Steven Lim. The two are in charge of planning and logistics.
“Our Elite race is very gruelling and popular with professionals, including foreigners who fly down to Malaysia to participate in it, as they are assured of an adrenalin-pumping time.
“But this year, we have included the Novice race to draw more Malaysians and tourists to participate, so that everyone can enjoy the island and experience Terengganu’s culture,” said Ho, who expects about 500 participants, up from the usual 200.
The Challenge is designed to allow participants to appreciate the island’s natural beauty. The organisers are working closely with the Terengganu state government to care for the island’s environment and ensure the event is eco-friendly.
Snorkellers, for example, are not allowed to wear flippers as they could end up kicking and damaging the island’s precious coral reefs. The races are also planned in such a way that the routes take participants through the most beautiful scenery. Arrows will be strategically placed on the ocean floor to direct participants to look around and see the colourful fish and other marine life.
“The beauty is breathtaking. Anyone who is indifferent to nature will end up being a nature lover. We hope after the race, participants will be active in the conservation and preservation of Malaysia’s natural beauty.
“City folk often cannot understand why animal lovers and environmentalists are desperate to save wildlife and nature. We hope they will participate in the Challenge to understand our desperate concerns,” said Ho.
Ho said markers will also be put up at strategic sites to force participants to either look up at the trees or around them. So no matter how rushed, participants are forced to pause and appreciate nature.
The Race Village will be very lively throughout the weekend with a food fest, handicraft demonstrations, traditional games, concerts and fire shows taking place during the day and late into the evening.