Orangutan Awesomeness in Borneo, Part 2

When we arrived at Camp Leakey, we first stopped at the visitor centre, which basically sums up the numbers of animals in the rainforest and the amount of depletion by the dreaded palm oil plantations. Then we went on a little trek to the feeding platform, on the way finding some wild boar rooting around and a beehive that had been ravaged by a sun bear trying to get the honey.

A sun bear-ravaged bee hive.
A sun bear-ravaged bee hive.

Most excitingly though, partway there we came across an older orangutan mom (~ 45 years old) and her adorable 1.5-year old son playing on the path. Yusuf explained that while orangutans don’t come to the ground often, rehabilitated ones have learned that the presence of people = no predators, so it’s not uncommon to see them on the forest floor when the boats of tourists arrive. They might have been looking for termites, but when we found them they were just hanging out.

Coming at ya!
Coming at ya!

The baby orangutan was super cute and goofy, constantly falling over and doing somersaults like he hadn’t quite figured out how to manage the weight of his long arms. At a few points he climbed some nearby too-skinny trees, which promptly bent in half under his weight and deposited him back on top of his mother. Chris took a million photos and felt like a National Geographic photographer. His toe shoes are probably hilariously in the background of the rest of the visitors’ photos too (a bunch more people showed up later as this was one path to the feeding area).

Chris's favourite shot.
Chris’s favourite shot.
What's up buddy?
What’s up buddy?

We eventually got to the feeding area in a small parade that included the two orangutans, since we couldn’t exactly shoo them out of the way. A crafty gibbon was there first and stole a bunch of bananas before the orangutans showed up, much to Chris’s delight.

GIbbon!
GIbbon!

We took another million photos and headed back to the boat, where there was actually an orangutan hanging out on the dock. Boats = no crocodiles, so she seemed to be taking the opportunity to have a drink from the river.

Snack at the river.
Snack at the river.

After a fried banana snack (MY FAVORITE), more monkey spotting and another delicious dinner, we ended up back at Pondok Tanggui for a night hike, meaning we got to bust our out headlamps.

FRIED BANANAS.
FRIED BANANAS.
OM NOM NOM.
OM NOM NOM.

On the hike we saw lots of spiders (since they glowed in our lights), and also a tarantula. There were SO MANY ants, crazy large and small, and Chris (as per usual) was bitten by them when we stopped to look for nesting birds. At one point we came across this giant bug that was kind of like a centipede but with long legs like a spider. Yusuf said it was more poisonous and faster than a centipede. It then proceeded to run around our feet, making us all jump around like idiots (especially Chris in his stupid shoes, which are NOT thick enough to protect from bug bites). Yusuf said I should take a picture, but as there was no way I was putting my hand that close to that thing I made him do it for me.

HUGE SCARY BUG.
HUGE SCARY BUG.

In less scary sightings, we also saw a red kingfisher nesting in a hole in a tree and a couple of bats, one of which was adorably hanging out and eating a little green fruit from its hands.

Napping kingfisher.
Napping kingfisher.
Tiny bat having a snack.
Tiny bat having a snack.

After the night hike we attempted to shower using the bucket to grab water from the river, or as they call it in Indonesia, a mandi bath. We were pretty awkward and it made me laugh quite a lot, but I did feel refreshed after.

We awoke the next day to a young orangutan and its mother hanging out in the trees right beside where our boat was docked. The little one was about 5 years old and getting independent, so it came right up to us while the mother watched. This may have had something to do with the fact that Yusuf put some bananas in the branches of a nearby tree for it to come get. So we drank our tea and took pictures and all in all it was very exciting.

Banana for breakfast.
Banana for breakfast.

We took a morning hike before the next feeding, and saw a scary amount of ants, some pitcher plants, a few tarantula nests and a bird’s nest with some teeny little eggs in it.

Tarantula nest.
Tarantula nest.
Bird nest!
Bird nest!

