In January 2000 I left cold and wet Taipei and headed south to begin my journey to the Borneo rainforest. The internet was not well-developed at that time; the notes I left for my family read: “I have gone to Borneo rainforest for nature documentaries. It is a big island located in the South China Sea. The destination for this journey is in the country of Malaysia; I do not have much information or details of that place, all I have is the contact number of the tour guide.”
It was my first time leaving my country and I was totally clueless. I had little information on Borneo; all I had was Borneo Island published by Time Life. It was the year I graduated from the Taiwan National University of Science and Technology and my second year as a volunteer for the Society of Wilderness (S.O.W.). The protection of biological diversity was a hot topic at that time and the founding director of the S.O.W., the honourable Mr Jen-hsiu Hsu, gathered a group of people to explore the Borneo rainforest which was known as the world‘s gene treasury. As a freshman, I was lucky to be included in the group.
I can still remember the very first scene on our arrival at the national park: two Bearded pigs were foraging on the grass while a pack of proboscis monkeys were on the trees on the other side, bird calls and insect calls could be heard from the forest nearby. I fell in love with this land right at that moment! The journey opened my eyes to the richness and uniqueness of rainforest creatures and I also witnessed the destruction and crisis of rainforests. The eye-opening trip showed me the magical side of the rainforest and from that time I understood the importance of conserving it. A group of eager visitors encouraged our Chinese tour guide, Mr Zheng Yao Yang, to urge for the formation of a Society of Wilderness (S.O.W.) in Sarawak; I got involved with the founding process and since then I have been attached to this land.
Through the rainforest trip I learnt that, if there is a will, anyone in the world can do something for the earth we live on with his own skills. With that, I started a new chapter of my life by beginning work as a nature artist. I only accepted drawing jobs that are related to nature and I tried my best to show the beauty of nature to more people. For years after the trip, I volunteered with Sarawak S.O.W. during my spare time. I guided the members of Taiwan S.O.W. to explore the beauty of the rainforest and the crisis that it is facing, I shared my experiences with them through activities. A friend asked me once: “Is rainforest really that good? I can’t even stand to visit the street once a month and you visited the rainforest twice a month!” Indeed, each exploration gave me different experiences and surprises and I am deeply fascinated with that.
Our understanding of the tropical rainforest is very poor. Although plentiful rainforest information is available on internet nowadays, these websites or even books don’t really show the look of the rainforest. I have organised the records and experiences which I collected for over ten years to share with readers from the view of a nature observer, so that more people will get to know and understand tropical rainforest better, something that you might only have heard of but in fact you are actually closely connected to.
I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Jen-hsiu Hsu for the publication of this book. He led me to the rainforest and I was given the chance to share its beauty with more people. I also appreciate the tolerance shown by the editor of Big Tree Publishing, Chong Hui-Fen, for approving my frequent leave from the position of the company’s designer. Reason: I missed the rainforest!
Many of my friends thought I was insane to abandon my job to be a tour guide and to shoot rainforest pictures. Was it all worth it? In fact, every trip to Borneo was a vacation for me, it was the chance for me to meet my old friends such as the wild boar, Proboscis monkeys and Orangutans. I made use of my limited time to guide more friends to love nature and to care for the rainforest, through ecotourism. I documented the beauty of the rainforest and shared its importance. This is only the beginning of my journey to protect the rainforest in my own way. I hope that one day, because of my sharing, more people will understand and love the rainforest and, in that way, the endangered tropical rainforest can be preserved.
It is a trip that changed my life and it showed me the direction of my life. The rainforest provided me the pleasure of body and soul, it also inspired me with the meaning of life. Although the trip to the Borneo rainforest was packaged with the muggy and wet environment where the clothes became wet and dry and wet again, in addition the mosquito and insect bites as well as leeches’ blood-sucking, if anyone asked me will I still explore rainforest, the answer is: “Definitely yes, till death do us part!”. I am just a nature photographer but I wish I could publicise the beauty of the rainforest using my professional skills so that the rest of us will be aware that there is such a place that seems far away but is important. I will use images to plead for the rainforest, to evoke attention for the rainforest, to preserve the gene treasury which is the most precious asset we can preserve for our future generations.