"Sometimes it feels as though the whole planet has been so polluted and ravaged that there are no Edens left, but they are there to be found by those who step off the beaten track... So it was with mine."
Fifty years ago the interior of Borneo was a pristine, virgin rainforest inhabited by uncontacted indigenous tribes and naïve, virtually tame, wildlife. It was into this 'Garden of Eden' that Robin Hanbury-Tenison led one of the largest ever Royal Geographical Society expeditions, an extraordinary undertaking which triggered the global rainforest movement and illuminated, for the first time, how vital rainforests are to our planet. For 15 months, Hanbury-Tenison and a team of some of the greatest scientists in the world immersed themselves in a place and a way of life that is on the cusp of extinction.
Much of what was once a wildlife paradise is now a monocultural desert, devastated by logging and the forced settlement of nomadic tribes, where traditional ways of life and unimaginably rich and diverse species are slowly being driven to extinction. This is a story for our time, one that reminds us of the fragility of our planet and of the urgent need to preserve the last untamed places of the world.
Foreword by John Hemming
Part 1: Nyapun
Part 2: Diaries
Part 3: Today
Appendix 1: The River
Appendix 2: Members of the Sarawak Government and Royal Geographical Society Mulu (Sarawak) Expedition, 1977–8
Appendix 3: Survival International
Robin Hanbury-Tenison, OBE, DL, is the doyen of British explorers. A Founder and President of Survival International, the world's leading organisation supporting tribal peoples, he was one of the first people to bring the plight of the rainforests to the world's attention. He has been a Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society, winner of the Pio Manzu Award, an International Fellow of the Explorers Club, Winston Churchill Memorial Fellow, Trustee of the Ecological Foundation and Fellow of the Linnean Society. Among his many publications are: A Question of Survival, A Pattern of Peoples, The Yanomami, Fragile Eden, The Oxford Book of Exploration, Mulu: The Rain Forest and his two autobiographies, Worlds Apart and Worlds Within, as well as a successful quartet of books about the other long distance rides he and Louella have made across France, China, New Zealand and Spain.
"Robin Hanbury-Tenison is champion of indigenous populations everywhere. This is an inspiring book, an evocative, enchanting account of his life among the nomadic Penan tribe of Borneo and how he changed our attitudes towards such tribal peoples for ever."
– Redmond O'Hanlon, author of Into the Heart of Borneo and Congo Journey
"Throughout the traditional homeland of the Penan, one of the most extraordinary nomadic cultures in the world, the sago and rattan, the palms, lianas, and fruit trees lie crushed on the forest floor. The hornbill has fled with the pheasants, and as the trees continue to fall, a unique way of life, morally inspired, inherently right, and effortlessly pursued for centuries, has been assaulted in a single generation. In this elegant memoire Robin Hanbury-Tenison reveals the world of the Penan for he was there as a naturalist and explorer long before industrial logging ravaged the forests of Sarawak. It is at once an elegy and a testimony to the folly of greed, and a reminder of just what is at stake in the struggle to protect the remaining tropical rainforests of the world.."
– Wade Davis, Explorer in Residence, National Geographic
"[...] a fascinating book. You will see what a beautiful, magical and scientifically outstanding place Mulu is. And you will see how much was achieved by the scientists of the Royal Geographical Society's expedition. It led directly to the designation of this unique habitat and ecosystem as a protected reserve and World Heritage Site."
– John Hemming, author of Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon