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Pulau Balambangan

"250 years ago, the British East India Company built its first settlement on Balambangan as a trading post. The settlement traded opium, ammunition and fabrics with the Tausugs and Maguindanaons. island, but withdrew by 1797."


Kampong Selamat

Pulau Balambangan is an island that is at the northern tip of Borneo. Balambangan is located approximately 21 km north of Kudat and 3 km west of Pulau Banggi. It is now part of the Tun Mustapha Marine Park (TMP). However, very little is known about this island, which is not far from the Philippine island of Palawan.
Balambangan is a small island measuring approximately 24 km (length) by 18 km (width). The population on the island is quite sparse and mainly concentrated in two villages, kg. Batu Sireh and Kg. Selamat. Many boat people live in a nomadic life at sea. Fishing is a very important part of their lives, although a variety of crops are grown on land today, from cassava (the source of tapioca) to pineapple. The island has beautiful long, white sandy beaches, but also mangrove forests.
Most of the hilly land runs southeast through the center of the island. The rolling hills rise at an altitude of about 170 m, but in the south they are intersected by fairly steep walls.
Further south, a deep, landlocked bay, Ayer Simpul, separates these rounded hills from the rugged limestone land that forms the southernmost tip of the island. There is the most prominent cliff with a height of 50 to 170 m.

You get to this island by renting a boat, which leaves from the island of Banggi (Pulau Banggi). Balambangan is located approximately 21 km north of Kudat and 3 km west of Pulau Banggi. You arrive at Kg. Selamat (Selamat Village), where abalone is grown. Abalones are sea snails. They can grow quite large, up to 10 or even 20 centimeters. Kg Selamat is not that "selamat" (safe) because you can sometimes see aggressive saltwater crocodiles swimming underneath the homes of the sea nomads. Locals claim that the crocodiles live here in peace with the people. Yet there are stories that local fishermen at sea have been attacked while setting fish traps.
There are 3 main kampongs on the island: Kampung Selamat, Kampung Kok Simpul and Kampung Batu Sirih. The island has no running water and is not connected to the electricity grid.

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There are more than 20 limestone caves, all without names, but only four have been explored. You will find these mainly in the south of the island. Developers want to mine the limestone, which is an important ingredient in cement production. Caves, taking thousands of years to form, would become cement worth only a few cents. One of these caves was home to a Paleolithic community some 20,000 years ago. The rest of the caves have not been explored.
Archaeological finds of three prehistoric human bones and 36 artifacts, from the Pleistocene era (the Ice Age - between 1.75 million and 11,000 years ago) were discovered there by researchers in 1997. Locals say the Japanese also used the Balambangan caves. as World War II.
Quarrying seems to have already started in the north of the island, although no environmental impact assessment (EIA) has been submitted.


Kampong on Balambangan

The sea around Balambangan is part of TMP. It is also home to the second largest concentration of coral reefs in Malaysia, which contributes to Sabah's marine fisheries and aquaculture production. All mining activities, which are planned, will have a negative impact on the environment. The diving, tourism and fishing sectors will suffer. Especially because people also want to focus more and more on tourism.
Balambangan Island, although small in size, contains many scientific, aesthetic and cultural heritage values ​​that must be protected from indiscriminate misuse for short-term economic benefits.

There is one school (primary school) on the island with about 80 students, most of whom are absent. Those who do not show up for classes usually cite safety reasons for their absence. For example, students from Kampung Kok Simpul have to trek through the jungle for more than an hour. For the students of Kampung Batu Sirih, bad weather is the biggest problem, as they travel to school by boat. When the wind gets strong and the sea is choppy, the children have to stay at home. A hostel with dining room and surau has been financed by Petronas, so that children (boys and girls separated) can stay overnight if necessary. There will be 120 beds. With the construction of the hostel it is hoped that there will be no reason for parents not to send their children to school


Primary school students

 

 

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  Ben van Wijnen

 

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