We arrived at Kumai harbour early afternoon on our first day in Indonesia. We were transferred to our 2 Klotoks (2 deck boats) where we enjoyed a well deserved lunch. We then set out for Rimba Lodge with a fluid itinerary allowing us to stop wherever we chose. We crossed the main river and turned onto the Sekonyer River, which was to be our main access route for the remainder of our trip. En route we came across a large troupe of Probiscus Monkeys and 2 Little Bitterns. We spent well over an hour with the monkeys, and they rewarded us with some real quality close up shots. There were some really tiny babies being clutched tightly by their caring mothers. I found these creatures quite shy on my previous visit, so I was delighted that we all got some excellent photos so early on. We then made our way to Rimba Lodge and arrived just as darkness fell.
Orangutans in Indonesia – Day Two Camp Leakey
Our second day was spent entirely at Camp Leakey. it was a wonderful introduction to Orangutans. We had close up encounters with at least 20 of these adorable creatures. The females look after their offspring for 7 years, and reproduce every 3 – 4 years, so many of the mothers had 2 youngsters in tow – one twice the size of its’ sibling. We had many photo opportunities with the mums hanging from creepers just a few feet away. The youngest baby was usually clinging on tightly as their mother moved effortlessly through the trees. In the afternoon we moved to the feeding station, where we had some really close up encounters on the ground with mums and their babies. Wide angle lenses and short telephotos were all that was required.
Orangutans in Indonesia – Day Three Pondok Tanggui
Our third day saw us stop en route to Camp Leakey at Pondok Tanggui. There were no Orangutans on view here this morning. The group photographed butterflies and a Praying Mantis before leaving early for Camp Leakey. Our first encounter was with a recently weaned young Gibbon. It entertained us by swinging from tree to tree before settling down only about 15 feet up and eating the fruit from the host tree. It later moved off before once again posing beautifully quite low down. Our next subjects were a group of immature wild boar and a single Orangutan. We returned to the klotok for lunch before making our return to the camp area and on to the feeding station. There was a heavy shower of rain while we were safely in the dry, on the boat having lunch. We disembarked as soon as the rain stopped and took some superb shots of the wet Orangutans in the adjacent forest area. One youngster had built himself an umbrella out of leaves to keep his head dry. Another youngster was trying to eat a large piece of sugar cane that its’ mother had found. the wet hair really added to the atmosphere of the shots. Off to the feeding area, where we had about an hour and a half getting some great pics before we suffered our first experience of rain in a rainforest. Macs and capes were quickly donned. Some people put their cameras away and some wrapped them in bags and continued shooting. Those who kept shooting were rewarded with a mating session no more than 6 feet away from where we were. The baby was still clinging to its’ mother, totally oblivious to what was going on.
Orangutans in Indonesia – Day Four Rimba Lodge
On our fourth day it was decided to slow things down a little, stay local and have lunch and some downtime (for photographic tuition and reviews etc.) and visit the 2 local Orangutan Parks. Our first visit was our second attempt at Pondok Tanggui. Once again all the Orangutans were gathering mushrooms and fruits from the forest. They did not want any extra supplement of sugar cane or bananas. the group photographed butterflies and a stick insect before returning to camp early. Some took the opportunity to rest, while the majority photographed in and around Rimba Lodge. Macaques, beetles, a house cat, moths, butterflies and various unidentified insects were found. The afternoon provided about 8 Orangutans at Tanjung Harapan. Shots of them gliding through the trees were aplenty and notably, one large male Orangutan hung suspended between 2 creepers just in front of us for several minutes.
