Jungle bushcraft and jungle survival in Malaysia ; Part IV

Jungle bushcraft
Some river prawns and fish caught during one of the jungle survival courses I attended in the past. Every bit counts when you have very little to eat for an entire day

I hear people talking about jungle bushcraft and jungle survival in Malaysia all the time. Someone asked me what my thoughts are on both. Well, to be quite honest I am not 100% sure myself. But if I had to give an answer, I would say the former is more of practice and acquisition of knowledge and skills which (hopefully) would then help you in the latter. And of course, the word bushcraft really does have a calmer soothing tone while survival seems a bit too extreme. One is voluntary while the other is not.

Jungle survival in Malaysia
An Orang Asal child participating in worm digging to setup fishing lines. Learning about the worms…what it likes and dislikes helps to identify where they are most likely to be found. 

Where can we learn jungle bushcraft and jungle survival in Malaysia? Well, I have introduced a few individuals I know personally in my previous write-up on jungle survival skills teachers. There are also plenty of resources on the internet on bushcraft. Numerous forums, websites and Youtube channels are dedicated to the world of bushcraft. A friend once lamented to me that bushcraft seems to be all about Mora knives, carving spoons/ kuksa and starting fire (primitive way). Well, if you watch enough of Ray Mears TV series, you probably see some truth in that. But of course bushcraft is more than just that. I believe it encompasses a wide range of skills and knowledge that is crucial in ensuring a long term human existence in the olden days. It covers many aspects of life including shelter building, food procurement, medicinal & healing, tools and implements, fire making etc…the list is endless. It is more towards knowing how to use what’s available around us to sustain us over a long period of time.

Dugout canoes Malaysia
The Semelais of Lake Bera and expert dugout canoes makers. It is the process, skill and knowledge that goes into making the canoes are what I would consider as bushcraft


I once visited the Semelai village in Lake Bera. Carbon dating from the graves of Semelai elders have placed the community over 600 year in the area surrounding this natural freshwater lake. To this day, traditionally made dugout canoes can still be seen in the villages. The Semelais use them to transport goods, move people, fish, hunt, gather jungle produce in and around the lake. The knowledge of wood selection right up to the processes and tools used to make the canoes are priceless and makes up a big part of the community’s bushcraft knowledge. But if you learn and master the knowledge of Semelai canoe making, will it help you if you get lost in the Amazon? Well…I think probably not but the knowledge of how to take down a tree, make cuts and notches safely and harvesting rattan or vines to make cordage certainly will.

Raman Semai from Gombak
Behind him, a bundle of carefully harvested, packed and carried to his small farm in Gombak to use as teaching materials


This brings me to Mr Raman Bah Tuin, an Orang Asal Semai who resides in Gombak not too far from Kuala Lumpur. I have known him for many years. An artisan who makes bamboo nose flute, blow pipes, bamboo carvings and many sort of rattan weaving, Raman is also very knowledgeable in jungle bushcraft knowledge and skills. Raman conducts workshops that teaches basic skills like weaving, jungle traps, harvesting and using bamboo for cooking, palm frond weaving and blowpipe hunting. I enjoy watching Raman doing work in the jungle. He always takes his time (especially when there is a cutting tool involved) and he knows his jungle plants well enough to supply him with all the materials he needs to make his woven bangles (rattan Simpeh), baskets and even traps. He usually runs his workshops around Gombak where he lives. There is a small plot of land nearby his house that is used as his classroom. He still uses the space for groups that favors overnight camping.

Jungle shelter
Ramman sharing his knowledge on traditional jungle shelter setup which he knows based on what was taught to him growing up as a Semai


Raman’s workshop is always interesting and most suitable for those interested to see how things are done in the olden days. Basic tools are used, usually with only a parang and a small knife. While the whole rustic and very basic approach is admirable and idealistic, we need to remind ourselves that Raman grew up living close to a jungle. It is a world he knows intimately. What he can share with us is just the tiniest tip of the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other aspects of the jungle like smell, sound or movements in the jungle that would mean different things to him…these are things he may never be able to teach us. Getting in touch with Raman is best done through his mobile phone. Raman’s English is not great but he speaks good Bahasa. If you need his mobile phone number, please write to us via the Get Me page.
Note: At time of writing, Raman does not have reliable access to internet.

Pendekar Rimba
Pendekar Rimba (right) guiding a young student on fire making technique. His knowledge and skills are among the best I have seen in recent years.

I recently met Mr Sofian a.k.a Pendekar Rimba (Forest Warrior) on Facebook. At the time of writing, I have to admit that I have not met Pendekar Rimba (PR) personally, only spoken to him over the phone and chatted online. I found him posting interesting videos on Facebook and there are certain aspects of his videos (so far at least) that fascinates me. Among them:

• PR (if what he claims to be is true) is credible. A native Iban from Borneo who has served in the special forces (Malaysia), I am sure he would have been true some level of training and experience. You need to have credibility to teach jungle survival…period.
• PR is original. He is confident and seems to know what he is talking about. If you read his Facebook post comments (he does get a LOT of comments) and he replies to negative feedback constructively. He will respond without getting defensive.
• PR talks about things that are new and rarely shared by other self-proclaimed ‘gurus’. He does more than just the typical starting fire and shelter building. He share his skills and knowledge on things like traps, weapons, jungle materials etc
• PR doesn’t dance around gear like a small kid in the candy store. One may not appreciate the sort of gear he carries but it is obvious he has the knowhow as oppose to having the just the shiny best tools. Then again, I see this change all the time. Hopefully not with PR.
• PR (if what he claims to be is true) is credible. A native Iban from Borneo who has served in the special forces (Malaysia), I am sure he would have been true some level of training and experience. You need to have credibility to teach jungle survival…period.

I have to admit that I do not know PR well enough to actually say he is good. But based on my observation so far, he is the person to watch out for. I have a good feeling he will be a good jungle survival instructor (or teacher if you like) in Malaysia. I have been in communication with him and I will update this blogsite with more updates and thoughts on PR. He is currently promoting some of his own programs and I am keen to join him and see how he goes. You can visit his Facebook profile Pendekar Rimba  or watch some of his videos on Youtube.


More on jungle survival in Malaysia in my next post!

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