Health & Comfort (Jungle)
It is important to consider health on a trip into the jungle, in particular the effects of heat and humidity on the body. Remember to bring supplies of rehydration electrolytes. Altitude is not a big problem for this expedition, since the elevation is not so high and there is plenty of time in the programme to acclimatise.
Make sure you have visited your GP to discuss any inoculations you may need; although there are no medical requirements to enter Malaysia, such as yellow fever, it is important to be well protected against the usual conditions such as tetanus. You will also need to bring a supply of malaria tablets, and your GP can recommend which brand is the most suitable for this area. If in doubt contact a specialised travel clinic. Further information is also available via our account with Interhealth and from the NHS.
Your trip leader will carry a first aid kit, but it is also important to have your own supplies of basics such as bandages, plasters and headache tablets. Also recommended are medications for heat rash, which is a common affliction during a trip into the jungle. It is important to wash regularly and keep clean, but inevitably much of the time is spent sweating and coping with continual dampness on the body. Keeping your feet in good condition is absolutely vital, especially if you get a blister. There are plenty of opportunities to swim in rivers and cool off, and in the evenings on the mountains it will be cool enough to warrant a fleece, but a small towel or headband is a good idea to wipe yourself when walking.
Feeling rundown because of the heat and humidity is by far the most common condition faced by people trekking into the jungle, and it is best tackled by drinking lots of water and taking it easy. It is very much a case of working with the environment, rather than against it. Of more serious concern is dehydration. The humidity can at times be unbearable especially in the lowlands, and a strict policy of rehydration should be implemented from the moment of arrival. On trek there will be plenty of rest stops along the way and you should always make sure you have potable water on you at all times – there are no excuses for running out. Your leader or local guide will inform if it is necessary to fill up at any given point. Be mindful that if using sterilisation tablets or iodine this takes approximately 20 minutes to be ready. Make sure you start each day with at least half a liter of water upon waking up – this really does make a difference especially if the first trek of the day is uphill. Make the most of re-hydration salts and use them generously.
In terms of food there is little to worry about in Borneo. It can be bland at times but in general, standards of food hygiene are high compared to other parts of the developing world. Of course usual protocol of washing hands should be adhered to and when in camp a well tested regime of personal food handling and hygiene will be implemented. Any small discomfort is usually the result of a change of diet and nothing more -there is no need to rush to the Imodium unless the symptoms persist, at which point you should tell our leaders as you may need the cause to be treated.
Malaria is now rare in Malaysian Borneo thanks to a successful policy of eradication but some of the trips do visit the remote interior where some strange fevers do still exist. You should consult your doctor before departure and obtain the recommended prophylaxis and other suggested vaccinations. Of more common concern is Dengue Fever, to which presently there is no known cure. Dengue is a town or city based illness spread by a day time female mosquito. As always the best treatment is prevention so whenever possible wear long sleeves and trousers especially around dawn and dusk. If you are feeling unwell at anytime on your trip please inform your leader and upon returning home do not ignore flu like symptoms if you should get them for up to a year – consult your doctor immediately.
The forests of Borneo are of considered the most bio-diverse in the world and as such are home to an astonishing collection of flora and fauna. Most of this is benign but of course some are some nasties to watch out for. These include snakes, millipedes that sting, bees, fire ants, scorpions, itchy caterpillars and of course mosquitoes and leeches. In addition there are number of plants that will give you an incredibly painful rash should you brush against their leaves or bark – a good reason to always try and look before grabbing hold of a tree!
The reality is however that compared to Africa and South America the forests in Borneo are generally a delight to walk through. The most common nuisance by far will be the leech trying to get a meal out of you. The leech has never been proven to carry any disease and it is easily removed and in fact an abundance of leeches is a key indicator that the forest is healthy and full of mammal life.