KINABATANGAN – Homestay is a practice where local families open up their homes to let tourists experience the local life and culture beyond the usual luxury of hotels and resorts.
Homestays are cheaper than hotels and offer an experience like no other, Saidal Udin a member of the community operating under the Cooperative Tourism Mukim Batu Puteh Kinabatangan (KOPEL) Berhad.
“Miso Walai specialises in cultural programs for students, families, groups, and people who are interested in what the homestay is doing,” he told SayangSabah when contacted, today.
The KOPEL Berhad has a homestay business centred on various eco-tourism activities in the Lower Kinabatangan region of Sabah.
Considered one of the best homestay establishments in Malaysia, Miso Walai (meaning ‘stay together in one house’ in Orang Sungai language) offers visitors an organised community-based cultural tourism experience drawn from stories and folklores of generations of Orang Sungai communities on the Kinabatangan River.
One interesting aspect of Miso Walai is that it has 32 households made up of about 400 people speaking some 20 indigenous dialects of the local of “Orang Sungai” communities living and working at the homestay complex.
The complex itself is made up of large traditional rustic homes with some modern conveniences .Traditional local food is served; household activities such as cooking, village sports and farm activities are part of the experience, as are wildlife encounters in the surrounding forests.
To date the cooperative has 260 members from four villages in Batu Puteh, Kinabatangan: Kampung Batu Puteh, Kampung Mengaris, Kampung Perpaduan and Kampung Singgah Mata.
Saidal said the income from the business is used for the community development programmes as well as to pay the cooperative members involved in these programmes.
Apart from that, KOPEL has been appointed by the State Forestry Department as the contractor in the on-going restoration and silver culture treatment of the Pin Supu Forest Reserve. Silver culture involves getting rid of dead trees, branches and vegetation that impede forest regeneration.
The contract with the Forest Department is the main source of income for the local community but, increasingly, they can count on tourism to bring in added revenue.
However, according to Saidal the past couple of year homestay business is a bit slow compared to three years back.
“The cooperative earned RM1.4 million in 2011 from the Miso Walai Homestay and various eco-tourism activities but the backlash that we received from the tragic incident that hits our country and state are pretty severe,” he said.
Saidal stated that because of that the cooperative and community focus on other projects. He disclosed to SayangSabah, currently, the community is collaborating with University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) – transfer knowledge on community capacity building in agriculture, aquaculture and insect science.
“I hope with this cooperation will provide an avenue for sustainable livelihood for local communities,” Saidal said. – By Fizah Yusof/SayangSabah