Tengku Adlin & The Sabah Camel Trophy 1993

The name YM Dato’ Seri Tengku Dr Zainal Adlin Bin Tengku Mahamood or in short Tengku Adlin is a living legend. Born on 18th June, 1940 in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Tengku Adlin started his career as a pilot in the 50s to 60s and later pursued his training and career as a public administrator where in 1995, he awarded a PhD (Hon.) from the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). Tengku’s list of credentials are just endless and he has also received numerous awards and recognitions for outstanding contribution to wildlife and forest conservation in Malaysia and the regions.  Tengku Adlin is the present Chairman of Sabah Parks Board of Trustees and the Patron of Sabah Land Rover Club.

Tengku Adlin while planning for the Camel Trophy 1993 with event director Ian Chapman at Kota Belud

He has also initiated the conservation of Danum Valley and Maliau Basin ‘Sabah’s Lost World by the Sabah Foundation. Tengku Adlin established the Danum Valley Field Research Centre in 1984 and the Borneo Rain Forest Lodge in 1994. He played a leading role as Chairman of WWF Malaysia in the establishment of the Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary in 2000 and the formation of the Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society in 2007, Malaysia’s first Gift to the Earth Kinabatangan floodplain in 1999 and the Corridor of Life of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in 2006 by the Sabah Government.

Tengku Adlin today, the Patron of Sabah Land Rover Club with me during the launching of the Sabah Land Rover Club in November 2016

Tengku Adlin has been instrumental in bringing the Camel Trophy event in 1993 where he has assisted the event organisers to plan the 1993 Camel Trophy route which was seen as one of the most memorable 4×4 event that has shaped off road events and enthusiasts in this region such as the Trans Borneo and Borneo Safari event which have grown to become one of the largest 4×4 in this region.  Here are some of the unpublished pictures personal collection from Tengku Adlin that will be placed in our North Borneo Land Rover Registry Museum.


The Malaysian state of Sabah, located on the northern most tip of the world’s third largest island, Borneo, was the location for Camel Trophy 1993. The 76,600 square kilometre state provided classic Camel Trophy territory in a part of the world where some of the toughest events have been staged.

For the first time in the event’s history, the route was completely circular, circumnavigating the state, starting and finishing at Kota Kinabalu, the capital city. The route on muddy tracks through some of the oldest jungles in the world gave the participating teams the opportunity to see some of the world’s most spectacular territory.

Tengku Adlin together with the  Kinabalu Four Wheel Drive Club support team which many have became off road legends in Malaysia

This included the “Lost World” of the Maliau Basin in the Southeast of the state, which is unquestionably one of Sabah’s most dramatic features. Virtually unvisited and completely uninhabited, this almost circular shaped bowl is largely guarded by cliffs and steep escarpments up to 1,500 metres in height. Often shrouded by cloud and totally inaccessible by road, teams led an expedition on foot into the “Lost World”, which proved to be a historic adventure for the Camel Trophy pioneers.

Helicopter flew into Maliau Basin to survey and build the Camel Trophy Hut

Here they constructed a scientific research centre for the Sabah Foundation in less than 24 hours, before the perilous trek off the escarpment back to the vehicles. The subsequent rail journey through the Tenom Gorge to the final special task site added a sting-in-the-tail to a superb event.

Members of the Camel Trophy join forces to build the Camel Trophy Hut at Maliau Basin

The event had Land Rover Discovery 220 Tdi as team vehicles and Land Rover Defender 110 200Tdi as support vehicles. There were total of 16 teams from around the world and Malaysia was represented by Sabiamad Abdul Ahad & Jensen Loh.

By the end of the event, the French team, for the second consecutive year, had won the Special Task Award and the Canary Islands team collected the Team Spirit Award. The extremely successful team from the USA, Tim Hensley and Michael Hussey, won the overall Camel Trophy.


What is the Camel Trophy? It’s 2 solid weeks of the toughest 4×4 driving the world can offer. It’s jungle so thick you can’t walk through it, let alone drive through it. It’s torrential downpours in tropical rain forest and mud up to your knees. In short, Camel Trophy is one of the world’s Greatest Adventure where no other event till today can match it.

Almost a million 4×4 driving enthusiasts from more than a dozen countries mail their application forms each year to go on the Camel Trophy where the event takes place once a year, usually March or April, just after the equatorial rainy season. Organizing the event is an on-going challenge requiring 12 months of planning and preparation.

To prepare for the adventure, all participating countries are required to send their teams to a predetermined training site for 3 days of final selection procedures. Most countries send 4 finalists, from whom they will select their team.

The first Camel Trophy began in 1980 with a  unique idea, an expedition of 1,000 miles along one of the world’s longest roads, the Transamazonica in Northern Brazil. Then in 1981, the event came for the first time to South East Asia, the 1981 Sumatra Camel Trophy, another 1,000 miles across the Equator on the Island of Sumatra. The event continued to cross continents where in 1982 to Papua New Guinea, 1983 to Zaire, 1984 back to Brazil and first time in Kalimantan, Borneo in 1985, to Australia in 1986, to Madagascar 1987,  to Sulawesi 1988 and to the Amazon 1989.

In the 1990s, the Camel Trophy headed to Siberia and the USSR, followed by Tanzania, Burundi, Guyana, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile (the “Road to Hell” event), Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Sabah, Kalimantan and Mongolia and the last event was held in the year 2000.

The Camel Trophy however, did not simply change venue; over the years, the event evolved from a mud-plugging expedition to involve elements of adventure sport, such as kayaking, mountain biking and winter sports. Teams were selected by each competing nation in competitions held nationally, designed to test the athletic, engineering and driving prowess of potential candidates.

Although the events affected the environment through which they travelled, there were ways in which the Camel Trophy benefited the local society or environment. While the Camel Trophy was staged in Sabah in 1993, for example, the teams worked through the night to build an environmental monitoring station in the jungle (was named the Camel Trophy Hut) at Maliau Basin, Sabah’s Lost World so biologists could accurately study the flora and fauna of an area which had barely been explored previously. In all the events, the convoy’s progress reopened roads and tracks which had fallen into disuse and frequently rebuilt bridges and repaired sections of damaged tracks.


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