KOTA KINABALU: A pioneering batch of villagers at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu are now enjoying better incomes after qualifying to lead birdwatching enthusiasts besides guiding trekkers up the mountain.
The initial batch of 10 mountain guides from Kampung Kiau started training three years ago and had been leading birdwatching enthusiasts for nearly a year.
Avid Sabah birdwatcher Denis Degullacion, who was involved in training the guides, said they learnt more than to identify the 50 to 60 bird species found in the area.
They also learnt the type of trees that are food sources for these birds to make it easier to locate them, he said.
Degullacion said the guides were selected for the training based on their interest in birdwatching.
He said birdwatchers would usually take up to three days to spot all the species around Kinabalu Park.
On a good day, he said, they could probably spot between 15 and 30 species.
It all depended on weather conditions. If the mist set in, then nothing much could be done, added Degullacion, who is also a qualified tour guide.
He said the training to lead birdwatchers also benefitted the mountain guides who could now point out the type of birds seen by those trekking up the mountain.
Degullacion said the training for the pioneer batch of mountain guides was funded by the Rotary Club here after the Mount Kinabalu earthquake in June 2015.
“There was some discussion on how we could help the mountain guides and one of the ideas was to train them to lead birdwatchers as the Kinabalu Park had become a key area for the activity”, he said.
He said the trained guides could also lead birdwatchers in the forest around Kampung Kiau, which is teeming with animals.
Degullacion said a second batch of 10 mountain guides would be trained next year.
Kinabalu Park, a World Heritage Site, receives about 300,000 visitors annually.