decided to visit Kumai because of the chance to visit the Tanjung
Puting National Park to get up close and personal with Orangutan. To this
end we hired a Klotok, a local river boat.
The three of
us were accompanied by Robbie, a qualified park guide and multi-linguist, the
captain, his son and a cook. Robbie was an absolutley charming man and during
our 2 days he was teaching Peter Indonesian songs.
Parts of the river one could have been on the Norfolk Broads...except for
the temperature....the vegetation....and the wildlife! We saw otter, which was
unexpected, fabulous kingfishers four or five times the size of their British
cousins, hornbills with heads that look immensely heavy but are quite light, and
small crocodile less than two metres with narrow heads just right for fishing.
As well as fishing in the black river water, the crocodiles lie patiently just
off the river bank for the monkeys that don't quite manage the leap across the
river which they attempt from time to time using springy branches to propel
ferried up river about 30 miles to Camp Leakey, which until 1995 was used as a
site to rehabilitate orangutan that had been released from captivity. The site
is no longer used for this purpose, as there is a fear that this could be a
route for disease to be introduced to the wild population. Hence there now
exists a small population of orangutan who are very tame and a larger population
who are accustomed to man. Each day bananas are left at 3 feeding stations to
attract in the animals for observation by the rangers and the tourists. The
animals are not dependant on the food and we were told that some individuals
only appear occasionally such as this fine chap Dayouk, who was visiting a
feeding table for the first time in 3 months...and defintiely making it his
He put on
his " I am not amused face" when a younger animal came to pinch a few bananas.
The record for getting the most bananas in the mouth in one go was by a young
female who managed 15.
Over the 2
days we were in the park we visited the 3 feeding tables in different locations
and observed a number of different animals. All the older females had babies,
the population seems to be thriving.
well coiffured female had no intention of moving as we waited to pass, none of
the animals move, humans just have to skirt round them and hope the ankle isn't
very passive creatures but 8 times stronger than man so caution is always needed
when in close proximity, especially with the males.
chap was very friendly but Lorraine had her fingers well squeezed when she held
his proferred hand.
appears to be well run and we understand there are regular patrols to watch for
illegal logging and poaching. As most people know, the orangutan are under
severe threat mainly from habitat destruction.However, this reserve seemed to us
to offer a good compromise between wildlife and the need to generate an income
from the forest. Other tree climbers in the forest included troups of macaques
and these odd looking proboscis monkeys which are plentiful in the upper
There is a
healthy tourist trade with something like 5,000 people visiting the orangutan
last year. Whilst at the forest stops we met people who had flown in from UK,
Holland, Spain, Italy, USA and Germany. This keeps about 40 of the river boats
occupied and their crews of 4 per boat. A big improvement would be to have
electric craft both to reduce pollution but most of all to allow one to hear the
forest. The Indonesians do not seem to know what a silencer is and consequently
until our overnight stop the forest sounds were drowned out.
Mum and tiny baby.
Youngster has a drink.
the orangutan everything in the jungle seems to move at top speed or sinks into
bush or water to be completely hidden once spotted so taking photographs is not
easy with the low light levels, hence the lack of variety in our offerings
for this blog. However, the orangutans certainly like to pose, especially trying
to make themselves look big.
are only found in Borneo and Sumatra, the populations are fragile. We were
unsure about this visit because of possible negative impact on the animals and
their situation. We are glad we made it, without the support and impact of
visitors influencing attitudes toward the environment, demonstrating the
importance of these animals and other wildlife as a basis for generating income
for the local population there could be a more rapid and perhaps fatal decline.
The question is, can this lead to better things for wildlife in a country which
has to sustain such a huge human population? Given the complexities, we feel
very privileged to have been here.