KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTAC) Sabah Office is exploring Tawau Hills Park as a possible start-up of volcano tourism in Sabah.
Volcano tourism, pursued under the ministry’s Sabah Sustainability Volunsharing Program (SSVP) with Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), may not be a new global phenomenon but is still relatively new in Malaysia and especially Sabah.
MOTAC Sabah director Ag Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar said he was happy with the collaborative program and wished to continue this in the near future.
“We have been collaborating since 2015 and won few recognition,” he added.
The exploration team of 10 this year involved MOTAC Sabah and 10 UMS students and staff with the guidance of the Tawau Hill Parks’ authority.
During the excursion, discussions with Tawau Hills Park had resulted in the identification of two volcanic spots within the park, namely the warm turquoise water of the white sulfurous springs, and ancient crater at Mount Lucia, one of the three large mountains inside the parks’ area.
In Sabah, Tawau’s Bombalai volcano is currently a dormant volcano and, since it estimated to have erupted thousands of years ago, it can be regarded as an ancient crater.
Bombalai cinder cone is only a half-an-hour jungle walk from the entrance of Tawau Hills National Park.
Outside the Tawau Hills Park, there are other volcanic attractions such as Columnar Joints along the Balung River and Conical Sprouts at Andrassy where both sites are accessible from Tawau town.
Dr Awangku Hassanal Bahar Pengiran Bagul, a senior UMS lecturer in Tourism at Faculty of Business, Economics and Accountancy and SSVP co-founder, said that volcano tourism usually integrates recreational activities such as sightseeing, hiking, climbing, camping or even mountaineering.
He said if the volcano tourism site was highly popular, it can be recognized as an independent tourism sector or as a value added adventure experience under the umbrella of geotourism.
He said the team had learned more about Sabah’s exciting volcanic geoheritage and believes the identification of the different aspects of geoheritage site values is part of a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development of Tawau Hills Park and the surrounding area.
MOTAC Sabah and the UMS faculty have been running the SSVP with focus on sustainability issues in the tourism industry.
With the SSVP theme of heritage trail and tagal ecotourism previously, the program won IKON Award (High Impact University-Community Engagement Award) from UMS in 2016.