On the 13th of July Miss Knight and 7 pupils from Year 11 (Jack Bourton, Seren Kane, Emily McCann, Tamsin Penberthy, Emma Willington, Megan Davies and Rose Connellan) set off on a month long expedition to Borneo Malaysia.
We arrived in Kota Kinabalu exhausted, after travelling for 17 hours, but excited for the month ahead of us on Thursday the 14th of July. The next morning we took a short boat trip to our first camp, Mantanani Island. Still adjusting to the heat, we stepped off onto paradise, crystal blue seas and white sands lined with coconut trees and the staffs welcoming smiles. However our stay here was not all picture perfect beaches and relaxing which you might have seen in our photos. We were introduced to the Island by having a village orientation where we were shown the projects already completed by groups before us, the school, local shop and what life was like on a Mantanani island. We were also given a welcoming dance by the local children where we joined in and learned about the Malay culture.
On Saturday we had our first day of project work, in the morning we learned about marine conservation and turtles and the afternoon we helped build a house in the village by cementing the walls. That evening we had a walk along the beach where we watched the sunset, a great way to start our expedition. The second day of project work we helped rebuild a house and made bracelets out of rubbish collected from the beach, followed by swimming in the sea and relaxing in the hammocks on the shoreline. That night we also went on a night walk to find the Mantanani Scops owl, a bird only found on this island. Our last day at Mantanani started with a sunrise walk which was worth the 5 am wake up! We were taught about the coconuts and how they play a huge role in the lives of people in Borneo, we learned how to weave with the leaves and we even got a try at climbing a coconut tree ourselves. That afternoon we took part in a huge beach cleanup which was very important for the island as rubbish is a huge problem there. We spent that night learning the Malay lingo which we found very useful for the rest of the trip. All in all, Mantanani was a great way to begin our adventure even if it did get our hopes up for the rest of the trip…
On Days 6-10 we went to Gaya Island which is a short boat ride from Kota Kinabalu, the major city in Borneo. At Gaya Island we stayed at the PADI diving school camp which is surrounded by primary rainforest and tropical ocean and the base for our open water diving course. Each day we had the opportunity to take part in the PADI diving course under the hot sun in the Bornean waters with expert instructors. Before we were able to start the diving course we had to undertake ‘ classroom activities’ which isn’t as bad as it sounds! We had to learn key skills and underwater signals just to cover every possible situation. Each day of diving we learnt how to equip ourselves with the help of our buddies and instructors and for many, Team Hinava diving was a highlight. However, even if you did not take part in the Scuba Diving Course you were able to do take part in numerous activities including kayaking, jungle exploring and snorkelling. Additionally we got the chance to experience the open water dive where we were able to see the endangered coral reefs and many different species of sealife including sting-ray’s and some groups were lucky to see turtles.
On Sunday 24th July we left Kota Kinabalu and drove 7 hours to Batu Puteh, in the jungle. We had to leave our rucksacks in the reception and we could only take our smaller daysacks into the jungle with only the necessary items. To get to our camp we had to take a boat up the river. There was lots of wildlife surrounding us, including alligators on the river banks, and the experience was surreal. When we got to the camp we realised it was very basic; a hole in the ground for the toilet, a marquee style tent and our hammocks under mini shelters. They showed us how to set up our hammocks and shelters when we got there, the hammocks are surprisingly comfy to sleep in. For our project work over the couple of days we were at the jungle we went on river cruises in the morning and evening, cleared the jungle path using parangs and planted trees to regrow the parts of the jungle cut down, we planted over 130 trees in total. Whilst we were in the jungle we celebrated two camp mates birthdays and got a birthday cake delivered to us. On Wednesday 27th July we left the jungle at 6am to drive 3 hours to the Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary. We got to see the orang-utans being fed and we got to go to the nursery to see the younger orang-utans playing. Afterwards we went to the Sunbear Sanctuary to see the worlds smallest bears, which had been rescued from being pets. At around 3 o’clock we went to our hostel for the night to shower after the jungle and to rest up for Bongkud.
When we arrived at bongkud, it felt like luxury compared to the jungle. Working showers, long houses to sleep in, running water, a volleyball court, Wi-Fi café nearby, a football pitch in the village where we played against the locals and a shop that sold chocolate all helped to add to the luxurious feel of the camp. We stayed here for 7 days and did project work for 6 which entailed us partaking in two projects. The first- helping in the early stages of building a kindergarten where we would have to clear sections, make gabions, mix cement or carry cement drain covers from the site to the drain. This work was repetitive but and tedious but rewarding. The second project was on a market square where we mixed and laid cement so that the market could still run when it was rainy as the stalls wouldn’t sink into the ground, painted the sports hall in the square, cleared rubble and other debris and made a rock garden, which was painted rocks that spelt “market square”. When we weren’t doing project work, we spent time watching football matches, doing local dances or teaching English to the local children.
Camp Gana was the final camp we visited. Our project site was a small school and our project work was clearing out and painting the walls with pictures. On the first night local people taught us their dances and we all danced together. In the afternoons after project work we played football against the locals. Also we organized a sports day for the children, who really enjoyed the experience. After our last morning of project work we showed the teachers in the local school our painting, they were so impressed some had tears in their eyes. It was the most rewarding moment of the trip for many of us. We performed a local dance we learnt in Bongkud and a song some of the group wrote for the local people. It was such an amazing way to end our unforgettable experience in Borneo.