From the east coast to the north west coast of Sabah, Eva‰Ûªs Gap Year programmes in Borneo brings you to the lovely paradise island that is Mantanani! Hope you are all well! We’re all great here (and very tanned). Hope you’ve not been worrying these last ten days; Mantanani Island, whilst beautiful, was devoid of both wi-fi and phone reception. Warning: prepare to be extremely jealous after reading this blog entry… This week’s new and exciting location was Mantanani Island, just off Borneo’s north-western coast. Camp Mantanani (Camp Mosquito Bite would also be an accurate name) is arranged much the same way as Tinangol, with a squat toilet/shower block and communal living/dining area, surrounded by greenery. The sleeping quarters are basically dorms of fifteen bunk beds in a three-walled room (privacy, what is this privacy you speak of?). Small villages lie about a kilometer on each side of the camp. Then, there’s the addition of an amazingly blue stretch of beach just outside the gate. In short, an amazing place. The weekends were spent in a truly ‘tropical island holiday’ style – a mix of swimming in pristine blue waters, exploring the (fairly small) island, tanning, watching sunsets and lounging in hammocks. The week’s project work was once again construction; this time we were putting the finishing touches on a learning centre that has been under construction since 2010. This included painting signs, lacquering wall panels and testing our skill at landscaping. Our stay at Mantanani also had a particular focus on environmental conservation. Our camp manager Aida taught us about the biodiversity around Mantanani (did you know the South China Sea holds a third of the entire world’s biodiversity?), why it’s threatened and what can be done to decrease human impact on marine ecosystems. These lessons we attempted to pass on to the local village primary school children in two hour-long classes, which we had to plan for and teach in small groups (without outside help!). Honestly it was a bit daunting, but the kids proved attentive for the most part – as long as we interspersed the teaching with lots of games! We also undertook a beach clean up. On a 320m stretch of beach we collected 200kg of rubbish. This included a whopping 700 plastic bottles. By the end of the clean-up everyone was fairly disgusted with humanity, with good reason. However, we still live in hope that this beautiful island will one day be rubbish-free. The camp itself was living proof of the benefits of recycling, with a beach hut made and decorated with almost entirely recycled materials such as driftwood, plastic bottles, dried coral and shells. Apart from project work we were always kept busy and learning new things, participating in evening activities such as palm weaving, hammock making, night walks, creating eco-purses out of plastic wrappers, and even coconut tree climbing (which Tom got particularly good at, while others preferred NOT being precariously perched ten metres above ground)… Long walks on the beach, morning swims, jumping off jetties, building sandcastles, beach bonfires, star-gazing, listening to the crash of waves: these were the kinds of simple pleasures life was made up of for ten days on the beautiful Mantanani Island. I, for one, was quite sorry to be leaving. Well, I’ll take my leave now – the group’s got to rest up properly before the next stage of our big adventure: climbing the 4km giant, Mt Kinabalu! Hugs and kisses to all! This is Eva Reda signing off for Blog 5 Team Borneo 2012