Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
“How long do we need to walk to see the orangutans in Sebangau?” I asked David, one of the guys from Daihatsu. “Less than an hour, and it’s an easy trek,” he said confidently. Cool, I don’t need to worry about my injured knees. But still, I was prepared for the worst, geared up with my beloved hiking shoes and all. No need for flashlight because we were trekking in daylight. Right?
Soon after the cars are parked at Baon Bango village, we took boats toward Karuing village (also spelled Keruing or Kruing) for about 30 minutes on the Katingan River. We were then welcomed by a dry river with lots of logs scattered, from dead trees and leftovers from the forest burning in 1997(!), according to the rangers who guided us. This river would be a few meters deeper in the rainy season and boats could float far into the village within the forest. But for now, we had to trek through the peat land, which surface is rather mushy. Walking there felt a little bit bouncy as if there was a large net beneath that thick layer of dirt. “This is gonna be an easy trekking!” I thought.
Less than a kilometer from the trek entrance, we reached a denser and wetter part of the forest. Here, the heavier you are, the more likely you’d get sucked in the peat. Resa had to learn that the hard way. He’s a big guy and was following the porters who walked really fast and he ended up sinking a knee deep in the peat. Being delightful travel mates that we were, naturally we laughed at his misfortune before then walking together and helping each other whenever anyone slipped, was not sure where to step, or was out of drinking water.
We kept on going, sweat dripping all over. The trek turned out to be 4,5 km long and the day was getting dark when we were just half way. I almost fell a couple of times, but thanks to Mas Harris and the other guys who kindly pulled me I managed to stay balanced. No sinking, just scratches on my lower legs since I was wearing shorts. All of this for an experience of meeting the orangutans in Sebangau.
In 2,5 hours we reached the camp, which is Pak Andi Liani’s house, the Punggu Alas village chief. That’s where we were staying for the night, all 26 of us – two others stayed at Baon Bango to where the cars were parked.
The next morning, we were walking to the other part of the forest to see wild orangutans. Yeay!
But I shouldn’t be so happy just yet.
I’ve seen orangutans before in Tanjung Puting National Park. It was easy peasy, we just needed to be there at feeding hours to see a couple of orangutans who seemed to be quite familiar with human existence. But it’s different with this one, which is a part of Sebangau National Park. The orangutans here, that’s estimated as many as 6,000-9,000 in total, are wild and untouched. Some of them have been watched, identified and given name by the rangers.
We were taken to a spot about 1 km from Pak Andi’s house, where the rangers had spotted an orangutan named Julia had been hanging out with her kid Julian for the last few days. It took a while until we could make out a hint of the apes so high up on the tree. Before that, the guide showed us the kinds of food that the wild orangutans usually eat, like the bitter lewangan fruit and rahanjang flowers.
Having only a basic camera lens, my attempt to take pictures of the apes failed. The forest is pretty dense and there has been no more illegal logging since 2005. Kudos! We all like it that orangutans in Sebangau – and surely other animals – can live peacefully in their habitats, don’t we?
We stayed there for less than an hour and had to continue with the road trip. So the ranger shook the tree where Julia and Julian were sitting, to get them swing to another tree, therefore we could see them more clearly. And we did. It’s just that, I personally think they should just be left alone. It’s probably bad enough that all of a sudden almost 30 people came to their playground, and they had to be shaken out of the tree? I hope this doesn’t happen often. After all, Pak Andi noted that the locals pay respect to the jungle and everything in it including the wild orangutans. They think of them as the jungle sitters. The rangers even told us that orangutans could break a branch and throw it to you if they felt threatened by your presence.
One of the orangutans in Sebangau. Photo by Wira Nurmansyah
Having not much time left before moving on with the trip, we then took the same trekking route to get back out of the forest. This time we nailed it in 2 hours, a little faster than the way in previous day, thanks to daylight. A boat trip later, where most of our exhausted selves were sleeping under the scorching hot sun, we arrived at Baon Bango village.
The 7 handsome Daihatsu Terios cars were waiting to get us to the next destination: Banjarmasin, the capital of South Kalimantan. This time it’s different than my visit to Banjarmasin a while ago, also much shorter.
*This trip is fully paid by Astra Daihatsu Motor in exchange of blog publication, but the opinions are my own.