FROM THE LOG #56

From Bali to Singapore
Including a visit to the orang-utans of Borneo

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A portrait of Princess
(Click on any photo or map for a blow up)
Some photos are grabbed from lower reslution video footage

From Bali we sailed 400 nautical miles (3 nights) to the world's third-largest island, Borneo.

"The very notion of the name Borneo rouses something in the subconscious. Summoning visions of mythical people and ancient forests, it tugs at the adventurer within" (Lonely Planet). A void on the tourist radar, it's a destination for those hungry for the unknown. Two thirds of Borneo belongs to the Indonesian province of Kalimantan, but the north is part of Malaysia except for the tiny sultanate of Brunei.

Borneo's most celebrated inhabitant is man's closest relative in the animal world: the orang-utan. Because of the logging and mining industries and the forest fires, the habitat of these unbearably human-esque primates is being destroyed and today, the few remaining orang-utan refuges are found in national parks and reserves.

River boat picks up us cruisers from our yachts
Then it is Scorpio's turn
We are being picked up from our boat

We motored up the Kumai river and anchored about 20 miles upstream, at Kumai town. There we chartered a "klotok" river boat for a two-day journey in the Tanjung Puting national park. Included in the charter fee is a guard, who stayed aboard our yacht and sleept in the cockpit while we were away! On the photo above (middle) you can see the guard they dropped off on our friends' yacht Pacific Star.

Our primary destination on this river trip is Camp Leakey, which was established to study and reintroduce orphaned or rescued orangutangs into the wild.

Horst getting out from the mosquito
nets in the morning.
Our cook prepares the meals next to the
uncovered diesel engine below decks.
 
The bedrooms have now been converted
into a dining area.
Cruising the river in a klotok is much part of the adventure. Only 4 guests aboard - we were again in company with Julia and Horst from s/y Pacific Star - with a crew of 4 (two boat crew + cook + guide), we enjoyed a wonderful leisurely trip, while eating and sleeping aboard. When night fell, our living area on he upper deck was converted to two open air bedrooms, protected by mosquito nets. During the day we were served breakfast, lunch and dinner. The meals were delicious although our cook's "galley" conditions looked far from ideal - and she was working next to the uncovered engine (photo above left)! We sailed past walls of pandanus fringing the water's edge, beyond which proboscis monkeys and impudent macaques leap across the forest canopy, joined by gibbons, crocodiles and the Giant Bornean butterfly.
Gibbon
Long nosed monkey
River is getting narrow

The river got narrower and narrower until, 5 hours from Kumai, we finally reached Camp Leakey.

The infant orangutang is dependent of her mother during her first seven years. Therefore an orphan has small chances of survival if separated from the mother when very young. Here is where Camp Leakey comes in. Under the supervision of researchers, juvenile orang-utans learn to live in the forest, spending longer and longer away from the camps. However, being accustomed to human contact, as adults they never fully abandon old habits and usually return for an afternoon feeding. It has been discovered that these apes can never be completely wild again, and the camp provides for them a sanctuary and a unique place for us to study their behaviour. The bananas and condensed milk sessions are designed to supplement the diets of ex captives, but we could also see inquisitive wild orang-utans watching from a short distance.

Our guide Bain had previously been working at Camp Leakey and he knew many of the apes "personally". The name of the gentle female in the uper right corner of this page and on some of the photos above is Princess. The big young male below (2 photos on the right, distinguished by his cheeks) is Popeye, who is believed to be King one day. However, he will first have to defeat Tom (popularly called Tom Cruise), the present King.

When looking at these photos, bear in mind that they are not shot between the bars of a fence - we were right there amidst these wonderful individuals.
"In the fight to save the few remaining areas of primary jungle, Kalimantan's national parks have become the only benchmark against which to measure what remain of the forest" (Lonely Planet). But Borneo's vast interior is its own worst enemy. Providing the perfect cover, it enables illegal logging to run rampant. Local operations exploit government disorganisation to make quick cash. Corruption and payoffs are common. Along the coast of Borneo we saw several tugs pulling huge barges loaded with timber.

The ex-captives are unafraid of humans. They look cute, but they are strong animals, who will grab anything that is hanging off your body. Julia had one ape snatching her water bottle, quickly unscrewing the cap and emptying the water down its throat in an instant. A camera could have disappeared as quickly.

Video of the orang-utans.

A couple of days later, our sailing continued. We stopped after an over-nighter at Gelam island and then did an other 400 nautical miles, 3 nights, hop to Mesenak island in one go. Just after midnight on the last night of the trip we crossed the Equator and returned to the northern hemisphere after 4 years and 4 months on the south side of the Line. The previous crossing took place in Ecuador in May 2005.

When we dropped the hook at Mesenak island we were only 50 nm south of the Singapore Strait. The following day we sailed to Nongsa Point Marina at Batam island. This is probably the finest marina and with the best service we have ever experienced, and at very affordable prices!

I am writing this report at Nongsa Point, our last port in Indonesia. Tomorrow morning, at 6 o'clock on September 30, we will let go of the dock lines and sail across, the 40 nm to Raffles Marina in Singapore. It is now roughly 2.5 months and 2 600 nm since we departed from Darwin in Australia. We stopped in 31 anchorages, all of which are not indicated on the map below (right), but they can be found on the maps of previous reports and the map below (on the left).

And then what? .... Come back soon to discover.

bali-sing map
gps
indo-route-map
Area covered in this report
Crossing the Equator - the time is in UTC.
Local time is 0:47:35 on October 24, 2009
Our complete track in Indonesia
To view these photos and some additional images as a (manual) SLIDE SHOW click HERE.
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