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The Ulu Ai Tourism Project in Sarawak, Malaysia a partnership between tour operator Borneo Adventure and the local Iban community - offers an alternative to the usual staged forms of cultural tourism found in Sarawak. It forges a sustainable partnership between hosts and visitors, whereby visitors experience the local lifestyle on the hosts own terms. Tours focus on society and environment, rather than on performances and demonstrations. The experience benefits hosts, visitors and local wildlife. Travellers to remote Ulu Ai stay as guests of the longhousedwelling Iban people, who benefit economically by providing a range of tourism services. Borneo Adventure has supported local entrepreneurship and various community and conservation projects.

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Copyright 2012 Borneo Adventure Sdn Bhd All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the copyright holder. ISBN 978-967-11425-0-9

Borneo Adventure Sdn Bhd (160090-H) 55 Main Bazaar, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia Tel: +60-82 245 175 Fax: +60-82 422 626 Email:
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Tour operator Borneo Adventure was established in 1987 to offer a travellers alternative to mass tourism. With its headquarters in Kuching, the focus of the companys tourism activities is the natural environment, culture and history of the Malaysian Borneo states of Sarawak & Sabah. Today Borneo Adventure is one of Malaysias more established inbound tour operators and offers a range of over 100 small group or individual tours. In 1987 Philip Yong and Robert Basiuk, the co-founders of Borneo Adventure, set out to design a tourism product that provided real interaction between tourists and a longhouse community, while at the same time allowing tourists to enjoy the natural splendour of Sarawaks interior. From the beginning, the key objective was to involve the longhouse community in a meaningful way. This process began with a search for a suitable location. The search involved a number of trips into the interior of Sarawak. One of these was a journey to the upper reaches of the Delok River to Nanga Sumpa longhouse. After passing through pristine scenery and meeting the people at Nanga Sumpa, they knew that they had found a place that had the potential to offer visitors a unique travel experience. With its sheer natural beauty, Ulu Ai is upriver Borneo at its best. The natural environment - pristine rainforest and clear fast flowing rivers - offers scope for nature-based activities whilst the Iban community offer visitors an insight into

upriver lifestyles. Having identified the area, the next step was to talk to the longhouse community to see if they were receptive to the idea of playing host to visitors. The question posed was a simple one - Do you want foreign tourists to come here and visit you? A discussion followed and Borneo Adventure briefed the community on its ideas for bringing tourists to the area and the community outlined their hopes and concerns. The village elders then stated that they needed time to discuss this proposal amongst themselves. At the following meeting, Borneo Adventure and the community agreed to become partners in a new tourism endeavour. This was the start of a successful partnership that has continued for over 25 years. This booklet provides information on Ulu Ai, traces the development of tourism and outlines the benefits that tourism has brought to a previously isolated and impoverished community in the interior of Borneo.

The Setting - Ulu Ai

Ulu Ai (Upper Ai River) is a remote area in Sarawak, located close to the Sarawak-Kalimantan (Indonesia) border, approximately 270 kilometres from the state capital of Kuching. Until the 1980s Ulu Ai was an extremely isolated region, accessible via a 12-hour boat journey along fast-flowing rivers with numerous rapids. Communication with the outside world was (and generally still is) difficult. However, this isolation served to preserve and protect the rainforest and wildlife of Ulu Ai. The whole area saw massive social and environmental change in the mid-1980s with the development of the Batang Ai hydroelectric dam. First planned in the 1970s, construction of the dam began in 1981 and was completed in 1985. The US$ 200 million dam resulted in 8,400 hectares of land being flooded and the resettlement of 3,000 people from 26 longhouses. For the remote communities of Ulu Ai, however, the creation of a massive reservoir reduced boat travel times to about 2 hours. While roads to the reservoir have been improved, it still takes 4-5 hours to drive from Kuching to the dam site. The area surrounding Ulu Ai is beyond the reservoir flood limits and has suffered little disturbance other than traditional farming. Hence, the rivers are tree-lined, clear and clean. The landscape is rugged with steep hills giving rise to many waterfalls on the smaller tributaries of the Ai River. The vegetation is dominated by secondary forest in various stages of regeneration with patches of primary rainforest and farmland. The forest cover is abundant and provides habitat for a rich diversity of wildlife, including one of Sarawaks iconic species: the orang utan. Beyond the Ai River is the 168,758 hectare Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1978 to protect the largest population of orang utan in Sarawak. In 1989, to further protect the habitat of the orang utan, the Sarawak government gazetted the 24,040 hectare Batang Ai National Park located between Lanjak Entimau and the Ulu Ai area. As orang utans do not restrict themselves to these protected areas, the forest around Ulu Ai extending to the Indonesian border also serves as a very important habitat for these primates.

