GAP YEAR | VOLUNTEER ABROAD | WORK EXPERIENCE OVERSEAS
Split between the Peninsula and the island of Borneo, Malaysia offers a wealth of choice and is an ideal starting point for a trip to South East Asia. From the gleaming sky scrapers of Kuala Lumpur to the rainforests and wildlife of Sabah and Sarawak - there is so much to see and do!
All of our projects are based in Sabah, located in the north east of Malaysian Borneo and surrounded by both the South China and Sulu Sea. Sabah itself is home to lush tropical rainforests, wonderful sandy beaches, the breathtaking Mount Kinabalu, and a biodiversity of Marine and Wildlife like no other. This includes Borneo’s Native and most famous resident – the Orang-Utan! Sabah is one of the last places on earth that you can see these remarkable creatures in their natural habitat.
Whilst the majority of tourists visit peninsular Malaysia, a trip to Malaysian Borneo will be an unforgettable experience and free from some of the hassles that can be encountered in other parts of Asia. Travelling around is easy and cheap and locals are helpful and friendly. Sabah has a laid back charm and elegant beauty that will make any stay in this remarkable country truly worthwhile.
Across the whole of Sabah, Filipinos, along with various ethnic groups and indigenous tribes (For example, Chinese, Bajau, Kadazan, Dusun and Murut) account for over half of the population. Malaysia is “Truly Asia” - a real multicultural society. The official language in Malaysia is Bahasa Malay, but due to the fusion of religious and ethnic groups found in Malaysia English is widely spoken. This is a country where the sun shines, the sea is crystal clear and there are endless coconut, banana and palm trees!
"I honestly cannot praise this placement enough so anything else I can do for you, please just yell. Thank you so much for letting me do this, I have loved every second of it." Katie Walley
THINGS YOU CAN DO:
"Sipadan (diving/snorkeling) - We all stayed on an island near Sipadan island called Mabul. We had a practice scuba dive the day we arrived to get us used to the equipment. In the evening we walked around the small island and met lots of local children who obviously hadn't seen many foreigners. Early the next morning we took a boat to Sipadan where some people snorkeled off the beach, which was quite small but the reef was huge! I scuba-dived for the first time and it was the best thing I have ever done I think (except work with Orang-Utans obviously!). The teachers were really good and helped us when we struggled to get the breathing right.
We got about 45mins underwater and saw the beautiful reef, turtles, millions of fish and some white-tip sharks. The rest of the day was spent relaxing on the beach and snorkeling. You could see the same snorkeling as you could diving, but the experience of diving was well worth the few extra pounds!"
The Turtle Islands National Park is another must-see trip during your stay in Sabah. The turtle islands national park is a protected marine reserve reachable by boat from Sandakan harbour. Here you can watch up close as turtles come ashore to lay their eggs virtually every night of the year. There is an excellent visitor information center and tourists even get the opportunity to release baby hatchlings into the sea. The main island with accommodation is Selingan - it is here that you will find the endangered Green and Hawksbill turtles (some measuring one metre in length or more!) coming to lay their eggs.
"Turtle Island was so beautiful, clear sand and turquoise water. Accommodation was in little huts right by the beach. We had the whole afternoon when we got there to relax on the beach and snorkel in the sea. In the evening we saw a turtle come up onto the beach. We also got to see the releasing of some baby turtles into the sea. It was a really good experience and the island was just perfect."
And of course, the famous Sepilok Orang-Utan center. Situated within an outstanding forest reserve near Sandakan, this center has been set up with the aim of rehabilitating orphaned and rescued Orang-Utans to get them back out into the wild. Tourists visiting the center get a rare opportunity to see these shy apes in their natural environment.
As a tourist you will walk along a short forest trail taking you to the Orang-Utan feeding platform. Here, rangers take supplies of Banana and Sugar cane to feed those Orang-Utan who need a "free meal" - so stand back and be amazed at their fascinating and incredibly human behaviour! Funds raised through entrance fees at the center go directly to the rehabilitation program.
Mount Kinabalu is South East Asia's tallest mountain at an impressive 4,095.2 metres high! The mountain is often shrouded in mist and has long been thought of as spiritual - the Kadazans/Dusuns indigenous tribe refer to it as "the home of ancestral spirits". Although you don't need any climbing experience to get to the top of the mountain, the climb is pretty tough and you need to be able to cope with the possibility of altitude sickness. If you do make it to the top, sunrise is an awesome experience!
