KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Christina Liew welcomes the proposals for new tourist destinations in Sabah from two organisations in response to her call for development of new tourism products.
These are the proposed Outdoor Education Facility (within a jungle setting) offering real jungle experience on a 10-acre piece of privately-owned land at Kg Ulu Sawatan, Kimanis, owned by Borneo Outdoor Expeditions (along the Keningau-Kimanis Highway), which is opposite the Sabah Parks Sub-Station, and connected to the Crocker Range National Park; and the proposed development of a Hakka Museum and Village by the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia (BCCM), Sabah, on a 40-acre plot of land on the way to Kudat before Simpang Mengayau (Tip of Borneo).
The first Hakkas arrived in Kudat in 1881 and started farming activities after settling down. Subsequently, they spread out to various parts of the State such as Papar, Kota Marudu, Beaufort, Tenom and Keningau.
“Given that the tourism industry is basically private sector-driven, the two proposals will be great initiatives to boost tourism growth in Sabah. Other than the world-renowned Tip of Borneo, the Hakka Museum and Cultural Village, which aims to showcase the history and culture of the early Hakkas in Kudat, will become yet another tourist attraction,” said Liew after a courtesy call by a delegation from Borneo Outdoor Expeditions and BCCM Sabah on Thursday.
She requested the parties concerned to come up with proposal papers for the ministry’s consideration.
For the Outdoor Education Facility, the minister expressed concern for visitors’ safety, protection of wildlife in the area and the role of the Sabah Parks.
“We have to be very clear on these aspects to avoid liabilities,” said Liew who was informed that wildlife caught on camera traps showed that there are clouded leopards, orang utans and civet cats around the private land in question at Ulu Sawatan connected to the Crocker Range National Park.
In his briefing on what is called the “Ulu Sawatan Project” (that is, the Outdoor Education Facility) on his 10-acre land, Operations Manager of Borneo Outdoor Expeditions, Shaun Davies said for years, his company has been searching throughout Sabah for that “perfect” paradise where he could set up an outdoor education facility.
“We finally found the place in 2016 where we could build our own operation base and provide clients with that ‘unique’ off the beaten track experience, which now has much bigger potential than we ever anticipated,” he said.
He said the potential tourist destination is within an hour’s drive from Kota Kinabalu with jungle trails and observation platforms all within the said land.
“One of the main goals of the Outdoor Education Facility is to provide recreational activities alongside ‘rustic’ jungle accommodation for both local and international clients. And since we are connected to the Crocker Range National Park, our goal is also to protect, observe and preserve wildlife in our Wildlife Corridor.
“Thirdly, we want to preserve traditional skills and heritage by means of teaching and sharing of knowledge, and this includes languages, cooking and handicraft-making,” explained Davies, who is a Welsh from the UK and now married to a local.
He also assured that they will restrict people’s experiences to a certain number, say 12 people per trip, to avoid “disruption” of the natural environment.
“In addition, we intend to work together with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), both local and international, to create a comprehensive Ranger/Guide Course, and develop a relevant syllabus, including internationally recognised first aid training, to establish a higher level of professionalism in the tourism sector,” he said, adding that all stakeholders will provide input for the syllabus.
Answering Liew’s question on possible collaboration with her ministry, Davies, who is an honorary ranger with the Sabah Wildlife Department and also an international first aid instructor, said the facility may also be used in the future to facilitate tour guide courses or seminars, or first aid training in a real life “Jungle Environment,” to make everybody more professional. “We would also collaborate with the Sabah Tour Guides Association in this respect.”
Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais, who was present, concurred with the minister that the proposed Outdoor Education Facility (known as Jungle Camp in the local language) is a good idea and success is possible.
“Since the land is connected to the Crocker Range National Park, it can act as a buffer zone to prevent encroachment into the Park,” he said.
On Davies’ suggestion that tourists be allowed to trek into a part of the Park if they wish, Dr Jamili said this could be done “provided they adhere to the dos and don’ts to be put in place.”
Also present was the ministry’s permanent secretary, Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai.
Briefing the minister, Bishop Dr James Wong of BCCM Sabah said the Mission has allocated 40 acres of land for the proposed development of the Hakka Museum and Village.
“We are developing the museum now and hope it will become an attraction and a source of inspiration for locals and tourists alike. This is where they can understand the Hakka history and the Hakka Church history. We are also considering a Hakka Village to complement the museum by putting up a Hakka unique type of building and stalls, among other structures, to depict the early days and life of the Hakka people,” he said.
Dr Wong wanted to know how the ministry’s departments or agencies could assist in the proposed development.
“Will they contribute in terms of creative ideas or partial funding or promoting the destination?” he asked.