Libaran Island Community Tourism
Borneo, Sandakan, Malaysia
Libaran Island is known as Borneo’s “Turtle Island” because thousands of sea turtles return to nest each year. On Libaran Island, there are two species of sea turtles found; Green Turtles and Hawksbill turtles. The FOSTER project is located on this island, which stands for “Friends of Sea Turtles Education and Research” whose purpose is to work to protect these turtles. Being a remote island there is little economic opportunity; but the importance of the island as an endangered sea turtle nesting site means that it’s important that local people have ability to earn livelihoods so they can stay on their island and be stewards of this fragile environment. Tourism that fosters conservation as well as economic opportunities is needed to help this community thrive.
FOSTER also works to raise awareness for the locals and educate visitors on the value of sea turtles, undertaking research projects with the goal of better understanding the life cycle of sea turtles surrounding the Libaran Island area. They hope to make esearch programs available on sea turtles for international and local students.
From 2011-2014 more than 11,000 sea turtles had been released.
Planeterra Foundation provided a catalyst grant to BEST Society, a Malaysian non-profit based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah that has expertise in community development to build the capacity of villagers at Libaran village with the help of Walai Penyu Resort staff.
Villagers at Libaran is undergoing the necessary training to improve their capacity in making souvenirs from ocean plastic waste, using local plants such as pandanous for weaving, and cooking local snacks. After having gone through these sessions, locals will be able to manage the new tourism activities while also having a new way to earn additional income. Travellers have more opportunities to learn about the local people in Libaran, observe how souvenirs and other items like traditional fishing nets are made and have the chance to try local snacks.
This project is expected to help locals increase their capacity and ablity to earn an income from sustainable tourism opportunities on the island. With a better understanding of community tourism management and the community can continue to invest sustainably in Libaran Island Community Tourism.