Overview

Penan Tribe Adventure

What is the Penan Tribe Adventure?

The Penan Tribe Adventure is also known as 'Picnic with the Penan'. It takes you deep into the heart of the Sarawak jungle to visit the Penan people and see how they live, and be guests in their village. The trip directly supports the Moving Mountains Trust's reforestation project which is currently planting up to 15,000 saplings every year on logged and cleared land.

The importance of preserving and learning from the indigenous people across the globe has never been stronger. The Penan people of the Sarawak region of Borneo face a continued struggle against deforestation and the loss of their native culture. In this trip we are hosted by the Penan people on their own terms in a partnership designed to support their communities through sustainable tourism and education in the issues that jeopardize their survival.

The Penan Tribe Adventure will allow you to see how the local people run a seed collecting and tree planting programme and, depending on the time of year, you can get your hands dirty collecting seeds, planting saplings and working at the nurseries deep in the forest, while staying in the Penan villages and seeing how this amazing tribe lives.

At the same time you experience a real adventure just getting there! We use a combination of air and 4x4 jeeps to arrive near the Penan settlements, after which you are guided on foot by the local people and hosted in their homes. This is very much off the tourist trail, but the financial benefits of this holiday are already enabling the villagers to send their children to school and provide primary healthcare.

The trip also includes a visit to Lambir Hills National Park near Miri before we fly in to the Sarawak jungle and a wetlands river safari to search for the endemic proboscis monkey and the rare irrawady dolphin and visit to an Orangutan rehabilitation centre towards the end of the trip.

Few trips can genuinely claim to offer the experience of visiting a little known jungle tribe and to view a project in forest enrichment which is attempting to tackle the effects of climate change and the destructive impact of logging. This trip into Sarawak offers that and much more.

We work alongside the villagers, where participants will contribute their sweat and efforts to a project that has been requested by the community, a project directly combating the effects of logging on the rainforest which is you partly fund through your fundraising for Moving Mountains Trust. For anyone who has an interest in seeing with their own eyes the destruction of the forest, and how grassroots projects can make a difference, this trip is for you.

Who benefits from the Penan Tribe Adventure?

The Penan tribe have only recently begun taking in visitors with Adventure Alternative, and we are the only organisation going there, so this promises to be a unique, challenging and rewarding cultural exchange. Learning the lore of the jungle is a very special opportunity, but we do not wish to have any negative impact on the people who live in and off the jungle. We need to be respectful and careful of our ‘footprint’. We do not run many trips to this region for fear of interfering too much with the traditional community life in the jungle, and we will only accept a maximum number of 12 people. We support the concept of community tourism, but we don’t want to suddenly saturate the area with visitors.

The reforestation project itself is subject to change depending on the needs of the community and the time of year, but it is presently setting up tree nurseries to rehabilitate previously burnt forest which has been extensively logged, plus building structures to meet the needs of future visitors. This is exciting times for all involved, and the chance to experience a grassroots project in a beautiful location with welcoming hosts. Their way of life is something we might only ever see on television, or in a magazine, but to physically be there and sleep a night underneath the jungle canopy in a hammock with a giant leaf covering you, and with the cacophony of jungle sounds as your music, is the stuff of dreams. We have built this trip purely out of the needs of the community, who came to us, and we envisage this trip as using tourism to really help.

Our purpose is to encourage the Penan to appreciate their own value and the value of their forest and culture, so you will find yourself learning and living a very simple yet fulfilling way of life. Once out of the jungle, we visit the jungle capital city of Kuching, visit an orangutan centre, and go on a river safari. There are also pristine beaches to walk on and beautiful national parks where you can see the famous animals of Borneo.

Read more about our reforestation project in an article and interview by mongabay.com

Staff on the Penan Tribe Adventure

We use local guides in Borneo and also Western guides who have all worked and proven themselves to us over the years. We also link all of our staff with our charities projects in Borneo. All of our guides have years of experience running teams in Borneo and can be trusted to not only give you a fascinating and fun insight into the various locations where we work but also to ensure that you are safe and well looked after.

