| 10/11/2012 | 0 Comments

The Borneo Safari International Off-road Adventure is an exclusive and upbeat eight-day 4WD expedition through Northern Borneo, covering hundreds of kilometers of some of the most challenging and varied terrains in the world.

BS_1Borneo is the world ‘s third largest island with it’s territory divided among three countries, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. Approximately three-quarters of its territory belongs to Indonesia. This part of the island is known as Kalimantan, which –if not known from anywhere else – may be familiar from the Camel Trophy. The legendary off-road series twice visited the island in 1985 and 1996. Since then the Camel Trophy is just a memory, but the island of Borneo remained an off-roader’s paradise, no matter which part you visit.

BS_22All three countries boast an active off-road scene, and off-roaders regularly visit each other’s events, as off-road knows no bounds. The biggest event is the annual Borneo Safari, held regularly since 1990, hosted by the Sabah Four Wheel Drive Association, formerly known as Kota Kinabalu Four Wheel Drive Club .

BS_17In 1990 fifteen cars registered for the event and this year it was already 217 vehicles with 514 participants! During the eight-day event each car covered the same route spanning more than six hundred kilometers, with half of the overall distance to be completed on terrain, among others driving past the iconic symbol of Sabah and Borneo, the Mount Kinabalu. The 4095 meter high peak is the pride of the Kinabalu National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

BS_7It is an additional plus point that despite the large number of participants there were only minor disruptions, we had to wait only once longer than about 3-4 hours at a winching point, but time passed quickly as we watched contestants completing a Special Section.

BS_11A total of twenty Special Section awaited participants in the Competition categories. The venue of the first three SS was in Kota Kinabalu, at a huge open area next to a modern shopping center where the 1st Borneo 4WD & Outdoor Show was prepared for the crowds. Then came the Malay style colorful official start, and the giant car convoy headed for the northeast. On their way the competitors completed another two Special Stages, before reaching the first camp, which was located at a charming village at the foot of the hills. After getting a closer look and talking with the locals it became obvious that life is not easy at a place where the jungle meets the mountains.

On the second day, the convoy started to ascend with spectacular mountain stream crossings and winching action. According to the locals we were quite lucky that it did not rain because downpours can swell the streams and the muddy paths become more slippery. The sunset was beautiful at the plateau where our campsite was located.

BS_5After the usual morning routine the vehicles belonging to the Expedition Category were divided into smaller groups and continued their way, while the contenders and their teams set about completing another three SS (6,7,8). In particular SS 6 and 8 took an enormous toll because the tall grass hid the huge pits perfectly. The lucky ones simply overturned however after putting the car put back on its wheels the team could finish the SS within limit time. While those who entered the SS at high speed and did not overturn, had to calculate with a long downtime for repairing damaged running gear.

BS_16Then came one of the shortest but most time-consuming sections that could be avoided and anyone wanting to continue the tour had to skillfully navigate across tough terrain. A number of experienced supporters did their best to help the participants through this difficult stage. It was already well past midnight when the last car entered the camp.

BS_13On the next day, after another two SS, the longest stage of the Borneo Safari was on the program. This stage bypassed the Mount Kinabalu from the east to the south. Much of the route passed through a military training and shooting area and we were advised not to leave the designated route.

BS_23After long drive we finally reached our riverside campsite at Togob Darat village and we camped here for the next two days and nights. The organizers and the participants of the Borneo Safari spent the next days with charitable activities. By courtesy of the sponsors food packages were donated to the inhabitants of the village, the children were given school supplies and small toys packages. The medical team set up a medical tent and treated several villagers.

BS_24On the next day we made an excursion to Monggis base camp, which is the start for the trekking route on the 2580 m (8462 ft) high Mt Tambuyukon (the third highest peak in Malaysia). The participants planted more than 150 saplings around the cottage, indicating that offroaders consider the protection of the natural environment a very important task.

Meantime the competitors proceeded with another five SS, with two especially exiting sections in a riverbed. In one hardcore special section the competitors were required to drive a narrow path winding between huge rocks and in the other section the contenders had to winch their cars up the slippery riverbank.

BS_28From the east ridge of Mount Kinabalu we proceeded further to the former Mamut copper mine site, with a landscape reminding us of Mars. The mine operated from 1975 to1999 and was the largest open-cast mine of the world in its own time. The several hundred meters deep and now abandoned mine pit with a lake in the bottom was an awe-inspiring sight. Only a bizarre graveyard of discarded and rotting tires reminded us of the huge machines once working in the mine. The organizers seized this opportunity and designed SS 17 on the top the mining truck tires, each measuring two meters in diameter and weighting several hundred kilograms.

BS_27Spending the night at the mine was a surprising experience for the participants of the Borneo Safari. Despite the tropical location, in this altitude the temperature falls around 15 degrees during night. The windy weather conditions made us feel even chillier than the actual temperature. One day later the wind chill factor got even stronger when we reached our last campsite at the highest point of the Borneo Safari, approximately 1500 m above sea level.

BS_26Already the way to the campsite held some excitement in store because the medical team was alerted to a case of snakebite. Until the ambulance arrived from a nearby city our medical staff performed first aid to a worker at a woodcutting site. It also turned out that he was most likely not bitten by a poisonous snake.

BS_15On the last day of the Borneo Safari the convoy started its descend in the Kundasang valley and reached more densely inhabited areas. On our way we could admire rich fruit and vegetable farms. Farmers carry their produce to the markets of the nearby cities along the same roads, which were used by the Japanese invaders during WW2 when prisoners of war were forced to march from Sandakan to Ranau. This is the last leg of forced march route of 260 kilometers known as Sandakan Death Marches, which claimed more than 2,400 victims and only 189 POWs survived the series of marches.

The last SS of the Borneo Safari, SS 20 was held near to Kundasang World War Memorial. A large number of hugely enthusiastic locals turned out to watch the winning team. There was still a lot at stake as Team No. 2 had 605 points, closely followed by Team No. 71 and 69 gaining 590 respectively 579 points so far. The last SS brought some dramatic results: the Team 2 got stuck in the special section and received 0 points for DNF. The two other contenders avoided all mistakes: Team 71 won the SS and gained 40 points to secure his overall victory. Team 69 came in second and received 30 points. Even if the results for the last SS would have been just the opposite, competitor with car No. 71, Wong Su Bin would have been the overall winner of the Borneo Safari 2012 by one point!


1. Team 71   Wong Su Bin – Agus Rambil          630 pts

2. Team 69   Chang Chiew Shen – Henry Chu   609 pts

3. Team 64   Liew Siak Keong – Liew Fui Kong  605 pts

4. Team 73   Tsen Vun Kan – Siau Yee Vui        584 pts

5. Team 82   Chang Kei Kiun – Voo Heng Choi   576 pts

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