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23 August 2010

University of Life in Bukit Sarang


By Yvonne

I slay the dragon during the 4 days 3 nights trip to Bukit Sarang on the 23rd of October. Group of 7 went with open mind not knowing what to expect. This trip was organized by Grand Perfect Conservation organization as part of awareness program with AirAsia berhad. This trip was kindly approved by Mr Joanes Unggang; Conservation Manager. We were accompanied by GP personnel, namely, Alex ak Jukie, Jimmy Teo and Nyegang Megom.

When we arrived at the Bintulu airport, we were graciously welcomed by the Grand Perfect staffs and mean looking 4 wheel drives. Once we done with the disclaimer forms, off we go on a 3 hours back breaking journey through a trunk road. When we reached at the end of the road, we stopped at Rh Ado; this is where we have to make a courtesy call and record our entry. Our next journey involved another back breaking long boat ride for about 2 hours to get to the camp. Along the way, we spotted some disturbing and suspicious creatures in the river and one or twice have to stop our boat to clear the fallen trees and branches.

Leaving Rh Ado to continue our journey to the camp.

Camp was a hidden gem with the cave as its backdrop. The surrounding area was fantastic; as I stood at the front yard, colors all around me was so bright it hurts my eyes; the green leafs, the blue skies, the earth, the colors of the wind and the river. I have seen so many wonderful things in each of my conquests, but I know this trip will change my life forever.
It was quite a lazy afternoon when we arrived, and we were gently reminded not to swim in the river as it is where the crocodile nest is located. However, as I turned my back for few minutes, I saw Asri and Hisyam were happily dived in the river. I can’t blame them as the weather was hot and the river was cool. After a while, I cant’ resist the temptation and dived in as well.

In the afternoon, we followed Chie’n C. lee; GP collaborators www.wildborneo.com.my as he set up his camera to capture bats coming out from the caves entrance, that was quite fascinating to see how the whole process was done and shown us some photos and shared with us some information on bats and other small mammals. Shortly after dinner, we were briefed by the Bukit Sarang care taker; Mr Su See Kong; he was very knowledgeable and well versed about the surrounding area. Shortly after, we went for frog-ing activity. We were told to capture a frog so that we can identify the species and learn more about it. Walking along the plank was superb while trying to look for a frog. We managed to capture 2 unusual ones. Once we were back in the camp, Alex was kind enough to teach us how to ‘record’ the frog, which I honestly find quite disturbing.

Resting after the long walk during Frog-ing activity ..

The next day, we woke up with a sound of river flowing by and the birds chirping, I know for sure that this will be a very interesting day. We were accompanied by one of the bird nest collector; Aman. He was very knowledgeable as he was frequently asked to assist researchers doing their research. He knows most of the plant scientific name and since he live in one of the cave’s, he knows every path on the back of his hand. We covered Gua Rusa and Lubang Antu and climbed up UP3; the highest peak at Bukit Sarang. It was during the caves exploration that I learned invaluable lesson; trust. There were couples of times when Jimmy (GP Junior Officer) reached out his hand and asked me to let go of my hand and told me not to look down at the same time. Letting go was the hardest part, it was trust that I managed to do it and back to safer ground. To be able to walk the same path with the bird nest collector opened my eyes in many ways; first, to trust your instinct and your body and second, walking in the same path as others that has been there thousand of years before me was magnificent. Once we done with the caving, we help to set up trap along the plank and we went for inspection every one hour during the night. It was quite an emotional activity for me personally as we lost few bats due to bad tangled.

Saving the bats

Today was a challenging day; we were firstly being shown how nest being harvested and how to identify the type that can be harvested. Million of things runs through my mind on our way climbing up to our ‘classroom’ which was a small enclave deep in the cave and climbing down was entirely different story all together, thanks to Aman, I came in and out of the cave in one piece. We climbed Batu Labik Peak and along the way, we were all in a very good spirit, despite the smell and the slippery trail.

We assisted GP personnel in setting up trap. When we came out from the cave, we found rare looking bats trapped and it was huge. At night, when we went to checked the trap, we were heart broken when we saw most of the bats trapped were carrying a baby, as gentle as we could to released them, we lost few and saved few. One of AirAsia staff, Kamilah Reduan, managed to convince others to adopt two babies and Chien Lee was very generous to share with her his knowledge on how to take care of the babies. She practically woke up the whole night to monitor their progress, and the babies survived to see another day.

Managed to rescue the mommy and the baby

On the last day of the trip, it was a somber morning; deep kinship was formed between us and the GP personnel. Apart from that, the Allstars (AirAsia) groups learned a thing or two about each other and it was a good team building that we created.
When we reached Rh. Ado, we went to Sk. Keseng and were pleasantly surprised with the warm welcome from the school board. We were touched by the hospitality given and the simple ceremony was very meaningful in its on way. Thanks to MPH for the donation given, their generous act, goes all the way and reach out to the school located deep in remote area. The headmaster was very happy given that most of their books were destroyed during recent flood. Did I mention that we were all smelly and dirty? (we didn’t even take our bath that morning), it was difficult to keep a straight face. The simple donation give away event went well once again we were back on the road.

Book donation to Sk.Keseng

On the way to the airport, we stopped at Waterfall Kapur Camp and presented with one picture perfect 7 levels waterfall. Once we done with photo sessions, we headed back on the road and arrived safely in the airport.
It was a quite journey back to KL and each of us seems lost in thought and it was clearly that the experience that we gained while in Bukit Sarang changed the way we see things. What was initially an awareness program gave us so much in return that make us realize about our capability and capacity as an individual, to which we are forever indebted too.

Thank you for giving us the chance to catch a glimpse of a paradise on earth!