The real stars of the trip will be the Penan people themselves, your guides and teachers in the ancient ways of living in the jungle. Their English is extremely limited, but we will have translators, and their exposure to a modern way of life minimal. As a cultural exchange, this trip is very special. They will extend to you the natural generosity and responsibility that any jungle community will give a visitor.  They also know that your visit, and the Adventure Alternative programme, is financially supporting their welfare and the re-planting of trees.

Itinerary

Penan Tribe Adventure Itinerary 

Thie Sarawak Penan Adventure is a 16 days trip involving a combination of overland 4x4 travel, jungle trekking, volunteering and learning about the reforestation project, plus the highlight of visiting the Penan people to experience first-hand a remarkable way of life.

  • Reforestation project and culture: Tree planting, village stay and cultural interaction with the Penan tribe in the Sarawak jungle - 7 days
  • Sarawak jungle exploration and survival trek under the canopy of rainforest in self made camps, sleeping in hammocks - 4 days
  • Kuching & wildlife watching: Kuching city, Kuching Wetlands National Park, Semenggoh Nature Reserve - 2 days
  • Arrival and departure days, and acclimatisation and briefing day in Miri, including trek in Lambir Hills National Park - 3 days 

Penan Tribe Adventure- Detailed Itinerary

Day Information
1 Arrive in Miri (usually via Kuala Lumpur), a busy if unremarkable city in Sarawak near the Brunei border. Meet your Adventure Alternative leader and transfer to the guesthouse. There will be time for some last minute shopping to get supplies such as Adidas Kampung shoes and there will be a briefing of what the next couple of weeks has in store. In the evening there will be the chance to eat the fresh and plentiful seafood that Miri is famous for.
2 We'll warm up for the Sarawak jungle with a visit to Lambir Hills National Park where there will be a 2 hour trek in one of the most bio-diverse locations on the planet, with the final trip briefing in the evening over dinner.
3 Today we fly deep into the jungle in the interior of Borneo. We fly to one of two remote airstrips and reach the villages by way of 4x4 and foot (and in some cases long boats too). The flight usually departs mid-morning and takes approximately 1 hour. There is a strict weight limit enforced of 10 kg per person check in plus whatever you can carry so you must pack carefully. Extra luggage can be left at the hostel/guest house in Miri and we will meet it again at the airport on Day 13. As the plane departs the small airstrip leaving us behind you know you are in for a very special experience... The current itinerary is to fly in to Long Akah, with a 90 minute 4x4 transfer to the start of the trail to the village of Long Ajeng. It's a 45 minute jungle trek to Long Ajeng and a further 2 hour jungle trek to reach Lomg Laman where we spend the next 4 nights.
4-6 We will spend the next 3 days with our welcoming hosts learning about their rapidly changing way of life and just how much they still rely on the rainforest for their daily needs, which is literally their supermarket. Accommodation will be provided in home-stays in the village. Over the next few days we will spend time learning about the way of life of the Penan people and their native skills and knowledge such as the vast array of medicinal and edible plants in the forest, and of course how to make the infamous blow pipes and poison darts! We will also visit the tree nurseries and other work Moving Mountains Trust supports in this area. Our time here is planned for maximum flexibility, so that we can get the most out of this experience. We can have the opportunity to assist in the planting of saplings in the forest, take walks into the jungle to swim in nearby waterfalls and simply relax in a beautiful environment surrounded by nature. Food will be simple, healthy and organic. Expect lots of rice and wonderful jungle vegetables such as jungle fern and wild ginger flower. Food is collected from the forest and in addition to the vegetables there will quite likely be forest meat which is still the main source of protein for the people here (we hope this is wild pig as opposed to wild cat or frog)! Baths and showers are often taken in rivers and waterfalls (bio-degradable soap to a minimum), however some houses may have a room for washing, with bucket showers. Your hosts are incredibly friendly and welcoming and you will be very comfortable and well looked after. The Penan people make some of the best quality and beautifully designed rattan baskets and mats in Sarawak,and as a memento of your trip there is no better place to buy.
