Rainforest Conservation & Research in Malaysia

Length
1 to 4 weeks
Housing
Hostel
Age
Min. 16 years
26 travelers saved this program

Hosted by

Azeeza Nasir Profile Picture
Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures
Project Coordinator: Azeeza

About This Program

Malaysia is blessed with a high biodiversity of wildlife. Unfortunately, many of its most emblematic animals are under severe threat.

You will help protect Malaysia’s most amazing animals by going on jungle patrols on the borders of Malaysia's largest national park, Taman Negara. The borders are where poaching numbers are highest due to the small strip of forest left connecting the wild animals living in Taman Negara to the rest of the wild animals living in Malaysia.

Highlights

  • Help identify animal tracks and locate potential spots of animal snares
  • Enjoy an overnight camping trip with the indigenous tribe
  • Reduce the chances of animals getting trapped
  • Help conserve caves in Merapoh by going caving

Participate in jungle treks (3-5 hours long) through the Sungei Yu Forest Reserve along the tiger corridor connecting Taman Negara and the Titiwangsa Mountain Range -- deter poaching and collect presence data for various NGOs and researchers. Visit several of the 70+ limestone caves in the region, learn bushcraft skills from the Batek tribe, and run your own mini conservation or community project.

Our project is focused on poacher surveillance patrols where you will help our team to decipher clues of human encroachments in the forest reserves to deter/reduce poaching. You won’t only analyze human movements but also elephants, tigers, sun bears, tapir, gibbons and more. You will help to collect pug marks, scratch marks and other signs of our fury friends in the forest.

Activities include...

ECO WALKS (Educational, Conservation & Observation)

A medium level of fitness is required for the jungle walks. The walks are supposed to be slow to enable the guides to search for tracks and animal signs HOWEVER this is a tropical rainforest where humidity can reach 90-100%. It may not be hot but between the humidity and the inevitable encounters with leeches, this is not a trip for the faint-hearted!

Walks are generally 3-5 hours long depending on the group and the route chosen. These jungle walks are fascinating and will really allow you to feel like one of the animals in the forest whilst looking out for signs of humans and poachers. If any snares are found, the GPS locations will be recorded and then they will be destroyed. Even old discarded snares continue to catch animals so it is vital that they are removed to prevent any further harm. If you’re keen to develop the skills needed for rainforest conservation, you will also be taught how to use GPS for location recording! Here, you will learn how to log the coordinates of any pug marks, snares, land clearings or road kill found.

In 2018 we’ll also have more activities, from using SMART for anti-poaching patrols, to earning a tree-climbing certificate. Not to mention learning GIS skills!

CAVING

There are over 70 limestone caves in the Merapoh region. The actual caves that you visit will depend on weather, group size and group ability. The caves are fantastic – some even have rivers and waterfalls inside. The presence of limestone formations creates the most fantastic scenery. These caves are home to various animals including thousands of swiflets that group together at sunset and can be seen flying around a nearby town called Gua Musang. The Batek people have used these caves for centuries, as can be seen by the many cave drawings that can be found inside.

LOCAL TRIBAL VILLAGE

Volunteers staying for 1 week or more will learn bushcraft skills from the Batek tribe and may get the chance to go camping with the tribe and learn how they live in the jungle, weather depending! If you come for a minimum of 2 weeks, you will have the opportunity to help teach the Batek children basic English, maths and science through educational activities. These sessions are great fun but serve an important function, as the area has been earmarked for an increase in tourism and without being able to speak English, these tribal people will not be able to benefit from the new industry.

What's Included
  • Shared 3 bedroom flat with kitchen
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinners, and cooking facilities provided
  • Trek with a tribal group and overnight camping
  • Limestone caving excursion
  • WiFi
What's Not Included
  • International/Domestic Flights
  • Travel to and from Merapoh
  • Travel Insurance
Housing

You will be staying in the Fuze Ecoteer flat in the village of Merapoh. The flat has three bedrooms, kitchen, and a great rooftop space. Phone reception and WiFi available.

Meals

Lunch is provided daily along with one Malay dinner at a local family's home. Volunteers can make use of shared kitchen in the Fuze Ecoteer flat, or experience local Malaysian cuisine through nearby restaurants and food stalls.

Video and Photos

Pricing and Availability

Reviews

94%
based on 19 reviews
  • Impact 8.5
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 8.9
Showing 16 - 19 of 19
Default avatar
Harriet
9/10

Tiger Trail Experience

I spent a week in July 2013 on the tiger trail volunteer experience, and let's just say it wasn't one to forget.

