Orang-utan Holiday

Two of the three Orangutan Conservation Tours that we run with Steppes Discovery each year have now finished leaving the last one departing in September. Ruby, who joined the first trip in June and kept the group entertained with her yoga poses and cartoon drawings, wrote the piece below for Latest 7 magazine, www.thelatest.co.uk/7 . We thought we'd share it with you... Orang-utan Holiday

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 various 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 eye sight and could see and identify a hornbill at five hundred 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 (Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve) 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.

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.

Next week we'll share some beautiful images taken in Tanjung Puting National Park.