Back in 2015 we held a competition here at The Great Projects to see who could make the best Orangutan Conservation video, and the prize was a trip to see the Great Apes on the Orangutan and Tribes Tour over in Borneo! Raphaella was the deserved winner of the prize, and after going on her trip she was kind enough to tell us all about her experiences over there. This makes for a good read, so sit back and enjoy!
What was the highlight of your trip?
I can't narrow it down to just one, it’s too hard. For me, it has to be when we got to be a part of releasing the one day old green turtles. That was incredible and definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity; to be so close to nature in a conservation effort.
Getting invited to a random Malaysian birthday party in Matang on our second night, and being bribed with food, drink and karaoke.
Bamboo rafting was hilarious and one of the best days of the whole trip. It felt like we were all one big extended family. It was a day filled with giggles that laughter that hurt your stomach, rice whiskey, rapids, getting chucked into the river, and a delicious river lunch cooked in bamboo.
Would you go back or to any other projects?
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. It allowed me to not only see the country, but really immerse myself in the culture and beauty whilst aiding conservation efforts which is very important to me. Although I would be cautious of the types of conservation offered. As although being hands-on is exciting and amazing, like releasing the turtles was, and I will forever remember that moment for the rest of my life, obviously hands-on can be detrimental to the animal. So whilst I applaud and am extremely happy that The Great Orangutan project is 100% hands-off and that we are educated on this, some other projects that are not wouldn't sit well with me. Personally I'd be happy in any form of conservation I got to be a part of if it truly is in the best interest of that animal and its species, and not for the sake of trying to make it a one in a life time experience. For me, the conservation effort itself would be the incredible memory enough.
What are your tips for new travellers?
First off, pack light. If you’re not one for doing laundry all the time (especially in humid countries where next to nothing dries) then make sure you have enough to get you through. And by get you through, it’s perfectly normal to wear something 3 days in a row, as no one will judge! Likewise, for girls, in my experience no one ever bothers on these trips to wear any make-up. Don't get me wrong, I'm a lover of make-up myself but when you're sweaty, in rivers or trekking in the jungle, there's simply no time and no need for it. It is fine if you’re planning to go out to a bar like we did to Monkee bar in Kuching, then by all means bring it, but otherwise I would not bother.
Comfy, light clothing will be your best friend. Cover up at night to avoid getting bitten, but in my experience (especially with sand flies) even if you're dripping in 50% DEET and wearing long loose trousers (they can bite easily through tight clothing that sits on the skin) if they really want to bite you, there's not that much you can do except get under your mosquito net. Speaking of mosquito nets, if you haven't bought one and are planning to, it’s DEFINITELY worth that little bit of extra money for a box net, these are a million times easier to put up and you'll thank yourself later when everyone else is struggling with theirs and you are sitting under your mansion of white mesh netting.
Underwater cameras are an affordable must have, my friends on the trip bought one for just £60 from Argos, adding a new depth to capturing the joy of your memories. If this is your first time travelling alone, out of Europe, overseas, across the world, or heck just leaving your home town, don't worry. Everyone will be like minded and happy to make new friends and a ton of new memories you'll keep for the rest of your life.
Lastly, bring a decent head torch for those night treks and midnight toilet breaks. Trust me, no matter how hard you try; not drinking after dinner and popping to the loo before bed, you will have to wake up at 3am and make the trek that is the non en-suite toilet. But don't worry, always take a moment to smell the roses, or in my case, look up at the jewelled blanket of the starry night sky on a beach in Sarawak, Malaysia, with no light-pollution. It will be like nothing you've ever seen before (especially if you're a city bunny like I am).
If you had to describe the trip in 3 words what would they be?
Unforgettable, eye-opening, and hilarious.
Did the trip inspire you to help animal conservation in any other ways?
Yes, I have shared the knowledge and education we were given on the trip to my friends and family, things as simple as why you should never ride an elephant or work hands-on with orangutans, why you should never take photos that include using animals as props. I will also be doing a piece about it on mine and my sisters travel blog.
Why do you think people need to travel?
Travelling is food for the soul. It opens your eyes past your own necessities and luxuries, past the life you live and those that surround you. You get to see how much more this world can offer us and be a part of it, even if it is just for a few weeks. A life is lived when it is full of memories, friends and good food, not the money in your bank or the clothes you wear. A slice of culture can fuel me for months, until the wanderlust takes hold again.
If reading about Raphaella's amazing experience has inspired you to take a closer look at the tour, then check it out and plan your trip to Borneo!
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