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Tenom Farmstay, healthier food and planet with Integrated Farming

Tenom farmstay

Some city kids are very afraid of chicken though they eat a lot of KFC. “Apple” is probably the first English word pupils learn but they have never seen an apple tree. Though our young generation is no longer required to get their hands dirty in the farm today, we must let them understand how agriculture works, as it’s the most important knowledge for survival of mankind. We can’t improve things that we don’t know.

house of Tenom farmstay
Pic: Tenom farmstay with pineapples in front

Run by Tham’s brothers in Sapong, Tenom Farmstay is about 12 Kilometres away from Tenom town of Sabah interior (see Location Map). It’s a 35-acre real farm that practices organic farming and open for people who want to experience authentic farm life. Besides, they also bring their guests to volunteer in local community projects and interact with the local people.

Neem tree
Pic: Neem tree outside the house. It is a natural mosquito repellent.

The Plantation

Different from other farms, Tenom Farmstay is an integrated farming with the concept of diversifying the crops / livestock and making them to complement one another. For example, the manure from animals can be recycled as fertilizer for the crops. The end result is the creation of multiple recurring income streams and more sustainable organic farming.

calamansi plantation
Pic: lime orchard produces 200 Kg of fruit monthly

The owner, Tham Yau Siong took us to tour around his farm, which is thriving with pineapples, tapioca, calamansi, banana and other crops. He supplies fruits and vegetables to market as far as Kota Kinabalu city and also gives some to his friends. (Note: many mosquitoes in orchard, do bring insect repellent)

Calamondin fruit / Limau Kasturi
Pic: Calamondin fruit (Limau Kasturi in Malay language)

Calamondin fruit is in good demand because its sweet and sour juice (locally known as Kik Cai Ping) is the favorite drink of Sabahans.

aroid plant
Pic: Aroid plant

What surprised me was – I found corpses flowers in his plantation. This flower (a.k.a. Samurai Flower) is a close relative to titan arum in Sumatra, a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. According to Alim from Sabah Parks. it is Amorphophallus lambii, a plant under the family Araceae. There are 5 species of such flower in Borneo. FYI, Amorphophallus means “misshapen penis” in Greek.

stem of Amorphophallus lambii
Pic: beautiful stem of Amorphophallus lambii

Samurai Flower takes many years to bloom and I was not in time for its flowering. Anyway, it is still worth taking a close look. Its trunk is actually part of its leaf structure. If you squeeze its soft stem, you can feel layers of leaves under its skin, what a peculiar plant. I never expect to see such natural wonder in a farm and there are 6 of them! Tham said someone told him that he could charge people entrance fee to see this flower.

jungle on the slope
We kept on walking and enter a mini “forest” on a slope. Tham keeps slope area of his farmland forested, for conservation and as a buffer zone to prevent soil erosion. Sometimes wildlife such as mouse deer and eagle forages here.

giant softwood tree
Pic: this giant tree is the highlight of this forest. It’s a softwood that called “包皮青” in Chinese (literally translated as Wrapped Green Skin). Please tell me if you know its identity.

big tree in Tenom
This tree looks like a long-necked Sauropod dinosaur from a close distance. There are a few other beautiful tall trees too and Tham decides not to cut them down.

forest and plantation
Pic: stand of 5-acre forest in the plantation

Shortly we came to an open space and walked among large area of banana and Sabah vege (Sayur Manis in Malay language) plantation, and also passed by a lush grassland, which is the food stock for his goats. Probably Tenom was used to be the floodplain of Padas River, so the soil is fertile, making Tenom one of the most important agricultural area in Sabah. Both lowland and highland crops seem to grow well in Tenom.

grasses for goats
Pic: 7 acres of grasses for goat farming

Tenom is also famous for its pomelo, avocado and coffee. Unlike greedy farmers who always aim to maximize profit by using a lot of chemical fertilizers, Tham uses goat dung from his farm instead, it is more organic and save him 70% of money spent on fertilizer.

tall papaya tree
Pic: a super-tall papaya tree in the farm

He prioritizes the well-being of the environment and consumers over the money, which makes his integrated farm more sustainable. This reminds me of the 3P model (People, Planet and Profit). Tham proves that winning for People-Planet-Profit is attainable with mixed farming.

banana plantation

“Nothing is illegal if a hundred businessmen decide to do it.” Well what’ll go wrong if people are obsessed with money? Just look at the recent cases like the use of gutter oil and plasticizing agent in our food and drink. Feed your chicken with unwashed vegetables and they will turn blind in weeks. When fruit juice is not real juice, fat is not real fat (trans fat), food issues become a world crisis. We have been putting highly-processed or harmful food into our mouth. How many “real” food are there in the market? I think “Food Education” is more important than Sex Education now. Consumer is the key force to drive the change. We are no longer afford to say, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” It’s time to question how our food is made.

open view of Tenom
Pic: a high ground area with nice view of the farm, forest and mountain. A chalet will be built here.

