Oct. 1 - Orangutan country

Tanjung Puting National Park is the home of one of a few places on the planet where orangutans can be found in the wild. It's a natural ecosystem rain forest which has 600 types of trees, 200 varieties of orchids, almost 250 species of birds, 28 species of large mammals, and 9 species of primates. We took a 2 day, 1 night tour by klotok boat, a traditional Indonesian river boat where the tourist lives upstairs, and meals are prepared down below, where the guide, captain and cook live. At night, mosquito netting is spread over mattresses, and the boat is tied up alongside some palms or pandanus. We trekked a short distance to Camp Leaky where we saw 9 orangutans, including young ones with their mothers. A feeding of bananas is arranged for a particular time, and these wild and semi-wild orangs know the schedule. It's a delightful photo-op time, but serious research has been going on there for over 30 years. The highlight of our visit there was when Big Tom showed up. He's not there a lot during feedings (which is when the tourists are there); weighs about 110-120kg, is about 38 years old, and is the Main Man (ah..make that Orangutan...). You get the idea. When he walked towards us, we calmly walked the other way. The orangutan's strength is reputed to be 8 times greater than man's, and the guides constantly reminded us to keep a respectful distance. There were other feeding stations to visit also, but not as many orangs showed up when we were there. We also saw wild boar, squirrel, proboscis and macaque monkeys. On our boat ride, we saw several varieties of colorful kingfisher; the spectacular Stork Billed being our favorite with it's bright red beak, yellow head and bright blue body and wings. There were also wild orangutans, monkeys, crocodiles, butterflies, and we were surrounded by a cocophany of insect sounds. A wonderful web site is http://www.orangutanindonesia.com/tanjung-puting-national-park.htm, which gives a lot more detail than the above. Another good site is www.orangutan.org.

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