Mount Kinabalu - We were all pretty apprehensive
about this trip because none of us knew if we were
actually going to be able to make it to the summit.
The first day we climbed about 6km to the base camp,
which was very hard, especially because it was
raining most of the way up. We all gave each other
lots of encouragement. The feeling when we got to
the top (well, I got 100meters from the summit) was
amazing and the view was spectacular."
"I thought the way trips were organised for us and we didn't have to organise anything on them we just had to pay for them worked really well. We looked forward to our days off but then looked forward to going back to work afterwards just as much. I took part in all the optional trips too and they really made the project so good!!
CLIMATE and CURRENCY:
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit. The cost of living is generally cheap, for example: A bottle of water costs 20p for one litre, a good meal at a local restaurant costs approximately £2, and dormitory rooms can cost as little as £4 per night.
Click for MAP
Kota Kinabalu, or "KK" (as it is locally known), is the capital of Sabah. KK is home to the International airport and this will be your first point of arrival in Sabah - it is a great place to start your trip and get used to the Malaysian way of life.
Although Kota Kinabalu is far less developed than Kuala Lumpur (its counterpart on the Peninsular), the people are very friendly and the atmosphere here is more relaxed. KK also boasts impressive markets, restaurants and nightlife and is a fun introduction to the wide variety of attractions that Sabah has to offer.
Just off the coast it is possible to see an array of beautiful islands which make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Exploring the coral reefs and marine life in this underwater world is fascinating and day trips here can be easily arranged - most islands are less than 45 minutes away by boat. Once you arrive you will be amazed at how clear the water is and just how many different fish you can see. There are also many wonderful beaches to be explored on the islands!
Facing inland, it’s possible to see the peaks of Mount Kinabalu in the distance. This is another of Sabah’s main attractions and the views from the top at Sun rise more than make up for the two day climb. Afterwards you can soak your aching muscles at Poring where the sulphur hot springs provide a therapeutic bath.
Throughout the whole of Sabah you
will find many local "Tamu", meaning market -
the variety of fruit, vegetables, plants and
handcrafted items on sale at cheap prices has to be
seen to be believed! Some of the exotic fruits that
you may come across include Rambutan, Mangosteen,
Belimbing (or star fruit) and last but not least,
the Durian. This green spiky fruit (pictured right)
is famous throughout Asia due to its pungent smell -
but don't be put off by this as it is actually
something of a delicacy(!)
|KUALA LUMPUR (Peninsular Malaysia)||
years, Kuala Lumpur has grown from nothing to a
modern, bustling city of well over a million people.
Superficially, KL (as it's almost universally known)
may appear to be just another modern Asian city of
scrapers, but it retains much of the
character and local colour that has been so
effectively wiped out in other Asian-boom cities
such as Singapore. It has plenty of colonial
buildings, a vibrant Chinatown with street
vendors and night markets, and a bustling Little
India. The night market in Chinatown is the most
interesting place to eat in the evening.
When KL does something, it likes to do it big. The Petronas Twin Towers (pictured) are the tallest buildings in the world and dominate the skyline in the capital, particularly at night when the towers are lit up - a very impressive sight. Visitors are permitted to climb to the footbridge on the 41st floor to take in amazing views across the whole city.
Despite the economic crisis, Kuala Lumpur is currently the site of large-scale development, with work underway on a new US$8 billion city on the southern fringe of the capital as well as an adjoining 'ultra-high-tech multimedia super-corridor'. Before the Asian economic crisis hit in 1997, there were also plans to build the world's longest building, too.
Penang island is also worth a visit while you're in Malaysia
SARAWAKSarawak offers ever-shrinking areas of untouched jungle, the chance to visit longhouse-dwelling Dayak tribes and a good system of national parks. The area around the capital city, Kuching, has remote coastal villages, such as Pandan and Sematan, and unspoilt tropical rainforest, beaches and walking trails in the Bako National Park. Longhouses are found along the Rejang River and its tributaries - central and southern Sarawak's 'highway'.
In the north-east, the Niah Caves, accessible only by longboat and a 3km hike, are unforgettable for their rock paintings, forest wildlife, jungle trails and night walks to see the luminous mushrooms. Visitors to Sarawak cannot fail to notice the extent to which logging is affecting the environment and the habitat of the Dayak tribes. Acquainting yourself with the issues surrounding Malaysia's logging practices is recommended before visiting the province.