Our arrival into Pondok Ambung was accompanied by rain so our scheduled evening walk through the rain forest there was cancelled. Instead we enjoyed an early night where we lay reading under the mosquito nets and rose early this morning. The walk took us out to a tower built in 2010 specifically for research into forest vegetation, soil patterns, atmosphere, butterflies, birdlife, crocodiles & frogs. We climbed up the slippery ladder like steps to the top and looked out at the view over the tops of the regrowth towards the virgin forest. From the tower the only birdlife we saw were many swallows all flying into the rising sun.
The view out of the top of the tower:
Dedy then took us on a short walk through the rain forest which was reminiscent of the rainforest in the Top End (NT). Several very tall trees with wide canopies and many thin trees underneath whose sole aim is to reach the sunlight. Many trees were tagged showing the name of the tree, the height and the width of each tagged tree.
The only wildlife we saw on our walk was a lone squirrel scampering through the tree tops. It was lovely and cool in the forest and even though it was barely 7am when we emerged from the forest we could already feel the humidity starting to spike.
Back at the entrance to the camp was a board displaying information about some of the activiies that have run here. One was a study about the impact of tourism on orangutan behaviour and another was describing a recent visit by students from reading University (England).
It was lovely and cool motoring down the river and as it was quite early we sat right at the front of the kelototk on the wooden seats there and enjoyed the flora and fauna that we passed. Animals that we saw included a pair of hornbills flying up ahead, a gorgeous orang and iridescent blue kingfisher sitting on a dead tree branch, several troops of probiscus monkeys hiding in foliage, a pair of parrots flying so high that they were only identified by their body shape, a macaque, and several birds we couldn’t identify. Knowing that this was our last day was sad, so we sat there savouring every aspect of the morning.
We reached Pondok Tanggui with plenty of time before the 9am feeding, so we had plenty of time to get our shoes on and then clamber across the kelotoks to the jetty. Today the clouds in the sky didn’t look ominous, so I carried just my camera and my water bottle. The board walk led us to a small camp where the rangers were still filling up a rattan pack pack basket with sweet potato. To get a photo of the basket, I went inside and there met a very interesting Indonesan man who has worked at Tanjung Puting for the ‘Professor’ (as everyone there calls Dr Birute Mary Galdikas) for 23 years. He is totally blind and has been since birth yet is the best person to go walking in the park with because he has the most amazing hearing. He told us a story about when he first arrived at Tanjung Harapan. He followed the researchers to the feeding station which was a 5km walk. He headed back to camp first and except for one wrong turn which he quickly realised was not quite right, he made it back safely. Don’t know that I would be able to do that even with sight! His sister, also totally blind, was Julia Roberts’ guide when she visited here in 2003.
We then followed the rangers who were carrying the woven back pack basket of sweet potatoes and also a large bottle of milk. It was great walking with the rangers and chatting with them about their experiences in the park. They all have the greatest respect for the ‘professor’ and are so proud to be able to work for her. She has a house in Pasir Panjang, a small town just outside Pangkalan Bun and consequently her entire workforce are all from there for which they are all incredibly grateful!
At the feeding station the sweet potato basket was upended onto the feeding platform and it wasn’t long till a few orangutans, a mother and her baby and another juvenile arrived. The milk was so popular that they all made a beeline for it although the mother seemed to have more seniority and shared it with her baby while the juvenile looked on longingly!
The rangers took pity on the other juveniles that arrived later and made sure they also had some to drink.
There were 29 people there to watch this feeding and also about 12 guides on top of the 3 rangers, so all up it was a huge group! Sounds like there is no quiet time any longer at Tanjung Puting and the demand for kelotoks is now year round. After getting a few photos, Trees and I were happy to sit down and relax watching them eat. One of the mothers had retreated up a nearby tree with her young infant and I just loved watching them. Unfortunately they were too far away to record because the young’un was so entertaining. Through the binoculars we could see him playing on the liana vines and he was so athletic even though so young. He would climb up high and then cartwheel back down the vine using hands and feet to grasp the vine. While her youngster was cavorting up and down the large vines, she lay back in the fork of a tree watching him while enjoying her sweet potato.
Dedy then called us to follow him further up the path slightly where he showed us a patch of pitcher plants growing on the ground. Two varieties were growing close together. The ones on the ground were like pots of water!
The ones growing on a vine were much longer.
As the temperature there was significantly cooler than out in the clearing, we pottered around looking closely at the trees around us hoping to find something else interesting to photograph. A pair of butterflies that we had been trying to photograph wafted through but unfortunately they flew to a tree up which was a juvenile orangutan. The butterflies were enormous and white with black spots and instead of flying, seemed to luft through the air. They were so beautiful but none of my photos turned out!
We headed back early to the kelotok before the rush and enjoyed a leisurely walk back giving us time to photograph as we walked.
While eating lunch, we cruised down river stopping briefly at the Rimba eco lodge before stopping at Desa Sungai Sekonyer, our last stop. It was the middle of the day and stinking hot. As soon as the kelotok stopped, the humidity blanketed us, so we happily disembarked and made use of the beautiful reading room available for guests who stay at the Flora Home stay there.
The room is made entirely from natural materials and is open on all sides so we enjoyed all the breeze. The roof and lower walls were made from nipa palm leaves. Nipa palms grow by the edge of the Sekonyer River and are tied together with rattan to make a very effective thatch for walls and rooves.
Back on the kelotok, we began our final leg – back to Kumai. On the way we saw several more troops of probiscus monkeys who as usual were incredibly camera shy. The second troop we stopped to photograph where sitting very high in a tree and were perfectly safe,
however in their panic to escape jumped over 20 metres to the dead tree behind them. Can you see it in the photo above? Unfortunately one of them chose a part of the tree which immediately gave way and he fell another 10 metres at least before finally being able to reach a branch which could sustain his weight and the velocity at which he was falling! The lengths they went to avoid being photographed!
Just passed this we came across a crocodile.
Can you see his head? Our captain let the engine idle and we just floated with the current. The crocodile when it first saw us, immediately sank beneath the water and then surfaced again luckily closer to us. As soon as it saw us again, it duck dived and in doing so we saw its whole body as it came out of the water and snaked down into the water. The yellow black pattern on its back and tail was gorgeous. Several times more it surfaced and then sank before finally going in under the pandanus plants growing along the banks of the river.
We reached the mouth of the Sekonyer River an hour later from where we could see Kumai and all the ships in the harbour. It was late afternoon and the silhouette of the buildings against the setting sun were absolutely beautiful.
A lovely way to finish our amazing 3 days in Tanjung Puting. We berthed at the jetty and were immediately greeted by the song of swallows. Along the banks of Kumai facing the river are many tall buildings with no windows, only hundreds of tiny holes large enough for swallows to enter. Blaring out of the PA systems afixed to the roof is the sound of a million swallows to encourage swallows to nest there. Apparently swallow nests are a delicacy in China!
For those interested in doing this trip, contact:
Our trip was 3 days but if you have time, 5 days would be even better!