Posts Tagged With: monkeys

Tanjung Puting National Park: Borneo, Indonesia

One of the last times we went to Indonesia, we took the opportunity to travel over to Kalimantan (north of Java) to visit Tanjung Puting National Park. First, here’s the flight path we took from Jakarta to Pangkalanbuun Iskandar:

I’ll reserve another post to talk about flying over to Kalimantan. It was an experience in itself that involved walking down a highway outside of Jakarta, getting a free taxi ride, and a tiny airplane. 🙂

Tanjung Puting National Park. The park was originally designated as a game reserve in 1935. It wasn’t until 1982 when the national park was established and even since then it has had questionable protection mostly due to Palm Oil plantation in the surrounding lands (deforested areas). Nonetheless, it does remain wild and natural. The park consists of over 1100 square miles of area including the rivers that weave their way through the park before flowing into the Java Sea. Tanjung Puting is filled to the brim with wildlife, including multiple species of monkeys, gators, and a multitude of birds. It is most well known, however, for its Orangutans, made famous by a rehabilitation center at Camp Leakey. The orangutans, displaced mostly by the palm oil expansion (through deforestation), are nursed back to health and taught how to function as wild Orangs, before they are gradually re-released into the wild.

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Wildlife of Tanjung Puting

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Wildlife of Tanjung Puting

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Wildlife of Tanjung Puting

 

When you go to visit Tanjung Puting, you need to have a hired guide. This guide typically includes a boat (the only real way to explore the park). There are a multitude of services online that offer tours of the park for varying lengths of time. I must have spent weeks/months scouring through different tour services that sort of seemed sketchy or seemed really sketchy. After a multitude of emails back and forth with different options, I finally gave in and just booked with a company that would allow us to do a 2n/3d trip into the park. We were set to meet them at the airport and go from there.

Our boat was a traditional Indonesian boat similar to the boat we took in Flores to Komodo National Park, just a bit bigger. Our “area” was the top floor of the boat where there was a bed and mosquito net, a table with chairs, and some lounge chairs out on the deck. The bathroom was a flush toilet on the first floor– where the contents are flushed to is another story and a another mystery for another day. We met our crew and spoke with the tour operator- a woman and her husband run the business. Our tour guide for the trip was a young guy, maybe 18. He showed us around helped us get comfortable.

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Welcome Sign: Tanjung Puting

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Tanjung Puting National Park

 

For the next 3 days, we were immersed in the park and all it had to offer. Our tour guide talked to us about the difficulties of finding jobs in the local economy; trying to choose between acting as a tour guide in the part (few jobs) versus perhaps getting a better paying job in one of the palm oil plantations that were encroaching on the park. Our tour guide’s family was in the Orangutan business, so our tour guide was too. He worked at Camp Leakey, rehabilitating Orangs… bottle feeding them, rocking them, teaching them to look for food, and eventually helping to release them into the forest. Once Orangs are released, they work their way from platform station to platform station… working their way deeper into the forest.

We spent our days traveling to three platforms. The boat would dock and we would hike into the woods where some make-shift wooden benches were set-up for viewers. There were quite a few boats out on the river during our time in the park, but we never felt crowded. We were in our little oasis, taking pictures of monkeys and trees and birds. The forest was HOT. We were sweaty after only short hikes out to the platforms. We waited with baited breath while the park rangers brought out bananas and coconuts and called for the Orangs. As a part of the rehabilitation process, the Orangs are given varying amounts of food to help supplement their normal wild foraging. We held our breaths while Orang after Orang- moms, babies, and dads came out of nowhere. They walked right next to us, they swung from branches and limbs, they climbed trees, they sat on the platforms, and they ate. It was awesome!

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Male Orangutan

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Drinking some coconut milk

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Kissy Faces

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Just hanging out

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Nom Nom Nom

 

After each platform feeding time, we made our way back to our boat where our cook and guide set out cold drinks and snacks to re-energize us. We ate our meals in the wilds of Tanjung Puting National Park, on a small boat, surrounded by wildlife. At night, the boat was tied up anywhere along the river– wherever there was a spot and a tree to tie up to… we watched the stars and reflected on how fortunate we were to be able to be in that moment. We slept on the little mattress on the top deck, covered in a mosquito net, but open air. It was hot and we sweat through the night but it was so so worth it. If you ever get the chance, you should go. Just go and see what the big deal is… it changes your life.