Orangutans in Indonesia – Day Five Camp Leakey
Our fifth day was a full day at Camp Leakey. Our arrival was marked by a female Orangutan and her baby waiting on the landing stage to greet us. She was one that had been re-released a few years earlier and enjoyed interaction with our group. At one stage she gently took a camera from one of the girls and tried to look through the viewfinder. A priceless moment. Our short trek to the camp provided us with great shots of the parents of the gibbon we had photographed 2 days earlier. We watched with great interest as a mother broke off some rotting timber from a tree stump. She brought it to her youngster and proceeded to teach it how to suck out the termites from inside. The little guy was very quick to learn and soon returned to the tree to get his own bits of timber. We returned to the boat for lunch. There was about 10 Orangutans very close to the boats. Most of the group went to the feeding station, and some stayed near the boats. Both groups were well rewarded, but those who stayed behind were/were not the lucky ones for totally different reasons. They were lucky for the fact that for about half an hour a young male, 7 years old approx., put on a tremendous display hanging and stretching over water from some very thin creepers. They had, however, missed a very special afternoon at the feeding station. Towards the end of the afternoon the heavens opened. Those near the boats made a dash for cover. They avoided the huge soaking that had befallen the more adventurous group. It was difficult not to laugh as they arrived back at the boat totally soaked. Not one of them cared one iota about the rain, and they all had huge grins on their faces. The most well known Orangutan at Camp Leakey, Princess is her name, had walked hand in hand with each and every one of the party that had gone to the feeding station. Her baby was clinging tight to her while this was happening. When it started to rain the two girls donned a large rain cape and sat on a bench with their camera gear on the bench between them. Princess and her baby lifted the cape and sat in the dry between the girls’ legs while continuing to eat her sugar cane. An amazing experience that none of them will ever forget.
Orangutans in Indonesia – Day Six Aspaii Mining Area
On our sixth day we decided to do something a bit different. We made an early start and visited the Aspaii Mining area. This is where communities survive by illegally mining for Silica and Gold. Returns are very small but for some it is the only way they know to survive. The desolation they leave behind is there for all to see. The forests can never recover and it is quite shocking to see the scale of the problem that the Indonesian Government is faced with. There is no easy answer and the Orangutan’s habitat is disappearing before your very eyes. Everyone was very quiet and reflective on our return to Tanjung Harapan. Each boat trip to and from Camp Leakey produced sightings of various wildlife. I have not mentioned these until now, but be assured that there was always something to spot if you were looking out for animals or birds. Some of these sightings provided photographic opportunities and some did not. Virtually every journey provided at least one sighting of a truly wild Orangutan. Probiscus monkeys were spotted on every evening trip. We also saw Hornbills, snakes, a crocodile, herons, storks, Brahminy Kites, black faced monkeys, kingfishers, macaques, bats and a flying lemur. Our afternoon Orangutan feeding session at Tanjung Harapan was not nearly as productive as our first visit there, so we left early. Half the group visited a local village using one klotok, while the remainder took the second klotok in search of Probiscus Monkeys. We found 2 groups as the sun set – the second and largest group being very productive. We then went on the 2 boats in search of Fireflies. We had spotted a few of these on earlier occasions, but were advised that they congregate on certain types of trees, mainly only found locally about half an hour away. The boats progressed downriver in near darkness until arriving at a particular tree favoured by our guide. The second half of the journey was quite amazing. It was incomprehensible how such tiny creatures could create so much light. It was a clear starlit night and at times it was difficult to distinguish the fireflies from the stars. Bushes were part illuminated purely by flies. When we arrived at the particular large tree that our guide was looking for, none of us could believe what we were seeing. The whole tree was dotted with fireflies. there wasn’t any part of it that was not illuminated by these tiny creatures. It was just like a Christmas tree covered with tiny flashing fairy lights. I think we all stood watching for 20 minutes in awe at what we were seeing. every branch and twig was illuminated by the bright flashes that these tiny insects were emitting. A truly wondrous sight.
