Welcome to Part 7 of the Borneo Adventure ‘Jazz in the Jungle’, a Borneo travel tour run by Borneo Ethical Adventures.
We’re in Gunung Mulu National Park.
If you’re looking to visit Borneo, and want to book an exciting Borneo trip, you might like to check out the other posts so far in this series: ‘The Jazz in the Jungle’ 10 day adventure which includes a Borneo orangutan tour and river kayaking among other amazing activities.
Previous Posts in this series
- Borneo Travel Adventure – BorneoPart 1
- Orangutans and Kayaking – Borneo Part 2
- Matang Rehabilitation Centre – Borneo Part 3
- Bako National Park – Borneo Part 4
- Mulu National Park – Borneo Part 5
- Mulu Caves – Borneo Part 6
Borneo Travel and Safety First
The Skywalk Canopy Tour we were booked on first thing this morning had been cancelled due to torrential rain last night. The guides decided it wouldn’t be safe to be walking on boardways, swinging 20 metres above the forest floor of the Borneo jungle, along the longest tree based canopy walk in the world.
But this delay meant we could enjoy a hearty brekkie in the cafe instead 🙂
This entailed a couple of hours free to chat, share stories and generally get to know our fellow Borneo travel companions a little better.
Ethical Tourism in Borneo
Getting to know people on this trip has been an absolute pleasure, and it’s been fantastic how everyone has got on so well.
Borneo Eco Tours
Some people have previously travelled with Alison on other Borneo trips, and knew what to expect, and possibly also understood what type of person would travel with Borneo Ethical.
For at the core is the fact that we are all of a similar type, and more than that we were all keen to experience Borneo at a deeper level than just as tourists.
I think we were all looking for an eco tour along with a little adventure, which threw up lots of personality similarities.
We found we had many things in common, and found things to laugh about, as well as topics to discuss at length – because this trip has thrown up some very interesting questions about ethical tourism and the sustainability of our world order as we know it.
In fact nearly everything about Borneo Ethical Adventures centres around travellers returning home a little wiser about eco-tourism than when they set out – as well as having fun, and discovering some amazing fauna and flora.
Volunteering at Batu Bunghan school, Borneo
Just after noon we crossed the suspension bridge out of the park and waited for the car which was to take us the short drive to the school.
We drove along a country lane down to the river, where we came to a beautiful country primary school, Batu Bunghan School.
Borneo Ethical Adventures have been volunteering and supporting the local school for over 5 years.
For our visit the project was to help students and teachers design and print their own re-usable bags in an effort to reduce plastic waste, and the use of plastic bags.
With Gillian’s expert guidance we rolled up our sleeves and helped the younger children design and paint fabric bags, while in another classroom, Nat, Dave and his two sons got a singalong and dance session going which the children loved.
It was lovely to see Dave supported by his boys not just on guitar but also the metal suitcase (improvised drum) 🙂
The separate schoolrooms, dorms, kitchen, boarding house and dining area were all built on stilts because the river floods regularly.
“Sometimes,the children walk into the school,” the headmaster told us, “and then they go home by boat because the river has risen to such an extent. The school has flooded 9 times this year already.”
School facts I found interesting
Around 120 pupils attend the school from 3 nearby villages. Most children walk to school, although those from one village come by longboats.
There are 2 cooks who start work at 4am each day.
Several teachers live in and share the staff house. They go home every two weeks, the same as the children who board.
Selected staff go to Miri, twice a month, by plane or boat to purchase school supplies. (There are no shops ‘just around the corner!’)
All around the school it was delightful to see posters with ‘idioms of the week’ …. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s all French to me! along with other inspirational quotes on posters glued to poles.
Flags flew like bunting, and the schoolrooms were painted gorgeous pastel colours.
The school grounds were meticulously cared for, the children looked healthy and happy, and displayed immense respect for adults. Overall there seemed to be a fantastic ethos, and much pride in their school … children even took off their white plimsolls before walking into their classrooms.
Adventure on the Melinau River
Later in the afternoon, after a snack in Cafe Mulu, and a short rest we gathered at the jetty to board the longboats.
The Melinau River was running high and fast after the rain yesterday, and it was an even deeper brown today, churned up and a little antsy it seemed.
We were heading to Penan Longhouse.
The first part of the journey was leisurely. We took photos and videos and admired the views of the forest and riverside life until we reached the point where the Melinau and Tutor River meet.
Here, Alison had told us to look out for the change in colour between the two rivers, which we did, until those of us with the slightly shall we say more lily livered dispositions, saw just how swiftly and angrily the river we were about to head up, was coming down – along with a fair few large logs and a quite a lot of debris.
For the adventure seekers, it was a thrilling boat ride. The experienced boatmen skilfully navigating their way up a raging river, avoiding hazards, hugging the edge of the river or steering diametrically across the flow when necessary.
Exciting Borneo Travel
The outboard motors were on full throttle, the longboats bobbing and forging their way up river towards the long house. The journey in all took about 40 minutes and we all alighted safely, thanking the boatmen, who in reality, have probably navigated much more challenging waters as this river is known to fall and rise in a matter of hours depending on the weather.
The longhouse was fascinating. A colourful building which in effect consisted of several flats, each with a number, on two levels.
In the compound there was also a church and what looked like a kindergarten area.
The villagers had been busy weaving and beading in preparation for our visit and displayed their wares for sale outside their houses. And we were treated to musical performances.
We met the chief, Isak, and watched the local lads play a game of Futsol.
The villagers had also been busy cooking for we were treated to a feast of freshly culled wild boar, panco chicken and ginger flower cooked in bamboo, tapioca leaf, paku fern, fresh bamboo shoots and cooked papaya.
After a relaxing few hours in the village and watching longhouse life unfurl around us it was time to head back to Mulu. Heading down river, the journey was much swifter and we were back at Park HQ in about 20 minutes, ready for a cooling Tiger beer overlooking the river, just around sunset.
Final Day in Mulu
Tomorrow join us on an exciting traverse high in the treetops along the longest canopy walk in the world.
Borneo Tours – What People Are Saying
“Jazz in the Jungle in September 2018 was a truly amazing trip. Ali (Borneo Ethical Adventures) is ‘organiser and cultural advisor extraordinaire’, having put together lots of fun, adventure, food, walks, kayaking, sightseeing, meeting locals and so, so much more of the wonderful activities and features Borneo has to offer. Sharing all this with a lovely group of 25 (mainly) Freo folks made this holiday all the more exciting. A very special trip with memories that will last forever. Ali, you rock!! A million thanks. ” Susanna
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My trip was complimentary as part of a collaboration with Borneo Ethical Adventures, who run fabulous Borneo tours, and Sarawak Tourism.