Based on wildlife surveys conducted by various agencies, it is estimated that there are approximately 1,300 orang utan in Sarawak. Of this total, 90% of the population is found in the protected area complex of Lanjak-Entimau and Batang Ai. In addition there are at least 100 orang utan that live permanently in the Ulu Ai area, outside of the existing protected forests. Orang utan tourism at Ulu Ai is a unique tourism product and dates back to the early 1990s. Currently the only place in Sarawak where tourists go to watch orang utans in the wild is Ulu Ai. In order to cater to foreign wildlife watching tourists, Borneo Adventure established the Red Ape Trail, a 5-day trek through known orang utan habitat. Visitor numbers are deliberately kept low to avoid disturbing the orang utan.

The People - The Iban Community of Ulu Ai

The people of Ulu Ai are Iban, shifting cultivators who speak a Proto-Malay language and whose traditional belief system combines elements of Hinduism, Animism and Augury. Today, the vast majority of the population are Christians. According to their oral traditions, Batang Ai was the area where the Iban first settled in Sarawak some 400-500 years ago after travelling from the Kapuas River in Kalimantan. From Batang Ai the Iban then dispersed to other parts of the state. The traditional Iban dwelling is the longhouse, a semi-permanent structure housing families in separate living apartments. The residents derive their livelihood from farming, fishing, small-scale rearing of livestock, collection of jungle produce and hunting. They are reasonably self-sufficient in terms of food and are able to manufacture most of their daily necessities from materials found locally.

Borneo Adventure works with three Iban communities at Ulu Ai - Nanga Sumpa, Jambu and Taong. These longhouses are located between the Batang Ai National Park and the Indonesian border. In 1987, when Borneo Adventure first visited the area, Ulu Ai was isolated and lacked basic services and facilities. The community was poor and relied entirely on subsistence farming. Unlike many other Iban communities in Sarawak, the community did not have a steady income until the development of tourism. Whilst today there have been major improvements such as better schools, clinics and agricultural outreach programmes, the longhouses at Ulu Ai still do not have basic utilities like treated water supply or electricity. Nanga Sumpa was the first longhouse in Ulu Ai to work together with Borneo Adventure. Close to 200 years old, the Nanga Sumpa community is located at the confluence of the Sumpa and Delok Rivers. This Iban community was originally targeted for resettlement when the Batang Ai dam was under construction but as their longhouse is located beyond the perimeter of the lake, the people chose to remain. In 1987, there were 22 families at Nanga Sumpa. Today, the longhouse has grown and is home to 35 families. Following the success of this pioneering partnership Taong longhouse joined the project. Taong is a smaller community and home to 7 families. It is located on the Delok River, downriver from Nanga Sumpa. A few years later Jambu longhouse became involved in tourism. Jambu is also a relatively small community with 8 families and is located on the Delok River, further upstream from Nanga Sumpa. Jambu is currently the furthermost and most isolated settlement in Ulu Ai but this was not always the case. Earlier settlements located further upriver along the Lalang River, a small tributary of the Delok River, were moved out of the area during the Confrontation, the undeclared war between Malaysia and Indonesia that ran from 1962-1966.

