Orangutans in Kalimantan, Borneo
Orangutans in Kalimantan, BorneoReport Abuse
We stopped in Bawean island, halfway between Bali and Kalimantan. It had a very protected anchorage and we could do with a good night sleep. Calm it was, but we were still in Ramadan time and the mosques were going at full tilt… We went on shore to stretch our legs and saw all the men (and boys) being dressed in the best clothes: it was Friday, the Sunday for the Muslims, and it was time again to go to the mosque (they go six times a day!). The village looked quite affluent, everybody lived in a concrete house with shiny tiles and almost everybody had a big satellite dish in the yard. We asked a man where they get their income from, but he was very polite and said yes to everything we asked him….Heijo, my brother, who travels along with us in his chair behind the computer in Veendam, Holland, always sends us some info on the places we go to. He wrote that the island has lots of fruit, indeed we saw heaps, especially mango, but that they don’t export it. Also, it has a deer that is indigenous to the island, but we did not see any. He could not find anything on their money situation…
Anyway, it was time to move on, the noise of the mosques was unbearable. Duncan caught another fish on the way to Kumai, his sixth, which is a record in Indonesia, because we seem to be the only boat that caught some. Life was good!
We approached the river in Kumai under sail but decided to turn on the engine because there was less and less wind and we had to wind our way 12 miles up the river. The engine made a strange noise when we put it in gear, but we did not give it another thought. After 5 minutes I smelled something strange. Duncan took a peak in the engine room: it was full of smoke! We turned the engine off and anchored (fortunately, it’s a shallow river, we were in 4 meters). Duncan checked the engine room for fire, oil leaks, water leaks etc. But all seemed ok. Duncan thought we had something wrapped around our prop and he would have to go into the water. I knew that it was a croc river so I panicked immediately. Also, the river looked like coffee with too much milk, just the thing for a dive. Duncan went in and was back on board within one minute; he had so much adrenaline that he pulled himself up on the lifelines! Nothing was around the prop but it didn’t turn, while we were in neutral. He went back into the engine room to look for the fault. He came back up smiling: we had forgotten to take the shaft brake off… Oh my, I actually had forgotten to take off the brake, stupid, stupid, stupid (it's very easy to do: just turn a handle in the cockpit!). I was very upset by now, what if something would have happened to Duncan, I kept thinking...
Anyway, we were happy that we could motor up the river. Can you imagine, you’re in the middle of nowhere, a small place called Kumai (actually, you’re just about to go up the river to get to Kumai) and the gearbox is broken or something similar?
Once at anchor in front of the town, a guy approached us and asked if we wanted to take a trip into the jungle to see the orangutans. Of course, that’s why we came to Kalimantan!
We were picked up by a klotok, a local wooden boat. While we climbed on board the klotok, a guy climbed on board Moose. He would stay on our boat while we were away for 2 days. He lives in the cockpit, because the boat is locked, and makes sure nothing happens to your boat. In the evening, after sunset, somebody brings him food and water. The trip up the rivers is fantastic. We saw long-nose monkeys (Proboscis monkeys). They are also called “Dutch monkeys” and the Dutch in the early spice trade time were called “long-noses”. There you go, it’s very simple, all Dutch people have long noses ☺
We saw different birds, amongst others the horn bill. We saw the vegetation changing when we got further into the jungle, it became thicker and there were less palm trees, more foliage trees. Sumatra and Borneo (Kalimantan is part of Borneo, as is Malaysia and Brunei) are the only places in the world where the orangutans live. They live in the wild here, but feeding stations have been set up at different places so we can see them (I think they actually like it, so they can look at us too!). They don’t need the food as there is enough in the jungle for them, but they don’t mind it either. We went to three different feeding sessions and it was one of the best experiences in my life. They are magnificent, beautiful animals that resemble us so much. Their faces express so many different characters, all very recognizable. We saw a mother with her small child. They never left each other out of sight, they always touched each other and the mother was so proud of her kid. At one point she walked up to where a few people were sitting and sat next to one of them and threw her arm around his shoulder. Just like we would have done with a friend. We saw Kus, the biggest we have seen who knew he was the strongest of all of us (the males are 8 times as strong as we are, the females 4 times). He walked a 100 meters and sat down again, as if he was really tired. He then fell onto his back and rolled around for a while, all the while making sure we were looking at him. We saw a young male who thought there were too many people and he was clearly annoyed. He broke off branches of the tree he was in and made farting and burping noises (through his mouth). His face was expressing complete dissatisfaction. A few trees away, a male was having a great time with all the people. He loved all the attention he got, he knew he was gorgeous and he posed so we could take pictures. All of them have very different hairstyles, characters and expressions and we could have watched them for hours. Gibbon monkeys hang around as well to get their share of the food. They are bright looking monkeys and they walk upright, just like people. Orangutans love milk, but they also like bananas and pineapple. The organization does a very good job: they take care of orphans, make sure they are all healthy and try to keep them “wild”, meaning they prefer that we stay at a distance so that the orangutans don’t get too used to us.
The biggest threat to the orangutans and their beautiful world, the jungle, is the palm oil industry. Hundreds of hectares of jungle are being cut as we speak and lots of wildlife is getting killed. You can find palm oil in margarine, soap, shampoo etc. Have a look at your products at home, check out with environmental sources on the web to see which of these huge palm oil companies have the better records and buy anything that contains palm oil selectively (if that's possible.) The palm oil industry is the orangutan's greatest danger, it's still early days but most of these companies are foreign owned, so public voice can have an effect. The animals are too beautiful to lose.
Unfortunately we had to make our way back, back to the Moose. All was well; the guy had taken good care of her! But we were not so happy being back: it was the last week of Ramadan and they were singing the whole night, we could not sleep anymore. We decided it was time to leave Indonesia. During the two nights it took us to get to Seroetu island, we had many bad thunderstorms and when we were 5 miles off the island we could not even see it because of a thunderstorm, so we decided to move on and do another 2 nights to the Linga group. We passed the equator and were back in the Northern hemisphere, after having been in the southern hemisphere for almost 4 years. We instantly got invited on board Moon River, a Kiwi boat. Hilary and Chris had invited us for their “equator” party together with the people from Orca Joss who brought 2 bottles of champagne. It could not have been a nicer welcome for us!
We have enjoyed sailing (motoring) through Indonesia thoroughly thanks to the variety of landscapes we have seen but most of all because of the people. Terimakasi Indonesia!
Posted by Irene (the Dutch one)