After Raja Ampat, we embarked on a trip with Adventure Indonesia to see orangutans and Komodo dragons. We flew to Pangkalan Bun, a small airport near Kumai, where we had chartered a river boat which went up a river and stopped at three orangutan sanctuaries, including Camp Leakey.
The boat was actually AWESOME. Very comfortable, with the upper level for us, and three staff on the lower level. The river cruising was relaxing and we were able to see proboscis monkeys, langurs, birds, and even a wild (more likely released from one of the centers) orangutan now and then along the banks. (Photos in future posts). This is a view of similar boats, from the back, tying up to one of the docs near one of the "research"/rehabilitation camps.
The boat, along with others, dock at the camp docks around feeding times, when rangers put out some food on platforms. Each of the three centers you can stop at along the river has a set feeding time and of course, near that time, there are plenty of tourist boats gathered. Released and rehabilitated orangutans can come and get supplemental food at these feeding times if they wish. One of the interesting things is that as you walk towards the feeding platforms, it is not unusual to have an orangutan or two come up behind you. If you wait patiently, they often pass you, coming very close indeed.
The three centers we visited this trip were in Central Kalimantan, in Indonesian Borneo, in Tanjung Puting National Park. I had targeted Camp Leakey to visit as I had read about the work of Birute Galdikas, who studied under Louis Leakey as did Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey. Each woman of course went on to do great work with the apes they grew to love, with Diane Fossey of course meeting a tragic end. Birute we perhaps hear the least about, but she has started OFI, Orangutan Foundation International, and was featured in an Animal Planet show called Orangutan Island, which documented how orphaned orangs are educated and released, hopefully learning to fend for themselves.
Seeing orangutans in these rehab centres has a lot of pros and cons, and is a complex issue, and that is part of why I haven't had the energy - emotionally or otherwise - to tackle it in blog posts yet, even though we have been back a few months now. There will be many more posts to come on this.
For now, here are a few photos of orangutans I had a few moments alone with - no other tourists, as they were on the path behind us. The orangutans kept a safe distance from us, and us from them, but would come fairly close and clearly were on their way to or from the feeding platform.
Although it is wonderful that they are not in cages or captive, it is also disturbing that such large males are still coming in for supplemental food. And, of course, the way tourists behave around these animals was mostly depressing. I found seeing the rehab centers in Indonesian Borneo a bit worse than in Malyasian Borneo, which will be the subject of future posts.