The feeding was a bit anticlimactic after seeing the orangutan right by our boat that morning, but we took our time since we were the first boat at the dock, meaning we would be the last to leave. To kill some time we wandered into the jungle, where Yusuf found a couple more orangutans hanging in the trees and lured then down with the extra bananas he had hidden in his pockets (tut tut!).

I see bananas...
I see bananas…

He also somehow wove us rings and bracelets from fern fronds. He tried to show us on the boat ride to the next camp, but it was way too complicated.

Our guide weaving me a bracelet.
Our guide weaving me a bracelet.
Sweet ring woven from ferns.
Sweet ring woven from ferns.

As we drove/floated down the river we ate and looked for crocodiles. For some reason we sucked at finding them, but Yusuf and the tiny child (named Aegis, or maybe Adis?) on our boat saw them every time. Aegis is probably going to grow up to be an expert guide one day.

Crocodile!
Crocodile!
Tiny child crocodile spotting.
Tiny child crocodile spotting.

Since we had some time before the afternoon feeding we took a short walk through Tanjung Harapan Village. It’s pretty tiny and houses mostly palm oil plantation workers and the people who operate the klotoks.

Tanjung Harapan Village.
Tanjung Harapan Village.

While waiting for the next feeding we saw a gigantic wasp dragging a grasshopper into its underground nest. Chris was excited because Yusuf has explained earlier that the big jungle wasps capture grasshoppers to feed their offspring, and now we had seen it in real life.

Scary wasp.
Scary wasp.

At the feeding station there were lots of orangutans and also the most people we had seen so far. This camp is near the only lodge in the park, and there seemed to be some sort of large photography group visiting (most other tourists show up in pairs because that is the usual capacity for a klotok). We entertained ourselves by judging all the people carrying two feet of lens attached to their camera but not really knowing how to use it. There was a photography guide with the biggest lens ever covered in camo helping them, so it appeared a few people spent more time looking at their camera settings that the scenery.

Hmmm...
Hmmm…

We were just outside of high season, so there were about 70 people at that particular feeding (by far the most of our trip) and maybe 20-30 boats on the river while we were there. Yusuf said that during high season (June-August) there can be more than twice that. For unknown reasons, the vast majority of tourists that come here are Spanish.

So many boats!
So many boats!

Back at the dock, Yusuf pointed out the “original” klotok that had been the first to take tourists into the park. He had been the captain/crew at the time – as there was no capacity to speak English there was no guide (he said guiding at that time basically consisted of miming eating a banana and pointing out the path to the feeding platform). Apparently Julia Roberts once stayed on it while making a documentary to promote orangutan conservation.

Afterwards we were back on the boat to have a fried banana snack and watch the proboscis monkeys. Proboscis monkeys are endemic to Borneo and make funny honking noises (to go with their equally funny noses). They seem to have occasional power struggles in the trees, resulting in monkeys tumbling down from the top branches. While watching the monkeys the tiny child on our boat made friends with a tiny child on the boat next to ours (despite the Indonesian/Spanish language barrier) and it was very adorable.

Proboscis monkeys.
Proboscis monkeys.

When the sun set we drove down the river and found a spot to dock the boat next to some firefly-filled palm trees for a romantic candlelit dinner. There were TONS of fireflies in the park, which, if our knowledge from our previous firefly kayak trip is true, means the river water is very clean, as they are an indicator species for pollution. We also laid on the deck of the boat for a bit and looked at the stars, trying and failing to find constellations before we remembered we were in the southern hemisphere now and didn’t know any constellations on this side of the earth. Chris tried to take some long exposure pictures, but sitting on a rocking boat was not very conducive to that.

The next morning we had our last breakfast on the boat, before taking a relaxing cruise back to Kumai. We were a little sad to be leaving the boat, but also excited for a real shower!

Having tea on our last morning.
Having tea on our last morning.

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