Orangutans galore!

Lars Alfredson
Fri 10 May 2019 00:42

This is what we came for, The Ultimate Orangutan Expedition. As we anchored in the Kumai river a small boat approached and eventually a local guy, who introduced himself as Majid and told us he owned a bunch of "Klotoks", the famous liveabord for the Orangutan cruise. After an excellent sales speach, including pictures, we agreed the multi million price and a two day cruise starting the following morning.
Early morning the abt. 50 foot narrow yellow, white &blue (some say it's green) two decker  tied up and we climbed aboard our home for two days. After a couple of hours down the Kumai we turned in to the Sungai Seconyer river.
The change was stunning, the jungle reaching tens of meters into the dark tea coloured river. Sipping coffee and tea on fore deck we all felt like Humprey Bogart in African Queen, alas less Kathrine Hepburn, even the dunk dunk from the engine was perfect.
Around noon we were served a fabulous four course lunch, as the river got narrower and more zig zaging. We met a few other Klotoks returning from their adventures.
Soon after we arrived at our first stop, Camp Leakey, so named after the famous researcher.
Walking about a kilometer on a shakey boardwalk over the swamp, I asked our guide wheather any tourist had fallen down? Yes, but there is not much water, was the reply!
May be so but how much mud?
Reaching the camp we had a look at the exhibition showing pictures of the named Orangutans and the history of the work done. All our cousins are wild or semi wild and there are a total of 6.000 of these extreamely endangered auburn haired great apes in the big Tanjung Punting National Park.
A walk through diverse and extreamly hot djungel took us to the first "feeding station", a platform covered with bananas and a big pot of milk. The onlookers sat on a few benches abt 20 m away, listening to one of the rangers calling lunch in Orango.
After a while a big guy appears, the alfa male, and boy is he big! As the tourists click away with their long and not so long lenses, the Orangutan munches at least 30 bananas, showing a perfect two move method to get rid of the peel and stow it in his mouth horisontaly (I achived the same later on the klotok to collective astonishement)
On top of that he gulps down a serious amount of milk, burps and lazily lumbers into the jungle and not a few blinks later two, very much smaller (abt half size) females with young ones on their backs appear and start eating and drinking, the latter mostly by dipping the whole head in the jug.
All in all it was an unforgettable experience. On the walk back we encontered some fire ants, turning out to be less firey than their remote Finnish cousins. On the lightly sandy path there were some black patches that looked like the rest of fires. I pointed at one and told Pelle they are fire ants' fireplaces! He bought it for a while!
Back at the boat we were greeted by a bunch of macaque monkeys and at boarding one came flying out of the galley (kitchen) window into the river. Cook apparently didn't like her voluonteer helper.
Soon we were steaming down river enjoying an excellent dinner, including a delicious grilled fish and two big bottles of cold Bintang. As it was (is) Ramadan, the price of this taboo beverage is sky high so we were limited to shear two per meal, courtesy of Majid.
After a few hours we docked at a Ranger station and Lars had a shower jungle style (see picture).
After dark our very knowledgable guide, K, took us ashore and two rangers with thorches took us for an hours walk in the pitch dark jungle, spotting fireflys, giant tarantulas (poisonous? Yes!), beautifully coloured birds in holes in trees, glowing muschrooms (we had to stop Pelle from picking them, remembering his tales from his hippie years in the Amazonas).Adding to all this the versatile sounds of the jungle night, it was a very nice walk.
Back on the boat our beds, covered with mosquito nets like for a Queen, we turned in. During the night a giant moscuito somehow got in to Ivan & Pelle's tent, landed on the latters nose and started flapping his ears with its wings. Sadly this later turned out to have been a dream!
In the morning we moved a bit and had a look at some more Orangutans, alas no male, but nice any way, lest the noisy Americans. After cruising a few hour looking for crocodiles in vain, but seeing hornbills, herons and nicely coloured kingfishers, we arrived at small village, built more or less on water. Walking the coral sand "High street" it started raining, but it soon was over. However the sand had gotten slippery so Pelle manged to take a dive in the (almost) only puddle around.
We went in to a shop where an old? lady sold home wowen baskets and mats of a very unusual kind, namely made of different coloured plastic. Ivan bought a new peg container for the boat and a handbag made of chewing gum packets for his wife (!?)
At an other shop the boys bought me a nice locally out of hardwood made Orangutan, as it happened to be my birthday (the second consecutive on Dawnbreaker) Very much appreciated.
After lunch we steamed to the last stop seeing a few "Dutch monkies", so called by the locals because of their big bellies and long noses, on the way rumbling about in the high trees. Soon we stopped again and walked up to a ranger station on boardwalk that had seen better days. At the station, Pasalat, one of the klotok owners, an expat, plants 180 trees a month in order to save the rain forest. There were about a hundred of them on the way to the feeding place, all with lables telling their lokal and scientific (lain) names. He also has plante a great number of different orchids on trees along the path, but unfortunately they had already blossomed in March. The path it self was the "jungliest" of all and very humid, but mostly shadowed.
At the feeding station the chatter was this time by a group of Swiss, who, probably by sheer suprise of my adressing them in German, got quiet and soon the first Orangutans could be seen swinging in the trees, first of them a female with a youngster of about five (my estimate) The kid put up a good show swing high in the trees and utilising branches as thin you'd think they brake, but they did not. More females with little ones arrived and at the most you could see eight of then, counting the little ones, at once. On the platform there were however never more than two with kids.
After admiring these wonderful relatives of ours (one of four Homidae, us being the most stupid) for about an hour, we headed back to the boat and a late lunch and the last Bintang.
Cruising down river was as nice as ever and we couldn't stop talking about what we had seen and how it was worth every Rupia. Just in time for the five o clock howling session we disembarked shaking hands and thanking all over, Ivan slipping the Cook a serious thanks in form of a bill with lot of zeroes on it.
What next, you guessed an ice cold Bintang. One thing is sure, I don't think I could have had a better birthday!
Kenneth cooked the story.