Imagine relaxing in a tranquil tropical garden, surrounded by the buzz of nature and an orchard filled with herbs, flowers, fruit and vegetables, all freshly plucked, then cooked and served in a rustic outdoor setting.
A hidden gem deep in the far reaches of Kampung Lamunin, Eco Ponies Garden aims to bring visitors the experience of farm-to-table living, while promoting fresh local produce from small-scale farms in Tutong.
Eyon Ukoi, co-founder of Eco Ponies, said she started the farm-stay in 2015 as a way to promote community tourism and sustainable agriculture.
“We wanted to preserve the way of life of the local Dusun and Kedayan people who live here in Tutong, they have a lot of knowledge of the jungle, farming, what herbs can be used for cooking and traditional medicine. This kind of knowledge is not commonly passed down nowadays,” she said.
“By inviting visitors to come visit us, they can see the way of life here and maybe they’ll take an interest in it and want to volunteer here or come work with us. It’s a way of keeping our culture alive.”
The farm-stay has proved to be a big hit with schools who take their students to Eco Ponies for team-building activities and to experience farm life.
Visitors can cook the food themselves or they can get the talented chefs at Eco Ponies to prepare a wholesome meal from their garden, which is maintained by local Kedayans.
Eco Ponies has also attracted many long-term backpackers who want to get a taste of authentic kampung life. For travelers wanting to stay on the farm, Eco Ponies provides two small, rustic bamboo huts which sleep around five people. The accommodation is basic with single beds, desks and ceiling fans, but comfortable during the humid Brunei days.
“The small hut was originally built for my mother to rest while she was gardening during the day,” said Eyon. “But now we use it for any travelers wanting to stay with us. We just had a girl from Denmark who stayed with us in Lamunin for three months and she loved it so much that she’s promised to come back to Brunei.”
Eco Ponies has also partnered with Siti Kaprawi from Astera Consultant to create Eko Kampung, which promotes locally-made products from Tutong such as fruit jams and herbal teas.
“We’ve started with guava, rosella and pineapple jams, as well as ginger, lemongrass and mint teas — which is all grown here,” said Siti Kaprawi.
Eyon said many tourism graduates from local colleges have also approached Eco Ponies to gain work experience, hoping for inspiration to create their own community-based tourism ventures down the line.