Personal accounts of their Phase 2 projects brought to you by our Venturers and a PM

15th August 2013

Volunteers smile and hold hands with a community member in Tanzania

At Changeover, Venturers: Joseph Kelen (Alpha 3), Danielle Wilkinson (Alpha 4), Katherine Finch (Alpha 5) and Molly Pearson (Alpha 6), along with PM: Krystyna Joyce (Alpha 3) were kind enough to share their experiences of 'life on project'.

Read on for an account of their Phase 2 experiences in their own words..

Venturer, Joseph Kelen, Alpha 3:

Joe Kelon“When I was called up to join the Alpha 3 team for the Phase 2 suspension bridge build in Imbak Canyon Conservation Area, I felt nervous by the prospect at first.."

Like many of the other Expedition 13E project locations, Imbak Canyon poses many challenges.  As a team you are required to spend 16 days working and staying in the same living space, with the same people.

Learning to live in close proximity with others, respecting different opinions and acting not only for myself but as part of a team are great life skills I have developed.

For me, being on a team with a mix of people from such different social and cultural backgrounds has significantly changed how I perceive myself in the world.

"Expedition 13E is not a holiday"

The building work involved a number of physical tasks which sometimes felt repetitive, but team work, patience and the ability to see long term goals quickly became the focus.

This project is part of a 2 year undertaking, a long-term commitment and partnership with the Imbak Conservation Area and other local environmental charities.  The suspension bridge build is also a shared effort with other Raleigh expeditions and the construction work heavily relies on the skills and knowledge of the rangers.

"We didn’t forget to celebrate our achievements as a team - often with doughnuts!"

Phase 2 Alpha 3’s achievements involved carrying one hundred rocks up from the river bed to the top of a hill, nailing down the last handrail along a new forest trail and creating a brand new footbridge to improve access for the rangers.  Remembering to celebrate our successes along the way led to greater team bonding, a greater team spirit and a greater sense of the importance each one of us played in the group as a whole.

Job Winfield 0058 compressed"Raleigh has shown me that the most routine tasks can make a huge difference to the bigger picture"

Were there times when I missed home? Of course, but Raleigh has taught me that in the times I feel like giving up, there is always a group of people to lean back on, and that I too am responsible for supporting them when they need me”.

Alpha 3 encounter a clouded leopard!

While out on a night trek in the Bornean rainforests of Imbak Canyon Conservation Area, Alpha 3 crossed paths with one of the world's most rare and elusive cats. The clouded leopard is a rarely sighted and vulnerable species threatened by poaching and loss of habitat due to deforestation.  

Following an on-going partnership with Yayasan Sabah (a government institute) spanning many years,

the on-going work of Raleigh expeditions has directly contributed towards Imbak Canyon Conservation Area gaining Class 1 protection status.

Clearly the work by Raleigh and our project partners to conserve this beautiful area of rainforest against logging is paying off. Hopefully Raleigh Borneo will see many more clouded leopards in the area as the project progresses.

Click here for full details on the status of the clouded leopard

PM Krystyna Joyce, Alpha 3:

Krystyna“There are some moments that will always stay with you.  And the night that you find yourself staring at a wild cat in the middle of the jungle is definitely one of mine"

It’s 8pm, and intrepid Alpha 3 are on a night trek, led by our two experienced jungle guides.  It’s a beautiful, hot night with a clear sky, and we pause to take photos of the sky - hundreds of stars are visible.
As we trek deeper into the rainforest the jungle closes in around us and the sky disappears.  Tall, towering silhouetted trees stand shoulder to shoulder as we creep with our head-torches on, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.

Imbak Canyon Conservation Area is known for a wide variety of nocturnal creatures including civets, western tarsias, mouse deer, and a plethora of small mammals. We get a few early spots: some large geckos, and a huge tree frog that politely poses on a Capur tree for us.  We trek for another half an hour and see little, and so are gently resigned to a rather lovely walk with some lizards.  

Then, one of our jungle guides hears a rustling, and every now and then swings his powerful torch up into the trees.  There’s a soft rumble that makes everyone twitch.  I find myself glancing up into the canopy of leaves wondering if it was thunder, because the only explanation for this sound is a roll of thunder or maybe the throaty sound of a large cat. 

Our jungle guide stops dead, and gestures frantically.  We immediately turn off our head torches, and are lit only by his torch, we crouch holding our breath.