To start off with, I'd never done anything like this before and didn't really know what I'd got myself in to. I'm 19 so was one of the youngest in the group.
My friend and I spent our first few nights in KL, and then met the rest of the group at a bus station to head off on our journey to Merapoh. This took about 5/6 hours, the busses were comfy so it wasn't so bad.

We arrived in Merapoh with all our bags and got picked up by the owners of the chalet. They took us back and we were given a quick tour. It was extremely basic, which at first I thought I was going to absolutely hate. As soon as I got over this, it turned out to be absolutely fine and just what we needed. I was made to feel at home, everyone was so nice and the accommodation did exactly what it needed too.
The rooms were single sex, we had 2 girls rooms and one for boys. There were 2 bunk beds in each, again very basic. This is all that was needed, we were living out our backpacks and by the end of all that trekking it was like heaven getting in to bed!
There was a lounge and kitchen area as well where we all could sit in after the treks and chill out for a few hours. We all felt very safe staying there and by the end of the week we didn't want to leave!

We had some lunch and a run through of the week, it was all quite overwhelming at the start because it sounded like a lot to cram in.

We had about 7 volunteers altogether, at the start it was a bit awkward and everyone was quiet but by the end of the week we were such good friends and we were all just having a laugh together. Helping each other out and working together on the treks created a bond almost straight away and I met some of the most amazing people.

Let's move on to the actual trekking itself.
We started in the mornings at about 8, and drove to different corridors of the Taman Negara. The treks would include going down poacher trails and looking for any animal evidence (prints etc.). This lasted about 7 hours for 4 of the days of the week, and is definitely not for anyone with a poor fitness level. We had regular breaks and stopped off for lunch. If anyone was finding it difficult the team were there to support them and the MyCat guides were excellent in making sure everyone was alright. I didn't know what to expect and the first trek really brought home to me what the week was going to be like. The terrain was tough and it included things such as walking over logs that had fallen between two banks over a river.
Just a word of warning: Proper walking shoes and at least 2 pairs of trousers are required! I only bought one pair of trousers which were wrecked in the first day, I then had to go out and buy another pair! Another member of the group also bought trainers to wear, and after a few hours the soles had completely fallen off. A good backpack would also be handy. Be prepared for clothes to be ruined! Also, getting leeched is inevitable. It doesn't hurt, and although pretty gross you have to just flick them off or leave them.

Don't let the long days or tough terrain put you off though, the experience wasn't one to be missed and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was completely different to anything I'd done before and didn't really know what to expect, but it was so much fun.

We spent one night sleeping in the jungle, which was an experience I will never forget. Some of the members of the Batek tribe came and cooked us chicken and rice in bamboo, which was absolutely incredible. We arrived at camp and they had already made themselves a shelter out of leaves and sticks. I felt like I was cheating putting up our tents and hammocks! The nights sleep wasn't one of the best but staying right near a river surrounded by wildlife was an incredible experience and will never be forgotten.

Another day was spent caving. This really helped to break up the week of trekking as it wasn't so physically demanding. It was run by the owners of the chalet. We arrived at the site of the cave and were immediately thrown in to the deep end as we had to rock climb up a verge with only a rope behind us. This was completely safe and the leaders of the caving helped us to get up. We then started walking through the cave, which was amazing. We saw all sorts of wildlife, including snakes and scorpions. The caving included crossing through a river, about waist height. If you weren't confident in water the guides were happy to put a rope through to help. We were in the caves for about an hour and a half, until we got to the end. It soon dawned on us we were going to have to abseil down a 30m cliff if we wanted to get back. This was scary, however we all managed to do it and all felt as though we'd accomplished something after (if not a little shaky...)!

We spent another day going to visit the local Batek tribe. This included another trek, where we went with the women to collect leaves in order to weave baskets. It was amazing watching them work, they were about 70+ and much fitter than us! We then went back to their village and taught them an English lesson in their school. They knew very basic English, but responded to the lesson very well and it was such a rewarding experience.

The food throughout the week could not be faulted. It was mainly Malay style curries. We were given a packed lunch every day, which was rice with a sauce and meat/fish. It was quite mild but so tasty. In the evenings we would go to a local restaurant and eat something of our choice off the menu. Every night I ate well and their portions were definitely generous! Couldn't say a bad word about it.

Some evenings we spent down at a lake, which was really refreshing and fun. (Note: don't bomb off the log, it hurts.) We also went out for a Chinese and some beers one night to celebrate, which was amazing.

Dan, the owner of Ecoteer and a leader on the treks was so kind and helped us through the whole week. We wouldn't have done it without him. The trek guides were also brilliant and we had good fun with them. Everyone looked out for each other and we formed a sort of family.

