From the moment we were first picked up from the train station, until we left we were looked after by the wonderful staff. Upon arrival at the accommodation centre, we were greeted with a nice comfy bed in a large gender split dorm room. The next day our group were led into the jungle to look for signs of animals and animal poaching, in particular traps which we took the pleasure of destroying. Many interesting footprints, critters and stunning scenery along the way. Just be sure to watch for the leeches!
Trek for Conservation in the Rainforest next to Taman Negara
This project is focused on anti-poaching patrols. You will help our team to track clues for human activities in the forest to reduce poaching. Additionally, you will look for animal tracks. These could be pug marks or scratch marks from elephants, tigers, sun bears, tapir, gibbons and more.
Support the Batek Forest Tribe People
Also, you will enjoy another aspect of jungle trekking for conservation: foraging and camping with the Batek people. This aboriginal tribe is still very connected to the rainforest. It is an honour to be in the rainforest with some of the few people who have called it their home for centuries…. a unique experience! Furthermore, this is a chance to learn authentic bush and survival skills. So you may be cooking in bamboo and sleeping under a traditional natural shelter, hand-made the jungle pros. The ‘developed’ world is catching up on the Batek as their forests are being cleared for plantations. So our project is enabling them to gain an income whilst living in the forest: their ancestral home.
Some of the best Limestone Caving
Lastly, Merapoh is famous for wild limestone karsts, probably some of the best in Peninsular Malaysia. You will join a local cave excursion team to explore these many caves. They still have species yet to be documented and named by science.
If you want to go jungle trekking for conservation of the lush rainforest, learn about it, explore it and help preserve its animals, plants and people, then this adventure conservation experience is for you!
PLEASE BE AWARE
Large animals live in these forests, but it is very rare to actually see any because they are mostly nocturnal. Your role is to look for signs of their whereabouts and locate snares whilst acting as a deterrent to poachers.
Pricing for International Volunteers 2018
1 week £370
2 weeks £660
3 weeks £990
4 weeks £1,300
Pricing for Malaysian Volunteers 2018
1 week MYR 1,300
2 weeks MYR 2,275
3 weeks MYR 3,575
4 weeks MYR 4,550
Price includes 6% GST Government Tax
International prices are calculated and converted from Malaysian Ringgit so are subject to change.
ECO Walks (Educational, Conservation & Observation)
A medium level of fitness is required for the jungle walks. The walks are supposed to be slow to enable the guides to search for tracks and animal signs. HOWEVER, this is a tropical rainforest where humidity can reach 90-100%. It may not be too hot, but between the humidity and the inevitable encounters with leeches, this is not a trip for the faint-hearted!
Walks are generally 3-5 hours long depending on the group and the route chosen. These jungle walks are fascinating and will really allow you to feel like one of the animals in the forest whilst looking out for signs of humans and poachers. If any snares are found, the GPS locations will be recorded and then they will be destroyed. Even old discarded snares continue to catch animals so it is vital that they are removed to prevent any further harm. If you’re keen to develop the skills needed for rainforest conservation, you will also be taught how to use GPS for location recording! Here, you will learn how to log the coordinates of any pug marks, snares, land clearings or road kill found.
In 2018 we’ll also have more activities, from using SMART for anti-poaching patrols, to earning a tree-climbing certificate. Not to mention learning GIS skills!
There are over 70 limestone caves in the Merapoh region. The actual caves that you visit will depend on weather, group size and group ability. The caves are fantastic – some even have rivers and waterfalls inside. The presence of limestone formations creates the most fantastic scenery. These caves are home to various animals including thousands of swiflets that group together at sunset and can be seen flying around a nearby town called Gua Musang. The Batek people have used these caves for centuries, as can be seen by the many cave drawings that can be found inside.
Local Tribal Village
Volunteers staying for 1 week or more will learn bushcraft skills from the Batek tribe and may get the chance to go camping with the tribe and learn how they live in the jungle, weather depending! If you come for a minimum of 2 weeks, you will have the opportunity to help teach the Batek children basic English, maths and science through educational activities. These sessions are great fun but serve an important function, as the area has been earmarked for an increase in tourism and without being able to speak English, these tribal people will not be able to benefit from the new industry.
About the Orang Asli
The Local ‘Orang Asli’ (Malay for ‘original people’) are from the Batek tribe. They speak Batek and most of them still live part of their lives in the rainforest. The Batek people are one of the Negrito tribes and have similarities to people from the Andaman Islands, the Philippines, Indonesia and New Guinea. They are true nomads and are classified by some anthropologist as pygmies due to their short stature. The children don’t go to the local government school.
The Batek harvest the fruits of the forest and have small agricultural areas where they grow fruits such as Durian, cempedak, mangosteen, rambutan and petai, selling any excess. They also collect rattan and wild honey to use or to sell.
