In July 2017 a group of students undertook a 22 day expedition across Sabah, on the Malaysian island of Borneo. The purpose of the trip was to submerge the team into the culture of a developing country, providing us with opportunities to further develop ourselves. Our team were responsible for planning the trip and looking after all logistics in-country. This required budget planning, travel bookings and managing food and accommodation requirements. Whilst on expedition we also completed a 2 day trek to the summit of Mt Kinabalu, trekked through a jungle and visited a wildlife rehabilitation centre, to understand Borneo’s important role in conservation. We also spent a week volunteering at a local school project site. Here, our team built the pupils a new assembly platform, which involved mixing cement by hand, as equipment was minimal. Spending time at the project site showed us that children really benefit from interaction and play.
Travel in the developing world rarely goes to plan and as a team we had to deal with obstacles that we wouldn’t normally face in our day-to-day lives, we overcame these challenges which was particularly rewarding considering the environment was overwhelming for a few of us!
After landing in Kota Kinabalu bleary eyed and jet lagged we arrived at our hostel in the heart of KK. Although still very tired, we were eager to explore the area and delegate a few jobs including changing money, and arranging transport for the next few days.
Expedition life got into full swing as the next day saw a 7 hour bus journey to Sepilok where we stayed right in the heart of the jungle! Despite the humidity, we spent the day exploring an orangutan sanctuary, sun bear sanctuary and embarked on a breath-taking canopy walk over the jungle.
After making the most of Sepilok we soon found ourselves back in a bus, this time heading to Ranau. Here we met one of our bigger challenges…there were no local buses or taxis! We ended up hitching rides from the locals, with some team members being crammed into the smallest car you have ever seen..with their backpacks in tow.
Ranau was the site of our project, and was our little spot of luxury. It was comforting to be able to stay in the same place for more than 12 hours! Work at the project involved 6 hours of mixing and laying cement in the brutal heat. All of this was made worthwhile when the project host informed us that we were ‘the best team he had ever seen’ and we were able to spend time playing with the local children.
When our project week came to an end, apprehension was high and morale was pretty low. Next up was the mountain climb which proved to be a strain both mentally and physically…not only this but it was time to say goodbye to the lovely village elder, Pilip 😦
The team showed great perseverance when many of us fell ill with the Nora Virus, which meant some of our itinerary had to be rearranged and we had to cope without our expedition leader. Great measures were taken to ensure that our remaining team members stayed well and could help with making arrangements for the rest of the trip.
All in all it is fair to say that our team have come away with invaluable skills and experiences that will be remembered forever.
By Kartrina and Susannah