Overall, although daunting at the start the whole experience was incredible. I overcame things I didn't think I would be able to do and a massive thank you to everyone that made it happen. I never expected to meet such great people, we got on so well and by the end of the week we all clicked. It was almost a shame it was over in such a short space of time!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Wei
9/10

On the trail of tigers (and poachers)

I participated in the Ecoteer/MyCat Tiger Trail volunteer placement programme in July 2013. Here are some quick thoughts on the experience.

First off, it’s important to set expectations right in case you miss the fine print. The bulk of the programme doesn’t actually take place within the Taman Negara nature reserve, which is a protected area, but within an ecologically similar corridor of rainforest bordering the reserve that is critical as an animal migration corridor, and hence suffers from significant poaching activity. (That said, there are opportunities to walk in and visit the reserve e.g. when inspecting camera traps.) Does this matter? It didn’t for me, because the terrain was identical, and ultimately, we do the most good if we are where the poachers are.

This brings me to the fundamental basis of the programme – the hypothesis that many poachers (especially marginal or part-time ones) avoid areas of jungle frequented by other people. Hence, encouraging low impact adventure travel and trekking in these jungle corridors serves to deter poachers, while giving locals an alternative source of livelihood. Is this hypothesis warranted? MyCat expert Ash cites academic research in support, but the programme is still young and hence its impact has not been tested in a quantitative, rigorous way. More systematic empirical analysis (e.g. randomised controlled trials) could be done in Merapoh, so there is enough data to test alternative hypotheses and improve the impact of these anti-poacher treks. The MIT-JPAL methodology may be useful for this purpose.

On to the programme itself: participants take a 4-hour bus ride from KL to Merapoh, a sleepy kampong village where accommodation was provided at a basic but clean and very adequate dorm (two double decker bunk beds per room). The local chaps running the dorm are helpful, warm and friendly, and some speak fluent English. Once we were settled in, most days took the following form: breakfast, then transport to the route we would be patrolling that day for a 5 to 7 hour jungle walk (with short breaks and a lunch stop to consume our packed meals) looking for tell-tale signs of poachers (snares, traps, trails, camps) or animals of interest. We saw various skeletons of large animals such as a sun bear caught and killed by poacher snares. These sites are then recorded on GPS and reported to other NGOs and the Malaysian authorities to facilitate future enforcement action. All snares and traps are disarmed or taken away. Daily routes are designed by MyCat experts based on their operational needs and the fitness level of participants. Upon reaching the end of the route, we were taken back to the dorm to wash our gear and take a nice cool shower, then for dinner at a local kopitiam (café) or restaurant. Food is traditional Malaysian — rice and noodles-based, and can be spicy or not. We had some great meals and for those in the know, the sambal belachan chilli is excellent.

Some days were different — we visited a local limestone cave (Merapoh is apparently full of them, but only some are open to the public) for a good 4 hours of caving and spotting the interesting cave fauna. This ended with an abseil down a rock face to the exit (two safety lines and a soldier’s belay are used so it is very safe). On the final full day, we were taught how to set up, take down, and check the camera traps that MyCat installs to record both animal and poacher activities. We saw photos of elephants, a porcupine, some deer, wild boar and lots of falling leaves, but no tigers (a worrying trend and one that calls for more urgent action).

The highlight of the programme for me was visiting the Batek community in Merapoh. Members of the Orang Asli indigenous people of Malaysia, these Batek were recently resettled into villages by the government and still retain their jungle skills (many were born in the jungle). This was a unique and rare chance to meet, get to know, and go foraging with the Batek villagers, who hunt using blowpipes and poisoned darts, and harvest bamboo, edible plants, flowers and fibrous leaves for weaving mats from the jungle. The Bateks’ legendary skill at flitting through the jungle silently and effectively was evident as we tried to keep up, and we were all pretty tired by the end of it. We then conducted short English lessons for the youths and adults (most know a few words already). They are friendly and mostly keen to learn. On another occasion, we sat on piles of leaves in the jungle in the dead of night, lit with headlamps, learning Batek words and teaching them the English equivalents. It was a surreal yet amazing experience.

So in summary: were we hot, tired and bitten by bugs and leeches? Yes. Were there moments where things didn’t go so well? A few. But organiser and volunteer leader Dan Quilter is an amazing person — full of knowledge, warmth and sincerity, and eager to learn and do more for conservation in Malaysia. He was always cheerful and motivating, funny and in high spirits, and was completely at home with everybody from foreign volunteers to Batek tribespeople. He has several more volunteer programmes including one with sea turtles and I recommend you check those out on his Ecoteer website. All in all, it was well worth it and I would recommend this programme to those seeking an entry-level introduction to tiger conservation activities in Asia. More photos and this review are up on my travel website Sanctuaryseeking.com.

