Venturing the peat-swamp forest of Borneo

Volunteer Blog

by Elma W. Purba (BNF Education Volunteer 2018)


It was really fun to have visited the forest. It was indeed joyful and fun to spend time venturing the forest which has allowed me to learn many great things that i would probably not find in town. As for that reason, i feel so lucky that i have been given the opportunity to participate in forest visit programme hosted by BNF in the Natural Laboratory of Peat-Swamp Forest (NLPSF) of Sabangau, CIMTROP – University of Palangka Raya. I would personally say that all activities were so great!

The way to get to the forest is quite challenging. I had to cross the black river by small wooden boat ‘Klotok’ via Kereng Bangkirai, the nearby village which is also the entrance gate to Sabangau forest. Because it was dry season, I had to stop by the post to wait for the lorry to take me into the camp. I couldn’t tell you how it felt taking lorry for the first time; it was super challenging and it sent my adrenaline skyrocketing as my heart beat so fast seeing the old and small railway just there down my trembling feet. My lorry “driver” told me that this mode of transportation to the forest is only used during dry season as the water table on the river drops very significantly disallowing the boat to reach the camp gate.


Setting up butterfly trap (left) and activity in nursery area (right)
Photo by BNF Education Volunteer | BNF | CIMTROP
Touching down the camp, i took rest for few minutes before having such tasty lunch in the camp kitchen. After lunch, the first activity was finally kicked-off. We were instructed to get into the forest by using the map; in this session we were guided by the field staff from BNF. We took the samples of trees, learnt about the type of the indicator animals such as dragonflies, butterfly and damselflies. For the tree sampling, we made notes of the name of the tree species, the functions of the tree, the shape of the leaves, and branch textures. I found indicator animal session the most fascinating activity as this gave me insights of the role flying insects play in giving us information about forest biodiversity. Those field staff also told us the way of understanding these flying insects. As I was informed, the bait traps are regularly set up to catch the butterflies before they are able to identify these beautiful species. The identifications are done by measuring the wigs of the butterflies using caliper. Very unique, isn’t it?

On the second session, we played the GPS tracking. Honestly, it was my first time participating in such game. It was, again, super fun and plus very enriching that i could learn many things from it! The groups during forest visit were split to group A and B; they were asked to compete in this games. The winner would depend on the fastest group accomplishing the mission of the GPS tracking by seeking the hidden objects (cups) at certain spots in the forest. To help us completing the mission, the groups were given the GPS and compass to track the hidden objects. Each of the hidden object we found was written a clue of keywords that later each group had to explain after the game finished.

Before we headed back, we also went to the nursery area. It was the place where the seedling and seeds are grown before they get replanted in the forest for the reforestation programme. The field staff helped explaining the methods of replanting the trees, finding good seedlings, and identify the tree species that could survive in extreme peat grounds. In the nursery area, it was unusual to me seeing the unique polybags that the field staff used. It was eco-friendly built material made out of the grass called ‘Purun’ that could only be found in the peat-swamp area. Even though this polybag material is quite expensive, yet it is claimed to very effective in growing the seedling and the seeds as this helps push the survival rate of the plants compared to the plastic polybag.

Upss, i forget to tell you one thing. It was surprising to me that this camp was really complete! You can even play badminton here. Have you ever played badminton in an open area where you’re surrounded by the dense forest! If your answer is no, then you should try this one! It was really unique for having experienced playing this game in fresh weather.

Have you ever played badminton in the forest? I bet you haven’t. Then, you should TRY!
Photo by BNF Education Volunteer | BNF | CIMTROP
In the end, it was just a piece of story out of tons memory that i could share with you during my forest trip. If you want to know more, you have to experience it by yourself. I would strongly recommend this place for you to venture the majestic forest of Borneo with super fun field activities.