People of the Forest : Orangutans In The Wild
In a land far, far away, surrounded by rivers and jungles, live one of the world’s most peaceful people. The forest people. We call them orangutans, which is translated literally as orang meaning “person” and hutan meaning “forest”.
Native to the rain forests of Indonesia and Malaysia, these amazing beings share 97% of their DNA with humans. The absolutely devastating thing is their forest is being taken away by humans. We are destroying their habitat, burning down the trees and instead growing fields and fields of palm oil plantations.
In the past two decades alone, over 50,000 orangutans as well as other wildlife have been found dead as a result of this.
What can we do?
- One thing we can do is avoid purchasing palm oil or products containing palm oil. It’s found in food products, detergents and cosmetics. Read labels and find out all the ingredients that contain palm oil. The production and use of palm oil has doubled in the past decade and is in more products than you can imagine. Please read the important information about this at Say No To Palm Oil and The Orangutan Foundation for more detailed information on the devastating effects of unsustainable palm oil.
- Another thing you can do is go visit the orangutans in the wild! Tourism is one of the only things keeping them alive. The locals do need to make a living somehow and tourism is a good source of income for them. This is much better than working for the palm oil industry and helping destroy the land their ancestors lived on and the animals! You could also apply to volunteer there.
- Donate to The Orangutan Foundation. This non-profit foundation is dedicated to the conservation of wild orangutans and their habitat in the rainforest. They do amazing work rescuing and rehabilitating displaced orangutans and releasing them back into the wild.
- Advocate for veganism and the protection of all animals on Earth. In the United States, the number of people who are vegan has doubled in the last few years. We are standing for all animals by not hurting them unnecessarily. Sometimes we don’t even realize how much what we eat, wear, and purchase affects other beings, the planet and ourselves. We can’t do it all, but we can do what we can!
Going to Borneo was by far one of the most incredible experiences of my life and is always the top travel destination I recommend to animal and nature lovers who love to travel. The Borneo rainforest is 130 million years old making it the oldest rainforest in the world, filled with 221 mammal species and 420 bird species.
There’s something about being so far away from civilization, floating along on a boat in a river, the peace and beauty overwhelming you.
Not to mention looking up and seeing primates climbing in the trees! Words cannot describe it. In my photography, I try to give it justice but it’s just not the same as the physical experience.
We stayed at The Rimba Eco Lodge, which is amazing. They are somewhat primitive lodges in the jungle right on the river, but it really adds to the experience. You can feel the wild, smell the wild, be IN THE WILD. Although they did have showers (a hose in the bathroom) and a toilet (compostable-type). So it was all good. 😉 They also made us vegan meals every day and stocked up on mangoes! YES.
It took us a 2 1/2 hour boat ride in the pouring rain in the dark under a tarp to get there. It was definitely a meditative experience in itself. There’s nothing you can do but sit there and breathe, not being able to see anything for hours. But when we arrived, it was like entering another world – mystical and alive.
The next morning, we met with our guide, Hakim (the best!), and went out on our first boat ride down the river to bring us deeper into the Tanjung Puting National Park where many of the wild orangutans and other animals hang out.
OUR VERY FIRST wild orangutan sighting as we continued along the river- an ADORABLE baby feeding on mangoes by the river with her mom (nearby but hard to see).
Tanjung Puting National Park is a protected area, thanks to the late Louis Leakey and especially Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, who came here in the 1970’s to study primates and attempt to save them from extinction. She wasn’t around when we were there, but Charles was! (A friendly orangutan who watches out for and greets all the humans!)
We then visited the visitors center at Camp Leakey where we met Siswe, the “queen” orangutan. She came out of the jungle right up to the door and started going through someone’s backpack. We laughed afterword as she just laid there by the door!
She reached out for my hand and I didn’t know what to do. The guides yelled at me to NOT touch her. Diseases can be transmitted either way so it’s prohibited. So, we let her be and she eventually walked off into the jungle and we followed her… from a safe distance! Can you imagine following a wild orangutan around the jungle?! My heart was so full of JOY!
She stopped, and gazed up peacefully with the love of her wild surroundings very clear in her eyes. She’s grateful to be free, grateful to be alive! This moment I will never ever forget:
I was so happy to be here! The boardwalks go on and on for miles into the jungle, where each day we would wander and stop and listen frequently for the sounds of animals nearby.
They have feeding stations for the orangutans who can’t find enough food in the wild. They are very limited as they don’t want the orangutans becoming dependent on them. It’s a good sign when there isn’t a lot of orangutans at the food stations as that means they are getting enough food on their own.
So many of them came to hang out, grab a few bananas and just plain blow my mind. It amazes me how they can hang on these branches and they never break them or fall… okay there was some falling, but they always catch themselves!
At one point, we were surrounded in a circle by over 15 wild orangutans in the trees around us!
Then Yani appeared! He is the King alpha male and ALL the orangutans scattered. It was a little scary as his otherworldly massive face that is brought on by testosterone and his body was also HUGE. He stood up like a human. It was unreal! But there was also a gentleness to him, a peaceful vibe. I love him too. 🙂
Not only are there orangutans in Borneo, but also macaque monkeys, gibbons, probiscus monkeys (AMAZING animals!), tons of birds, bearded pigs, interesting squirrels, and more…
Support the Orangutan Foundation HERE.
As you can tell, this is a story very special and near and dear to my heart. Thank you so much for checking out our blog and please comment below and let me know what you think!
Peace. Love. Travel.
“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” – Chief Seattle