How can this program be improved?
When group sizes are larger, the group moves in a long single file chain through the jungle. In these cases, group and volunteer leaders could be more systematic about ensuring that educational and useful information is conveyed to everybody. Frequently, explanations about sites and wildlife that are given at the front or back of the chain are not passed on to the rest, and hence opportunities to raise education and awareness may be lost.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Alice
9/10

Brilliant experience

I spent a week on this programme in July of 2013 and thoroughly enjoyed it.

My group was made up of 7 volunteers aged 19-40 something i believe and we were a mix of english, chinese and Singaporean.

Accommodation - we spent 5 nights in single sex dorm rooms in a small, basic chalet. Had access to everything you needed like a a shower, Malay + western style toilets, wifi and a little kitchen and lounge area. The place was clean and I felt really safe. The owners and their friends were always popping in and out and they're all really friendly and welcoming.
One night was spent camping in the rainforest, tents/hammocks are provided. Great little spot, right by a lovely part of the river, great for stargazing.

Food - we went to the local store at the start of the week and Dan, the group leader, bought supplies for breakfast every morning (cereal, bread, spreads) and we had access to drinking and boiling water, tea, coffee etc. lunch was delivered every morning for us to take with us on the treks. It was always rice and chicken or fish with a sauce and it was delicious! Dinner we ate at a local restaurant every evening which served Malay food. No complaints, I liked it all!

Daily Activities - we spent 4 days walking through the rainforest, following poacher trails and looking for animal prints and general signs of animal presence. The treks were long, up to 7 hours, and some of them were quite physically demanding so I'd say you need a relatively good level of fitness to be able to enjoy it. The leaders from mycat were really helpful, paitent and knowledgable throughout all of the walks. Ash and Harrison filled us with information about the tigers, poachers and the rainforest itself.
One day was spent caving which was a great experience. We spent a couple of hours walking through the cave then abseiled down it at the end.
One day was spent in a local village where the batek tribe live. We spent a few hours walking to collect leaves for baskets and other crafts they make then we delivered an English lesson to some of the teenagers.
One day we went into the national park to check the camera traps then went for a nice swim in the river.

Highlights - the highlight for me was the English lesson. The teenagers/ young adults that came to our lesson were really keen to learn from us so it was really fulfilling.

The week was really social, there's time at the chalet in the evenings to all sit as a group and chat or watch tv and the mycat guides and dan from ecoteer are all really sociable and up for a laugh. We even went out one night for a Chinese and some beers as a celebration for one of our volunteers.

I'd never done anything like this before, i didnt really realise what i was going to be putting myself through (long, tiring walks) but i ended up having an unforgettable week. I feel like the work we did was beneficial and ive come away from it with a bunch of new friends and knowledge so I'd definitely recommend it, just be prepared for your clothes to get destroyed and your body to be dinner to leeches!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Cam
10/10

Tigers in the wild

In September 2012 I was given the opportunity to assist with the work preserving wildlife, and in particular Malaysian tigers in Taman Negara, Malaysia. From the moment we were first picked up from the train station, until we left we were looked after by the wonderful staff at Ecoteer.

Upon arrival at the accomodation centre, we were greeted with a nice comfy bed in a large gender split dorm room. The next day our group were led into the jungle to look for signs of animals and animal poaching, in particular traps which we took the pleasure of destroying. Many interesting footprints, critters and stunning scenery along the way. Just be sure to watch for the leeches!

A wonderful swim in the local fresh water pool was the perfect cure after a sweaty days' trekking. At night we were able to enjoy a meal and a few cold beverages talking about all the action of the day.

Next morning up bright and early to find some more traps and reset the camera traps used to capture the animals in their major animal "highways", seeing pictures of tigers that have been walking on the same path as you only a few days before was pretty special. We were taken to a viewpoint overlooking the whole area. Very cool. Finally the day was finished cooling off in another fresh water stream. Perfect ending.

It was a great weekend, and I definitely learnt a lot. It is great to see that there is people out there that care about our world and the dwindling numbers of important animals to the ecosystem. Keep up the good work!

How can this program be improved?
Easier to get food when needed.
Yes, I recommend

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Minimum age is 16 years

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About Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures

Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures is a travel company with a bite!

Our team are all experienced and passionate, with two of our project staff currently studying for their PhD and a third planning to. Our business model utilizes revenue generated from...