When most people think of islands in Malaysia, pristine beaches and crystal clear water all come to mind. But with the onset of tourism comes the threat of damage to Mother Nature.
Berjaya’s annual Tioman Island Clean-Up day is a reminder that although Malaysia is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, there are still many steps that need to be taken to ensure that the wildlife and magnificence of the island is kept intact.
Now on its fifth session, this edition of the Clean-up was both informative and entertaining. Our journey got off on a bumpy start when our flight was delayed, but it was smooth sailing after that, and soon we caught a glimpse of the deep blue waters as we came in for a landing at the only airport on the duty-free island.
The Berjaya Resort itself is top-notch, with the standout attraction being the inhouse PADI 5-star training centre, where guests can learn and practice their diving skills, under the watchful eye of seasoned professionals. Having never dived before in my life, being given a crash course and then trudging out into the ocean was a bit daunting but nevertheless exhilarating. The staff at the PADI centre were both informative and confident in our ability – so confident that many of us took the plunge into the indigo waters without a second thought! As a constant sinus infection sufferer, being able to “breathe” underwater was amazing, and swimming amidst schools of colourful fish was a remarkable experience – one that would not have been half as incredible if it not were for the conservation efforts already in place.
The next phase of the Conservation Awareness campaign had the inner geek in me doing cartwheels. Supported by various partners – Malaysian Nature Society, Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia, Scuba People, Sakinah Divers, Berjaya Youth and Berjaya Cares Foundation – a series of talks surrounding the campaign revealed the actions taken at Tioman Island and covered the campaign’s aim to educate people on the importance of coral reefs and marine life to the ecosystems. Learning about the strategies implemented by environmentalists and the wider community proved to be a huge eyeopener, leaving us much more aware of the uphill battle most of these dedicated environmentalists face.
“The Clean-Up Day allowed us to highlight the impact of oceans on our surroundings and the various ways in which oceans contribute to our bottom line,” said Abel Nelson Nang, Corporate Director of Marketing for Berjaya Hotels & Resorts. “Celebrating this CSR weekend provided us with an opportunity to showcase the challenges we face in dealing with marine pollution, maintaining the ocean’s capacity to regulate the global climate, and supplying essential ecosystem services for our guests and surrounding community.”
Now very much aware of the work that still needs to be done, we headed through the picturesque resort, back to our original PADI diving spot get a head start on the day’s main activity – the beach cleanup. We were divided up into groups and scrambled to get the most rubbish in our bags within the allocated time. With big blue garbage bags, thick gloves, and large hats to protect our skin from the sun’s rays, we were surely quite a sight!
Some groups stuck to tried and tested methods, collecting twigs and pieces of plastic strewn across the white, sandy beaches, while others went with a more unorthodox approach, hauling in a giant piece of driftwood that had found its way to the shore.
As we made our way up and down the beach, sun worshippers who had come to enjoy the island’s tranquility joined in on our quest, eager to learn about the activities we were doing. “This fits in with our CSR efforts to challenge the Malaysian public to be more environmentally responsible,” explained a beaming Michael Tan, the hotel manager of Berjaya Tioman.
Turtle conservation was another hot topic of the day, with children from the nearby school joining in to learn more about helping these magnificent creatures survive and thrive in their natural habitat. Abel remarked that it was especially heartening to see the kids’ interest in the issue: “It’s really only through this process of education that we are able to change their philosophy and nurture a spirit of loving the earth. Children are the next generation and are really the ambassadors of change.”
Thanks to Berjaya and their partners, Tioman Island is likely to be preserved for the generations to come, and it was an honour to be a part of an initiative that is striving to keep this slice of perfection in pristine condition. Though it was with a heavy heart that I packed my bags for the city, I left knowing that the immaculate beaches of Tioman Island would still be there, waiting for me, whenever I decided to visit again.
Source: Senses of Malaysia January/February 2014
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