It’s been just over a week since I left Borneo and I know it’s going to sound terribly cliché but there are honestly not enough words to describe what an amazing time I had whilst I was there. When I booked the trip I had 19 months to wait and I can’t believe that it’s over!
Borneo is an amazing place, the local people are the friendliest and so kind and generous. They made us feel welcome from the minute we were picked up from the airport, to the minute we left. All the staff that we met at the centre are such wonderful people, so kind, happy and so funny! We would have a laugh with them all everyday and it was honestly a pleasure to get to know them and work with them. You can see the passion in every person that works at the centre, they do everything for the well-being of the orangutans that they care for and the bond between the staff and the orangutans at the centre is so touching to see. They have bought these animals up since they were babies and you can see the love they have for them. There is such a fun, positive, happy atmosphere when you’re working at the centre, everyday there is laughing, joking and singing, it’s really a great place to work!
Next are the group of people who I was lucky enough to share this wonderful experience with…
I honestly couldn’t have been put with a better bunch of people! We all seemed to just click straight away, there was never any awkwardness amongst us and it honestly felt like we were old friends! Living and working together had the potential to be a bit ‘much’ but it just felt like a little family. It was so nice to be surrounded by people who were genuinely happy for one another, there was no competition or separate groups, everyone was just so happy to be there and to make the most of every opportunity that we were given. It was lovely finishing work for the day, coming home and the first thing you’d be asked was “how was your day?” and knowing that the person asking you genuinely wanted to hear how you’d got on!
We had some of the best times together and I didn’t feel homesick once while I was there and I think it’s because we all got on so well and it felt like a family dynamic (a big family!) We all had dinner together in the evenings, watched films together, would do each others hair, looked out for each other when we were ill, laughed our heads off and just shared in the excitement of being there and getting stuck in at every opportunity! I’m so happy that I met such an amazing group of people and I know we’ll all keep in touch, we’ve already talked about reunions and I can’t wait to see them all again and to pick up where we left off!
Lastly, I will miss the orangutans, more than I could have ever imagined. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a HUGE animal lover and love every animal I meet but being around the orangutans really has made a huge impact on me. I have never been around such an incredible animal before and I feel privileged to have had such close contact with them and to have shared some very special moments with them.
These beautiful, loving, sweet, friendly animals have been amazing to get to know. Learning all about their different stories, how they came to the centre, their different personalities etc has been wonderful. Orangutans share 96.4% of the same DNA as us and it’s incredible how similar they are to us, having that close contact and being able to watch them on a day to day basis was remarkable and I loved every day I spent with them.
These beautiful animals live solitary lives in the wild so it was so special to watch them interacting with one another, on my last day there I saw Poogle, one of the biggest males at the centre, playing with Koko who is one of the smallest babies at the centre. It was such a special moment to watch, watching how gentle he was playing with her was so beautiful to see. Orangutans are about 6 times stronger than a man and they have a grip strength that is 4 times that of a human so it’s amazing to be around these animals and realise how gentle they are being with you! I will never forget when I first held one of the babies hands, how big and heavy it was, it was incredible!
It breaks my heart that these beautiful animals are now on the endangered list and are on the verge of becoming extinct. Their homes have been destroyed for palm oil plantations, mothers are being killed and in some cases the babies being kept as pets. This really upsets me, I hate the fact that these wonderful animals are suffering because of man’s greed – it was also heartbreaking to see how the jungle thrives, it has it’s own eco system where everything runs smoothly and then one day we go through and bulldoze it all…for money. Palm oil is a huge industry in Malaysia and brings alot of money into the country, it also brings alot of destruction. Palm oil is in 40-50% of our household products and around 90% of the orangutans habitat has been destroyed through deforestation in the last 20 years causing them to now be on the endangered list. Saying that, I know that the future for the orangutans at Sepilok looks bright. They have the love and care of the staff and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the little babies that I helped to look after.
The two months that I spent at Sepilok truly have been the best two months of my life, words cannot describe how much I loved this place and the people who I met along the way. Our last few days there were filled with laughter and tears, no one wanted to leave and I think this was a testament to how special everyone had found their time there.
The orangutans, the Sepilok centre and Borneo has well and truly stolen a piece of my heart and I’ve already promised myself that one day I will go back. Visiting such an amazing country, spending time with wonderful people, living in the jungle and learning about such amazing creatures has been the best thing I’ve ever done. It really has taught me that it’s good to be scared of the unknown, to put yourself in new situations, to shake things up a bit because you never know, it could end up being the best thing you ever did!