Sumatra – Orangutans in the wild !

Diary date : 30th July -2010

Skipping across the island in a cozy safe airplane! we change planes in Jakarta and on to Sumatra.

In the top corner of Northern Sumatra we took an early morning bus ride from the coastal town of Medan to the village of Bukit Lewang; from city life to a lost forest. Shrouded in mist and full of animal calls and of course mosquitoes! On our way we passed 1,000’s of acres of palm trees all planted to collect the palm seeds for the oil in our food! What was once virgin forest is now rows of palm trees. Remind me not to buy any more palm oil!

Only the steepness of the forest hills has saved the home of the Orangutans from going the same way. We found a nice place to stay and talked with a guide for our hike over the next few days.
Our journey led us deep into the forest, the noise of the village fell behind us as we were led up into the lush green jungle by an energetic guide who cast frequent glances around to see if we had been dragged off by some demon of the forest. Looking much like a jungle that Tarzan would be happy to call home.

We hiked up hills and fell down the other side through many streams and small waterfalls. Brilliant green snakes sit motionless as we passed by.

Toucans called noisily as they play high above the tree canopy. Peering through the branches dark round eyes find my own, a furry long armed creature free of the zoos of my child hood!


No real fear is shown and they gently come closer hoping for a handout of fruit from the guide, clearly they know him and although cautious, the fresh fruit is exchanged and they elegantly swing higher to enjoy there feast.

We are in awe of such lovely red fur and perfect slow graceful movements. Bukit Lewang is a center for Orangutan research and attempts at rehabilitating them into the wild from private collectors and zoo’s. Today many of the Apes have had frequent human contact and some of the rehabilitated females with babies will still go to the feeding platforms to get food for themselves and their babies. The truly wild ones keep their distance and hopefully this will continue as close contact with us can bring all our diseases to them and kill them. back to the jungle-We sleep in the forest and our camp is beside a crystal clear river with deep swimming holes! Supper is served  with a small fire crackling away and the sun setting over the tree tops, even the mosquitoes are at peace. Night time is a chorus of life, bugs, birds and apes all sing out. We are taught an intriguing card trick by our guide, which defies math and sense.

Morning brings a new meaning to itching, every one ate well last night. An early morning swim brings some relief and holding a large round boulder I walk slowly deep into a dark swimming hole, through the deep water I can see the trees and sunlight, lungs well trained after all the surfing I am in my groove walking across a sandy river bottom deep where no one else probably has ever walked. Surfacing a few minute or so later I see our guide looking wide eyed thinking perhaps I had gone for good!


After breakfast we pack and head higher into the hills in search of more Orangutans, bearded monkeys, and large black Baboons that avoided us at high speed. Many hours of hot humid hiking and we are falling down the steep path/cliff to our transport out of the jungle.




Plastic garbage bags are wrapped around our bags and cameras with 100% guarantees of waterproof-ness, ya right. A single row of car inner tubes is our raft. With no idea what waterfalls wait for us we cast off from the shore and are dragged into the main current.  Rocks and overhanging trees rush towards us, around a bend the river speeds up and disappears from view, not a good sign! With unbelievable luck we avoid tipping over and through the rapids and slower meandering sections of river and walls of jungle above us we drift like a leaf happy to be out of the humid jungle and in the cool water. Far easier than walking back two days through the jungle (the other option)! All to soon we are floating past small houses and into the village, smoke, noise, people; all the things that make me wish our jungle trip had been far longer. Maybe next time!

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2 thoughts on “Sumatra – Orangutans in the wild !

  1. Great story. A couple pictures showed up.

    Please note: DO NOT PUT SPACES IN THE PICTURE NAMES. WordPress obviously can not translate a MAC space properly. (Under-bars or dashes should work better.

    Regards
    Jim

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