Tenom farmland
Besides 8 acres of orchard and vegetable farm that provides fresh banana, Sabah Vege (Sayur Manis), pineapple, durian, mangosteen and various other crops, Tham also owns a 16-acre oil palm plantation.

oil palm
These oil palm is mainly nourished by goat dung from Tham’s farm, which cut down the need for chemical fertilizer significantly. Moreover, he keeps a long vegetation zone between the river and his plantation, to prevent fertilizer causing pollution to the river. As a matter of fact, oil palm can be environmentally friendly if planted correctly.

big pumpkin
Pic: Brian (Tham’s nephew) holding a big pumpkin from the farm

Tham says it is very satisfying if you cultivate your crops with heart, and everyone can enjoy your healthy food worry free. Looking at his happy face, I have no doubt he is a good man rich in economic and inner wealth. I know some farmers who don’t dare to eat their own crop due to heavy use of pesticides. I wouldn’t sleep well if I were them.

Guyabano tree
Pic: Tham Yau Kong (left) shows us the formula to cure cancer with the leaves and fruit of Guyabano.

Then we met his brother, Tham Yau Kong in the orchard, he is a no-nonsense but a very friendly and kind man. He travels to a lot more places in Sabah than I do. He has climbed Mt. Tambuyukon numerous times as if it’s in his backyard. He still works in tourism industry and comes back to this farm regularly.

Goat Farm

Next we checked out the fertilizer factory, no.. I meant the goat farm. You might think that Tham Yau Siong is a farmer since the beginning. Nope. He was a financial controller. When economy turned bad in late 90s, he returned to Tenom and started his farm in 2004. He saw the potential of goat farming. With 0 experience, he ventured into goat rearing in 2005 after he took a 1-week course conducted by Veterinary Department.

goat farm
He started with 6 goats and now he has about 300 goats in his farm and even won the Successful Breeder Award (Sabah) in 2010. Most important of all, he finds meaning in his new business and really love his job. His success story is an inspiration to those who only want to stay in comfort zone.

Mulberry leaves
Pic: Tham shares his secret recipe on goat’s diet. The mulberry leaves in the photo is a natural multi-vitamin for goat. Tham also feeds his goats with Jackfruit leaves that can de-worm and high-fibre oil palm leaves that keep their guts healthy. This eliminates the needs for chemical and synthetic nutrients injection.

cuddling a baby goat
In contrast to what I imagine, his goat feedlots are clean, well-ventilated and well-lit. It doesn’t smell bad at all. Hundred of goats started bleating like baby when they saw us approaching, so cute.

smiling goats
The goats are so adorable and look like smiling. In Sabah, about 85% of the lamb is imported (as frozen meat from Australia and New Zealand), so it is demand over supply hence a huge market. Tham stressed, “Everyone needs food and world population is growing, so food supply is getting scarce and becoming more and more expensive, so you won’t go wrong producing food.”

goats
There are 3 types of goats in his farm, namely, Ferrel and Boar goats, and 3rd kind is a cross-breed of these two Australian breeds. It takes about 6 months for the goat to grow to the marketable size of 25 Kg. Each goat can be sold for RM1,000 in Brunei, quite a lucrative business as every goat costs less than RM300 to raise. The advantage of Sabah is that our livestock has no foot and mouth disease problem, so exporting them to other countries is easy.

healthy goat
Pic: Tham shows us how a healthy goat looks like. This goat seems pleased.

goat testicles
Male goat can mate 3 times in a minute. Though “fast” it is impressive. Most guys believe mutton is good for men. I even made fun of its big “sperm tank” in one of my blog lol.

playful goat
Pic: the goat is so happy and playful, as if it sees its father.

goat licking my pant
Pic: a goat tried to eat my pant. Want to keep a goat as pet? Think twice.

Goat eats anything. “You better rear them behind the fence. If you let them wander around, they will eat plastic, cloth, rubbish and everything. Their meat will smell bad,” Tham smiled and said.

goat dung fertilizer
Pic: the by-product of goat farm, organic fertilizer

His goats produces 1,000 bags of goat dung per month. Each sack weighs 30 Kg, and Tham sells 200 bags for RM20 each every month, generating a side income of RM4,000. He uses the rest of the goat dung for his farm, saving him a ton of money. FYI, chemical fertilizer costs RM5 per 400g, which is far more pricey.

