Sabah shines a light on black tourism

KOTA KINABALU, August 4, 2022: A group of 52 local tourism officials and district officers recently spent a night on Sulug Island in Sabah to experience and learn about dark tourism.

The group were part of a two-day dark tourism workshop, during which their presence brought life to the small island in the hill. Sabah Tourism Board, Dark Tourism Sabah and Sabah Parks co-hosted the workshop. Officials from the State Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and Environment, Kota Kinabalu City Hall and Federation of Sabah Rural Tourism Associations also attended the workshop.

Located at the northern end of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and devoid of any development, Sulug Island has earned the title of “Kota Kinabalu’s Darkest Island”. Its connection to the events of World War II further adds to the appeal surrounding the 20-acre uninhabited island.

During the dark tourism workshop, participants learned about the harrowing history of the island during World War II, when the Japanese occupation army executed and tortured the islanders.

Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment and Chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board, was also present to meet the participants and observe their activities. He was accompanied by Sabah Tourism Board (STB) Deputy Managing Director Julinus Jeffrey Jimit.

As part of their captivating experience, participants also acted out the lives of kampungs, testing their survival and negotiation skills. They set up camp, built their driftwood table or chair, walked a trail in search of hidden food baskets, negotiated food sharing, and cooked their meals.

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Joniston said a tourism workshop with the participation of district officials and tourism stakeholders is key to deepening his understanding, particularly of the concept and offerings of dark tourism.

“While Sabah has a lot of potential for dark tourism, we also need to look at ways to present it in a way that not only introduces visitors to a story, but also activities they can do to add value to the experience. ‘experience.

“I hope that workshop participants will learn something from the program, exchange ideas and be motivated to discover potential black tourism sites in their respective districts,” he said.

Additionally, Joniston urged the district’s Tourism Action Committees to work with STB to develop dark tourism products that could appeal to both locals and long-term international visitors.

“Sabah Tourism’s product team is always committed to helping the community identify new product attractions and is ready to impart knowledge and train kampungs to acquire the necessary skills,” he said. added.

Participating districts were Ranau; Telupid; Kinabatangan; Tenon; Beluran; Pitas; Nabawan; Tongod; Nabawan; Lahad Datu; Putatan; Kuala Penyu; Beaufort; Kalabakan; Kota Belud; Dad ; Kota Marudu; Penampang; Tuaran; and Sandakan.

Tongod Deputy District Manager Cleophas John Gordon remarked that the workshop was a productive program and that dark tourism is a niche product.

“There will be people who want to experience dark tourism. As this is a new product, there is always room for improvement down the road. In general, the planned activities were enjoyable.

“In Tongod, there is a cave called Agop Sarupi in Kampung Tulang-Tulang, an ancient burial cave where people are buried in wooden coffins. Also, there is a helicopter crash site in Gunung Tinkar,” he said of the potential black tourist attraction Tongod could provide.

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Meanwhile, STB board member Roslinah Abd Hamid, who heads the promotion of “dark tourism”, said the workshop was organized to dispel misunderstandings that he is somehow sort related to paranormal activity.

Roslinah’s research into historic places in Sabah began in 2010 after recognizing the potential for dark tourism. However, she said few people were enthusiastic about it.

She said such a niche product has the potential to succeed and sites like Sulug Island, being close to the city, could be turned into a gloomy tourist hotspot due to the presence of historical artefacts. like cemeteries and an old well.

Sulug is one of five islands in the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, managed by Sabah Parks. Its waters are renowned for snorkeling and scuba diving.

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