Friday, March 09, 2012

Lahad Datu, a top tourism centre in the making

LAHAD DATU: Visiting Paris is a dream for many, but for the people of Malaysia’s Lahad Datu town, going to Paris is nothing extraordinary.

Forget about the hours of air travel, problems at the airport customs office, or even owning an international passport. The people of this town need only pay a transportation “package” cost as low as RM5, and board the local mini-bus to get there.

Yes, obviously the “Paris” mentioned here is not the fashion capital of the world, located some 11,500km away. It is rather Kampung Paris, located about 70km from Lahad Datu.


Lahad Datu is not a big town. Yet it plays a major role in the economic development of Sabah, particularly in the tourism sector.

It is centred around the palm oil industry. Estates run by individuals and corporate giants cover a breadth of the land as far as one can see, ready to cater to the local and overseas demand for palm oil.

Other agro-based economic activities include production of rubber, cocoa, and copra (dried kernel of coconut) to make cooking oil.

Its location near the sea also encourages fishing activities. Other bounties of the sea here include tiger prawns, white prawns, mud crab and seaweed.


According to the district’s official website, Lahad Datu is home to the Kadazan-Dusun, Dusun Subpan, Dusun Bagahak, Suluk, Bajau, Chinese, Kokos, Iranun, Bugis, Timor, Tidong, Jawa, Sungai, Idahan and Kagayan.

The website also reveals that the name “Lahad Datu” originated from the Bajau dialect. When translated into English, “Lahad” means “a place” and “Datu” is a title that was given to dignitaries in ancient times.

The district was named so after the migration of the Datu clan, headed by Datu Puti, from the Suluk kingdom. This was after the authority over the land was handed over to the Suluk Sultan, from the Sultan of Brunei in 1879.

It is also said that the district’s name, earlier, was “Kerugau”. This refers to the spotted corals around the beach from Kunak to Membatu, located in Tungku.


The town is also strategically placed for tourism. One can access popular destinations like Lembah Danum, the Tabin Wildlife Park, and the Batu Tulug Archaeological Museum, by road.

Lembah Danum is where the Ulu Segama Malua Forest Reserve is located. Rare species, such as the smallest elephant in the world, the Borneo Pygmy Elephant; Borneo Sumateran Rhinoceros, Orang Utan, Tembedau, and various species of wild orchid can be found in abundance in the forest.

With its unique and diverse flora and fauna, it is no wonder that the forest has been identified as one of the world’s most complex ecosystems.

Another such interesting place is the Tabin Wildlife Park, known for its mud volcano, which is the source of minerals for animals there. Lucky visitors to the park may have a chance to see fresh footprints of its inhabitants.

The Lahad Datu district also has the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary that is home to three rhinoceroses. The sanctuary was built to help breeding of the species, which is currently on the verge of extinction.

After visiting these places, visitors can head towards Sandakan, known for its Orang Utan Sanctuary in Sepilok, or to Samporna, the entrance to Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Mabul.

Both islands are known for their beautiful landscapes, and are a favourite among scuba-divers.

Lahad Datu’s ability to provide a complete experience on land and underwater can be its stepping stone towards becoming a tourism centre.

Continue reading at: Lahad Datu, a top tourism centre in the making

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