| James Kon |
ECO Ponies Garden, a unique village homestay tucked away in a corner of Lamunin, Tutong, has witnessed around 700 local and foreign visitors since its establishment in 2015.
Situated on two acres of land, the double-storey cottage and surrounding tree houses are all made from recycled materials.
There are also jungle trails for visitors to explore, and a community garden with more than 20 varieties of traditional herbs.
The story of Eco Ponies Garden began as a small hut in Kampong Bang Nukat in Kampong Lamunin, where the Marketing Manager Eyon Ukoi would rest during a break in her gardening activities.
The establishment first gained prominence in March 2015 when it was host to Anne Osbourne, a famous advocate on raw fruit diets, along with her young son, Cappi.
During their five-day stay, the mother-and-son team even planted their own durian trees together with a group of 65 primary school students from the Rambai Primary School, the Chung Hwa School of Kiudang and the Sungai Liang Primary School in Belait District.
Under the theme ‘Garden Grow, Community Growth’, it is Eyon’s main wish to see Eco Ponies as the number one eco-tourism destination in Brunei, through the showcasing of local attractions and village products.
In an interview with the Bulletin, she said, “If you treat nature well, it will be good to you in return, and we would like to promote nature conservation through this garden.”
She also highlighted the involvement of the local community and authorities, saying that the place would not be able to operate on its own without the support of crucial stakeholders.
Eyon also hopes that the success of Eco Ponies will inspire youths to set up their very own eco-gardens around Brunei.
“Just as we built our garden from recycled materials, youths can tap into the potential of eco-tourism by setting up similar gardens,” she said.
Among the homestay’s high points are collaborations with Eko Kampong Enterprise and iCookAsia Brunei, to preserve the country’s traditional dishes and recipes on a video format.
“We have also partnered with The Rizqun International Hotel to educate the local community in utilising and caring for the resources that lie at their doorstep and use these as a means to boost their income,” said Eyon.
In addition, Eco Ponies has collaborated with the Village Consultative Council of Kampong Lamunin, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism and the Eko Brunei Community Team, while educating members of the local community to disallow the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment.
Meanwhile, Eyon hopes that the authorities can double their marketing efforts to build Brunei’s image as an eco-friendly tourist spot, including the promotion of Lamunin’s organic durian to raw fruit lovers.
“There is more room for exposure on Brunei, as there are still many people around the world who don’t know much about this country,” she said.
She also expressed the hope that, with the help of the Agriculture and Agrifood Department, Eco Ponies will soon start mass producing local organic herbs for the local market.