Ruby Grimshaw looks back on her time in Borneo
It has taken me several days to come down from my visit to Borneo. I am completely orangutaned out. When I say that I was reading the same book on the plane back as the one I had started when flying out, and that the large bottle of gin L and I bought in Dubai was hardly touched at the end of the two weeks, it will give you some idea of how action packed this ‘holiday’ was.
As we swanned up and down the Sekonyer river in a local boat (klotok) we were not allowed to just lie back and enjoy the surrounding jungle of the Tanjung Puting National Park. We had to look for proboscis and macaque monkeys in the trees and try and identify the brightly coloured birds and admire the storks, geese and ducks that flew overhead. Our guide, a beautiful young Indonesian man with high cheek bones and thick glossy black hair, had incredible eyesight and could see and identify a hornbill at 500 yards, whereas I had trouble seeing it when we sailed past.
At Camp Leakey the ex-captive orangutans were cheeky and not at all frightened of humans. Watching a mother swing through the trees with a tiny baby clinging to her back was just incredible. Later we were privileged to be able to visit the Lamandau Reserve where orangutans are released or relocated and see the various community projects which help to protect the rain forest by teaching the local people to earn a living other than by logging or mining.
“The orangutans were cheeky and not at all frightened of humans”
One day we had a five-hour tramp through the jungle, tripping up on tree roots, sinking into bogs and teetering along tree branches like bad trapeze artists. We were all geared up with rucksacks, water bottles, mosquito repellent and trousers tucked into our socks (against the leeches) while our lissom guide scampered ahead in flip flops! It was magic when we managed to see some wild orangutans high up in the trees but I have never sweated so much in my life. No time for a gin before collapsing into bed that night.
All the creepy crawlies seemed to be so much bigger in Indonesia – ferocious red ants a good inch long, flying geckos and stick insects with large gossamer wings, cicadas which sounded like chain saws. I think that between us L and I were lucky to get away with only experiencing two leeches, one tummy bug and multiple mossie bites. This has been one of the most exciting, uplifting and exhausting holidays ever.