Farmstay

After a long walk, we were hungry and Tham prepared a yummy Kampung (village) lunch for us. We had some rice, pumpkin, Sabah vege and chicken. Somehow I felt the food tasted better when I knew that they were fresh from the farm.

organic meals from farm

The soy sauce chicken meat tastes really delicious. I think it’s the famous Maize Chicken of Tenom, another high-quality product by Tenom farmer. The chicken is fed with corn instead of cheap pellets, so its skin appears yellowish and the meat is sweet, springy and less fatty.

Tenom chicken meat
Pic: soy sauce chicken

Tenom Farmstay welcomes anyone who wants to experience farm life to stay there. They have been receiving many student groups, especially from UK. The youngsters will be kept busy doing real works. Instead of being a braggart in social media, they gain more pride by doing volunteer work to help the local community.

living room of Tenom farmstay
The farmstay has 6 rooms with fan and bunk beds, and able to host up to 30 people. The fee is RM60 per night (≈US$18.50) (normally it is a 2-Day-1-Night package). Tham joked, “the large quantity of fruits they can eat here is already worth more than that.”

room and beds in Tenom farmstay
Pic: the room of the farmstay

toilet and bathroom at Tenom farmstay
Pic: toilet and bathroom

BBQ area
Pic: BBQ area

If you are interested in Farmstay, you may contact TYK Adventure Tours for more info:
Website: www.tykadventuretours.com
Address: Block E, Lot 38, 2nd Floor, Damai Plaza IV, Luyang, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: (6088) 232821
E-mail: thamyaukong@gmail.com / b.oswanda@gmail.com

More Photos

To see more photos of Tenom Farmstay, you may browse my photo album:

Photo album of Tenom farmstay

Photos taken in Tenom, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Lupa Masa Jungle Camp in Borneo Rainforest

Lupa Masa Jungle Camp

Some people prefer to camp in park equipped with Wifi, air-conditioning and cozy bed. To truly appreciate the nature, some campers want to get away from civilization totally and live among trees and wildlife, like Lupa Masa Jungle Camp. Lupa Masa means Forget Time in Malay language, you would lose sense of time there when you forget about your Facebook, your computer and your boss.

Lupa Masa campsite
Lupa Masa is located between Borneo rainforest and lower montane forest at the foothill of Mt. Kinabalu, the UNESCO Natural Heritage Site of Sabah. To visit the camp, I met the camp manager, Michael from Scotland, at Poring Hot Springs. He marries a sumandak (girl) from Tamparuli and able to speak Malay fluently. He already blends into the community and now behaves more like a Sabahan wearing a “orang putih” skin (Caucasian). However, he hasn’t fallen in love with Durian yet.

crossing river
Pic: Michael crossing a stream with a gas tank

Michael got some groceries from Poring and led the way. We walked on a gravel road in village and plantation for about 10 minutes, then we entered a soil trail that took us deep into the forest. The forest is an aged regenerated secondary forest that gives us much needed shade in muggy day. The trail is mostly mildly inclined, with a short section of steep slope.

trail to Lupa Masa
Pic: nature trail to Lupa Masa

The walk was supposed to take about 30 minutes. I was carrying two bags weighed over 15Kg and one of them broke, so it took me an hour to reach the camp. Since this camp is near the boundary of Kinabalu Park and situated between rainforest and cloud forest, you would see wildlife from both habitats. This attracts naturalists who are expert in snakes, mammals, birds, etc. to stay in Lupa Masa. A snake expert even found 12 snake species in a day. But please note that wildlife sighting is depend on luck.

Camping in Lupa Masa

My “room” is only a basic hut with raised floor and a canvas roof over my head. Albeit being pounded by heavy rain a few times during my stay, the roof didn’t leak. It is near the edge of campsite and far away other shelters, so I feel so alone at night.

camp of Lupa Masa
Pic: my private “chalet” surrounded by greenery

As there is no wall between me and the wood, I was fully exposed to the wildlife territory. In the morning, I was always waked up by a flock of noisy Buff-rumped Woodpeckers, and countless chirping birds came to check me out. Then cicada took the afternoon shift to continue the rainforest choir, at night it was the sound of frogs and crickets that sent me to dream land. I was like an outsider. Perhaps I should have tried to join their orchestra by making some rhythmic calls too.

camper bed of Lupa Masa Jungle Camp
Pic: my bed on bamboo floor

My bed is a few camper beds enveloped in mosquito net. Mosquito is the most active during dusk and I would find 4 or 5 of them bumping the net from outside. In other time, there were very few mosquito in the campsite. The temperature here during daytime is about 25°C (77°F) but can drop to 15 (59°F) or below at night. The camp provides blanket or you can bring your own sleeping bag. There are a few wires for me to hang my cloth between the poles in the hut. My clothing never turned dry in cold and humid days though.

camping tent in Lupa Masa Jungle Camp
Pic: camping tent in longhouse

If you want more privacy, you can choose to stay in shelter that has camping tent. In Lupa Masa, there are 6 shelters that can host up to 25 campers. The accommodation costs about RM70-90 (≈US$22-28) per night. Food is included, mainly vegetarian meals because they don’t have fridge to keep the meat. Some of the food that I had there were rice with curry vegetables, French toast, oat meal with fruits, fried rice, etc.

