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Borneo, Sarawak, Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), Sarawak Tourism

Sarawak to start restoration of Brooke Cottage, Wallace Trail

THE first phase of work to restore the Sir James Brooke Cottage and Wallace Trail at Bung Muan, Bukit Peninjau in Bau is expected to start in June.

Many would probably be wondering what the Brooke Cottage is and who on earth is Wallace.

Well James Brooke was Sarawak’s first White Rajah.

He built a cottage at Bung Muan, Bukit Peninjau between 1848 and 1850 to escape the hot weather in Kuching.

The area also became a retreat for the Rajah and his friends away from the worries of Kuching.

One of these friends was Alfred Russel Wallace, whom he met in Singapore and invited for a visit.

Wallace ended up spending 14 months in Sarawak, longer than at any other place he visited in the Malay Archipelago.

He was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist, who is best known for independently proposing a theory of evolution due to natural selection, which prompted Charles Darwin to publish his own theory.

Considered the 19th century’s leading evolutionary thinkers as well as an expert on the geographical distribution of animal species, Wallace is sometimes referred to as the ‘father of biogeography’.

This extraordinary man was offered the use of Brooke’s bungalow ‘Peninjau’ on the summit ridge of Bukit Peninjau.

There he made many important findings related to the forest in Bukit Peninjau.

In February 1855, while working in Sarawak, Wallace wrote a paper entitled ‘On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species’, which was published in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History in September that same year.

In the paper he discussed observations regarding the geographic and geologic distribution of both living and fossil species, what would become known as biogeography.

His conclusion that “Every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a closely allied species” has come to be known as the “Sarawak Law”.

Yes, our great State of Sarawak was already contributing on a global level even then.

Lost for generations, the site at Bukit Peninjau was finally rediscovered in 1988 by the State Museum Department thanks to efforts by Dato Sri Lord Cranbrook, a renowned biologist, who used to work for the Museum.

The restoration project’s first phase costing RM1 million is expected to be completed within nine months.

It will involve the construction of a tourist information centre, car park, access road, Wallace Point and Brooke observation platform.

A second phase costing between RM2 million and RM3 million would involve the construction of a ceremonial house, longhouses, Brooke’s Cottage and outdoor bath.

Lord Cranbrook pointed out that the project would be vital because of Wallace’s work in Sarawak on evolution.

“The theory revolutionised the biological sciences and has proven a robust framework for understanding the natural biodiversity of tropical South East Asia. Wallace developed this theory as a result of his experiences in Sarawak,” he is quoted as saying.

“It is pleasing news that plans are in hand to restore the bungalow and to improve the footpath up Bukit Peninjau. When the work is completed, visitors will be able to share the excitement of the young Wallace as he experienced the richness of biodiversity and the hospitality of the multicultural people of Sarawak,” he added.

Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip said the Ministry, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) would work together to promote Bung Muan, Bukit Peninjau as an attractive tourist destination.

Packages could include retracing the route taken by Wallace during his visit nearly 160 years ago.

A report from The Borneo Post:

Restoration of Brooke Cottage, Wallace Trail to start in June

KUCHING: The first phase of Sir James Brooke Cottage and Wallace Trail restoration project at Bung Muan, Bukit Peninjau in Bau near here is expected to start in June costing RM1 million and is expected to be completed in nine months.

According to project consultant Rangen Sangum, the tender for the restoration project will be open soon and the project will involve the construction of tourist information centre, car park, access road, Wallace Point and Brooke observation platform.

“As for the second phase, the development will involve construction of a ceremonial house, longhouses, Brooke’s Cottage and the outdoor bath, which will cost between RM2 to RM3 million, which is expected to be completed in four months,” he said when briefing the visitors on the project at Kampung Peninjau here yesterday.

Brooke, who was the state’s first White Rajah, built one of his cottages at Bung Muan, Bukit Peninjau between 1848 and 1850 to escape the heat of Kuching. It was also a resting place for Rajah Brooke and his friends away from Kuching.

One of his friends Alfred Russel Wallace, whom he met in Singapore, was invited to visit the state and Russel ended up spending 14 months here, longer than at any other place he visited in the Malay Archipelago.

Russel was offered the use of Brooke’s bungalow ‘Peninjau’ on the summit ridge of Bukit Peninjau. As a renowned naturalist, he made many important findings related to the forest in Bukit Peninjau.

Dato Sri Lord Cranbrook, a renowned biologists and one of the visitors present during the briefing, said the name Alfred Russel Wallace is world famous as the co-originator with Charles Darwin on the theory of evolution by natural selection.

“The theory revolutionised the biological sciences and has proven a robust framework for understanding the natural biodiversity of tropical South East Asia. Wallace developed this theory as a result of his experiences in Sarawak,” he added.

Lord Cranbrook, who once worked in the state museum when he first graduated in 1956 and a former University Malaya lecturer, said people knew about the existence of Brooke’s Cottage at Bung Muan, Bukit Peninjau in the 1980s but nobody knew where it was.

“The first one I discovered was Rajah Brooke’s bungalow in Matang. I have been looking for this one (Brooke’s Cottage in Bung Muan, Bukit Peninjau) for a long time. This had led me to visit Kampung Peninjau and from the visit, I discovered that the villagers here knew the way to the site,” Lord Cranbrook said.

Following the discovery, he informed the state museum and, in 1988, the state museum visited Kampung Peninjau and made a rediscovery of the site.

“It is pleasing news that plans are in hand to restore the bungalow and to improve the footpath up Bukit Peninjau. When the work is completed, visitors will be able to share the excitement of the young Wallace as he experience the richness of biodiversity and the hospitality of the multi-cultural people of Sarawak,” he said.

Assistant Minister of Tourism and chairman of Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), Datuk Talib Zulpilip, who was impressed with the close cooperation given by the local community to the related government agencies, said he would work with his ministry Sarawak Tourism Board and SEDC to promote Bung Muan, Bukit Peninjau as an attractive tourist destination once the restoration project is completed.

Both Lord Cranbrook and Talib started their trip by taking a boat from Kuching Waterfront to Siniawan Bazaar jetty, retracing the route taken by Russel during his visit.

During their time in Siniawan Bazaar, both of them visited several shops and met with the local community leaders and the people.

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