Saturday, 26 June 2010

Borneo: The Centre Of Evolution

Borneo At A Glance...
• Average Temperature: Lowlands- 32 degrees Centigrade
                                        Highlands- 21 degrees Centigrade

• There are 7 distinct eco-regions found in Borneo- lowland rainforests, peat swamp forests, Kerangas or Sundaland heath forests, freshwater swamp forests, Sunda Shelf mangroves, mountain rain forests, and even alpine meadows.

• Currency: Malaysia- Malaysian Ringgit
                    Brunei- Brunei Dollar
                    Indonesia- Indonesian Rupiah
• Time Difference: Standard Malaysian Time is 7 hours ahead of BST

The Place...
• Located on the Equator, Borneo is the third largest island in the world (after Greenland and New Guinea) covering an area slightly larger than Texas.

• Borneo is divided into 3 countries- Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.

• These countries harbour some of the world’s most diverse rainforests and Southeast Asia’s last intact forests.

• Raleigh has been continually working in Sabah (a state within Malaysian Borneo) for the last 8 years.

• Sabah has it all, from the world’s largest flower - the Rafflesia growing up to 1 meter across, one of the highest mountains is South East Asia - Mount Kinabalu, to one of the world’s top dive sites - Sipadan Island.

The People...
• The cultural diversity of Borneo is as distinct and varied as its plant life.

• There are currently 32 officially recognized ethnic groups in Sabah alone.

• The people of Sabah are known as Sabahans.

The Species...
• Endangered species such as rhinos, orangutans and elephants can all be spotted in Borneo.

• It is also home to lesser-known marvels like the proboscis monkey, sun bear, clouded leopard, and flying fox bat.

Proboscis Monkey

Sun Bear

Clouded leopard

Flying Fox Bat

• Believe it or not there are 639 species of ants, 394 species of freshwater fish, 105 species of lizards, 600 species of birds, 102 species of bats, and 61 species of rats and mice.

• Slightly unnervingly, Borneo is also home to the largest snake in the world- a python which can grow up to 10 meters long!

• Borneo is conservatively estimated to contain 15,000 plant species (of which 6,000 occur only here), with many more species yet to be discovered.

• For the last 10 years, 3 new species have been discovered each month, month after month.

• Surveys have found more than 700 species of trees in a 10 hectare plot — a number equal to the total number of trees in Canada and the United States combined.

Did You Watch...
Survivor- a hit TV show filmed on the remote Malaysian island of Pulau Tiga in Sabah. 16 contestants were marooned on the island for 6 weeks where they had to complete an array of tasks and challenges in order to 'survive'. The finale of Survivor was watched by 51.7 million viewers, the second-highest viewership of any American television episode (exceeded only by the finale of Friends).

Expedition Borneo- a 5 part BBC documentary in which a team of scientists, climbers and wildlife filmmakers journeyed deep into the heart of Borneo to uncover the lost world of jungles, mountains and ravines. During the Expedition the team discovered over 1000 species - many of which were never recorded from this area before.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Allocations- PMs Discover What Projects They'll Be Working On

The PMs waited nervously yesterday to discover their fate as we held the famed 'Project Allocations Ceremony'- a longstanding tradition for Raleigh Borneo.  One by one the 10D staff team learnt which of the fantastic projects they would have the pleasure of working on over the course of the summer, and perhaps even more importantly, who they would be working with!


And so, drum roll please, here are the project managers for Alpha One- the kindergarten in Maliau Layung...

Oonagh, Helen, Rachel and Graeme (Award presented by Mark)

Heading up Alpha Two- the community workshop in Pulau Maliangin Besar is...

Caroline, Emily, Andy, Sarah and Emma (Award presented by Me!)

Going where very few have gone before-  to Imbak Canyon with Alpha Three it's...

Helen, Nick, Frantz, Sarah and Nick (Award presented by Darren)

Helping out the sun bears at Sepilok in Alpha Four we have...

Katy and Joyce (Award presented by Abby)

Leading the adventure phase for Alpha Five is...

Sarah, Matty, Darren and Andy (Award presented by Serge)

And Finally, Alpha Six will be lead through the depths of the Bornean jungle by...

Caroline, Mark, Emma, Matty, Nick, Andy and Graeme (Award presented by Nils)

Over the next few days these new PM teams will be visiting their designated project sites to get a feel of the place, meet the locals and ensure everything is in place for when the venturers arrive in just one short week.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Survival Skills Training At T.A.C!

Having had a few days to settle into life in Sabah and bond with their new team mates, the volunteer project managers (VPM's) along with all us field base staff, were whisked off to the Traverse Activity Centre (TAC) to learn some jungle survival skills.  We boarded the bus armed with all the gear needed to camp out in the depths of the jungle for three days.  Sleeping bags, mosquito nets and roll mats.  Suncream, bug spray and first aid kits.  Mess tins, mugs and water bottles.  Walking boots, longs and waterproof jackets (which proved extremely useful when it started bucketing down on the first day!)

First up was radio training.  When out on expedition each alpha group will use the radio as their main means of communication, checking in with field base twice a day to let us know that everything is going well and to keep us posted on all the progress they are making with their project.

Next up we were given a master class in jungle survival skills- learning how to put up a hammock and shelter, how to safely use a parang (similar to a machete), and how and where to dig a long drop (essentially a hole in the ground to be used as a toilet.  Glamorous I know!)  

After a hard morning's work, we managed to squeeze in a swim in the river to cool off...

And then came the rain...

What better time to learn how to cross a river than in a tropical rain storm?!  When out on expedition, there may be times when you encounter a river that you can't go around or over, so you have no choice but to go through it.  Mac shows us the safest method to use in this situation...

The weekend was also a good opportunity to try Raleigh rations for the first time.  Porridge for breakfast- best served with a touch of milk powder, a spoonful of sugar and a handful of raisins I discovered.  Crackers with various toppings for lunch, including cheese, tuna, peanut butter and jam.  And rice, noodles or pasta for dinner accompanied with some kind of tasty tinned product.

We were up bright and early on day two to set off on our trek into the jungle where we would set up camp for the night.  The rain had finally stopped, our rucksacks were packed and spirits were high.   Bring on the jungle!

Having conquered some rather steep hills and some very slippery slopes, we set up camp.  With our personal hammocks up, long drop dug and group shelter fashioned from bamboo poles and tarpaulin, we set to work cooking dinner on a trangier stove.  With tired bodies and full bellies, we retired to our hammocks for the night.

The next morning, feeling very proud and a little surprised that our hammocks had withstood the rain that night had bought, we packed up camp and trekked back to TAC.  We had conquered the jungle- one of the harshest environments to survive in on the planet.  At that moment, anything seemed possible.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Meet The Team...

Allow me to introduce the fabulous Raleigh 10D Expedition Project Managers...
Caroline Reid           Frantz Nehammer
Matthew Knox          Emily Carter        

Sarah Watson          Nick Kjaersgaard           

Emma Ashby             Andrew Lowdon          

Joyce Malmo                Nick Johnson

Graeme Beaven         Katy McDonald

Rachel Gower