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Borneo

Borneo is made up of three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. It is the largest island in Asia and third largest island in the world. The primary land coverage is ancient rainforest home to the endangered orangutan, Sumatran rhino, sun bear and clouded leopards. Coastlines are made up of peat swamp forests and mangroves. Borneo has been a keystone location in the discovery of evolution processes as well based on its unique, isolated habitats with a range in biodiversity from mountains to lowlands. The nations comprising Borneo have about 288 mammals (including 10 species of primates), 600 birds, 150 reptiles and amphibians and 394 freshwater fish. There are an estimated 15,000 plant species as well, in which up to 1,000 species of insects can be found on a single tree.

This course is located within the Sabah Forestry Department’s ranger station in Sepilok’s mangrove forest, just outside Sandakan. Mangroves are coastal forests made up of specially adapted trees that thrive in low oxygen and high saline water in tropical and subtropical regions. These forests protect the inland jungle from tides and provide shelter and nurseries for hundreds of aquatic species. Your lessons will take you trekking through the mangrove forest and into the surrounding jungle.

The capitol of the Sabah region is Sandakan. Sandakan is known as the “Nature City” where tribal people had close religious ties to nature and wildlife. The city is famous for its fresh range of seafood as well and includes Sim Sim Water Village, a fishing village constructed right on a community of docks. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Rainforest Discovery Centre’s canopy walk are also popular attractions that you will visit during this course.

You will fly into the Sandakan Airport before you meet up for this expedition. 

The main language of Sandakan, Borneo is Bahasa Malay. This differs from the Malay on the western coast, which resembles Bruneian Malay. Many people here also speak English, especially those of the younger generations. 

The currency in Sandakan, Borneo is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). You can get cash from ATM’s or do a currency exchange with Bornean banks at the airport in the public area of the departures terminal. If you have a Visa or Mastercard, those will usually be accepted at businesses, hotels and some taxis.

Key Points:

  • You can book a taxi from the taxi kiosk, located just outside the arrival gate. There are several taxi companies that you can choose from and they are safe and reliable. Throughout the city you can book a taxi or minibus to take you where you want to go. Grab Taxi is the most common app for booking a taxi.
  • All tap water in towns in Sabah is treated. It complies with Malaysia’s National Standard for Drinking Water Quality which is based on WHO guidelines. Technically the tap water is safe to drink but most people will filter or boil tap water before drinking. Tap water is fine for cleaning teeth, however. The cylindrical ice tubes served in drinks in are mass-produced in ice factories and are generally safe to consume. Most restaurants and coffee shops use these ice tubes, as do many food stalls. If you want to be 100% sure ask for a drink without ice. Cold canned and bottled drinks are available almost everywhere, even in small towns and villages so you can avoid ice altogether if you wish and still enjoy a cold drink.
  • You can feel safe when walking during the day. Generally, you should not be afraid to walk at night. Chances to hear insults or sexual harassment are very low. As a popular tourist location, Sandakan is a friendly city for visitors from all over.
  • The voltage is 230/240 V and the frequency of 50 Hz. The type of plug you’ll need is Type G, similar to Britain.
  • Wifi in Sandakan is available through public routers from businesses, hotspot Wifi, and SIM and eSIM cards from cellular operators. While you are in the city, you will have Wifi access. While at the ranger camp, you will not.
  • Although it is officially a secular state, Islam is the dominant religion and as such there are a lot of traditional beliefs there, which travellers, particularly LGBTI travellers, should take into consideration. Under a British Empire colonial-era law, sodomy (and oral sex) is illegal, for both homosexual and heterosexual couples. There are also no anti-discrimination laws in place, meaning members of the LGBTI community have no protection from discrimination in the workplace or in the public sphere. Malaysia also has no tradition of accepting transgender identity and transgender individuals may face high discrimination or violence. Despite all these negative factors, members of the LGTBI community can still have wonderful experiences if they are discreet about their behaviours in public.
  •  Police emergency phone number- 999
  • Borneo’s time zone is GMT+8.

Note: When searching for travel trips on Borneo on travel websites, search for Brunei, Malaysia, or Indonesia, as it is actually made up of 3 countries

For more information on the specific expedition location please see the itinerary and accommodation page.

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Sabah Forestry Department

 Governmental department committed to the management and development of forests under sustainable conservation guidelines. Management methods also ensure socio-economic benefits of the forest resources for long-term use. The department promotes the rehabilitation of natural forests alongside plantations and strives to protect biodiversity, soil and water.

