Eco adventure in Heart of Borneo Highlands in July

(From left) Mohd Sherman, Dr King, John, Mienczakowski, Chan and others at the unveiling of the ‘The Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge’ logo.

Map for the inaugural ‘Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge’.

MIRI: An exciting eco challenge dubbed ‘The Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge’, awaits nature and heritage lovers and adventure seekers this July.

The six-day (July 25 to 30) event will bring participants through intensive jungle-trekking across old world Bornean rainforest, remote yet scenic villages and historical sites of the people living in the Maligan and
Kelabit highlands between Ba Kelalan and Bario.

It is organised by Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi (Formadat), a trans-boundary, grassroots initiative that aims at increasing awareness and understanding of the highland communities in the Heart of Borneo (HoB).

Event director John Tarawe said the event was supported by the state Ministry of Tourism, Sarawak Tourism Board, Forest Department, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Sarawak Museum Department, and two universities – Curtin University Sarawak Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

Other supporters included Gantuman e-Bario, Tutum Bala e-Ba Kelalan, Planet Borneo Tour, Highland Paradise, WWF-Malaysia, Bario Slow Food and Cultural Festival (Pesta Nukenen dan Kebudayaan Kelabit), Rurum Kelabit Sarawak and Persatuan Lun Bawang Sarawak.

John said the Eco Challenge, the first of its kind to be held in the highlands, would start from Ba Kelalan before passing through Lepo Bunga, Mount Murud (Church Camp), Long Rebpun, Pa Lungan and finally ending in Bario to coincide with the first day of the 10th Bario Slow Food and Cultural Festival that would run from July 30 to Aug 1.

“The route, a migratory path since thousands of years ago by the highlanders re-lives history, culture and the stewardship of nature,” said John during the joint Eco Challenge pre-recce press conference held at Curtin Sarawak yesterday.

Curtin Sarawak Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Jim Mienczakowski and WWF-Malaysia head of Conservation Sarawak Dr Henry Chan also spoke at the press conference and among those present were Museum Department deputy curator Mohd Sherman Sauffi, Curtin Sarawak Research Institute acting director and Dean of R&D Professor Clem Kuek and a fellow of Curtin University Research Institute Dr Lisa Marie King.

John, who is also Formadat deputy chairman, added the eco challenge was an ecotourism adventure with a difference – true ecotourism event taking conservation of the highlands seriously.

“It aims to promote the purity of the highlands through its history, nature and culture. Thus we will limit the number of participants to 50; and each stage of the Eco Challenge comes with activities that will re-trace the footsteps of the ancestors of the highland peoples and instil an appreciation in them the wonders of the natural environment.

“So, the concept of ‘tread lightly, take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints’ is core to the organisers and the participants,” he said.

The participation fee and prizes would be made known later after Formadat and its supporters have completed their recce (reconnaissance) to the route from March 14 to 21.

“The recce, which will involve multiple agencies, is also important to mark the trails using GPS, identify gaps and improvements needed in ensuring the smooth running of the event and participants’ safety.

“We need to do a recce of the place to ensure the integrity of the forests is maintained,” he said, adding that having too
many participants could be detrimental to the highlands’ environment”.

Formadat, he added hoped to expand the event to other traditional routes – from Long Pa Sia in Sabah to Long Semadoh and from Ba Kelalan to Bario through Krayan in Kalimantan, Indonesia,” John said.

Formadat welcomes more partners and contributors to support the event and John can be contacted at john.tarawe@gmail.com or ecochallenge@formadat.com

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