Searching for Orangutans in the Borneo Jungle

Borneo Jungle

Its not often you get to see endangered animals in the wild. Let alone witness them for four days straight while riding your own private boat through the jungles of Borneo. That’s just what we got to experience during our adventure in Borneo Jungle by boat.

This entire trip is all a special thanks to our friends Katy and Emil, who we met in Laos last year. The four of us instantly hit it off during our trip to Nong Khiaw and we ended up traveling together for the next week. The two of them did this exact experience last year and told us about it. They loved it so much they said they wanted to do it again, this time with us!

Borneo

Katy & Emil

One of the most unexpected and one of our favorite parts about traveling long term would be the friends you meet along the way from

One of the best parts of traveling is catching up with friends in different parts of the world.

all over the world. Meeting back up with them again somewhere else is even more exciting.

 

So thanks to our friends we were set up for four incredible days in the jungle. On their last trip they learned how to get the most of their experience starting with finding the best guide to take you on the boat with their crew which made our four days one of the most memorable travel experiences to date.

 

 

Our Guide

Borneo Jungle

Our guide, Chris, makes Megan a crown out of Leaves

Our friends met Chris on their first trip. During one of the walks they were paired up with Chris and were impressed with his knowledge of the jungle as well as respect other jungle guides gave him. They couldn’t help but wonder how much better the trip was with Chris instead of their original guide, and decided to book this trip through Chris.

We couldn’t have had a better guide!

Borneo Jungle

Megan Learns the wisdom of the jungle

Chris is such a fascinating person. Having grown up part of his life in the middle of the jungle, he’s devoted his entire adulthood to sharing his home and teaching others about the jungle and the orangutans who live there. He made our trip complete, his company was one of the best highlights of our experience.

Chris would take us with a crew consisting of a captain, captain’s assistant, and a chef for the next 3 nights through the jungles of Borneo (Kalimantan) to watch the orangutans at the three different feeding stations as well as wild sightings in the jungle from our boat.

During our walks through the jungle he would stop and point out any interesting insects or plants that

Borneo Jungle

Learning about Plants

might interest us and explain what it was. There were a few occasions where he would find plants and tell us about the medicinal purpose and have us try it! I got to try a bitter plant that is said to help treat malaria.

From giving us jungle medicine, making Katy and I queens for day with crowns made of leaves and sticks, treating us after leeches attacked our feet, helping us with a magic eucalyptus oil for our itchy bug bites, and introducing us to the orangutans he knew by name, teaching us about every animal we saw in the wild, he was the best damn jungle guide we could have had and wouldn’t go back again without him!

I seriously could write a whole book about how awesome Chris is. A few small paragraphs just isn’t enough. Seriously, this is the guy that Nat Geo calls when they need a jungle guide to take their photographers to spot wild animals. If Chris had a resume to hand out, it would be freaking impressive.

Life on the Boat

Borneo Jungle

Completely Beautiful all the time

We set off for three nights on a klotok, our wooden boat, where we would be cruising through Tanjung Puting National Park and the Sekonyer River to three different orangutan feeding stations and any stops for sightseeing we wanted to make along the way. We loved sitting at the front of the boat and looking for any animals in the wild. From looking high in the trees for proboscis, macaques, gibbons, and orangutans to looking in the water for vicious crocodiles. We would get a lucky treat of seeing a giant hornbill from time to time as well.

Some of our favorite times of this trip were spent on the boat just cruising down the beautiful river, bonding with our guide, and looking for wild animals.

We would sleep on a mattress with a bug net on the top floor of our wooden vessel each night hoping a huntsman spider didn’t join us at some point in the middle of the night. We went to bed when the sun went down and woke up each day when the sun came up.

Borneo Jungle

Sleeping Under The Stars

All of our meals were cooked and served on the boat. It was impressive what our crew’s chef could whip up in such a small kitchen. Each meal consisted of at least five dishes and each one of them was delicious. We could say we didn’t go hungry at all on that boat, we probably came off 5lbs heavier thanks to the heaping amount of tasty food at every meal.

Feeding Stations

Borneo Jungle

One of the feeding stations

There’s no guarantee that you will see orangutans in the wild from your boat, although we were very lucky to see quite a few. The best chances of seeing an orangutan would be visiting any or all three feeding stations along the river.

These feeding stations also act as a rehabilitation center for formerly captive or orphaned orangutans are brought to be looked after and reintroduced to their natural and wild environment. These orangutans are considered to be semi-wild since some were once captive or they are used to the presence of humans.

Borneo Jungle

On our way to a feeding station

The first and second feeding stations are located in Tanjung Puting National Park and have a roped off area where observers can witness the orangutans during the two feeding times per day.

