We wanted to cross over to Borneo so we could go and see the Orang-utan rehabilitation centres so we set off for Borneo on the 6th October for the 2 day crossing. The crossing was straight forward apart from the dodgey Indonesian fishing vessels which lacked lights and direction. We headed for the port of Kumai which is near the Tanjung Puting National Park.
We had already booked a 3 day tour which took us up a couple of rivers into the protected areas where the Orang-utans lived in the wild. On the way up the river we saw groups of monkeys hanging and jumping from trees, a few crocodiles, flying hornbills, colourful Kingfishers and all sorts.
We travelled up the Sekonyer river to the first feeding station and had a small walk into the forest, there was a small platform that was fenced off and Orang-utans had already started to congregate. These were Orang-utans that had been saved from the forest when their habitat had been destroyed, they were mostly wild but had got use to being feed at the same time everyday. They slowly but surely came out of the forest and swung from tree to tree working their way down to the feeding station. It was amazing how they moved between the trees, their hands and feet working together and always having a very powerful grip on anything they were holding. Everybody just sat in silence and watched these amazing creatures as they scoffed lots of fruits and vegetables.
We went back to the boat and went further up the river before stopping for some lunch. The boat was a traditional wooden boat with an upstairs for passengers and a lower deck for the crew. There was one chef called Norma who somehow managed to produce about 10 different dishes of food for us all when she only had a couple of hobs to cook on. We travelled further up the river seeing groups of ibiscous monkeys living in the trees on the other side of the national park, clearly groups of Orang-utans and monkeys don’t like to mix.
We stopped for the night where we met our second boat and a great meal was again put on for us. The crew then laid out the mattresses on top of both boats and hung up the mosquito nets, this was a must in this part of the world !. The sound of the forest at night was quite deafening at nights, thousands of insects all screeching together. Breakfast was served at the crack of dawn and what a fabulous place to have it, a small mist over the river and the sound of monkeys just waking up jumping from tree to tree.
We went further up the river to feeding station number two but only a handful of Orang-utans appeared at this one, it was a nice walk through the jungle though further than we had been before. Later that day we headed down river to where a large group of monkeys lived, theses monkeys were different as the had large soft noses, the males having the biggest ones. Theses groups mostly only had one male with up to twenty female partners and their off spring. As it was approaching dusk the monkeys had already found their place in the tree and were ready to settle down for the night, nearly all of them having their back to us, maybe they had had enough of the tourists staring in on them before bedtime. Before heading back we went to see an amazing colony of firefly’s that were only living in one particular tree. It basically looked like a Christmas tree that was alive, hundreds of flys swarming everywhere with very bright tails., why they stuck to just one tree was very strange. On the third day we went up to Camp Leaky which is where the study and rehabilitation of orang-utans originally started in the late 70’s. The orang-utans here were ones that had previously been kept as pets and had been handed over to the camp. Sadly it looked like these could never be fully rehabilitated but could at least live in a secure forest area in the trees and could be feed and looked after. You could see how some had picked up traits having been held captive, when we were there there was a huge burst of rain, one of the orang-utans came down from his tree and went straight over to the door of one of the buildings and demanded to be let in by banging on the door and trying the door handle, he sat outside for a while most annoyed as the rain came down on top of him. The other orang-utans however would hide up in the trees and make umbrellas out of the branches. One of the biggest problems that faces the orang-utans is not just the fact that their forest is being cut down but the fact that as they can only reproduce once in every eight years. The young will stay with them until five or six years hold, the mother still carrying them around on her back. This she can do without problem as females are four times stronger than humans and males eight times stronger. If a mother does lose a youngster she will reproduce again within a year or so. It came to the end of the tour and we heading back down the river for our three hour trip back to Kumai. We all agreed it had been one of the best trips we had been so far and were sorry to be leaving the forest. On the way back we spotted some more monkeys, hornbills, and best of all a huge King Cobra that swam out in front of us crossing the river, a rare sight. This is Percy, he seemed to cause trouble by stealing things off the boats as they came in, mainly cutlery.
Nobody messed with this guy !!