Introduction by Yasmin Rasyid, Founder and President of EcoKnights.
When I was young I was always a fan and lover of waterfalls. Our family weekends involved heading to the nearest "sungai" (river in Bahasa Malaysia) with a basket full of yummy home cooked goodies from nasi lemak to cakes and of course loads of drinks. We would spend the entire day swimming, playing, and exploring the wonders of nature (from catching and releasing little dragonflies to observing the various kind of freshwater fish species).
Thirty years later I still am very much a waterfall lover and now with two daughters, my love and passion for waterfalls have rubbed off them. It helps me share my past memories of enjoying nature with my family. It also helps as a great way to educate and leave lasting memories of such beautiful wonders of nature to the next generation. My only hope is that when my children are adults, there will still be pristine waterfalls for their children to explore.
Five years ago, I stumbled upon a website which was god-sent and provided an almost complete guide to most waterfalls in the country. It was exactly what I needed to explore more untouched and pristine river sources.
The website serves as a great resource on waterfalls for the country providing information on the location of waterfalls, the best route to get there, the difficulty levels of hiking through thick and dense jungles, and even the exact GPS location. Little did I know that many years later, I would have the honor of meeting Joe Yap, whom I regard as a waterfall guru and is also the founder of Waterfall Survivors.
This month EcoKnights caught up with Joe Yap and hopes to learn more about her passion for waterfalls and how she started and founded Waterfall Survivors (WS).
WS has at least 6000 fans on Facebook, and is still growing and the members of WS have also been featured many times in the mainstream media. WS is membership driven and organizes many waterfall excursions from day trips for beginners to more challenging trips that require you to hike and spend nights with nature. This feature will talk about Joeâ€™s involvement in WS and also how an ordinary outdoor-loving individual like you can play a pivotal role in conservation.
EK: Can you tell us a little bit more about how you founded Waterfall Survivors and what the organization does and how it does so?
JY: (Joe Yap pictured here on the right) WS was founded in July 2008. I decided to initiate WS after my first waterfall exploration in June that very year. WS started off as a social group that gathers people with the same interest to explore waterfalls together. We post FB Invitations invite people to explore waterfalls together. The group grew big in just months. And with more than 1000 members at that time it gave us the idea to start clean-up campaigns for waterfalls â€“ thus the inaugural Save Our Waterfalls was established in April 19th, 2009. It attracted more than 300 participants and we managed to get supports from local government bodies.
EK: What lead you to start this group/organization? What were the motivations behind it? How has the journey been so far from when you first wanted to start this group till today?
JY: It was the love at first sight of the first waterfall exploration in 2008. Browsing through the internet looking for a picnic spot brought me to this site :http://waterfallsofmalaysia.
It initially started off only as a hobby and interest. From a 9-5job, I gather my guts with little savings and left my job for this passion and love for the waterfalls.
I remember I was also a litter bug until one of our group's new member Adrian Yeo advised me that if I leave a little rubbish behind, it will become more and more just because of me. That was a real hard hit on my head. After a while with the number of people that we have in our group, thereâ€™s more we can do. Every time I see rubbish all over campsites and near the falls, my heart hurts and it will remind me of what Adrian have told me. I told myself we could do something about this. We cannot be just exploring waterfalls and have fun without bothering what is happening to nature. If we want to enjoy it, we have to make sure she remains beautiful. Thatâ€™s how the idea of Save Our Waterfalls came in.
The journey was tough. Very tough. I did not get support from my family as they feel that doing these environment campaigns is not going to bring me anywhere. On top of that, in the first two and a healf years of WS, we did not get much sponsorship as many do not know who we are. Hence funding was a very big issue. I almost gave up but help just came in in time to save WS. Government bodies starts to recognize us for what we have done and started to support us through funds. Corporates with their CSR efforts came in and generated some funding to help us move on. It was a tough battle that every time I look back at the pictures we took and think back, I will cry for the hardship WS went through. Although we are a little better than before, we are still struggling.
EK: Your Facebook page has slightly more than 6000 fans. This is a pretty big group. How has the response been like from the members?
JY: It has been very consistent. And campaigns are very well supported by all the volunteers from all walks of life.
|Pic (L): Waterfall Survivors members enjoying nature.||Pic (R): One of the biggest campaigns by WS.|
EK: How can a simple and fun thing to do like chilling at the waterfalls help instill the passion and love for nature?
JY: Many of our members are from the city. Some come alone while, some with family. I really donâ€™t know how, but somehow every time they join us they end up falling in love with the waterfalls.
EK: What do you think the members derive from being a part of Waterfall Survivors? I noticed that there's also Waterfall Survivors Sabah now. Is it affiliated to Waterfall Survivors? If yes, how?
JY: Yes. I am personally based in Kota Kinabalu now. We are expanding the same concept here in Sabah. But it is pretty slow over this end. Hence majority events are still in Peninsular.
EK: Based on your vast experience with waterfalls, what are some of the common threats to the waterfalls in Malaysia? What are its potential impacts on human?
JY: Littering and irresponsibility of hikers, picnickers and campers is the main threat. Rubbish is just all over campsites. People could just pick up after themselves. The Leptospirosis is a serious issue that will have direct impact on human. The water being contaminated with these bacteria can cause death in human. The Leptospira bacteria is transmitted from animal. Will it make sense to us that if animals eat leftover, rubbish, plastics and etc which are full of different species of bacteria has the chances being infected with Leptospira Bacteria? If we could keep these places clean and not leave rubbish behind that creates bacteria that infect the animals, I think the risk of human death should be lesser.
EK: Out of all the waterfalls you have been to, which is your favorite? (Itâ€™s ok to not reveal its real name if you want the place to be undiscovered). And why?
JY: Lata Cemerong in Terengganu is my favorite waterfall. Itâ€™s a tall cascading fall about 280meters. After an hour and a half trekking through the jungle, standing below this giant falls is a double wow that is worth every drop of sweat and long drive from KL.
EK: What are some of the future plans of Waterfall Survivors?
JY: We are in the midst of setting up the official NGO. We are looking forward to be the largest Waterfall Preservation and Conservation NGO in Malaysia and Asia. We are also looking forward for more activities and campaigns with local and international Environment NGO together we educate our fellow Malaysians on the impact on the environment especially in Littering Problem. We hope with the campaigns we will be embarking in future could help us save our Beautiful Mother Nature as we in Malaysia are one of the luckiest with beautiful rainforest, tropical animals and beautiful waterfalls and river. It is still not too late for Malaysia if we start from now. And I believe if each of us is willing to contribute 1% of our effort for the environment, we can all make this happen together. I love this quote from the Natives â€śWe did not inherit Earth from our ancestors, we borrowed it from our Children", hence it is OUR responsibility to pass on a healthy home for our future generation.
EcoKnights highly recommends checking out Waterfall Survivor's Facebook page here. Join them as a member and you'd be opening up a new world of new friends with passion for nature.