We had a bit of a mild scare when one of the male orangutans unpredictably came down from a tree towards us and our guide at the first station. We had to quickly move out of the way to be sure we didn’t disturb or anger this hormonal guy.

The third and most famous station was Camp Leakey. Named after famous paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, who was a mentor to Dr. Birute Galdikas who performed some of the most important studies done to date on orangutans here. Camp Leakey has been around since 1971 and has been featured several times in National Geographic and even in documentaries.

Dr. Leakey was also mentor to other famous anthropologists Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey.

Here, you will get to witness the orangutans from a safe distance and perhaps even see a scientist studying or conducting research.

Wild Animal Sightings

 

Seeing the orangutans at the feeding stations was such a treat, but these orangutans are semi-wild because they are used to seeing people everyday come and watch them eat. We loved how close we could get to the orangutans at the feeding stations for this purpose, but there was something that felt more rewarding to spot the animals in the wild from the boat.

We were apparently really lucky because we saw at least a dozen different wild orangutans on our cruise. Our friends said they didn’t see more than one or two on their last trip. We were visiting in mid-September, which is when the fruit is in season and the reason why we saw more wild orangutans than normal.

Because the fruit was in season, this also meant that all of the orangutans may not show up to the feeding stations seeing how they can eat and fill themselves up on their own with the fruit in the wild.

Our favorite sighting of a wild orangutan would have been this giant male. We stopped our boat to observe him a bit and he began to swing through the trees towards us to see us as well. Before long he was sick of us staring at him and started puckering his lips and making a smooching sound at us. Our guide said that meant he was upset, apparently, we have overstayed our welcome at this point, and we moved along leaving him be.

Borneo Jungle

Probiscous Monkeys in a Tree

Another favorite wild animal sighting would be the proboscis monkeys. These guys are so strange looking with their floppy nose, big ole’ belly, and for the male proboscis, their red chili pepper. We found these guys to be so interesting to look at and hilarious. They look almost like a crazy character rather than a real monkey. I kept referring to them as the Al Bundy monkeys.

It was fun watching them swing through the trees because they looked. It felt as if you were watching a blooper reel at some points because it looked like they were missing the trees altogether when they took their leap of faith to a branch on another tree. It looked like they were aiming for a branch, completely missed it and had to grab on the next branch below them. Little did we know this is just how they move around.

We also saw some terrifying crocodiles, monitor lizards, hornbills, macaques, and gibbons.

A solo cheeky little macaque carefully planned how he was going to jump on our boat parked for the night along the river. We watched him as he jumped through the trees over the crocodile infested waters until he made it on a branch close enough to take the leap of faith on to our boat. After stealing a few napkins, Chris who is a lover of all jungle animals rewarded this brave little pirate with a banana.

We ended up naming him Phree-doh the little gray monkey.

If you’re lucky you may spot a clouted leopard, tarsier, or slow loris!

Extra Stops

Besides the feeding stations, we made two extra stops including a night walk in the jungle and planting a tree at the jungle conservation center.

We were hoping to spot a slow loris or a tarsier during our night walk but ended up seeing more creepy crawlers instead. Chris showed us were tarantulas live in the trees and let us get a closer look at one we spotted in the night. We did not know that tarantulas from Borneo were poisonous, so we didn’t dare get too close.

At one point we heard this loud sound. Thinking it was going to be some sort of large bird, Chris pointed out to us that it was actually a grasshopper who was making loud music that could be heard far away. We were so impressed with how easily Chris was able to locate this tiny insect’s location in the dark on a single leaf in the jungle.

I was a bit freaked out the entire time since we were walking in the dark and seeing spiders and other things that scare the bejesus out of me and stayed close to Chris.

Once we got back to the boat we discovered Chris, Scott, and I had leeches. Katy and Emil were lucky little devils who didn’t attract these little blood suckers. Again, Chris came to the rescue and made sure our leeches were gone, stopped the bleeding with his magical ways, and checked our pants and the boat for more who may be lurking around.

On our very last day, we all gave a donation and planted a tree native to the jungle. We all picked different kinds of trees and a park ranger took us to a plot to plant it. This was a nice way to end the trip.

Final Impression

We LOVED this experience. It’s no wonder why our friends wanted to do this again. This was the perfect digital detox we needed from our daily workload. We would love to come back and do this entire experience all over again. It was fascinating to learn more and witness the wild and semi-wild orangutans as well as the other wildlife native to Kalimantan Borneo. Camping on the boat was an experience unlike any other. To be able to get up in the night and look up at the milky way and waking up in the morning to the sound of wild animals and even curious monkeys trying to get our boat are unforgettable memories. I have a feeling we will be back!

We booked our tour through Orangutan Voyage. Although if you would like to directly book a tour through our guide Chris send us a message and we will send you his contact information!

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Finding Orangutans in Borneo Jungle

 

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