I was 17 when I first went to Malaysia. I went with some people from my college (who turned out to be an amazing, dynamic group of people, many of whom I'd known from the age of 11, but had never got to know them properly.) The expedition was a 2 week trip to Sarawak province, specifically to Matang Wildlife Centre, to volunteer with the building of enclosures for rescued wildlife (Such as Orangutans, Sun Bears and Binturong) whilst painting walkways and making enrichment toys for the furry residents. We also spent a few days clearing fields and planting organic fruit and veggies, which would feed Matang's animals later on in the year. For a few incredible days, we lived with a Malay tribe in the village of Telok Serabang. It was a truly life changing experience, which shaped my love for exploring and adventure.
We spent the first few days exploring Matang and making enrichment toys for the Orangutan/Sun Bears. We stuffed sacks full of fruit, honey, nuts, leaves and .... Durian Fruit. (Try it at your peril.) The critters, however, loved it.
We headed to Telok Serabang on about day 6. We drove for a few hours through cities, then towns, then villages, until gradually the rainforest grew bigger and the settlements grew smaller. That was until we arrived at Semantan town, on the shores of the South China Sea. We met the tribe leader near the beach, and were told by our guide, Alvin, to get supplies. We headed off into the town armed with baskets and gathered fruits, vegetables, meat and spices, and staggered back to rendezvous with everyone.
It was at this point, we got into boats, each carrying about 8 of us, and jetted off out into the South China Sea. We followed the coastline for about an hour and a half before the
rainforest began to stretch out in front of us, and a little beach became visible. We were here. "Ok everybody take shoes off now and drag the boats in." Soggy footed, we said hello to the tribe before seeing our home for the next 3 nights. A beautiful palm roofed, wooden outdoor longhouse awaited us, it was very basic but we were grateful for a matress and a mosquito net. The first evening, we had a traditional Malaysian curry and went for a sunset swim in the sea and watched the stars come out. The night after, we made jewellery with the tribeswomen whilst half of the group went to monitor some turtle hatchlings on the beach, and by night 3, it was our turn to take a night walk - Rainforest on one side, ocean on the other... Unfortunately, we didn't get to watch any hatchlings, but we got something even more beautiful. An electrical storm over an island in the sea, and as we sat and watched, the stars came out, and so did the fireflies. One beauty took a particular interest in my hair and sat there for nearly half an hour, whilst the others drifted through the trees, with noise still echoing throughout the jungle as the waves lapped the beach. All of a sudden we noticed that the sea began to glow - A vibrant white-blue colour which was made even stronger when the waves hit the sand. It was a spectacle like no other - Bioluminescent zooplankton. A glowing Ocean. Stars. Fireflies. Friends.
It was such a special night, and in the end we decided to go swimming, to just, "be." To simply exist in a world so beautiful, to exist with close friends and new friends. It was incredible.