JOHOR should further promote and develop mangrove ecotourism to attract more nature lovers and tourists to the state.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Prof Dr K. Kasturi Devi, from the Built Environment and Surveying Faculty, said little attention had been paid to the recreation and tourism potential of mangroves in Johor.
“Mangrove sites have the potential to attract a large number of tourists and may generate revenue from visitors’ spending,” she said.
She suggested that the local authorities, assisted by Johor Tourist Guide Association for example, launch mangrove tourism initiatives to preserve and conserve mangroves in the state.
She said that at the higher (national level) scale, the Tourism and Culture Ministry should also be involved in launching such tourism initiatives.
Facilities such as boardwalks, viewing towers, information centres and boards should be provided by these authorities to facilitate a better experience for visitors.
Prof Kasturi said that in Johor, some of the possible eco-tourism activities at mangroves were boating, bird watching and sighting wildlife such as dugong.
Activities such as canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing and standup paddle boarding should be introduced,” she said, adding that these activities were common in northern and central America and the Caribbean.
One company that runs mangrove tours in southern Johor is Junglewalla Desaru.
Its branch manager Shakira Mobarak told StarMetro that such tours “can be an eye-opener for visitors, especially urbanites and foreign tourists, to discover the rich flora and fauna in the district”.
She said the company offered the Desaru Riverwalk tour and Sedili Kecil river cruise, both in Kota Tinggi district, along the mangrove forest.
“Johor is blessed to have one of the most important mangrove ecosystems in the world.
“We should bank on the mangrove ecosystem’s rich biodiversity to attract tourists, especially foreigners, to Johor,” she added.
Shakira said the reopening of the country’s borders offered good growth prospects for Johor’s tourism sector.
The number of Singaporean visitors joining the mangrove ecotourism tours has been encouraging, she noted.
She said the mangrove forest in Sedili Kecil was a sanctuary for migratory birds from Mongolia in China and Russia’s Siberia which sought refuge from harsh winters.
The birds fly thousands of kilometres to Sedili between September and March every year.
“They spend between six and seven months here and also breed before flying back in April when winter is over,” she said.