My Trip To Borneo #RockOverIndonesia

Disclaimer: Maaf ya kalo bahasa yang gue pakai dalam tulisan ini campur aduk gag karuan. Hehe..itu semua karena gue pengen bahasa yang udah gue pelajari bisa kepake semua. So..dalam tulisan ini bakalan ada 3 bahasa yang gue pakai, yaitu bahasa Indonesia, bahasa Prancis dan bahasa Inggris.

La meilleur façon de découvrir et d’apprécier la diversité géographique et culturel de l’archipel indonésien, est de faire desrandonnées ou se balader à travers les beaux paysages exotiques et fascinants de cet archipel.

Last month I travelled to Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan,  and enjoyed myself so much I knew that it would not be long again before I returned. Tantung Puting and especially the area around Camp Leakey at its entrance is, hands down, the world’s best place to see Orangutans in their natural habitat. The relative remoteness of the location, the absence of tourists (especially during the rainy season) and the “Heart of Darkness” journey up the Sekonyer River on your own personal klotok (houseboat) add to the overall experience of adventure.

My guide met me at the airport from where we made the short drive to the river port of Kumai. From here it was straight onto an 8m long klotok, a traditional Indonesian river boat, on which my crew of four was waiting (boat driver, guide, cook, boat boy). The first image below shows the klotok moored up against the dock at Camp Leakey and the second as it motors down a small tributary towards the park. As you can see, the klotok that I used is fairly small and basic. A night the crew would lay down a mattress with some cheap sheets and rig a mosquito net over it. Most nights I slept under the waterproof canopy (where the rug is) but I spent one of the nights on the foredeck.

Leaving Kumai to a burning sunset, we motored down the Sekonyer River for four hours, largely in the dark, before securing the boat for the night to some half-submerged trees. The combination of the stifling humidity, a mattress that felt like it contained rocks and several extremely resourceful mosquitoes that managed to find their way through the netting, all made for a fitful night’s sleep even with the help of a sleep aid.

On subsequent nights we would moor closer to Camp Leakey but always seemingly in a swamp populated by millions of carniverous mosquitoes. Eventually I took to eating my dinner in near total darkness but even then I would wear a cap to avoid having to repeatedly remove clumps of entangled insects. You will note that I have put “protective” in inverted commas. Despite my extreme care in entering into the net each night and an exhaustive search for even the smallest of holes (none found), I would still wake up each morning covered in bites.

At 4.30am, in almost chilly temperatures, we would be on our way, mindful that dawn was only half an hour away. As it became progressively lighter, the deep tannin colour of the river water would become visible.

Rivers that contain this tea coloured water are pollution free with the colour the result of decaying vegetation below the surface. This is in contrast to the main Sekonyer River which is now a latte colour, the result of mining runoff from upriver. My crew told me that 15-20 years ago all the rivers in this area were tannin coloured – a timely reminder of the many man-made threats that this fragile ecosystem faces.

On the first morning, we made our way up to Camp Leakey on the klotok with the rainforest on either bank and with the edges lined with walls of fringing Pandanus plants. All around was a cacophony of sound – insects, birds and loudest of all, the piercing calls from various primates, some visible although usually perched high in the canopy. Borneo is home to 5,000 tree species  and the relatively small area that is Tanjung Puting National Park contains 220 bird species, 17 reptile species and 29 species of mammals. Among the most common are Proboscis Monkeys, the male species with its distinctive tubular, bulbous nose; and Long Tailed Macaques.

Oiya! Kalo bukan karena mengunjungi Kalimantan mungkin gue gag tau Bekantan thu bentuknya kayak apa. Ini lho yang jadi ikonnya Dufan. Kalau orang luar biasa menyebutnya Dutch Monkey. Believe it or not, orang Kalimantan percaya bahwa penis yang berwarna merah dari Dutch Monkey ini jika dimakan bisa meningkatkan vitalitas pria lho. Tapi itu dulu, sekarang hewan ini tidak boleh diburu untuk menjaga kelangsungan hidupnya.

