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How to Avoid Borneo Leeches while

Jungle Trekking


October, 2017

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Venture into one of the oldest rainforests in the world, estimated to be around 140 million years old, Borneo Rainforest is the place that every traveler should go for trekking at least once in their life. Click here to see Borneo Map, to know where is Borneo situated. Jungle trekking activity through Borneo wilderness will truly capture any traveler’s’ imagination. However, there is one insect that could scare the life out of some traveler, which is the Borneo leech. This tiny wiggly worm is waiting to crawl onto your naked skin for a feast! (Yikes..!)

Therefore, here are some tips for travelers, especially for avid jungle trekkers, on how to avoid leeches while trekking in Borneo Rainforest.

Before that, what is Borneo Leech?

Borneo Leech is a parasite that sucks blood and lives in mostly damp areas, such as streams and rainforests. It is a type of segmented worm, which has many similarities to the common earthworm from the backyard garden. There are two main types of Borneo Leeches, which are Tiger Leech and Brown Leech. Brown Leech is small and usually at the ground level with any wet leaves litter, while Tiger Leech is bigger than Brown Leech and it usually can be found from the ground to any bushes that are about human’s waist level. Fortunately, Borneo Leeches are less dangerous as they do not carry any diseases. Borneo Leech typically sucks the blood of their host till their full and fall off from its victim. However, different individual’s body will react differently causing itchiness and inflammation, causing the leech wound to heal in a period of a week or less.

But that shouldn’t stop any travelers from trekking in Borneo Rainforest. After all, to know a thing or two about Borneo Leech and how to avoid it can be a new experience to any traveler. They also make for a great story to tell after having the experience to encounter Borneo Leeches while trekking.

How to avoid Borneo Leeches and protect yourself?

There are many ways that travellers can do in order to avoid Borneo Leeches. When a Borneo Leech is attached to one’s body, it is recommended not to pull, pluck or squeeze the leech out, as some parts of its mouth might remain under your skin and leave a slow healing granuloma or lump. Best to just leave the Borneo Leech to fall out off on itself once full, but to others, they find it is slightly nasty. Hence, these tips are useful for travelers before planning for trekking in Borneo Rainforest.

Get yourself a pair of anti-leech socks

How to avoid Borneo Leeches while jungle trekking
Anti Leech Socks. Photo by: Lonely Planet

Travellers can wear the anti-leech socks just like any ordinary socks. Simply just tie it below the knee, to prevent leeches from getting into the toes or feet. Anti-leech socks have become a standard outfit for Borneo trekking activity. 

How to avoid Borneo Leeches while jungle trekking
Football Socks can be an alternative to anti-leech Socks. Photo by: Shaun Davies

*Note: Wearing long football socks as an alternative to anti-leech socks, which can also use to prevent from leeches latching on the skin. It is readily available and cheap, as well as tight weaving makes it hard for leeches to get in.

How to avoid Borneo Leeches while jungle trekking
This is how you should wear to avoid from Leeches coming to the skin

Wear long pants and shirts

How to avoid Borneo Leeches while jungle trekking
Wearing long pants and shirts for jungle trekking. Photo by: Aris Yanto

Travelers should cover themselves by wearing long pants and shirts while trekking in Borneo Rainforest. Tuck the shirts into the pants, and squeeze the pants into the anti-leech socks/ football socks. This will keep any travelers free from the leeches during Borneo Trekking activity.

Bring a small bag of raw tobacco leaves and cigarette along

How to avoid Borneo Leeches while jungle trekking
Bring along tobacco leaves or cigarette when you enter Borneo Rainforest.

Travelers can find the tobacco leaves in any local market in Borneo. Simply just soak the leaves inside the water and transfer it into a small bottle to carry around. Then, spray it onto your clothes and pants. The smell of the tobacco could slow down the Borneo Leeches from getting into the skin and eventually can kill the leeches.

*Note: If the leech bites, use cigarette ash and put directly on the leech which would kill it immediately.

Bring salt or vinegar

How to avoid Borneo Leeches while jungle trekking
Bring along tobacco leaves or cigarette when you enter Borneo Rainforest.

Yes, salt or vinegar! Although it is for cooking purposes, both of it also helps any travelers to prevent from a leech attack. Just sprinkle directly over the leeches and it can kill it almost immediately. In addition, rubbing the vinegar all over limbs, thighs, and soles of the feet, could help to avoid from Borneo Leeches latching unto the skin.

Spray insect repellent onto your clothes and shoes before trekking

How to avoid Borneo Leeches while jungle trekking
Mosi-guard insect repellent can also repel leeches.

Look for an insect repellent (with eucalyptus extract) which is available in most local pharmacy or drugstore in Borneo and spray it to the shoes and socks. The smell of the insect repellent has a very peculiar smell, which makes the leeches not attach themselves to whoever uses said insect repellent.

Drink Alcohol

How to avoid Borneo Leeches while jungle trekking
Drinking alcohol best to get rid of leech

If any travelers spot a Borneo leech feeding on them, then this might be a good time to have a can of beer to drink. Drinking alcohol is the best way to get rid of a leech or putting on alcohol-based sanitizer works well too!

Borneo Leeches, in general, are less deadly, they can just leave you to bleed for a while and leave you with some itch. We hope these tips will help many travelers to be ready and deal with the leech problems before trekking into Borneo Rainforest. Read here for our tips on how to save some money while backpacking to Borneo.

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