Sunday, October 20

Ba Kelalan ripe for fame and fortune in eco-tourism

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George Sigar (left) hosting lunch for his guests at his house at Long Ubau. Sigar is chairman of Formadat, a forum for tribes on the border highlands of Borneo.

BA KELALAN: The tourism potential in this heartland of the Lun Bawang is not fully tapped yet and Penghulu George Sigar Sultan believes that the future of the industry is bright indeed.

When met recently at his village in Long Ubau, which is about 9km from Buduk Nur where the BAT IV has been staying for the last five days, Sigar said for the tourism industry to reach its full potential, both the community and the government must be willing to work as partners.

“Since our environment is basically intact and unspoilt, we could easily market it as a green tourism product,” said Sigar.

He said one of the tourism products in the area, the homestay, has attracted at least 22 participants in the whole of Ba Kelalan area which is made up of nine villages.

“And as the centre of the Borneo Evangelical Mission (BEM) in Sarawak, the pilgrimage to the holy Mt Murut has become a special tourism product among the locals and foreigners,” said the former civil servant.

He also opined that as the centre of ‘Formadat’ (‘Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi Borneo’ or ‘Alliance of the indigenous peoples of the Borneo highlands’), Ba Kelalan and Bario in Sarawak and Lun Bawan in Kalimantan, has created a niche market by promoting the green environment to the international community.

“We want to preserve our forest so that we will continue to be the lungs of Sarawak and Borneo. With that in mind, I am sure we can tap its tourism potential as much as we could without destroying them,” said Sigar who is also Formadat chairman.

As such, he appeals to the Tourism Ministry to look for the best ways to tap the eco-tourism potential in his community.

“The Lun Bawang in Ba Kelalan is lucky as they have the whole plateau for themselves. This is indeed a blessing for us,” he said.

He added that there have been many tourists visiting the area from both local and foreign countries.

“I personally think that to succeed, we need good infrastructure and facilities such as road, electricity and good network of communication to enable our guests to keep in touch with their friends and relatives,” added Sigar.

Currently, the road to Ba Kelalan from Lawas has to be upgraded. And at the same time, the only telecommunication facilities in Buduk Nur which is very limited, has to be widened in its coverage.