Camp Leakey lebih terkenal di bandingkan dengan Tanjung Harapan dan Pondok Tanggui. Disini gue mengisi buku tamu di pusat informasi, dan disitu gue melihat cover NG yang baby manusia dengan baby orang utan berada dalam satu ember mandi yang sama (so sweet).

FYI. Sembari di perjalanan, gue mendengarkan kisah bahwa di Black River, yang gue lewati banyak terdapat buaya. Pernah ada kejadian, turis asing nekat berenang di sungai tersebut (padahal sudah dikasih tau ranger, jangan berenang, ada buaya) tp ngeyel. Akhirnya pok! Ga ketolong lg. Hmm…btw gue beberapa kali dapet kesempatan lihat buaya yang lagi santai-santai di antara pepohonan dan sungai lhoo. Hehe…norak ya.

Black river ; sesuai dengan namanya. Sungai ini berwarna hitam seperti air teh, Tapi jernih sekali. Kalau kita masukan tangan kita, nampak jelas jemari putih kita terlihat.

Selain itu di pos informasi ini, kita dapat melihat mother tree dari para orang utan yg tinggal di rehab ini. Fyi, semua anak orang utan yang lahir di beri nama sesuai dengan huruf depan sang induk. Misal Unyuk punya anak di beri nama : uranus, udik, ursula, untung, dst.

Pintu masuk pertama, gue bertemu dengan Tutut – ibu dari Tom (Raja nya sekarang : sayang bertemu dengan tom), dan Siswi.

Sedikit cerita mengenai Tutut dan Siswi. Tutut sebenarnya punya anak kembar (orang utan sama kayak manusia bisa melahir kan anak 1 or 2), tapi sayang nya salah satu nya meninggal. Waktu ketemu Tutut, dia sedang gendong anak nya sambil pegang tongkat panjang. Tongkat panjang tsb di gunakan untuk jaga2 dari keisengan celeng (babi hutan). Di ceritakan babi hutan liar yang berada di lingkungan sana suka iseng gangguin orang utan. Jadi apabila celeng deketin tutut, maka tutut siap2 tongkat buat mukul celeng. Good idea, huh?

But the most distinctive calls and the ones that invariably would wake me pre-dawn were those from the Black-Handed Gibbons. I have seen this species on two occasions – once this year and once last year – and they really are the gold medallists when it comes to athletic agility between the trees of the rain forest.

The park’s headquarters are at Camp Leakey which was established in 1971 by Dr. Birute Galdikas and her then husband, Rod Brindamour. Along with her arguably more famous counterparts, Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey, Galdikas was selected and mentored by the famous anthropologist, Dr. Louis Leakey, to make long term studies of the three great primate species – in Galdikas’ case, the Orangutan. Galdikas’ accounts of her establishment of Camp Leaky and her study and breakthrough findings on the Orangutans are contained in her incredible autobiography, “Reflections of Eden”. Having read similar memoirs from Goodall and Fossey, I found Galdikas’ to be the most compelling, in part because of the horrific conditions that she endured when she first arrived. For the first two years, she essentially lived in a leech and snake infested swamp. Most of her days were spent chest deep in river/swamp water trying to catch glimpses of elusive Orangutans while at the same time seeking to avoid menacing poachers. How she survived, let alone found the will to continue her study is certainly hard to fathom.

At that time in Indonesia, Orangutans – especially juveniles and babies – were regularly kept as pets, often in dreadful conditions. Galdikas made it her mission to rescue these “imprisoned” Orangutans, rehabilitate them at Camp Leaky and then return them to the wild. The vast majority of Orangutans around the Camp Leakey area comprise Orangutans that have been either rehabilitated and released or are the offspring of rehabilitated Orangutans. As a result, they are generally comfortable in the presence of humans although the relative level of acceptance varies greatly as does each individual’s personality. In many ways they are like humans on this count: some gentle and passive, others aggressive and threatening. Indeed, the similarities with humans should not be surprising given only a 3% DNA difference.

