The Big Dipper is no longer a foreign territory for the people of East Kalimantan. This sub-district on the south coast of Berau Regency, in recent years, has had its name sticking out as one of the mainstay tourism destinations.
Entering the Big Dipper, after traveling six hours by car from Tanjung Redep, the capital of Berau Regency, we will be greeted by rows of coconut trees along the beach.
“The Big Dippers are like the Sanggata people,” said Hairul, a teacher who also works as a fish collector caught by fishermen.
What Hairul said was agreed by Marwan from the Berau Regency REDD Working Group. According to him, during the last Eid holiday, tourists who invaded the Big Dipper were booming. “The overhang of the house and the mosque is a place to stay. There are also those who set up camp on the beach because the inns are full. Now, Berau is not only famous for Derawan Island.”
Community-based tourism and conservation
One of the mainstay destinations in Biduk-Biduk is Lake Labuan Cermin which is in Kampung Labuan Kelambu. This lake is unique, the surface water is fresh (2 -3 meters) because it comes from karst mountains. While the water below three meters is salty due to the influx of sea tides. This mixing of fresh and seawater results in the appearance of clear, bluish-green water in this 1.36-hectare lake.
The fame of Labuan Cermin Lake cannot be separated from the role of the community groups that are members of the Lekmalamin or Labuan Cermin Community Welfare Institution. They realized that Labuan Cermin had great potential that had to be maintained.
The threat that will scratch the beauty of Labuan Cermin Lake is indeed invisible. From within, there is forest clearing for plantations and illegal logging. Meanwhile, from the outside, the expansion of oil palm plantation companies is already showing signs.
Mahsud, a BPK member of Biduk-Biduk Village who was previously active in Lekmalamin, said that the people in three villages, namely Biduk-Biduk, Giring-Giring, and Teluk Sulaiman, rejected the presence of oil palm plantations. The reason is that in several neighboring villages where oil palm is planted, the residents’ sources of clean water are decreasing. As a result, residents cannot grow crops in the garden.
Efforts to protect Lake Labuan Cermin have been carried out by Lekmalin by proposing the forest around the lake as a protected area. This proposal was accepted by the Regional Government of Berau Regency as an area with high conservation value. “The Regent issued Regent Decree No. 290 of 2013 concerning the Appointment of Protected Areas and Nature Tourism of Labuan Cermin,” explained Mahsud.
Kasimuddin, Secretary of Lekmalamin said, with the issuance of the District Head’s Decree around 2,000 hectares of forest will be protected. “46.72 hectares is the core area.”
Now, the management of Lake Labuan Cermin is handled by Lekmalamin. There is no fee to enter the lake. Visitors only pay for the boat fare (return) from the pier to Labuan Cermin Lake of IDR 100,000 per group.
Management by Lekmalamin is carried out so that the local community benefits from the development of tourism. “Many investors came, but we refused because this area is the responsibility of the residents so the residents must also benefit,” said Kasimuddin.
The tourist sites in Biduk-Biduk are not only Labuan Cermin, there are also Teluk Sulaiman Beach, Sigending Mangrove Forest, Kaniyungan Island, and other beaches that line from the Cape of Good Hope to Sumbang Bay.
“The potential for the forest, coastal and marine tourism in Biduk Biduk District has been recognized, but we are still improving,” said Risno, Chair of the Forlika (Nature Conservation Concern Forum) who is also Secretary of Teluk Sulaiman Village.
According to Risno, in one year, tourist visits to the Biduk-Biduk District have reached 40,000 people. “The main problem is trash. We don’t have a final disposal site yet, while the village doesn’t have enough money to buy land.”
The issue of waste and clean culture was also expressed by Kasimuddin, even though in Labuan Cermin there is already a temporary garbage collection, the waste has not been processed. Just stacked at the disposal site. “Awareness to live clean is our struggle.”
Another threat, to the tourist attraction in Biduk Biduk, is outside investors who open various businesses which are feared to shift the position of the local community as hosts.
According to Kasimudin, Lekmalamin, supported by the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) in Kalimantan, has implemented a community-based sustainable area management program involving stakeholders.
Enjoying the Beauty of the Sea and the Thickness of the Mangroves of Lembeh Island
Lembeh Island is the administrative area of the city of Bitung. Its area is 5,040 hectares. There, there are 2 districts, namely Lembeh Utara and Lembeh Selatan. In total, there are 17 villages on this island.
If you plan to visit Lembeh Island, tourists can first visit the Pateten Ruko pier, Aertembaga, not far from the port of Bitung City. At this pier, tourists can use the services of outboard motorized taxi boats. The fare is only IDR 5,000, and it takes about 10 minutes.