1

Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sepilok

 An education center managed by the Sabah Forestry Department in the Kabili-Sepilok Virgin Jungle Reserve. This location is also home to the orangutans from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The RDC features an exhibition hall about native plants and animals, a garden and hiking trails, including a canopy walk that is popular with birders. 

2

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

 Located within the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, the center is committed to the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned orangutans. Orangutans can be viewed by visitors off a boardwalk through part of the forest surrounding the center, at a feeding platform and an outdoor nursery. Food is supplemented to the resident orangutans while they must primarily learn to rely on what they can forage from the forest.

3

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

 Located directly across from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of the world’s smallest bear. The center provides large, forested enclosures with natural resources to help the sun bears recover and be able to transition back into the wild.

Itinerary over-view

All Conservation Field Safety Expeditions (CSFE) work in a realistic field study environment where we employ our time studying the local fauna with some key species relevant to the environment and employ conservation skills in a real time study. All information recorded during our expeditions is made available to our conservation partners at the end of the trip.

Whilst conducting this research, we learn and put into practice field safety skills and procedures, again, relevant to the environment.

Borneo Over-View

On day one you will be met at the Sim Sim Water Village café and jetty and from here transported by boat to the expedition location. On arrival at the ranger camp, (see accommodation) we will get acquainted and settle in, conduct initial briefings, and enjoy an evening meal. The journey time is approximately 1.5hrs

Day 2 – 8 will be spent training and putting into practice the many aspects of conservation and field safety in a jungle environment. These will include, but not be limited to:

Expedition Skills

  • Know before you go – expedition planning.
  • Medical planning.
  • Risk assessments.
  • Crisis management.
  • Communications – types and use.
  • Minimalizing environmental impact.
  • Expedition Evacuation procedures.
  • Health and safety in the field.
  • Setting your camp and camp craft skills.
  • Clothing and protection.
  • Navigation with map, compass, and GPS.
  • The use of optics and cameras.
  • Why and how things are seen.
  • Observation hides and their construction.
  • Tracking and observation skills.
  • Medical self-help and self-aid.
  • Maintaining mental health in an expedition environment. 
  • Dealing with harassment and unwanted attention on expedition.

Conservation Skills and Techniques.

  • Quantitative versus Qualitative research.
  • Keeping records and journals.
  • Ethograms.
  • Camera trapping.
  • Transect and quadrant sampling. 

On the final day, we will pack up and depart in time for your flights home or to book into your accommodation in Sandakan.

Detailed itineraries can be discussed by phone or email and full written itineraries will be made available on receipt of an expedition deposit. You will also receive a full printed program on arrival at the ranger’s station.

For the expedition we will be based at the Sabah Forestry Department’s ranger camp in Sepilok’s mangrove forest, which is surrounded by pristine primary jungle (see above and gallery). We will also camp under tarpaulins in hammocks and mosquito nets in the nearby jungle (these will be supplied by CSFE). The majority of meals will be taken at the ranger camp.

The camp is ideally situated to take in mangrove, swamp and primary jungle environments and take walks into all of them, from where we will learn our jungle skills. There is also an elevated walkway that we can take night walks along and observe the sights and sounds of the jungle and mangrove in a controlled and safe way under the cover of darkness, a truly unique opportunity and experience. We will also go by boat and discover the creeks and rivers of the mangrove by day and night to observe and research the flora and fauna of the mangroves, unique to this area.

Meals will be prepared by local rangers and their families and will consist of local SE Asian fare. All dietary types can be catered for with prior arrangement.

Dates: 10th March – 16th March 2024

Price:  $2395.00 (USD)

Nb. US dollar/Sterling exchange rates (where applicable) will be at standard rate on the day of any bank transfer. All monetary dealings will be in US Dollars.

Please note: 10% of your expedition cost will be requested on agreeing with and signing our terms and conditions which include our cancellation policies.

These terms and conditions are sent to potential expedition members after your initial expression of interest via the booking form.

The Price Includes:

  1. All transportation from expedition pick-up – to post expedition drop-off at designated meeting point.
  2. All meals.
  3. All lodgings.
  4. All camping equipment where stated in the itinerary.

The Price Excludes:

  1. Alcoholic beverages.
  2. Flights.
  3. Laundry.
  4. Tips to local guides.
  5. Personal travel insurance.

Full terms and conditions will be emailed on your initial expression of interest via the booking form.

