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Published: April 6th 2017
The white sand beach
Swimming was not recommended as there are plenty of stinging jelly fish in the sea.
I didn't know what got into me but as soon as I returned from my Orang Utan trip to Tanjung Puting, I had the urge of going back. This time, it was such a short trip, and I decided to check out on Tanjung Keluang National Park where there was a turtle conservation, funded by the government.
My guide, Yomie, was kind enough to pick me up at the airport from which we had a quick stop at a nearby restaurant and had delicious grilled fresh-water fish. From there, we headed towards Kumai, a sleepy port town near Pangkalan Bun. Most people in Kumai made a living as fishermen, tourism or from river transport. It is the main port used for the entry to Tanjung Puting and for transport of goods in and out of Pangkalan Bun.
It was in Kumai that I had the opportunity to see how traditional boats or Kelotok were being made. Most of the workers interestingly are not locals and are from Bugis, known for their craftmanship for shipbuilding. Not only they are great shipbuilders, but they are also known as seafearers. As of today, you can see the legacy by meeting their 3rd
or 4th generation living in neighboring countries, Singapore and Malaysia.
It takes less than six months to build a small Kelotok, and the boats are made of Ulin Wood, water resistant, stronger than Teak Wood. A few of them were pleasantly surprised when I asked if they were from Bulukumba area, near Tanjung Bira. They had big smiles when I told them I had visited their village, well known for its Phinisi or Bugis schooner building.
We then headed towards the pier where our speedboat was already waiting, and I was surprised to see such a small speed boat. It was so small that once seated, I couldn't move anymore. I didn't have the heart to decline the ride, so I went ahead. In any case, we were going to go along the river which was relatively flat, before crossing a cove. Holding tight to the body of the boat, the 30 minutes ride seemed longer. In a distance, I could see thick dark cloud ready to pour its content to the earth. I was relieaved to reach the shore just when the rain drop hit the ground.
We were greeted by two young rangers who turned
Hatched baby Turtles are being fed
Until they are about two months old before they are released
out was the second generation as their fathers had guarded the area. It was a total of 2,000 ha consisting of peatland forest, mangroves and rivers. Their job was to oversee the park and report any suspicious activities to the Authorities. The rangers had to have their round duty on the park, and sometimes had to go into the crocodile invested river. On a rare occassion, they had spot a leopard on the tree and even Orang Utan.
I was explained that the turtles visit the beach once a year to lay their eggs, of which numbers could reach a hundred. These are mainly Green Turtles. After a two weeks interval, the Turtles would come back and laid the eggs again, of which rituals could reach up to five times. The eggs have to be removed from the beach at the risks of being eaten by Water Lizards, wild Boars, Snakes or even birds. It takes two months to hatch for the eggs, and once hatched, the Rangers would feed the turtles till they are about two months and released them to the sea. Unfortunately my visit was not well timed with the turtle egg laying season, so that
I couldn't see them, but I had the opportunity to release two of the babies. After being put on the sand, the baby turtles crawled slowly towards the sea, like a magnet. They seemed to have a natural radarin their system. As their shadow merged with the bottom of the ocean, I was pleased and worried at the same time wondering if their sea experience would be short lived.
While we were waiting for the rain to subside, we chatted aimlessly just to kill time. It came to my knowlege that the guide who took me to Mahakam River, Kiswono, back in 2014 had a boat accident in Mahakam Ulu, located near Indonesia and Malaysia border in January 2015. As it is so remote, the only access to reach the place is either taking a twice a week 12 seater propeller plane or going upstream against the narrow, strong current of Riam Panjang river on a motor engined long-wooden boat. Apparently, it was a rough water, and the boat hit a rock, cracked and over turned. Out of the 17 passengers,without life jackets, thrown to the river, five were not found. Only the following day did the two bodies
were found a few kilometers down the stream, but the three remained missing up to now. Sad to hear the news, I could only sent my prayers, and hope his soul rest in peace. He was such a competent guide and well regarded among the Nature guides in Kalimantan. It was then, I remembered it was him who recommended that I visited Tanjung Puting to see the Orang Utan.
It was getting late, and the rain had stopped as well. It's time to go back to Kumai and said goodbye to the rangers. Of course, I'd be back to Pangkalan Bun as I haven't gone trekking to Gunung Palung National Park, seeing the Dayak tribes in their village and going for white water rafting. Till next trip!
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