TUNGOG'S RAINFOREST ECO CAMP
MESCOT’s Tungog Rainforest Eco-Camp (TREC) is an innovative community-based ecotourism project aiming to provide ecologically sustainable lodging within the Tungog Lake rainforest. Whereas most nature tourism activities in Sabah fail to consider the customs and welfare of local indigenous communities, TREC seeks to create a new, sustainable model of ecotourism that will: produce local jobs and generate income for the community; minimize disturbance of the forest; and provide long-term funding for habitat restoration. This is critical to combat increasing economic pressure on the local community to continue clearing the forest in this area for agricultural use. TREC simultaneously seeks to raise awareness and appreciation for the delicate eco-system and wildlife of the Kinabatangan region, in part by giving visitors the opportunity to participate in forest and orang-utan habitat restoration first-hand.
The TREC project has four key objectives:
to allow visitors an authentic experience of the sights, sounds and smells of the Borneo rainforest and its indigenous people;
to provide a sustainable alternative source of income for the Batu Puteh community as well as an incentive to conserve the remaining rainforest there;
to provide a long-term sustainable source of funds for habitat restoration in the surrounding rainforest; and
to test and implement various technologies and management practices for construction, fuel, water and energy use, waste management, chemical use and visitor behavior to create a model for minimizing the human impact of ecotourism activities.
To meet these goals, the Eco-Camp was built entirely by skilled craftsmen from the local community, using indigenous techniques and local building materials, and relying on manual labor to minimize pollution and disturbance to the forest. The camp utilizes ecologically sustainable technologies including composting toilets and sealed reed beds for treating grey-water, capturing and recycling rainwater, gravity and solar powered water systems, and a zero chemical-use policy. Accommodations are simple open air tent platforms bolted together for easy removal with no concrete footings and no lasting footprint. TREC also has worked hard to keep all human noise from the operation of the camp to a level below the background sounds of the forest, thereby providing a true rainforest experience for guests and minimizing disturbance to wildlife – notably, they appear to have succeeded as orang-utans have visited the camp throughout the construction phase.
The camp will be staffed by community members, and visitor capacity is limited to 30. Visitors will eat local traditional foods from the forest with their indigenous hosts. Visitors also will be given the opportunity to make a contribution, physical or financial, towards the ongoing restoration of the lake and surrounding rainforest. In return, visitors will be able to observe the amazing wildlife and biodiversity of the rainforest, as well as get a taste for the habitat restoration work and how it is important for the orang-utan and other local wildlife. Tour revenues and donations will be funnelled directly back into the restoration projects.
LEAP has played a significant role in the project since 2005, helping with communications and sourcing funds, and acting as a bridge with funders regarding project goals, status and needs, as well as providing the means for the transfer and administration of funds. LEAP also brings potential partners and other interested persons to the Eco-Camp to see the site and project first-hand, and works actively to facilitate capacity building and the empowerment of the Batu Puteh community by sitting with them and listening to their needs and communicating these to other project partners.
To learn more about MESCOT, visit www.mescot.org or their community co-operative Facebook page.