Ini nyh salah satu teman seperjalananku, Say hello to Orang utan Gilles!

The guides and the rangers that are based in the park know many of the individuals and their personalities and hence are invaluable for visitors in for example, gauging how close an approach an individual will tolerate. Orangutans are incredibly strong, can outrun a human over short distances and have teeth to rival any of Africa’s big cats, so it well worth heeding the advice of the guides. This image shows the dominant male of the Camp Leakey area, Tom, standing on his hind legs, sheltering from the rain. At 80kgs, 1.5m tall and with an arm span of more than 2m, he cuts a formidable presence and towers over the park’s females.

The males also sport distinctive black cheek pads and throat pouches which help to project their booming calls, audible over two miles away. The image below is again of Tom, his face wet from the rain.

Oiya..gue baru tahu perbedaan antara orang utan jantan dan betina. Kalau yang jantan itu mukanya lebih lebar dari yang betina.

Two of Galdikas’ key successes have been the establishment of Tantung Putting as a 415,000 hectare national park and the banning by the Indonesian government of Orangutans as pets. As a result of the latter, the practice of rehabilitation at Camp Leakey has been phased out.

Virtually everything we know about Orangutans today we know because of Galdikas’ studies. Before her arrival, it was not known e.g. whether they were social; whether they were herbivorous or frugiverous; whether they spent all their time in the trees or whether they came to the ground. Of special importance was her discovery that the females have an eight year birth cycle, the longest of any mammal and a key factor making the species vulnerable to extinction.

From the dock at Camp Leaky, an elevated boardwalk extends over a river forest before reaching dry land where a series of trails radiate out through the rain forest. Every day, one of the oldest and most cantankerous of the area’s Orangutans, Siswi, would park herself on the narrow boardwalk waiting to harass passers by. The only way to pass was to throw a banana or dried raman (noodles) onto a nearby tree in order to entice her to move. If you tried to walk over her, she would either grab you with a seriously strong kung-fu grip or worse yet, bite you. In effect she acts like a toll keeper. You want to pass? You give me food.

Usually we would find an Orangutan or better still a mother with baby within 10-15 minutes of heading down a trail.

Like Chimpanzees, Orangutans are adapt at making tools for various purposes. I have seen them break off long branches and use these as spears and weapons to beat away overly inquisitive wild Forest Hogs. Orangutans build temporary “nests” high in the trees, out of leaves, in which they spend the night. They also use this skill to assemble make-shift umbrellas when it rains. Bagian ini menurut gue adalah salah satu hal tercerdas yang dilakuin sama orang utan. So cuuute menurut gue syh  🙂

Most surprising of all is the mimicking of human behaviour by the Orangutans around Camp Leaky. On a number of occasions I have seen them steal soap from the rangers that wash in the local rivers. The Orangutans will then proceed to lather up the hair on their arms – in the same manner that a human would shampoo his/her hair. Where they differ from humans is that they will often proceed to eat the soap, with amusing results, but with no apparent ill-effects.

For the most part, I searched for adult females with babies or juveniles. The babies are irresistibly cute but at the same time often comical in appearance with their out of control hairstyles and humorous facial expressions. LOL.

Young Orangutans spend most of their time clinging to and suckling from their mothers and when they do let go, they never venture more than a few feet away.

Even at a young age they are already extremely agile and dexterous and completely comfortable in the trees. I like the following two images in part for the mother’s hand which lends a sense of scale to her offspring.

Ini nih yang jadi ancaman buat orang utan.

