One of the most exciting parts of my PhD, for me, is the chance to work in some truly wild places, little explored by people. For some reason Wilderness just does it for me. I think it’s because such places are some of our most tangible connections to the past. And I don’t mean back to Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia or even the Mesolithic. I mean back tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years. You can wander a towering dipterocarp forest in Borneo and feel that you’re in the depths of something truly primeval.
You might ask, in turn, why that excites me. I don’t have a clear answer to that. Perhaps it’s just all a part of the spectrum of human variation: some people want to explore entirely new places, some want to make a good go of it where they find themselves. All I know is that, back in the day, I would have been the one asking “what’s over that hill?” or “what’s beyond that river?”, “who’s up for striking out and taking a risk?” The natural tendency for us humans to explore (few other species do it so enthusiastically) perhaps explains our rapid dispersal across every continent on the planet, following our first forays out of Africa just 60,000 years ago. We even have people living more-or-less permanently at the South Pole these days. Not to mention on the International Space Station.
So, this brings me to the Maliau Basin. It’s one such wilderness, just waiting to be explored. As an extreme tourist (the park isn’t officially open yet), you can go on a 6-day tour around a circuit of trails in the south of the park. But much of the remaining area is unexplored. Some brief visits to the north have been made by helicopter drop, but that’s it. National Geographic dubbed it Borneo’s Lost World. After all, it was only “discovered” by the outside world post-WWII (by a pilot who almost crashed full on into the Basin rim, so the story goes). More on all this later.
I had the privilege last year of visiting the place, and it is truly spectacular. I can’t wait to get back there. I’ll keep you posted on developments. Here are a few photos to get you started…