From ex-mining land to tropical oasis
IT took more than a decade to restore a 400-acre barren ex-mining land into a lush tropical paradise.
Back in 2002, the piece of undulating land in Gambang, Kuantan, was heavily degraded and the soil composition was permanently changed due to previous sand and tinmining activities.
What was left on it were gullies, small lakes and ponds.
A great amount of rehabilitative effort was needed to transform the entire land to be able to sustain a natural ecosystem.
With great determination to fix the land, Datuk Franky Chua, who is the managing director of Franky Group, together with his team, started the process of soil rehabilitation by introducing topsoil to fertilise the ground.
Empty fruit bunches were brought to the site from the nearby palm oil mill to slowly decay before becoming a thin layer of topsoil.
Overtime, more empty fruit bunches, palm kernel shells, trunks and leaves were left on-site to decompose, optimising soil composition for planting. Organic fertilisers were also used to neutralise the soil.
Soon after, the land was ready for the planting of different trees and the process of continuous planting led to today’s tropical oasis.
Chua explained that returning the land its primordial status as a jungle has helped the eco-biodiversity within the surrounding area and also brought back old habitats of indigenous birds.
“We have sourced many jungle trees and plants from nurseries and handpicked certain ones to attract specific birds such as hornbills and wild magpies.
“A visit from Taman Negara’s Bird Group last year showed that there are now over 80 species of birds excluding migratory birds,” he said.
Chua shared that among other challenges faced during the rehabilitation process were soil erosion and potential flood caused by monsoon as well as low water levels during dry seasons.
“Water control gates were placed around the resort to control water levels of lakes and wetland areas.
“Rainwater is channelled into a well-like structure that serves as a water reserve tank while water will be channelled out into the lakes during drought period.
“As for normal days, these flood gates will regulate water flow into the downstream habitats to sustain the ecosystems in lakes and wetland areas,” he explained.
A slope and river bank protection system was also built to prevent erosion, reduce impact on the surrounding habitat and protect the existing aquatic ecosystem.
Ex-mining ponds were beautified and rehabilitated in the current serene lakeside, bringing back a habitat for wildlife.
As the land became rehabilitated, the beauty and tranquility of the place fondly reminded Chua of his childhood environment, after which he had a bungalow built within the place for retirement.
“Later on, I had a change of mind.
“I was thinking, why not build a small and simple resort where people can enjoy the peaceful environment?,” enthused Chua.
What was initially a simple plan with a small-scale vegetable farm and orchard for retirement use is now built into a natureinspired resort named Mangala Resort and Spa, which opened its doors early last year.
“Mangala means well-being in Sanskrit and I hope the place brings comfort, harmony, peace, tranquility and positive energy to guests,” he added.
Today, Mangala Resort and Spa has become a blissful retreat from the daily grind.
Embedded in the palm oil estate and surrounded by stunning natural surroundings, the 62-acre resort features a range of relaxing villa accommodation that combines privacy, tranquility and luxurious flair.
Designed to integrate into the revitalised landscape, the low-density resort comprises four Wetland (Sara) Cottages, 11 Water (Jala) Villas and 16 Forest (Vana) Villas, with 34 Orchard Villas and five family villas on the way, slated for completion in the first quarter of next year.
Guests can indulge into luxurious spa treatments at the spa complex where different herbs are planted around it to provide a natural aromatic scent and some used in some of the treatments.
“Upon embarking on this project, I began to understand nature more. Nature can be dangerous, like erosion, but at the same time, it can be rewarding.
“For instance, if you can devise natural solutions that do not harm the environment to prevent disasters such as soil erosion and retain the existing free flow of water, the nature will slowly return its favour and the result can be very rewarding, looking at how it is transformed into what it is today,” said Chua.
“To be a champion is easy, to maintain is tough. There are still a lot of challenges and continuous hard work ahead,” added Chua.
On protecting Mother Nature, Chua pointed out that education is crucial to rehabilitate or protect Mother Nature.
“It is important for people to know that no matter how much or little the contribution, it helps towards a brighter future for both nature and us,” stressed Chua.
The great deal of time and effort put into Mangala Resort and Spa have earned the oasis a highly acclaimed Fiabci Malaysia Property Award 2017 for the Environmental (Rehabilitation/Conservation) category.
“This award definitely gives us a lot of inspiration, motivation and recognition,
“We hope this award does not only benefit the resort but also deliver a message to everyone else that conserving nature is rewarding.
“Hopefully, this prestigious award will inspire those in the same industry,” concluded Chua.
An aerial view of the Water (Jala) Villas and the resort’s surrounding area. (Left) An interior view of one of the Forest (Vana) Villas.
A Wetland (Sara) Cottage facing a scenic lily pond.
A view of the Special Bungalow.