Nature lovers evade tacky tape operators up Santubong by Patricia Hului, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group of nature lovers taking a rest in the middle of the Geology Walk up Mount Santubong.
KUCHING: Some 18 nature lovers from Malaysian Nature Society Kuching branch (MNSKB) and a few members of the public intent on studying the geological sites at Santubong National Park had their planned route cut off by a ‘tape blockade’ yesterday morning.
The blockade, about 15 minutes’ walk after the park headquarters entrance at the national park, was put up by a husband and wife who ran a café nearby.
The couple claimed to have the authority to collect fees from visitors using the trail leading up to Mount Santubong peak.
They demanded to see the letter issued to MNSKB which allowed the organisation to carry out activities in Santubong National Park.
In the letter, MNSKB was given permission by Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and the Forestry Department for its activities at Santubong National Park from July until the two-day Santubong Nature Festival (SNF) at Nov 8-9.
The wife, however, said that the letter only waived the entrance fee to the national park but not for use of the trail leading up to Mount Santubong peak.
The map of the hiking trail at Santubong National Park.
A sign set up at the tape blockade by the café operators stated that it would cost RM8 per person to use the trail.
After at least half an hour of negotiation, the café operators finally gave in and let the trip participants in without paying.
The short hike was called Geology Walk, one of the many leading up activities to Santubong Nature Festival (SNF) organised by MNSKB, hosted by Permai Rainforest Resort and supported by the Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) and the Sarawak Museum Department.
According to MNSKB secretary Zora Chan, it was not the first such incident. The café operators had also demanded Geology Walk participants to pay fees for using the trail on their last visit on July 12.
When contacted yesterday to verify whether visitors to the national park had to pay an additional fee upon entering, SFC deputy manager (Protected Area Biodiversity Conservation Division) Oswald Braken Tisen said that “Sarawak Forestry Corporation has been given the job to take care of the national park. The only correct fees to pay are the entrance fee issued by SFC.”
Braken said SFC was aware of the situation but was not responsible for these individuals who charged visitors other than the entrance fee, adding that some of the trails in Santubong National Park cut through private land.
He advised that if these individuals’ demands for entrance fees turned into harassment, visitors should file a police report.
He also informed thesundaypost that a dialogue led by SFC together with other agencies would be held regarding this matter.