Brunei Darussalam’s Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park, a sprawling 78-square-kilometer protected area, is a sanctuary for rare and endangered species — including the white-collared fruit bat, hornbills, clouded leopard, slow loris, tarsier, sun bear, great argus pheasant, Bornean gibbon, white-bellied sea eagle, and Vordermann’s flying squirrel. It also hosts endemic species of damselfly, and biggest and the smallest species of dragonflies from Borneo.
With the serene blackwater lake, the country’s largest at 2.2 square kilometers, the park draws in visitors interested in the country’s rich culture and biodiversity. No wonder, it is one of the country’s top destinations for nature lovers and researchers.
Brunei Darussalam’s lone ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP), Tasek Merimbun, also boasts its tourist-friendly facilities, one of which is its spacious exhibition hall providing a panoramic view of the lake and the park and featuring exhibits about the park’s history, biodiversity, and culture. Another attraction is Dusun house, a traditional two-floor structure built entirely with forest resources and without a nail used. Forest products from over 42 species were used as supports, walls, thatches, and ties.
Wildlife of Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park
The wraparound veranda of its multipurpose hall called Balai Puru also offers great views of the park.
Visitors may enjoy a relaxing walk along a wooden bridge crossing over the lake and connecting to a small group of islands right at the park’s centre. These islands hold some of the country’s most important archeological remains, including brass and bronze artifacts, Chinese and European ceramics, and Dusun burial jars. These are pieces of evidence that Tasek Merimbun was one of the earliest sites of human settlement in the country.
Tasek Merimbun likewise offers other activities through its nature trails and lakeside gazebos. Visitors may choose to take a cruise on the lake or stay overnight at forest campsites.
A laboratory building with an office for processing data and sleeping quarters for guests was built to attract more researchers in the park.
Like Tasek Merimbun, many of the AHPs are highly visible in tourism. The AHPs are protected areas of high conservation importance, showcasing wealthy ecosystems that are uniquely ASEAN. To date, 44 protected areas have been designated as AHPs. This number, however, may increase with the nomination of five protected areas from Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. These are Hat Chao Mai National Park and Mu Ko Libong Non-hunting Area (Thailand); Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park (Thailand); Lo Go-Xa Mat National Park (Viet Nam); Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve (Viet Nam); and Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary (Myanmar).
“What attracts tourists the most is the beauty of these ecosystems. AHPs like Tasek Merimbun show us that ecotourism and biodiversity conservation can go hand in hand,” ASEAN Center for Biodiversity Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said.
In promoting tourism, she added, factors like the carrying capacity of the area and the involvement of the community in the decision making are considered.
“We also take the opportunity to raise awareness among tourists on the importance of biodiversity conservation,” Lim said.
The ACB, as the secretariat of the AHP Programme, facilitates the effective management of the AHPs and the capacity-enhancement of the park managers.
Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park’s management has been successful in conserving Brunei’s rich flora and fauna in one of the first AHPs in the region. Its achievements and milestones are among the highlights at the Sixth ASEAN Heritage Parks Conference (AHP6) that will be held in Pakse, Lao PDR on 21–24 October 2019.
With the theme “Sustainability and Innovation for Parks and People—Celebrating 35 years of ASEAN Heritage Parks,” the conference will gather protected area managers, representatives from international environmental organisations, businesses, academe, traditional and local communities, and youth to discuss knowledge and best practices in managing protected areas.
Organised by the ACB and the Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Lao PDR with support from the European Union (EU), the German Development Cooperation through the KfW, German development agency GIZ, SwedBio, Convention on Biological Diversity, and Japan Biodiversity Fund, the conference aims to improve the AHP network and strengthen camaraderie among AHP stakeholders and other development partners.