Postcard from Borneo – Adam Paterson
After spending a few days acclimatising to our new conditions, we headed to Kampong Kiau to begin our jungle trek. The trek took four days and saw us trekking around 10km during the day and experiencing the incredible hospitality of the locals in the villages we stayed in at night. Our treks took us through dense jungle, as well as through local farms and communities. During this time we were accompanied by three local guides who gave us insight into the day to day lives and history of the people living in these areas, as well as information about the plant and animal life. Once we arrived at our home for the night, we had a chance to play with local children, as well as taste some of the incredible food from the same farmlands we had walked through during the day.
Our next stop was an 8 hour bus ride away at the Kinabatangan River. Once we arrived we had only an hour to wait before our first river cruise. These river cruises consisted of small ten person boats and a guide who would drive the boat around the protected habitat on the Kinabatangan River, during our stay we saw monkeys, orangutans and even a mother and daughter elephant. Throughout our stay we also found out about the conservation efforts in the area, as well as the recent increase in deforestation to plant palm oil trees.
Our longest stay of the trip was in Tenom where we spent 5 days teaching children and renovating the local kindergarten. Spending time in this small village was an incredible experience and even though we were only there for a short time, we were made to feel welcomed and a true part of the community. Every night, after completing our work for the day we would go to the local park to chat and play with some of the older children in the village, where we were treated like local celebrities. On our last day the whole village came together to thank us for our work in a truly humbling ceremony, including gifting us with traditional hand woven hats made by the villagers during our stay.
After nearly three weeks of trekking and working we headed back to Kota Kinabalu for a few days to relax before heading to the sandy beaches on the TAR islands. Being a mostly Muslim city, and visiting during Ramadan meant that once the sun went down the streets and markets were bustling with people ready to enjoy a good meal. After two nights in Kota Kinabalu we headed over to spend a night on the sandy beaches of Sapi, one of the 5 TAR islands. We spent the day exploring the island and swimming in the 25 waters, before cooking our dinner and pitching our tents for a great final night of our trip.
Postcard from Borneo – by Cara Wiley
Trek: We trekked from village to village in the national park surrounding Mount Kinabalu, an impressive and jaggy mountain that dominates the skyline in Sabbah. The trek was hard work but made worth it by the gorgeous views, stops for fresh pineapple, refreshing dips in rock pools and freezing cold sprite waiting at our destinations.
Kinabatagan wildlife: Much of the interior forest in Borneo has been cleared to make way for palm oil plantations so the basin surrounding the Kinabatgan river is literally heaving with wildlife. Dawn and dusk river cruises were just amazing!! Seeing Pygmy elephants, snakes, monkeys and crocodiles. We even had a close encounter with a whole group of Orang-utan. Our local guides said this was unheard of so we felt very special indeed.
Community Project: We stayed on a working farm and were well looked after by our Chinese-Malay hosts. Our project was painting and decorating a nursery in the local village of a native Borneo tribe. We did an under the sea mural as the colours the locals like for public buildings are so tropical and bright. The villagers were extremely friendly and their home made donuts and garlic bread is still being missed! We were invited to a wedding feast where the whole pigs heads were “savoured” by some of the boys – snout anyone?
We rounded off each evening with a volleyball match, our skills were no match for theirs but great fun.
Kota Kinabalu: Kota Kinabalu was home to “luxury”. I think we even had hot showers. Some people enjoyed having treatments in spas, shopping (where everything was 10 times cheaper!) plus it gave us all a break from eating noodles and rice every day. The night market was a feast for the senses with all kinds of weird and wonderful food on display.
Tar Islands: Oh my days, tanning central! Except when they nibble at you and you kick out and slice your foot open on coral. Snorkelling was defo a highlight of the day here the tropical fish were just stunning. At night, we built a campfire and watched the shadowy figures of wild boar roaming round the camp.