Borneo - Giving something back

dancers, Borneo, Malaysia, Asia by antoni halim, ShutterstockTribal dancers at the Tengkayu Festival © antoni halim, Shutterstock

The best way to ‘give something back’ can be done before you even arrive in Borneo, with your choice of holiday operators. As well as volunteer projects (outlined below), the tour operators you choose will dictate how ‘responsible’ your holiday can be, whether they are organising your entire trip or you are travelling independently. Using local tour operators does not guarantee local development, but several are committed to helping local communities. By choosing such responsible operators, you can directly help community development initiatives such as homestay programmes, or conservation efforts such as tree planting.

A good example of such responsible tourism is the work of SI Tours on Sabah’s northeast coast. When you stay at their forest lodges or choose them as a day-trip host, they send RM1 to a local village. The money is used to help families buy school uniforms and bags for their children and improve their homes. SI Tours also source food and other products locally, boosting the local economy. TYK Adventure Tours (see page 80) aim to demonstrate to local people that long-term benefits of tourism outweigh the short-term gains of cash crops, thus helping to change the ‘slash and burn mentality’ of communities and protect the environment. By involving indigenous communities in local tourist ventures such as native rafting and survival camps, the safeguarded environment becomes the livelihood.

If you book your trip with an international operator, ensure that they are working with local communities, operators and NGOs. Those that bear the stamp of responsible travel are usually legitimate. Intrepid Travel ( are a shining example.

For more information and links, try Responsible Travel (01273 600030;, a Brighton-based ecotourism travel directory that includes adventure travel, orangutan conservation tours and volunteer programmes.

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