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Several years ago, the famous undersea explorer, Jacques Costeau, dived at Sipadan Island waters and commented “I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, now no more. But we have now found again an untouched piece of art, a jewel.”

In just a few words, Mr. Costeau has done a great favour to Sipadan Island. Comments from great people such as Mr. Costeau on Sipadan Island have helped to boost the uniqueness and wonder of diving in Sipadan Island, which is already a well-known diving destination to the world’s diving fraternity.

During his life time, Mr. Costeau had made 120 television documentaries and 50 books, won four Oscars and 10 Emmys, founded an environmental protection foundation, and invented the Aqua-lung, a prelude to modern-day scuba diving equipment.

During our visits to several tourism destinations – including Sipadan Island and the other islands off Semporna; the rain forests, the wildlife sanctuary and eco-camps in Sukau Kinabatangan; and forest conservation at Maliau Basin, Tongod District, we saw some interesting things and some less than happy sights or events.

In this issue of Berita IDS, we share some of our observations during our visit to these places in October 2009.

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A breathtaking view on the edge of a beautiful island.
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Walkway like this at Kapalai Island, allows for a stroll in the sun or a romantic walk in the cool, evening breeze.
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Great sundeck for sun tan and evening chat at Kapalai Island.
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Tranquility in the early morning at Kapalai Island.

Joys of tourism

Sipadan Island’s environment is sensitive and fragile. It needs protection from the great number of visitors and divers everyday. Thus, activities such as scuba diving is strictly-controlled. A diving quota of 120 permits per day is in place. No structures are allowed to be built on the island or anywhere near it. Overnight stays are prohibited.

Visitors and scuba divers must arrange accommodation at nearby islands. Comfortable, clean and safe chalets are available at Mabul and Kapalai island. Mabul island is an oval-shaped land which is part of a 200-hectare reef, sitting on the edge of a continental shelf. The waters surrounding Mabul and Kapalai islands are also popular for scuba diving and snorkeling. The accommodation at most of the Semporna islands offer great views of the beach and sea.

Kapalai island is a good choice for a quiet and peaceful get-away. It is ideal for holidays with family and loved ones. The cool, clear waters are great for swimming and snorkeling. The island forms part of the Ligitan Reefs. A water village resort sits on the reefs and provides, among other facilities, a huge and spacious sundeck for after-swimming chats or after-dive talks.

Mataking island is a beautiful sight. In the morning, visitors can jog or walk at the beach in complete peace.

Most islands in Sabah are beautiful, but the islands off-Semporna and especially Sipadan island top the best list.
As day breaks, the island comes to life. But at any time of the day, the views are spectacular. Walking or jogging at the islands, a visitor sees seemingly unending stretches of white sands. It is quiet and peaceful. On the edge of the island, the view of the open sea is awesome. The feeling is that you don’t want to leave this place, and even if you have, you always want to come back again.

At sunrise, the bright jewel at the horizon pierces through the clouds and illuminates the sky. The views and scenery surrounding the islands in Semporna are almost always beautiful and serene.

The underwaters at Mataking Island, offers another splendour world of colour and beauty. Visitors can move from one island to another in the open seas. Swimmers or divers discover that beneath the surface of the sea, even at shallow underwaters, there are many unspoilt and sparkling corals teeming with beautiful sea life.

The management of the island, Sabah Parks; tour operators and visitors have ensured that cleanliness at Sipadan Island is among their top priorities. Trash and rubbish are collected to be disposed of either in an eco-sustainable manner on the island or brought to the mainland.
It was a joy to observe that plastic bags were seldom seen on the beaches of many of the islands. Tour operators and management of the parks have done a good job in regularly clearing non-biodegradable items from the islands and especially the beaches.
The island environment is fragile. If not properly cared for or managed, this “piece of art, a jewel” will be damaged forever.

The Sorrows of Tourism

It is disheartening to see that some people had dug and disturbed the corals around the Mabul island in order to create a passageway for the boats to reach shore more conveniently.

