During the half-term break, a group of teachers, parents and two students headed off to Borneo for an adventure that none of us will ever forget.
The trip started in Kota Kinabalu on Tuesday where the group met for a dinner and cultural evening before heading off early the next morning to Sandakan. We were met by our expert guide, Kenneth Tizon, who whisked us straight off to the Sepilok Orangutan Centre where we learned all about the plight of the Orangutan in Borneo and had the opportunity to observe some of the more recently released apes on the feeding platforms. From there we had a short walk around the Rainforest Discovery Centre where we learned more about the Bornean eco-system. A long afternoon drive brought us to our homestay for the night. Great food was provided by the homestay families and we were all treated to a culture show in the evening.
Regent’s students, staff and parents tree planting in Borneo.
Thursday morning saw us all boarding small boats and speeding off to start the main part of our trip, tree planting. The reforestation project here is unique as it’s the first project to re-plant trees in the flood plain area. It seems like a massive project to undertake and we were really pleased that we were able to contribute approximately another 100 trees before a rainstorm brought an abrupt end to our planting. It was hard work but we worked efficiently as a team and found it immensely rewarding.
The rainy afternoon was whiled away with card games and conversation until the rain eased enough that a few of us decided to take a river wildlife cruise. Many bird species, two species of macaque, proboscis monkey and langurs were all spotted. That night was spent at an eco-camp, which afforded the opportunity to go on a night walk where sleeping birds were spotted along with many large spiders, various sizes of cricket and grasshopper and many, many fire ants were encountered.
Spectacular wild orangutans.
Our final full day started with the boat ride back to the homestay village where our mini buses met us and took us firstly to some burial caves, where we had a chance to view some ancient coffins, while trying not to interrupt the filming of a local TV programme!
Our next stop at the bat caves treated us to our first spectacular view of Orangutan in the wild. A mother and two young. We were all in complete awe; it made the entire trip worthwhile! After another rain shower we were able to walk around the bat cave, trying our best not to slip off the walkway into the mountains of guano on the cave floor! The main function of the cave is as a nest sight for swiftlets. Three times a year people are permitted to enter the caves to collect the nests of the birds for use in bird’s nest soup and for various medicinal purposes.
For our last night we stayed at a B&B right on the river. We went for two last river wildlife cruises, which gave us some of our best sightings yet, including another wild Orangutan, bearded pigs, owls, crocodiles and hornbills. Our overall count of different animals totalled over 50 in just three days!
Every one of us found it an extremely rewarding trip and most of us are planning to go back as soon as we have the chance.