3rd March, 2017
Text by David de la Harpe
Set next to the pristine tropical rainforest of Tawau Hills Park is the Balung River estate. It is 3,500 acres in size and planted with various crops such as cocoa, oil palms, teak trees and other economical crops and tropical fruits. Within the estate is the Balung River Eco Resort, which is an interesting option for a family holiday that incorporates a learning experience together with nature. It is also a popular venue for group meetings or corporate outings.
The Balung River Eco resort is located on the Tawau to Semporna highway and it takes about 40 minutes to drive there from Tawau Town. The resort has been beautifully landscaped and for overnight guest, there are rustic chalets constructed from the local river stones and timber. The rooms have attached bathrooms, are air-conditioned and pleasantly decorated. There is a restaurant where local Malaysian meals are served. The uniqueness of the menu here, is that many of the dishes are of various medicinal plants and vegetables that are organically grown on the estate and desert usually consists of exotic tropical fruits in season from the estate gardens.
As a visitor to the resort, there are a few options to keep yourself occupied during your stay here. Try doing an early morning bird walk in the gardens by the river before breakfast and look out for the many interesting birds in the area, or you have the option to swim in either the Balung river or the resort swimming pool. After breakfast, take a guided tour of the estate and learn more about agriculture and the methods involved in processing the various crops found here. The estate is currently the only one in Sabah who is organically growing and packaging various local medicinal herbs. There is also the factory tour to see how various herbal teas are processed from herbs grown here such as Misai Kuching (Java tea), Lemon grass and the bottling of Noni Juice.
In the afternoons after lunch, ask to visit the local factory where palm sugar is manufactured from the sap of the sugar palm (arenga pinnata). The sugar palms are grown on a large scale at the estate and the sap of the unopened flower spate is collected daily and either boiled till it crystallises to make blocks of hard brown sugar or bottled as syrup. There are also various exotic fruits grown at the estate such as Dragon fruit, Abiu and other fruits from South America.
Freshwater fishing is also a popular leisure activity at the man-made pond and you can have the fish you caught, cooked to your liking by the resort chefs. Other activities include a round at the putting green, mountain biking, or simply hiking along the many trails found here. Whether you wish to relax or explore the fascinating world of agriculture, Balung River Eco Resort promises an unforgettable experience.