I am always proud to work for Camps International, but nothing can heighten that more than being able to get the opportunity to travel abroad to one of our locations to see it for myself!
This October half term, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to travel to one of our Asian locations Borneo and what a place it is!
I travelled alongside a bunch of excited teachers who are due to be travelling with their students in the summer of 2016, and seeing as we only had a week to soak it all up, we were all ready to get stuck in. After a long flight, don’t worry, there’s plenty to keep yourself occupied with, we arrived in Kota Kinabalu in the evening. We were all glad of an early night as we were up early the next morning for our first adventure.
As we offer two expeditions to Borneo trek or scuba. I took the scuba group over to Mantanani Island so we could experience the camp and visit the local community. The crossing to this beautiful island can be quite rough, and with lots of bumps and splashes (some of which soaked us!) we arrived at the island. We were greeted by Camp Manager Aida and her lovely team who instantly welcomed us into the camp. We were itching to get going, so we went for a walk into the local community. We walked past houses, small shacks, cows (yes, they just wander around), and a lot of rubbish! The main thing our students will notice when they are staying on Mantanani Island is the amount of rubbish that is scattered on the beach. This is one of the biggest problems that the locals have to deal with as there is no structured way to remove rubbish from the island; this is without mentioning the amount of rubbish that is washed up on the shores. But, the locals are resourceful, they have learnt to recycle products into reusable items which you guys will get a chance to help make!!
Whilst myself and the scuba teams were on Mantanani Island, the trekking teams were with my colleague Jonny, who took them on a trek through the jungle. Led by our trekking guide Mike, and Al (our Asia Operations Manager) the teachers got to experience life in the jungle. They were also lucky enough to stay at Luanti Baru and were able to visit a tea factory and help with tea picking.
Both teams reunited at Camp Bongkud, our flagship camp in Borneo. Camp Bongkud is run by an amazing lady called Eve, who always has a big smile on her face. The accommodation here is traditional long houses very comfortable! We had the opportunity to visit the local village, and to visit a current project. The kindergarten within the village is soon to be taken back by the Church to use for a women’s group, therefore, they need another kindergarten. This is where we come in! We were able to see the current work and to really visualise the finished product. We were also able to see one of our completed projects the community centre. This centre is at the heart of the village and is loved by all it even has a fully stocked library in there for the local children! It was amazing for us to see the progression that our projects have made, and the true impact that these projects have on the lives of the locals. Now, I won’t embarrass the teachers by putting a video of them on this blog, but that evening they did take part in traditional dancing with a group of local girls who came into camp to give us a demonstration. Traditional dancing is something that you will definitely be introduced to whilst in Borneo, so get thinking of a dance that you could teach the locals in return, they’ll love it!
The final camp that we visited was Batu Puteh, our jungle camp! For a girl who definitely loves her home comforts, this is the camp I had the most reservations about, however it is a brilliant camp!! This is the camp where you need to just let go, the toilets are a hole in the ground, the showers are bucket showers and you sleep in hammocks! It may sound like someone’s worst nightmare, but I promise you, it is brilliant fun. The projects that you get involved with are mainly reforestation projects. Needless to say, this is something that is beneficial to the wildlife on a long-term scale. Just remember to bring a decent insect repellent with you!
On our final days, we had the wonderful opportunity, as will you, to visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. This organisation does inspirational and vital work for the Orangutan and to be able to witness the protected areas and lives that they have is amazing. We try to get our students at the sanctuary in time for feeding time, so hopefully you’ll get to see these amazing creatures up close! We also visited the Sunbear Conservation Centre. I hear a lot of you asking what is a sun bear? Do some research on these amazing animals and you’ll soon learn to love them.
Back at Kota Kinabalu, we stayed in a hostel for our final night. Kota Kinabalu (or KK as its fondly known) is a mixture of a place. Driving around, you’ll easily spot familiar signs (Starbucks, McDonalds being a few), but then round the corner there are local markets and local food stands. It is a great hub of activity and a great city to visit.
The week was incredible, the people are so humbling, grateful, welcoming, happy, and giggly and they truly can’t wait to meet each and every one of you. The teachers are so excited to come back in the summer, and it just cemented in my mind how proud I am of Camps International and the work that we do. For those of you heading to Borneo, you’re in for a treat!