Camp Leakey, Tanjung Puting, Kalimantan Tengah

Following our delicious lunch of pergedel jagung (corn fritters), nasi, sambal, oseng oseng nangka (stir fried jackfruit) and fresh pineapple,

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I packed my back pack with Monti (the class stuffed toy orangutan), my rain cover for my backpack, a water bottle, a rain jacket, my camera and my iPad. It had rained off and on all morning and the humidity level felt around 97%, so the chances were very high for more rain.
There were about 11 kelotoks moored at the Camp Leakey Jetty which considering that it is now the quiet season, was disappointing as I had been looking forward to maybe sharing Camp Leakey with only a few others, not the 25 – 30 I counted and that wasn’t counting the 11 guides! The last group to arrive came by speed boat and they were a group of 4 Indonesian men. After they had disembarked, we borrowed their speed boat to get across the river and as the kelotoks were so close together, we didn’t need to use the engine, we just paddled across and then clambered through one of the kelotoks to reach the jetty. A juvenile orangutan was near the jetty and we got some good close up photos of him clinging to a tree.

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We then walked along the boardwalk towards the headquarters. For the first time there was water under the board walk all the way to the first junction. Again the water was a clear reddy colour and no doubt contributed to the high humidity blanketing us. We admired the pitcher plants

20130915-075706.jpghanging along the board walk although it was interesting that there were significantly less of them than were here this time last year and I wonder if that is due to the high river level beneath them.
After Dedy completed the paperwork giving us permission to enter the park, we took some time looking around the headquarters where there are 3 rooms of displays, one of which was a very neglected reading room. The display I love the most is always the family trees of all the park orangutans. The photos hang on the wall of the middle room and have faded significantly with the humid climate here.

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There was also a new map of Tanjung Puting that I don’t remember from my last visit.

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The information in the first room includes a dedication and some background history about Dr Birute Galdikas & Dr Rod Brindamour, the founders of Camp Leakey

20130915-085447.jpgas well as some outdated statistics about deforestation in Kalimantan. Even though the data was out of date, it was still horrifying and especially so considering forest continues to be cleared. In 2000, 75% of Kalimantan’s forest had been cleared; what is it now in 2013?
After we had finished looking through the displays in the head quarters, Edi explained what the various buildings at Camp Leakey were for. Inside one were several people who were all in the process of writing up their notes from recent orangutan observations. Outside this building were some macaque monkeys playing in the trees.

20130915-080642.jpgThe babies were playing chasey and it was so cute. They would chase each other up the tree and then fall out of the tree and then race to the base and start all over again! Siswi appeared and Dedy warned us to be careful. This orangutan is the same one that chased Annie & Kyle into the forest last year so I knew that Dedy wasn’t exaggerating. From behind Dedy, we watched Siswi collapse under a bush and pretend to be harmless!

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Another building was Dr Birute Galdikas’ living quarters when she is in town (she is currently in Canada seeking financial support) and behind it was the living quarters for the volunteers. Both buildings looked very old and basic.
We then headed off in the direction of the feeding station. The orangutans are fed twice daily. The morning feed is not for tourists and is specifically for the recently released orangutans who may still be adjusting to living in the rain forest whereas the afternoon feeding is for orangutans who have been living independently for many years. The track to the feeding station was either through rainforest or through old forest clearings now dominated by an interesting fern.

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Dedy told us that the Dayaks (original Kalimantan people) weave with the spines of this fern and he showed us the bracelets on his wrist made this way which were beautiful.
About half way down the track, we came across a mother, her baby and her toddler sitting in the middle of the path waiting for the rangers with the fruit.

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She has a history of biting unsuspecting tourists so we didn’t try to overtake her, just utilised the opportunity to get some close ups of a mother with her brood and as she moved on, we followed her. Her toddler was funny as he would go ahead and then strike this impatient looking pose with one arm on a tree and the other arm on his hip. Then when she caught up he would move further down the track and strike his pose once more.
This continued until just before we reached the feeding station where we came across a large group of people admiring Tom, the current alpha male orangutan who was casually perched in the fork of a tree.

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He was truly magnificent with his orange shaggy coat, his huge cheek pads and his sheer size. Apparently he was trying to impress a nearby female orangutan so occasionally he would open his mouth very wide and bare his teeth. After a while, Dedy invited us pass him and we had no sooner passed him by when he decided to demonstrate his strength by casually snapping a huge branch off a nearby tree and then he roared and roared! It was deafening and I wonder if the female orangutan was as impressed with his show of strength and voice as we were!
Shortly afterwards the rangers appeared with the bags of fruit which they emptied onto the platform. Orangutans appeared from all directions to eat the fruit as did a cheeky and athletic gibbon. Tom crashed through the trees and headed up to the platform where he sat with his back to us all and feasted on the food.

Another mother and her baby also joined him on the raised platform.

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The orangutan politics then became interesting as while several other mothers and their babies also arrived to join in, they would stop at the rope barrier and very cautiously step through, hesitantly making their way to the platform.

20130915-083147.jpgWhen they reached it, they would quickly and surreptitiously grab a handful of fruit

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Just before we left to beat the eminent rain, Tom climbed down from the platform and then raced up a nearby tree. One of the other guides told me he was chasing off a young male who was getting too close and Dedy told us he was chasing the young female he’d had his sights on earlier. Both were equally adamant and certain about the gender of the orangutan being chased and both scenarios were plausible. Whatever the cause of his rant, it was very impressive. At the top of the tree, he decided to climb into the next tree which didn’t look anywhere near strong enough to take his weight but surprisingly it did. He then made moves to climb over to the next tree which being dead, we were all quickly advised to move right away and with the threat of rain, it seemed a good time to head back to our kelotok.
The rain began soon after we began our return and it was absolutely lovely walking in the cool rain after the heat and humidity. I was the only one though to enjoy the rain as poor Dedi has a cold and Trees found it difficult to see through her constantly fogged up glasses! Thankfully it was reasonably light and with the canopy of the rainforest, our clothes were just damp by the time we reached the jetty. It was just 3:30pm, which was hard to believe considering the sky was so dark.
Once again Camp Leakey was an amazing and unforgettable experience.

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4 thoughts on “Camp Leakey, Tanjung Puting, Kalimantan Tengah

    • They truly were. Watching them in the wild was beautiful and we were so lucky this time having the opportunity to get up close and get some really great shots. I have done this trip 3 times now and i could happily do it again tomorrow. If you are interested in joining me some time in the future, just say the word!

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