Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Orangutan: our Borneo adventure

Last week was an unforgettable adventure.  Four days down the river on a wooden boat – we headed deeper and deeper into the Borneo jungle.  As the boat slowly chugged along we watched the trees for one of the great primates – the orangutan.

This Borneo jungle is part of Tanjung Puting National Park in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan.  It was established in an effort to protect the orangutan and other species now endangered due to extensive logging and deforestation.  It is home to both wild and rehabilitated orangutan and is an ongoing research centre.

As we slowly head down the river our boat is flanked by lush tropical trees.  Big green palms line the river’s edge and tall, thin trees tower over them.  In the tree tops you can see flashes of colour as small birds bounce around.  There are no sounds but the hissing and chirping of forest bugs – until suddenly, screeching monkeys start fighting.  The small monkeys crash and bash around as they hustle for the best position on the high, tree branches.  Every now and then they take a leap of faith – almost flying as they jump from one tree to another.  In the waters below lurk crocodiles.

They are seldom seen, but the threat is very real.  Before starting our journey we were told of the ‘arrogant tourist’ who defied the warnings and decided to go for a swim – moments later he was swallowed up by a croc.  Just as we get settled and relax into one of the comfortable armchairs – the boat stops. “Orangutan, orangutan!” shouts the deck-hand and we all scramble to our feet.  Looking up to the trees we see him: a beautiful big-faced male orangutan.  Dark skin and dark red hair, he was sitting peacefully atop the canopy.

This was the first of many sightings.  All along the river we saw orangutans – big males, mothers and babies – sitting around munching on fruit and leaves – throwing branches down at us if we got too close.

Later we pulled up and went for a walk through the jungle.  As we headed towards the orangutan feeding station we were swamped by the intense heat and humidity.  I was wearing 80% DEET cream to keep the mosquitos and other bugs away – but a brave few still hung around me.  On the ground was a trail of fire ants.  A few days later I got bitten by one of them – an intensely painful experience – lucky for me it was only one ant.  The guide brushed it off, “don’t worry – it only hurts for ten minutes”.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Orangutan: our Borneo adventure