The Malaysian state of Sarawak has underlined its dedication to a “sustainable future”.
As often stated by the former Secretary-General of the UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, tourism can and should be a force for good. In Sarawak, this is very much the case, as every person who visits Sarawak’s national parks and protected areas and pays fees contributes to the upkeep of these fragile forests – much of them pristine primary growth – and protects the unique wildlife that lives within them.
Some local tour operators also offer the chance for visitors to become involved in reforestation initiatives. Park buffer zones are extremely important in increasing the available habitat for wildlife, so by extending the forest cover this further helps in protecting the wildlife.
Huge steps are being made across the state to conserve and manage Sarawak’s valuable and unique forests. In addition to some 800,000 hectares of Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) that are off-limit to logging companies, large areas of land classed as “terrain 4” (steep and hilly) areas, “High Conservation Value Forests”, buffer zones and verified “Native Customary Rights” land remain pristine.
The declared initiative by Sarawak’s state government to pursue responsible tourism underpins the importance of other moves that had already been initiated by the state authorities to protect forests and wildlife.
Celebrating 20 years World Heritage status
In November 2020, Mulu National Park in Sarawak celebrates its 20th anniversary of being named one of only 20 World Heritage sites in the world that qualify for a total of four world heritage criteria. These are: Superlative beauty – mountains, combined with huge river systems, a tropical rainforest and huge caves. The earth’s history and geo features are evident in the gigantic caves and the Pinnacles. Visitors appreciate the biodiversity and ecological processes when adventure trekking or just strolling along the botany trails.
Meeting the locals – Orang Ulu, the upriver people
From the river-based Berawan tribes of Long Terawan to the now settling Penan in the villages of Batu Bungan and Long Iman: these are the Mulu locals and they play an integral part in the affairs of Mulu National Park. These villages are also made accessible for tourists to visit, specifically to enjoy the local handicraft market and of course to try their hand at the weapon of choice – the blowpipe!
Photo: Penan villagers, Mulu, Sarawak