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The Guides of Kampung Mesilau
In Malaysia, popular tourist spots help boost the economic activity of nearby towns and villages. Thanks to its proximity to Mount Kinabalu, Kampung Mesilau in Kundasang, Sabah, attracts visitors to the village year-round.
The tourism hub of Kundasang and a popular choice for mountain retreats, Kampung Mesilau is known for its homestays and sprawling farmlands. It is also where the mountain guides of Mount Kinabalu call their home.
Known locally as malim gunung, the mountain guides of Mount Kinabalu escort, guide and lead climbers up Mount Kinabalu. Registered with the Mount Kinabalu Guides Association (PEMANGKINA), these guides are experienced climbers who are familiar with the mountain’s terrain, trails and weather conditions, and provide support and advice to the climbers they’re assigned to. While not a prerequisite, many guides often start off as a porter to familiarise themselves with the ins and outs of the mountain.
A mountain guide for ten years, Kasmah Hadiman has recently retired from the profession. Interacting with tourists was the best part of the job, she says.
A mountain guide of 17 years and a member of The People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA), Jasirin Lasim, 52, was part of the team of volunteers who aided climbers stranded on Mount Kinabalu during Sabah’s deadly earthquake in 2015.
According to mountain guide Hajirin Jamat, 51, PEMANGKINA’s role is also to safeguard and promote the welfare of Mount Kinabalu’s malim gunung.
The population of Kampung Mesilau aren’t just mountain guides. The locals, who are mostly Dusun Islamic while a minority are Dusun Christian, either work as farmers or hold a job in the public or private sectors. For farmers, the yield from their farms are sold at the market in Kundasang town.
Due to the village’s proximity to a major tourist attraction, the Kampung Mesilau community are also involved in the state’s homestay programme. During their stay, visitors get to experience first-hand the culture and lifestyle of Kadazan-Dusun locals.
Even as the village folk in Mesilau live in simplicity, they don’t shy away from organising high-profile events. Every year since 2014, the village’s strategic highlands host the annual MesilouThon marathon, attracting runners to the area.
In addition, Mount Kinabalu Golf Club, the highest golf layout in Sabah, is another main Mesilau tourist attraction which offers golfers a scenic landscape view of Mount Kinabalu and breaths of crisp, cool air as they tackle the challenging 18-hole golf course.
While boosting tourism for the state, these initiatives in Mesilau also contribute to the village’s economic development, creating job opportunities for locals to support their livelihood. In many ways, Kampung Mesilau is a rural tourism success story.
Plan your Mount Kinabalu climb at www.mountkinabalu.com.
Text by Desiree Frenche
Photos by Ekpirol Tasim
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