The Concept

The Conventional Model Unsustainable & Disruptive

Sarawak tour operators have been taking visitors to Iban longhouses since the 1960s. However, these visits are usually stage-managed, with cultural dances, blowpipe demonstrations and other cultural clichs of Borneo that are constructed to evoke a by-gone era. The emphasis tends to be on cultural shows and imagined authenticity. Such visits can be quite intrusive, with tourists paraded through families private living quarters with scant regard for custom or social niceties. It is therefore not surprising that over time hospitality fatigue can set in with some families resenting the continual presence of visitors. Once this fatigue sets in the ensuing debates about the desirability of tourism can disrupt the social harmony of the longhouse. Over-dependence on tourism, at the expense of traditional economic activities can also have serious consequences as downturns in the tourism industry can cause hardship. Furthermore, when a longhouse is perceived to be a tourist longhouse it can actually deter visitors, with a subsequent loss of income. Organised longhouse tourism in Sarawak has mostly proved to be unsustainable with individual longhouses (or multiple longhouses on a river system) receiving tourists for a relatively short period of time (5-10 years) before the longhouse is viewed as too touristy. Tour operators eventually stop sending tourists there and move on to another longhouse

further upriver. The degradation of the environment has also contributed to the decline of tourism in some areas. Occasionally, tensions over the distribution of tourism-related income cause splits in the community. Tourism can prove to be an unsustainable source of income for these communities. The end result is a constant churning of longhouse tourism products as longhouses go on-andoff the tourism map. Some previously popular longhouses on the Skrang & Lemanak Rivers today receive very few visitors. There are also longhouses near the Batang Ai Lake that have experienced rapid increases in tourist numbers followed by an equally rapid decline in visitation.

Ulu Ai Model Community Control and Collective Endeavour

The Borneo Adventure model offers an alternative to the staged cultural tours in that visitors are regarded as guests of the local people. The focus of trips to Ulu Ai is the overall experience of upriver travel; travelling by longboat, visiting the longhouse, hiking in the jungle, visiting farms and experiencing the day-to-day life of a small farming community. The upriver life is a simple one and accordingly these are not luxury tours. Instead, these are tours where the visitor can gain an insight into the Iban lifestyle and enjoy the culture. The company promotes overnight tours rather than daytrips so that the community receives greater economic benefits from tourism. There are no staged cultural entertainment programmes and visitors are briefed by the guides on local etiquette and customs. Group sizes are usually kept small; the most frequent being couples or small groups of 4-6 persons. Larger groups (usually less than 20 persons) are only occasionally accommodated. The community is fully involved in tourism operations through a Tourism Committee, which coordinates the provision of a range of tourism services for Borneo Adventure and its clients. This partnership has lasted for 25 years and is the longest partnership between a tour operator and a community in Sarawak, and possibly in Malaysia as a whole. This model is in sharp contrast to the prevailing norms in Sarawak where partnerships between tour operators and community organisations generally last for relatively short periods of time.

Community Involvement & Management

From the start, tourism in Ulu Ai has been carried out with the cooperation and agreement of the community. Borneo Adventures relationship with the community has been built on mutual respect and trust, without relying on legal contracts. Instead, the partnership began with meetings, discussions and verbal agreements. In order to ensure the views of the community are represented, the longhouse requires strong leadership that is able to articulate and defend the needs of the longhouse. Borneo Adventures approach is to work with a strong community partner, as an unequal partnership would be both destabilising and ineffectual in the long run. When the project began the headman was the late Tuai Rumah Along, who provided decisive leadership and was able to arbitrate between different factions within the community. The longhouse established its own Tourism Committee to discuss issues relating to tourism, ensure an equitable distribution of work and benefits within the community and to serve as the interface between the community and the company. The provision of tourism services requires a certain amount of organization and coordination and this committee oversees the roster of boat drivers, guides and helpers as well the maintenance of trekking trails, jungle camps and lodges.

