Tag Archives: Rainforest

Camp Leakey and The Tanjung Puting National Park.

Chug chug chug, I’m on a very, very slow boat, or klotok, on a very muddy river (the Kumai) in Central Kalimantan, Borneo and you know, it’s just about perfect. We headed out of the port at Kumai and even after a few chugs we saw Fresh Water dolphins and a couple of Monitor Lizards. A little bit further and we turned off into a tributary, slow moving and very muddy, the entrance to the Tanjung Puting National Park. The mud is caused by illegal mining, mining for coal, zircon, gold and the rainforest is completely decimated. There is nothing left after the illegal logging was done and its now all palm oil and rubber plantations. No jungle sounds, no, birds, no butterflies, none of the usual whistling and hooting, no odd screeches. Even so it is still rather exotic, river, Borneo, klotok, I’m excited.

    Two hours of slow progress into the interior there was evidence perhaps that the illegal logging had been stopped or at least  paused, there are trees, tall trees, stretching way, way away. Straight away there were two bands of Proboscis monkeys swinging along the riverbank, two large males, both with multiple wives. Finally I snapped a photo of a male, longer nose than the females, bigger too, plus I learned something new, with so many wives they are always erm ‘ready’!  I laughed again and again, they leapt from branch to branch, high up and sometimes fell, plummeting down only to reach out casually with a hairy arm to save themselves. Why did I laugh? Just pure joy I suppose. On up the river and the sounds are back, whistles, hoots and that high pitched buzzing that you only hear here, in the jungle. 

   We stopped at a Ranger Station to watch the Orangutans be given their evening feed. Just a short fifteen minute treck through the trees and to a roped off area where there were, people. A number of people deep in the forest but where had they come from. Seems they had a big, group klotok, twelve I think, all Aussies, with an Orangutan expert in tow . The lenses on the cameras were something to behold, carried by youths who handed them over with the click of the fingers, the noise of the high speed shutters, irritating. Yes we saw Orangutans, quite a few in fact and it was fantastic. Before this chapter closes here is something. I casually mentioned to the guide that I wondered why they were called Orangutans, I got the look, the stupid tourist look. Orang in Malay means people, Utan means forest, therefore ‘people of the forest’ or Orangutan. That ends the four different spelling options. It’s a Malay word that we have somehow kept. Good for the Malays, good for us.

    We have parked for the night, beside the river, tied to a fallen tree. It’s pitch dark and I can’t see a thing. My bed is a mattress on the deck with a mozzie net. I’ll sleep well.

    Well I didn’t, not really. Too many crashes, growls, grunts and splashes kept waking me up but finally it was dawn at around five so I got up. We spent the day on the river, heading down another tributary where the water changed color dramatically, from the muddy brown of the mining detritus to the almost black of forest vegetation.  Tall trees either side and us, puttering along on the klotok which is basically a small houseboat, primitive but utilitarian. There was a stop at a feeding station and like yesterday there where suddenly people where there had been none before. I met a Scottish couple, from Och on the Black Isle. No, I didn’t mention how appropriate was its name. He was from Lewis with the broad lilt of the Western Isles, she, Michelle was from Inverness but had been in Edinburgh for years and years. We had a nice chat, trashing the new tram (actually now its open it is quite good) and lamenting that Central Kalimantan is dry etc etc. A couple from Denver and another from LA, plus miscellaneous Spaniards. It seems that during the High Season here, June and July, the majority of the 60 or so klotoks available for rent in Kumai are taken by the Spanish and no one can tell me why. Anyone? (L?) Bit of a long way from Spain I’d have thought. Oops, I’ve wandered off, sorry. There were no Orangutans to be seen at the feeding station and we all trudged back to the river through an area reduced by slash and burn, just ferns grew. At the jetty on the river and at the Ranger station, two guys and a desk outside a hut, there were clouds of black butterflies, nowhere else, just where there were humans. Odd.

    To Camp Leakey then and when we pulled into the shore there was a Mom and baby just sitting on the fence, all nonchalant, as if greeting us. An unrelated male was fast asleep in the gazebo on the jetty. It was quite a miracle, but I think I have said enough about the Orangs though haven’t I? The river though, and the rainforest where, for me, the stars of the day. At one point I tried reading a book but couldn’t, I kept looking up and out, seeing the legend that is this green and verdant living thing. It can’t last, it really can’t and what kind of a tragedy that is and will be. One of the crew on the boat used to be an illegal logger and I got a few stories, via translation, that I found depressing. One cubic measure (20 centimeters) of the Iron Wood tree sells for $75.00, an Iron Wood sapling grows one foot every ten years, the loggers  bribe the authorities so well that they build railways in the forest to ship the logs out. The local farmers are similarly destructive, slashing and burning vast areas for just one season’s crop, then they move on. I don’t have Internet access here but isn’t it well known that an area of the forest the size of a football field is destroyed every second? I told the guys on the boat, ‘enjoy it while its here’. 

    Ok, rant over, no more tree hugging tonight,  Birkenstocks back in the closet, pinko liberal flag furled, I’m going to have a beer and celebrate night number two on the edge of the Heart of Borneo.  

Sometimes the trees seemed full of wildlife.

Sometimes the trees seemed full of wildlife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The muddy river and the Rainforest.

The muddy river and the Rainforest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The black river and the rainforest.

The black river and the rainforest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The black river meets the muddy river.

The black river meets the muddy river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not sure how this one got uploaded! I hope its ok.

Not sure how this one got uploaded! I hope its ok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A male. What a handsome fella.

A male. What a handsome fella.

 

 

 

 

 

 

She is kind of cute too.

She is kind of cute too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A closer look.

A closer look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grubs up!

Grubs up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the dinner table.

Around the dinner table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adoring and adorable.

