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7th Oct 2009 - 13th Oct 2009
Beautiful Borneo!


Distance from Bali: 417.10nm (including stopover at Palau Bawean)
GPS: S02.44.31 E111.43.99**
Duration of stay: 7-13 October 2009

1 October 2009
After 74nm of motor-sailing, Palau Raas was a sight for sore eyes! We dropped anchor 11 hours after leaving Bali and couldn’t wait to have a good night’s rest as we were both exhausted after not having slept well the previous night. Ken had also managed to catch the flu virus that everyone else had, so he was feeling and sounding pretty grim too!

2-5 October 2009
Palau Bawean was our next stopover which was located in the middle of the Java Sea, 146nm to the NW. We enjoyed near perfect sailing conditions under a full moon, and didn’t see too many FAD’s (fishing aggregation devices) and the fishing boats we did see were all very well lit up. We also came across tugs towing - what appeared to be - huge islands, but in actual fact were massive barges laden with huge heaps of sand! A very strange sight indeed!

On arrival at Bawean we were assaulted with the calls to prayer blaring out over the Mosque’s loudspeakers, and there was definitely more than one mosque calling devotees!! Again we were a curiosity, and on Sunday morning boat loads of kids were brought past all the yachts by their fathers – some waving and shouting hello – and others, unfortunately were begging!! They certainly did not look needy or were by no means starving either – this we find very annoying and simply ignored them. The days were unbelievably hot and unfortunately the wind had also dropped off completely, which simply exacerbated the situation and turned us into total sloths!!! We stayed 2 nights and then had to leave for Borneo as we had booked our Orangutan trip for the 9th.

6-7 October 2009
Four boats left that morning and there was next to no wind out there so we all ended up motor-sailing 197 nautical miles! Again the boat traffic was not too hectic.

The skies looked very grim the following morning, a big black rain squall came towards us and helped us out with some wind, but once that was gone our speed dropped again… at least land was in sight! The 15nm trip up the river seemed to take forever – and we eventually dropped anchor around 3:40pm, just opposite Herry’s Borneo Eco Tours. Kumai wasn’t anything like we expected! The river was very wide and there were many tugs and barges about. Ashore there were strange huge warehouse type buildings that looked like apartment blocks – but didn’t have any windows, and there were zillions of small noisy birds everywhere! And of course the calls to prayer… again the mosques must’ve been in competition!

There were about 16 of us anchored in the river… and not long after we anchored, we too got to do the “river dance”! This natural phenomenon occurs only at slack tide. Anchored boats move about very haphazardly causing consternation to some who really have anchored a safe from others, but for some unexplained reason drift uncomfortably close to their neighbours during this period between change of tide. Whilst there we witnessed very strange performances! One consolation is that the holding is very good!

We also took a ride in a longboat up the river at Pangkalan Bun to go and see huge boats being built out of iron wood. The boats are about 25 meters in length, by 7 meters wide and really have beautiful lines for a chunk boat - it’s simply mind blowing to think what they can achieve with little to no modern machinery.

8 October 2009
Well we went ashore and finally got to meet Herry (pronounced Harry!) the tour operator whom I’d been in email contact with since mid August. David and Ken very kindly left the arrangements to Juliet and I. We decided that we ought to book a trip for 6 people, and by paying a deposit we’d be assured of our accommodation at the Rimba Lodge, since our tour date was very close to at least 30 other rally boats being there. Herry runs a small fleet of wooden “klotok” boats, so named for the sound of their unmuffled 1 cylinder diesel engines.

Those ugly grey windowless apartment buildings that I mentioned earlier are actually sparrow nest farms! The owners (mainly Chinese) play recordings of the mating calls which encourages nest building!!! Sparrow nests are worth a fortune and fetch $18.4 million Rp’s per kilo ($184 USD!!). They are exported to the Far East where the sticky saliva used to build the nests is used as a base for “sparrow nest soup”. Apparently it’s like a natural Viagra…

The 3 day/2 night tour cost $225 USD each was all inclusive of food, snacks, soft drinks, water and accommodation at the Lodge – it also included a boat boy who would stay on board and live in cockpit until our return. We were advised to give him something to do, like polish the stainless steel, and provide a few snacks – meals would be brought over to him during the day.