The Development of Tourism in Ulu Ai

Borneo Adventures first visit to Nanga Sumpa in August 1987 was soon followed by a second visit in September. By October, the community had agreed to become a partner in tourism but did not want tourists to stay in their longhouse as they felt that this would be intrusive and disruptive to the community. Instead they requested that a separate lodge be built to accommodate guests. On December 11, 1987 a simple camp with kitchen and toilets was built to accommodate a maximum of 12 people. On December 26, 1987 the first group of tourists visited Ulu Ai. Throughout 1988 small groups and independent travellers were taken on pioneering trips to acclimatise villagers to visitors. In June 1989 a proper lodge with the capacity to accommodate 25 guests was built on the site of the old camp. Borneo Adventure has always emphasized that tourism should be seen as a secondary income and the community should not give up traditional economic activities. The general message was do not put all your eggs in one basket. This advice proved prudent as tourism arrivals to Sarawak slumped a few years later following the First Gulf War in 1990-91. In 1988 - the first year of operations about 50 tourists participated in tours of Ulu Ai. Guest arrivals increased during the early 1990s and by 1995 Nanga Sumpa was playing host to 500 tourists per year.

Following Borneo Adventures pioneering efforts at Ulu Ai, a number of other tour companies started to send tourists to other longhouses at Batang Ai. In 1994, Hilton International opened their Batang Ai Longhouse Resort on the banks of the lake. A significant milestone was reached in 2001 as visitors numbers to Ulu Ai hit 1,000. The concern was that if visitor arrivals continued to grow at historic rates, it would not be long before Ulu Ai became overcrowded with visitors. As such, it was decided that visitor numbers should be limited to no more than 1,200 per year. Over the last decade annual arrivals have averaged around 1,000 visitors. The highest number of visitors to Ulu Ai was 1,165 in 2007. Borneo Adventure is always mindful of the carrying capacity at Nanga Sumpa. The company encourages large groups who wish to visit Ulu Ai to stay at the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort so as not to overwhelm the community. In addition to capping visitor numbers, a strategy of dispersal was implemented to avoid exceeding capacity at Nanga Sumpa. This strategy started with the building of Tibu Lodge on the Ai River in the early 1990s and continued with the construction of smaller trekking huts away from the main lodges. These huts reduce the numbers staying in the community, allow visitors to go on overnight jungle treks, and provide a means to extend the length of stay in the area. The result is increased employment and earnings from the same numbers of visitors. In 2008 work began on a new lodge-cum-jungle camp adjacent to the Lalang River, upriver from Jambu longhouse. This lodge was designed as a replica mini-longhouse with 3 bilik, or apartments. Lubok Kasai lodge opened in 2009 and can accommodate 12 guests comfortably. It provides a more exclusive environment in a riverside setting at the edge of the rainforest. Over the years Borneo Adventure and the Iban community have received much recognition and many awards for their tour programmes and activities at Ulu Ai. The first of these was a British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award received in 1994. The most recent was the Malaysia Tourism Awards Best Tour Programme 2011.



The Tangible Benefits from Tourism

Economic Benefits for the Community
Successful community-based tourism is about providing tangible benefits to the community in the form of employment and cash income. At Ulu Ai the community is a service provider for Borneo Adventure. The types of services the community provide include boat transport, upkeep of the lodges, guiding and working as porters, cooks, cleaners and more. In addition to these regular operational services, the community derives income from projects such as constructing new lodges or facilities, major repairs and maintenance, cutting new jungle trails and location filming. Borneo Adventure also pays a tourist head tax and headman levy for each tourist that visits Ulu Ai. These fees are paid to the community longhouse fund. Community members also receive income from the sale of traditional handicrafts including hand woven Iban blankets, woodcarvings and locally made ceramic pots. The proceeds from handicraft sales go directly to the community and are generally not recorded. At the start, the number of tourists visiting Nanga Sumpa was very low and tourism income for the community was modest. However, as Ulu Ai became better known, revenues from tourism increased and today the community has a regular and assured cash income. By the end of the 1990s, annual payments to the community for tourism services had reached RM 100,000. In 2005 the community received over RM 231,000 for tourism services. Since then Borneo Adventure has typically made payments of between RM 200,0000 and RM 300,000 per year to the community. The following table shows the amount paid by Borneo Adventure to the community for the period 2007-2011.

