Sunday, September 11, 2016

Every Footstep an Adventure: Guide to Borneo Orangutan Trekking in Tanjung Puting National Park

When I was a small child, you wouldn’t find me playing house, but instead running high and low with a raggedy brown duffel bag in tow — I was playing Explorer. I would stuff my trusty brown bag with a few pairs of underwear and some essential travel gadgets.

This meant, of course, my plastic red hammer, a skipping rope (to help me climb!), a tiny compass, and a few other items that would change as the situation did. And then I would wander around the house pretending I was journeying through a harsh mountain range or across vast ice fields or deep in the heart of a remote jungle.

You can imagine how excited I was then when, a few weeks ago, I visited Indonesia for the first time and I found myself exploring the far flung places of my childhood imagination. One of the first adventurous activities I partook in when I arrived was orangutan trekking deep in the Borneo jungles of Tanjung Puting National Park — and it was incredible.

We are walking single file along the jungle trails, deeper into the Borneo rainforest. As I pause and gaze around at my surroundings, the silence of the forest is broken by the snapping of a branch. I whirl around and gasp. Just a few meters behind us, high in the trees, I spot my first wild orangutan.

He gazes back at us with a thoughtful, inquisitive expression on his face. As we whisper among ourselves, I wonder what thoughts are going through this gentle giant’s mind. And then, just as suddenly as he had come, we watch as this auburn-haired creature grabs another branch and swings away through the treetops.

I had so many new experiences and amazing adventures in Tanjung Puting (and Indonesia as a whole!) and I’m finding it hard deciding what to start writing about. I mean, how do I even begin to convey my thoughts and express my feelings about a trip that has changed my life? I’ve learned so much more about the world and I’ve learned so much more about myself and what I’m capable of — I have no words.

But I’m a blogger and somehow I have to find the words, so here goes nothing!

While wild orangutans are the main draw of Tanjung Puting National Park, also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, and, don’t get me wrong, that was an indescribably great experience, I experienced so much more than that in Tanjung Puting.

From meeting friendly locals to trying delicious Indonesian cuisine, from being surrounded by such beautiful and different jungle vegetation (as compared to my home country of Canada) to seeing wildlife such as proboscis monkeys, gibbons, bush pigs, and fireflies, from getting to know people from around the world to learning more about Indonesia — it was all so amazing.

After a one-hour flight from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, I found myself on Borneo in the city of Pangkalan Bun. From the airport, I took a bus to the Port of Kumai and, along with four other people from around the world, we set out on a two-day-one-night adventure in a klotok, a traditional Indonesian riverboat.

With our guide and boat crew, we cruised down the Sekonyer River and headed into Tanjung Puting National Park where our goal was to encounter wild orangutans in their natural habitat.