7-10 On day 7 we'll start what will be an exciting 4 days/3nights of jungle trekking, exploration and sleeping in expedition standard hammocks under the canopy of one of the oldest rainforests on Earth and the traditional home of the Penan tribe who remain the jungle experts of Borneo and 'keepers of the rainforest'. Expect to be trekking between 4-5 hours each day while learning all about basic jungle survival skills, how to build shelters, finding safe drinking water and food and starting fires. During these days we'll visit the 'lost world' caves, hidden deep in the rainforest where very few outsiders have visited. Each night will be a new campsite and you will be expected to carry your own kit and expedition hammocks as we make our way through the jungle trails... These will be hot and sweaty challenging days but hugely rewarding. We'll trek back to our jungle hosts in their village on day 10.
11-12 Continue with the reforestation project which you are helping to fund by coming on this trip and enjoy our final couple of days in the Sarawak rainforest by visiting farms, putting some of your new found skills to test by collecting food in the forest and learn some traditional handicraft making skills with the Penan people... There is so much to get involved with over what will feel like a short period of time and if there is a particular aspect of the time with the Penan that you are enjoying then let the trip leader know, we can of course work with you to ensure you enjoy the experience as much as possible and we want you to leave the rainforest with a true appreciation of life for the Penan tribe but also with a realisation of what the future is for them, and what can and needs to be done to ensure the survival of their delicate way of life!
13 Although today we may well be looking forward to a hot shower and a cold drink, there will undoubtedly be some sadness as we bid farewell to our friends and hosts. Our flight back to Miri is mid-morning but we must first travel by foot and 4x4 to the airport. After a short transfer in Miri and we will be off to Kuching, capital of Sarawak. This is a charming city with a fascinating history surrounding it. We will be based here for three nights, where evenings will be spent enjoying the superb local cuisine with incredible sunsets over the Sarawak River and surrounding hills, city, beaches and sea.
14 We'll have a relaxing morning for sightseeing, visiting museums, etc and after lunch we'll do a bit of exploration by boat on a Kuching Wetlands National Park river safari to search for the endemic and bizarre looking Proboscis monkey, the rare Irrawady dolphin and a large variety of birdlife, butterflies, fireflies, fish and maybe even a crocodile or two hiding in the mangrove forest!
15 Visit Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and Nature Reserve for the morning feeding of the Orangutans. Semenggoh was established to care for and rehabilitate wild animals which have either been found injured in the forest, orphaned or were previously kept as illegal pets. After lunch there is the option of heading off for a spot of easy kayaking down a classic Borneo river which is the perfect getaway for those who want to enjoy beautiful scenery and the tranquility of rainforest on their last full day of the trip or alternatively remain in and around Kuching for some souvenir shopping in the markets, historical tours and sightseeing in Little India and Chinatown, beach and waterfront walks or just some R&R in this beautiful location, Kuching offers a lot of experiences to suit all interests.
16 Depart Borneo (from Kuching) or alternatively, if you would like to stay on in Borneo, we can help organise optional add-on activities such as visits to Lupa Masa Eco-Lodge near Poring Hot Springs in Sabah or Lupa Masa Eco-Beach and Island, a huge range of tailor-made wildlife safaris, or climbs on Mount Kinabalu, Trus-Madi or Tambuyukon. Do talk to us for details and suggestions... Borneo and the surrounding islands have so much to offer and you may feel you deserve some extra R&R after your time in the Sarawak rainforest.