For foreign tourists, Lembeh Island is not a foreign name. A number of resorts on the island are never empty of visitors. Gideon Ganda, Operation Manager at Froggies Dive Resort, said that an average of 20 foreign tourists stay at his place every day, who are interested in underwater phenomena in the Lembeh Strait.
To avoid damage to the underwater ecosystem, his party always gives directions to tourists who want to dive. In addition, there is also an agreement between each resort. One diving area, may not be filled with more than 15 people. That figure includes the dive guide.
Mangrove Ecotourism at the City Gate
Apart from underwater tours, another location that can be visited is the mangrove ecotourism area in the Pintu Kota sub-district, Lembeh Utara sub-district. The cost is relatively cheap. Visitors only need to spend Rp. 2,500 to get in there.
Along the way to the tourist sites, some appeals must be heeded. Then, inside the area, visitors can relax in the gazebo or take pictures of the background of mangrove plants.
Not only that but even deeper, visitors can see the sea flanked by 2 hills. This location is also an ideal place to capture memories. Reportedly, several couples have used it as a background for pre-wedding photos.
The Pintu Kota mangrove ecotourism area has an area of 4 hectares. There, there are 4 types of mangroves, consisting of, Rhizophora apiculata, Rhizophora Mucronata, Soneratia alba, and Soneratia Caseolaris.
Apart from enjoying mangrove ecotourism, by renting a boat, visitors can visit other tourist objects on Lembeh Island. With a tariff of IDR 600,000 per day, boat transportation services will take visitors to the Tri Kota monument, Sarena Island, and Pasir Panjang Beach.
Wirasto Mutahang, Chair of the Pintu Kota Village Coastal Resource Management Group, said that the mangrove ecotourism program began in 2015 through the CCDP-IFAD program. Through this program, he explained, the community was given direction and motivation to manage natural resources.
CCDP-IFAD is an acronym for Coastal Community Development Project-International Fund for Agricultural Development. Through the training programs they organize, said Wirasto, people are becoming aware that apart from the economic benefits derived from ecotourism, mangroves have roles such as preventing abrasion, holding back waves, and warding off potential tsunamis.
Now, the Pintu Kota mangrove ecotourism area is visited by around 1000-1200 tourists per month. With an entry fee of IDR 2,500, Wirasto explained, the total income per month is between IDR 2.5 million and IDR 3 million. The income is used to maintain tourist sites.
In addition, the team in the field is considered to need to improve their skills in managing tourist sites. Because, in general, visitors come just to take selfies in the mangrove forest. The managers of the ecotourism area themselves feel unsure about providing education and explanations to tourists about the types, benefits, and roles of mangroves.
Said Wirasto, academics have identified the types of mangroves there. It’s just that, the names of the species have not been listed. This condition is considered to be quite an obstacle.
“We still need to improve management here. In the future, I hope that the surrounding community needs to be involved in training related to the introduction and benefits of mangroves so that they understand,” said Wirasto.
Marine Conservation on Lembeh Island
Apart from the ecotourism area, the residents of Lembeh Island are also trying to preserve the environment, one of which is through the establishment of a marine protected area (DPL). When visiting Posokan village, Lembeh Utara sub-district, Mongabay-Indonesia obtained information about conservation activities there.
Stedy Balaati, Head of the Posokan Village Coastal Resource Management Group, said that since 2013 the residents have agreed on the formation of the DPL. The idea of establishing DPL is based on the important role of marine and coastal ecosystems.
Because, like forests, corals are considered to be able to absorb carbon. In addition, he added, corals are also spawning grounds for fish, which will help fishermen not to catch fish too far.
In the Posokan DPL area, there are 2 conservation zones, namely the buffer zone and the protection zone. Stedy said the DPL area is about 1 hectare. Through deliberations, the community agrees on a protected location and its area.
The area agreed to become DPL is believed to be a place for coral to grow and its condition is relatively better compared to other places. “Because, in the past, people found it difficult to catch fish. With DPL, the fish will multiply. When they leave the protected area, the community can catch them,” said Stedy.
Residents of the Posokan sub-district are also trying to improve the condition of the coral which is considered to have been damaged, through a coral transplant program. In the program, they were accompanied by Manengkel Solidarity activists, a conservation organization with an office in Manado.
Coral transplantation is a Bitung City BLH program involving residents. The plan, the activity will be held on Thursday (18/8/16). The transplant site is right inside the DPL. “We are grateful for this program. With the coral transplant program, we hope that the preservation of marine ecosystems will be even better in the future, “concluded Stedy.