Frequently Asked Question

Borneo Specific

What travel documents (ie: passport and visa) are required?

(Note: When searching for travel trips on Borneo on travel websites, search for Brunei, Malaysia, or Indonesia, as it is made up of 3 countries)

Passport

Visa: Check with your country’s government travel website to see if you need a tourist visa. Most countries do not need one up to 90 days.

US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Malaysia.html

UK: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/malaysia

For all other nationals, visit https://www.travisa.com/Visa_Search for travel requirement tips or visit your government’s travel website.

What vaccines/ health documents do I need?

Vaccine Recommendations:
Be up to date on all your routine vaccinations as well as:
Hepatitis A
Typhoid

Yellow Fever is only recommended for travelers coming from endemic regions of Yellow Fever

Talk to your doctor about other health needs for your trip. Other recommended vaccines:
Hepatitis B
Malaria
Cholera
Japanese Encephalitis

Which airport do I fly into?

  • Sandakan Airport

What type of gear and clothing should I pack?

  • A packing list will be provided.

What are the physical requirements?

  • The level of intensity for this course is Medium. Expect to hike up and down steep terrain within a jungle, as well as navigating over large roots of trees in a mangrove swamp. 

What is the time zone?

  • (GMT+8)

What type of electronic plug do they use?

  • Type G, similar to Britain.
    What is the voltage of the electronic plugs?
    The voltage is 230/240 V and the frequency of 50 Hz.

General

How do I book a course?

  • To reserve a place on a course all you need to do is book via our ‘booking form’ or contact us via our contact page. On receipt of this, we will acknowledge you and hold you a place. This will be done on a ‘first come basis’ We will then send you details of how to pay your deposit and all supporting information for the course. 

Will I receive an invoice and receipt for my records?

  • Yes. Once we receive your expression of interest, we will send you our terms and conditions or you can download them from the website. These need to be agreed and signed and we will then invoice you the first payment.

How can I pay for my course?

  • Deposits and fees can be paid into our US account, our UK account or into our secure paypal account. Funds can be paid directly or by any of the following means:
  • Worldremit,   Western union  or  paypal

Will I need travel insurance?

  • Travel insurance is strongly recommended to cover any potential medical, emergencies, missed flights or lost luggage. 

What is the age limit?

  • 18 or 16 If accompanied by an adult.

Can this count towards university credits?

  • Each course will have a detailed itinerary of lessons and experiences included. If you are a college student, you can submit that to your advisor and talk to your administration department to ask about college credits, such as an internship or lab credits. Every university is different. 

Will I share a room with someone, or can I room alone?

  • Hotel bookings and tents will be set up to pair up same genders unless otherwise requested. If you would like your own room or tent, please inform us so that we may make those arrangements for you. If you are attending with your spouse or partner, we will keep you paired together. For single occupancy, you will have to pay a single occupancy supplement.

What if I have a dietary requirement?

  • Please inform us of any allergies or preferences on your application so that we can be sure to arrange for those needs with our in-country partners.

Are flights and airport transfers included in the price?

  • No. Travelling to the country of the course and getting to your hotel is your responsibility. We will be responsible for all travel from the initial meeting to the end drop off. Please see the individual itinerary for details of these.

Is there a waiting list for courses?

  • No, but this will be subject to availability. If you are interested in a particular course, please submit an expression of interest via our contact page and we will advise. 

Can I cancel my trip and get a refund?

  • Yes, subject to our Terms and Conditions which you will be required to read and acknowledge as acceptance of your booking.

Why do the courses have different prices?

  • We work with our partners to try to keep the prices down as much as possible for your affordability. Course prices are based on the costs for us to cover stipends for partner personnel, logistics and permits in accordance to the current rate, which differs in each location. 

Will there be Wi-Fi on the trip?

  • Wi-Fi will be available within the cities and most main towns of locations. If a course has days in a more remote field station or field camp location, Wi-Fi may be unavailable, but if we can, we will endeavor to provide it. 

How do you handle Covid-19?

  • Covid-19 policies will be followed based on the country of the course. Many countries may still require proof of vaccination status to enter, please double check those requirements before you travel. Masks are optional but recommended if a participant has a cough. If a participant becomes ill with Covid-19 symptoms, we will test for positivity and arrange for the participant to be removed from the group and follow quarantine requirements for that country. 

What do I do if a link on the website isn’t working?

  • Oh no! We’re sorry if something on the website is acting glitchy. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to let us know so that we can it fixed right away!