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The Jungles of Borneo: These Boots Were Made for Walking

There are many examples of people getting lost in the jungles of Borneo. The best thing to do is to hire a local as they are more familiar with the way of the land.

My parents and I had been talking about going on a holiday to Borneo as we had never had the chance to enjoy a vacation with family. With that in mind, my father decided that it would be good to start small and planned to go on an excursion first. Packing up our bags and a few of our cousins and relatives, we set off bright and early on a Sunday morning. We were to go to a waterfall, and not just any waterfall: it was about three hours away and situated in a dam. 

Making our way to the start of the trail 

We dropped by a fast food chain to get breakfast and to get some takeaway for our picnic at the waterfall. Once that was sorted, we made the hour and a half drive to the jetty (because the waterfall is situated on an island in a reservoir. We took a boat to the start of the trail and the boat driver bid us farewell for the next few hours, saying that he would take the shortcut and meet us at the waterfall. Before he left, he asked my father whether he knew the trail and my father waved him off saying that he knew the place like the back of his hand. We were joking around and talking about how a home warranty works until we realized that we were horribly lost... 

Getting lost in Borneo jungle

After two hours, we began to feel skeptical regarding my father’s navigating skills as we could not hear the roar of any waterfall. Furthermore, he kept saying it was “just up ahead” when clearly it was not. After another half an hour, he gave up and told us to go back to the starting point. Not wanting to admit defeat, we continued to search for the trail that led to the waterfall without success. 

Meeting another group of hikers

While we were searching for the trail, we met another group of hikers who told us that the trail is always changing as it was not a very popular spot. New trails pop up all the time and old trails are left overgrown. With that in mind, we decided that it was best to head back to the starting point as the other group of hikers we headed to the lookout point instead of the waterfall. 

Nobody to save us

When we got back to the starting point, we ran out of water and had already eaten everything we brought with us. Hungry, thirsty and tired, we discovered that the boat driver was nowhere to be found as he was waiting for us at the waterfall. Defeated and fatigued, we all settled in for a long day, hoping that another boat driver would come past. 

Saved by a boatman 

We kept trying our phones but there was very limited reception and even calling the emergency line got us nowhere. We were considering our options - stay the night, start a fire, or seek out the other party we saw earlier. Just then, we heard a faint sound of a motorboat and flagged him down. After we explained our predicament, he sent us to the waterfall where our original boatman was waiting for us. 

Lessons learned

My father agreed that it was probably best that we went with a tour guide in the future and not risk it by attempting to find our way ourselves. As it were, there are many examples of people getting lost in the jungles of Borneo. The best thing to do is hiring a local as they would be more familiar with the way of the land. However, hiking with family is truly and eye-opening experience and it actually strengthened our bonds as we needed to work together and come up with solutions together. At the end of the day, it allowed us better insight into how everyone thought and behaved, making us more in sync with one another. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Anton Lucanus

My work as a scientist has taken me around the world. I have a passion for traveling and exploring the world's most interesting cities. For work, I am currently attempting to build 10,000 digital libraries across the ...