Karin of IHF Jakarta and the Wonderful World of Orangutans!

By Karin, Co-director IHF Jakarta

Working for IHF gives me the amazing opportunity to provide education for children in need and support for their families. This alone is reason enough to dedicate myself to IHF for a year as a co-director. Being able to travel Indonesia during a long weekend every month is the icing on top! For my long weekend in September, I was very excited to go see orangutans in Kalimantan, Borneo. We visited Tanjang Puting national park which holds the largest wild orangutan population in the world. From Jakarta, it is a 70 minute flight to Pangkalan Bun.

Once we landed, everyone was picked up by hired guides. It is almost impossible to set up a trip to the national park by yourself because of the remote location. As such, it is imperative to consult a tour operator. After meeting the tour guide, we were taken to the boat that was our home for the next two nights. I was very excited about this. I love boats and ours was very nice. The trip started with a boat ride a few hours down the river to the first station. This was a great time to look out over the river and the surrounding jungle. Very soon the first monkeys could be spotted , hanging out in the trees. We saw proboscis monkeys, who will definitely catch your attention with their weird long noses, among others. Crocodiles could also be seen in the water, but it was very difficult to tell the difference between a crocodile and a log floating on the water. At the first station we spent the night, having dinner on the boat. Afterwards, the crew members made room on deck and put out mattresses, pillows and mosquito nets. We were lulled to sleep by the sounds of the jungle.

The second day we finally got to see the main attraction: orangutans! We were taken in to the park and after a short walk, we reached a feeding platform in the jungle. This is the place where the orangutans are fed every day. However, it is up to them whether or not they wish to come and say hello. Unfortunately, they were not in the mood for easy bananas when we visited. Luckily, our second stop later that day provided us with our money’s worth in orangutans sightings!  First, we were surprised by Tom, the dominant male in the park ( fun fact: Tom is father to almost 70% of all the babies) who snuck up on us from behind and waited patiently for us to get out of his way. He brought one of his ladies with him and they quietly started their lunch. Later, another female showed up, with her two babies. One 3 year-old, jumping around trees like it was nothing and the other, only 1 year old, still holding on tightly.

The family spent an hour alternating between their late lunch of bananas and powered milk, and climbing up and down the trees. At 4 o’clock, everyone was asked to leave the park because the orangutans need some peace and quiet. We went back to the boat, making our way back to the harbour as we enjoyed our dinner and the last night on the water. We were pleasantly surprised when we spotted another orangutan hanging out in the trees and posing for us. After dinner, there was an option to go on a night walk to spot nocturnal animals and tarantulas as big as your fist.

On the second morning, after nasi goreng (fried rice) for breakfast, the boat took us back to the harbour. We then headed back to the airport. In total, the trip is two days and two nights. Accommodation, food and entrance to the park were all included. I had a great time on our boat, watching the monkeys and apes, relaxing and enjoying the lovely food prepared by the crew.

I definitely recommend this trip to anyone who is interested in seeing orangutans. It is obvious that in Tanjang Puting national park the well-being of all animals is a priority. Since you get to see so much of the nature and the animals in relatively short time, it makes a great destination for a long weekend trip.

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