To be honest, there is no way that you can avoid leeches crawling on you when you’re trekking in the Borneo rainforest.
But you can minimize the bite or get rid of it before it starts sucking your blood.
Here are 5 simple steps to take when you’re heading into the rainforest.
1) Get yourself a pair of leech socks.
Wear it like a socks and tie it just below your knee, this will prevent the leech from getting in between your toes and feet. Remember, leech likes warm and wet places.
2) Get yourself a small bag of raw tobacco leaves which you can get from the market.
Soak it inside the water, transfer it into a small bottle to carry around and spray on your clothes and pants. You can also soak your leech socks into the tobacco water the night before, but according to my personal experience, it doesn’t repel the leech from crawling on my socks. The smell of the tobacco is able to slow down the leech and ultimately intoxicate it. But it takes time, there’s no immediate effect.
3) Apply salt onto your hands or any exposed area.
If you see leeches crawling or sucking your blood already, you either wait for it to get full and drop off by itself or apply salt onto the leech and it will drop off instantaneously. Remember not to pull the leech if it is already sucking your blood, this will make you bleed even more and it is hard to stop the bleeding.
4) Tuck your shirt into your pants.
This will prevent the leech from crawling to your belly, armpits and anywhere warm. Cover yourself well so that it doesn’t give the blood sucking creature any opening to creep into your body. But long sleeves is not necessary.
5) Keep walking and not lean on anything in the rainforest.
If you need to stop and take a rest, find a spot with direct sunlight, leech do not exist in dry and hot places. Typically you’ll find brown leech on the ground and tiger leech on the tree leaves. A Tiger leech bite is more painful than brown leech, the bite marks can be permanent too.
This last option is actually not supposed to be on the list. But I’m putting it in for your knowledge only and I hope you don’t exercise this piece of knowledge. Some people apply insecticides (Bygone to be specific) on their clothes, pants, leech socks and shoes. This will completely deter leeches from crawling on you because they’ll die immediately when they come close to it.
Sounds like the ultimate solution, but remember that each organism has a role to play in the food chain. There are certain birds that preyed on them. If you take the leech population out of the rainforest, that means you’re wiping out the birds from their habitat too. Furthermore, insecticides is poisonous even to human kind, having close contact with it is bad for your own health! Most parks have already banned insecticides for that purpose because of its destructive nature.
Besides being a parasite, leech has its own medicinal use as well. Some people use it to remove poison from the human body and they are also helping to restore blood circulation.
In short: Trekking in Borneo rainforest is not complete without at least one bite from the blood sucking creature.