Interested in DIY adventure travel, exploring, and organising your own expedition?

This is a request for like-minded people (ten or so), from any nationality, to come together to organise their own expedition to that remote destination you always wanted to explore, but never got around to.

It may be that you lack the confidence to go it alone, or the logistics and cost has been prohibitive. What I am proposing here is that you come forward to discuss where you want to go and what you wish to do when you get there. If we can get enough like-minded people together, who want to go there then we can pool our resources and organise that expedition much easier and cheaper than if you were to try and do it on your own.

The destinations I am referring to are generally those that may be extremely remote like Madagascar, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Sumatra, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia etc.. Or less remote, but nevertheless difficult for one to organise on ones own like China, Vietnam, Mexico, or even Africa and Australia. I’m not suggesting you do anything touristy like visit cities and temples, although these things are usually unavoidable.

Like-minded people are those with an interest in the natural world. You may be an academic botanist or zoologist needing to study a particular species, a geologist interested in a mountain range or formation. But you could also be a complete novice with an interest in ornithology, or you just want to see a wild tiger before they go extinct. Whatever your background, if you want to do something really special and adventurous in your lifetime you can, by pooling together with like-minded people to undertake an expedition or field trip everyone gains in the shared knowledge of the participants, the security of travelling together, and the reduced logistical costs.

I envision these field trips and expeditions to be of the duration of a few weeks to a couple of months. Longer trips are not out of the question, but I can tell you from my own experience that expeditions lasting longer than a month become tedious, tiring, and generally much more difficult. Besides, many people can’t spare the time, and people invariably become irritating when you travel for too long with them.

And to give you an idea of what to expect, it is more often the case that most of the time is spent in hotels where we make excursions out into the field. Sometimes we work out of a base camp, other excursions might entail a 5 day trek through a rain forest where we hold up each night in hammocks. Some countries insist that we employ at least one guide to travel with us especially if we have a collecting permit. In most cases it is preferable to have a motor vehicle, mini bus, truck, car or boat, to give us the freedom to get us and our kit close to where we need to go, it then works as our base camp. The itinerary is decided by the species we set out to see, and the minimal amount of effort needed to get in, see that or those species and get out.

About me
I’m not the kind of person who likes to ‘blow my own trumpet’ and talk much about myself, however, I understand that in the context of this you do need to know quite a lot about me.

My name is Phil, I am male, 48 years old, married with two teenage boys, British, based in Cornwall, Southwest UK. And I own Trebrown nurseries and this website. My academic background is in biology and geology, but I specialise in botany and palaeobotany, mainly [Arecaceae] palm trees, [Cycadae] cycads, [Musaceae] bananas, [Pteridophyta] ferns, and conifers especially Araucariaceae and Podocarpaceae. My interests extend further than this though and I am fascinated by everything in the natural world, including birds, mammals, invertebrates, reptiles and fish.

I maintain a high level of fitness, but would not go so far as to say I am fanatical about it, I generally eat healthily, but can, on occasion eat junk, and I have been known to consume large levels of alcohol (never out of context). I’m a keen cricketer and play throughout the year. I run and work-out regularly. When I was younger I was keen on hang-gliding, climbing and kayaking, but these days my only adventure sports include scuba diving and hiking, with the occasional bit of tree climbing.

I have received military wilderness survival training and logistical training in planning and moving large volumes of equipment, kit, and personnel, in and out of combat zones. I’ve been trained in first aid (certificate now expired). I am fluent in conversational Mandarin Chinese, and I speak basic Indonesian/Basa Malay. I hold an open-water scuba diving licence.

I also hold a driving licence to drive any motor vehicle with the exception of high capacity seating PCVs (busses), though I’m licensed to drive 16 seaters, HGVs of all classes, automobiles, motorcycles, and have been highly trained to operate vehicles in all terrains – off road in remote locations. Also to maintain and fix vehicles on location.

I have travelled through approximately 67 countries, and driven vehicles through 28 of those countries. Although I have partaken in expeditions all over the world, mainly botanical expeditions, I was based in Taiwan for 10 years and most of my work has been throughout Southeast Asia – China, Taiwan, Tibet, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, India, Pakistan etc.. I also lived in Australia for 2 years, and travelled extensively there and New Zealand. Over the last few years, due to my knowledge of the countries and my language skills, I have assisted, and led many academics into Asian destinations for them to study their specific subject in the field.

Lastly, I have been fortunate over the years to have seen, in the wild, many of the world’s rarest and most fascinating animals, birds, and plants. But you can also see these if you want to.

Now about you
Contact me using the secure link provided. The information you submit will not be published in any way, neither will the information be transmitted to other interested parties without your express permission. I will post your basic destination idea on this page to see if there is public interest.

Start by suggesting a destination, and what it is (if any) that you would like to see or study while you are there. It may be that you don’t mind where you go and are happy to join the party wherever we go.

Provide a little background about yourself, and include information about your fitness. Don’t worry if you have a disability or think you’re not fit enough, contact me anyway and we’ll discuss it. Your fitness will improve tremendously both during preparation and during the expedition. But do remember that you could put other expedition members at risk if you don’t disclose a serious medical problem beforehand.

If you have specialist knowledge about the country, environment, species, language, whatever, Let me know. Likewise, if you have the most experience travelling in the country you will be the expedition leader (help provided). Otherwise, I will assume expedition leadership.

If motor vehicles are to be needed, then I will take on that responsibility, but quite often more than one driver is needed. So if you feel you have the ability to drive and or maintain a vehicle then you should also advise me so.

