Orangutans cont.

Sun 29 Jan 2017 11:11
(Continued from previous post)

A fisherman passing us.

The Orangutans were simply magical. They are clearly social creatures with a specific pecking order. Some females and their babies would sit in the trees or feed together, whilst others would grab as many bananas as they could carry and scarper as soon as they saw another Orangutan coming. The huge mature male, with his cheek pads and massive throat sack, was simply awe inspiring - none of the others come on the platform while he came to feed! Being so close to Orangutans made me realise how like us they are - we’re clearly cousins. They gestate for about 8 months, they become sexually mature around 12 years old but don’t usually have their first baby until they are 15 or 16. Not so different from ourselves. 

Feeling shy.

But what really made the link for me was the eye contact. Now and again they’d look at us, they knew we were watching them, not like birds when you’re in a hide. The little ones would hold onto Mum, unsure about these strangely furred watching apes, but soon gained in confidence when she showed no fear. It wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a cat or a dog, they weren’t tame in any way, they were wild people of the forest (Urang-utan, forest-people) who were choosing to be in the same space as us.

A un-flanged (no cheek pads) male and a young mum with her baby. She had deliberately decorated herself with the leaf.

Once we’d realised that our little outboard motor zooming by didn’t faze the wildlife at all we came to terms with our unusual-for-us transport and rather enjoyed side slipping around the bends. One concern was the number of floating islands, water plants and debris that collect together. They can catch on the bank and stop more floating islands until they end up blocking the river. This is exactly what happened the day we went up. It was only about 15 feet, a boat length across, and no more than a foot or two high so Alam simply backed up to give himself a run up and went at it full speed! The engine cut as the propeller hit and we skidded over the blockage landing with a plop on the other side - in true James Bond style! On the way back the blockage was a great deal larger. Two of the tour boats were stuck, unable to pass, and the accumulated islands were now about 25 feet across. The guys from the tour boats were busily chopping off bits and letting them float down stream to form a passage in order to get the boats through. The passage was far from complete but they all worked together to pull our little boat over the top of the floating island, with Phil and I remaining seated in the back feeling like royalty!

On our way back down the river, as evening approached, we were able to stop and watch big troops of Proboscis Monkeys feeding. The Indonesians call them Dutch Monkeys, saying they looked like the Dutch colonials with big noses and fat bellies. They eat mainly leaves and fruit and have a series of ‘stomachs’ where bacteria neutralises the toxins from some of the leaves, giving them rather pot bellies. They have short fur on their wonderfully expressive faces and their big furry hands make them look as if they are wearing gloves. Such a privilege to have got to watch these monkeys, endemic to Borneo.

Mr and Mrs, showing off their different nose styles.

We got back on board Lochmarin just as the sun was setting. It had been a long and tiring day but lying in our bunk that night it took me a while to drop off - I had so many magnificent images to replay though my mind's eye and my ears were still filled with the eerie whoop of the gibbons calling from tree to tree. What a wonderful day it had been.

Sure, I'm hanging by one hand 30 feet up in the air whilst I peel a banana with my feet, is that a problem?