Interested in a remarkable experience in Sarawak far from the regular tourist track? Thinking about volunteering? Here are our recommendations
Can I come volunteer with The Borneo Project?
Many people around the world reach out to us asking if they can volunteer and spend some time in the field. Unfortunately volunteer work is not usually feasible as we don’t have the capacity to manage and train volunteers from abroad. While we appreciate the kindness and generosity of those who reach out willing to donate their time, there isn’t much day-to-day field work to do. Wherever possible, our projects and campaigns are devised and run by local communities — not by international volunteers — as we prioritize Indigenous self-determination and ownership. However, if you are based locally in Sarawak and are interested in volunteering, there may be ways that you can engage. Please contact our local partners, SAVE Rivers and KERUAN Organisation for inquiries.
That being said, we believe Sarawak should be high on the bucket list of every adventurer! It is a spectacularly beautiful state filled with deeply rich Indigenous cultures, brilliant wildlife and some of the oldest rainforests on the planet.
How difficult is travel to the Baram?
The communities we work with in the Baram region are keen to foster eco-tourism, but they are located well and truly off the beaten track. The travel can be strenuous, including many hours in a 4×4 vehicle on dusty bumpy mountain roads. Some of the more remote communities are not located on the roads, and require an additional boat ride and walk. We think that this is part of the fun, but it’s not for everyone. If you are comfortable with mosquitos, humidity, sharing a room in a longhouse or homestay, and very basic shower facilities (such as a bucket or a river), visiting these communities is truly an extraordinary experience.
Where would you recommend I visit on my trip?
Here are our tips for some unique places to visit where your tourism dollars will directly support Indigenous communities. You could visit all three of these communities on one trip over the space of about a week.
Visit the Penan in Long Ajeng.
Here you can stay at a small guesthouse which you can access by longboat or on foot after a 5 hour drive upriver from Miri. The Penan villages along this stretch of the river are overlooked by the sacred and stunning Batu Siman mountains. The Penan are a traditionally nomadic Indigenous group famous for their deep reverence for and understanding of the rainforest. Long Ajeng has been fighting logging encroachment and set up a blockade in 2021.
Visit the Kenyah Jamok conservation area and agroforestry project.
The Kenyah Jamok community of Long Tungan is located on the road, about 7-8 hours from the city of Miri, however at times this road is not passable, and you will need to take a short (and glorious!) longboat ride from the neighboring community of Long Siut. The further from town you get the thicker the forest becomes, so the extra hours upriver mean you will get to see some spectacular forest. With the Kenyah Jamok, you will get to learn how they protect their communal forest where no person is allowed to hunt or cut trees, and where gibbons and great argus are abundant.
Visit the Selungo Penan tree nursery project.
The community of Long Kerong, on the Selungo River, is a 2-3 hour longboat ride from the logging road (depending on the water level), plus an additional walk. It takes about 8 hours in a 4×4 vehicle from Miri to reach Long Siut, where you start the longboat ride, so you may want to first spend a night or two in Long Tungan, which is closeby — or overnight at the homestay at the Long Siut junction. This community has been heavily involved in community organizing and activism aimed at saving the forests, including spearheading a tree nursery project. We highly recommend making the extra effort to get up the Selungo river to visit Long Kerong, as does TripAdvisor.
Bear in mind that private transportation (4×4 vehicle, longboat, and guide) is needed to access these places. There are flights to Long Akah that run a couple of times a week which cut out about 5 hours of driving, but you will still need to hire a driver and car to meet you there. You cannot turn up to these villages uninvited, and we highly recommend bringing food rations and cash with you. Reach out to email@example.com and we can connect you with our local partners SAVE Rivers and KERUAN Organisation who can help guide and facilitate this.
What if I want something a little more comfortable?
Want to stay somewhere luxurious instead? We certainly don’t begrudge anyone who wants a comfortable holiday. There are plenty of options in Miri, Mulu, and Kuching. But if you have the means, please consider pledging 10% of your holiday spend to Indigenous rights by donating to The Borneo Project. More than 80% of our funding comes from individual supporters, and all donations go directly to supporting land rights and cultural survival in Borneo.
Are there other ways I can help?
Yes! It feels great to leave a donation behind when you visit a special place. We have a GlobalGiving page where you can set up your own personal fundraiser for The Borneo Project. Ask your friends and family to help out by sponsoring a bike ride, distance walk, marathon or mountain climb. Or if you’d rather stay seated, start a fundraiser to celebrate your birthday, or make us an item on your wedding registry. You can start a personal fundraiser for us at this page, and there are lots of tips for making it a success here.
And lastly, we recommend having a quick Google before booking hotels to make sure that it isn’t directly linked to the timber and palm oil industries, as many of the big hotels in Sarawak are owned by the tycoons who run these companies.