It is not part of the Batek character to destroy an area totally and they will move on before all the resources are depleted. They rely on the forest as their ‘supermarket’ and respect it as the home of their ancestors.
The men hunt while the women fish and collect forest fruits and vegetables. The Orang Asli are renowned for their hunting prowess. Originally the Orang Asli used bows and arrows but early this century they converted to blowpipes. Today, they still use 1.5 metre bamboo blowpipes and poisonous darts to hunt on a daily basis. Darts are dipped in the poisonous sap of the Ipoh Tree (Antaris toxicaria).
Traps and nets are occasionally used to snare small game. Meals are supplemented with fish, tortoise, jungle fruits and yams from the forest and products like rice are bought from outside. Traditionally, most food was grilled or boiled in bamboo, although now metal pots are also used.
The survival of the Orang Asli in the rainforest is partly dependent upon the use of limestone caves for shelter. In 1985 charcoal drawings were discovered in Gua Batu Luas in Taman Negara and attributed to the ancestors of the Batek people. While they only date from 1920, anthropologists have speculated that the traditions of cave painting amongst these people are much older. The motifs found in the Gua Batu Luas cave include mountain scenery that is most likely Gunung Tahan.
Activities in your Free Time
We asked our past volunteers what they’d like to see more of in our programmes. When they said more meaningful activities to do in their free time, we jumped at the chance! Here’s what we’ve come up with…
1. Run your own mini conservation/community project!
All ideas from volunteers are welcome, so if you think of something while you’re here, tell the project manager! Current ideas include:
– Spreading awareness about conservation to the local villagers.
– Teaching the local children how to make things out of recycled materials.
– Helping the Batek tribe make a sustainable income by promoting their handicrafts for sale.
– Researching conservation topics and presenting your findings to the rest of the group.
2. Help brief new volunteers on the project:
Volunteers staying for multiple weeks can gain responsibility and develop their leadership skills by presenting the project brief to new volunteers and answering questions where possible.
You will be staying at our Fuze Ecoteer Flat in the small village of Merapoh. The flat has 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and a great roof top for watching the stars! Phone reception is available at the accommodation area. 3G internet is available and also a very slow wifi connection.
Collect Animal Presence Data on your Treks
The Sungei Yu Forest Reserve forms part of a tiger corridor which connects Taman Negara National Park and the main Titiwangsa Mountain Range. Poaching was high in the area, but thanks to patrols from MYCAT and Fuze Ecoteer, the amount of poaching has seemingly decreased. Fewer snares and traps have been found since 2014.
However, we still need jungle trekking for conservation, as significant poaching continues in the area. We pass the animal presence data (pug marks, scratching etc.) to University Science Malaysia for analysis and share with NGOs and researchers. For example, the NGO ‘MEME’ – Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants receives our elephant data. And, the logged information on the Malayan Tiger and Sambar Deer goes to MYCAT.
Protecting the Local Limestone Caves
However, this isn’t just fun. Many of the caves are earmarked to be cut down and quarried for their lime. An increased tourism presence at the caves is showing the government and local people what potential these caves have for tourism. Most importantly, this promotes a reason for their preservation.
1.What are the requirements needed to join this program?
Volunteers will need to be able to speak English or Bahasa Malaysia to be able to communicate with the facilitator. The minimum age requirement is 16 years old without parents and any age with their parents. Volunteers should also have low-medium fitness, a positive attitude and willing to participate in all tasks and walks.
2.How do I get to Merapoh from Kuala Lumpur?
Bus: From Hentian Putra Bus Terminal Kuala Lumpur, take a bus to Merapoh. You will need to inform the bus driver that you wish to be dropped off at Merapoh as it is not a major bus stop location.
3.What vaccinations do I need?
Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid, measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), tetanus-diphtheria. Anti Malaria pills are encouraged to be brought even though cases of Malaria are seldom recorded.
4.Any details on visa?
Tourist from the following countries will receive a 90 day free tourist visa upon arrival:
Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kirgystan, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Lienchestien, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherland, Norway, Oman, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Romania, St Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Yemen.
5. What it the minimum age to join?
Volunteers aged 18 years old and above can come with no parental consent. Volunteers aged 16-17 can come, with parental consent only. Those aged under 16 must come with their parents.
6. Is this program suitable for families with young children?
Families with children (age 15+) can participate. Take note that the jungle walks may be tough as the path could be muddy & damp, slippery during the rainy season and hot and humid all year round.
7. Is it possible to have our own room?
No. All volunteers will be staying in shared accommodation.
8. How many hours per day do volunteers volunteer?
The volunteering activities run from morning until evening with a lunch break in between. Precise timetabling depends on the weather as some activities may be delayed if it rains.