Its shiny green skin dazzled brightly under the hot, morning sun. Next to it, grew another round, shiny green fruit; its small size screaming for attention.
Workers are seen tearing away the old newspapers around the other fruits, offering a glimpse of the succulent home-grown apples.
These are the Ba’ Kelalan apples, a beautiful fruit grown right at the Ba’ Kelalan valley in Lawas, Sarawak. An hour’s journey by a 19-seater DHT aircraft by Mas Wings, the Ba’ Kelalan highland is situated at an elevation of 3,000 feet. The area is also accessible by road from Lawas, but takes at least six hours on a fine day.
The sweet name of Ba’ Kelalan comes from the Kelalan River, while Ba’ refers to wetlands in the Lun Bawang language.
Ba’ Kelalan, a group of nine villages in the Ba’ Kelalan Highlands is situated in the Heart of Borneo area. These are the villages of Buduk Nur, Long Langai, Long Lemutut, Long Ritan, Long Rusu, Pa Tawing, Buduk Bui, Buduk Aru and Long Rangat.
The main settlement here belongs to the Lun Bawang race, a group of people known for agricultural farming of paddy fields, and especially their expertise in cultivating apples in the highlands.
They produce Malaysia’s first apples; crunchy, sweet and tasty. Other fruits are also grown here, especially mandarin oranges, passion fruit, budding strawberries, vanilla and asparagus.
A bite into the crunchy apples is really a wonderful discovery of the senses. It is sweet, tasty and almost free of pesticides.
Andrew Balang Paran, a local Lun Bawang first brought apples to the highlands. Faced with teething problems, he wasn’t successful at growing the apples, brought from the highlands of East Java. Later, with the help of some expert hands from Batu Malang, Indonesia, apples slowly grew here.
The correct harvesting techniques; pruning, fertilisers and limited use of pesticides helped the apples to thrive in the cool climates of Ba’ Kelalan.
Other fruits thrive here including mandarin oranges, passion fruit, asparagus, vanilla, grapes more plants are being tested out, such as the tasty strawberries.
There are several varieties of apples grown here. These are the Ba’ Kelalan (formerly known as Manalagi) apples, Rome Beauty, Tropical Beauty, Lady Williams, Anna apples, Kwanglin and Jonathon.
The farm is now run by former pastor, Tagal Paran, Andrew’s brother. To celebrate the apple harvest, each year an Apple Fiesta is held in Ba’ Kelalan.
Visitors wishing to experience Malaysia’s delicious apples, quaint rolling hills and warm hospitality of the Lun Bawang tribe, should visit this unique spot in Malaysia.