Children Hide Inside Tree in Sabah, Borneo, World War ll


Borneo Jungle Walk


It was time for the Borneo Jungle Walk in Sabah, Borneo.


As we entered the jungle, the first thing to walk across was a swinging rope bridge, which David managed with ease. 

David on Rope bridge in Borneo Jungle

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I won’t say how T managed on the rope bridge, but  I have this vision of him with arms and legs sprawled in all directions between the ropes. Suffice it to say that he looked like he had had “ten too many”.


Voodoo in the Jungle


Real Borneo jungle is choking with trees and foliage of every description, and the way the thick vines crawl around the trees is enough to evoke images of witchcraft and monsters.


Snakes and Spiders and Elephant Dung


It was a hot sunny day and David, our guide, gallantly brushed away giant spider webs, and pointed out weird spiders and python-sized snakes…

Photo David TseuPhoto David Tseu


…as well as strange plants, unusual insects and colourful birds that David captured with his much-better-than-mine camera.


But the gigantic plops of elephant dung elicited a sight and smell of unimaginable proportions on the Borneo Jungle Walk. Of course the blurring in the photo is somewhat intentional so as not to offend anyone’s fine sensibilities.


The Tree


Then we came to the tree, THE TREE, the tree that had an amazing story behind it.


The Japanese seized Borneo near the beginning of World War ll in December of 1941, during the Pacific War. Borneo had become a major source of oil for the Japanese who had virtually no domestic oil resources. 


The War then swirled around the Island of Borneo and the atrocities that the Japanese were committing on the Island. The Japanese killed the missionaries to the horror of the indigenous Dayak people. They stole the food of the tribal peoples and forced themselves on the local women. They forced 3000 prisoners to walk hundreds of miles through the jungle at gunpoint and with beatings, often with little food or medical aid. Many were killed or left to die. Only 18 of the 3000 prisoners survived. This was known as The Death March.


Parents feared for the lives of their children during this war and with impressive ingenuity, they found a giant tree in the jungle with a small entrance, big enough for a child to crawl through, and with an interior as large as a big room inside. This is where they hid their children for weeks on end when the Japanese were near. This sad scenario lent itself to images of dozens of children crammed into the tiny tree-room with little to eat or drink for days on end. As we all know, parents will go to any lengths and use uncommon imagination to protect their children.

The entrance was big enough for a six-foot adult man to crawl into.


What an amazing story on a simple Borneo Jungle Walk! T tried to peer inside the Tree Room and David invited him to crawl in, while casually cautioning that the floor inside would very likely be lined with the crap of every wild animal that had been inside. T stood back rather quickly while David chuckled.


This little joke lightened our moods after envisioning a very depressing scenario with the children.



“But We Have To See Elephants”, they said.


David told another story of a small group of Australians whom he had taken on this same Jungle Walk. These Ozzies were desperate to see Elephants, even though David explained to them that you could walk around the jungle for two weeks and not see one elephant. T said it would be like someone asking to see a moose in Canada. David kept trekking and trekking and trekking through the jungle with the group hoping to see an elephant.


Finally they saw an elephant through the trees. Then David realized that elephants had surrounded them on all sides. The bull trumpeted – not a good sign. Trumpeting is a sign of aggression. Although they were perhaps not in imminent danger, you don’t fool around with elephants. Elephants are intelligent and social creatures but they often become spooked and defensive. Elephants are in the top ten of animals who kill humans each year, mostly by trampling.


The group hid behind a big tree and waited. The elephants did not move. David’s group did not move. And they waited and waited. Would the elephants charge? Would they have to wait there all night? What could they do? Finally, after over 30 minutes, the elephants slowly left. Moral of the story: be careful what you wish for. 


The Borneo Jungle Walk gave one more to think about than a leisurely walk through the jungle.



The Myrne River


Climbing higher and higher in the jungle, the view of the Myrne River and valley below gave us an idea of where we had previously been on the Borneo River Safari.


Our next river safari would take us into the island swamp in the middle of the river with the tree-climbing crocodiles


essdee1_cover (8) Dec 13 FINAL COVER

*If you’d like to learn more about little-known inexpensive countries and our crazy adventures, click the link below on Amazon to get the book, Travel To Little Known Places.
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2 Responses to Children Hide Inside Tree in Sabah, Borneo, World War ll

  1. Wendy says:

    Love love love your photos! Great story too 🙂

  2. Thank you Wendy! What did you think of the parents hiding their children in a tree?

C'mon, share your thoughts. You know you want to.

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