All I had known of Borneo before my trip was what I’d learned on Google many years before.
‘Borneo, a giant, rugged island in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago, is shared by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Indonesian Kalimantan and the tiny nation of Brunei. It’s known for its beaches and ancient, biodiverse rainforest, home to wildlife including orangutans and clouded leopards.’
So when I had the opportunity to stopover in Brunei, so I thought I would go and spend some time in that tiny little country where alcohol is banned, book a spot on a long boat, hire a guide, and get as deep into this rugged jungle as possible.
Driving out of Brunei, there were many boats and cars and methods of transport to get to the edge of the rainforest. We set out early, and then stopped in for breakfast of roti telur (roti filled with egg with a side of chicken curry) at a roadside stall.
Back on the road, we drove further and further until we reached the river. We were to take a power long boat deep into the jungle, to places unreachable by car.
The only way in or out was on this petrol driven long boat that careened through and over rocky shoals and by alligators with great finesse. Our guide was the ‘spotter’, every so often she would yell if the boat needed to move further left or right to miss jagged rocks (that were almost impossibly close to the surface.)
We arrived at the entrance to one of the national parks, and took a long, wobbly rope bridge over into the heart of the jungle.
There’s a spot in Borneo where they have built a tall rig-like structure where you can climb up and see over the treetops. There are monkeys and birds and all sorts of animals – but to get to the top you have to climb a somewhat terrifying staircase on a structure made of metal poles and rope.
The view, once you reach the top however, is worth the risk.
Back down, we head back towards the river and followed our guide by foot.
She told us that most of the people who lived in the forest had never bought food from a store, because they’ve been catching all sorts of fish in these rivers since they were born. Borneo is known as one of the wildest places on earth, and the people who live within it’s borders certainly live an isolated (but beautiful) life.
Back into the boat, we head to the home of one of our guides. Like something out of the Swiss Family Robinson, the houses were open air and multi layered, built along the river.
Lunch was cooked for me and served – spicy fish, rice, fresh fruit. Afterwards, I was handed a river tube and sent off into the river with instructions to ‘relax’. Yes, Chef.