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Excludes income from the sale of handicrafts which is paid direct to individuals. Amount paid by Borneo Adventure to the community for boat charges, head tax, tuai rumah (or headman) tax, helpers, cleaners, guides, porters, etc. Amount paid by Borneo Adventure to the community for building lodges, trekking huts, repairs & maintenance, clearing jungle trails, etc. The vast majority of this would be for labour costs. In 2007 a Reality TV programme was filmed at Ulu Ai. This generated substantial income for the community from boat fees, the construction of sets, guiding, etc.


Over the 5-year period from 2007-2011, Borneo Adventure paid RM 1.8 million to the community at Ulu Ai for various tourism-related services. This amounts to an average income of approximately RM 358,000 per annum. In addition to this, the community derives revenue from the sale of handicrafts. Handicraft sales vary from year-to-year and are estimated to range from RM 40,000 - RM 100,000 per year. Boatmen, guides and porters also receive gratuities from tourists and as tips are unrecorded, this revenue stream is unknown. It is estimated that in addition to direct payments from Borneo Adventure, the community receives an average of around RM 70,000 per annum from other tourism related services. Over the period from 2007-2011 Borneo Adventure estimates that the communitys average annual revenue from tourism was around RM 430,000 (US$ 141,000).

Benefits for Wildlife Conservation

One of Borneo Adventures stated aims was to develop community-based tourism that provided economic benefits while promoting conservation in the area. Involving the local community is essential for conservation. In this respect tourism has provided tangible incentives for the community to conserve local wildlife. A major attraction of Ulu Ai is the natural surroundings and the possibility of sighting orang utan in the wild. When Borneo Adventure commenced working with the community there were occasional reports of orang utan being shot. In general local residents do not hunt orang utan, as it is taboo. However, there are occasional reports of outsiders hunting orang utan. Although the local community would not normally harm the orang utan, farmers were reluctant to actively protect the animals, as they can be serious pests, causing extensive damage to fruit trees and cash crops. It was therefore necessary to devise a way of placing an economic value on the orang utan that outweighed the nuisance they can cause. Borneo Adventure undertook to demonstrate to the local people that visitors are willing to pay to see wild orang utan, and to share this benefit with them. Once tourism became

better established and it became apparent that tourists would pay to see the orang utan, two things happened. Firstly, the community realised that the orang utan population was a valuable asset. Secondly, the community provided the enforcement that is required to prevent illegal poachers from shooting orang utan. This could not have happened 15 20 years ago and was only possible once the economic benefits were realised and provided a rationale for the environmental concerns.

Social & Community Benefits

The formation of the Tourism Committee has led to greater grass-roots participation in all aspects of community life, not just in tourism related activities. Many of the community members have experienced a considerable boost in self-confidence and self-esteem. The skills they have acquired through being involved in the project spill over into their everyday lives, and the contact with visitors has been a useful learning experience. The exposure to visitors has improved the residents communication skills. For example, interaction with tourists has helped improve the English language skills of the younger generation. In addition, the community has grown in confidence when dealing with foreigners and people of different cultures. The fact that visitors are so admiring of Iban culture helps to reinforce the communitys own pride in their culture. One of the most significant effects of tourism has been on the health of the villagers. Previously, the cost of transportation to get to the clinic (1-2 hours down river) was expensive. Increased wealth and better connectivity have benefited those who seek medical help. Importantly, tourism has brought positive benefits for the women of Ulu Ai. They are able to participate in a variety of roles and earn money whilst still fulfilling their traditional roles. As women are the main producers of handicrafts, they have the potential to earn significant sums of money for themselves.

