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News Article

Guest Article: Going wild in Borneo

Olivia Barbosa-Atkins describes her experiences on a World Challenge expedition

This guest article is submitted by Olivia Barbosa-Atkins, a 6th form student at Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School, Aylesbury, UK

From the 17th of July to the 15th of August, I was in Borneo with World Challenge. Having known our itinerary beforehand, I entered the island already swamped with expectations. However, what I was met with was beyond not only my original presumptions but that of my whole group. The variety of activities we participated in throughout that month doesn't even make a dent in the array of ventures available for those embarking to Borneo. Of course, mentioning every experience would take too long so I've chosen a few which I think accurately portray the variety of what Borneo has to offer and what you can bring to Borneo.   

Perhaps the most obvious to begin with are the treks. Whilst not for every traveller, the three treks I participated in truly left me with a feeling of accomplishment and awe at the sights I'd seen. A trek I found particularly rewarding was that through the Gunung Mulu National Park. With treks not being the only thing on offer, Gunung Mulu is worth a visit regardless if only just to see the nightly bat exodus or explore one of the many caves and short rainforest walks. The particular trek we completed consisted of one day of boat riding followed by an 11km trek through a primary jungle. Due to the low water levels, the boat journey took upwards of 4 hours as we had to routinely get out and push the boat through shallow areas. After this, the real trek began and I was met with the stunning sights and sounds of a Bornean rainforest. The lush foliage and dense canopy provide striking views for the whole of the walk which is peppered with sightings of exotic insects, birds and occasionally small mammals. With the first day completed, we enjoyed a brief stay at camp 5 before setting off again on a slightly shorter 9km trek. This second trek didn’t disappoint and provided us yet again with amazing views of the unique landscapes Borneo is known for.

Of course, treks are not for everyone and indeed Borneo has much to offer besides that. One such place I feel is key to visit when in Borneo is the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre. The park consists of a large rainforest area with various walkways that enable you to explore the orang-utans natural habitat in close proximity to the animals themselves. There are two feeding times each day which enable you to see these amazing creatures as they eat and interact with the other monkeys in the centre. Furthermore, the orang-utan nursery can also provide delightful sights of the young orang-utans playing on the ropes and swings as well as with each other. The centre acts as a protected area for orphaned orang-utans or those whose habitat has been destroyed. Once here, whilst being provided with a safe area and food, the young orang-utans learn the skills they would otherwise have been without were the centre not there. Once they’re old enough, the animals have the option to leave the centre at their own free will and return to their natural habitat as the centre is adjoined to an even larger rainforest.

However, it’s not only the orang-utans who inhabit this area. Across the park sits the Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Acting in a similar way to Orang-utan centre, the sun bear centre provides rescued sun bears with a safe place they can play and eat. Many of the sun bears at the centre come from circuses where their intelligence was misused as they were mistreated and forced to perform cruel tricks. Here, the centre provides them with a much needed sanctuary. In both centres, there’s the option to adopt either animal if you wish.

Another opportunity available to those visiting Borneo is snorkelling. Being an island, Borneo is not short of beautiful shores and beaches to snorkel from. The particular island we went to was called Sapi. Once there we were taken in small groups to snorkel in the designated area. The views of coral and fish, including the likes of clownfish and large clams, flooded our sights for the swim. Among the many activities available in Borneo, I would label this as one most definitely not to miss owing to the unique nature of the wildlife available to view. Moreover, being able to view the fish swimming in their natural habitat allows you remarkable insight into their behaviours and how they interact with their reef environment. Moreover, the experience allows you to appreciate the fragile ecosystem these marine organisms belong to. Being able to view such breath taking sights is beneficial in understanding how these environments are in dire need of our assistance not only in aiding their protection but in educating others of their use and fragility.

Borneo is unique in that it has many landscapes, activities and locals characteristically unique to its island home. Tourism is often essential in such areas to provide much needed income to the government to fund such programs such as those that fund the orang-utan and sun bear rehabilitation centres. However, as with any place, it’s important to be mindful of the impact your visits can have on such areas. Being respectful of not only local traditions but also of the environment you’re in is of utmost importance. Moreover, the rainforests are declining at a startling rate due in large part to logging which can provide sobering views upon first appraisal. Whilst a visit to Borneo will no doubt provide you with unforgettable memories, it’s important to remember that the environment you’re visiting is in a fragile condition and in need of our awareness and help.

If you want to read more about Borneo please follow this link to my school's website to read the diaries we wrote during the expedition.

Subscribers to Leisure Tourism can access around 160 bibliographic records on tourism in Borneo, currently including 45 CABI-hosted Full Text articles. A small selection of records, focusing on responsible and community-based tourism, is listed below. 

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Olivia Barbosa-Atkins
  • Date
  • 12 September 2017
  • Subject(s)
  • Tourism