Imogen's Borneo Experience

“It’s taught me how to be resilient and it’s put the world into perspective.”

There couldn’t have been a starker contrast between the 32 students staggering beneath their backpacks in the school refectory and the tired but triumphant Team Paus that stepped off the coach a month later. This is our story.

Borneo. After a year of fundraising and covid fuelled anxiety, we were finally here. Ready. Ready to help those less fortunate and make our mark on the world.

Our first camp, Tinangol, remains a firm favourite. We quickly settled into life there, adapting to the climate; the air which hung heavy with heat and humidity. Each morning we’d walk down to the village where we plastered the community centre with cement we’d mixed ourselves. It was hard graft but we enjoyed it nonetheless, the hours passing to the beat of the music from Tom’s speaker. Our reward was the waves as cars slowed past us on our walk and the smiles on the local kids faces as they beat us at volleyball. After refreshing cold showers, we’d spend our evenings making traditional beaded bracelets, playing card games and trying Malaysian snacks bought from the shop. They were good days and a taster of what was yet to come.

Next, was what everyone had been waiting for. Scuba Diving. For the divers, they explored the intricate ecosystem of the coral reef from 15m below the surface. For the non-divers, sea life was still in abundance while being able to breathe the fresh air through a snorkel. The evenings on Mamutik island were magical. We would take the “sunset walk”, exploring the tidal rock pools and spotting monitor lizards on the sand. As darkness set in, we’d sit and chat on the beach, the lights of KK sending shimmers across the sea.


Our island hopping continued as we landed on Mantanani. Here, we took part in many conservation projects from tackling the challenge of waste disposal, to plastic pollution. Our afternoons were spent learning local skills like hammock making and crafting bracelets out of crisp packets. Every evening we enjoyed cooling off in the crystal blue sea and watching the sunsets which were the best on Mantanani. There’s something about watching the sky morph from the daytime blue into pink hues and fiery reds and melting into black that makes you remember why you came to Borneo. Its these moments that I’ll remember forever.

Our last proper camp was Bongkud. We really felt part of the community in this camp, with the chief greeting us and having the opportunity to play sports with the local kids every day. Our project work was to improve the drainage system as well as making classroom furniture and teaching the primary school children. Given that we were the first team to arrive in Borneo, we’d been lucky enough to mostly have the camps to ourselves. This was our longest crossover with another team and we absolutely loved it, thanks Team Kerbau.

Imogen Strickland - Borneo

Our final camp was in the jungle. We slept in hammocks and one night 2 monkeys had a fight under mine! Having seen the extent of the deforestation on our drives between camps it felt amazing to actually being able to help. We cleared an area of ferns with machetes in order to plant trees which would create a corridor for orangutans and pygmy elephants, preventing palm oil companies from buying the land. As well as our project work, we also went on cruises along the Kinabatangan River. We saw long tailed macaques, proboscis monkeys, hornbills and fish eagles. But our highlight of the entire trip was seeing a young orangutan in the wild! We were able to watch it for half an hour and our jungle guides said that this sort of sighting only happens 5 times a year.

For me, Borneo has been a life changing experience, especially after Covid. Its taught me how to be resilient and it’s put the world into perspective. I’ve shared the experience with really amazing people and made some great friends. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I’m sure the rest of my team would too.

We would like to thank Imogen for sharing her experience on the Borneo Scuba Expedition where she contributed to Village Enhancement Projects, Habitat Conservation and Recycling Initiatives.  These projects address the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2. Zero Hunger, 3. Good Health and Wellbeing, 4. Quality Education, 9. Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, 13. Climate Action, 15. Life on Land.

We hope you are enjoying reading our ‘Footsteps on the Ground’ series.  If you would like to share your own experiences we would love to hear from you.

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