A JOURNEY AMONG THE MEN OF THE FOREST
Each year, in an ever growing and worrying measure, the rainforests of Borneo and most of the others Indonesian islands are burned in favor of the cultivation of palm oil. Toxic clouds of ash are released in our skies and the habitat of many endemic animals are destroyed, contributing to the risk of an imminent extinction of many species protected.
A trip to the Taman Nasional Tanjung Puting, in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) will give you not only a chance to see up close the Orangutans, the men of the forest in the local language, but will actively contribute to their protection.
The best way to reach the park, it's flying up to Pangkalanbun (from Java) and then joining one of the many excursions on the river, in the heart of the jungle. The houseboats are wide and comfortable, although a bit basics, but the food is excellent. They are available in various prices to suit all budgets. For example, we have traveled with our children (8-13 years old), opting for a private houseboat of medium size and for a tour of 3 days / 2 nights with Borneo Eco Tour - Local tour operator specializes in eco-tourism.
The guide came to pick up us at the airport and he drove us to the small, but bustling port of Pondok, where our houseboat was docked. We recommend you to choose a sleeping bed solution on the outside deck, because overnight the cabins become very hot for the humidity, and the fan stops as soon as the main power is turned off around midnight. Sleeping surrounded by the sounds of the jungle, lying under a mosquito net, it 's an exciting and cooler experience.
Once in the park, only the silence. The few sounds you hear , it will be those of the proboscis monkeys, endemic in Borneo, that playing among the trees or the noise of a small crocodile while sinks after your path, or, once again, the rustling of the leaves moved from a Gibbon or the singing of the birds living in this area. Let you lie down on the reclining chairs at the prow and enjoy the panorama while the boat goes slowly along the Black River to the heart of the park: Camp Leakey, headquarters of the Centre for the Protection and Study of the Orangutans.
It founded by Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas, who for more than forty years working with passion closely with these primates, the Centre will give you the opportunity to see first hand their behavior and how they are organized in daily life, in their natural habitat . The researcher, adopted Canadian, who has also written numerous articles for the National Geographic, is sometimes present during the tourists visits and you can share with her a chat - as it's happened to us - to understand better the orangutans habits and the intense work against their extinction.
Every day the volunteers and Park staff bring, at fixed hours, fruits and some milk on the platforms, positioned in the jungle. The Orangutans know it and they come slowly up to take their daily ration. They come swinging lazily between a branch and the other, and, with the skill of an acrobat, they jump to the ground. First the mothers with their small babies attached to the neck and then the males, sometimes so huge, that they can reach 90 to 120 kg of weight with an opening of the arms of 2 meters. They eat greedily while watching you. Approaching to pass you side, it's not rare. They have a smart gaze and often laugh. If it was not for the thick and reddish hair and the long arms , you definitely can notice many similarities with yourself or your traveling friends. In final analysis, these primates share with the humans 97 % of their DNA.
Visiting Borneo rainforests, it's a unique experience in close contact with nature and it will make you realize how important is the struggle that Orangutan Foundation International has been fighting since 1971 for the protection of these primates, threatened by smugglers and the deforestation. Your contribution will be valuable because, thanks to eco-tourism growth, many local farmers are gradually approaching the world of orangutans in a different way. Now, they begin to contribute actively to the fight for their preservation, having found a good job in this sector for them and their families.
The road is still long, many forests will be burned again in the future, but a journey in the Taman National Tanjung Puting is a first concrete step to make you a spokesman of a real environmental problem that, unfortunately, plagues our planet.
Written by Sarah Falchi - Photos by Paolo Castellari
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