Wake up at 4 a.m. in Sabangau Forest was a memorable experience! Stories from Green School students


Toby King filming Green School activities in Sabangau Forest

My name is Toby King, I’ve been to Borneo three times now and every single time it blows me away in new inexplicable ways. One of my most favourite experiences was Gibbon triangulation in the Sebangau forest.

Waking up at 4 am wasn’t easy. Our pants were still wet and our boots filled with mud from the previous day’s trek through the swamp, but I pulled them up over my feet and got ready for what may have been the most memorable experience of my week in Borneo.

Board walk in Sabangau Forest

We swiftly paced down the thin wooden boards in an attempt to keep out of the dark red liquid that filled the Peat Swamp. Hearing the start of a gibbon call one hundred meters north-west of us our leader took us off the path and we scrambled over crevices and fallen trees. Finally, we look up and I can see a male and female gibbon participating in their linguistic heritage, a great call that spans over an hour long. As they sing out they swing through the trees playing freely with each other and showing a true expression of nature’s pure wildness.
The Gibbon tracking experience was so powerful for me because of what it implied in nature. Seeing something as wild and free as a group of gibbons expressing their territory through song is quite incredible and the harmonies they create and the way they work together to do this reflects the harmony we see in the beautiful natural world.


Green school students on “kelotok”

My name is Shahinaz Samoy and I am 18 years old from Morocco. I have lived in Bali my entire life and this is my 9th year at Green School. This was my first time coming to Central Kalimantan and I feel like I
knew what to expect, but my time at Borneo Nature Foundation exceeded all of my expectations. Because of my time at Borneo Nature Foundation, I now understand how privileged I am to be able to experience the Peatland Forest and the animals that depend on it. One highlight of the trip was being able to replant at one of the burn sites from the tragic fires of 2015. It was an incredible experience to not only witness the impacts of the fires but also contribute to the reforestation of that area.

Our entire team took “kelotok” to the site and then we had to balance and teeter our way over fallen trees to arrive at the plant site. When we arrived, the plants that we had selected the day before from our Reforestation session were patiently awaiting to be planted in their new forest home. We all planted and got very dirty! It was a highlight for all of us.

Under Sabangau Forest canopy

Another experience that I will never forget is on the last morning we woke up at 4 am to start our Gibbon Triangulation project. After a morning of over 50 Great Calls from the Gibbons we started to walk back to camp. As we walked, me and a few other students in our group witnessed Georgia, an orangutan habituated and familiar to the BNF team engaging with Wizard, a male orangutan that more elusive. I feel so fortunate to have had a rare and close encounter with the orangutans!

We were very lucky to have the experiences that we had, but I also learned a few new skills. The BNF team taught us all how to properly use a GPS and compass. I have never used both of these tools together and I now feel confident if I ever needed to use them in an emergency. During the navigation/orientation activity, I was paired with a local Indonesian student and another peer from Green School. At the start, we moved slowly and were not confident how we were meant to move through the forest.  After we found the first post we regained our confidence and began to work more effectively as a team. Each of us had our own role in navigating our team and we started to move faster, gradually getting more competitive. We did the best that we could do and returned to camp on time, unfortunately, we did not collect the most amount of posts but we had a blast!

I would love to come back to Kalimantan one day to see plants that we planted and help the team at BNF once again.