Balikpapan Travel Blog

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Orangutan before release.
This is Part II of Trekking in Borneo Rainforest.

The orangutans were unique creatures. They live in Borneo rainforest. Orangutan simply means “man of the jungle” in Malay. They looked curious and attentive to what was going on around them. The younger ones were just trusting and unafraid of humans. Obviously, they were very familiar with their handlers (conservatory technicians). The handlers carried the smaller orangutans as if they were babies. We were warned, however, about orangutans’ other behaviors. As strangers to them, we had to stay clear of “loose” orangutans and to remain calm when seeing them. The orangutans were physically strong. Here are the stories of two orangutans from the trip.

- Marco -
Among the 33 orangutans released that day was Marco, a 28-year-old male orangutan that was considered the fiercest.
Orangutan peeking from their temporary wooden tower.
According to the conservatory team, he stood almost 6-foot tall and weighed over 320 lbs. Marco had killed 3 other orangutans in a fight prior to the release. He was an aggressive orangutan and disliked the presence of women around him.

No one wanted to mess with Marco! The staff had previously given 2 shots of valium to Marco before the volunteers began to carry his cage. But of course everyone wanted to see what the mighty Marco looked like! His cage was made of four regular cages combined together. However, I was not able to see his face clearly. He was sleeping soundly, breathing heavily. He slouched his shoulders with his long dark brown body hair so long almost covering his entire face.

It took 15 strong (and brave) men to carry Marco's cage across the river to his designated place was a little farther away into the forest separated from the other orangutans. Accordingly, he would not harm other orangutans, or any volunteer who'd camp out on the other side of the river that night. As soon as we reached Marco's new home, the cage was unlocked and everybody hurried back to the other side of the river (read Part I of this blog).

- Bento -
On the way back to the basecamp our group had a surprising encounter with an orangutan. He was standing in the middle of the trail and looking straight at us. This middle-size orangutan started walking toward us. We were stunned because we had never expected running into one when we were unescorted by the conservatory staff. So, everybody stood still and whispered to each other signaling not to move a muscle or look at the orangutan in the eye. The orangutan kept walking slowly toward us checking everybody out. I swear when he got as close as the person in front of me I could easily jump out of my skin and run for my life like nobody's business!! But the orangutan stopped and extended his hand and grabbed the person's leg. We gasped, but after a minute the orangutan let go and turned around and returned to the forest. Later that day we learned that it was Bento, the free-spirited orangutan that loved to walk around checking out places. According to the conservatory technicians, he was harmless, but he was very curious when seeing people with backpacks. He felt the need to check it out for food. So, it might have been what he was doing when he saw us.
amazed says:
Amazing blog... should be featured
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013
o_dog says:
Glad you enjoyed the blog! :)

The place that I visited was a National Park (in fact, most of the Indonesian part of Borneo forests are protected area). You need to go see a ranger and ask for a guided tour. As the number of orangutans is decreasing, you might find them way inside the jungle.

Hope it helps! ciao.
Posted on: Oct 14, 2007
Aopaq says:
Wow! What am amazing experience. You have now given me a very good reason to travel to Borneo. Is it possible to actually see the orangutans in the wild?
Posted on: Oct 14, 2007
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Orangutan before release.
Orangutan before release.
Orangutan peeking from their tempo…
Orangutan peeking from their temp…
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photo by: o_dog