Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge

July 25 – 30, 2015

The Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge will be one of the most exciting and exhilarating events held in this part of the world. With its unique blend of combining nature, culture and adventure, it is already gaining interest from participants worldwide.

The gruelling six-day challenge held from July 25 to 30 will see participants trekking through one of the oldest rainforest in the world, through remote and scenic villages as well as ancient historical and cultural sites between Ba’Kelalan and Bario.

The event is organised by Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi (FORMADAT), a trans-boundary, grassroots initiative, that aims to increase awareness and understanding of the highland communities in the Heart of Borneo (HoB).

It is further supported by Ministry of Tourism Sarawak, Sarawak Tourism Board, Forest Department Sarawak, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Sarawak Museum Department, Curtin University Sarawak, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Gantuman e-Bario, Tutum Bala e-Ba’ Kelalan, Planet Borneo Tour, Highland Paradise, WWF-Malaysia, Bario Slow Food and Cultural Festival (Pesta Nukenen dan Kebudayaan Kelabit), Rurum Kelabit Sarawak and Persatuan Lun Bawang Sarawak.

The Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge, the first of its kind to be held in the highlands, will commence from Ba’ Kelalan to Lepo Bunga right up Mount Murud (Church Camp) through Long Rebpun and Pa’ Lungan and finally ending in Bario. The end of the six-day challenge will coincide with the launching of the 10th Anniversary Celebrations of the Bario Food Festival or Pesta Nukenan Bario as it is known locally.

“The Heart of Borneo Highlands Eco Challenge aims to become a premier ecotourism event,” says John Terawe who is FORMADAT’s Sarawak deputy chairman and event director. “It is an eco-challenge that hopes to provide a platform to raise awareness and the conservation of one of the most biologically-diverse ecosystems in the world. The event is in line with FORMADAT’s mission to encourage the development of sustainable economic alternatives such as sustainable agriculture programme and community-based ecotourism.”

“In addition, the route itself is an ancient migratory path used for thousands of years by the local people living in the mountainous regions of Northern Sarawak.”

According to Terawe, due to the sensitive jungle eco-system, participation will be limited. “Having too many participants could be detrimental to the highland environment. At each stage of the eco-challenge, there will be activities that highlight the uniqueness of the natural environment. The concept of threading lightly, take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, is core to the organisers and the participants.”

Currently, FORMADAT and the other agencies involved in the event are conducting a reconnaissance of the route which will end on March 21st. The recce, which involves multiple agencies, is also important to mark the hiking trails using GPS, identify gaps and improvements needed in ensuring the smooth organisation of the whole event and participants’ safety. “We need to do a recce of the proposed route to ensure the integrity of highland forests is maintained,” said Terawe.

In organising this event, FORMADAT hopes to achieve the following: -

  • Increase awareness and publicity – This annual event will be a strong product for the Maligan and Kelabit Highlands as the main attraction to travellers who enjoy adventure activities, pristine nature and an interest in the way of life of the people in the highlands of Borneo
  • Improve product, sales & marketing – Improves infrastructure development, required services skill and promotes the highlands to tour operators who will promote this product in the national and international market
  • Establish sustainable alternative income – By starting a tangible event that can attract visitors, the local service providers such as licensed home-stays and nature guides, lodges and community at large can participate in the eco-tourism activities that generate income and improve livelihoods
  • Increase appreciation of maintaining the natural environment for its inherent value – Through this event, it is hoped that Malaysians and international tourists will have a greater appreciation for nature, responsible ecotourism and a desire to keep such areas pristine so that generations after them can continue to inherit these valuable heritage

“In years to come, FORMADAT also hopes to expand the event to other traditional routes from Long Pa’ Sia' in Sabah to Long Semadoh and other options from Ba’ Kelalan to Bario through Krayan in Kalimantan, Indonesia”, says Terawe.

For those who are interested in participating or supporting this inaugural challenge, please contact john.tarawe@gmail.com or ecochallenge@formadat.com


FORMADAT, an acronym for Forum MasyarakatAdatDataranTinggi Borneo or Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands of Borneo, is a trans-border community forum established by the main ethnic groups in the area - the Lundayeh /LunBawang, Sa'ban & Kelabit. The highlands of Borneo, which comprise the sub-districts of Bario, Ba'Kelalan and Long Semadoh in Sarawak, and Long Pasia in Sabah, Malaysia, Krayan Selatan and Krayan in North Kalimantan, Indonesia, constitute one geographic, environmental, and cultural land inhabited by people who share a common origin. More info, visit http://bit.ly/formadat

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