9 October 2009
At 8am the “klotok” (river boat) swung by to pick us up… the third couple in our entourage were Mike and Deirdre on Cheshire Cat, only it’s not a catamaran – it’s a tiny monohull!. Spirits were high as we set off down the river and then hit a left down a tributary called the Sekonyer River, towards Rimba Lodge and more importantly – Camp Leakey. Jenie, our guide (and Herry’s brother) providing useful bits of information and expertly answering all out questions.

The Tanjung Putting National Park covers an area of over 400 ha and is the largest protected tropical lowland rainforest area in Kalimantan. The most famous inhabitant being the Orangutan – but it’s also home to clouded leopards, civets, Malaysian sun bears, numerous species of deer, pythons, crocs, giant butterflies, porcupines – the list is just endless! Not to mention over 220 species of birds, over 200 known species of orchids and over 600 types of trees!

The trip up the river was great as we had a good vantage point from the upper deck of our klotok. We thought we were in heaven as they’d provided 4 comfy chairs, 2 loungers, as well as a 6 seater dining table, however very few klotoks come this well appointed! We passed by salt-tolerant Nipa palms with tall mangrove trees behind, these gave way to Pandanus lined banks and huge forest vegetation of sandalwood, iron wood, and various other tropical rainforest species. Every now and then one could catch a glimpse of rice paddies in the clearing behind the forest.

We saw several brilliant blue, red and yellow stork-billed kingfishers perched on low branches, as well as a few fantails, egrets and hornbills, whilst black kites and white-bellied sea eagles soared lazily overhead. Troops of Macaques as well as the bizarre looking Proboscis monkeys (with their big drooping red noses) could also be seen in the trees fringing the river. Playful troops of grey long-tailed Macaque monkeys cavorted overhead and performed death defying jumps from tree to tree.

After a couple of hours we turned right into another small tannin-tinted tributary that resembled rich black tea. Not long thereafter Jenie spotted a well hidden orangutan next to the waters edge. We were buzzing with excitement!!! Our first orangutan!!! It turned out to be Pem, a male, roughly 14 years of age. Anyway, one minute we’re giving Pem slices of watermelon and the next minute he’s a mascot on the front of our boat!! Jenie has been around the orangutans since he was a young boy and he knows them all individually. He wanted a ride back to Camp Leakey – apparently he tends to wander quite far from the camp sometimes… we dropped him off just around the corner from the jetty so that not many eyes would be privy to what we’d just experienced.

There were 5 other klotoks there already and we simply rafted up the nearest one, we wasted no time getting ashore where we were greeted by an orangutan mother and her baby, we all went into a photo taking frenzy! The baby was SO cute! Then Princess was just lying in the shade – legs in the air. What a stressful life!!

We sighted a couple of beautiful long-armed gibbons monkeys as we headed down the wooden boardwalk towards one of the main buildings in Camp Leakey namely the information centre, where we watched a very informative (and very moving!!!) documentary about Dr Birute Galdikas and her work with the orangutans. This site was established in 1971 when she started taking in rescued orangutans with the assistance of the Leakey Foundation. Dr Leakey sponsored 3 great ape studies, one for Jane Goodall (chimps); Diane Fosse (gorillas); and this one. Poachers sell babies illegally (yes, even today!!), and those that are recovered have to be rehabilitated before they can survive in the wild.

We were also lucky enough to see Tom, the Alpha male… and what a big boy he is, my goodness you don’t want to mess with him!! Think they said he was 26 years old. Uranus (third down the line of dominant males) graced us with his presence on the second day – and he too was impressive, but Tom was enormous compared to him. Males weigh around 100kgs, stand up to 1.5m tall and have an arm span of nearly 3 meters. Females are more delicate and seldom weigh more than 50kgs.

