Hill & Chill: Discovering Swiftlet Café @ Noungan Farm in Penampang, Sabah

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    In the village of Kolopis in Penampang, just off the Sarapung – Boliga road, a hidden gem is gaining popularity for its tranquil atmosphere, delightful cuisine, and exceptional coffee.

     

    Swiftlet Café @ Noungan Farm, established in 2021, offers a unique escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

     

    A Rustic Retreat

    Nestled below the Sarapung – Boliga road hilltops, this quaint café welcomes visitors with a serene ambiance and lush greenery, far removed from the towering skyscrapers. To find this hidden spot, visitors must follow the narrow downhill road marked by a subtle signboard. 

     

     

     

    As you descend, you’ll encounter a kampung house with the café tucked under open verandas. The house is not just a café; it’s the residence of the café owner, Sabahan Maria Kinson, and her Australian husband, Greg. The café’s rustic design, reflecting Maria’s vision from the early ‘90s, is a blend of rural elements. 

     

    First Activity of the Day: Fishing! 

    Our exciting escapade at Noungan Farm began with a fishing activity around 4pm. As we scanned the property, we saw 5 freshwater fish ponds across Swiftlet Café, each providing ample space for those keen on fishing. The waters in these ponds, derived from natural spring water, provide the high-quality water the fish need.

     

     

    Fishes found in these freshwater ponds are known to be the Tilapia fish. Fishing rods will be provided, and assistants will guide you on the techniques to capture these fish. Moreover, the bait, rolled-up Gardenia bread, ensures you won’t have to touch the creepy crawlies!

     

    Now, the trick involves placing a bit of rolled-up bread in the middle of a fishing hook and throwing it back to the pond while you wait for a few minutes. As you wait patiently for the fish, you will feel a slight tug below the waters. The bobber on the hook is the indicator for this. When the fish float sinks and continues tugging, the fish has taken the bait and is ready to be reeled in!

     

    From Paddy Fields to Café Haven 

    The top floor of the house accommodates two guest rooms, overlooking Noungan Farm. 

     

     

    Maria, a proud native Dusun, shares her family’s history of tending rice paddy fields that transformed into the thriving café we see today.

     

    “This was once thriving paddy fields with a natural reservoir of underground spring water,” said Maria. 

     

    Little did anyone in her family foresee that the humble plot of paddy land nestled below the Boliga-Sarapung road hilltops would someday house a thriving café.

     

    Culinary Delights and More 

    Initially a workers’ quarters, Swiftlet Café @ Noungan Farm evolved when Maria and Greg returned to Sabah during the COVID-19 pandemic, turning it into a gathering place for friends. 

     

    The café hosts Hash Harrier groups, offering a picturesque setting for walks followed by group fellowship dinners. 

     

    The menu, curated by Maria, boasts English fusion buffet options and a diverse selection of local and Western dishes. From three-hour-cooked lamb shanks to Louisiana crab boil, the offerings showcase locally sourced ingredients. 

     

    During our dining experience in the cafe, we enjoyed freshly prepared and home-cooked food, with the meals incorporating ingredients sourced from local providers. Amazingly, this cafe does not use frozen ingredients, only fresh and organic ones! 

     

    Here were the following dishes prepared for us: Their signature lamb shank, with its tender meat and juicy taste, pepperoni & pineapple pizza, roast chicken, some wild mushroom soup alongside garlic bread, freshly-made salad with homegrown vegetables from the garden, homemade coleslaw, and raisin-covered rice, all personally prepared and cooked by Maria.  

     

    Fun fact: The pizzas are made from scratch with homemade sauces and fresh toppings and cooked in a large pizza oven. The buttery potatoes are heavenly, especially with the sauce poured over them. The Louisiana crab boil is a highlight—we’ll have to try it next time!

     

    We were then served some carrot cake and banana cake for dessert which are currently two of Maria’s bestsellers. 

     

    Swiftlet Café has 2 types of locally-made sambal: the “Sambal Bilis” and “Sambal Herbal.” We had the opportunity to try both; while the former was much spicier than the herbal one, both were equally mouthwatering. As a parting gift, we were each given the “Sambal Bilis,” made by Maria.

     

     

    Embracing the Community

    While the café is gaining popularity, Maria’s personal touch keeps it unique. The couple plans to create meeting spaces on the birdhouse’s ground floor, meeting local recreational needs.

     

    Swiftlet Café @ Noungan Farm aims to bring people to experience the fresh, pollution-free rural environment and contribute to the community’s growth by providing employment and skills development for local youths.

     

     

    Business Details: Service is on a booking basis only. 

     

    Directions: Available in Waze or Google Maps under Swiftlet Café or Noungan Farm.

     

    Business Hours: 10:00 am-9:00 pm 

     

    Social Media: Facebook

    For bookings, call/WhatsApp +6010 255 0028