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We traveled to Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo and sailed up the river to the town of Kumai.  There is not much of a town there but we did enjoy the market.    The main draw here is the Orangutan reserve.  This is only one of a couple places in the world to visit Orangutans in the wild.

Harry had been recommended as the person to arrange for our trip up the river to visit the Orangutan reserve.  We were joined by Outlandish, Nighthawk and Poppy1.  Klotoks are the local boat used for transportation on the river.  These are barely a notch up from the African Queen with a single cylinder diesel that is quite noisy and an outhouse at the stern.  Harry arranged for two boats to take the 13 of us up the river.  We all piled on one boat.  The other was used for backpacks and as a kitchen.

It is a pleasant 5 hour ride up the river through the jungles to Camp Leakey.  We saw a wide variety of monkeys, birds and plant life and just relaxed with someone else doing the driving for a change. 

During the five hours travel\ling up the river, Harry explained orangutan behavior, what we needed to be careful of, and how to act around the orangutan. They are very curious and extremely strong creatures.  He warned that they maybe interested in many things that we would be packing along with us which could include anything from bug spray to cameras or even small children.  He told us to try and keep things hidden so they wouldn’t see them and above all if they were to get hold of something they wanted to just let them have it.  The orangutan will often become very agitated if they don’t get what they want.  This female sat with Jeff and tried to get at lense cap out of his pocket.  The zipper and velcro frustrated her but she remained friendly.

Harry treated us to some amusing stories of situations other tourists had found themselves in minus their cameras.  One orang grabbed the lens on a 35mm camera.  The quick thinking tourist hit the release button and twisted, saving the camera but the orang escaped with the lens and climbed a tree.  After banging the lens on the tree a few times, it dropped the lens onto a rock.  so, we were all being a bit cautious.

When we arrived at the orangutan reserve’s landing, we were greeted with one of those mischievous orangutans. She had just confiscated a bottle of bug spray from someone and had bitten into it. Guess she didn’t like the taste.  Our guides distracted her so we could make our way past her and up the trail to the feeding area.  What a way to start.

Along the trail, we encountered some female orangutans and their babies.  It was getting more exciting by the minute. At the feeding area we watched and waited as orangutans started swinging from trees and walking in to feast on the bananas and sweet potatoes provided by the researchers.  It was fascinating to be so close to them and able to watch them interact with each other.  The behavior was so human.  Many walked right by us to get to the feeding area and some grabbed their food and sat down right in the middle of our group.  We watched in amazement as one mother breast fed her baby and gently reached down to kiss it on the cheek.  We watched for hours as they ate, played or even argued with each other.

After a restful night under mosquito net, we awoke anxious to get back to the reserve to see what a new day would bring.  Not thinking that we could in any way top the previous days experience we arrived back at the reserve’s landing where a young male orangutan was washing one of the guide's shirts with a bar of soap.  Walking through the researcher's area, we encountered a group of playful Gibbons.  We were able to hand feed one of them while the others entertained us with some wrestling, play and swinging from roofs, antennas and solar panels.  On our hike, Harry pointed out the sound of another male orangutan echoing through the forest.  Upon hearing the call, Harry felt that this male might come in to feed that day.  We arrived at the feeding area and waited with anticipation.  The females and babies started coming in when all of a sudden they were jumping up into the trees and acting strangely.  We turned around and out of the jungle came one of the big male orangutans. He was so much bigger then the females and a bit intimidating.  We all moved back so we wouldn’t be between him and the food he was seeking.  After a few minutes of munching away on sweet potatoes he started acting funny and jumped up into one of the trees.  The king of the orangutans had arrived.  An awesome creature!  He must have weighed at least four hundred pounds and it was all massive muscle.  As he climbed to the top of the platform, he looked over his shoulder and kicked the ladder down as if to say, "I dare you to bother me."

It was wonderful watching all the different behaviors, enjoying their antics, and although we hated to leave it was time to head back down the river to Sea Witch.  We had just had the experience of a lifetime and couldn’t stop talking about it as we "klotocked" down the river surrounded by thousands of fireflies twinkling in the mangroves which lined the riverbanks.