Five friends. Local campers. Permaculture enthusiasts. One island. The story of how Pulau Bidan turned from an uninhabited, neglected island to an evolving community filled with hope and a desire to bring about positive change.
Going above and beyond your average sustainability efforts, the island uses an almost fully self-sufficient system that is intertwined with nature. The land is not only appreciated here, but actively nurtured and cared for.
At the moment, Padil and Predo, two of the initial five founders are still actively involved in the project. As a volunteer, you will be supporting the Pulau Bidan Eco Project, which is an initiative to protect and conserve this remote island through permaculture, sustainable living and collaboration with the local communities.
DIY and building projects
Creating/ Cooking family meals
Help with Eco Projects
Help around the house
You and your fellow volunteers, alongside the permanent team members of the project are the only people living on the island. At times, we may have local and international guests staying in our main building. This means that on average you will be living in a community of four to fourteen people coming from different cultures and backgrounds. For our project to be successful, it is key to be open minded, respectful and compassionate towards one another. Similarly, as a visitor of Malaysia, you have a unique opportunity to interact with and learn from the local culture and Malay approach to work and life.
During weekends, local families, tourist groups and fishermen come to the island to camp for a night or two. They love to practice their English with you and teach you some words in Malay. They also love to share time and meals together. At times, we may all have a meal together with the local visitors. They are Muslims and dress modestly. When interacting with them, please be considerate of your own clothes as revealing clothing may make them feel uncomfortable. Also, it affects the image of the project from the eyes of surrounding communities. Bathing suits are perfectly fine to wear on the beach, but we ask you that you kindly dress appropriately when spending time in our common areas, whether there are local visitors around or not.
In Malay culture, there are social boundaries between men and women. When meeting local visitors, a simple hello and a smile can be enough. Please also try to refrain from kissing and hugging your partner in their presence.
SUSTAINABILITY AS A WAY OF LIFE
We almost entirely depend on ourselves and the natural resources available on the island. While we do get weekly supplies from the mainland, we are constantly growing our own food forest and sources and aim to move closer to being fully sufficient.
Solar panels provide us with enough energy to run our water pump, fridge, lights and other equipment. Depending on the amount of sunlight we receive and how much electricity we need on a particular day, it is important to be mindful of our usage. We have three wells that provide us with drinking water and supply the bathrooms, kitchen and garden. One even has a bamboo fence if you fancy a refreshing bucket shower surrounded by the jungle!
Our mission is to live in harmony with nature as much as possible and as such we try not to waste energy, water, food and anything else that can be reused. We would love to share this experience with you. Learn how to use a coconut for oil, water, milk - you can even use the coconut husk and shells practically and creatively! Harvest papaya on a daily basis, bananas when in season and other fruits, herbs and vegetables we plant throughout the year. Mix wild leaves and flowers into salads and teas. Create natural cleaning products, build from scratch with driftwood, bamboo or waste found on the island. Learn more about our water- and solar systems and how to maintain them. Last but not least, be encouraged to live in the moment, close to wild nature and harmoniously with people from different cultures.
Island life is laid back, but in order to live independently, a lot of work is needed. We keep a daily structure consisting of the following tasks: cooking, cleaning of living spaces, gardening, construction work, maintaining campsites for tourists, preparing meals for guests, beach clean ups and separating waste in our recycle shack. At the same time, we need to be flexible and respond to weather changes, any unexpected water or electricity challenges or any project that needs priority.
Our main house consists of five rooms, a shared dormitory and a kitchen with a gas stove. You have the option of staying in the dorm or camping in a tent right on the beachfront. Depending on availability, we have the option of providing a private room for couples.
Showers and toilets (both Western and Asian style) are located in a separate building nearby.
The rest of our life is outside: a communal area where we share our meals and meetings and hang out and play cards, and two pavilions that we use for yoga, arts and craft work, studying and various other courses.
From the living quarters, you will always have a beautiful view of the ocean!
Life on Pulau Bidan is an experience in itself. Away from both the typical comforts and distractions of city life, we invite you to share a simple and mindful way of living in a beautiful, inspiring environment. Being isolated from society and fully immersed in nature, this is an ideal place for reflection as well as picking up new skills and experiences.
Pulau Bidan is part of an island chain, consisting of five islands, which are part of the ancient volcano Coldera with mountain Jerai in its centre. The island is a forest reserve, mostly consisting of rainforest and rocky hills. Only a tiny portion of the island (less than 10%) is suitable for living and agriculture. There is plenty of wild nature to enjoy. You can follow a trail that goes into the jungle and around the island to its southern shore, where you can catch a magical sunset. There are a wide variety of volcanic formations and cliffs to explore, 420 million years old fossils, underwater caves, sea life and the beauty of the rainforest itself. Or simply lay in a hammock and enjoy the natural views, or venture to our private beach for a soothing swim.
Musang, our cat AKA King of the Island.
Peanut, queen of the chickens.
On a daily basis, you can also expect to see monitor lizards casually strolling by, gekkos and other interesting critters and creatures. From time to time, you may even see the odd snake slithering by on its way to the jungle.
RECOMMENDATIONS & WHAT TO BRING
We provide bedding and mosquito nets, but please bring your own towel. We recommend you to bring a head torch, water shoes and light long sleeve clothing to avoid mosquito bites. As you’ll be working in the garden and might do construction and creative work, bring a sunhat and clothes you feel comfortable working in and don’t mind getting dirty.
As they aren’t easily accessible in the region, for the duration of your stay bring the following: sunscreen, mosquito repellent and personal hygiene products.
We don’t have WiFi, but you can purchase a SIM card before you arrive on the island. We recommend Maxis or Celcom.
Island life is a life outside, surrounded by the jungle and its abundance of wildlife. For your own security, we also recommend you to have health insurance.
HOW TO GET HERE
The nearest town is Gurun, Kedah, which can be reached by train or bus. From the station, take a taxi (MYR20-30) or Grab (MYR15-20) to the meeting point Sungai Udang Jetty, Yan, Kedah, where we’ll pick you up by boat.
The journey to the island and back costs MYR80.
We try to limit boat rides and combine them with getting supplies. Should you arrive before the pick up date, you are welcome to book a night at our basecamp hostel right by the jetty (MYR20/night).
As we are working on an isolated island and move by boat, our operation costs are significantly higher. We are yet to make a sustainable income to cover our costs and so kindly request that you contribute a daily fee of MYR20 (USD5) to cover accommodation and three meals (vegetarian/occasionally fish) a day.
YOU'RE A GREAT FIT IF...
You are able to stay for a minimum of 3 weeks.
You are interested in learning about permaculture and passionate about environmental sustainability.
You enjoy getting fully involved and are willing to do practical and physical work.
You’re happy to disconnect from the rest of the world for a few weeks.
You’re positive, easy going, a team player, and the type of person who rolls up their sleeves and helps out wherever needed.
You enjoy learning about other lifestyles and perspectives and immersing yourself in new cultures.
You have experience in environmental conservation, permaculture, farming, or general maintenance (not essential, but highly appreciated!)
You like to show initiative and share with us your unique skills.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
More than two
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week
In developing countries (Where most hosts are involved in charity work or community development) some of our hosts may ask for a small donation to help the host family or charity (often less then 5 dollars per day) Workaway will allow this listing when the donation goes directly to the family or charity and is just to cover the cost of the volunteer‘s stay. (This will be clearly marked on the host listing).
We will strictly not allow listings posted by agents, “middle men” or projects who we feel are looking to profit from a volunteers stay.
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