Groups Meet Village Chiefs & Monkeys in Sarawak, Malaysia

Bako National Park
Bako National Park

Groups looking for an Indiana Jones-like adventure can find just that in Sarawak, Malaysia, located on Borneo, the third-largest island in the world. The city’s diversity sets the stage for new attendee experiences such as helping with an orangutan conservation project, dining with members of a traditional village and learning how to shoot from a tribal blowpipe.

Meeting planners can work with Borneo Adventure and CPH Travel Agencies, two local tour operators that can help create customized itineraries for incentive groups. For instance, both companies organize excursions to Bako National Park — a must-visit for groups. Here, attendees can see native wildlife such as proboscis monkeys, silver leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques and wild boars in their natural habitat.

Attendees can also travel to Kubah National Park (about 45 minutes away) where the Matang Wildlife Centre helps orphaned or rescued orangutans learn how to survive in the wild. Attendees will work together to build objects from bamboo, cardboard boxes or rope that can store food for the orangutans. The park rangers will drop the objects into the animal habitats, where attendees can watch the orangutans try to find the food.

For a more traditional experience, a longboat ride up the Lemanak River will take attendees to Ngemah Longhouse, where they will meet members of the entire village under one roof. After a dinner made of jungle produce, attendees will experience a night of traditional dancing, music, games and a glass or two of tuak (rice wine) with the longhouse chief.

“The great advantage of special interest and incentive groups is that they open doors and minds in the destination being visited, subjecting them to content that would not normally be available to the individual visitor,” says Chew Chang Guan, general manager of the Sarawak Convention Bureau. “In other words, the nature and size of the visit encourages people involved in the destination to meet the visitors and show off the best of that destination, as it relates to the subject of the tour. The visitors meet local Sarawakians with a common interest, and they discuss their experience in a specific topic.”

While the nature-inspired itineraries do not incorporate teambuilding activities per se, Sarawak offers other options such as kayaking in the rainforest, says Chang Guan. A more traditional teambuilding activity involves visiting the Sarawak Cultural Village, where attendees can experience what its like to be a tribal warrior and learn other aspects of the local culture. The convention bureau can also organize an Amazing Race that incorporates local activities such as learning how to blow and shoot from the tribal blowpipe as well as playing traditional games.