A journey of history, culture and nature
A unique ‘Eco Challenge’ will delve into the traditions of highlanders and celebrate the pristine purity of mountain forests.
THIS year’s World Environment Day, marked yesterday, calls on people to get outdoors into nature, to appreciate its beauty and importance.
One way to really celebrate this is to go deep into the mountainous interior of Sarawak, Sabah, and Krayan province in Kalimantan, Indonesia, with the second Heart of Borneo (HoB) Highlands Eco Challenge (HEC) on July 20-29.
This offers participants a chance not only to be closer with pristine mountain forests but is also an avenue to help out in local conservation projects.
The biennial HEC goes far beyond an ordinary tourism package. Rather, it is an adventure event, initiated by the indigenous people living in the Maligan and Kelabit highlands, that combines history, culture, and stewardship of nature.
Participants will travel by 4WD and then walk through ancient Bornean rainforests, and visit villages and historical sites. These are places the ancestors of the highlanders once passed through on their migratory routes thousands of years ago.
The highlands of Sarawak, Sabah, and Krayan are located inside the Heart of Borneo, which is an initiative to conserve the mountainous core of this great island that was agreed upon among the three governments of Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia in 2007.
The aim is to conserve the biodiversity of the Heart of Borneo for the benefit of the people who rely upon it through a network of protected areas, sustainably-managed forests, and other eco-friendly methods of using land – including ecotourism development.
A transboundary grassroots initiative called the Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples in the Highlands of Borneo (Formadat), is organising the Heart of Borneo Eco Challenge.
Rather than a huge trail running competition, the challenge is more of an ecotourism journey that delves deep into the roots of the people and the natural surroundings that have nurtured them.
Besides appreciating the beauty that the highlands has to offer, participants will do their part for nature by planting trees and bamboo with the community of Long Semadoh, a settlement in a very ulu, or upriver, part of Lawas, Sarawak, close to the rugged border with Indonesia.
The activity is part of a river restoration and conservation programme initiated by the villagers with WWF-Malaysia’s technical support. The trees and bamboo planted will help to reduce riverbank erosion, which is causing farmers to lose their padi fields.
Participants will also get the chance to learn about:
> A sustainable fishing method called tagang;
How villagers make traditional soap using essential oil extracted from the tenum tree;
> How a traditional type of rice called adan is grown sustainably using buffaloes in the highlands.
Event director and Formadat Sarawak deputy chairman John Tarawe says the Heart of Borneo
The concept of treading lightly, taking nothing but photographs, leaving nothing but footprints, is core to the organisers
The Heart of Borneo HEC will take participants through different forest terrains. — Photos: Filepics
Buduk Nur village in Ba’ Kelalan, Sarawak, which is part of the Heart of Borneo initiative.
A steep climb at Pulong Tau National Park in the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak during the first Heart of Borneo HEC.