However, for convenience sake, the corals had been destroyed forever.

Mabul Island has many serious issues. One of them is garbage disposal. The area where the resort is sited is resonably clean. However, the village side bordering the resort is in dire need of a good and eco-sustainable way of handling garbage.

Some of the garbage that had been indiscriminately disposed of by villagers into the sea was washed ashore. It was not a good sight, particularly where the garbage had accumulated near a tourism area.

It pains the heart and eyes to see unhygenic living. It is a dilemma in many of Sabah’s beautiful islands where tourism development seems to have clashed with the livelihood of local villagers. – Jason W. Yong

(This is the first part of the article on the ‘Joys and Sorrows of Tourism’. The second part will appear on the next issue of Berita IDS)

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Serenity of dawn soothes the heart and soul, promising another great day of sunshine.
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Sparkling corals with beautiful sea life in the underwater of Sibuan Island.
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A heartbroken sight, passageways for boats were created at the expense of coral life.
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Inadequate waste disposal system in tourist destination on Mabul Island.

Beberapa tahun yang lalu, peneroka dasar laut terkenal, Jacques Costeau, menyelam di perairan Pulau Sipadan. “Saya pernah melihat tempat seperti Sipadan, 45 tahun yang lalu, tapi tiada lagi. Namun kita telah menemui semula sebuah seni yang belum terusik, sebutir permata.”

Hanya dengan beberapa perkataan, En. Costeau telah memberi sumbangan besar kepada Pulau Sipadan. Komen daripada seorang tokoh seperti beliau terhadap Pulau Sipadan telah membantu menyerlahkan keunikan dan keajaiban menyelam di Pulau Sipadan yang sudahpun terkenal sebagai destinasi menyelam.

Sepanjang hidup En. Costeau telah membuat 120 dokumentari televisyen dan 50 buah buku, menang empat Anugerah Oscar dan 10 Emmy, menubuhkan sebuah yayasan perlindungan alam sekitar, dan mencipta Aqua-lung, pembekal peralatan menyelam moden.

Dalam lawatan ke beberapa destinasi pelancongan – termasuk Pulau Sipadan dan pulau lain di Semporna, hutan hujan, pusat pelindungan hidupan liar dan eko-kem di Sukau, Kinabatangan, dan hutan simpan di Maliau Basin, Daerah Tongod, terdapat beberapa perkara menarik dan pemandangan atau peristiwa yang kurang menyenangkan.

Dalam isu Berita IDS ini, kami menyoroti beberapa penemuan hasil penyelidikan di daerah ini pada Oktober 2009.

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Pandangan menarik di Pulau Kapalai
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Kemudahan di Chalet Pulau Kapalai
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Pandangan pagi di Pulau Mataking

Indahnya Pelancongan

Alam sekitar Pulau Sipadan adalah sensitif dan mudah musnah. Ia memerlukan perlindungan kerana mempunyai pengunjung dan penyelam yang ramai setiap hari. Dengan itu, aktiviti seperti menyelam dikawal ketat. Kuota menyelam dihadkan 120 permit sehari. Pembinaan bangunan tidak dibenarkan di pulau atau berhampiran. Bermalam turut dilarang.

Pengunjung dan penyelam perlu mengatur penginapan di pulau berdekatan. Chalet selesa, bersih dan selamat terdapat di Pulau Mabul dan Kapalai. Pulau Mabul berbentuk bujur merupakan sebahagian dari 200 hektar terumbu karang, terletak di sempadan benua. Perairan di sekitar Pulau Mabul dan Kapalai juga popular untuk menyelam dan snorkeling. Kebanyakan penginapan di pulau di Semporna mempunyai pemandangan pantai dan laut yang cantik.

Pulau Kapalai merupakan pilihan yang baik untuk percutian yang tenang dan damai. Ia sesuai untuk percutian keluarga dan orang tersayang. Air yang sejuk dan jernih sangat sesuai untuk berenang dan snorkeling. Pulau membentuk sebahagian daripada Terumbu Ligitan. Resort kampung air berada di atas terumbu dan menyediakan kemudahan seperti sebuah dek matahari yang besar dan luas untuk berbual selepas berenang dan menyelam.

