Category Archives: Eco Tourism

Our Introduction to Temenggor/Belum Forest and Lake

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By IAN ANDERSON

After promising ourselves for more than 12 months that we would visit Temenggor/Belum, we finally got around to confirming a booking just after Christmas and took off for the trip on 31st January. The following describes our experience.

The first problem was where to stay as there are many tourism internet sites extolling the virtues of possible places – campsites, houseboats, floating chalets and more – but local advice was that there were only two places to be seriously considered if we wished to experience genuine attempts at ecotourism, the Belum Rainforest Resort on Banding Island or the Belum Eco Resort on Temenggor Discovery Island. A visit to each website made it abundantly clear that this would be an easy decision to make as they are as much alike as chalk and cheese.

Rainforest Resort

Belum Rainforest Resort
The Belum Rainforest Resort, owned by Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal’s Emkay Group, is almost exactly what you would expect from any good quality resort in Malaysia with nicely fitted, air conditioned, en suite, hotel rooms providing telephone, mini bar and the like, just a few steps away from Reception and the Dining Room. But we discovered that Banding Island is, in fact, not an island but part of the Temenggor mainland projecting into the lake and the resort is close to the main road, easily accessible by vehicle and well above the lake, thus allowing only glimpses of the water from most areas.

Therefore you really do not get the feeling of being close to nature. To some extent this is combated by cladding the external concrete walls with bamboo, a landscaped garden of rare local herbs and fish ponds rearing rare and almost extinct fish for eventual release into the wild.

However the resort’s great advantage is their close relationship with both the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who provide eco-advice and the occasional lecture for visiting parties of young people. With trepidation we understand that additional chalets are planned as are development of homestead land parcels, a Rest and Recreation area and the establishment of two five-star boutique resorts north and south of Pulau Banding. Despite the resort’s good record of caring about the ecosystems so far, we wonder if all these developments are necessary or whether they will bring any good to the area (other than profit for the developer). Such “development” usually translates into “destruction” and we fear for the future of Pulau Banding. Rates at the Rainforest Resort range from RM350 to RM500++ for one twin/double room and breakfast for two. All other meals and excursions are at additional cost. Promotional rates may be available, but there is a surcharge during weekends, school holidays, eve and public holidays.

Arriving at Discovery Island

Discovery Island
Totally different in every aspect is Belum Eco Resort on Discovery Island. First of all it is a real 6-acre island 7 km by boat from the Banding Island Jetty. Secondly, the accommodation has none of the luxuries of the Rainforest Resort – just small, twin-bedded, timber or bamboo chalets with atap roofs, each with a fan and an open-air balcony, the latter incorporating a shielded, but open to the elements, shower and wash hand basin. The toilets are in a spotlessly clean communal block just a few metres away, ensuring that all effluent is piped to an effective sewage treatment system rather than into the lake. Here you really are close to nature without any sign of civilization or pollution – you are in a world of your own and believe it or not it is mosquito-free! Additional facilities include an open sundeck below the breezy open air dining area, above which is a beautiful general purpose lounge where multi-media presentations about the lake and its wildlife are given. A shortcoming for the not-so-fit is that these general facilities and the chalets are a short walk from each other and require some 80 steps to be negotiated, 40 up and 40 down, to match the contours of the terrain. Being adventurous and really wanting to get a feel for the area we chose Discovery Island and booked their 3-day, 2-night package. It costs RM550 per person all inclusive. Pick up and drop off was at Banding Island jetty. We did not regret our decision for one moment.

View from our balcony

Discovery Island is owned and run by a father (Steve Khong) and son team who started several years by renting out houseboats on the lake and then moved on to the island on a longish lease. They have done everything they can to build the resort without spoiling the environment and have carefully constructed the buildings without cutting down trees or making them glaringly obvious to other users of the lake. All garbage is regularly removed from the island and many other eco-friendly practices are carried out. They have six young male staff, very capable in maintaining the resort, running the boats safely and providing tasty, quality local food whilst also fulfilling any special dietary arrangements necessary. Father and son eat with the guests thus maintaining the quality. Notwithstanding, it is fair to say that there are several improvements that could be made and Steve has some great plans for the future, finances allowing.

