Groups choosing to come to Borneo will be on our terrestrial site for their first week, which takes place in East Kalimantan, to help with lowland forest biodiversity inventory. For their second week they will be heading over to our marine site a small Island off the coast of East Kalimantan called Derawan Island.

  • Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

Forest Week

The group will head to East Kalimantan to help with a lowland forest biodiversity inventory. During this first week students will complete a course on Borneo wildlife ecology then assist with the following projects:

  • Primate abundance
  • Birds
  • Forest structure
  • Butterflies
  • Herpetofauna
  • Bats
  • Large mammals

Marine Week

In the second week students complete one of the following:

  • PADI Open Water dive training course: This course involves a combination of theory lessons, confined water dives and open water dives to gain an official scuba diving qualification.
  • Indo-Pacific reef ecology and survey techniques course: This consists of lectures and in-water practicals either by diving (if a qualified diver) or snorkelling. The lectures cover an introduction to coral reef ecosystems, coral and algal species, mangrove and seagrass ecology, economically important invertebrates, identification of coral reef fish, reef survey techniques, threats to reefs and marine conservation. Following each lecture the students will then complete an in-water practical by diving (if already qualified) or by snorkelling.

Borneo Research Objectives

Borneo was once mainly covered in forests but in just the last 40 years over 30% of the remaining forests have been felled. There are a series of biomes within Borneo but the most diverse of these are the lowland rainforests which are the most diverse rainforest habitats in the world with more than 10,000 plant species on Borneo alone.  Part of the reason for this exceptional diversity is that during Ice Ages Borneo is connected by land bridges to the mainland of Asia so that species can spread across.  These invasions are then separated by long periods of isolation on a large island which leads to further speciation.  This high plant diversity in the lowland forests of Borneo supports some high faunal diversity as well with 380 species of breeding birds and a diversity of mammals ranging from the Slow Loris to Sun Bears.

One of the main drivers of lowland forest destruction has been clear felling in order to develop palm oil plantations. In the province of East Kalimantan much of the lowland forest has been cleared for these plantations but the Berau government has stepped in to preserve 10,000ha of prime lowland forest from being converted.  The Lesan protection forest is bordered by the Kelay river and an orangutan rehabilitation release site has been established in the buffer zone.  The Lesan forest is nearly completely surrounded by palm oil plantations although there is a narrow forest corridor that links the protected forest to the wider undamaged forests past the palm oil plantations. Operation Wallacea has been invited by the Berau government to help with identifying the fauna of the Lesan forests and to then establish a standardised monitoring protocol that can identify any changes in key taxa over time.  The Berau government has identified tourism income as one of the most important parts of the local economy.  At the moment this tourism income is almost exclusively focused on the offshore islands and the diving industry, and the Berau government would like to develop the Lesan forest site as a location for tourists to see some of the spectacular wildlife of the Borneo forests.  As a result of this objective, one of the outputs from the 2019 surveys will be a photographic guide to the fauna most likely to be encountered in the Lesan forests.

In addition, to identifying the faunal diversity of the forest, the Berau government would also like data on the carbon storage value of the protected forest.  By protecting the forest from being clear felled the Berau government has foregone the value of the timber and one way of replacing some of this lost income is by payments being made under the REDD+ scheme.  This scheme is designed to provide payments to local communities for protecting the carbon value of the forest (and thereby reducing carbon emissions).  Preference is given to protecting the carbon value of forests with high nature conservation value when including forests with the REDD+ scheme. So the results of the faunal studies will be combined with the forest structure and carbon levels surveys so that an application can be made for ongoing annual funding to ensure the Lesan forests remain protected for the next 25 years.

  • Help with estimating carrying capacity of a lowland forest reserve for orangutans
  • Work with teams identifying the use of a lowland forest by birds, reptiles and amphibians
  • Help with camera trapping for mammal species such as cats and possibly even sun bear
  • Learn about Borneo ecology from published research in the last 10 years
  • Gain a diving qualification
  • Dive on reefs within the Coral Triangle – the most species rich reefs in the world
  • Learn about marine ecology and marine survey methods

The costs of a school group expedition can be highly variable. There is a standard fee paid to Opwall for all expeditions but the location you are flying from, the size of your group, and how you wish to pay all impact the overall cost.

You can choose to book the expedition as a package (which includes your international flights) or you can organise your travel yourself and just pay us for the expedition related elements.

If you are booking your expedition as a package, you also have the option of being invoiced as a group, or on an individual basis.

Forest Camp


In the tropical rainforests of Borneo it is generally warm during the day ranging from 25 degrees Celsius up to 30 degrees Celsius, with up to 80% humidity. At night the temperatures drop lower, but not usually lower than around 15 degrees Celsius. It rains very frequently, and very heavily at times, but for short periods.

Fitness level required

Medium – High. Although no trekking is required in to camp, surveys may require hiking for long periods, over steep and muddy terrain.

Creature comforts

Facilities in camp are very basic (tents on platforms, Indonesian squat toilets, mandi style showers). There is no cell phone signal or internet access from the camp.


Marine Site


At the marine site during the day, the weather is normally sunny and warm (around 30 degrees Celsius), and at night temperatures drop to around 20-25 degrees Celsius. Being on an island means there is often a pleasant breeze so it does not always feel this hot. It rains rarely, but when it does it tends to be very heavy for short periods of time.

Fitness level required

Low-Moderate. Some fitness is required for in-water activities, but conditions are relatively easy.

Creature comforts

Facilities at Derawan Dive Resort are very comfortable; shared dorm rooms have beds with a mattress, stand-up showers, and Western toilets. There is very limited cell phone signal which can usually only be used with an Indonesian SIM card and no Wifi access.


  • Indonesia
  • Borneo
  • Derawan Island
  • Lesan Protection Forest Camp
  • Lesan Dayak Village

Want to get involved with this project?


Want to get involved with this project?

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