Borneo’s been in the news a lot in recent years - at least if you read articles that cover the line where industry meets ecology. Eco-tourism is increasingly seen as key to protecting endangered species, indigenous tribes and dwindling areas of jungle that might otherwise be chopped down to make room for crops or mass-tourism resorts. Wildlife holidays in Borneo, home to some of Earth’s oldest rainforest and most diverse marine habitats, not to mention those famous orangutans, are widely held up as the ultimate in eco-travel.
But any wildlife-enthusiast worth their salt knows that the “eco” tag is far too trendy to be completely reliable. It’s easy to colour your logo green and talk about how you’re “committed” to the idea of recycling, but that doesn’t mean you’re actually recycling anything yet. Tourism is just as notorious for damaging habitats as it is for protecting them. So is eco-tourism in Borneo really working, or is it just another trend?
The commodities industry and the eco-warriors are still tussling, and there are certainly examples of “animal encounters” being set up that really don’t benefit the animals at all. That said, an encouraging majority of Borneo’s travel industry is dedicated to preserving its habitats and wildlife. Admittedly this does make sense from a business point of view – many will only continue as long as it’s profitable - but this means that, as travellers, we can vote with our wallets, especially if we choose the operators who pay more than just lip-service to the eco-trend. And with international governments co-operating too - particularly when it comes to protecting the Sea Turtle Marine Biodiversity Conservation Corridor, between Indonesia and Borneo - there’s every reason for hope.
Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Labuk Bay is a good reminder that Borneo isn’t just about orangutans, as amazing and important as they are. TheSanctuary’s owner originally bought this 400 acre stretch of rainforest for commercial development - it’s right next to an oil palm plantation. Once he learnt more about the area’s endangered Proboscis Monkeys, however, and realised how crucial his patch of land was to their survival, he turned it into a monkey sanctuary instead. It’s now home to a breeding population of around 60 Proboscis Monkeys, alongside numerous other species. Guests have every chance of encountering the monkeys, who visit the centre each day to collect fruit and water left out for them by resident ecologists.
Selingan Island Sea Turtles
Many of the tropical islands off Borneo’s north coast manage to combine luxury accommodation with marine ecology. The diving and snorkeling here is astonishing – amongst the world’s best – with a large, well-protected population of sea turtles and a great deal of attention paid to sustainable diving. Selingan Island errs more towards ecology than most. Accommodation is basic – no pampering here – but it does boast the largest turtle conservation project of all the islands. Turtles come ashore in their thousands to lay eggs, and while guests are prohibited from accessing the beach while this takes place, you can accompany the rangers to witness an egg laying or a hatching.
Suzie Saw is a professional writer who loves nature, being outdoors, gazing at maps (especially railway maps), & planning her next adventure in distant (& not so distant) lands.”