Friday, February 14, 2014

Looking for Wildlife and Homelife on a Borneo River

Reading National Geographic Kids inspires my children to explore. In the same way that the original magazine got adults dreaming of adventures in faraway lands, the kid version has given my children a curiosity about the animals, landscapes, and cultures of our vast, diverse world.

When we boarded the boat on Borneo's Santubong River, my daughter was immediately enthralled by the wildlife photos lining the ceiling. Pictures of proboscis monkeys with their comical, Jimmy Durante noses stared down at us. Irrawaddy dolphins with their characteristic rounded heads and snub noses were shown frolicking in the water. Images of crocodiles glared at us, daring us to get a little closer. As the boat began to chug its way out into the river, she went on and on, telling me everything she knew about proboscis monkeys and their endangered status.

After a while, she paused for a breath and said, "Mama, we should go and see these animals sometime," waving her arm at the pictures

"Honey," I told her, "That's why we're on this boat. Those are the animals we're going to see!"

She was so surprised and delighted. The look on her face was akin to a preschool girl who has just been told she's going to DisneyWorld to have breakfast with all the Princesses. It was as if she had stepped into the pages of National Geographic. A world which had so far only existed on paper was suddenly about to become real.

We were going to see these animals in the wild. Of course, this can be a little trickier than seeing them at the zoo or aquarium. They aren't captive and waiting for you to come by to look at them. No, these animals are living free, and we needed a combination of luck and familiarity with their habits to find them. Luckily, we had a guide who knew a few tricks.

Our first successful sighting was of some Irrawaddy dolphins. They are known to hang around fishing boats, so our boat would cut its motor and silently float whenever we came upon a fisherman.

"There!" someone would cry, pointing excitedly. The dolphins quickly came up out of the water and dove back down again. We would watch for a while before continuing down the river looking for more fishing boats to stalk.

Before you start scrolling down to see fantastic wildlife photos, I need to let you in on something. Photographing wildlife can be really hard -- perhaps even more difficult than taking pictures of uncooperative toddlers. Basically, none of my pictures turned out. All the ones of dolphins show nothing but water. I only got one photo of an animal the entire evening, and it was taken right as we were climbing on board.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Looking for Wildlife and Homelife on a Borneo River