Back when we first started looking at our plan for travelling through Indonesia the line we drew through the southern archipelago of islands actually looked remarkably similar to the eventual path we took. This journey through the countless islands we decided to end in Kalimantan, the area of Indonesia on the island more commonly known as Borneo. It was the true highlight of our time in Indonesia. We were planning on visiting the lesser travelled Banda Islands in Maluku but our only travel options were either 2 days of flying and boats or 9 days on a freighter. Hardly ideal, so Orangutan river safari it was...
Our journey to Kalimantan and our experiences there also ensured a lasting impression of the genuine kindness of Indonesian people was made on us. Firstly we were having serious problems buying tickets for our flight to Borneo. As it's a different state the operator that works there has no offices East of Java, no use for us stuck on Bali, travel agents didn't even know our destination, Pangkalanbuun, existed. Step up the lovely young man working for another airline in Bali's airport who not only booked our flights with his airline but used his own personal Indonesian credit card (needed on the airlines website) to reserve us seats on our onward flight online. It ended up saving us almost £50, and helped us relax and enjoy our last few days on Bali. What a hero.
After consulting a few tour operators and agents that organize the Orangutan river safaris we settled for a local Indonesian independant organiser called Jenie Subaru whose blog we found. He met us at the airport, took us to the jumping off point, the small harbour town of Kumai, and we spent the night in a cheap hotel ready for the start of our 3 day 2 night tour starting the next morning. Finding Jenie was a stroke of luck as the next 4 days were perfect in every way and the genuine passion and compassion of Jenie, his brother Tores and all the crew made our time in the forest even more memorable.
The Orangutans that reside here were only discovered in 1971 when Lithuanian primatologist Dr. Birute Galdikas founded Camp Leakey and the Orangutan foundation International in order for her to research behavioural patterns of the Orangutan and in particular focus on the reintroduction of ex captive Orangutans in to the wild. Whilst Galdikas' work in setting up the four camps in Tanjung Puting has certainly brought much needed public attention to the plight of the endangered species of Orangutan her desire to hold some form of possession on the Orangutans, she names the apes that are released back in to the wild, and often refers to them as 'hers' infuriated our guide who spent his life in and around the park and the Orangutans forging relationships with them himself and learning of behavioural patterns through his own interactions and friendships with the great apes. In particular Jenie's relationship with his 'best friend' the Orangutan named Ben has taught him much about the ways the animals learn and also forge relationships around respect, he even used to play fight with the Orangutans as they do to one another in order to be respected by Ben and the others. Orang-Utan translates in the local Kalimantan language to forest people, and as we hope you can see from our photos they really are the people of the forest.
Feeling like the Wild Thornberrys, we set off into Tanjung Puting National park along the Sekonyer river, to feast our eyes on some wildlife. We had our very own private boat, with our own crew which consisted of our guide, a cook, a driver and a captains mate.
The small drivers cabin is under the yellow square, right at the front of the boat.
The river was so dark, almost like black glass as we travelled down smaller tributaries, all the mangroves and trees reflected perfectly off the water, it was hard to tell what was real and what was a reflection.
We sat up on deck and looked for animals amongst the greenery whilst the boat chugged slowly along. Our guide spotted a crocodile lurking at the side of the river.
Later on we spotted a wild female orangutan right by the river, it was making a loud kissing sound which meant she was distressed and telling us to go away.
Lunch time came. YUM. Hands down, on the boat, we were served some of the best food we had eaten in our whole trip. We looked forward to every meal, wondering what our cook was going to conjure up on his tiny stove below deck. There was just so much more flavour and character than the usual nasi goreng we had been eating. It seemed to have more of a Thai feel to it and was just generally very tasty! Kudos to the chef!
In the afternoon we went to the first feeding station. the boat moors up to a wooden deck that goes in the rain forest quite a way before we walk on land. This is because in the rainy season the land by the water is marsh area.
The rainforest grew larger and taller the further we went in. It was warm and humid and started to rain a little, funny that being in a rainforest and all! we got to the feeding station and there were about 10 other tourists waiting patiently for rangers to bring the huge sackful of bananas to the feeding platform.
We went to three different feeding stations over our trip and here are some of our best snaps, enjoy the sheer cuteness, likeness and majesty of the people of the forest!