School holidays are just around the corner, and Muhammed Nidal Muhammed Syazwan, 10, is looking forward to going on not one but two camping trips with his family.
“We’re heading to Pantai Cenang and Tanjung Rhu in Langkawi next week. I’m excited to do some of my favorite activities like camping, jungle (wild survival skills) and stand-up paddle boarding. I can’t wait to have a campfire with my dad too,” he said excitedly.
“If my family and I camp near a beach or a lake, we usually set up camp at nightfall and enjoy the sunset or catch an early sunrise. It’s always fun to be surrounded by nature,” said Mohammed Nidal, who lives in Cyberjaya.
For many students, the school holidays are a time for him to take a break from books and homework. Homeschooled, Mohamed Nidal plans to make the most of his vacations by soaking up the sun and enjoying the great outdoors.
Being close to nature, he says, makes him feel “refreshing” and helps him focus when it’s time to pick up his textbooks again.
“I think it’s an excellent opportunity to learn something extracurricular. I don’t think about my phone or my games so much when I’m in the woods or near the beach. And I’m much more creative about finding ways to keep myself occupied.
“During these adventurous trips, I came across many kinds of sea creatures, saw snakes and even hornbills. I don’t forget the little creatures like worms, beetles and butterflies the size of my palm. But my favorite thing to do is set up a hammock… This is where I will play and sleep too .I also enjoy wood carving with my pen knife.”
This year alone, Mohamed Nidal and his younger sister, Emily Zandra, two, have taken 20 outdoor trips with their mother, housewife Nour Farhana Zaidi, 35, and their father, engineer Mohamed Syazwan Ismail, 35.
Their trips are usually organized during long weekends and school holidays.
Highlights of their camping trips include stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, hiking, spelunking, and bush and boating. They have traveled all over Malaysia, including Taman Negara Johor Endau-Rompin Selai in Johor, Rainforest Park in Genting Sempah, Pahang, and Sungai Dara Permaculture in Behrang, Perak. The family travels in their trusty 4X4 minivan, which is equipped with a rooftop tent.
Nurul feels fortunate to live in Malaysia because the country has a wealth of options for campers like them who crave outdoor activities in lush rainforests, pristine beaches or caves.
“There are so many places in Malaysia that are on our priority list. And we keep adding to the list every time someone shares a new and great camping site.”
Nurul and her husband take their holidays seriously and camping is always at the heart of their holidays.
“There is always something new to do and every adventure is different. During each trip, Mohamed Nidal learns to do something new like starting a campfire or how to set up a tent (with the help of his father). It is a great achievement for him and has helped boost his self-esteem.
“In short, spending more time outdoors teaches kids resilience and survival skills, and stimulates their creativity in problem-solving. They don’t even realize they’re learning life skills while camping,” she said.
During these outdoor trips, Nurul and Syazwan make it a point to teach their young children about nature.
“Educating them about how and why we should care about the environment and protecting Mother Earth is essential. This teaches them empathy and a sense of responsibility.
“These memories are imprinted, we hope. When they grow up, I hope they can find peace because of these happy memories they had surrounded by nature.”
Growing up, Nurul and Siazwan spent most of their childhood outdoors. They have loved being exposed to nature from a young age, and as such, they want their children to have similar experiences as well. They want them to connect and fall in love with nature as they did.
I grew up in Miri, and spent most of my childhood outdoors. I went to the beach almost every day. My brother and I would play in the creek, catching tadpoles, fish and insects. Then, on weekends, my parents would drive us to waterfalls and parks. I have fond memories from my childhood.
“Siazwan enjoys sharing some of his childhood pastimes with Mohamed Nidal too like fishing in the pond or building a campfire. They also enjoy learning about reptiles.
Muhammad Nidal had his first experience of the outdoors when he was three years old. That first trip was to the beach, followed by several hikes in waterfalls and jungles. Emily got off to an early start – she was introduced to the outdoors as a newborn baby.
“We started with weekly visits to the park, not to play in the playground but to explore the woodland area where we would go birding, climb trees, forage for edible plants and have picnics.
“Mohammed Nidal was four years old when we had our first camping adventure in Cameron Highlands, Pahang. Since then, our camping trips have gradually increased, year after year. This year, we have had 20 camping adventures.
Nurul believes that children should be exposed to nature when they are young. But of course, parents should take precautionary measures to keep themselves safe.
“There is often parental fear due to the uncertainty of what lies outdoors. To eliminate these fears, we parents must equip ourselves with knowledge about the different aspects of being outdoors. This includes water confidence, safety protocols and basic first aid knowledge. Be Very alert anywhere, whether it’s camping, hiking, caving, or swimming,” she advises.
An added benefit of exposing her children to outdoor activities, Nurul says, is that it takes them away from their devices or from being on social media all the time. By encouraging Muhammad Nidal to get rid of his devices, I noticed that he is more receptive and focused when doing his tasks and his routine work.
Mohamed Nidal has good sensory skills. “He has a sharp eye and can spot the tiniest of creatures when we’re hiking and hunting in nature,” Nurul said.
“My kids sleep better at night too when we camp. With proper sleep, enough exercise, and enough sun exposure (vitamin D), they will have stronger immune systems. Fortunately, they don’t get sick as often.”
The family loves the outdoors so much that Mohamed Nidal and Emily’s birthday celebrations are held outdoors. Last month, their daughter’s second birthday was celebrated at a campsite in Bukit Tinggi.
“Every year, we do our best to plan camping trips that coincide with their birthdays. We invite their closest friends, and they play together from sunrise to moonrise.
(For Emily’s birthday) we got her a cake and put a little wreath banner (reused from last year) and that was it.
“The kids were toasting marshmallows and cooking popcorn over the campfire. It was a fun outing for everyone.”
In terms of planning the trip, Nurul does most of the research and bookings, while Syazwan is the one who rehearses when they are on site. He carries out Nurul’s carefully laid plans.
“Google Maps, reading blogs, watching videos on social media, and joining camping groups on Facebook helps a lot with our research and preparation,” Nurol said.
She shares her adventures, campsite reviews, unboxing camping gear, and outdoor hacks on her Facebook page, Bagong Overland.
Preparing for a camping trip can seem intimidating, but Nurol reassures beginners that it’s not as overwhelming as it might seem.
It all boils down to two things: thorough research and preparation.
“It takes a while for one to get a handle on all the preparation needed. But, after a couple of trips, it gets easier. This is our best (hack) – we keep all our camping gear in boxes sorted by category (sleeping bags, kitchen utensils , tent stuff, lighting, fans, power supplies) in one place.
“After a trek, we clean them up and put them back in their crates, ready for the next adventure. Most campsites now offer toilet facilities.
“Only when we go on wild camping trips — places with no amenities — do we bring our own portable toilet.”
She advises people to check the weather forecast before embarking on any camping trip.
“The most challenging camping trip was when we came face to face with a windstorm on the beach in Port Dickson.
“Sand was swirling right in front of us, on our faces and in our eyes. Some of the neighbors’ tents did not survive the storm and had to leave.
“It is essential to check tide charts and the moon phase almanac to avoid going ashore when conditions are not favorable,” she said.