Libaran Island Community Tourism
Borneo, Sandakan, Malaysia
Libaran Island is known as Borneo’s “Tutle 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 for Libaran village to receive capacity building through BEST Society, a Malaysian non-profit that has expertise in community development. Villagers at Libaran received 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 completing these capacity training, locals are better able to manage the new tourism activities as well as having additional income from selling the local souvenirs for travellers.
Travellers have more opportunity to learn more about local people in Libaran village, observe how souvenirs and other items like traditional fishing nets are made and have the chance to try local snacks.
The capacity building has helped locals better take advantage of tourism opportunities on the island, with a better understanding of community tourism management and the ability to manage the income from tourism.