The Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak is an isolated plateau at an altitude of around 1000 m on the border with Indonesia. Named after the Kelabit people who live there, it is also home to the Penan and Lun Bawang. It is a vast forested area, and has been subject to logging for many years. However, until recently it was largely without electricity other than that provided by generators or small micro-hydro plants, and roads have only reached the interior of the region in the last decade. Being so isolated, it is now becoming popular as a tourist location for trecking in one of the last wilderness areas of the world. Rice production dominates in the flat valley floors, but some Penan people still pursue their traditional hunter gathering practices. Some long houses are also still occupied and new ones are being built, although most people now live in individual houses, with many offering homestay opportunities for visitors.
I was recently invited to participate in the e-Borneo Knowledge Fair held in Ba’Kelalan from 25-27 October, and so had the amazing opportunity to visit both Ba’Kelalan and the neighbouring community of Bario. The rapidity of change, mainly brought about through the introduction of roads, electricity (a substantial new solar farm in Bario), and new ICTs, is transforming these communities, and in a few years they will be very different from how they appear now. I hope that the pictures below do justice to these beautiful areas, and to the generous hospitality of my hosts (including Lian Tarawe in Bario).