>> Orangutan Spotting

Male orangutan

A sixteen year old non-dominant male orangutan in Camp Leaky. Male orangutans are eight times stronger than us, humans, weigh up to 150kg and become 1m50 tall.

The year was 1971. A young twenty-five year old woman, together with her husband, arrived in the rainforest of Borneo and founded Camp Leaky. The next thirty years Dr. Galdikas devoted her life to the field study and protection of orangutans, the great ginger apes that are only found on Borneo and Sumatra. Not only was her research groundbreaking, she also started a rehabilitation program for orphaned and ex-captive orangutans. The program was a success and several new generations of so called ‘semi-wild’ orangutans have been born here over the years, living happily in the jungle alongside their wild cousins. Protection of the orangutans habitat is essential, now more than ever, as more and more of Borneo’s rainforests are being logged or replaced with palm oil plantations.

Today, Camp Leaky is part of Tanjung Puting National Park and can be visited by boat. We chartered a klotok, a basic wooden houseboat, and spent three days on the Sungai Sekonyer river. It became one of the highlights of our Indonesia itinerary, a truely unique experience, floating through lush jungle and spotting wildlife on the river banks, while relaxing in a comfy chair on the deck or having a nice meal prepared by our own personal cook. At night we slept on the deck under a mosquito net and in the morning we were awakened by the wonderful call of the gibbon, at 5 AM, still better than the usual call for prayer at sunrise time…

But the main reason to come to Tanjung Putin is of course to spot orangutans. We went ashore to visit Camp Leaky and two other feeding stations. These are in fact little more than bamboo platforms on which rangers empty a few baskets of fruit at feeding time, once a day. If you’re lucky, a few (semi-wild) orangutans will materialise from the jungle after a while. Some of them are quite shy, but as a visitor you can still observe them from pretty close, maybe five to ten meters and without a fence. It might also be that there’s plenty of food in the forest at the moment and no apes come down to the platform at all, though you can always return the next day and have more luck (like we did). All in all we’ve been very lucky and have seen many orangutans, including one dominant male in Camp One. And since we visited during the rainy season, there were no crowds, we even had one station to ourselves for a while.

A wild gibbon stealing as many bananas as he can carry from the platform and quickly disappears into the trees again.

A gibbon stealing as many bananas from a feeding platform as he can carry, before disappearing into the trees again.

Proboscis monkeys

Ah, the life of a proboscis monkey, watching the sunset from a tree along the river bank, without any shame…

Watching wildlife from the boat

Spotting crocodiles and other wildlife from our comfy chairs.

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