The Great Outdoors

The lessons of the wild cannot be taught in a brick-and-mortar classroom, which is why camps and expeditions remain popular even in the digital age. Here are some of our top picks.

by / Published: 27 Sep 2016

The Great Outdoors


Schools aren’t just concrete walls and wooden desks – sometimes they can be pitched tents on the jungle undergrowth, a kayak on a churning river or ropes on a sheer rock face. At least, that’s what places like Outward Bound Sabah and Wilderness Malaysia think.

The original Outward Bound was a non-profit educational organisation that sought to build character and leadership by taking participants on challenging learning expeditions outdoors, and Sabah hosts the only Outward Bound centre in Borneo. Situated on 100 acres of a former rubber plantation with easy access to various natural landmarks, the centre can easily host activities such as sailing, kayaking and camping, or organise longer expeditions to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and Mount Kinabalu.

In the same vein, Wilderness Malaysia also takes the ‘experiential learning’ approach by taking to the outdoors to host corporate team building activities, school field trips or recreational adventures, which can be tailored as necessary. One of the highlights of their programmes is the Tall Ship Training atop the S.T.S Puteri Mahsuri – a literal voyage of discovery where participants will learn to navigate, plot sea charts and set sail, which is often paired with shore expeditions to islands and beaches.

Being exposed to a challenging, stimulating environment builds character, which is a part of growing up oft neglected in traditional, academic-focused school systems. While you’ll no doubt pick up practical skills like rope-tying and raft-building, the experience is also a good way to put life into perspective as well as honing your critical thinking and problem solving abilities.

Don’t worry if you’re not quite the next Bear Grylls yet as teachers will be watching over the groups. After all, that’s what you’re there to learn! Having said that, they won’t step in unless they’re needed to, allowing the students to truly learn through experience.


Jungle trekking or hiking is a great way to commune with nature for a few hours, but have you ever thought about putting up for a whole night (or three) in the jungle? If you have but aren’t sure about how you’ll fare roughing it out in the wild, that’s where the Malaysian Jungle Training School comes in.

The Malaysian Jungle Training School specialises in training people in bushcraft, jungle survival and environmental awareness, spanning everything from basic emergency response and camp making to campsite selection and equipment packing. You’ll also learn about snakebite first aid and how to identify other tropical hazards among many useful survival skills. Challenge yourself and build your self-independence with this ultimate walk on the wild side.

On a larger scale, nothing brings people together better than having to depend on each other for survival, particularly if you’re deep in the jungle and far away from civilisation. That’s why the jungle is also a top destination for team building activities as organised by Team Building Malaysia. Their Adventure Team Building Packages range from single-day to three-day expeditions conducted by professional facilitators, with programmes designed to encourage teamwork and creativity.

The extensive list of activities includes rappelling, canoeing, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, jungle trekking and night solo walks just to start. Through these, the organisation hopes that participations will walk away with better geographical and environmental knowledge as well as greater self-confidence, ability to reason and teamwork skills, which are just as important for school and the office as in the great outdoors.


If you’re longing to escape the jungle and head to the seas instead, why not do so on a yacht or a power boat? Based in Port Klang, the Sailing School Malaysia is here to help you live your dreams. Groups of five people can sign up for sailing lessons with experienced instructors to guide you through safety, navigation and nautical knowledge training, as well as practical training on actual boats in the Pulau Indah Marina.

The main course offered is the International Crew Certificate Course, which is 32 hours of theory and practical work spread out over four days. You’re landbound for the first day as you get the basics down pat on paper in a classroom, then the next day will see you step onto a sailboat or power boat and learn the ropes of leaving the port and anchoring. Days three and four get exciting as you’ll be sailing around Port Klang alongside commercial water traffic, really putting your new skills to the test!

The seas are a harsh mistress, as they say, but the experienced instructors at the Sailing School Malaysia will ensure that you have all the knowledge and training you need to take her on. Every tiny decision you make on board could prove to be life-changing depending on the weather and traffic, so your judgment and decisionmaking abilities will be challenged – as all sailors are.

Besides snorkelling and watersports, the idyllic island of Langkawi is also popular for would-be sailors, and the Langkawi Sailing School is there to help them along. It offers five-day shore-based theory courses, ranging from the basic Day Skipper up to the Yachtmaster Ocean – but its main draw are the practical courses where you learn how to plan passages and pilot the yacht through longer coastal and offshore passages by day and night.


The ocean holds many secrets, some we have yet to fathom. TRACC-Borneo (Tropical Research and Conservation Centre) based on the island of Pom Pom, off Semporna in Sabah, is a conservation organisation that runs marine research expeditions and courses to shine some light into the mysteries of the deep.

Sign up and you can lend your assistance to research projects that document shark populations and nesting turtles, as well as helping replant coral destroyed by fish bombing. Divers will love the opportunity to explore what must be some of the best diving sites in the world – here turtle sightings are a daily occurrence! If you don’t know how to dive but want to learn, dive courses are also offered.

Non-divers, you needn’t feel left out – you can snorkel or assist on land. Professor Steve Oakley who heads up TRACC has a wealth of knowledge to share, so soak it up like a sponge – a sea sponge. You can also help with beach cleanups to reduce turtle deaths and learn about coral restoration techniques while you plant coral to restore reef biodiversity.

Divers who want to take their skill set up a level can take a 3-Day EcoDiver course. Part of Reef Check Malaysia’s EcoAction programme, you’ll not only learn how to float head down, fins up in water (now that’s a skill!), you’ll also have the necessary chops to participate in reef checks and learn to identify indicator species that can help determine the health of the seas.

Besides learning how to navigate the waters, this hands-on work with the oceans also ensures that you’ll gain a better appreciation for the beauty of the seas and the creatures that make it their home, as well as a greater awareness of the effect of human behaviour on nature.