Ba’ Kelalan Ecotourism Workshop With FORMADAT
By: Alicia Ng
An ecotourism workshop organized by FORMADAT and WWF-Malaysia was held in the Multipurpose Hall of Buduk Nur, Ba’ Kelalan on 7 August 2013. It was attended by 21 invited participants comprising community leaders, local tourist guides, porters and homestay owners from all the villages in Ba’ Kelalan. The full-day workshop was facilitated by the Senior Communications Officer of WWF-Malaysia, Alicia Ng, together with representative from FORMADAT Sarawak, Paulus Padan.
Ba’ Kelalan is identified as the first area of focus in the ecotourism strategy of FORMADAT and WWF-Malaysia. The workshop was organized to identify existing ecotourism products in the villages, challenges faced and recommendation for solutions to solving ecotourism-related issues faced by the local communities.
During the workshop, all the participants agreed that ecotourism facilities such as jungle trekking trails and salt spring need to be upgraded. The group also agreed that there should be more engagements with tourism players and other potential partners who will be able to advertise and attract visitors to Ba’ Kelalan.
At a separate interview, Chairman of the Tourist Guides Association of Ba’ Kelalan, Kading Sultan, shared his view on the ecotourism gap. He said, ‘With the road condition improved since last year, travelling to Ba’ Kelalan from Lawas by land is only four hours. Transportation for visitors to come to Ba’ Kelalan is no longer a big challenge. However, what we really need is good publicity and effective marketing approach for visitors to know how to get here besides by flight that are only available three times a week and that are usually full’.
He added, ‘There are many trails in Ba’ Kelalan used by the locals for hunting, collecting jungle products, visiting cultural sites, bathing at the waterfall and even travelling route to Indonesia. It is necessary for us to identify and get support from tourism players to promote the most interesting trails as well as categorize the walks to easy, intermediate and difficult for adventure trekkers. Besides identifying the trails, we are also in-need of support to improve and upgrade the facilities for the comfort of our guests’.
Findings from the workshop are to enable the communities in Ba’ Kelalan to plan a short-term and long-term strategy and actions s to improve Ba’ Kelalan’s visibility to visitors and improve the current facilities and places of interest through assistance and support from FORMADAT together with WWF-Malaysia.
Ba’Kelalan lies at the edge of north-east Sarawak and is nestled within a narrow valley surrounded by high mountain ranges. To the north is Sabah and to the east is Kalimantan-Indonesia. To the south and west are the rest of Sarawak. These mountain ranges surrounding Ba’ Kelalan form the source of major rivers flowing out of central Borneo. Ba’ Kelalan is part of FORMADAT Malaysia which also comprises Bario, Long Semadoh, and Ulu Padas.
FORMADAT is a trans-boundary, grass-root initiative that aims to increase awareness and understanding about the communities in the highlands, maintain cultural traditions, build local capacity, and encourage sustainable development in the Heart of Borneo without risking the degradation of the quality of the social and natural environment. The organization of FORMADAT comprises FORMADAT Malaysia and FORMADAT Indonesia which covers the sub-districts of Krayan and Krayan Selatan. WWF (WWF-Indonesia and WWF-Malaysia) is one of the partners in the conservation and sustainable development initiative of FORMADAT since it was formed.