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Trip to Borneo

Whilst spending 24 hours on his own in the jungle, with a fire striker and machete for survival, is when John Sullivan jokingly started referring to himself as “The Wild Man of Borneo”.

The Wild Man of Borneo

John Sullivan, a 42 year old from Northampton, is a former Royal Marine Commando. Now, he is an all round survival expert, who is working as a survival instructor and an expedition leader. He has not only been recruited by TV companies to assist in preparing for several high-profile survival programmes, but also leads survival courses conducting organised talks across his travels to schools across Northamptonshire and the UK.

He has recently returned from his latest trip, to the wilderness of Borneo. He spent three weeks there living with a man named ‘Parry’ who is a member of a semi nomadic tribe, known as “The Penan”. From Parry, John Sullivan learned a great deal regarding their basic survival skills. Through these skills he learnt how to survive with the available resources in the harsh and unforgiving environment of the rainforest, before learning the survival techniques for 24 hours, all alone.

John said that, “Parry’s entire life is the jungle. All the resources, materials, medicines and foods that are available there are for him to use for his house.” He also added that, “The way Parry uses the environment is about sustainable living and he takes what he needs. He goes fishing, puts his fishing net for half an hour and comes back with enough for him, as well as for me.”

Life in the jungle

According to John, the time spent on his own and with Parry was a spiritual journey in the Borneo jungle. It was also a steep learning curve in the difference between basic survival in a rainforest and the kind of consumerism one would see living in the UK.

He also learned about the perils that are posed by deforestation for tribal people living in the rainforest and how demands from logging companies are depleting landscapes making it unliveable for people who rely solely on the land.

John said that, “Everyone knows about deforestation that is going on in the world, but I have never heard what it is like from a local’s perspective and what the impact is on their lives. It was incredibly moving seeing an elder from the Penan welling up with sadness.”

He also said, “The main thing I learnt from all this, is ‘sustainability’. That’s how people in Penan live every day.” To this he added, “The people in Penan do not over-hunt their land or fish heavily in their rivers. They are completely in tune with the environment to make sure they aren’t disrupting their eco-system. Yet, at present one of the biggest challenges that they are facing is the impact of logging; their land is gradually disappearing thereby changing their way of living.”


From his experiences, John is now launching workshops for schools wherein he will be focusing on the knowledge he gained whilst living with the Penan in Borneo. He not only wants to raise awareness regarding the impact their lives have on remote communities, but also take students for days out in order to teach them survival skills which they would require in the wild.

John Sullivan says, “I want kids to work together as a team and learn how successful you can be when you share their goals. Of course, you may have some children who are academic and some who aren’t, but when it comes to outdoors it is a whole new set of skills that everyone can excel at.”


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