Kumai River 02:44:58S 111:43:87E

Zipadedoda of Dart
David H Kerr
Sun 23 Nov 2008 10:25

After a long (480nm) passage from Bali, we arrived off the mouth of the Kumai River at dawn on the 2nd November.  It had been a testing trip for several reasons. Firstly, we had motored  the whole way. No wind at all. This also meant that it was sweltering on the boat. The heat and humidity made life aboard uncomfortable and consequently, virtually impossible to sleep.


There were also a number of hazards that kept us on our toes on this passage. Firstly the fishing boats and squid boats. There were so many of them at night, that the radar screen looked like it had caught Measles! Just covered in red dots. The squid boats are easy to spot, because they have powerful lights shining into the water to attract the squid. But no navigation lights (as with all the other FV), so extremely difficult to work out where they are going or ifs they are stationary.  I did discover in the end that if you held your course they would get out of the way. But it was a bit like playing “chicken” in the dark. Not the most relaxing of pastimes!


Thunderstorms were the next form of entertainment (or torture depending on your point of view). These would rage throughout the night, and the lightening was everywhere. One of the BWR boats  had come here a week before us, and they had a near lightening strike, that took our their whole navigation and radar systems. Not ideal!


The next and new experience for us were the tugs and barges. Fortunately we had received an e-mail from Dorothy on Neva, the night before we had our encounter with the first of these. Even so, when we saw the first one, in daylight, we actually thought it was an uncharted island or reef! That is how big these barges are.


  This coal barge was IRO of 150 metres long.


This particular barge was loaded to the gunnels and beyond with coal. It was between 400 and 500 metres behind the tug. Whilst the tug did sport the correct navigation lights (three white lights in a vertical stack, as well as the normal nav' lights, the barge had no lights at all.  So in the dark you have no way of knowing where the barge is.!!  This is because the wind and tide mean that it is never in a direct line behind the tug. We actually saw one running  parallel with it’s tug in the Kumai river during a thunderstorm. Another of the BWR boats (who for decencies sake I will not name) did run into one of these barges in the dark, and sustained some damage. They now have a rather flattened anchor………

We were to find lots of these tugs and barge combinations from now on whenever on passage. In Kalimantan, they are used for carrying coal and Silica, which are mined at the top of the Kumai river and mostly, Palm Oil (more of which anon). In Singapore/Malaysia they were also used for coal but mostly for land fill materials that are used by Singapore in its ever ceaseless progress in expanding its coast line.


The final hazard were floating fishing nets.  As we approached the mouth of the Kumai river at around 0500 in the morning the inevitable happened. WE ran into a fishing net, that was about a mile long.  WE were travelling along at about 6 knots at the time. The boat just stopped dead after a 100 metres or so after we hit the net. So we quickly went into neutral and then after some tricky work with the bow thrusters, managed to extract ourselves. Phew!!


The journey up the river is a bit tortuous, but Per from Pelle V had e-mailed us his waypoints and that made t a lot easier. As we travelled along, we were hit by a monster thunderstorm, which stay with us right up to the anchorage. Which was a shame, because it made taking pictures a little pointless.


  Kumai Town from the anchorage


The town itself is something of an architectural car crash! The skyline is dominated by large square buildings with no windows. Just openings for Swallows. These buildings are used to provide a nesting spot for the swallows.  The nests are collected for distribution to China, where they are a serious delicacy. The swallows guard their nests all year round. The guys who collect the nests have to wear body armour, to protect themselves from Swallow attacks! It takes these poor birds 3 to 4 months to rebuild the nests. These nests sell for a huge amount of money, and with China getting wealthier by the minute from its bourgeoning manufacturing base, the demand for the nests is insatiable. So the locals just keep on building more of these eye sores to bring in the cash……..which all goes to the wealthy families in Jakarta!!


That afternoon we met up with our tour organiser, Gilang. He took us ashore and organised a taxi to get us to the nearest town for a spot of shopping and the all important visit to an ATM.


It was a hot, humid morning that followed after a great nights sleep. At 0800, our personal river boat pulled up along side for the start of our two day adventure to the Tanjung Putting National Park



It takes four and a half hours chugging up the river to get to Camp Leaky by "kelotok" which is a small, narrow river boat.



Camp Leakey is home of the study and rehabilitation centre for orangutans and centre for volunteers of the Red Ape Challenge.
Camp Leakey is in the Tanjung Putting National Park in southern Borneo, and was set up in 1971 by Louis Leakey. Louis Leakey was both teacher and mentor for three young primatologists who would go on to become well known in their field and beyond. Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey were two, who went on to become known worldwide for their work with chimpanzees and gorillas respectively. The third, Birute Galdikas went on to become the leading authority on orangutans and remains so to this day as president of the Orangutan Foundation International.

Tanjung Putting National Park consists of an area of just over 300,000 hectares and as well as being home to orangutans, is also home to a wide variety of rainforest life, such as proboscis monkeys, macacques, hornbills, gibbons, crocodiles, kingfishers, frogs and many, many more species. The park itself is within 30km of the nearest airport at Pangakalan Bun, reachable via two internal flights from Jakarta. To reach Camp Leakey the only means of transport is by boat - Camp Leakey is reachable by speedboat and "kelotok" - a slow riverboat.


This was a fascinating journey. The scenery changed constantly as we ventured further and further into the jungle.



The local people were very friendly and smiled and waved furiously as we plodded along. This was a photographers heaven, with so many wonderful scenes.



It was wash day at one of the local villages we past on the river bank.


The river water is a beige, brown colour. This colour emanates from all the mining that takes place here. Predominantly Coal and Silica.


But as we turned off the river into the last tributary, some 9km long, which is in the National Park itself, the natural brackish peak colour returned.



As the river narrowed, and the jungle setting and noises became pre-eminent. Jennie was enjoying it so much she got into the spirit of the moment and indulged herself in a spot of yoga.




The boat itself was a two storey affair. We had the top deck as our living room, dining room and bedroom. All the same space of course!




The crew consisted of the skipper who was from one of the local villages, a cook cum boat boy and our guide, Ancis Banderas.  Ancis is a former ranger from the national park, so he was very knowledgeable and informative.


Our cook provided us with some cracking Indonesian meals.



Oh, and the one room I omitted to mention……………………………….


  Loo with a view!!


The toilet facilities were, to put it mildly, a tad basic.


But any depravations were a small price to pay for what was one of the most uplifting episodes on our trip so far………………………………………………………