April marks the fifth year since Bedley Asun joined Sticky Rice Travel as one of our nature guides and he is still the same charismatic, driven and witty individual we all know and love. Living in the montane area in Ranau where he grew up, Bedley’s curiosity for flora and fauna led him to spend his days familiarizing himself with the surrounding nature and by the time he moved to Kota Kinabalu to expand his horizon, he was already equipped with a wealth of knowledge of the wilderness.
For the most part Bedly is busy guiding his clients around Borneo so it is a rare opportunity to have him in the office. We managed to spend some one-on-one time with Bedly to find out a little bit more about his guiding journey and why he loves sharing his knowledge of the wildlife and nature of this incredible destination.
I was working as an in-house nature guide in one of the resorts in Sabah and I dreamt of becoming a professional one day. I took my tour guide license and after working here and there, I was offered to join Sticky Rice Travel in 2014.
It was out of keen interest and fascination with animals and plants that I started studying about Borneo’s natural history, especially the unique biodiversity of the island. I would often collect reading materials and trek the forest to strengthen my understanding. It got me motivated the more I learn about wildlife and the world of botanics and I was eager to share what I’ve learned with everyone. That’s when I decided to become a nature guide and take this career seriously.
I’m always encouraging my team members to come and talk to me should problems arise or if they need a helping hand. If they made a mistake during their guiding trip, I would definitely work through any issues with them making sure their level of confidence doesn’t drop. As guides we are always on a journey of learning and discovery so it’s important to keep the passion alive. I am always eager for the team to improve their skills and share knowledge with one another so we are constantly improving our understanding of the unique flora and fauna from this part of the world.
Honestly, I have no guiding experiences, especially with clients, that didn’t leave a positive impact. But if had to choose one, it would probably be during the tour with a group in Sarawak. It was a great opportunity to be given the chance to guide outside of Sabah. I’d never been to Sarawak at that time and I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to see a new part of Borneo and further develop my knowledge of the region.
Yes, unfortunately I do not always have the answers. When clients ask me questions and I am unsure of the answer, I would just be honest and inform them instead of giving them the wrong information. In between breaks during the tour, I would do a bit of research on the internet and once I have a better understanding, only then I would give them the explanation. If I’m the nature guide for a group with special interest, a week or two before the tour I would go back to my reading materials and refresh my memory in case I’ve forgotten some details.
So far, I have never encountered any, thank goodness. But last year, I was the nature guide for this particular group and they were anticipating seeing monkeys and pygmy elephants during the tour but unfortunately, there were no sightings of either. It was a situation that was out of my control but still I improvised and instead guided them through the various species of birds we spotted. One of the clients from the group told me that birds were never her point of interest, but I got her into it. It made me feel good to hear that and was an incredibly valuable lesson for me. As a nature guide it is important to constantly learn and stay up to date with information so that we can be well positioned to provide informative interpretation of the natural environment and the ecology of the forest.
Some of our nature guides during their recent birding trip
Becoming a nature guide is not merely about memorizing hard facts. As you slowly learn about nature, you’ll soon realised just how great the vast ecosystem is and your appreciation for it gets deeper day by day. Curiosity is a continuous process so when you’re presented with an opportunity to learn, grab it before it goes away. In Malaysia there is a licensing system for guides, getting properly certified is the first step to becoming a professional guide. As you gain more experience you can achieve higher levels of recognition within the industry to eventually lead trips domestically and even abroad.
Being a nature guide requires a lot of determination and hard work often involving long work hours. If you are with a birding group for example you will be up for sunrise to get the morning birds and can be out till late in the evening looking for nocturnal birds such as owls. Nature guiding is a highly demanding career, you need to be a people person ready to put on a smile every moment of the day no matter how tired or exhausted you are feeling. It is also a highly rewarding job as it has provided me with opportunities that I would not have thought possible before I became a guide.