Benefits to Visitors
Community based tourism is a partnership, between the host community, the operator and the visitor. In such a partnership, all parties should benefit. Ulu Ai achieves this by offering an enhanced cultural and environmental experience. Visitors are not merely spectators; for a few days they can be participants in upriver life. The greatest benefit visitors gain is the integrity of their longhouse experience as compared to more conventional tours. Through their interaction with the community, visitors gain a life-enhancing insight of what it means to seek your living on the fringes of the rainforest. Many visitors come away from Ulu Ai deeply moved by the experience, and very few come away unimpressed. The testimonials and comments from the visitors book speak volumes for the quality and value of the experience offered.

Nanga Sumpa was magical and way beyond my expectations (clean, beautiful). We will go back one day to Nanga Sumpa, would love to spend longer just relaxing in such a beautiful place with such beautiful people. Deborah Kohn, Australia Our visit to the longhouse was a memorable experience, a real taste of another culture. Our hosts, warm and generous people; our guide, faultless. So nice to be away from all the tourists and enjoy a real cultural experience. John Ball, United Kingdom A journey into the unknown and a voyage of discovery at the same time! Ive seen many places but nowhere quite like this. To stay in the rainforest is a magical experience in itself to be looked after an extra bonus. Enormous thanks to all the people here for a quite unforgettable time. Michael Palin, with the BBC


Putting Something Back

Borneo Adventures involvement in community projects may be labelled corporate social responsibility. However, the company sees this as putting something back and helping out where it can. Some of the community projects and initiatives are outlined below.

Interest Free Loans

Acknowledging that one of the impediments to economic independence is access to capital, Borneo Adventure has a policy of providing interest-free loans for the purchase of outboard engines. The financing terms are liberal, with repayments made as and when cash is available or deducted from boat fees. The outboard engines provide a means to earn a living. Today, in the spite of the much improved cash and capital situation in the longhouses, Borneo Adventure still maintains a running float of RM 20,000 to help finance the purchase of boat engines.

Tuai Rumah Along Educational Fund (1997-2006)

In 1997 Borneo Adventure started a scholarship fund in the name of the late Tuai Rumah Along. His guidance and wisdom was instrumental in the setting up of the guesthouse, so it was apt that the fund was named after him.

When the fund was first established, many parents were struggling to pay for miscellaneous school expenses for their children. Each year Borneo Adventure contributed a sum of money towards these expenses, with additional rewards provided to children who did well in their studies. The Scholarship Fund had a built-in bonus for students who were in the top 5 positions in their class, and stipends were scaled to reflect the level of education. The annual educational grant ranged from RM 3,847 to RM 7,840 per annum. Over the period from 1997 - 2006 a total of RM 50,619 was distributed to the community. After ten years the Fund was discontinued as the communitys economic position had improved dramatically and most parents were now able to pay for school expenses such as books, shoes and uniforms. However, Borneo Adventure continues to contribute funds to support tertiary education.

Supply of Building Materials for the New Longhouse

In 2009 the residents of Nanga Sumpa built a new longhouse. Most new longhouses in Sarawak are now built of brick and concrete, due to cost and convenience. However, the inhabitants of Nanga Sumpa preferred to build a new wooden longhouse, which they felt is more comfortable and more appropriate to the surroundings. Nowadays a wooden longhouse can be a very expensive undertaking, due to the very high cost of building materials. As part of its commitment to the community, Borneo Adventure contributed RM 32,000 to the cost of the new longhouse.

Nanga Sumpa Sanitation Project

In 2001 in collaboration with the CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency), Borneo Adventure implemented a project at Nanga Sumpa longhouse to improve the drainage and sanitation system. This project had the dual advantage of creating a healthier place in which to live, and ensuring that the river system stays as free as possible from pollution. In 2005 Borneo Adventure spent a further RM 15,000 on sanitation works at Nanga Sumpa.