Treks and Campsites
Their 3-day, 2-night package, is based on the principle of free play in the mornings with swimming, canoeing and fishing available and short treks in the afternoons. Generously an unprogrammed extra was also thrown in FOC – a very memorable, early morning, boat trip to view the hornbills. Each day is rounded off, after dinner, with multimedia presentations on the locality and wildlife. The treks were reasonably easy although in part very steep, and on the first day they included Pulau Tujuh and its seven waterfalls, Kampung Chuweh, an Orang Asli Village on a separate island and Pulau Besar with its Rafflesia site. Day 2 took us on a short, (50 minutes) steep climb up to the viewing tower on Pulau Talikali. The view was well worth the climb. Our guide was reasonably knowledgeable about the flora and fauna but could only speak Malay which could be a setback, although it was no problem to us.

Considering the treks in more detail, it seems that the Rainforest Resort also use Pulau Tujuh for their treks and camping and have built some permanent structures, toilets and pondoks. Our local guide was very careful to steer us around these and off the normal track and it was clear that he considers them as off-limits to us and not for use of anyone other than the Rainforest Resort. This seemed strange as the islands are government land that should be completely available to all. After all heritage and nature belong to everybody! How can one resort lay claim to public property at the expense of others? We do hope that this is not the old story of those rich in cash and contacts using their position to trample on others less well endowed as so often happens. That is certainly not the spirit of 1Malaysia!

Next issue: Orang Asli village, Rafflesia and more…

The Roots

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eco-tourism-pic

The rivers that cascade down from the Main Range are slowly but surely attracting the right crowd of conservationists.

Over at Gopeng along the Kampar River there are already  three eco-resort camps. And now starting in December the Kinta River will have its first eco-resort.

Called ‘The Roots’ it is located 12 km away from Ipoh at Tanjung Rambutan on the banks of the Kinta River.

The resort’s owners, Bridget Hedderman and Peter Witzigmann, both dedicated conservationists developed the resort with minimum impact to the surrounding environment.

The accommodation at The Roots features four tree-top suites built on stilts right on the banks of the Kinta River. They are designed around the trees whereby the tree branches are a unique feature of the interior. The balcony overlooks the river and features a Jacuzzi with which to relax and take in the scenic rain forest.

In the garden by the river is a long bar with gazebos and barbeque pits next to them. There is also a swimming pool which is filled with filtered river water.

The Roots is part owned by Ecofieldtrips Pte Ltd of Singapore, a 10-year old company devoted to teaching young people about the environment by taking them on field trips.

When Bridget, a marine biologist and Ecofieldtrips Director, first saw this place in May this year, she was fascinated by its scenic beauty. “I immediately knew that this place would be ideal for my students”, she said. True to her vision Roots was ready within 6 months.

She was introduced to the place by her partner Peter. Bridget, who also runs a resort at Tioman Island with Peter, says “The Roots is a better resort because it has so much more environmental resources to offer her students”.

“Perak” exclaimed Bridget, “has so much to offer. You have the limestone hills with its impressive cave systems, Orang Asli communities, white-water rafting and the Matang mangrove swamps. At Pangkor Island we can teach about marine biology”.

“Even Ipoh town with both its elegant and decrepit shop houses and colonial mansions can make for a great lesson for history students to learn about this once thriving city of tin. This place is an unmatched combination of adventure, history, culture and nature exploration, an unforgettable educational experience”, she enthused.

Officiating at the opening of the resort was State Assemblyman for Hulu Kinta, Dato’ Rusnah Kassim who said that she was impressed with the eco-resort, “I am so happy that we have a resort here in Tanjung Rambutan. At least now we have another icon that we can be associated with”.

With the opening of the resort it appears that Ipoh with its surrounding attractions is finally getting the recognition that has eluded it for so long. Well better late than never.

 

The Roots, Batu 10½ Mile, Jalan Chemor, 31250 Tanjong Rambutan, Perak

Tel.: 05-5335411

Email: the rootsmalaysia@gmail.com

Web: www.throots.com.my

Turtles in Perak

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THE TURTLES DESERVE BETTER

Few people realise that turtles land in Perak as they are more commonly sighted in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. I got to know that there is a turtle sanctuary in Segari when it was mentioned by one of my colleagues during our short trip to Pangkor Island recently. We decided to check the place out on our way back to Ipoh.