Pulau Mataking sangat indah. Pada waktu pagi, pengunjung boleh berjoging atau berjalan di pantai dengan tenang.

Hampir semua pulau di Sabah indah, tetapi pulau-pulau di Semporna dan terutama Pulau Sipadan adalah yang terbaik.
Menjelang fajar, pulau semakin sibuk. Sepanjang hari pemandangan luar biasa. Ketika berjalan atau berjoging di pulau, pengunjung dapat melihat pasir putih terbentang tanpa kesudahan. Ia tenang dan damai. Di hujung pulau pemandangan laut mengagumkan. Timbul perasaan enggan meninggalkan pulau, dan jika terpaksa pergi, ingin kembali lagi.

Ketika matahari terbit, sebutir permata yang terang di ufuk menembusi awan dan menerangi langit. Pandangan dan pemandangan sekitar pulau di Semporna sentiasa indah dan tenang.

Dasar Pulau Mataking turut menyediakan pemandangan mengagumkan berwarna dan indah. Pelawat boleh mengunjungi satu pulau ke pulau lain di laut lepas. Perenang atau penyelam menyedari bahawa di bawah laut, bahkan di air cetek terdapat terumbu yang tidak terusik dan dipenuhi dengan kehidupan laut yang sangat indah.

Lembaga pengurusan pulau, Taman Sabah, pengendali lawatan serta pengunjung mengutamakan kebersihan di Pulau Sipadan. Sampah dikutip dan dibuang oleh penjaga sama ada di pulau secara eko-mapan atau dihantar ke tanah besar.

Amat menggembirakan melihat jarang sekali kelihatan beg plastik di pantai di kebanyakan pulau-pulau ini. Pengendali pelancong dan lembaga pengurusan pulau telah melakukan tugas yang baik dan secara teratur membersihkan bahan tidak boleh dibiodegradasi dari pulau terutamanya di pantai.
Persekitaran pulau terdedah kepada kemusnahan. Jika tidak dijaga atau diurus dengan baik, “sebuah seni, sebutir permata” akan musnah selamanya.

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Pemandangan indah sewaktu matahari terbit di Pulau Mataking
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Hidupan dasar lautan Pulau Sibuan yang jarang didapati di tempat lain
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Bekas botol air yang dibuang oleh pelawat bukan di tempat yang dikhaskan
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Pandangan yang menyakitkan mata. Sampah sarap di kawasan pelancongan.

Mendukakan Mengenai Pelancongan

Sungguh mengecewakan melihat orang menggali dan mengganggu terumbu karang di sekitar pulau untuk laluan bot untuk sampai ke pantai dengan lebih mudah.

Namun, demi kemudahan, terumbu karang telah musnah selamanya.

Pulau Mabul berhadapan banyak isu-isu serius. Satu daripadanya ialah pembuangan sampah. Di kawasan pelancongan agak bersih. Manakala, di sebelah kampung, bersempadan dengan kawasan pelancongan, memerlukan pengendalian sampah yang lebih baik dan eko-mapan.

Sesetengah sampah yang dibuang merata-rata oleh penduduk kampung dilaut terhanyut ke darat. Pandangan ini menyakitkan mata, terutama sampah yang terdampar dan terkumpul berhampiran di kawasan pelancongan.

Amat mendukacitakan dan menyakitkan mata melihat persekitaran yang tidak sihat. Di kebanyakan pulau yang indah di Sabah, ini merupakan satu dilema yang mempamerkan percanggahan antara pembangunan pelancongan dengan kehidupan penduduk kampung tempatan.

(Ini merupakan bahagian pertama artikel tentang ‘Suka dan Duka Pelancongan’. Bahagian kedua akan diterbitkan di isu akan datang dalam Berita IDS)

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