Night Walk

Night Walk is the highlight of Lupa Masa. You can see far more animals in the dark as most wildlife are nocturnal. You can choose easy walk that takes 2 to 3 hours, or long challenging trek that requires you to cross river and climb steep hill with more rewarding sighting. The guide fee is RM30 (≈US$9.40) per hour, RM75 (≈US$24) if 3 hours. You can share the cost with others if you go in group.

mating beetles
Michael seemed to be more excited than me in night walk. After dinner, we started our night safari on foot at 8pm. Spotting animals in the dark is no easy task because of their camouflage. You need a good torchlight and great eyesight. Anyway, you won’t need both when Michael is around, as he is an excellent spotter. Even if he showed me the things he found, it still took me quite a while to see it. His secret is to look for light reflection in animal’s eyes.

big stick insect
Pic: big juicy stick insect, endemic to Borneo

In case it rains, you better bring a raincoat. Leech is expected, so wear your anti-leech socks. I didn’t get any leech bite though there were many leeches around. We shined our torchlight to every corners to find those critters hiding in burrows, tree holes, bark, river rocks, shrubs and fallen log.

sleeping birds
Pic: sleeping birds. Note the kingfisher has only 3 claws.

We saw a number of sleeping birds on the trees. It’s interesting that they turn into “fur ball” while asleep.

frogs in forest
Frog are everywhere. I saw and heard many of them after rain, e.g. Lesser River Frog, Black-spotted Rock Frog, Giant River Frog, Montane Litter Frog. Some leaped away before I got close enough to take a photo.

long-horned beetle
Pic: a big long-horned beetle

Other animals that we spotted included Small-toothed palm civet, long-legged millipede, Agamid lizards, white lantern bug, spider, scorpion, tree-hole crab, dead-leaf grasshopper, trilobite, geckos, katydid and a green pit viper.

big forest snail
Pic: a giant forest snail

Suddenly Michael paused and smiled, “How much you would pay me for spotting a horned frog?”

Bornean Horned frog
Oh yeah, we found a Bornean Horned Frog, no, two!

Bornean Horned frog in Poring
Bornean Horned Frog looks like a little devil. Actually it’s a gentle frog. Its “horn” is an extension of its eyelid, to make its body shape looks like a leaf.

Horned frog tattoo
From his tattoo, obviously Michael is also a fan of horned frog lol.

moth infested by mind control fungi
Pic: a moth which was infested by parasite fungus which turned it into a “zombie.” This fungi can mind control its host to climb to the higher spot, to spread its spores.

fire ants
Pic: Beware of aggressive fire ants on forest floor. Their stings can penetrate sock and very painful hence the name.

luminous fungus on rotten log
Pic: animation to show luminous fungus with the light on and off

Then Michael showed me something really special but we needed to turn off our torchlight. It’s luminous fungus that glows like green neon light on a decaying log. The glow is quite bright in the dark. We saw a few glowing mushroom too.

Some “trophy species” of wildlife photographers such as Western Tarsier, Slow Loris, Bornean Leaf Nose (snake), Wallace’s Flying Frog and Caecilian (a limbless amphibian) are known to be present at Lupa Masa, but you will need some luck to see them.

Day Walk

During daytime, you can take a stroll in the campsite or surrounding forest. Walk slowly and quietly in the morning, you would find Blue-banded Pitta, the jewel of Borneo rainforest, around the camp. This place is great for birding because flock after flock of sunbirds, flowerpeckers, bulbuls and other forest birds frequent this camp during dawn and dusk. I saw Orange-bellied flowerpecker, Crimson-breasted flowerpecker, Broadbill, Ashy Tailorbird and Kingfisher during my stay.

lace orchid
Lupa Masa campsite is a garden by itself, planted with vegetables, fruit trees and flowers. The blooming orchid here attracts butterflies such as Rajah Brooke butterfly, tree nymph and birdwing butterflies in different colors.