Dangers pour l’Orangoutan:

  1. Les plantations de palmiers.
  2. La deforestation illegal.
  3. Mines d’or
  4. La chasse
  5. Les feux de forets de 1997 et 1998 ont cause une terrible destruction de la foret.
  6. La conservation des orangs-outans est inséparable de la protection de leur habitat. Nous ne pouvons pas proteger les orangs-outans sans preserver la foret primaire. L’orang-outan est non seulement un de nos plus proches genetiquement, mais aussi d’une importance vitale pour tout l’éco-système. En sauvant l’orang-outan, l’on sauve des millions d’insects, des milliers de plantes et des centaines d’oiseaux et de petits mammiferes.

FYI. While palm oil is an extraordinarily versatile food product, it is a remarkably poor bio fuel. More carbon is released from the conversion of forests to palm oil plantations than saved through the replacement of fossil fuels with the palm oil produced. The equation is especially unbalanced when the plantation is located on peat swamp forest, increasingly the case in Kalimantan and off the charts when burning is the final step in clearing.

Today, palm oil plantations surround Tantung Putting National Park and are already encroaching on the Park’s boundaries and wild Orangutans throughout Indonesia and Malaysia are being hemmed into ever smaller areas. When you come away from a place like Tantung Putting, it is hard not to feel some sort of connection with our redheaded cousins.

Sebelum mengakhiri perjalanan, gue bersama partner-partner perjalanan gue berpartisipasi dalam penanaman pohon di Pesalat. Go greeeen!

Hmm…katanya nih Pesalat adalah “Kerajaan Mistis” gitu. So banyak cerita-cerita dan kejadian mistis yang terjadi di sini. Terutama kalau malam hari suasananya menyeramkan gitu deh. Untung ya di rundown gue gag ada trekking malam hari.

Overnight ketiga gue kali ini adalah di Padang Nipah, disini gue duduk di atas dek kapal sambil menikmati angin malam, bulan yang cerah, dan yg kami tunggu : kunang – kunang! Di padang nipah, kanan kiri kami terdapat banyak sekali kunang kunang. Bukan Cuma ratusan bahkan ribuan! Bahkan mungkin lebih! Quel beau paysage!. Udah kayak lewatin banyak pohon natal yang kelap kelip deh. Cantik. Dan merupakan pengalaman pertama gue melihat kunang – kunang sebanyak itu. Mungkin Bali adalah pulau populer untuk bulan madu, but guys, Borneo juga gag kalah indah dengan keliaran alamnya dan yang jelas gag terlalu banyak turis di sana. Hihihi

Sekedar saran aja, kalau masih punya cukup waktu dan nyali, coba deh lakukan trekking malam hari di pedalaman hutan Kalimantan. Beberapa spesies tanaman dan hewan yang eksotis justru baru bisa dilihat ketika malam hari, seperti glowing mushroom atau ada juga tarantula. Tapi hati-hati ya karena tarantula ini beracun, walaupun tidak sampai menyebabkan kematian namun tetap saja harus berhati-hati.

Perjalanan gue ke Kalimantan ini bener-bener bikin pengetahuan gue makin tambah banyak. Gue juga jadi makin paham tentang dunia satwa. Salah satunya adalah perbedaan dasar dari monyet yang ada di Kalimantan dan di Bali. Kalau di Bali monyetnya cenderung nakal, dikasih makan pasti langsung dimakan. Beda dengan di Kalimantan. Karena terbiasa mencari makan sendiri, mereka akan merasa asing kalau ada yang memberi makan. Jadi mereka gag akan makan makanan yang dikasih orang. Hmm…begitu rupanya.

Sayang banget gue gag jadi menginap di perkampungan Suku Dayak karena air sungai menuju perkampungan Suku Dayak lagi surut. Jadi terlalu berbahaya untuk dilalui dengan speedboat karena perahu klotok kami tidak bisa sampai ke sana.

Besok pagi nya pk.08.00 am, gue siap – siap untuk menuju pelabuhan kumai untuk terbang menuju Jakarta.

Back to JKT soon.

Comme tout se qui compte dans la vie, un beau voyage est une oeuvre d’art.

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