GREEN AND FRESH: A tourist viewing Imbak Canyon waterfall. — Bernama photo
KINABATANGAN,Sabah May 10, 2012: ‘A valuable piece of natural heritage’ – this epithet best describes the Imbak Canyon conservation area located in Ulu Kinabatangan, right in the heart of Sabah.
The 30,000-hectare virgin dipterocarp forest lies between two other conservation areas – the Danum Valley and the Maliau Basin.
One may wonder, however, whether the landscape here resembles the Grand Canyon in Arizona, United States. Not exactly, but the word ‘canyon’ in the name refers to the 750-metre deep and 3-kilometre wide ravine carved out of the rock cliffs by the Imbak River, which makes part of the landscape look like a canyon.
The Imbak Canyon is surrounded by sandstone cliffs reaching a height of 3,700 feet, and the numerous flora and fauna thriving in this rain forest represent a rich biodiversity.
The Imbak Canyon, located at a five-hour drive away from Kota Kinabalu, is managed by Yayasan Sabah (YS), which is involved in the conservation, research, training, education and nature recreation activities conducted there.
The beauty of the canyon
The Imbak Canyon is a catchment area for two important rivers in the state – the Imbak and the Kinabatangan Rivers – which not only provide water but also serve as a mode of transport and livelihood source for those living in the area.
Nestled between the Maliau Basin and the Danum Valley, the Imbak Canyon is regarded as an important buffer zone for wildlife, according to Yayasan Sabah’s head of Conservation and Environmental Management Dr Waidi Sinun.
Three expeditions conducted in 2000, 2004 and 2010, respectively, explored the natural treasures of the area, identifying 312 plant species in the region, of which 32 were endemic to Borneo, including six species which are found only in Sabah.
With regard to the fauna, Dr Waidi remarked that more than 200 species of birds live in Imbak Canyon, five of which are endemic to Borneo and found only in the conservation area.
These expeditions have also recorded the presence of pygmy elephants, leopards, bears, mouse deer and the Sumatran rhinoceros in this region.
“The Class 1 Forest Reserve also boasts of a unique landscape, with the ravine – which appears like a canyon – being the most striking feature,” Dr Waidi told Bernama at the recent inaugural ceremony of the Ulu Kinabatangan Information Centre and Jetty project at Kampung Imbak.
The Imbak Canyon is also home to two panoramic waterfalls – the Imbak Waterfalls and the 8-tier Waterfall.
Conservation efforts with Petronas
In its efforts to conserve Imbak Canyon, Yayasan Sabah has collaborated with the national petroleum giant Petronas to gather information about the area, undertake biodiversity conservation efforts, preserve the genetic pool and explore the pharmaceutical and biotechnological potential of the flora there.
“The Information Centre and Jetty project will open new economic opportunities for local communities to improve their livelihood without affecting the environment,” Dr Waidi explained.
The information centre will display informative posters on Ulu Kinabatangan and exhibit a 3D model of the canyon.
The information centre will also be of use to the Imbak Canyon Porter and Tourists Guide Association, and the locals would be able to sell their handicrafts at the centre.
Dr Waidi noted that the establishment of the information centre and the association for porters and guides was a step in the right direction towards involving the local communities in the conservation efforts.