Sepilok - Treking and Surveys (And Goodbye to Mr G, Leeches and Mocktails (Oh and a snake!))

Published: July 4th 2007
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Well we have officially started our placement at Sepilok and for my Group (Katy, Heather and Me) that means Surveys and Treking. We have spent the last few mornings trekking through the jungle of Sepilok looking for Orangutan Nests and the afternoon doing various projects around the centre.

We did not know what to expect from our survey trekking and in our very fetching leech socks we followed Gabili (our staff ranger for the surveys) out into the jungle. Gabili comes armed with a sprayer full of Detol. We were given a very effective demonstration to why; it is very good at removing leeches as when sprayed the leeches are temporarily paralysed and drop off easily. The talk over the two days leading up to the treks have revolved around leeches especially after finding out the areas they can get into (I will leave it to your imagine but you are correct if you are thinking below waist and above thigh height - yuk and gross!). Though the paranoia over leeches for our first trek started to subside by Day 3 and we became almost blasé, which is probably why I got leeched on Day 3. We passed by a couple of rangers gathering data up trees and one said something about my waist - it took me a few seconds to realise he was saying leech and I looked. My top had ridden up and the leech took the opportunity of tempting bare skin to sample my blood. When it was removed from its blood feast it continued to bleed for some time. After all the worry about leeches the whole experience was a bit of an anti-climax and bit of a non-event.

Ok that doesn’t sound good talking about leeches rather that the beautiful experience it is trekking through Sepilok forests. Oh just one more word on leeches before I will shut up - many tourist walk past us in nothing but flip flops and bare legs - leech breakfast, lunch and dinner! They look at us totally bemused at us trussed up in out leech socks and long trousers. We pass with straight faces but as soon as they disappear around the bend in the track the smug smile appears as we imagine the grasping little mouths dangling from leaves on the track ready to latch on and think we may be hot but least we mainly come away with all blood.

OK leech talk now finished, please read on read on for the nice stuff.

Leeches apart our first trek was a route that took us part way to Sepilok Laut and was very enjoyable and pretty but extremely hot and sticky. And Ranger Gabili is brilliant at pointing out interesting things though I am sure we missed loads as we have to spend most of our time looking upwards for Orangutan Nests - which to be honest look like a bunch of dead leaves most of the time. I have attached a photo or two to show you what we were looking out for. This Orangutan nest was an easy one to spot usually they are not that easy and usually further away which makes guessing things like tree height, height of nest a challenge but we soon got the hang of it and eventually I managed to start spotting some of my own.

The Second Day of trekking was a bit more challenging in that we went off the beaten trail. At one point were scrambling through forest and had the real feeling of been in deep wild forest. This was slightly destroyed when a few hundred yards latter we were in a dreaded Oil Palm plantation and Orchard. It is so easy to see how these two worlds have collided to the detriment of the Orangutan. There is no transition from forest it is total and absolute line with only wide open space impassable to the tree dwelling Orangutan. It is scary to think the dry land had once been forest with it leafy base and I even missed the leeches when I looked at the short stubby grass.

The Orchard did have one funny thing though. Gabili gave us some fruit to try. I tried to wash it before I was shown that you peeled it to reveal a lychee like fruit. Gabili warned as it was not quite ripe it may be a bit bitter but it tasted pretty good to me so I was slightly puzzled by Katy pulling funny faces until Gabili began to laugh and said ‘You didn’t eat the stone did you? - very bitter’. She had and the faces that followed left us all in stitches and Katy grabbing a bottle of water and gulping it down.

Day 3 was much tougher terrain wise than the previous days though shorter in distance as it involved clamberingscrambling up slopes and a very precarious balancing act over a log over a deep ditches. Fleetingly it crossed my mind what would happen if one of us should fall but tried to push the thought away in case it made it happen.

The 3 days trekking has been amazing and has left me really wanting to do a extended trek with camping out overnight in virgin rainforest - think that would be a seriously amazing experience.

Now on to Goodbye Mr G. If you don’t remember Mr G from my Orangutan Blog then I have attached a reminder. This fine figure of an Orangutan male was starting to be slightly problematic where the feeding platform was concerned. Not many of the Orangutans were brave enough to feed on bananas when Mr G was around so the decision was made that Mr G’s rehabilitation is complete and it was time for him to relocate to a more suitable but safe area away from Sepilok, so on 03.07.2007 Mr G was successfully darted with tranquiliser and after spending a few days in the clinic he was relocated to a new home where hopefully he will be happy and never know father some Baby G’s.

In a way it is a relief to know that by the time our group starts working in the Outdoor Nursery that Mr G will not suddenly appear demanding bananas but will miss him too because he was a pretty impressive sight with his large flanges - no I am not been rude they are the bits around his face that show him to be dominant male. Just glad I got to see him before he went and there is not many can say they have cleaned up after Mr G. If you are wondering I helped to do that when he was in the clinic. Ok cleaning up Mr G’s poo may not be everyone’s cup of tea but hey I was pretty close to him while doing it and not many can say they have been that close to a large dominant male let alone touched one. Amazing and memorable.

As for Mocktails - if you don’t know a mocktail is a cocktail without the alcohol. Lovely as Sepilok is there is not much in the way of night life around here. We were due to head into Mile 4 for the Internet Café and to have a bit of night life but the other thing about Sepilok is that bus BATU 14 seems to have a schedule of its own which means it turning up randomly or not at all. It was the latter when we waited for it for 40 mins before we gave up and decided to explore the more luxurious accommodation that was on offer at Sepilok Jungle Resort with its ornamental lake and restaurant over looking it. Karen, Katy and I sat and enjoyed Mocktails and for a short time forgot the more basic accommodation that was ours. Sadly the thought that kept crossing my mind was I wonder if they have a laundry service because hand washing clothes in a bucket is becoming a bind but I am not sure they would accept my sweaty orangutan smelling clothing! But it is strange when an exciting night out is a single Mocktail at the place down the road and it that seems just fine - guess settling into a more chilled and laid back way of life which is good.

Well that just leaves me to talk about the snake which I know you all want to know about. So where do you think my first experience of a snake was - no not in the jungle on one of our treks but actually outside the Sepilok Centre Cafeteria. Tourist screamed and then whipped out their cameras and started getting really close to take a picture! They seemed oblivious to that this could be a poisonous snake but admittedly the snake wasn’t really going to bite anyone because it had caught a large tree frog that was proving more than a mouthful. I vaguely remembered a fact that once a snake had got something in its mouth it is unable to drop it even if under attack, not that I really want to test my memory or that fact but as I wasn’t in uniform I joined the tourists in taking photos. I got a pretty big shock when the 1.5m snake leapt a gap of about 5ft with zero effort and then continued to flee rapidly for the safety of a tree. Made me real glad I am not a tree frog because you would have to move pretty fast escape this predator. Oh and by the way if you are wondering I later found it was not poisonous and was a Vine Viper.

So that about concludes this blog entry for this time, slowing catching up on my entries and bringing you up to date an all that has happened over here in the last week.

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