On Sunday 31st July twenty L6th students, accompanied by Mr Templeton, Mr Garcia and Mrs Mill, departed for Borneo.
After a long journey to Kota Kinabalu we were welcomed by a wall of heat and humidity that followed us for the next three weeks. Upon arrival we were met by Kerry, our local guide from Downbelow Adventures, who was an integral part of the entire trip.
On the stunning Gaya Island, the first part of our trip taught us about marine conservation. Each morning we took two speed boats across to the island, where everyone headed into the water to practise snorkelling and skin diving. It was here that we first became aware of the huge amount of plastic and rubbish that there was in the water. As we practised our snorkelling we also helped to collect and clear plastic from the water.
During the three days we learnt all about the importance of the coral reef ecosystem and the challenges that it faces. Our students helped to replant broken coral and undertook a beach clean-up, collecting 20 bags of plastic in under an hour. It was an amazing three days spent on the island with the whole group learning a huge amount about how they can reduce single-use plastic back in the UK.
After finishing the marine conservation project we spent the following day white water rafting and preparing for the next stage of our journey - Kinabalu National Park. Before canopy walking and visiting waterfalls in the National Park we had the opportunity to visit the village of Nabalu, the Botanic Gardens (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Sandakan War Memorial.
Early on the Tuesday morning we packed our bags, did our final preparations and commenced our journey to Kampung Gurung Village for a week long build project.
After a two hour mini bus trip along some very bumpy roads we reached as far as the buses could take us and the rest of the journey was made on foot. The temperatures soared and we trekked 15km through dense jungle to reach our destination. The jungle trek was a brilliant experience with four river crossings over some challenging terrain.
Over the course of the week we completed the build of two new showers, the refurbishment of the community hall, decorating and the construction of two interior rooms in the school. Most days groups of our students also spent some time teaching local children.
The work ethic, commitment and enthusiasm from the group was outstanding and we achieved far more than we initially thought we would. Everyone worked extremely hard and the villagers, who looked after us incredibly well, were very grateful. On our final night the group hosted a ceilidh for the villagers which was thoroughly enjoyable.
Our final destination was the beautiful Sepilok Jungle resort in Sandakan.
To kick start our last week we spent some time at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, learning about the orangutans and the amazing work that the sanctuary does for its 63 residents.
That afternoon we headed to the rainforest for a canopy walk and saw one of the tallest trees in Borneo.
The following day we headed to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), the only sun bear sanctuary in the world. We were hugely privileged to spend the day with Mr Wong, the CEO and founder. Our students spent the afternoon helping the sanctuary collect soil to fill the holes that the bears had been digging up. It was a tough afternoon of work but once again the group stepped up to the challenge.
It’s safe to say that the group fell in love with Borneo; an amazing country with so much wildlife and wonderful people. It was a fantastic trip with a fantastic team of students. We are hugely grateful to everyone that helped the group and a special thanks go to Kerry, Richard and Bob from Downbelow adventures.
To see more photographs, please click here to be taken to our Flickr album.