THE GREEN TEAM

Written by support. Posted in IN PERSON

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Published on April 06, 2015 with No Comments

Above ground and below, the duo of Justin Juhun and Scott Mayback keep guests connected to Gaya Island Resort’s natural wonders. Justin, the resort’s resident naturalist, and Scott, resident marine biologist, spoke to Muhibah on the heady combination of nature and wildlife, and why a tie and a shirt won’t likely be in their vocab.

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So, what fun stuff are we working on now?

Justin Juhun (JJ): Not sure I’d call it fun, but there’s still a lot to be discovered here on this island. Everyday on the trail, there’s always something new. I’m currently working with Sabah Parks to record new species we have here. So that will be interesting. I’ve also just gotten back from our sister property, Pangkor Laut Resort, where I’m doing the same – collecting data and documenting the species of wildlife there. Hopefully we can give our guests a better hike experience in both (resorts).

Scott Mayback (SM): Well, mine’s just making sure that we get the public to know we’re here. We’re really quite proud of the turtle work that we do here at Gaya Marine Centre in Tavajun Bay. I know you saw how empty the touch pool was. Empty means it’s good. It means we don’t have sick turtles or presumably, there are no sick turtles out there. We want people to know that we’ve got a dedicated hotline (013 899-9509) where they can call if they see or know a sick turtle. Anywhere in Sabah. We will continue with our 3R mission: Rescue, Rehabilitate, Release. And hopefully, we’ll be able to contribute more to turtle conservation.

Must be a fulfilling job.

JJ: For me, it’s when guests who do the trail and often see stumps or branches as just part of the forest suddenly come out (of the trail) more informed. What I try to share with them is that these are all part of a habitat. Each stump or branch plays a role in the forest. And I think just by them understanding that is a great deal for me. They now look at the trail with different eyes, instead of “oh, here’s another branch” or “there’s another tree stump”.

SM: We do a turtle education project with one of the schools here. The first class, the kids are just unsure and not particularly excited. They kind of drag their feet to the classroom, dreading the session. Then by the second and third session, everyone gets all excited and everyone wants to learn something new about the turtles. When kids start getting it, that’s when I feel we’ve done something good.

Guess a 9 to 5 job isn’t your thing, then?

JJ: I grew up in the forest. I was born in the forest. For me, this is where I’m most comfortable in. I get to do what I love and share with the guests what I know. And it’s never boring. It can be stressful (laughs), but never boring.

SM: (interjects) Actually, it gets challenging for us when we have to be in a conference or a talk.

JJ: Yes! (laughs)

SM: I mean, I cannot just sit behind a desk. Justin and I – we just can’t sit still! The only time I’m behind a desk is when it’s reports time. That’s when I’ll just blare on the music, type like crazy and just drink lots of coffee!

Safe to say there’s no shirt and tie in the wardrobe?

JJ: (Laughs).

SM: Absolutely not!

Justin, I saw the stream running in the forest. It was amazingly clear. I was told you once tried to find the water source. Successful?

JJ: That was really hard to do. Jaime (the other naturalist), myself and Scott went on this hike just to find where the water came from. We used GPS at first. Then it was just giving us wrong directions. In the end, I just decided to turn it off and go with what I know: by looking around at the habitat and letting that guide me. But this island – a lot of people are unaware of it – is huge. At one point we saw the water above ground and then it disappeared underground. This will be my challenge. But I’m going to find it.

SM: (looking at Justin) Remember that time when someone told you there was no way you could hike from the resort to Tavajun Bay?

JJ: Yup, that’s another one. But I refused to believe it. So I just hiked. Scott came with us that time, too.

So, did you arm yourself with a machete or something?

SM: My diver’s knife! (laughs)

JJ: Yup. His diver’s knife. I mean, not a machete, but I had something with me to clear the trail. What I’m trying to say is, I was set to prove those people wrong.

SM: (pats Justin on the back) And you did prove them wrong!

JJ: I did. It took awhile, but we found the trail that took us from the resort to the Bay. It was a loooooong hike, but it was worth it!

What’s next for you both?

JJ: We’re hoping to open up more trails. The resort is just over two years old. There is a lot of potential we can do here with nature. And I’m excited about that. We’re also presently training a new guide so we can do more hikes.

SM: The Gaya Marine Centre will continue with its education and awareness programmes. We’re also continuously working to clear the rubbish off the waters surrounding the resort to preserve the corals. Possibly the next project, if budget permits, is to try to get a garbage net to contain the floating rubbish. It’s all about giving our guests the best possible nature experience when they’re with us.

 

 

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