Article by Millie, Anjali and Rachel (Y10)

During the Easter Break, seven Year 10 students had the privilege of embarking on a school expedition to Borneo, Malaysia. Our expedition was organised by World Challenge, and Miss Andrews accompanied us on the trip. Over the course of 16 days, we witnessed the most incredible sights; we tasted the most delicious food and met the most amazing people as we journeyed across the Malaysian part of Borneo. We were physically tested whilst trekking through the dense jungles; we were thrown out of our comfort zone as we slept in hammocks under the stars, and we were pushed to our limits when showering with hundreds of bugs. But despite these challenges, friendships were sealed; a huge amount of laughter was shared, and we made the most incredible memories that we will cherish forever.

We began our adventure, at 6:30, filled with anticipation of our long journey. Following three flights, we were all left exhausted as we arrived in Kota Kinabalu late in the afternoon the following day! Greeting us in the airport Naz and Emmanuel, members of the World Challenge ground team, they helped us onto the bus after we bought a SIM card and exchanged our money into Malaysian Ringgits. Here, they gave us a brief overview of the coming days whilst we travelled to our hostel where we stayed for the next 3 days.

In Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the state of Sabah, we spent 3 nights wondering through streets and trying lots of the local cuisine. The first evening we were all very excited to experience the hustle and bustle of KK, so despite jet lag from our travels, we headed out into the city ready for dinner. Here we got our first taste of the local cuisine and we all loved it! Later on, Naz, took us on a walking tour of KK, where we learnt about the independence square and the history behind the local mosque. He also told us about how the streets now stood where the sea once was. In the afternoon, we went to the handicraft market where we got the chance to buy some souvenirs and look around; this was followed by a delicious seafood dinner on the waterfront as we watched the sun set over the harbour and boats. The following day we journeyed outside KK to Dinawan Island, a remote island with beautiful beaches and shimmering seas. We snorkelled in the crystal-clear waters of the South China Sea and spotted a variety of sea life, including clownfish and even sea urchins hidden amongst the coral!

An incredibly memorable part of our trip was our trek through the jungle. For three days, we were surrounded by the breath-taking beauty of nature of and its awe-inspiring mountains while camping there. We saw various magnificent landscapes: dense trees encircling the steep path we were following and soaring mountains decorated with lush, vibrant flora. At the campsite, we were presented with the option of sleeping in quaint huts already built there or in hammocks to put up ourselves. Needless to say, the hammocks were very popular and were surprisingly just as comfortable. Being away from the noises of the city, with nothing but the insects chirping, had a calming effect, heightened by the clear view of countless stars, no longer hidden. On the second day, we spent time in the morning viewing our guides making all sorts of handicrafts out of bamboo: a mat; a vessel to make soup in (which they used for our meal later); spoons; a bowl; chopsticks; and even a cup for each of us to take home as a unique souvenir! We saw just how versatile and useful a material bamboo is, as well as how innovative the villagers are for having employed these materials to their gain, which we also saw when we joined in weaving long leaves together to provide shelter from the rain, which was an incredibly gratifying task.

After a 7-hour coach journey across the island, we reached the region of Kinabatangan, where our community initiative would take place. We had a brilliant arrival, with sweet potato fritters and an evening river cruise, the highlight being the breathtaking sight of 3 Pygmy elephants! Our guide also pointed out several menacing-looking crocodiles and many monkeys (including babies clinging onto their mothers’ tummies). The next morning, we had an early start, ready for a jam-packed day of nursery-building and seedling planting. We spent the next day in a different part of the nature lodge we were staying in, under the shelter of the rainforest canopy planting mature trees. To start off our day was a river cruise where we spotted more wildlife including water monitors, but we were not as lucky as two days before as there were no Pygmy elephants to be seen. The physical activity of tree planting became more fun when we decided to name each of the 15 trees; some became sort of reincarnations of family members at home while others were goofier (such as celebrity names or ‘Sylvia’ – no prizes for guessing who inspired this name!). The afternoon was spent in great  jovially as most Muslims in Borneo were  celebrating Eid that day, and we joined in with their festivities with food and karaoke, hosted by a generous family from the nearby village. The last day we spent in the baking hot sun helping build a wildlife corridor, this was potentially the most important and satisfactory activity as it involved creating an area of naptha grass by the riverside, a particular delicacy for elephants. Our afternoon was again filled with more exciting activities, including Batik paintings and later, a cooking class in the evening. Although the process of creating our artworks was challenging as batiks use hot wax to form the linework in the final result, when we saw how they turned out the following day, we were all very impressed.

Our final highlight of the trip was our adventures in Sepilok, a small town in the state of Sabah.  Here, we were offered a glimpse into the fascinating world of orangutans and sun bears – two endangered animals that are mainly found in Borneo. As we walked into the centre, our eyes met with the most magnificent sight, a mighty orangutan who was nearly twice the size of us and was covered in a mass of russet hair. We all stood in amazement, gazing at the heartwarming sight of this pregnant orangutan as she gracefully and effortlessly swung through the trees. We were all astounded by the sheer size of this beast and were totally mesmerised as we watched her feeding on a mound of exotic fruit including bananas and watermelon. Our next stop was the outdoor nursery building, which housed a number of juvenile orangutans.  Here we were delighted to watch the orphaned infants as they played with each other, swung swiftly around on ropes and jumped joyfully from pole to pole. During the afternoon, we visited the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, a sanctuary for over 40 rescued sun bears. The adorable creatures made our hearts melt, and we even had the privilege of meeting Dr Wong Siew Te, the founder of BSBCC. His passion and dedication to the conservation centre left us in awe as he shared his inspiring journey with us. But the excitement didn’t end there!! We were fortunate enough to return to the Orangutan Sanctuary later in the afternoon, just in time for feeding. As soon as the food was placed on the platform, hungry orangutans descended from different directions, swooping down from trees and clambering up to the platform. During the frenzied feeding, we saw more than 8 orang-utans, including lots of infants clinging tightly onto their mothers. We couldn’t believe how close we were to these magnificent mammals and we even encountered a courageous and curious orangutan who climbed less than 5 metres away from us! This was the pinnacle of our trip and definitely a memory that will stay with us forever.


This was definitely a trip of a lifetime!