Cosassie (fourth down the line) was a fascinating subject. Unfortunately we never saw him, but the bulk of the documentary focussed on him. He was a rescued baby orphan – but severely traumatised. Soon after his arrival, he escaped from the camp and by some miracle turned up again one morning = one and a half years later!!!!! He’d managed to survive in the jungle on his own, usually babies need to stay with their mothers for the first 5-6 years of their life!! At this stage he was not even 3 years old. He then set off again, shadowing the dominant female, who just would not totally accept him and foster him, but he persisted and soon realised the benefits of being dominant. She fell pregnant (females are able to have babies up to the age of about 50!!), so he was really spurned. He then set off on a mission to become Alpha male, his progress was amazing and eventually tipped the scales at around 130kgs of pure muscle… he reigned for a good number of years too!

Another fascinating subject was Princess. As a baby she totally latched onto one of the male researchers – but latch on as in always on his shoulders, even when he went swimming!! He taught her sign language and she had a vocabulary of 25 words. They are amazingly clever and 95% human – there was a clip of a mother and her baby carefully getting into a wooden canoe (she knew it could tip over) and then using her hands as oars. And another of a human with a hammer and nail… the orangutan managed perfectly well. They can open locks and the rangers constantly have to stay one step ahead of them… These are just THE most unbelievable creature, and when you look at them – you can see their minds ticking over – there is intelligence and you can see expression in their eyes, just like ours.

They are increasingly rare and found only in Sumatra and Borneo. Unlike many primates, they are generally solitary animals, and are also unusual because every night they build a nest of sticks, branches and leaves high up in the trees. But what’s more fascinating is that when it rains, they gather branches of leaves and make an umbrella!!!! Amazing!!!!

We continued on along the wooden path towards the feeding station. There must’ve been at least 20 other orangutans – some adolescents, and several mothers and their seriously cute clinging babies. They clambered onto the wooden feeding platform for bananas and generally gambolled around. Uranus was at one of these feedings and needed to be given his share away from the others. It was just amazing to see them hanging effortlessly from the trees and then jumping 10-15 meters to another branch!

Originally the camp was established to study and re-introduce the orangutans into the wild, however being accustomed to the human contact, as adults they’ve never kicked the habits and usually return for an afternoon snack! We saw 4 such feedings, but the other 2 were at two separate research stations where the orangutans were much wilder… they did not laze around on wooden boardwalks waiting for the paparazzi!

We also visited the reforestation project where over 50 topical species are being grown from seedlings and planted in the burned fields. Huge sections of native jungle have been replaced with oil palm plantations – with huge environmental consequences. In 1997 the “great fires” just about brought the entire country to the ground! If the politicians had their way I don’t think there would be a jungle – it would all be palm oil. Apparently Malaysia is the top producer with a current output of 7.2 million tonnes. The oil is used primarily for cooking, and a more recently for engine fuel.

We also trekked through the jungle and saw rubber trees, the rare iron wood tree, bright red mushrooms, squirrels, spiders and also heard the beautiful call of the Bird of Paradise. The lunches on the klotok were out of this world, but by 6pm we were so happy that we’d paid extra to stay at the Rimba Lodge instead of on the boat. The boat had a shower and toilet and mattresses that would be laid side by side on the top deck at night, but after seriously hot and tiring days there’s nothing better than a hot shower and comfy mattress!

Well all that’s left to say is “now it’s your turn!!!”… seriously though, our 3 day/2 night trip was a totally awesome experience and certainly the highlight of our 3 months in Indonesia!

** GPS position to be used as guide only – this area is strictly eye-ball navigation!!

Next: Malaysia and Singapore
Previous: Bali: North to Lovina

Diary Photos
8th Oct 2009  Pen... dying to get into the galley!

9th Oct 2009  Pen catching a ride...

9th Oct 2009  Just loves watermelon!

9th Oct 2009  Sunset - heading back to Rimba Lodge

9th Oct 2009  Camp Leakey - day 1 - this is what greeted us as we stepped ashore

9th Oct 2009  Another big boy

9th Oct 2009  Camp Leakey

9th Oct 2009  Strike a pose!

9th Oct 2009  Not at all phased by all the papparazi

9th Oct 2009  Mother and baby...

9th Oct 2009  Mother and baby - what a cutie!!

9th Oct 2009  This is Tom.

9th Oct 2009  Tom - wonder what he thinks when he looks at us.

9th Oct 2009  Tom

9th Oct 2009  Strike a pose!