 

Cost

Penan Tribe Adventure from £1,095.00

INCLUDES

  • Expedition guide and local Penan guides
  • Organisation and staffing from the local Penan people, covering all of their costs for guiding, translating and hosting visitors in their homes
  • All food and meals during the trip, which includes any food eaten in homes in the village, a community surcharge for their development, and any time spent collecting food on our behalf, and collective parties.
  • All accommodation throughout as per the itinerary
  • 4x4 transport in the Penan area and all other road transport and any river transport required in the Penan area
  • Internal flights from Miri to the jungle airstrip by small light aircraft & return flight from jungle to Miri, and from Miri to Kuching
  • Entry to Lambir Hills National Park
  • Kuching Wetlands National Park river safari
  • Entry to Semenggoh Wildlife Centre
  • UK and Borneo office backup, organisation and support

EXCLUDES

  • Personal project fundraising target which is paid directly to our charity, Moving Mountains Trust, so you can set up online fundraising pages and claim gift aid
  • International airfare to Borneo, via Kuala Lumpur (Miri arrival and Kuching departure)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Vaccinations and medication required
  • Personal expenses for soft/hard drinks, souvenirs, phone calls, laundry, tips, etc
  • Tourist attractions not mentioned in the inclusions, and optional river kayak day trip from Kuching

Penan Tribe Adventure - Fundraising

This trip works directly with the Penan people in Sarawak. We are also working with the Penan people through Moving Mountains Trust to protect and enrich their rainforest. This work is to assist the Penan communities in a process of long-term sustainable community development. All of our International Development Projects have been identified, researched, assessed, priced and approved by our charity Moving Mountains. All people going on this trip receive a clear breakdown of the projected outcomes and expenditure of the money which has been raised.

Fundraising for charity allows you to use sites like MyDonate and Justgiving where you can set up a personal fundraising page to take advantage of the Gift Aid scheme. Gift Aid adds 25p to every £1 donation from a UK tax payer.

NB: The expedition fee, which is payable to Adventure Alternative cannot be paid using MyDonate or Justgiving.

Penan Tribe Adventure - Local Providers

Our local provider is Adventure Alternative Borneo which manages all the bookings and liaison with the Penan people, and also has responsibility on the ground for arranging your activities and accommodation. 

Where we do use providers such as hostel and guesthouse owners and home stays our Adventure Alternative Borneo staff have spent time building up trust with the owners. In the case of the Penan people we employ several of the villagers as local guides and we contribute to a local co-operative which provides income from tourism services for Adventure Alternative. We are the only company currently visiting this area.

Fitness

Penan Tribe Adventure - Fitness

You do not need to be super-fit for this trip, however the trekking element is moderately demanding mostly due to the effects of heat and humidity that will tax your body. There is no air conditioning in the forest, but after a few days your body will have acclimatised and in the villages there is plenty of opportunity to swim and cool down in the river and fresh pools.

What types of terrain will we cross on the Penan Tribe Adventure?

The rainforest is actually a very clean and pure place to visit. The canopy offers excellent shade from the intense sun and traps moisture, however it can be very humid and a you will need to drink a lot of water. We travel using trails and the rivers which have been the jungle arteries for the local native residents for hundreds of years. It is very unlikely that you’ll be off the beaten track with a machete. Sometimes the paths can be muddy and slippery, and there are logs to clamber over, streams to cross and it is always up and down.

Movement in the jungle is generally very slow, about 10km maximum per day, and it is easy to feel exhausted after just a few hours. Keeping rehydrated is paramount and looking out for natural dangers such as thorns or tripping over moss-covered rocks. It is unlikely you will see much wildlife while on the move, except for birds and unless you keep very still and quiet, in which case the jungle is full of wildlife! Just a short break well spent listening and watching carefully will yield some tremendous sights of indigenous mammals like the red leaf monkey. Moving through the jungle you will begin to see how a completely green and seemingly impenetrable terrain is actually filled with ‘signposts’ and guides; the lore of the jungle is what you have come to experience.

Crossing streams is an ideal time to have a quick cooling down in the water, get some liquid on board and take a rest. Some of the streams become minor cataracts after a heavy downpour. You should buy locally made jungle shoes to walk in, these are rubber and they have moulded studs for grip on the muddy ground, some also have holes in them for aeration. You can see a photo of these shoes here.

