Oct. 25 – Nov. 8
After spending one noisy week in Kota Kinabalu, adapting to the weather and getting off jet lag, I felt like I needed to get off the grid for a while. And for that, I couldn’t have made a better choice… The homestay experience around Kiulu’s communities has already made my trip to Sabah well worth it. For that, I must thank to Borneo Eco Tours.
As a first thought, I had the fear to miss my comfortable ‘European’ lifestyle, heading to such a remote area. Being a newly fresh tourist in Asia I had no idea what to expect for. But on the contrary, it proved itself to be the most amazing cultural discovering of my travelling around the world so far. Not because I noticed such a big cultural disparity, or a really old fashion lifestyle, but because of the genuineness of the place. My hosts welcomed me as if I were a member of the family and behaved in a very natural and relaxed manner. True hospitality was shown!
My first week was spent in Kg. Mantob, fulfilled of activities with my three host families. We walked around the Kampongs, enjoyed the great views over the paddy fields, picked some delicious local veggies from the gardens, visited the Tamparuli local market, did river tubbing, played local games, sang traditional songs and had some great treks into the jungle: to swim in a beautiful waterfall and to find the tallest tree in the surroundings (the Gaman Kapur tree). Through this last mentioned trail it was also possible to see the rubber trees that belong to each family. It represents one of the main incomes of the local population and everywhere around I could watch the rubber tapping procedures.
Even so, the climax of the week was when they dressed me the traditional Unduk Ngadau costume. I’ve been told that it’s used for a beauty pageant during rice harvest festival and I’ve got real pro hair style and make up. The families where so excited that would be impossible not to enjoy this moment. We took about two hours of photo session around the Borneo Eco Tours Farmstay. Everyone wanted a picture with the orang putih (white person).
Every time I changed of homestay I felt a deep sadness for leaving the previous host family. I was so kindly treated and welcomed, that saying goodbye is not an easy task. Still, the next week I moved to another neighbouring community: Kg. Pinagon Baru.
When I thought that nothing new would come, I realized that every day I was experiencing different things. Especially the jungle food, which came to my plate in all sort of delicious ways.
Here, besides the recognition tour and the fruit & veggies harvesting with the wakid (traditional basket), we did some extreme trekking through a new trail, which took us all around Pinagon area, reaching the highest peak and ending in some refreshing waterfalls. On the way, the local guides always introduced me the species they knew about and talked about the history of the place. As I was the first one to do this trail (opening way through the impetuous jungle), they said they’ll give it my name. Of course I was happy to hear that.
I also was taught how to do rubber tapping, to blow the sumpit (an ancient blowing pipe used for animal hunt) and to collect rice.
One of the ladies in the Kampong showed me how to use some of the plants for medicinal purpose and how to cook the local dishes. Furthermore, I was able to watch the traditional river fishing, to plant a tree and to taste the homemade rice & tapioca wine. Yummy! At the end, we celebrated my farewell all together, dancing, singing and laughing…
To conclude, this is what I can call true Community Based Ecotourism. For sure, is a place worth to visit more than once. Thank you Sabah!
Filipa Gomes (BET Intern)