Nine keen students from the University of the Sunshine Coast of Australia spent five days during early December 2019 visiting the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre (KBFSC) and exploring Ulu Temburong National Park. A mixed background of Environmental Science and Animal Ecology students travelled to continue an ongoing monitoring study started 20 years ago by Dr Alison Shapcott on five Pinanga Palm species within the Earthwatch plot at KBFSC.
We were greeted by UBD student buddies when arriving in Bandar Seri Begawan before the three part adventure to KBFSC. The journey to the field studies centre was a real highlight for the students, catching longboats upstream through the national park spotting hornbills in the trees and seeing Nipah palms for the first time along the mangroves was an experience like no other. At the Centre, we were given a warm welcome by the Deputy Supervisor, Muhammad Salleh, and a delicious lunch before a short walk of the Ashton Trail where heavy afternoon rain gave us a chance to experience the wet Tropical monsoon season. Over the five days, students conducted Pinanga Palm surveys, set camera traps in search of exciting Southeast Asian fauna, collected and pressed plant cuttings from the Ashton Trail for the UBD Herbarium, and scaled the incredible canopy walk which took us up to the emergent layer to see the National Park from a new perspective. In our spare time, we explored and swam in the streams and waterfalls nearby the Centre and enjoyed the kaleidoscope of butterflies which danced along the river’s edge each day. We were also lucky enough to be visiting during a rare year in which fruit was abundant in the forest, drawing a mass of bees to the area which we were able to see enjoying our wet shoes and clothes drying outside of our rooms.
We returned to Bandar Seri Begawan to be greeted by our amazing student buddies from UBD once again, who later that night took us on an adventure of the city visiting local food markets and the spectacular Empire Hotel for sunset. We had an incredible time visiting the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre and would like to thank everyone involved in curating the trip which has added invaluable experience to our studies.
Prepared by: Fern Murphy, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia.