BORNEO   ORANGUTANS

                                   video compliments of s/v Billabong at

WOW....there was no way to describe our next stop in Kalamantan Borneo to see the orangutans. 


A Klotok is a local boat with a one cylinder engine that sounds like KLOC  KLOC KLOC!!!

We turned off the Kumai River and into the small Sekonyer River as the jungle closed in

 KT and Chris s/v Billabong asked us to join them and MJ and John of s/v Island Sonata in renting the klotok
'Spirit of the Forest'
for a 3 day river trip deep into the jungle of Borneo. 


No sooner had we settled in then the wildlife began to appear 

Black Banded Gibbons can travel through the jungle canopy as fast as a bird can fly


Proboscis Monkey's


The river area is a green, wet, dripping, dank world that is also home to Meccaque Monkeys, Clouded Leopards, Sun Bears, Wild Pig, Parrots, Kingfishers, Hornbills and hundreds of butterflies

Continuing on 4-5 hours up the river, we reached Camp Leakey where  ex-captive, orphaned and injured orangutans are cared for with a rehabilitation program that returns them to life in the wild. 
It is the first of 3 camps we would visit.

In the Malay language orangutan means

As we disembarked and made our way into the camp we could feel the apprehension of meeting our first ape
 97.5% genetically close to humans

We felt we were being watched

There is nothing more AWESOME than standing before a great ape as it emerges from the jungle

At Camp Leakey many orangutans are used to humans. 

And there is nothing more startling than to realize just how human like they are.

We were encouraged to get to know them and their habits then later we would visit the more 'wild' orangutan's camps.

Her name is Siswi, she is 32 years old and was the 'sweetest' of them all.   We were told she had one child but longs for another


Siswi was a little more aggressive with Steve trying to unzip all the little zippers on his safari pants. 


Wild orangutan females reproductive years begin about 15yrs of age until about 35.  They give birth to one baby approximately every 7 years, the longest birth interval of any mammal.  A female orangutan will usually have no more than three offspring during her lifetime.

Having no luck with the zippers Siswi heads for the banana shed and with a little stick poked in a hole with a hidden lock she has learned to steal food.  Oops almost caught by a pig in the get-away.

Princess, was
a National Geographic model as a child


 Like mother, like daughter
that's her baby in the video hamming it up


Princess has had four children and was the first to approach us as we entered camp Leaky.  Very friendly and used to people she even let her baby come close to us.

She is very bright and has learned 25 words in sign language


The love and caring between these primates was touching

A baby stays with it's mother for about 5 years before going out on it's own as there is much to be taught about the ways of survival in the jungle

KT & Chris capture a beautiful moment

Camp Leakey has set up their research stations to include feeding platforms.  During the dry season food is scarce, mostly during the month of August.   Due to the destruction of the forest to logging more orangutans are coming in which means it is harder to find food in the jungle.

We sat for hours and watched them come and go to the feeding platforms


The orangutans diet is supplemented with sweet milk and bananas.  Since the orangutans are semi-wild they come in regularly to be fed by the camp guards. 

During feeding times more wild orangutans emerge from the jungle.  We hear a lot of 'kissing sounds' which means to go away.  Protecting their food seems to be high on the agenda. 

 One found a way to protect his dinner by sitting in the bucket.  Often they would grab a handful of bananas and head for the trees

As individuals, orangutans display unique and rich personalities.  Watching them  is quite educational and comical.

Sitting down to lunch with a great ape is an enlightening experience.

Sometimes they had so many bananas they would fill their mouths full, skin and all, then carry them away to a safe place.  Sitting back they would then meticulously peeling each one with their lips before gobbling it down. 

As we went to leave, Princess chases after Chris and pleads him to stay then tries her luck with Gayla, latching onto their arms with amazing strength. 


The strength of a female orangutan is four times that of a human and the males strength is 8 times.  She  would not let go and a sense of being held captive by a wild animal is a bit daunting
It was the guard who came to our rescue and lured her away

As we reached the boat landing area, lulling on his back like a baby who had just heard a lullaby, right in front of us and obstructing our path was the king of kings
120kg or 264lbs Alpha Male

Well, he WAS the king of kings.  Kosasih is now 35years old and the ex-Alpha male who has been beaten up and banished from the troop by Tom the big Alpha male.   Kosasih was intimidating enough.  We had to step past his head to get to the boat so our guide took us one at a time.  This was nothing short of breathtaking.  And it was our first encounter with one of these huge males with the distinctive trait of 'face plates'. 

Then waiting at the dock was another but very docile female having a 'tat a tat' with MJ.  MJ has a special talent being the singer in the rally.  Do you suppose that
is how she got past Kosasih???

Word, when we got back, was that one of the orangutans had gotten on the boat next to ours and had rummaged through every zippered compartment, and trashed the entire boat...............even ate the lipstick!  

                                                                        We spotted a10,000rp note floating away down river

It was hard to leave Camp Leakey after spending the entire day at this one camp and getting to know each one personally. But as we pulled away we felt we had a much better understanding of these great apes.
                                         Saying Good-bye was sad



It was almost dark when we tied up in a secluded branch of the river to spend the night on our Klotoc.   Then by candle light we had the most delicious Indonesian meal all prepared and eloquently set before us on the deck of the boat.
At night we drifted to the center of the narrow tributary where a gentle breeze made for a comfortable night.

Weighing anchor made of a rubber tire    Early morning wake up on Klotoc     The 'head' at the stern


 At first light we heard the call of the Gibbons high pitched cry and the Meccaque  monkeys swinging in the trees.  We also heard the 'Rap Songs' from Chris down in the head where we took our showers using the tannin colored but fresh river water.  Then off we went Kloc Kloc Pssp Pssp Kloc Pssp Kloc!!!   We are used to living aboard and used to the intimacy.
 We had more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

We weren't totally alone out there in the jungle.  Starting back down the river we passed more cruisers coming up river in their own hired Klotoc's. 





s/v China Grove                  s/v Brother Wind                     s/v Koru,  s/v Cat'chus  &  s/v Arnak  

17 year old male

Pandok Tangguy Camp

Our second day we stopped at two camps. Orangutans that are going to be reintroduced into the wild  are put at this one until they find a mate.

Orangutans live in a main group of 3 males and about 15 plus females and babies, then a sub group with only one male.  Sometimes there are all male groups when the alpha male kicks the teen boys out. These teens then head out to begin their own all male group.


17 year old female
4 year old baby

But we were all waiting for the big guy... Dayak the #2 Beta male.  He finally arrived....sounds of tree branches crashing to the ground, the jungle vegetation parting and he came charging forth on all fours.   He was MAGNIFICENT!


Dayak charging forth

    22 year old with typical grown male face plates


Then along comes Richa a 13 year old female.  She put her hand on Dayak's head and shortly after Dayak grabs her, tosses her to the platform and they begin cavorting right there in front of everyone.

Steve turns away in respect

There was a lot of biting of the hand, tossing and blubbering by Dayak.  Richa seemed unimpressed, continued to eat her banana's and then after 6 minutes got up and walked to the end of the platform, paused for a second, then disappeared into the jungle. 



                 A little privacy please, Eh?

 If you have not seen the video yet...perhaps this might or might not be the time!!!

                   Dayak finished his banana's                               
Back on 'Spirit of the Forest'  our guide had prepared yet another meal for lunch.   We dined as we Kloc Kloc'ed along to the next stop Tangjung Harapan observing all the local watercraft passing by



      MJ gets a leach and we all FREAK!           

  Carnivorous plant
 Rainforest jungle walk          
Our guide knew the exact time of the feedings at the camps and when the fewest people would be there.  We had an and hour to kill so he took us into the jungle and gave us a run down about the reforestation project going on since 1997 when a huge fire killed many orangutans and destroyed the rainforest.  He showed us carnivorous plants, explained which plants were used for medicinal purposes and even how to crinkle up a paper to sound like crushing bones in case we ever find ourselves in the vice grip clutches of a python.  They are sure to let you go!  But MJ got a leach on her ankle, that wouldn't let go and we were all happy to abort the journey and return to orangutans.

