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THE RULES OF THE RAIN FOREST

In Borneo’s Batang Ai National Park, the Iban tribe share their ancestral knowledge of the 140-million-year-old rainforest they call home — and help to track down its most famous inhabitant: the orangutan
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I have ants in my pants. Fire ants to be precise. “OWWWWEEEEEEE,” I scream, leaping off the rotting log I’d been resting on and sprinting to a nearby stream. A burning pain is coursing through my thighs, flames are creeping up my backside, and all I can think to do is submerge myself in water; to put out the fire these tiny, insignificant-looking bugs have ignited.

After wallowing — literally and mentally — in the shallows for a few minutes, I rejoin my group: my grinning guide, Kajan, and three members of the Iban tribe. I’d arrived the evening before, the clamour of Kuching (the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak) left far behind me. It was the final night of their annual Gawai Dayak (harvest) festival and they’d each consumed enough rice wine to irrigate a small field. Today though, we’ve left their longhouse home behind and plunged into the jungle, and despite what must be monstrous hangovers, they’re faring much better than me.

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About National Geographic Traveller (UK)

We grab our binoculars and set out to discover the awe-inspiring wildlife of India, scouting out the likes of Bengal tigers, one-horned rhinos and snow leopards in some of the subcontinent’s most dramatic national parks. Elsewhere, we explore the winelands of southern Australia; cross the frozen frontier of the Antarctic Circle; and spend a long weekend in the city of Leeuwarden. Other highlights this issue include the Faroe Islands, Tel Aviv, Manhattan, Tokyo and Santiago, while our photo story takes in the fresh air and Alpine beauty of Switzerland.