Tanjung Puting - orangutans day 2

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May 23rd 2018
Published: May 26th 2018
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We are woken at 530am by the sound of the macaques leaping from tin roof to tin roof and screeching. No need for an alarm clock.

By morning, Sara finds that as well as the damage to her shin, she has also bruised the inside of one knee, pulled the muscles in the other foot, and bruised her left hand, necessitating the painful removal of her rings in case the fingers swell any more. It will be painful for the rest of the holiday, but we are both hugely relieved she didn’t suffer a broken leg or knock herself out. There's not much in the way of medical attention around here.

We’re up early so we can be on the boat in time to – hopefully – see some more apes from the boat. After a quick breakfast in the lodge, with the strongest coffee either of us have ever drunk, we set off and are rewarded by the rare sight of a fully wild orangutan in the trees as we meander along the waterways. There was a male with her, but all we saw of him was the rustling branches as he set off somewhere else. The female is soon followed by some small golden orange monkeys which turn out to be gibbons as witnessed by their prodigious leap from tree to tree. They seem to hang in the air as they jump. There is also a troop of proboscis monkeys who observe our boat as we observe them. Soon we reach our first stop of the day and head off to another feeding station. Sara decides to use her trekking poles, to take some of the weight off her shin, but this proves initially problematic as we enter the park via a very old and significantly rotted wooden boardwalk that runs over the swamp. Not wishing to get the tip of a pole stuck in the sometimes large gaps between the boards, she’s obliged to hold them aloft. Once on dry land, they’re helpful though, and David soon wishes he’d brought his.

The feeding station has just two visitors, a mother and baby, who face the crowd and provide a myriad opportunities for photos. We’re getting to know the other visitors, as almost everyone does two or three days, visiting places in the same order. There’s a German family who are introducing their children of 8 and 10 to the concept of backpacking, a Canadian couple on a 4 month trip starting in Australia and ending in the Solomon Islands, a Spanish couple who inexplicably are wearing shorts, singlets and flip flops despite the fire ants and scorpions, and the Indian family whose room we accidentally tried to get into the previous night having forgotten, in all the stress of our arrival, which room we were in. They didn’t look very pleased to see us.....

Now we are off to Camp Leakey, the original research station where the research programme still continues 30 years on. We turn off into a side river, where the water is literally black. This is caused by the rotting leaf mould which for some reason produces a different colour to the brown water in the Sekonyak. We find a place to tie up for lunch – as usual to some flimsy looking plant but it always works – where we are inspected from about 10 or 20 feet away by a family of small macaques, who decide the fruit at our lunch is out of reach as there are too many people on the boat.

Camp Leakey. A very stiff 45 minute walk from the boat. It is hard to describe just how intolerably uncomfortable it is in near 100% humidity. However Camp Leakey has lots of action; one of the highlights being a mother and baby orangutan who after surveying the humans, descends from the tree and wanders through us as the humans step back to make way. She climbs over our bench to get to the feeding platform to join the other orangutans there. No big male here, though there is a wild pig who snuffles around under the platform to eat anything that falls off the platform. Meanwhile a gibbon is watching beadily from a nearby tree. This is a real treat as the gibbons rarely come out. He (or she) takes its time looking for its chance. Suddenly it swings down on its long, long arms and almost makes it before taking fright and going back up its tree. Finally it spots its chance, swings down and runs across the platform on it legs just like a human would, grabs some food, a quick look each way and then runs comically back across the platform and up the tree like a light-toed thief in the night. Everyone burst out laughing, disturbing the scoffing orangutans. At the other end of the platform, a mother is teaching her baby how to drink milk using an improvised cup she's made from a piece of bark.

Finally it is 430 and time to leave. We trudge back, the heat being no less, the clothes sticking to our bodies. The Thomases of course are clothed and protected from head to foot, and look on smugly as the shorts and singlet and flip flop brigade are now realising their folly and scratching their bites and hoping they don’t step on any snakes or biting ants or stand in any wild pig poo that litters the path......David's idea of the bicycle clips while initially laughable is now a real winner as the mosquitoes and ants can't get up your legs.

Back to the boat, sail down the river and find a spot to moor. Night is falling. The flying creatures come out. Sara has donned her fine mesh mosquito hood over the hat. She looks ludicrous but the (very large) mosquitoes cannot get to her. David resists but eventually – yes, she was right – and he puts his on.

Having been offered a river water shower, and gone “eww no”, David succumbs. Sadly Sara cannot risk river water on her still scabbing leg wound. We both stink, there is no other word for it. Absolutely stink. The river water shower (aided by an electric pump) is curiously refreshing. However, an hour later I am bathed in sweat again. Dinner is a nice meal but requires the removal of the head nets. However the flying things have now abated so that is good.

830pm and time for bed. Carefully getting under the mosquito net we lie there and sweat. Sleep is well nigh impossible. The thunderstorm breaks, the rain pours down clearing the air somewhat. We get out of bed periodically to wee in the bucket on our deck. Luxury living this is not. You pay a price for getting up close and personal with the amazing animals of the Borneo jungle. '

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