From mud volcanoes to monkeys and singing into night skies sparkling with fireflies, a group of Hartpury adventurers had the trip of a lifetime on their field trip to Borneo.
The 25 students, who are studying the BTEC Diploma and Extended Diploma in Animal Management, were given the unique opportunity to see a wide range of indigenous species in their own natural habitat as they delved deep into conservation and culture in this tropical paradise.
On the two-week trip, they experienced a river cruise to see proboscis monkeys and fireflies, visited an orang-utan rehabilitation centre and had the chance to hold a starfish and race turtles at an aquarium, where they learned about the importance of coral and preserving our oceans.
They also stayed on the island where the television series 'Survivor' was filmed – Pulau Tiga – and had a dip in a mud volcano there before heading out to see the nocturnal wildlife. The next morning, they were up at 5.30am to watch the macaques feasting on ghost crabs for their breakfast.
After conquering the world's largest island to island zip wire, the students went snorkelling to explore the wildlife among the coral before heading to Mount Kinabalu, where they experienced a rainforest canopy walk and the natural hot springs. They also cooked their own dinner at a floating fish restaurant.
"It was the best two weeks of my life – an absolutely incredible experience," said Animal Management student, Kyle Smith.
"As it was my first time outside Europe, I was expecting it to be different but you can't truly appreciate diversity until you experience a place like Borneo."
On the trip, the students also visited the cultural village 'Monsopiad', which was once the home of a tribe of headhunters. They were able to try out a blow gun and take part in a tribal dance where they had to try not to have their ankles snapped between two poles!
They also visited a crocodile farm where they learned about effective farming of this species and how it can help ensure that wild crocodiles are left alone to thrive, rather than being illegally killed for their skin. After a visit to a local zoo, the group finished their trip with a barbecue and dancing on the beach.
Student, Emily Perks, said: "It was a life-changing experience that I would recommend to anyone. Borneo is a beautiful country that is teeming with wildlife."
Libby Widdicombe added: "The crocodile zoo was a real eye-opener and having the chance to see animals like orang-utans in the wild was amazing."
At the orang-utan centre, the students found out more about the extensive conservation work that is being carried out to rehabilitate and re-introduce this threatened species.
The Borneo field trip was linked to the ecology and conservation unit of the students' course, including topics such as wildlife rehabilitation, animal adaptations, different ecosystems, plant life and cultural differences.
"Our students have the chance to go on a wide range of trips that give them the chance to see and experience what they learn in the classroom out in the field in practical settings," said Animal Management lecturer, Catherine Watkins, who accompanied the students on the trip.
"Experiencing the wildlife and culture of a place like Borneo is a unique opportunity and we all found it educational and inspiring. So many of the students are keen to go back and discover even more about the diversity of this fascinating country."
Animal Management students at Hartpury experience a range of trips in the UK and beyond as part of their course. They go to become wildlife rangers, animal welfare officers, biodiversity field officers and laboratory and research technicians among many other careers. For more information on Hartpury's courses, go to www.hartpury.ac.uk