9th Oct 2009  Tiny little baby.... but seriously cute!

9th Oct 2009  Strike another pose!

9th Oct 2009  Day 1 - they make "umbrellas" from leaves when it rains!!!!

9th Oct 2009  Day 1 - king of the jungle... well he can think so can't he?!

9th Oct 2009  Proboscis monkey

9th Oct 2009  Another proboscis monkey....

9th Oct 2009  Making our way along the river

9th Oct 2009  Kumai - all the windowless buildings housing swallows!!

9th Oct 2009  Day 1 - our first sighting!!!! This is Pen who eventually hitched a ride!

9th Oct 2009  Day 1 - Think this fellow was not well, he kept on "yawning"

9th Oct 2009  Our klotok

9th Oct 2009  Our comfortable "day home" for 3 days

9th Oct 2009  Day 1 - Camp Leakey "treat" station

10th Oct 2009  The klotok "boat boys"

10th Oct 2009  Princess having an off day.

10th Oct 2009  Pen just lazing around...

10th Oct 2009  Giant ants!

10th Oct 2009  Pitcher plant

10th Oct 2009  Quite a big tree...

10th Oct 2009  Mmm I feel an Elvis tune coming on...

10th Oct 2009  Cute gibbon monkey making an appearance

10th Oct 2009  Gibbon monkey

10th Oct 2009  Klotoks packed in at Camp Leakey

10th Oct 2009  Orangutan gravestone

10th Oct 2009  What an experience this was!

10th Oct 2009  Don't you just want to take it home!!!!

10th Oct 2009  Jenie our guide and a new mum

10th Oct 2009  Just too human!

10th Oct 2009  The "treat" platform at Camp Leakey

10th Oct 2009  ... and they love their bananas!

10th Oct 2009  This is Uranus... he's quite a big boy, but not as big as Tom

10th Oct 2009  Not a face you want to mess with!

10th Oct 2009  Just adorable!

10th Oct 2009  Some motherly love - 30 meters up in the trees!

10th Oct 2009  And now for some Orangutan acrobatics

10th Oct 2009  Love this!

10th Oct 2009  They are so entertaining and never leave the babies alone for a second

10th Oct 2009  Princess and I! She just came right by me without hesitation, just amazing. Not phased at all.

10th Oct 2009  Uranus in a contemplative mood...

10th Oct 2009  They are just amazing creatures.

10th Oct 2009  What a cutie!!

10th Oct 2009  And another little cutie!!

10th Oct 2009  Camp Leakey

10th Oct 2009  Notice the difference in the water colour

10th Oct 2009  Making our way up the river

10th Oct 2009  Lone house....

10th Oct 2009  Local family

10th Oct 2009  The very strange looking proboscis monkey

11th Oct 2009  The orangutans as this second station were a lot wilder which made for a nice change

11th Oct 2009  Rimba Lodge - dining area (to keep monkeys out!)

11th Oct 2009  Second feeding station... Orangutans are lot more cautious

11th Oct 2009  Rimba Lodge - our room

11th Oct 2009  Rimba Lodge - main entrance

11th Oct 2009  Local on their way home

11th Oct 2009  3rd station we visisted - Jeni and other guides calling semi-wild Orangutans

11th Oct 2009  Quick - got to take what you can get before the others come!!

11th Oct 2009  3rd station - rain sent them all up into the trees

11th Oct 2009  Getting around in style - nice and comfy on our klotok...

11th Oct 2009  Reforestation "station" we visited on our last day

11th Oct 2009  3rd station... treat time!

11th Oct 2009  3rd station - and boy did it come down!

11th Oct 2009  On our way back to Fast Forward... what a great experience!!!

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - on our way to the longboat "taxi stand"

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - headed up the river

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - fuel station!

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - two boats that had just been launched

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - work in progress, not exactly small boats either are they!

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - boat building

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - beautiful wood and amazing workmanship

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - on our way back - I'm perched on the front cause I got too wet on our trip up!

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - life on the river

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - life on the river

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - pretty little girls we saw in the market

12th Oct 2009  Day trip - waiting for taxi - these kids were fascinated by us!

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