Friday, November 09, 2012

A unique homestay place deep in the Kinabatangan jungle

The Heart of Borneo is a massive biodiversity-rich rainforest treasure house that straddles three contiguous countries, namely, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia on the island of Borneo. The 220,000 km² rainforest is the subject of a conservation agreement initiated by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

A recent International Conference brought representatives and experts to Kota Kinabalu to discuss the progress and future development of the HoB conservation effort.

The conference was not all about not cutting down trees and allowing space for wildlife to roam, however. Human habitation in and around the Heart of Borneo was also considered at the conference where "Shaping and Nurturing Sabah's Forest Together" set the theme for some purpose-oriented human activities in the conservation areas.

Tourism is of course an industry that can open up the protected rainforest to economic activities that do not harm nature. In the "Breakout Sessions" on Community Development (part of the agenda of the conference), Prof. Dr. Fadzilah Majid Cooke told delegates that one of the examples of equal sharing of benefits from high value conservation is found in Mukim Batu Puteh in Kinabatangan.

Cooperative Tourism Mukim Batu Puteh, Kinabatangan (KOPEL) Berhad has a Sabah homestay business centred on various eco-tourism activities in the Lower Kinabatangan region of Sabah.

Set up 15 years ago the cooperative earned RM1.4 million last year from the Miso Walai Homestay, which has a four-hectare niche in the Pin Supu Forest Reserve to support the tourism activities there.

Considered one of the best homestay establishments in Malaysia, Miso Walai (meaning ‘stay together in one house’ in Orang Sungai language) offers visitors an organised community-based cultural tourism experience drawn from stories and folklores of generations of Orang Sungai communities on the Kinabatangan River.

One interesting aspect of Miso Walai is that it has more than 35 households made up of about 400 people speaking some 20 indigenous dialects of the local of “Orang Sungai” communities living and working at the homestay complex.

The complex itself is made up of large traditional rustic homes with some modern conveniences . Traditional local food is served; household activities such as cooking, village sports and farm activities are part of the experience, as are wildlife encounters in the surrounding forests.