"I will always cherish all the treasured memories and lasting friends that were made throughout my time on Expedition 17A"
I spent 70 days with Raleigh Borneo on the first expedition of the year (Expedition 17A). Raleigh Borneo’s Basecamp is in Tuaran, Sabah and it’s Fieldbase is in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. There were 52 venturers and 18 managers on this expedition. During my 10-week expedition, there were 3 phases: Environmental, Community and Trekking/Adventure. I was allocated to Danum Valley Conservation Area for the environmental project, Kampung Kemburaon for community and Crocker Range for trek. Raleigh’s objectives for expedition 17A was to fulfill a few of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as providing villages with access to safe water and sanitation and protecting vulnerable environments. Throughout our projects, we were given Active Global Citizenship sessions on the SDGs, world issues as well as how we can contribute to solving these global issues in our home countries.
Phase 1 (Environmental)- Danum Valley (Team: Alpha 3)
I worked alongside 8 venturers and 3 managers on 2 projects for the environmental phase. I was taken aback by the spectacular views and the vast diversity of wildlife. For 20 days, we stayed in the heart of the rainforest in Danum Valley. It was an amazing experience to spend day and night in the living in the jungle and witnessing all the different animals, insects and plants. We contributed to the construction of a suspension bridge which will provide a path into the rainforest for researchers and visitors, and will also help improve the ecotourism in the conservation area. The second project was camera trapping which will help researchers and the local rangers observe and survey the wildlife in the area. In addition to our projects, we helped a PhD student with his research on the Bird’s Nest Fern plant by sifting out the soil and counting the invertebrates that lived in the plant. Towards the end of our phase, we trekked to a camp called Purut where we would spend 2 nights. It was located 7.8km away from our main camp and in the conservation area. The local rangers guided us to the magnificent campsite set beside an incredibly refreshing waterfall.
Phase 2 (Community/WASH project) – Kampung Kemburaon (Team: Alpha 2)
Alpha 2 consisted of 11 other ventures and 3 managers on the community/Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project (WASH). Phase 2 was in a small village called Kampung Kemburaon in Kota Belud. In the past year the village faced many droughts causing a shortage of water supply. Our project was to build and maintain a gravity-fed water system, install water storage tanks, lay new pipes which will improve the accessibility of water in a lot more houses. In addition, we conducted baseline surveys to find out about the villages access to water and hygiene facilities and to monitor and evaluate on Raleigh’s projects. We also built a communal toilet for the villagers. After work, we would usually give the villagers sessions on Hygiene and Sanitation. I also learned a lot of practical DIY skills from the villages-making instruments and whistles from bamboo, handicraft (paracord bracelets) and hammering and sawing skills. The villagers also taught us how to cook lots of different vegetables that were grown in their village. Aside from all the practical skills, the most valuable lesson that I learned from the villagers is that leading a simple life and spending time with each other’s company can bring joy and happiness.
Phase 3 (Adventure) – Trekking (Team: Alpha 5)
I spent 17 days trekking through in Crocker Range with 13 other venturers, 3 managers and 4 guides. We trekked through the beautiful landscapes and spectacular views of the sabahan rainforest. Our team stayed at 13 different campsites and had 3 rest days in between. During the trek, I learned how important team work was and that we had to support each other through good days and bad days, ups and downs as it would not be possible to complete this phase alone. Throughout the phase, it was vital that we would be self-sufficient and independent as we had to carry our own tarps, hammocks, food supply and group equipment. We also put our leadership and team working skills to the test as the trek was both physically and mentally challenging. Motivating each other was a very important key while trekking as not all of us would feel 100% every day. On our rest days, we were given sessions on survival skills and DIY skills such as making “Jungle Jewelry” from bamboo, necklaces from seeds and tables and shelters from leaves and bamboo.
Overall, these 10-Weeks was a life changing journey for me as I developed on a lot of vital skills such as: leadership, teamwork, communication, cultural awareness, problem solving and resilience. As a team leader, my job was to motivate the team, lead them throughout the day, speak to the project managers about the objectives for the day and ensure that the team meets the targets. I made loads of friends from different countries. I went through hardships such as living away from home and comfort, learning to be more independent and working with people from different people. I will always cherish all the treasured memories and lasting friends that were made throughout my time on Expedition 17A.