Welcome to the first in a new series of volunteer profiles, where we introduce the people who make what we do possible. First up, ‘Febe’, one of our fantastic Indonesian scientists on the Gunung Bondang Expedition.

Maria Febe Evnike

Maria Febe Evnike, known as Febe, was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia and volunteered to join a Heart of Borneo expedition to Gunung Bondang in December 2013. Her friends describe her as a ‘cheerful, funny, and friendly person’ so why on earth would she want to take on the challenge of an expedition? Here, she tells us a little about her motivation for getting involved and her eye-opening introduction to life in the field!

What is your background Maria?

In 2009, I became a student at Bogor Agricultural University studying Forest Resources Conservation and Ecotourism and began to learn a lot about forest conservation and ecotourism in particular. I got involved in fieldwork, expeditions and internships that were organised by the student association and my research was mostly focused on the study of vegetation and so, when I finally graduated from the university, I started seeking a job.

So why did you become a Heart of Borneo volunteer?

I volunteered because I love travelling, I love to explore something new: trying traditional food, meeting and laughing with new people and seeing natural scenery in some part of the world. One quote in my mind that always successfully pulls me travel is ‘you only live once’: that is why I never want to waste my life without seeing the world. And of course, my ambition is to be a scientist.

So how did you get involved with Heart of Borneo?

I searched for jobs in conservation, forestry and organizations related to them and Heart of Borneo was one of the keywords that frequently appeared. My cousin gave me information about voluntary opportunities in Heart of Borneo and she also sent me the link to the website. So the first thing was to find out as much as I could. I read Heart of Borneo’s profile and what activities that Heart Borneo focused on. After that, I started filling the form. I tried my best on it because I really wanted to be involved in the expedition. I knew it would be good to my future career. Fortunately, a month later, I got a call from Heart of Borneo: I had been selected to be one of volunteer in Gunung Bondang Expedition and arranged to fly to Palangka Raya.

What did you do on that expedition?

My study was focused on vegetation analysis: measuring vegetation density and richness at every altitude and also exploring orchids and pitcher plants. Being involved in this expedition gave me a chance to develop my skills, not only my forestry skill – like analysing the vegetation – but it also gave me a chance to learn how to communicate and work in multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural environment. I am convinced that this experience will lead me to the future career that I want as a scientist.

Maria Febe Gunung Bondang Expedition

Image: Gabby Salazar


What did you enjoy about the experience?

The best part of the expedition for me was when I saw something that I would rarely see. Seeing hornbills, hearing their sounds, seeing monkeys jumping from tree to tree, being woken in the morning by their sounds, seeing the many beautiful and unique flora species, orchids, pitcher plants, and bio-luminescent fungi. The other thing that I loved the most in this expedition was being able to interact with new people from various backgrounds: students, lecturers, researchers, photographers, foreigners, and local people. They were so inspiring to me.

And you got an eye-opening experience to life in the field?

The strangest thing happened connected to volunteering was when they told me to carry the expedition things to the camp from the village!! I was really shocked because I didn’t expect it! I also faced other challenges with technical issues, as a vegetation researcher, I need to make some plot in every altitude and sometimes the area of the plots were too steep and thorny vegetation around it. Ouch! But still, l enjoyed everything that happened.

What advice would you give to others thinking about volunteering?

Being a volunteer is a pride. You can contribute to our world in a simple way, not with money but with your skill and your heart. You will get more than you pay for: it’s called experience. People can make a positive difference to the planet by themselves – with their attitude to treating the world in their daily life by treating animals correctly, loving nature, respecting human rights, and living with humility.

And finally, if you were a Borneo animal or bird, what would you be?

Ha ha! If I were an animal – to be honest, I am feeling grateful to be a human – maybe I will be a species of migrant bird.