Cruising to Discover Central Kalimantan’s Orangutan
Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Borneo is a remarkable place, home of the unique, iconic Bornean orangutan and a protected, extensive tropical coastal heath and peat-swamp forest.
Accessed by boat from the busy port of Kumai along the mangrove-lined Sekonyer River, it is only about 30 minutes into the cruise before visitors begin to see troops of foraging proboscis monkeys and macaques, numerous bird species, and the occasional saltwater crocodile.
The aim of the tour is to visit Camp Leakey and the orangutan feeding platforms in the forest nearby. Set up by Orangutan Foundation International, Camp Leakey was established in 1971 to study orang-utans by Dr Biruté Galdikas and former spouse Rod Brindamour. It was named after the legendary paleo-anthropologist, Louis Leakey, who was both mentor and an inspiration to Dr Galdikas, as well as doctors Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey.
Originally consisting of just two huts, Camp Leakey is now a series of permanent wooden structures designed to provide a base for scientists, staff, students, and Park Rangers. In addition to the orang-utans, Tanjung Puting is also home to clouded leopards, civets, sun bears, mouse deer, barking deer, sambar deer, wild boar, the wild cattle known as banteng, as well as many birds and butterflies. The primary forest is easily accessible from the jetties along sandy pathways, and walks in the forest yield many wildlife sightings, including glimpses of wild orangutans.
The company running the special cruise boats that venture into Tanjung Puting was established in Central Kalimantan and has more than 10 years’ experience operating eco-cruises along Kalimantan’s rivers. The boats that take the visitors to Camp Leakey – the Sekonyer and the new Arut – offer guests a uniquely comfortable experience, wide unimpeded viewing decks, comfortable cabins with air conditioning and en suite bathrooms. Highly praised food is served on deck, and knowledgeable local guides also accompany guests. There are also plans to install solar panels on the Arut to reduce is ecological footprint – an innovation for boats in the region.
Access to the National Park is only by boat, and three days is the minimum recommended time needed to explore the forest pathways, observe the orangutans at three separate platforms, enjoy the evening chorus of proboscis monkeys and catch the pulsating fire flies along the riverbanks.
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