Working in one the world’s environmental hot spots: Alpha 3 in Maliau Basin

6th March 2014



Maliau Basin is a majestic Class One-protected rainforest. ‘The basin’ spans 25 Kilometres in diameter with formidable cliffs as high as 1,700 meters. Raleigh has been working with Yayasan Sabah to cement Maliau’s reputation as one of the world’s most important ecological areas; Alpha 3’s project works towards this goal. The biological value and rich biodiversity of the area, coupled with the importance of it as a pure water catchment area signifies its importance for conservation. Guest blogger Ellie writes on her experiences at Maliau and working with the Alpha 3 team…

After finding out I would be heading out on my environmental phase first, I became really excited, and that’s even before I found out I’d be heading to Maliau Basin. It’s one of the oldest rainforests in the world, only discovered by the outside world in 1947 and barely touched by mankind.


After joining our new groups and meeting our fellow Venturers and new PMs, we packed up ready for our three-week trip. Leaving early next morning, we endured a nine-hour journey to the opening of the basin by coach and then took four-wheel-drive vehicles to the entrance of the Maliau Basin Research Centre. Straight away we saw monkeys in the trees and a small family of bearded pigs, which have now made their home near our camp.

The work we have been doing here includes rebuilding a plant nursery, which houses endangered and new plant species. The nursery had previously been destroyed by Pygmy Elephants. We started by emptying debris which the elephants had left behind, and then reinforced the walls and the roof. It was hard work in the sun but at the end of every day it always seemed like we have got a lot of work done.


The Maliau river runs next to our camp, dyed reddish brown by the tanins in the water. Every day, after work we go to swim and cool off. It’s so beautiful, being surrounded by the forest, although when we walk back to camp it is routine to  discover a few of us have been leeched! Something inevitable in the jungle!

After finishing the work on the nursery, Sam and Jopin, our head rangers, showed us to a new project, the Belian trail. It’s a rough path through the rainforest which needed to be leveled and graveled. Although we had the canopy of the trees to protect us from the sun, the humidity made us all work up a sweat. The rangers showed us how to use Parangs, which are local large knives, like machetes. Learning from the rangers is really interesting; they talk a lot about jungle spirits and how to stay respectful towards them. One of our local Venturers, Ginnivi tells us about her experiences with the spirits in her home village. She explains how we must not talk about them at night, and must respect the wildlife in the rainforest because they are always watching and listening.



On Sunday we had the day off to explore. A few of decided to take a small hike up to the observation tower. We went just in time for sunset and after climbing all of the stairs, the views were just amazing. All I could see was rainforest everywhere and nothing else. The sky turned from blue to pink as the sun set behind the cliffs of the entrance to the basin. It’s a moment I will always treasure. Being here makes me realize how amazing this opportunity is and how lucky I am to be in a place many will never see – only 2,000 visitors come to Maliau Basin each year.

Each day ends with us all sitting round together looking up at the stars. The sky is so clear here and so beautiful. It’s only been two weeks since arriving but I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time with Raleigh will bring.