Entering the Jungle
After a short flight to Kuching in Malaysian Borneo we got a car to our hostel where we would spend a few days before heading out to the jungle.
On the second day in Kuching we visited a rehabilitation centre connected to our volunteer programme. Orang-utans were at all stages of rehabilitation, from semi wild enclosures to a nursery for orphaned and captive born orang-utans. It was great seeing the more positive end of the conservation project we had been working on.
The next day we started our trip with a long minibus journey through Borneo before getting a boat into the Jungle from Batang Ai. We spent the first few days trekking through the surrounding during the day before spending time with the tribesmen in the evening. Most evenings were filled with arm wrestling, leg wrestling and Uno. While the tribe may not have spoken much English they were well accustomed to the rules and words used in Uno and we would often be playing until long after the generator turned off.
Mid-way through the week we ventured out to explore more of the jungle and spend the night sleeping on the jungle floor. Unfortunately while this seemed like it would be a special experience we did not immediately notice the tribesmen were sleeping abve ground, avoiding the hundreds of bugs that come out onto the jungle floor at night. The next morning we planted some durian trees. While the smell is infamous among backpackers and banned from many hotels and hostel it is the oragutans favourite fruit. While planting a tree in the jungle may seem like a pointless task it is important to ensure that the right trees are planted in parts of the jungle that are safe from loggers and palm oil plantations.
The next night we were awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of our tour guides fighting a fire that had broken out in our dining room. We raised the alarm and the tribe came across the river from their hut to help put out the fire. The next day they quickly sprang into action and the damage was pretty much repaired by lunch.
On one for the last days in the jungle we took a boat trip down river to relax on a beach and try some rice wine. This is very strong and we soon felt the effects. On the way back up the river the impact of logging further upstream was very apparent when we had to navigate through a vast maze of trees floating down the river. Later in the afternoon the combination of rice wine and the captivating surrounding encouraged three of us to get a tattoo. This was not really the most high tech tattoo parlour and we lay on an old mattress while a teenage boy used a tattoo gun precariously hooked up to a make shift battery. Needless to say my mother wasn’t impressed!
The next morning it was time to leave after an unforgettable month in Malaysia.
Rob Ayres is a Marketing Associate at World of Expats. Born into a well-travelled expat family and growing up in the UK and US, he spent his Gap Year in Asia before returning the UK to study at Bath University.