ON Feb 29, a group of geocachers came together at a special Leap Day Event in Kuala Lumpur. Held at Suria KLCC and organised by Geocaching Malaysia’s Steven Timmermans and Daniel Victor, the event received promising attention from both local and a couple of British geocachers. The two-hour meet-and-greet saw everyone joining the search for the official 2016 Leap Day Cache followed by a multi-stage cache hunt.
Popular in the United States and Europe (most likely because most caches are hidden there), geocaching is slowly gaining popularity here in Malaysia.
With 300 caches readily available – most of them located on the west coast of the peninsula – geocaching is still in its infancy here. In contrast, almost 500 active caches can be found in Singapore. At first glance a difference of 200 caches might seem anything but dramatic, but considering that Malaysia is roughly 470 times larger, boasting a population more than five times that of Singapore, the difference in cache-density is actually enormous!
The good news is that local geocachers have united to promote the game nationwide through the activation of new caches, the organisation of regular events and the creation of “Geocaching Malaysia”, a page on Facebook where all Malaysian geocachers, as well as visitors, are able to interact, highlight potential problems, or simply learn about the latest caches and events in Malaysia.
For the uninitiated, geocaching is a fun and family-friendly tech-driven game, which takes participants to various points of interest throughout the world. A bit like old-school orienteering, geocaching uses hand-held digital devices instead of a compass and paper. Ask geocachers about their hobby and “I use multi-billion dollar satellites to find Tupperware hidden in the woods” might be their dry but apt reply. Since the signals of GPS satellites (previously restricted for military purposes), were made available to the public 16 years ago, geocaching has blossomed into a global game with 15 million participants and a mind-blowing 2.8 million caches hidden across the world.
Naturally, a cache hidden in a relatively easily navigated and densely populated urban area would attract more geocachers than one that requires a five-day expedition through dense jungle foliage or climbing Mount Kinabalu.
However, no matter how remote or difficult your cache might be, sooner or later it is bound to be found – someone, somewhere will be compelled to track it down to record that often elusive but highly desired “FTF” (First To Find).
For geocachers the adage “If you hide it, they will come” certainly holds true.
“Geocaching can be an excellent way for people to learn more about places you did not know existed,” says Timmermans, 41, who has been geocaching for four years now. “Some people might enjoy searching for a cache in peace and quiet and go at it alone, while others prefer to team up with friends or use it to spend quality time with their family. Some might even argue that geocaching is an excellent way burn some calories!”
On a larger scale, Timmermans feels that geocaching could potentially have an impact on local tourism.
Instead of sticking to classic hotspots – places such as Kuala Lumpur, Malacca or Penang – a rich geocaching landscape would persuade tourists to venture deeper into the country, to places where they normally would not go. Timmermans feels this would be an excellent way to unlock Malaysia’s hidden tourism gems.
So, just how does one get started?
Assuming you already own a device capable of processing coordinates, your first step would be to visit the official geocaching website at geocaching.com and join the community. Once registered, you then use the site or the geocaching app to search for a “hidden treasure” (or “cache”) in your neighbourhood. Once you’ve selected the cache of your choice, you will be given the coordinates to its location.
It is then up to you to find that cache and log in your name on the log sheet provided. Once you’ve done this, you can also log your find online, where you will also be able to follow a wide range of statistics regarding your geocaching activities.
Once you’re familiar with geocaching, you’re only a small step removed from finding caches to creating them. There are many types of caches, but the most common type, the traditional cache, can be found in any form or shape, with nano containers the size of a fingernail, to caches the size of a truck. It’s all possible!
Some are magnetic, others are deviously camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings. There are really no limits to the size or appearance of a cache; the only requirement is that your container of choice is waterproof as it supposed to hold a log sheet. Once a cache has been created, you can publish its coordinates and other details on the website for others to find.
Time to cache in and have some fun!
For more information, visit Malaysian Geocachers online on www.facebook.com/geocachingmalaysia.
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