Continuing our series of chats with our orangutan volunteers this month, we spoke to Louise who headed off on the Orangutan and Tribes Tour in Borneo to see what she had to say about the trip. Louise covers everything you could ever want to know about the project, so we will let her take it from here!
In July this year, I went on the Orangutan and Tribes Tour and I really could not recommend it more highly! It was such a unique and unforgettable adventure, which truly felt like a once in a lifetime experience!
It all started because of my lifelong dream to see orangutans in their natural habitat. I have always been absolutely fascinated by them since I was very young! Okay so the mug, cushion, stuffed toys and even tiny finger tattoo may be a bit obsessive, but certainly no family or friends were surprised when I announced I had booked onto this trip!
I chose to book with The Great Projects after lots of research because their ethos for responsible travel was very important to me. After years of deliberately not visiting anywhere that had orangs in captivity - the opportunity to try and spot them in the wild and see the efforts at both Matang rehabilitation centre and Semenggoh, without being detrimental to their rehabilitation and potential release was the best option for me.
Although heading to Malaysia on my own for just over two weeks with nothing but a backpack was quite daunting at first, the whole trip just cemented my lifelong love affair with the critically endangered orangutan and has ignited a whole new desire to travel and take part in similar projects.
This trip offered me the chance to:
What an adventure to come home and share with my three young boys. They now think mummy is some kind of superhero for trekking through the jungle rivers where the SAS train, and battling the leeches!
It’s fair to say that I quickly fell in love with the beauty of the place. The views at Bako National Park are postcard perfect; the trek to the Kubah waterfall was worth every second to stand under that stunning curtain of water. The rustic but stunning accommodation right on the beach at Telok Serabang, complete with outdoor shower (and it’s accompanied dreamy views), made me want to never leave! One other thing to point out is the long and picturesque journey by longboat to Batang ai was like being inside a David Attenborough documentary. You don’t get that anywhere else!
It was obviously the orangutans that brought me to Malaysia, though the rest of the tours itinerary turned out to be some of the most memorable! Personal highlights include:
But mostly, of course those wonderful orangutans - I will never ever forget the sound they make up in those trees!!
The accommodation was varied throughout, although ‘basic’ and very often complete with unwelcome lodgers of the creepy crawly variety too, it was all part of the experience.
All the places we encountered were simply breath-taking.
Each place was hard to leave and each new location quickly became your new favourite. One of the things that will always stay with me was how humble our hosts were, the chief at Telok apologised that they didn’t have much to offer us … and I was astonished by his words as I found it to be the most idyllic location, with the greatest attentive and accommodating hosts. Getting together for the farewell here and singing “you’ve got a friend” is a somewhat unexpected tradition that Alvin and the Chief have developed! But who doesn’t love a bit of James Taylor! It was so very touching and one of my absolute highlights. The shell necklace that was gifted to us by the chief on our departure will be cherished.
My fellow volunteers were all wonderful people from different walks of life and although we all had different reasons for being on the tour, I think we all returned with a new outlook on the efforts of conservation, a renewed love for the card game Uno, and a newfound love for the Malay food and possibly even the moonshine!
The whole thing was absolutely magical and I wish we could have given more than little gifts and tips to show our appreciation for the warm hospitality of all the communities. I was very impressed with how helpful the team have been at The Great Projects throughout, but special thanks must go to Alvin and Christina and Valentine (the in-country team) for their time and knowledge. They are doing amazing things out there and deserve so much acknowledgement for it! I could not recommend the whole thing anymore and am about to book my next adventure with The Great Projects!
It is safe to say that Louise loved her Orangutan Adventure, so if you want to head off on one to, why not find out more?
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