Q & A with Baton Bijamin, General Manager, Borneo Eco Tours, Sabah, Malaysia.
The Sukau Rainforest Lodge is one of National Geographic's Lodges of the World.
Last year we received over 5,000 guests, and we have previously had more than 8k guests in a year.
WHERE DO YOUR GUESTS COME FROM?
Just to name a few places, Australia, China, the Philippines, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany.
DO YOU OFFER TOURS IN LANGUAGES OTHER THAN ENGLISH?
Yes, sometimes we have tours in Chinese for our visitors from China.
In most parts of Borneo, the wetter period happens from October to February during the North East Monsoon, and the drier period is from March to September. However, there’s no really sharp division between the two; we are well known for offering warm temperatures and sunshine most of the year with the occasional sudden rain shower in the afternoon.
ARE CERTAIN TOURS ESPECIALLY POPULAR?
Yes, I would say in the last two years a large number of guests chose our river boat excursion called the Kinabatangan Wildlife Safari. This trip includes a stay at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge, journeys along the Kinabatangan River, and visits to both the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. [Malaysian sun bears are the smallest of all the world's bear species.]
It is the longest river in Sabah, and the second longest in all of Malaysia. Some 26k hectares of the Lower Kinabatangan has been gazetted as a wildlife sanctuary and is home to a myriad of wild animals and birds, making it the highest concentrated area of wildlife anywhere on the island of Borneo. The river supports a large area rich in biodiversity; it is a vital natural resource. Famous conservation experts around the world, such as Sir David Attenborough of the UK, agree that this is one of the most varied and easily accessible wildlife regions in all of Southeast Asia.
WHAT ANIMALS LIVE IN THE RAINFOREST?
Our jungle lodge is often visited by macaques, flying lemurs, giant squirrels and many types of birds, in particular, the unusual looking Great Hornbill. During the river cruises you might see a small herd of Borneo pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, or crocodiles resting along the river banks. [Borneo pygmy elephant adults measure about 3 ft. shorter when compared with their Asian elephant cousins.]
We mainly rely on a generator though we do use crystal solar heaters to supply hot water to all our rooms. Presently it is not possible to depend entirely on solar panels because the high concentration of rainforest canopies makes it difficult to gain sufficient solar energy. However, we are mindful about energy usage and do what we can to conserve energy in the lodge. We are self-sufficient on water supplies as we have 67 storage tanks to hold all the rainwater we collect throughout the year. The water is filtered before it is used.
WHAT MAKES YOU A LEADER IN SUSTAINABLE TOURISM?
A key factor is to set sustainable standards and then meet those standards. The Sukau Rainforest Lodge has recently been certified by Travellife and has received its Gold Certificate. We are also branded as a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. We are proud of these accomplishments but will continue to find ways to improve.
We also set the bar high for ourselves by being a member of The Long Run, a membership organization of nature-based tourism businesses committed to sustainability.
Community engagement is another key factor along with our economic support to local suppliers and agricultural concerns.
We receive a tax exemption through our non-profit division called Borneo Ecotourism Solutions and Technologies Society [BEST]. We have also received an incentive tax allowance for recent lodge renovations plus a low interest rate for the construction of 20 new villas.
WHAT DOES THE BEST SOCIETY DO?
This division carries out environmental and community projects in different parts of Sabah Borneo, especially in the rural areas. A few examples of projects would be tree plantings, setting up water tanks, and providing medical check-ups and treatment to rural villagers. There are also new opportunities for travelers to visit local organic farms. In the future we would like to establish a research centre to study the impacts of ecotourism on wildlife in Kinabatangan.
ANY OTHER MESSAGES FOR MY READERS?
We have been in this business for 27 years now, so guests can expect to receive the most competent and professional treatment from our team members from start to finish. Our guides are mostly specialists in nature and wildlife, and they are committed to ensuring that every guest, no matter which tour, will have an unforgettable holiday here in Borneo.
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