Embark on a Journey to Borneo: A Wilderness Adventure Beyond Routine

Borneo traveling
Borneo traveling

Tips for Traveling in the Borneo Jungle

Are you tired of the city's monotony or perhaps planning your next vacation? I strongly recommend a getaway to Borneo, the third-largest island in the world after Greenland and Papua.

For those with a passion for adventure and exploration, the tropical rainforests of Kalimantan in Borneo offer a thrilling escape. Navigating through forests, rivers, and hiking hills with friends presents a genuinely challenging yet rewarding choice.

If you're a first-time traveler to this island, split among Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei Darussalam, it's essential to gather some insights before your journey. Below, I'll share information and tips based on my own experiences to help you plan a safe and exciting visit to Borneo.

Borneo: Then and Now

The Borneo described by early European writers like Müller (1825) and Dalton (1828) has undergone significant transformations. Now divided into three countries – Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei Darussalam – much of its once-pristine forests have given way to large-scale mining, palm oil plantations, and settlements.

The legendary virgin forests have dwindled, surviving mainly within national park areas, particularly in the Heart of Borneo (HOB) at the tri-border region. Borneo's forests, still dense in these pockets, harbor mysteries that intrigue researchers and serve as vital water sources for the region's inhabitants.

One such crucial area is Danau Sentarum, Asia's largest tidal lake spanning over 132,000 hectares. This wetland ecosystem, located near the border of Indonesia and Malaysia, is home to the renowned Super Red Arowana and numerous other freshwater species.

Exploring this unique and unparalleled habitat requires caution to avoid getting lost in its vastness.

Borneo local guides
Borneo local guides

Seeking Local Guides

Even if you've arranged a tour with a travel company providing guides, I strongly recommend engaging with local individuals.

If you don't speak Bahasa Indonesia, finding a local guide fluent in English is advisable. Why opt for a local or indigenous guide?

They can serve as your interpreter in the local language (usually Malay and Dayak), with approximately 405 Dayak sub-tribes residing in and around Borneo's forests, including those in the HOB region.

Local guides, particularly from the Dayak tribe, possess skills akin to Native American Indians, known for their tracking and hunting prowess. Rest assured, you won't get lost in the jungle with them.

Venturing with a local guide allows you to learn about Dayak wisdom and survival skills in the jungle, as there are no convenience stores in the wild.

Familiarize yourself with the forest's offerings, including various fruits, leaves, mushrooms, and edible animals that can serve as sustenance or even medicinal remedies.

Monkeys and the forest as your guides

If you're determined to venture alone or can't find the right local guide, consider relying on orangutans, monkeys, and the forest itself as your guides. Yes, seriously!

Learned from an Iban Dayak elder in 2009, observe the habits of monkeys and orangutans for potential food sources. These species never suffer from poisoning despite lacking pots and pans. You can survive by consuming fruits and leaves they eat.

If you're thirsty and can't find a clean river, cut a hanging forest root, known as "bajakah." It releases mineral water suitable for drinking, and the Dayak people even use it for stomachaches and cough remedies.

To avoid getting lost in the jungle, head towards a river. Follow its flow downstream, and you're likely to encounter Dayak fields and settlements. If you lose your phone, compass, and navigation tools, look for moss on tree trunks. Thick green moss indicates East, while thinner moss suggests West due to sun exposure.

These simple tips ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure. Happy exploring!
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