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Teachers Lead Students on Expedition to Borneo, Part 2

In case you missed it, read the first blog post about The Williston Northampton School trip to Borneo. The previous blog post covered roughly half of the school group’s trip to the island of Borneo. We left off with the students enjoying a day at the beach on Manukan, a small island off the coast of Kota Kinabalu.

The next day, the group took two-hour drive to Kinabalu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to immense diversity of flora and fauna in the park. Mount Kinabalu is the tallest peak in Borneo at 4,095 meters, and it’s summit is a popular destination for climbers and adventurous hikers. Once on the mountain, the group was led on a tour through the forest, where they learned about many of the plants and animals native to the region. Their guide also explained the indigenous people’s reverence for and connection to the mountain. After the tour, the group visited a botanic garden, where they saw even more exotic flora like the carnivourous pitcher plant that captures and eats insects.

The following morning, the school group boarded a plane to Sandakan to visit the jungles in the east of Sabah, Malaysia. Upon arriving, they were met by two guides who led them to two conservation centers. The first was the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, which was founded by Barbara Harrison in 1964. There they observed the orangutans, which were brought to the center as orphans and eventually released back into the wild. Next the group visited the nearby Sun Bear Rehabilitation Centre, which recently opened in 2014. The students were able to meet the founder, Dr. Wong, who explained the mission of the center and told them about his experiences rescuing the Sun Bears. In the afternoon, their guide Joy took them on wildlife tour of the Kinabatangan River, where the students were thrilled to see an amazing array of exotic birds, reptiles, monkeys and even a wild orangutan.

After another day of cruises up and down the river, where the students were treated to many more wildlife scenes like those straight out of a nature program, the group spent a day visiting the Rainforest Discovery Centre and the Sandakan War Memorial. The latter was built to remember the Australian and British POWs of World War II, who were transferred from elsewhere in Southeast Asia to a new camp in Sandakan. Of the thousands of prisoners, only six survived when they managed to escape. This bit of international history made an impression on the students, who had not heard of it before in school.

On the second-to-last day of the trip, the group made the most of their comparatively luxurious accomodations at the Shangri-La Ria Rasa resort north of Kinabalu. They spent the better part of the morning enjoying water sports like banana boating, water skiing and sailing on a catamaran. The group also enjoyed an extensive lunch, where they feasted on authentic Malaysian cuisine and American staples. That evening they were treated to a cultural display at the resort. The show included traditional dances that the students were able to particpate in, then ended in dramatic fashion with an exhibition by Malaysian fire dancers!

On the final day of the trip, the group spent the morning having fun at the beach and pool (water aerobics and waterpolo anyone?) Afterwards, the students did some last minute souvenir shopping before heading to the airport. A few tears were shed when the hotel staff sang a farewell song, and the realization that their journey was about to end began to sink in. The long trip back to the United States gave the school group ample time to reflect on all their incredible experiences, lessons learned and new friendships made and strengthened. After the trip of a lifetime, it was time to apply their new knowledge and perspectives to their everyday lives back home.

So ends the last installment of a two-part blog post on Williston’s Borneo trip. Click here to see all the photos, videos and read the teachers’ personal accounts.

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