Since none of us have been to this place, we had to find out for ourselves its exact location in Segari.

Beautiful Drive

I was thinking during the journey that even if we did not find the place, the drive there was worth the trouble, as we were greeted with spectacular scenery along the stretch of road from Sitiawan to Segari. In fact, I was impressed with the road condition and the breathtaking view before us, that I temporarily forgot where we were heading!

At this point, everybody in the group was on the lookout for any sign of a turtle (the signboard, of course!) and eventually, it appeared before us. Great! We were on the right track. We meandered along the narrower path and eagerly anticipated where it would lead us.

We were soon greeted by a grand mansion-like structure, complete with a gigantic platform that looks out to sea. One of the kids blurted, “Is this a turtle hotel or what?!”  Honestly, all of us were dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say, until we noticed a signboard (which was not obvious at all) that said ‘… the property of Jabatan Agama Islam’. It was not the place that we were looking for but we did not want to give up yet. It didn’t help that we had promised the kids that they were going to see some turtles.

Then we saw it – the splendid stretch of beach shortly after the bend from the aforementioned structure. Our hopes were high again; it looked like the kids (and adults) won’t be disappointed after all. We were excited after that long ride (approximately 35 km from Lumut) to finally see ‘Pusat Pengurusan Penyu, Pasir Panjang Segari” in front of us.

Romantic Location – Almost Derelict

It couldn’t be more romantic; with the sea to our left and the sound of waves in the air, as we walked into the centre. We saw what looked like an exhibition area but to our horror, the cases were dusty and some exhibits were missing! It looked like many other poorly maintained establishments that we often see in our country. It was really an emotional roller coaster ride for us. The disappointment, then excitement and disappointment again – we were simply lost, not knowing what to expect next.

We decided to explore the place on our own. It was not going to be a wasted trip. There had to be something we could take home – at least some photographs! There were a number of ponds, some fenced, some not. The unfenced ponds housed several turtles each in them, and the kids were happy enough at his point with what they saw. The consolation is that the ponds looked clean and well-maintained, as opposed to the exhibition area.

Gaining Entry

Then God decided to be kind to us. In walked two gentlemen with a turtle in one of the men’s hands. I guess they saw how desperate we were when a few of us started to fawn over the little creature. Apparently this one was caught in the nets of the local fishermen and hence brought to the centre for further action. As he proceeded to place the turtle into one of the fenced areas, I asked if we could get a closer look at the turtles inside. He gave us a once-over and must have wondered what a strange mix we were. You see, our group comprised members of all age groups and colours, very unlike their typical visitors – families and student groups.

We were subsequently granted entry and it was amazing indeed, to see the turtles ranging from newly-hatched ones to two-year-olds. We were told by the kind gentleman that the centre sometimes buys turtle eggs from the locals which will then be hatched and released as part of their turtle conservation effort.

Tourist Attraction?

What’s sad is that this centre is supposed to be a main tourist attraction (according to its objectives) but there is so little official information on it. It is potentially an education and tourism main draw to the state of Perak and I wish more could be done to encourage this.

A quick search on the internet only resulted in mentions of it in some private blogs. And some of these bloggers also noted how they managed to explore the place upon a lucky encounter with some personnel on site – pretty much like our own experience. Visiting hours are from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily, so this place deserves more publicity by the relevant authorities. It may not be a profit-generating enterprise but they have to realise that the benefits returned are immeasurable.

So, I suggest you give this place a try.  Although there is no public transportation available, it is easy enough to get there by car. If you use the road from Lumut to Taiping, you will come to Segari after about 30 km from Lumut. You will see a junction to the Lumut Power Plant. Follow this road for a few kilometres until you see a road going left. This little road will end at Pasir Panjang Beach where the centre is located.

It is highly recommended for half day trips especially for Ipohites. Forget about paying for expensive tours in faraway lands. Adventures should begin at home here in Perak.

By YUEN YIN FONG