KOTA KINABALU: A Unesco advisor on geological tourism has disclosed here that there is a possibility of the area around Mount Kinabalu to be established as a Geopark.
Professor Ross K Dowling, the foundation professor of tourism at the Edith Cowan University (ECU) of Western Australia, said Sabah and Sarawak have major possibilities for developing tourism, especially with the potential in establishment of Geoparks which the Unesco endorses.
When asked about the possible locations, he said the obvious one would be the area around Mt Kinabalu and the other is the Crocker Range on the other side of Sabah.
In the case of Sarawak, Professor Ross said among the possible sites for Geoparks are the area around the Bako National Park and the Mulu National Park.
“These are some opportunities now for geo-tourism in Sabah and Sarawak. It is on a planning stage,” he disclosed in an interview during his recent visit to Sabah.
He said the only Geopark in Malaysia is at Langkawi, which hosted the fourth European Geoparks Network conference in April last year.
Professor Ross also stated that the regional Asia Pacific Geoparks Network is headed by Professor Datuk Dr Ibrahim Komoo from the University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
According to him, Professor Ibrahim has a lot of knowledge of geopark happenings in China, Vietnam, Australia and Malaysia.
“Since that conference he and a body of people in Malaysia have been looking at other possibilities of Geoparks and Mount Kinabalu regional area is one.”
A Geopark is a nationally protected area containing a number of geological heritage sites of particular importance, rarity or aesthetic appeal. It achieves its goals through a three-pronged approach: conservation, education and geotourism.
The Langkawi Geopark is located in northern state of Kedah and is considered unique since it is formed on 99 islands that together made up the legendary Langkawi Archipelago.
The total land area of Langkawi Geopark is about 478 sq km.
The Kinabalu National Park, established as one of the first national parks of Malaysia in 1964, was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 2000.
It is known for its “outstanding universal values” and the role as one of the most important biological sites in the world. The park is one of the most popular tourist spots in Sabah.
The Crocker Range National Park, established in 1984, covers the north-south areas of the Crocker Range that separates the western coastal plain with the rest of the state.
The park covers 1,399 sq km, making it the largest park in Sabah. The park consists of both hill and montane forest, with many species of flora and fauna endemic to Borneo.
Bako is Sarawak’s oldest national park, covering an area of 2,727 hectares at the tip of the Muara Tebas peninsula. It was gazetted as a protected area in 1957.
The Mulu National Park is Sarawak’s largest national park, with Mount Mulu rising over a mass of sandstone, 2,376 metres above sea level.
Considering Mulu’s spectacular scenery and its biological significance, it was not surprising that Mulu was successfully listed as a World Heritage site in November 2000.
Professor Ross has been a Unesco advisor on geological tourism for some years now, advising the UN on ecotourism development all over the world, including Borneo that he visits at least once a year, either to Sabah or Sarawak.
He said the Asia Pacific Geoparks Network, founded in 2007 and presently with 31 members, is scheduled to hold its second conference on “Geopark and Geotourism for Regional Sustainable Development”, at Hanoi, Vietnam, July 16-24 this year.