Accommodation on the Penan Tribe Adventure

During our trek in the Penan area we will be using 'fly' camps, travelling self-sufficiently and using hammocks en route. This is one of the great experiences of the trip; sleeping under the forest canopy listening to the jungle around. In the villages we will be staying in home stays with the local Penan people, comfortable wooden structures often built on stilts.

Life in the villages follows an ancient rhythm of hunting, foraging, gathering and socializing. The pace is slow and the priority is the community itself. The house are comfortable and we will receive a very warm and friendly welcome. Some houses have bucket showers, but on some occasions baths and showers are taken in rivers and streams. Most of the houses have long drop toilets.

In Kuching we stay in a small, family run guest house. This is very comfortable with dormitory style or twin rooms, showers and western-style toilets.

At Tanjung Datu National Park accommodation in a building nestled into a clearing in the jungle, right by the beach. Rooms are dormitory style bedrooms, there are showers and western-style toilets.

Do I need any experience to join the Penan Tribe Adventure?

You do not need to have any previous experience for this expedition as our guides will show you everything you need to know. The Penan people will show you how to live off the jungle, how to make a plate out of a leaf, how to keep yourself clean and how to travel efficiently.

Clearly this trip is quite challenging if you are expecting modern amenities, and since there are none in the jungle the trip will require patience, teamwork and a willingness to work with Mother Nature! Sometimes the heat and humidity can be debilitating, and sap even the most positive of minds. Mental preparation and an open mind are essential!

What support will I have on the Penan Tribe Adventure?

Adventure Alternative supplies excellent guides and where appropriate local porters, plus of course all the villagers who will be supporting you. The local leader has a lot experience of travelling in Borneo and will manage the situations and help teach you any skills which you may not already have, but in the village there will be no better support or teacher than the local people. 

Kit List

Penan Tribe Adventure kit list

  • Rucksack with waterproof bags inside for individual items

  • Sleeping mat
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping sheet (a cotton sheet to cover yourself on a warm night, it can be made in the shape of a sleeping bag out of an old bed sheet at home)
  • Trekking clothes: either T-shirt / shorts or lightweight long pants and shirt (synthetic is better than cotton)
  • Lycra style cycling shorts are good to wear whilst trekking
  • Variety of clothing for travel, dining in restaurants, and the heat and humidity of the coast
  • Swimming costume, small towel
  • Lightweight trekking boots with good ankle support and rugged sole
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • Underwear
  • Sarongs x 2 (Miri – cheaper and best style)
  • Rubber flip flops or local rubber hiking shoes (Miri) for camp, hut
  • Head torch, batteries
  • Toiletries, wet wipes
  • Personal medication and small first aid kit with plasters, ibuprofen etc
  • Water purification tablets, iodine or other water purification system
  • Bowl, mug, spoon
  • Sun hat or baseball hat
  • Camera, batteries
  • Zip lock bags
  • Lip balm and sun cream
  • 2 water bottles (can buy plastic bottles in Miri)

 

ADDITIONAL KIT INFO

On this trip there is a strict baggage allowance on the flight to the interior, so please pack light or be prepared to leave unwanted items in Miri on Day 3 for collection upon our return on Day 9

Notes:  Travel very light and compact in the jungle. Anything delicate, absorbant or electronic is likely to suffer from the damp atmosphere, so all such items should be housed in a good quality waterproof stuff sack or pouch.

The large holdall will carry everything on international travel and can be used to store anything that is not going in to the jungle. A sleeping mat/therm-a-rest is optional, but not necessary. You will be sleeping in hammocks overnight in the jungle and in the houses you will be sleeping on woven rattan mats.

In addition to the insect repellent you may want to consider a repellent for clothing.

There are many brands/types of water purification bottles and you can get them in good outdoor/travel shops and online shops. The Aquapure Traveller Bottle or something similar will work well in Borneo.

