Perfectly at home working in the forest

Perfectly at home working in the forest

KOTA KINABALU: Working in the midst of Sabah’s untouched forests is no easy feat but for Simun Limbawang, head of the Inobong substation in Penampang, it is all in a day’s work.

This substation is among the eight located in various parts of the state’s largest terrestrial park Crocker Range Park, which spreads over 46,500 hectares of forested land across eight districts and is managed by Sabah Parks. The park’s main station is located in Keningau.

Simun, 57, who has been in charge of the substation since 2017, said the Inobong substation started operating in 2003 as an information and research centre in the northern part of the Crocker Range Park, with 27.4 percent of the park under its jurisdiction.

Simun recently received two awards from Sabah Parks, one for excellent service and the other for 35 years of service. The award presentation ceremony was held in April at the Sabah International Convention Centre here.

Simun, who joined Sabah Parks in July 1985 as a general worker at Bukit Tawau Park (which is also managed by Sabah Parks), said he did not think twice about working in a forested environment as he grew up in a village – Kampung Kiulu Baru in Tawau – located on the fringes of a jungle.

The Inobong substation is the gateway to challenging hiking and cycling trails, the seven-metre-high Kibambangan waterfall, camping sites and vantage points to watch the sunset.

“Another major attraction here is the historic Salt Trail that used to connect the interior villages (in Tambunan) to the more urban areas. This trail is not only infested by leeches but it’s also a tough one which even extreme sports enthusiasts find challenging,” said Simun.

Explaining how the name Salt Trail was derived, he said a long time ago when barter trade still existed, the track was used by remote villagers in Tambunan to walk to Pekan Donggonggon, Penampang, to exchange their agricultural produce for salt and other essential items.

These days, the 35.8-kilometre Salt Trail, which starts at the Inobong substation and ends at Kampung Tikolod in Tambunan, is accessible to hikers who are required to register at the substation first.

“Some settlements located along the trail have no more inhabitants now as they have moved to other areas to facilitate their children’s schooling and to enable them to carry out their agricultural activities in compliance with the regulations set by Sabah Parks,” said Simun, who will soon be transferred to Bukit Tawau Park as a ranger.

He also said that his most memorable experience working for Sabah Parks was being invited to host a documentary on Pulau Selingan in 1991 for a Japanese children’s television programme.

The documentary, shot over two days, revolved around the turtles that land on the island to lay eggs.

Meanwhile, Sabah Parks education unit head Ros Illyahni Sh Abd Kadir, 34, who was also among those who received the excellent service award from Sabah Parks recently, said her unforgettable moments include getting stranded on the sea for an hour in 2013 with her colleagues from Sabah Parks and other agencies after encountering bad weather.

Ros Illyahni, who joined Sabah Parks in 2012, said they were then on their way back from Pulau Banggi after a consultation session with the island residents on the gazetting of the Tun Mustapha Park.

She said they also had to have similar sessions with the villagers in the coastal areas of Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas with regard to the same matter.

“It was a challenging job because we had to travel to all the villages to hold the public consultation sessions and prepare a report on this as it was part of the process of gazetting the park (as a marine park),” she said.

The Tun Mustapha Park was eventually gazetted as a marine park on May 19, 2016, under the Sabah Parks Enactment 1984 (amended 2007).-BERNAMA