BY ALBERT TEO & MEI LAN
Several years ago, Somuil and Norzailly ran a small homestay business at Kg Terongkongan Laut in Kudat, Sabah, approximately two and a half hours by road from Kota Kinabalu (KK). But with seven children to feed, life was one big struggle.
Their situation perked up when Somuil participated in an educational tour to KK, Sabah Tea Sandakan and Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Sandakan in June 2006. Through the tour, organised by Borneo Eco Tours (BET), he realised he had the capability to achieve his dream of owning a successful tourist resort. The tour also motivated him to venture into the eco-tourism business.
Today, the couple are successful entrepreneurs of a beach lodge with a difference.
Coming from the Rungus tribe, they realised that the Rungus tradition was gradually disappearing as a result of modernisation. Somuil then came up with the idea of building a traditional Rungus longhouse for his lodge to help preserve and promote the traditions of the Rungus tribe.
Named Tindakon Dazang Beach, the longhouse has 12 rooms, a restaurant and a meeting room on an eight-acre land fronting the South China Sea. In keeping with traditions, the walls of the house are made entirely of traditional materials such as split bamboos and the Darasan tree bark, while the roofs are made of nipah palm leaves. However, the longhouse is equipped with modern amenities such as toilets and showers.
FISH BOMBING THREAT
Operating the longhouse has been a challenge for Somuil and Norzaily due to the increasing illegal fish bombing activities near their beach. It breaks their hearts to hear fish bombs detonated right in front of their resort in the early hours of the morning. The activities
indirectly scare away their visitors and also destroy the beautiful coral reefs.
The fishermen, who come in small boats or sampan, use homemade bombs which kill or stun the fish when they explode. The fish then float to the surface or sink to the bottom. The explosions not only kill a large number of fish and other marine life in the vicinity, but they
also destroy the physical structure of the prized coral reefs.
On average, a one-kilogram beer bottle bomb can leave a rubble crater of approximately one to two metres in diameter, possibly destroying 50% to 80% of the corals in that area.
In Malaysia, bombing is an offence and any individual caught could be fined up to RM20,000 or jailed up to two years, or both. Although many reports have been sent to the Marine Department and many patrols made by the marine police, these illegal fishermen still return and continue with their fish bombing activities.
Somuil has genuinely tried to improve his community by developing homestay and tourism, snorkelling and scuba diving activities. But his effort to eradicate poverty through ecotourism is being hampered by fishermen from outside the village who are systematically destroying the coral reefs and killing marine life. He knows that it is not easy for the authorities to tackle this problem. However, he is confident that with the help of the authorities and stringent law enforcement, they can overcome the problem.
Speaking about the environmental destruction, BET Managing Director Albert Teo said, “We are called to be good stewards, to tend and keep this earth God has given to us, not to destroy it. We may have been fruitful and multiplied, but instead of subduing the earth and having dominion over the fish of the sea, we have destroyed our environment for short-term gain. How long will we continue to mess up the good He has created?”
A Better Life Threatened - Asian Beacon: Jun-Jul 2013 (Vol 45, No 3, p26)