Ulu Ai Community-based Tourism
Content submitted by Borneo Adventure – Robert Basiuk
Submited Date : 28/11/2023
Heart of Borneo Tourism provides employment and supports conservation.

The Ulu Ai Tourism Project in Sarawak, Malaysia is a sustainable partnership between tour operator Borneo Adventure and local Iban communities in Sarawak, Malaysia. The project has developed a long-term relationship between hosts and visitors, whereby visitors experience the local community lifestyle on the host’s terms. Started in 1987, tours to Ulu Ai focus on community, conservation and the environment, rather than on contrived performances and demonstrations. The experience benefits the hosts, local wildlife and, ultimately, the visitors. Travellers to Ulu Ai stay as guests of the indigenous Iban people, who benefit economically by providing a range of tourism services. Borneo Adventure supports local entrepreneurship and various community and conservation projects.

With spectacular natural beauty, Ulu Ai is upriver Borneo travel at its best. The natural environment - pristine rainforest and clear fast flowing rivers - provide opportunities for nature-based activities and the resident Iban communities provide visitors with an insight into living in nature. The landscape is rugged with steep hills giving rise to many waterfalls on the smaller tributaries of the Ai River. The vegetation is dominated by secondary forest in various stages of regeneration with patches of primary rainforest and farmland. The forest cover is abundant and provides habitat for a rich diversity of wildlife, including one of Sarawak’s most iconic species: the orangutan.

Tourism has provided the economic means to access better health care. Increased wealth and better (and more frequent) connectivity have benefited those who need to seek medical help. Importantly, tourism has brought positive benefits for the women of Ulu Ai. The women are able to participate in a variety of roles and earn money whilst still fulfilling their traditional home-based roles.