Even if you can’t do this trip this year, but would like to do it before you die, contact me right now regardless, we can discuss it by email or phone, and it might be more feasible than you originally thought. Please don’t be put off suggesting a destination because it has no palm trees and you think I won’t want to go there, I’m interested to go to any destination regardless of whether I’ve been there before or not.

Contact link, opens a contact form in a new window. Or leave a reply at the bottom of the page.

One last thing. I want to make this ‘Not for profit’. I have to travel all the time anyway, I see this as a means to reduce my costs, and meet interesting people and learn from them. I may have to charge some sort of administration fee if its taking a lot of my time and resources, but the over-all objective here is to reduce the expedition costs for all participants.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Speak to you soon,

Phil Markey

Suggestions:

Two weeks travelling down the eastern side of Taiwan, and a trip over to Lanyu island in the summer 2013.
This is a suggestion from myself. Fairly simple in the planning – travelling in a minibus and staying in hotels every other day or so. Other nights spent outdoors in hammocks, to save hotel costs, and to get into the wilderness. Wildlife includes butterflies, birds including eagles and the Lanyu Scops owl, snakes, and a lot of plants – ferns, bananas, and palms including 3 calamus (ratan) species, Arenga engleri, Pinanga tashiroi, Phoenix loureiroi, and Livistona chinensis var. subglobosa. I know the habitats like the back of my hand, and I speak Chinese.

An addition to this could be Two weeks in the Japanese Ryukyu islands to see: ferns, spectacular environments, Cycas revoluta, and palms including Arenga ryukyuensis, Satakentia liukiuensis, and the most northerly population of Nypa fruticans.
Contact me or leave a message if you’re interested.

Paschalococos disperta The Extinct Palm from Easter Island

Moai Statues on Easter Island

Moai Statues on Easter Island

Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands. It is 3,600 km (2,237 mi) west of continental Chile and 2,075 km (1,290 mi) east of Pitcairn in the South Pacific Ocean, and is a volcanic island, consisting mainly of three extinct volcanoes. Easter Island is famous for its monumental statues, called moai, created by the Rapanui people. The Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen named the island Easter Island when he encountered it on Easter Sunday 1722. At that time he visited for a week and estimated there were 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants on the island, and noted a seashore lined with stone statues. When British explorer James Cook visited Easter Island in 1774, he reported a reduced population, and the statues as being neglected with some having fallen down. Easter Island was approached many times during the 19th century, but by now the islanders had become openly hostile towards any attempt to land, and very little new information was reported before the 1860s. A series of devastating events killed or removed almost the entire population of Easter Island in the 1860s. In 1877 there were just 111 people living on Easter Island, and only 36 of them had any offspring.

Paleobotanical studies of fossil pollen and tree moulds left by lava flows indicate that the island was formerly forested, with a range of trees, shrubs, ferns, and grasses. The original subtropical moist broadleaf forests are now gone. A large palm, Paschalococos disperta, related to the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis), was one of the dominant trees. This palm is now extinct. Introduced trees are now sparse on Easter Island, rarely forming small groves. The island once had a forest of palms, and it has been argued that native Easter Islanders deforested the island in the process of erecting their statues. The disappearance of the island’s trees seems to coincide with a decline of its civilisation around the 17th and 18th century. Only a quarter of the statues were installed, while nearly half still remain in the quarry at Rano Raraku and the rest elsewhere on the island, probably on their way to final locations. Legend says that the statues walked to their final resting places around the island, but probability states that it would have taken 50 men and heavy rollers to move the statues, the largest of which weighing 82 tons. These rollers would have had to be very large and points to them being of the size of Jubaea chilensis sized trunks 4-6 ft in diameter.

Easter Island palm tree glyphs

Easter Island palm tree glyphs

Paschalococos disperta was almost certainly indistinct from Jubaea chilensis. All evidence; heavy trunks 80 ft tall, pollen from lake beds, hollow endocarps (nuts) found in a cave, and casts of root bosses all being identical to those of Jubaea chilensis. We even have glyphs carved into wooden tablets which distinctly depict the unique Jubaea chilensis palm tree shape.

If we take a look at the life-cycle of Jubaea chilensis then the reason for the human demise becomes much more apparent. Jubaea chilensis produces a massive, columnar, smooth trunk. The trunk has a wide girth (4-6 ft) for approximately 50 years of its growth. During this first 50 years the tree is not yet of reproductive age and does not produce fruits. After 50 years of growth the trunk then narrows down to less than half of its previous girth forming the typical wine bottle shape. It is only then that the tree starts to reproduce. Therefore, if you assume that the people cut down the larger trees first then they have systematically stopped all reproduction of the species until younger trees reach fruiting age. The people would have lost an important food source in the nutritious nuts, and there would be no new seedlings. We then assume that the people in their demand for rollers and dugout canoes would have cut down the next largest of the palm trees. Therefore, delaying reproduction of the trees yet further. If they were only left with young trees then waiting 50 years for reproduction would have been unrealistic and any trees that were left would have been cut for rollers without hesitation. Assuming they looked upon the moai statues to bring them prosperity then as hardship for the islanders worsened they would have increased production of statues, using up more and more rollers until they were all gone. And with no more wood to build boats for fishing the people died out.

The overall picture for Easter Island is the most extreme example of forest destruction in the Pacific, and among the most extreme in the world: the whole forest gone, and all of its tree species extinct.