The two main brand names for suitable hammocks are 'Hennessy Hammocks' and 'Nomad Travel' though if you end up getting the a Nomad hammock then remember that you will also need to get a mosquito net too, all suitable Hennessy hammocks have a mosquito net built in. A Nomad hammock and mosquito net should work out much cheaper than a Hennessy hammock.

The Shewee is becoming a more popular accessory for the female traveller and is worth considering, however it is still very much a personal preference.

Remember that on internal flights from Miri to the jungle airstrips there is a weight restriction on your luggage of 10Kg, however you can carry and wear as much of the heavy stuff as is feasible, but don't forget you will also be carrying your bag so you will want it to be as light as possible.

Personal Medical Kit
Paracetamol
Ibuprofen
Antiseptic Wipes
Adhesive Plasters
Blister Plasters
Zinc Tape
Insect Repellent
Antihistamine tablets
Sunblock Cream
Water Purification Tablets
Rehydration Sachets
Personal Medication as required:
  eg. Anti-Malarials, Asthma Inhalers, Insulin, Epi-Pen etc

Possible Additional Personal First Aid Items
Lip Salve
Throat Lozenges
Latex gloves
Crepe Bandage
Hydrocortisone Cream
Prochlorperazine tablets (for sickness/nausea)
Ciprofloxacin tablets (general antibiotic; prescription required)

Note: you must check with your GP for your personal suitability to all medicines and their possible side effects and interactions. Please inform us of the details of all regular medication that you intend to use though the course of your trip and any relevant allergies and medical history related to them. You also need to check the requirements and regulations of the airline and all countries visited in relation to medications. For example; laws governing transport of some pain control medication and the need keep insulin at a suitable temperature, ie not in the cargo hold.

CLOTHING SUGGESTIONS

Clothing should be lightweight cotton or synthetic (bear in mind that cotton is slow drying, a synthetic fabric like polyester or nylon will be much quicker drying) though no matter how quick drying your clothes are you should expect them to be damp at best throughout your time in the jungle!

Why Us

Why us for your Penan Tribe Adventure?

 

This trip has been thought out in terms of the local people and the impact upon them, and the benefit they can gain from having visitors. It’s not just a tourist trail, it really is an unusual adventure and one that we hope will help to transform the lives of these remarkable people. In that respect the trip falls within all the categories of the Fair Trade Volunteering trademark, even if you are not actually volunteering to do some work in the jungle; the visit is still about making a positive impact on the people who live there.

  • This trip allows you to see a proper tree planting project while at the same time know that your donation is going towards the cost of employing local people to manage the nurseries and transplant the saplings into logged areas. Your tourism directly benefits the Penan tribe and we have an agreement with them, built up over many years now, to carefully expose the local people to visitors and ensure that our impact is minimal and beneficial. We do lots of follow-up with the villagers to ensure that any tourism activities are equitably agreed.
  • We have invested in and helped to set up a local Adventure Alternative Borneo office which employs local people and offers an experienced and professional service while at the same time complying with all of our responsible ethics towards tourism.
  • We embarked on this trip slowly after several years of investing in the tree planting programme and building up a strong relationship with the Penan people. Every year Moving Mountains funds £8000 - £10,000 for the local Koperasi to plant trees in logged areas. It is their responsibility to manage the project and make best use of the logged areas as they see fit. 
  • We offer preparation before going into the jungle, including cultural tips and preparation from the local people and email correspondence from our staff in the UK who have been to the areas before. 
  • In November 2012 we were presented with the 'Roger Diski Community Project Award' from the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) for our work with the Penan communities in Borneo.

Photos

£1,095pp

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A great opportunity to find out how locals live and see the jungle in a way normally inaccessible to tourists.

Read More Sarah K
Key Information
  • Duration 16 days
  • Numbers 6 - 12 max
  • Altitude 1000m
  • Distance 75km
  • Challenge Moderate
  • Comfort Jungle camping/Home stays
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