ginger flower
Pic: Ginger flower that looks like a birthday cake (Species: Etlingera fimbriobracteata),

Poring forest
The boundary of Kinabalu Park, the most bio-diversified forest of Borneo, is just a few minutes walk away from the camp. The jungle is well lit by daylight, so you can enjoy the view of standing tall trees. The zappy Pygmy squirrel, the smallest squirrel in the world, is commonly seen busy moving up and down tree trunks. Look high above you would find bird’s nest fern and wild orchid on the trees.

red forest fruit
Pic: a fig fruit that looks like red chili

Lupa Masa is one of the few places where you can find three types of corpses flowers, namely Rafflesia, Rhizanthes and Titan Arum (Samurai Flower). Their flowers take many months to bloom, so you should be very happy if you see such rare sighting.

River & Waterfalls

During hot day, one of the favorite activities of their guests is to soak in the icy river or pond of Lupa Masa Waterfall nearby. You can enjoy the cleanest (and Chlorine-free) flowing water from Mt. Kinabalu.

river near to Lupa Masa Jungle Camp
Pic: clean and unpolluted river from Kinabalu Park is only 10 Meters from the camp.

The water is shallow so it is safe for a swim, or you can just sit in the river for a free massage from river current (do bring beer with you).

clean river from Kinabalu Park
Pic: you can tell how clean is the water from the photo. It’s so crystal clear that I can’t see the water. Sometimes otters and kingfishers forage for fishes here too.

Lupa Masa Waterfall
Pic: Lupa Masa Waterfall near the camp (7 minutes walk)

For those who are adventurous, they can hike one hour uphill to explore the “hidden” waterfall, which is five times bigger than Lupa Masa Waterfall.

Amenities

The camp was started by Tom in 2010, with the concept of providing authentic jungle experience, so the amenity is basic. The campsite has solar panel and power generator but electricity supply is not available most of the time, so you better bring a torchlight (with spare batteries). There is no outlet to charge your phone and battery. No Wifi in camp, but my phone can receive 2G connection, slow but able to use Whatsapp and SMS.

activity hall of Lupa Masa Jungle Camp
Pic: activity hall where guests can sit around and relax

You can sit at the deck facing the river and dense forest, looking at starry sky and firefly. Tom said, “I’m so glad that this forest wasn’t turned into a paddy plantation.” Looking at the beautiful trees and river, I can’t agree more.

dining table
Pic: table where guests can have meal, chit chat and playing cards.

mini bar of Lupa Masa Jungle Camp
Pic: “mini-bar” for you to buy some soft drink, beer and wine. The hanging object is a shed snakeskin.

reading corner of Lupa Masa Jungle Camp
Pic: reading corner. Guide books on animals such as birds and snakes are available.

kitchen of Lupa Masa Camp
Pic: kitchen. The lucky guest would see Slow Loris around here at night. I saw an ant mimic spider the other day.

toilet of Lupa Masa
Pic: the toilet with creative door design.

toilet
Pic: you can choose to sit or squat

bathroom
Pic: bathroom with bamboo shower head. The water is from the river, very cold and refreshing (I advise you to bath before the cold evening approaches).

Contact

To stay in Lupa Masa, you need to contact the camp to book a place prior to your visit.
Tel: +60 19-5813863 / 019-8020549
E-mail: LupaMasaBorneo@gmail.com
Facebook: Lupa.Masa

The camp also welcomes volunteers. You can get free stay and meal if you contribute some labor work. There is no fixed requirement but you need to have special skill such as cooking, carpenter and house-keeping. You may contact them for more details.

photos with Tom and Michael
Pic: photos with Michael (left) and Tom (right). I look like a dwarf next to them lol. Thank you for your hospitality!

Tom has stayed in Borneo for 15 years. He is actively helping the local communities across Sabah and Sarawak to develop their local attractions. One of his latest project is Lupa Masa Longhouse in Kudat. You may visit the website of his company (Adventure Alternative) for more info.

Getting there

You can take a bus to Ranau town from Inanam Long Distance Bus Terminal (see Location Map) or Kota Kinabalu Merdeka Field (see Location Map). The fare costs about RM15 one way (≈US$4.65) and the bus reaches Ranau in 2 hours. In Ranau, get a cab or bus at taxi station (see Location Map) / bus terminal (see Location Map) to Poring Hot Springs (where the staff meets you), the fees are RM40 (≈US$12.50) and RM10 (≈US$3.10) one way respectively and the ride takes about 25 minutes. It takes 30 minutes to walk to the camp from Poring.

More Photos

You may check out my photo album to see more pictures of Lupa Masa:
photo album of Lupa Masa Jungle Camp

Photos taken in Poring, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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