January 29, 2012

The Enchanting Forests Of Borneo - Part I

It has been a longtime dream to visit the enchanting forests of Borneo. Growing up, I had no interest actually, all I've ever known about Borneo is that it is the world's third largest island. But since my mom started working at BOSF (Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation), her conservation work has grown on my sister and I. And the idea of interacting with orangutans is just a wonderful thought. This creature, that shares 97% of humans' genes, is in fact our closest relatives. 

Each night, after a day at work, my mom would tell us stories, about the terrible fate that has fallen upon our furry relatives. Some fucking bastards cut down the forests, plants palm oil tress and ruin the entire forest ecosystem. Leaving the orangutans without a home. Even worse, when orangutans come out to search for food, these assholes hunt them down, torture them and kill them.. for money.

So then, last month at Christmas, my mom gave us the best gift she has ever given - a trip to Borneo. A little getaway among the dense forests of Tanjung Puting National Park.

It took us approximately a 2-hour flight from Jakarta to Pangkalan Bun. From there, we went straight to the harbor and off we go on our private kelotok (a traditional river boat) along the Sekonyer River, which shall be our "hotel" for the next 3 nights.  It was the best accommodation I have ever experienced. Great food, comfortable beds and the fresh river water for our showers. Along the way, we encountered so many wildlife, even at the first one hour. We met proboscis monkeys and all sorts of colorful birds. We also passed by some crocodiles, that freaked the girls a bit. 

Just moments after we got off the kelotok to discover the inhabitants of Tanjung Puting, we were greeted by cutest and sweetest orangutans ever! This wonderful encounter happened everyday. We walked everyday into the forests to the popular feeding stations, one of the many is Camp Leakey, where rehabilitated orangutans come to grab some fruit. I thought it would be tough walking through the forest! But as it turned out, it was the best thing I've ever done and I just couldn't get enough. Although it did get tiring after 2 hours. 

But the interaction with orangutans are to die for. It was totally worth it! They are the most adorable and loveliest creatures. After days of walking and endless encounters, we got to know these orangutans a bit better. We learned a little bit more about them.

We were very lucky to have met everyone, every orangutan. Everyone had their own story, everyone had a tale. Hurtful stories that have led to our meetings in the forest. These rehabilitated creatures that were saved from poachers suddenly feels like the most wonderful wake-up call you could ever ask for. Goosebumps shivers on our skin as we learn how alike these creatures are from us. They eat like us, leaving fruit skin behind. They walk like us, considering every step. They play like us, with joy and laughter. They hug children like us, with the most caring touch. They even blink like us, they have something in their eyes that is so human. It is breathtaking.

This trip became more than a vacation, it became a spiritual journey, if I may say. Although I'm not exactly a religious person, it was indeed spiritual on some levels. It was as if I left as someone and came back as someone else. I had such a wake-up call, learning that most things in my house, in my apartment, in my room, has caused some of these orangutans to die. And on the other hand, they have caused no harm at all to me.

To be continued. 

Cass x

PS: Credit to the peeps in photos - Sky Sucahyo, Hara Christian, Gunawan Wibisono. Much love.