FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS, the Sarawak Malay people of Telok Melano have relied on the sea for their connection with the rest of Sarawak.
There was no road link to/from the rest of Sarawak, and the only transport to the area was by boat from Sematan. This sea link was only available during calm weather of the South-West Monsoon (May to October). During the North-East Monsoon between October and April, this connection was severed due to high winds, waves and frequent storms, leaving the village of 60 houses and about 250 residents isolated from other communities in Sarawak.
The near-completion of a 33 kilometer highway from The completion of a 33 kilometer highway from Sematan to Tanjung Datu will end this seasonal isolation for remote communities on Borneo’s far north-west coast. This longawaited section of the Pan-Borneo Highway was declared complete on 4 January 2019, but will not be open to the public until the federal government gazettes it as federal highway.
When Pak Minhat, Ketua Kampung of Telok Serabang, learned of the new road, he got his first driving license and bought an old Pajero. He now uses it to service his fishing boat and a beach front eco-lodge, which he built to accommodate tourists on weekend holidays.
Other residents have established homestays, food and beverage outlets, and are offering guided tours to Tanjung Dato National Park and Lighthouse, Samunsun Wildlife Sanctuary and Kampung Temajuk beach village in nearby Kalimantan, Indonesia.
This is the impact of improved access. After years of semi-isolation, this stretch of the Pan Borneo Highway is making it possible for residents to enjoy year round access to the rest of Sarawak, and vice versa.
An eco-lodge at Telok Serabang
Road distance between Sematan and Telok Melano is 33 kilometers. Once open to the public, this should take about half an hour to drive.
Start your journey with a full tank of fuel. There are no petrol stations at Telok Melano and Telok Serabang.
There are very few food and beverage outlets in Telok Melano and Telok Serabang. It is best to bring along all of your own provisions.
Overnight accommodation is limited to family-operated homestays, most of which provide homecooked meals or cooking facilities. If you plan to stay overnight, phone ahead.
Be sensitive to the local population, who are all followers of Islam. Keep in mind that these communities stick to a strictly halal lifestyle. Your dressing and food/beverage choices should take this into consideration
Jay Blakeney, a Retired Canadian Forest Engineer, and avid outdoorsman, describes the historic isolation of Borneo’s far western corner from the rest of Sarawak, and the scenic attractions that await travelers there.