The Kinabatangan - Rasig Project is a collaboration between Indie Travellers and Fatimah Homestay to promote nature conservation through ecotourism. The project site is a land area of 5.9 acres (about 2.38 ha) situated along the Kinabatangan, Sabah’s longest river, in the eastern part of Malaysian Borneo. It is an ancestral land of Mr Mursalin Abdullah, the owner of Fatimah Homestay. Rasig was the name of the early settlement on this particular land.
Rasig being located just next to the lower Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary is clearly part of an important wildlife habitat. The wildlife sanctuary is within the lower Kinabatangan floodplain. The floodplain is internationally renowned as an important habitat for the most rare and endemic flora and fauna in Borneo.
Within the land area, there are evidence and sightings of mammals and primates such as wild Orang Utans, the rare reddish form silver langurs, leopard cats and wild boars. There are abundance of fig trees along the river bank that attracts all the species of hornbills and other bird life. Recently, the White Fronted Falconet, the smallest bird of prey on the island of Borneo was spotted in Rasig.
The land is part of an elephant corridor where herd of Borneo Pygmy Elephants would use for migration and congregation. The sandbank is a breeding and resting ground for estuarine crocodiles. This makes the land an important site for conservation.
Mr. Mursalin said, “My land is surrounded by wildlife sanctuary and I want to do my part to preserve it. It is my heritage. At the same time, I am also exploring ecotourism activities to incorporate that into my homestay programme. So, I approached Caroline of Indie Travellers to identify ecotourism potential in my land”.
A six days conservation travel programme to Kinabatangan featuring Rasig project was developed and is exclusively marketed by Indie Travellers on behalf of Mr Mursalin and his homestay.
The ultimate goal for the project is to reach a stage of financial sufficiency. It is important to succeed through its ecotourism activities in order to be able to promote nature conservation to a wider audience and to allow better participation from other villagers in this initiative.
Caroline Pang, the Managing Partner of Indie Travellers said, “We are always supportive of community-based ecotourism initiatives. It is also our company’s policy to weight ecological, economic and social aspects when we plan or promote tourism related services. We are not into mass tourism but small groups, to understand biodiversity as well as to observe and enjoy the moment of sightings of rare, endangered and endemic species. The Kinabatangan - Rasig Project is a good collaboration to demonstrate how low impact tourism can benefit nature, the environment and the community”.
Caroline explained further as of how the land will be utilised for tourism activities. “Rasig will be kept as natural as possible with no major infrastructure. There will be no obstacle for wildlife to roam freely in the area. We will use the land for wildlife observation and a safe house for elephants to congregate. We get to observe them in their natural habitat at a safe distance. The only basic infrastructure in the pipeline will be either a hide or a platform for observation purposes and a floating jetty for our guests.”
The sales from this programme is also to raise funds for the building of a floating jetty for visitors, a platform or a hide for wildlife observation, and purchase of camera traps that will be installed at strategic sites within the land. Due to its strategic location, data acquired from these camera traps is useful for the project team to look into best practices and information sharing with other parties who are doing wildlife research in the area. Best practices and wildlife viewing guidelines are introduced in the programme to reduce impact to the environment and to ensure the safety of visitors.
The project team consists of Caroline with her expertise in sustainable tourism and a fundraiser for community-based organisations, a local wildlife biologist with an expertise in wildlife habitat management, a honorary wildlife warden from the village of Sukau and Mursalin, providing his support for ground arrangements.
The six day conservation travel programme to Kinabatangan featuring Rasig project is focussed on educating participants about the biodiversity of Kinabatangan, engaging them through conservation activities and leaving them with knowledge to make a difference. There are opportunities for volunteers to participate in building platform or hides for wildlife observation, floating jetty, assisting to set up camera traps, and documenting wildlife sighting to complete our list.
Day 1: Arrive Sandakan. You will be met by your naturalist guide, who is also a honorary wildlife warden and transfer to Sepilok for overnight. Pre-trip briefing.
Day 2: Tour of Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre to learn about the centre’s initiative and to observe the rehabilitated red apes - explore the Rainforest Interpretation Centre to learn about the Borneon tropical rainforest - discover the cave fauna of Gomantong - Sukau village.
Day 3: Sukau - orientation of Kinabatangan on an early morning cruise - Trek on the Borneo Pygmy Elephant migration path for an educational and interpretation exploration of Rasig - also to learn about the activities undertaken by the Rasig team to conserve the area - late afternoon cruise in search of wildlife and night cruises in search of nocturnal wildlife.
Day 4: Sukau - Join your naturalist guide on his typical day of duty as a honorary wildlife warden in the Kinabatangan river. The day will be spend on the river starting early in the morning to tributaries and ox-bow lake for more discovery of wildlife and vegetation. Wildlife viewing activities start to slow down from late morning to around 4 pm, before we get onto the afternoon cruise for wildlife observation. In the night, we continue with a night cruise to look out for nocturnal animals. The day’s activities may changed with no guarantee of sighting of any wild animals.
Day 5: Excursion to the estuary of Kinabatangan river, to explore mangrove and nipah swamp forest, and an exploration of Abai village to discover village lifestyle.
Day 6: Sukau - Departure.
The programme uses the services run by the local communities of Sukau, including homestay, bed and breakfast, boats and guide services. The team of guides is from the village of Sukau, with vast knowledge in nature conservation and educational interpretation of Kinabatangan.
What can you do as a traveller is to support this programme which generate revenues for ecotourism products run by the local communities. Tourist dollars will be channeled to conservation work undertaken by local communities to preserve natural heritage for sustainable tourism. Your voice is equally important, help us to pass on this information to your family and friends.
For more information about the project, please contact:
Indie Travellers represents community-based ecotourism organisations in Asia to promote their programmes globally, and conduct photography exploration in small groups, to discover lesser known places, cultures and wildlife around the world.