A couple of weeks ago I was able to take a boat ride up the Kahayan River to see orangutan in their natural habitat. My friend Allen was able to arrange this little adventure with some of his friends who work for the Orangutan reserve. So Allen, Reni, her brother Bayu, and I drove to Tankiling, which is about 35 kilometers from Palangkaraya. I thought we were going to some tourist place but instead we drove to a spot next to the river and just got into a boat. We took the blue one.
I was super excited to go on this boat ride. It's honestly one of the things that sold me on coming out here in the first place. As soon as we get on the boat I put my camera together and get a giddy grin on my face. Then I was told that we have to go through two checkpoints and that I will have to hide my camera at them. It wasn't the first time I had to hide it so I was fine with that.
Here I am on the boat.
The first check point was quick. We pulled up, pretty much waved, and then left. I had my camera out and ready. It wasn't long before our first orangutan sighting and it was a baby in a tree! It was amazing. The cutest little orangutan about 30 feet in the air hanging out with it's mother. It was a lot tougher to take pics of them through all of the foliage but I managed to get a few.
We kept going up river towards the feeding areas. These orangutan are taken from a rehabilitation center not too far from here and set free on this island to keep them protected. Since orangutan can't swim, they can't leave. But this island has no food for them to be 100% on their own so they're actually fed by the "orangutan caretakers" daily. They're fed some sort of vegetable everyday. The orangutan are on a feeding schedule so they are usually waiting at the drop off for the food to be delivered. You have no idea how excited I was to see this take place. From what I was told they walk down, grab the food, and saunter away.
We drove for about 20 minutes around the island until we reached the second checkpoint. As we come around the bend, before reaching the checkpoint, I see an orangutan lounging in the shade on the beach. Now this is where things take a disappointing turn. I was told to put my camera away. I think, no problem I'll hide it under the seat again, this will be quick and then I can put it back together. Nope, I'm told to dismantle it and put it away. I'm not allowed to be taking pictures of any of the orangutan on the reserve. My heart sank. All I wanted to do in Indonesia was take beautiful photographs of orangutan in their natural habitat. Now I'm here and I'm being told to put it away. We had to get off of the boat and talk to these rangers and, of course, their first question was if we had any cameras with us. Obviously, the reply was no. I went to take a picture with my phone and we had to explain that it was a phone and not a camera. They were serious about their jobs.
And then it happened. I look across the water and see a mother orangutan take her baby by the hand and walk to the water to get a drink. The lighting was perfect, the moment was perfect, you couldn't have dreamed of a better moment to photograph, and I couldn't. Now I know what you're thinking. I should have just done it. What's the worst that could happen? But I have to respect my friends who brought me here and their friends who took the time to take us out here. As disappointing as it was to not capture that moment, I'm still happy I was able to witness it.
We had to wait at the checkpoint for about 20 minutes before they would go and feed the orangutan and then we would follow. I was able to slyly put my camera back to together and get a few shots off after the feeding, but was instructed to be very quick. After the quick shots, we went back to the car. It was an incredible little adventure and even though I wasn't able to get all of the pictures I wanted to, I still got a couple and had an amazing experience.
On our way home we saw a traditional Javanese dance taking place so we pulled over and I was able to snap off a few shots there as well. Being the only white person around, I seemed to have taken a lot of the attention off of the dancers as everyone wanted to look at me. The whole crowd was staring, people coming closer, and a lot of cell phones were taken out to take my picture. Very friendly people. We were only there for about 15 minutes before it started raining.
A great day and a great experience. As usual, here's a little gallery of the images I took. It's smaller than the rest but some good ones. Hope you guys enjoy them!