25th March 2015
This expedition, Raleigh Borneo is incredibly fortunate to be working in three Class 1 protected forest reserves. All the sites are managed by our project partner Yayasan Sabah (YS) which is a charitable foundation, largely funded by its forestry activity of land allocated to them by the government. To protect some of the areas allocated to them, YS entered into a “Sustainable Forest Management Licence Agreement” with the Sabah State Government in September 1997 covering an area of 599,828 hectares.
Maliau Basin, Imbak Canyon and Danum Valley are all part of this YS “Concession Area” and are home to some of the rarest species of flora and fauna in Borneo. YS, with the support of government agencies are working towards UNESCO World Heritage Status for all three of the sites. Imbak Canyon is one of the last untouched and relatively unexplored primary virgin rainforests in Sabah, if not the whole of Malaysia. After working with Raleigh since 2004 Imbak Canyon achieved Class 1 protection in December 2008 which now prevents any logging from taking place. The teams will be building a suspension bridge to allow greater access to deeper parts of the forest and allow researchers and the rangers to access the areas in the rainy season.
Below is an account from venturer, Kelechi.
I think I can safely say on behalf of the group that on group allocation day we all felt extremely lucky, not only were we being given the opportunity to go and live in Imbak Canyon, a conservation area of almost untouched primary rainforest, but we also had an incredibly ambitious and exciting project on our hands; building a suspension bridge from one side of the river to the other.
Talented though we are, none of us knew, on arrival, how exactly to build a suspension bridge. We soon found out that a lot of behind the scenes work is required, particularly since this is the first Alpha 5 phase of the expedition.
This was not a problem for us. On the very first day in Imbak, not only did we manage to set up our living space and organise our rations, but we also built a store house for our equipment from scratch. This immediately set the standard for the productivity for the rest of the phase. Our efficiency as a team has been something that we have all (rightly) been very proud of.
The first few days of work were spent preparing the worksite which included fixing the jungle trail down to the river to allow us to haul up the rocks and clearing the bridge worksite itself. Then the hard work really began. Two full days were spent collecting rocks from the river and lugging them up, first to the campsite and then to the worksite via a human chain. From the outside that may seem like a testing, if not, a boring job. However, we even surprised ourselves with how entertaining we managed to make it. It just goes to show how rewarding teamwork can be. And in the absence of a gym we can’t complain!
Despite the obvious importance of constructing the foundations of the bridge, we were also lucky enough to be involved with the more “glamourous” aspect of the project. With the help of some pulleys and lots of brute force we straightened the Belian posts which will eventually hold up the bridge. It was such a morale boost for us all, we were all so proud of ourselves, it’s all coming together.
It’s not all hard work here in Imbak though. How often will we be able to boast that our shower is a waterfall? Or, that after a long, hot day of work, we have the option to unwind in a natural jungle spa with a Jacuzzi and an exfoliating fish treatment? Our free time here ranges from early morning yoga sessions with Imbak falls as the backdrop, to star gazing under the stunning Sabah skies.
One particularly exciting adventure was the night trek that our talented rangers took us on. The jungle takes on a completely new character after sunset. Kitted out in our head torches and longs we saw Sun Bear tracks up a tree and the famous 300 year old Big Belian Tree. We were even lucky enough to see a Tarsier! I cannot describe our excitement.
To think that we have less than a week left in this jungle paradise is distressing for us all. There is so much that we will miss, not least the Borneo Gibbons waking us up in the mornings or the soft shimmering of night life that send sus to sleep at night. We are pleased and proud of our contributions to this unbelievable project so far and I’m sure we will all be keeping a very close eye on the progress here in Imbak Canyon during the rest of this expedition and beyond.