Thursday, December 19, 2013

Close encounters

Day 2 to spend with the orangutans at Tanjung Puting National Park (Indonesia) started early when our friend Joel, Jordan, and I woke before 06:00. Our hired riverboat, Bain's Yacht Services, motored upriver for about 2 hours to the next feeding station.

Once ashore, our first curious sight of the day was the carnivorous pitcher plants which are also known as monkey cups (monkeys have been seen drinking out of these plants after a rainfall, hence their nickname). Insects become trapped in the pitcher of the plant and are then broken down by digestive juices. Good thing they don't absorb fingers!

Peculiar pitcher plant with speckled interior

After a 20-minute walk, we came upon the feeding station, much like yesterday's, where the orangutans were gathering for their 09:00 feeding. Orangutans here were a little friendlier than yesterday. Here, they ignored the ropes that were meant to keep us away and moved right through us as if we weren't even there.

Only a few metres away

This young male named Copra ignored us as he moved past, preoccupied with getting a bright red flower (apparently its black seeds are a delicacy for them) which he spotted on the ground next to the spectators.

This 1 is  MINE

The babies never let go of their mothers. Whether standing, sitting, eating, etc., they always have a hold of at least a chunk of their mother's hair.



We then proceeded upriver for another 2 hours to the 3rd station, Camp Leakey, for the 15:00 feeding. After about an hour, the water changed from muddy brown to clear but looked black (due to dead non-decomposing vegetation on the bottom). By the time we arrived at Camp Leakey, I was not feeling well. I believe the use of river water for cooking and cleaning dishes caused Montezuma's Revenge to set in and felt the need to stay aboard while Joel and Jordan went ashore with the guide.

The staff was so nice to me. They asked several times how I was and even offered me a massage!

As I waited for the boys to return, I watched the antics of a few cheeky, long-tail macque monkeys in the bushes, but the second I turned my back, 1 of them instantly jumped aboard and grabbed the bunch of bananas on our table right from under my nose! It was both surprising and funny. He shared (unwillingly) with his friends and seemed quite proud of his accomplishment.

Sneaky and swift

But more exciting (for Joel and Jordan) was a close encounter with a friendly young orangutan named Atlas. As Joel and Jordan walked down the boardwalk with their guide, Atlas approached Jordan. When Jordan reached out his hand, Atlas took hold and then walked partway down the path with him! (Joel was able to get a great snapshot of this and we will post it as soon as Joel sends a copy to us.)

Hi Atlas, my name is Jordan

For the most part, these people of the forest are quiet in comparison to their human cousins...

What is he thinking?

This dominant male of the group appeared and he put on quite a mating exhibition with a female right in the midst of all the onlookers. Her baby was smack in the middle of the 2 lovers - no romance there!


As we made our way down the river, we would get the odd glimpse of a shy semblance of human river life.

Jungle homes

Nocturnal sounds came from croaking frogs and the droning din of cicadas. Did you know cicadas make their sound by a complicated procedure of sucking in and relaxing the muscles of their ribs 300 to 400 times per second?

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