Orangutans, the people from the forest

Orang Hutan  translates into Person and Forest, in both Bahasa Malay and Bahasa Indonesia.

We had the privilege of visiting them in their own environment and for sure, we were impacted!

people and forest
people and forest

Leaving Banjarmasin we crossed the southern Kalimantan waters in low depths (we sailed for over 12 hours at 8 knots in depths between 5 and 10 meters) into a new river. Sungai Kumai.

Sailing the South Kalimantan Waters, little depth and many wrecks.

This is the place we knew we had to sail to, if we wanted to see the orangutans in the Indonesian side of Borneo. But the reason why we where here started a year and a half ago. In February/March 2015 we had a few decisive meetings as a family. Initially we had planned to be sailing for 2 years and budgeted accordingly. But once in NZ we realized we had spent far less than expected and we discussed wether everybody would be happy to keep on sailing. The result of discussions and votes were unanimous. We all wanted to keep on sailing and exploring, the question was: Where to???

Should we stay in the South Pacific and sail to Australia or should we venture further. Among the discussions someone threw in a thought: Why don’t we go to see the Orangutans in Borneo??

We all looked at each other and no one had a concrete idea in it’s mind other than: Why not?

We all have heard, read and seen about Orangutans. We know they are very similar to us, we know they are some of the last apes on earth (ape as opposed to monkey has no tail, we all knew that, right?) and that they are close to extinction due to lost of habitat and hunting.

Well, next thing was taking out the big sea charts and see how to get to Borneo from NZ. For a couple of weeks we thought that we would sail to the Philippines and from there down to Borneo. When planning big crossings you have to take into account major wind patterns and currents if you don’t want to be fighting the elements, which in most cases is no fun, if possible at all. Typhoons and recent cases of serious life threatening piracy eventually had us look at alternatives and we worked out the way to sail from Vanuatu to the Solomon Islands and from there, North of Papua New Guinea into Indonesia, to reach Borneo through it’s southern coast.

This is our route throughout Indonesia to reach Kumai

So we had finally reached Kumai, a small harbour town with the same name as the river which is the entrance to the Tanjung Putting National Park. It consists mainly of swampland and rainforest and the only feasible way to visit it is by boat. Fortunately Lumbaz is too big and wide to sail into these small rivers and that is how we got to meet Dessy & Arif. This young couple have established an agency to visit the park.  They are not the only ones, but Orangutanapplause  has something very special. Not only are Dessy, Arif and Bayu hard working and enthusiastic about their work, but there is a great consciousness about the urgency to protect before it is too late. Arif, as a biologist has worked with research teams and with different NGO’s in the field and his passion is bird watching, so travelling with him on a klotok (name of the local boats that make the trips up the river) is fascinating. Imagine having a living encyclopedia, with immediate answers to any questions and the capacity to recognize any sound (and believe me there are many, between the mammals, reptiles and birds) in the rain forest.

We spend 3 wonderful days in the river. Saw many things, learned even more. Got fed with some delicious food and we got to visit the Conservation Areas Dr. Galdikas created to study the orangutans. Now they serve to rehabilitate orangutans that have been hurt or displaced due to logging and palm oil plantations. The intention is to get them back into the wild. Truth is the whole setup is a bit touristy, but the experience to observe the fauna and flora and to see the monkeys and apes in nature is an unforgettable one.

Monkeys for the tail, probiscious for their nose.
Monkeys for the tail, probiscious for their nose.

We will post a few different post since we have many different pictures and things to tell.

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3 thoughts on “Orangutans, the people from the forest

  1. 4luzazul September 21, 2016 / 10:45 am

    hola Dani, Genie, Ainara, Luna y hermanitos. Soy Jon, desde San Diego. Si digo que sois una pasada, me quedo corto. No sabía que habiáis estado de vuelta por aquí hace 2 años, lo del catamarán y el viaje por el Pacífico, por esos mares de los que leo sobre MH370, ni te cuento. Sólo os faltan los roaring forties. Mándame un correo a esta cuenta y nos ponemos al día.

  2. Dick Weitzenhoffet September 26, 2016 / 12:06 am

    Ainara, I like your posts. It looks like you are learning a lot about our world and the animals of the land and the sea.

  3. Dick Weitzenhoffer October 16, 2016 / 10:52 am

    Just watched the video of the kids showing us around the boat. My gosh, their English is wonderful! I can remember trying to talk to Ainara on the phone in 2007. That was a very difficult conversation. I hope you are all well.
    Love to all,
    Dick & Brenda

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