KOTA KINABALU: Rural tourism in Sabah is fast gaining popularity as evident in the tremendous response to the Kiulu Adventure Challenge (KAC) and Kiulu Mini Carnival (KMC) over the weekend.
Aimed at promoting Kiulu as a premier adventure and eco tourist destination, the KAC and KMC have succeeded in enhancing awareness among the rural folks on how tourism could become a viable source of income.
More than 1,000 people, including foreign visitiors, thronged the River Bug Adventure Base at Rangalau Lama, Kiulu, for the KAC and the fun-filled KMC.
The KAC involved cycling and running through mountains and valleys with scenic views, as well as rafting along the Kiulu River, while the KMC featured a “Badih Gulu-Gulu” (traditional open market), traditional food and drinks fiesta and traditional sports.
Organised by the Kiulu Tourism Association (KTA) and supported by Tourism Malaysia and Sabah Tourism Board, the KAC which was divided into various categories, attracted more than 500 participants.
The Kiulu Mini Carnival, which was organised by the Kiulu Socio-Economy and Cultural Association (Pesbuk), provided opportunity to visitors to sample authentic Kiulu traditional delicacies prepared by the local community.
The Badih Gulu-Gulu, which saw pesticide-free agricultural produce and local handicrafts such as hat and vest made from tree barks being sold, was a hit among visitors prompting Kiulu Assemblyman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai to suggest for it to be held on a weekly or monthly basis.
Joniston, who is Sabah Tourism Board chairman, was particularly happy to note the participation of the local community in the KMC as an avenue for them to showcase and market their hand-made crafts, traditional foods and drinks.
“It was like back to nature as the traditional foods were cooked without any ingredients except for salt,” said Jason Prickely from Australia, who was at the event with several friends.
KTA chairman Octavius Usman and Pesbuk president Dr Rosalyn Gelunu concurred that the good turnout at the event was testimony of the big potential of rural tourism.
“It is heartening to note that the rural communities are now aware that they could directly get involved in tourism-related activities to improve their livelihood,” Rosalyn said.
Octavius said based on the positive feedback from the KAC participants, the routes used for the cycling and running events have the potential to attract adventure seekers.
“Villagers could earn extra income by setting up food and drinks kiosk along the cycling and running routes,” he said.
The KAC and KMC also earned praise from Tourism and Culture Ministry Deputy secretary-general Dr Junaidah Lee Abdullah.
She was particularly impressed with the participation of the local communities in the traditional food and drinks fiesta which she said could become a key product to draw tourists.
“Although Kiulu is already noted for whitewater rafting and its unspoilt natural scenery, there is a need to identify new tourism products to make this place (Kiulu) even more popular,” Junaidah said.