Adoring and adorable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even more adoring and adorable.

Even more adoring and adorable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't know what to say.

I don’t know what to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is one of the dozens of bird hotels (swifts) in Kumai where the birds build their nests for Bird Nest Soup. Interesting I thought.

This is one of the dozens of bird hotels (swifts) in Kumai where the birds build their nests for Bird Nest Soup. Interesting I thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I resolved before leaving that not only would I ‘live blog’ my trip but I would also take lots of photos. I did, but I have so many pictures that sorting the highlights has been difficult. I may do some more sorting and post more. I haven’t even looked at my phone yet! The photos on it I mean.

 

 

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First Introduction to the Rainforest.

Borneo lives up to its reputation. It is truly remarkable. I’m staying in a somewhat primitive eco type resort, basic huts, a couple of hammocks, no AC, beside the muddy river Kinabatangan Wildlife abounds, there are birds everywhere, mostly totally unfamiliar, the jungle reaches the river edge and the night noises, loud. But I’m ahead of myself. Backup.

It was on Monday that I caught a bus from Kota Kinabalu (KK) over the mountains to Sandakan. A great trip despite being six hours, I gazed out of the window the whole way. We inched up the big mountain, Kinabalu, and the view as we passed over the top back down to the Sea below was breathtaking. From then on it was mountains, mountains, mountains, all jungle covered, I was transfixed. There were tea plantations at the summit producing the famous Sabah tea. Resorts and country retreats for the locals, expensive looking restaurants, Range Rovers beside the road. On we went to the first pit stop where my Swiss traveling companion and I ordered a plate of what everyone else was eating, and good it was, though what it was I have no idea. As we continued I began to get nervous as people all around were throwing up and praise be, someone told the bus crew to turn off the ghastly movie we were being shown on the big screen at full volume. Then we were dropped off, at a cross roads, basically nowhere, but I had been advised that there would be taxi pirates nearby and sure enough, over the other side, there they were, all waving. The two-mile ride to the hotel at Sepilok was about a dollar, checked in and went out in search of wildlife. Sandikan is a world famous wildlife-viewing destination so hopes were high but everything appeared to be closed for the evening, I did however see a chicken.

Undeterred, the next morning I was up and ready early, breakfast and off, to the Sandikan Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Center. Arrived far too early, of course, but eventually bought a ticket, put all my stuff in a locker, provided free for visitors so the orangs don’t take it off you, and headed on down the path. There was a nursery area for very young oranges where they played and learned basic orang behaviour, climbing, swinging about in trees, ( New word: brachiation. To travel from branch to branch), eating and the like and then on to the main event, feeding time in the rainforest. A bigger viewing area than at the Shangri La, there were about one hundred a fifty present, three orangs came and ate and it was all very true to form until……everybody left. There were about ten of us left and the orangs decided to turn the tables and come on down to the viewing area. No one seemed quite sure what to do, there were ‘do not touch’ signs everywhere, so we were kind of herded around the area by a couple of Rangers, keeping our distance but at the same time not wanting to miss anything. Up and down the roof supports, over the roof, posing on top of signs, they really seemed to be enjoying themselves until of course the inevitable happened, one of them pee’d, all over the Irish girl who was telling us about the leeches that landed on her from the top of a tree. Just the luck of the Irish I guess.

I saw Sun Bears, tiny little things that I never knew existed. They are on the endangered list mainly due to the horrid things that the Chinese do to their bile. Quite disgusting. From there it was a short ride to the Discovery Center, which I had read about and had almost to myself. There was much in the way of flora and fauna, elegant exhibits, an arboretum, a lake with boats but I had come for the star attraction, the aerial walkway in the canopy of the rainforest. Confession time, I have a fear of heights, I suffer from vertigo, so yes, I was a tad nervous. Up the ramp, and up and up until there I was, level with the tops of the trees, the view was astounding. I felt like a jungle animal high in the treetops, I could see for miles and miles (Sal!), and there was nobody else around, not a soul. The walkway was not long, less than a half mile but it was so not human that I was inclined to tiptoe so I didn’t disturb anything. There were benches every hundred yards or so and I sat on many, just looking out over the forest and marveling. I discovered that if I sat long enough I could detect movement, quite what I have no idea, but there were hairy things, things with long tails, big eyes, colorful things, screechy things, and all around was every shade of green you could possibly imagine and then more on top of that. Absolutely fabulous.

Off back after that to my hotel, dinner, more curry and rice, a couple of beers and bed. Before I leave this scene just one more thing. Both mornings I was woken by a sort of cooing sound from outside my door which turned out to be made by three of the ladies who worked at the hotel. They would arrive early and set out their food and drinks for the day in the shade of my hut and, sitting in a circle on the ground would gossip and pass the time of day, quietly, and in Malay. I was charmed by the whole thing, it was quite lovely.

From Sepilok it was off to the River at Kota Kinabatangan, boat rides at dawn and dusk, some very unique experiences, some great people and more than enough for the next blog post and maybe the one after that……

The road over the mountains.

The road over the mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the nursery.

In the nursery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food time.

Food time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More please?

More please?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mmm, digesting.

Mmm, digesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've got a good idea. Lets go scare the tourists!

I’ve got a good idea.
Lets go scare the tourists!

 

 

 

 

 

 

'That blond one over there looks a bit frightened"

‘That blond one over there looks a bit frightened”

 

 

 

 

 

 

'I'm really going to scare him now"

‘I’m really going to scare him now”

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Ha Ha, he's really scared now"

‘Ha Ha, he’s really scared now”

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Just look at him, he's terrified"

“Just look at him, he’s terrified”

 

 

 

 

 

 

"That's ok, I really quite like you"

“That’s ok, I really quite like you”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out over the canopy.

Out over the canopy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With apologies to FaceBookers and Instagramers.