“Clouded Leopard!  Clouded Leopard!” he hisses, and we freeze on the spot

We search the trees and ground around us for one of the rarest creatures in Borneo, hardly daring to breathe.  Suddenly there is a pair of bright eyes staring back at us, and we see the twitch of a long spotted tail just fifteen metres in front of us. 

With a heave of powerful muscles, the huge cat scales the nearest tree almost faster than the eye can see, in absolute silence.

"We are all awestruck, and completely honoured to have seen a clouded leopard"

Clouded Leopard Eng compressed

Clouded leopard, Imbak Canyon Conservation Area
Photographed by Oh Chin Eng (Alpha 3 Venturer)

We expected it to disappear as quickly as it came into view. Except that it didn’t.  Instead, the leopard swings around from a fork in the tree, and glares back at us.  A somewhat uneven staring match ensues between the Alpha 3 PMs, Venturers and the leopard. 

Finally, the standoff breaks and the rare cat slinks off into the blackness

We start to head out of the jungle at speed aware that we are the visitors in the leopard’s territory. With Venturers in the middle of the group, the PMs on either side of them and our jungle guides heading up the front and back we return to our camp, moving through the trees quietly but exhilarated at having just seen a beautiful wild cat in its natural habitat.

When we arrive back at our camp we ca nnot help but give a whoop for how special our experience was!

Everyone absorbs just what happened, and then one Venturer comments:

“That’s amazing for Imbak.  Our group has really witnessed something special here” 

The other Venturers agree, and a chatter of excitement breaks out.  We give each other congratulations on a great trek and I feel so proud of them.”

Venturer Danielle Wilkinson, Alpha 4:

Danny “Danum Valley, wow what an experience it has been.

For me, my highlights were our record-breaking trek in, and the hard work our team put in alongside the rangers to create a patio area, put in new pathways, kitchen shelves and running water for the camp.

"We got to see a wide variety of wildlife, from orangutans in the wild, praying mantis and exotic birds"

The scenery I’ve explored, I’m sure is some of the most beautiful I will ever see.

I have watched the sunrise from a viewing tower and climbed up a 40m ladder to look over the untouched Danum Valley rainforest.  

To be able to work on a project that has contributed towards helping to protect endangered wildlife in this special place feels like a huge accomplishment.

Our team is so privileged to have been given the opportunity to explore, live in and help support the conservation work that takes place in this area of primary rainforest”.

Venturer Katherine Finch, Alpha 5:

katherine finch “We started our Adventure Phase on the tranquil paradise island of Mamutik (Dive Island).

Here we learnt to scuba dive in open water and put our newly achieved Open Water PADI dive qualifications to use by replanting coral.

"We also led a beach cleanup along the shore every day during the week"

The second part of the phase was our jungle trek. Here we spent 12 days exploring and sleeping in the Borneo rainforest, and experiencing the tribal culture. 

We all worked hard as a team and the rewards were amazing seeing spectacular views and waterfalls. Having then pushed ourselves to the limit, we were welcomed by the locals of Long Pasia for our final night in a homestay.

"It was another good chance to be absorbed in the culture, and we were fed and watered well!"

We were all tested throughout this phase but formed strong friendships and learnt many new skills along the way."

Venturer Molly Pearson, Alpha 6:

molly peason“When Helen invited me to describe my experience on trek and dive for the blog, I didn’t know where to start.

"There were moments of intense excitement, like our fast boat ride across the ocean to Mamutik island and climbing into a dark bat cave full of jungle bats"

There has also been lots of opportunity of contemplation – my favorite being lying in our sleeping bags beside a river in Long Pasia looking up at the stars.

As a team, the biggest challenges we faced were the tough eight-hour treks on the Raleigh Rations we collectively carried to keep the weight down.

For us, the weather conditions were good in the jungle, but come rain or shine I never failed to be impressed by the courage and determination of my team.

Every one of them has been an inspiration to me, keeping me going along the way with banter and ‘pun competitions’!  

The personal rewards for me were receiving our PADIs together and qualifying as open water and advanced open water divers. Also, on the final day of our trek out of the jungle bound for Long Pasia and civilisation, we turned back and looked out over the endless expanse of Bornean rainforest which we had covered in just 11 days.

"I was stunned by the enormity of what we had just achieved as a team of young people”