It is stinking hot and humid in Tanjung Harapan after a beautiful cool trip here on the kelotok. As soon as we moored, the heat hit us. It is almost 11:30am and we are here for the 3pm feeding, so while the weather is totally oppressive, it is incredibly relaxing sitting at the edge of the jungle listening to the sounds of birds, cicadas and other insects while a bunch of butterflies flutter around me. There is a gentle breeze which makes a huge difference however it isn’t constant so when it dies, the blanket of humidity descends once more.
Our journey to Tanjung Harapan began at Kumai this morning where after a slight delay while waiting for the necessary paperwork to be completed (mandatory for tourists wishing to enter the national park), we headed off about 9am. The boat left Kumai harbor where there were a variety of boats and ships of all sizes and headed for the Sekonyer River. At first the Sekonyer River was lined with nipa palm trees, perfect for roofing. The leaves are collected by small canoes and then carried back to Kumai where they are trimmed and sewn them together with rattan to make a natural and cheaper alternative for roofing. In Kumai, there are piles of them by the side of the road for sale all ready to be laid across the roofing supports. While cheap by comparison to tiles or iron sheeting, they are very effective however do need to be repaired or even replaced frequently.
Just before reaching Tanjung Harapan, the palm trees were replaced with pandanus which still lines the river here.
Here is a photo of the klotok berthed at the jetty!
After arriving, we were shown the headquarters which is a sadly run down affair complete with faded photos and enormous holes in the ceiling! However there was a bit of written information about the history of Tanjung Puting which was very interesting.
I hadn’t realised that the Dutch had first established this as a National Park in 1929. Probably one of their last lasting contributions to this area! There was a great map of the whole park showing the locations of Tanjung Harapan & Camp Leakey.
Tanjung Puting is officially run now by the Federal government although in reality if it wasn’t for the efforts of Birute Galderkas, I doubt that it would be worth visiting. It seems as though she has single handedly and single mindedly (the government would no doubt claim) to have protected a small pocket of the jungle here and thus has delayed the extermination of orangutans here in Kalimantan. Here is some information about her:
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas
Scientist, conservationist, educator: for almost four decades Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas has studied and worked closely with the orangutans of Indonesian Borneo in their natural habitat, and is today the world’s foremost authority on the orangutan. Dr. Galdikas has her own blog at Drbirute.com
– Source: http://www.orangutan.org
Follow this link to discover more about her and also about Camp Leakey:
Our guide, Dedy informed us that she is married to his uncle and has not only been instrumental in creating Camp Leakey, but also in financing several projects run by people from her husband’s village. An amazing woman!
After looking at the headquarters here, we were shown through the orchid garden and medicinal garden. To get to it, we had to cross over a stream,
which although clear is coloured with the tannins from the trees. It contrasts remarkably with the Sekonyer River water which is contaminated from the gold mine upstream. We have been warned about using the water in the Sekonyer River for anything other than flushing the toilet as it contains mercury. I was told on my previous trip that if the water is the colour of milky coffee, it is poisonous, however if it is the colour of black tea, it is safe!
Once over the stream, a few trees have locally sourced orchids attached to them and a few were in flower:
Just beyond these trees is a garden planted with plants used for traditional herbal medicine. Several of the plants have died probably due to the lack of government funding but the ones that have survived were very interesting.
The plants were planted in rows and each was labeled with the name of the plant and the ailment it could be used for. Ailments included swelling, toothache, diarrhea and high temperatures as well as plants for beautiful smooth hair. The mozzies here were ferocious but I didn’t see any plant that could be used as a repellent! However our guide, Dedy, assured us that the mozzies here are not malaria carriers but he wasn’t sure about Dengue!
Once the tours of the area were done with, we have been free to relax while waiting for 3pm. While my first impression of Tanjung Harapan was that this is a hot and sticky place with not much going for it, once I had the chance to stop and sit quietly, I realised that this is actually a lovely place rich with plant and animal life. Also this is the first time for me on this visit to Kalimantan Tengah that I have had the opportunity to sit quietly and concentrate on my blogging. Sitting in a small wooden pavilion on the edge of the jungle with no interruptions is the true definition of tranquility!
After a delicious lunch of scrumptious Indonesian food, it poured and poured with rain and everything immediately cooled down. It was still raining at 3pm, so the feeding was delayed for about an hour. By the time we headed off into the jungle, we were one of about 8 or 9 kelotoks berthed at the jetty and Trees and I are very unbiased in saying ours was the best!!
The track to the feeing station was very wet from the rain. It was a mass of roots covered in moss which meant we had to watch carefully where we put our feet as it would have been so easy to trip over. The rainforest on either side of the track was so interesting, full of ferns, vines and trees, all so different. The liana vines were especially amazing as there were ones so large I wouldn’t be able to reach both hands around them. One of them had a bulge which made it look like a python that had swallowed a small animal! It was so wet, Trees got a leech on her foot which Dedy removed using a lighter he carries specifically for that purpose.
At the feeding station, there were about 30 people and that wasn’t counting the guides! It was very crowded but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was thrilled to finally see a huge male orangutan with impressive cheek pads on each side of his face. He totally dominated the feeding station in every sense of the word. The very young orangutans refused to go any where near him however an older juvenile orangutan warily descended down the vines to the station where he quickly stuffed as many bananas into his mouth as possible before hauling himself up the vines again to the tree tops where one by one he ate the bananas, dropping the peels to the ground where they hit the ground with a thud.
Here is the male holding some sweet potato. He would peel it with his teeth and then eat it like a raw carrot. When he had finished eating, he hauled himself up into one of the trees above us and almost immediately a young orangutan descended to the platform with his mother and her young baby to eat what was left.
On the walk back to the kelotok, we learned that there is another larger male orangutan here! Can you imagine it!
By the time we were back at the kelotok, we were well and truly looking ready for our mandi (wash/shower) but were disappointed to hear that the water here is not safe to use because of the high mercury levels in the water therefore we wouldn’t be able to have a mandi until tomorrow morning when we reach the Camp Leakey River. I asked Edy if there was a public mandi at Tanjung Harapan that we could use and we were shown one which looked very clean and the water was a beautiful reddish colour! As we headed back to the kelotok to organise toiletries, a lovely lady insisted we use her bathroom instead. We were delighted to take her up on her offer as it not only gave us a chance to chat with her but also to see inside one of the houses here provided to employees by the government. Her timber house was very small yet compact and about 1/2 meter of the ground. Just inside the front door was a living area and off the living area was the bedroom. At the back of the living area was a kitchen area and tucked off the kitchen in an alcove behind the bedroom wall was the kamar mandi (bathroom). The kamar mandi was very clean and included a squat toilet raised up on a concrete platform and a ‘bak’ (a deep tub of water). Poking through a hole in the wall was a tap strategically placed above the bak. Across the width of the room above head height was wedged a stout stick perfect for hanging clothes. The floor was also made from timber slats and the water fell through the slats during a mandi down to the ground beneath the house. We gave her one of our Australian key rings in appreciation and she was so thrilled! This was a lovely way to finish our time at Tanjung Harapan.