Tanjung Harapan Camp

   At Tanjung Harapan the orangutans are the most wild.  The Tanjung Puting National Park research and conservation project has set up this feeding station near the town of Tanjung to distract the orangutans  from
disturbing the nearby rice fields and possible injury by local farmers.

These orangutans were the 'most wild' we had seen and hung out in the trees.  They seemed more cautious about coming into the feeding platform, often just hanging out nearby. 

25 year old handsome male

There were no other small males in this area so Wanalaga is dominate.    He has not had to fight so his red coat is in pristine condition


It began to rain and so we left to return to our boats back on the Kumai River. Our parting shot was walking below the trees full of orangutans 

Once again back on the river as the night closed in, thousands of fireflies glittered in the trees like tiny lights on a Christmas tree. 


It was a FASCINATING, eventful and exciting journey into the jungles of Kalamantan of the best stops on the entire rally. 



Once again the rally meets up in the Kumai River

Meet Herry owner of Spirit of the Forest and Herry's Tourist Boat Service

We did not have to call into shore to get set up. Herry's people greeted us on the river as we anchored
VHF 77/16/17

The Spirit of the Forest was perfect for 3 couples. 

The top deck is turned into the dining room as well as a roof top bedroom providing thick mattresses and mosquito nets for the overnight trips. 

There was also a bathroom with toilet & shower in the stern of the boat. 

A  kitchen as well as an additional private room with twin beds was situated below deck.  

Herry's overnight tour including all meals and many snacks, drinks, (except alcohol), permits, guide,  park fees & boat sitters.   OUR COST for Steve and I was $140US
2 people - 1,300,000rp per person  4 people - 875,000rp per person and 5 and up 700,000rp per person.  Many Klotoc's take up to 8 people.    The more the merry...and cheaper!
                                                          MEET THE CREW            


            Ju Ju the Skipper          Jenie our English speaking guide         Eddie the cook    YUM!
Jenie was a great guide and loads of fun.   The rest of the crew were all family members and all with a passion to please us.  Jenie gave us a history of the area, the people and pointed out hard to see animals.  He was very good at spotting the smallest bird and knowledgeable about the habitat.  And Eddie...what can we say...our meals were the BEST, even the western breakfast was fantastic!

MEET THE GUESTS and us makes three couples


                       Chris and KT  s/v Billabong                        MJ and John   s/v Island Sonata


The Spirit of the Forest arrived at 8AM sharp to drop off  'boat sitters' while we were gone. They would sleep in the cockpits and all we had to supply was a snack, as food was ferried out to them.

 Aris,  s/v Ariel's boat boy

Good idea to leave them an umbrella as they have no access to inside and it pours

'Boat sitter' Torres heading for s/v Billabong  &   Ali greeted by s/v Island Sonata


The Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalamantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, is a large tropical lowland rainforest and important conservation area not only ecologically but because it also preserves the habitat of the
planet's largest population of wild orangutans


The park is 400,000 hectars with 3,000 orangutans.  There are a total of about 50,000 orangutans left in all of Borneo and Sumatra where a century ago there were over 300,000.

                                                          Orangutan Camps along the Sekonyer River
Camp Leakey was established in 1971 by Dr. Birute Galdikas and Rod Brindamour.  Galdikas was encouraged in her dream of studying wild orangutans in the forests of Souteast Asia by the late paleoanthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey who also mentored Jane Goodall and the late Dian Fossey in their respective studies of chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. 
Camp Leakey is the site of the longest continuous study by one principal investigator of any wild non-human animal in the history of science.  Dr. Gladikas and her associates have logged over 100,000 hours of observation on focal wild orangutans in the 50km study area associated with the camp. 

Orangutans and the other great apes including humans are the most intelligent beings to have evolved on land.   As sentient beings, orangutans deserve respect and life.  For information:

 The Orangutan Foundation
The mission of the Foundation is to save the orangutan and the rainforest in which it lives.  Orangutans are in grave danger of extinction.  The wild population has halved in the last 10 years, and their habitat declined by 80% in the last 20 years.  The situation is critical

PREVIOUS                             NEXT