Composed of various tropical and coastal forests, Tanjung Putting National Park is home to several endangered species like the Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey, Marron Leaf Monkey, leopards, and for those with exceptional luck, the Sun Bear.
As both photographers and animal lovers, my wife and I decided to embark on a journey to Tanjiung Putting National Park. From our short and bumpy flight into the center of Kalimantan, to the leisurely but hot cruise aboard a klotok (motorized canoe) on the coffee colored Sekonyer River, the entire journey made for an excellent adventure.
Pandanus trees line the headland and river’s edge. These palm-like trees offer local material for arts and crafts, home construction and the leaves are used to accent the local cuisine. Hidden behind these trees are the animals we came to see and photograph like the long nosed Proboscis monkey, wild boars, clouded leopards, countless tropical birds with colors to match, and of course, the Orangutan.
Every pore in our bodies oozes sweat and wrinkles act like rivers in the breezeless boat. Unlike us, the boat captain doesn’t seem to even notice the heat and has no sign of perspiration anywhere on his person. Not only has his body completely adapted itself to the tropical climate, but also he’s somehow developed the ability to read minds. While contemplating a quick swim, he mentions the crocodiles and poisonous snakes hiding beneath the surface, so much for an afternoon dip.
Tanjiung Putting National Park was largely created to protect Indonesia’s beloved Orangutan, or ” Person of the Forrest.” The park host three rehabilitation centers, one of which offers a rustic place to spend the night on you visit.
Although these mysterious “persons of the forest” are the largest tree dwelling animal in the world, they are extremely hard to spot. On the boat ride over, we couldn’t sport a single primate until our guide told us to look forward instead of sideways. Turns out that the further you are from the rehab center, the more cautious the animals are.
Once at the first center, we spend a couple hours roaming the ancient forest looking but spot nothing until once more our guide explains that we should be looking for moving branches instead of the actual orangutan with this knowledge, we begin to spot them on a regular basis.
Like many endangered species, the Orangutan’s greatest threat is man. Man is slowly destroying the Orangutan natural habitual and killing adults to steal babies for the “Exotic Pet Market.” Logging plantation, illegal gold mining operations and palm oil plantation create an unintentional barrier that prevents wildlife from migrating.
After a couple hours of walking along bamboo-covered swamps, my wife and I decide to visit the small museum. The building provides welcomed shade and when we step out, we see several orangutans playing without a care in the world. You’d never know that their species is endangered watching them here. After a couple days of exploring and some nights spent sleeping under mosquito netting, my wife and I make a slow return to home. We’re both excited to have seen these magnificent creatures in their “natural habitat,” but we’re also sad when thinking about their future.