Orangutans in Indonesia – Day Seven Camp Leakey
Our seventh day was a full day at Camp Leakey. This was the most productive location and we decided to spend our last 2 days there. On our journey we stopped to photograph 3 Probiscus monkeys that were on the water’s edge and in good light. While were were shooting these one of our party asked “What the hell is that” ?. It turned out to be a Flying Lemur. It was clinging to a tree not 3 metres away from us at eye level. An amazing find. We shot it from every angle imaginable for 20 minutes or so before it disappeared into the higher branches above. Our guide had never seen one as close in many years of working the Sekonyer River. There were several Orangutans very active close to where we docked our klotok at Camp Leakey, and we had a very productive session with them before lunch. There was also a seven year old play-fighting with his mum with a second smaller baby firmly attached to her. Once again, some superb photo opportunities presented themselves. After lunch, the group split. Some stayed behind and some went to the feeding station. Both groups had a great afternoon. The group that stayed near the boat briefly witnessed an Orangutan and her baby trying to paddle across the river, having climbed into an unmanned canoe. The rope remained tied to the jetty and she got nowhere. A perfect example of their extreme intelligence, though.
Orangutans in Indonesia – Day Eight Camp Leakey
On our eighth and final day was also spent at Camp Leakey. We had a great session with a tiny baby in its’ mother’s arms on arrival. We later found one young male had been bitten on the back of his head in a squabble over a female. He was clearly in some pain and was pulling all sorts of weird faces. His greatly exaggerated expressions were most entertaining. After lunch we headed towards the feeding station. We had not got far when we came across Tom – the Orangutan King. This was the last piece in the jigsaw for the group. The large, dominant male was the one thing that everybody was really hoping to see on their last visit to Camp Leakey. They were not disappointed. He displayed in various different poses for the next 2 hours or so. He really is a show-off, and he performed as if on stage. His strength was immense, – 7 times that of a human. He was an awesome specimen. A truly wild Orangutan that defeated the resident dominant male just over a year ago. Needless to say, nobody went to the feeding station and we shot Tom until he disappeared into the forest. Just before he left we were treated to a brief mating session with a receptive female. We all felt truly privileged and the whole party felt that they had seen everything that they wanted to – and more. It was a very satisfied group that returned to Rimba Lodge for the last time, reflecting on their incredible experiences over the last few days. A truly wonderful sunset completed our day.
Orangutans in Indonesia – Day Eight The Trip Back Home
Our ninth day saw us depart Rimba Lodge at 9 am. We had a couple of hours in Kumai before driving to the airport. We spent this photographing in the local fish and vegetable markets. A great way to give the group an insight into how the locals carry out their day to day existence. On our boat journey to Kumai we had seen locals cutting and gathering the huge leaves from the palm trees growing on the banks of the Sekonyer River. We then visited an area where women and children fabricate these into roof sections that they sell to owners of local houses. These roof sections are replaced every three years and is a good source of employment for local people. The more modern houses are now converting to tiled roofs so, sadly, this art may slowly disappear. We arrived at the airport and began our long journey home.
Hi John and Nadine. Just like to thank you both for all the work you put in, especially behind the scenes, to make the Borneo visit such a success. Jen and I, both thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and the company, you made a couple of old codgers feel very relaxed and welcome. Thanks for the many photographic tips, moment of truth now, just about to start downloading the images. Thanks once again, hopefully we will meet up again in the not too distant future, please keep sending me details of trips and workshops, I’ll keep a regular eye on your web site. Have a good Christmas, Regards, Ted and Jenny
A HUUUUGE thank you to you both for taking us to Borneo…well, you know how much it meant to me and thank you doesn’t really cut it – I had the time of my life and it’s changed a lot for me, basically without you two it wouldn’t have happened. Can’t thank you enough really for taking care of me and everything I learned from you and everyone there, not just about photos either. Anyways, it’s not very helpful but my feedback is pretty much this: “AWESOOOOME!!!!”. Hope the two of you have a lovely Christmas and New Year. You deserve it after organising that trip!! Take care of yourselves, hopefully I’ll see the both of you again very soon, Lisa.