Welfare Fund for Longhouse Community

Borneo Adventure often donates money to members of the Ulu Ai community for adhoc expenses, medical fees and emergencies. In addition, the company provides assistance to youths who have left Ulu Ai and moved to Kuching to seek work or study. The amount of money donated for welfare varies from year-to-year. For example, in 2011 a total sum of RM 10,300 was spent on youths and school leavers from Ulu Ai.

Familiarisation Tours
Borneo Adventure has sponsored a number of familiarisation tours for the community, whereby people from Ulu Ai have visited other attractions and destinations to learn more about tourism.

Threats to Ulu Ai

Aside from national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, Ulu Ai is one of the few areas left in Sarawak that remains undisturbed by logging activities and oil palm development. While the Batang Ai National Park and the Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary protect large tracts of forest, many other forested areas at Ulu Ai that provide habitat for orang utans are not protected. Local communities who have native customary rights to the land claim most of the forest at Ulu Ai. This affords some form of protection as generally local communities respect the land and manage it in sustainable ways. However, Ulu Ai may be under threat from logging and oil palm interests. The community opposes logging activities, as they are fully aware of the negative impact it will have on the environment and their livelihoods. Should logging proceed, the foraging, fishing and hunting grounds will be degraded. In addition, tourism activities will likely decline a few years after logging commences, as the environment will no longer be as attractive to visitors. Should the rivers be polluted, the forest degraded and wildlife no more visible, it is unlikely that tourists will continue to visit Ulu Ai. The community will lose a valuable source of income at the same time as their local food supply is reduced. The Sarawak State Government is committed to protecting forest with high conservation value. In addition, senior members of the Sarawak government have gone on record stating that they will not allow logging in orang utan habitat. Borneo Adventure is working together with the community and relevant government agencies to safeguard the Ulu Ai area. Ulu Ai provides a valuable resource for local communities as well as habitat for Sarawaks orang utan. Given that the area also connects to orang utan habitat in Kalimantan Indonesian, Ulu Ai is of international conservation significance.

Future Plans
Through the Ulu Ai Project Borneo Adventure has become deeply involved with the community and its future development and well-being. This extends to every aspect of community life, not merely those areas relating directly to tourism. Some of the initiatives that are in the planning stages or have already been undertaken are outlined below.

Creation of a Locally Managed Conservation Area

On 16th April 2012, the headmen and village elders of Nanga Sumpa, Taong and Jambu longhouses agreed to continue working exclusively with Borneo Adventure to develop and manage tourism at Ulu Ai for the next 25 years. Significantly, to protect the environment, orang utan habitat and their valuable tourism income, the community leaders have pledged not to allow logging activities or the development of oil palm plantations on their Native Customary Rights (NCR) land at Ulu Ai. The community has also asked Borneo Adventure to assist them to draw up plans and to form a strategy to transform a large parcel of their NCR land into a locally managed conservation and tourism area. This will create an additional buffer zone for the wild orang utan population and local management will ensure local support for the conservation of the area.

Micro-Hydro Project
Following a request from the three longhouses at Ulu Ai, Borneo Adventure is investigating the viability of setting up micro-hydro projects to provide clean energy for the community. At present all three longhouses rely on diesel generators for power, which is costly and a financial drain on the community. Borneo Adventure intends to fund a team of experts to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate whether the rivers are suitable for micro-hydro projects. It is hoped that this study can be completed by the end of 2012. If micro-hydro is viable, the company will assist the community to secure the necessary funds to implement a community-based electrification project.

Following a request from the village elders to have more structured training in tour guiding and English-language skills, Borneo Adventure plans to implement a series of tourism training sessions for the community.

For further information about the Ulu Ai Tourism Project please contact: