|Chalets and scenic beaches beckon visitors to Pulau Papan.Foto Bernama|
However, Pulau Papan today is not well patronised, possibly due to the lack of campaigns to lure visitors to the islands in the past few years.
Recently, Bernama and the Labuan Marine Park Department visited the island to get a closer look at its environment. They were joined by the Radio Malaysia Labuan crew, the students of the Labuan campus of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and the Labuan Fire and Safety Department.
The programme, organised by the Federal Territories Ministry and the Labuan Corporation was held in conjunction with 'the media and community' trip to raise awareness on the importance of protecting marine life last week. Those who set foot on the island will find the environment clean and serene, making the place a potential tourism destination. Ironically, its cleanliness and serenity is most likely due to the lack of visitors.
A maintenance worker, Rustam Bakar, told Bernama that the island is rarely visited except for the occassional trips comprising schoolchildren or university students. It was rarely visited by foreign tourists. "The island is equipped with lodging and other amenities. Perhaps it is true that the lack of promotional campaigns on the beauty of the island is the real reason for its lack of visitors," he said.
Pulau Papan has been under the jurisdiction of the Labuan Corporation since Labuan was awarded the Federal Territory status in 1984.
Jarmurniwaty Markum, a public relations officer with the Labuan Corporation, said that Pulau Papan has been earmarked as one of the destinations that would be under Labuan's tourism development plan. "We are going through the comments on the island's environment and hope to improve on its amenities," she said.
Local tourism agent Terence Chong, 42, said the island already has the necessary facilities. What was lacking was proper transportation facilities to the island. Many had no idea where to find the jetty terminal or boats to get to and from the island.
"Whereas in Kota Kinabalu, tourists can easily access transport services to other islands via dedicated terminal jetties, at fixed rates," he said. "Aside from Pulau Papan, Labuan has many other beautiful islands that could become potential tourism destinations but they have been overlooked due to the lack of necessary services for tourists," said Chong.
This is a shame as there are not many islands in Malaysia as beautiful as Pulau Papan. Visitors pulling up to the island would be mesmerised by the sight of fish swimming about the crystal clear waters surrounding the island. Many say it is reminiscent of the stunningly beautiful islands nearby such as the Mabul and Sipadan islands off Semporna, Sabah. What is special about the island is that it is protected from large waves, enabling activities like diving and jet ski riding around the island.
REHABILITATING MARINE LIFE
Besides Pulau Papan, there are also Pulau Rusukan Kecil, Rusukan Besar and Kuraman in Labuan that have been gazetted among the 42 marine parks in the country. The island has been identified as one of the turtle egg laying spot. Among the turtle species that have come ashore to lay eggs are the Greenback and Hawksbill.
The Labuan Marine Park Department is working with the villagers of the island to work together in the conservation of turtles. The department has also set up a hatchery at the island three years ago.
Its director Mohd Fazli Long in a briefing to the UMS students said caring for marine life was not an easy task. It required knowledge, awareness and public cooperation, he said.
"We face many challenges in the course of ensuring marine life conservation. This includes ensuring the ecosystem continues to support aquatic life," he said, adding that marine life conservation could also help boost the tourism sector.