When we eventually left the national park, three days later, we were in awe. We had seen and experienced so much. We reminisced about the previous day, when we had a Orang walk right past us on the trail. Then, when we were getting back on the boat, we snapped photo after photo of Orangs hanging on the docs and one Orang in particular that seemed to be playing with one of our crew. The Indonesian word for Orangutan is pronounced- “Oh-wrong-hoo-tahn” which means people of the forest. Indeed they are, indeed they are…

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Monkey in Tanjung Puting

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Monkey Species #2 in Tanjung Puting

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Monkey species #3 with baby

 

I remember reading Trip Advisor reviews of trips into the park much later, after we had returned to the states. I laughed and shook my head at people who left reviews like, “well the wine selection was mediocre at best on our boat”… honestly, if you are traveling to Tanjung Puting and your concern and thoughts are based on the wine selection, do me a favor, and don’t go. Stay at home, go out for an expensive bottle of wine in some stupid fancy restaurant. Leave the wilds of Indonesia and the graces of Orangutans to the people seeking adventure, to become one with nature, to be present in the wilds of the national park, and to experience Orangutans for what they are- people of the forest. A trip to Tanjung Puting National Park will change your life. You will understand just how small you are in this huge, huge world. It is a place for contemplation, reflection, and appreciation. If you are a wild one at heart, then please, please go to Tanjung Puting National Park. Go, experience the world and the pure awesomeness that the park emanates. If you want wine and creature comforts, stay at home, read this blog post, and take a look at the pictures of the Orangs. You have no place in the wild.

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Just two buddies hanging out in a tree

 

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Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sunrise Trek Up Mount Batur

Well, we had originally planned on hiking up Mount Agung [where the gods live], however there was a private burial occurring and as such, hikers were not allowed up there the day we planned, so instead, Swasti suggested we do a sunrise hike up Mount Batur- it was a bit easier they said and we could leave at 3AM instead of Midnight [the time you had to leave to get up Mount Agung to see the sunrise]. In retrospect- Oh my god. I am so GLAD we did NOT hike Mount Agung…. especially if Mount Batur was “easier”. Mount Batur was like straight up a volcano. It was crazy– but a lot of fun and I’m glad we did it! A Swasti guard on duty overnight packed us breakfast sandwiches in the morning and sent us on our way. We were picked up at Swasti around 3AM or so. We picked up two other folks on the way. We drove for about an hour and then arrived in a parking lot that was pretty packed with other people waiting to hike. As it turns out, the hike up Mount Batur is basically a never-ending chain of groups working their way up the volcano by flashlight. Your guide carries water and breakfast/snacks with him. We made our way up the volcano– admittedly, slower than I probably would have liked, but I was out of breath most of the way up so really I’m just glad we made it up. We did- made it in time to sit for a few before the sunrise began and was it ever worth it. There was also a woman up there in a little shed who was selling coffee and food– apparently she hikes up every morning with everything- water, coffee, and all other supplies… just to try and sell to the people who come for the sunrise. As we sat taking pictures of the beauty before us, naturally a few curious monkeys came along out of nowhere. They ended up with one of our eggs and some toast. Pesky little things. As far as recommended tour guides for the trek- really any will do… you can typically just line them up through your hotel/eco-lodge, etc. We set ours up the day before. Easy peasy.

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On the way back to Swasti from the sunrise trek, we stopped by a tea and coffee plantation for tastings and we bought some coffee for the road. Yum! The best part was we still had the afternoon in Ubud to relax. The next morning we were heading out yet again– but this time to a different island for an overnight- 1 night, 2 day excursion- mostly built around seeing Komodo Dragons in the wild [they’re my favorite besides Manatees]! Anyway we walked into town again and relaxed– found a place to grab some lunch and it was so awesome. We were sitting outside in gorgeous weather and right next door is a rice field. How cool is that? I told you they put rice fields everywhere they can! I had a traditional Balinese dish with yellow rice, chicken, and veggies, while Andrew opted for the pizza. We also dined on pretty heavenly drinks, including passionfruit mojitos and lemongrass jubilees. For a country that’s not big on drinking, they sure do have some amazing drinks!

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Before we depart from this post, we wanted to share some pictures of Swasti Eco Lodge, our home base in Ubud. Delightfully wonderful place hidden away just outside of town. It was perfect.

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Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ubud Monkey Forest

Our next stop on the trip was Ubud, but first, a few more pictures of A Village Above the Clouds:

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From Village Above the Clouds, we headed to Ubud… another touristy place mostly made famous by eat, pray, love. It was known to have all sorts of cuisines and cultural and artsy trinkets– the best place to get souvenirs. Ubud was going to serve as our base for the last part of our trip… it was supposed to be really cool…and it was. We loved it and could have easily spent 2 weeks there alone. This first day, we just wanted to see the downtown area, so after being dropped at Swasti Eco Lodge [another stellar hotel– more on it later], we started our walk into town, only to get sidetracked by the ever massive “Monkey Forest”. Naturally, we had to take a look. I have. never. seen. that. many. monkeys. in. my. life. There were so many monkeys! Seriously— tons of them. They were very handsy– one of them kept trying to put its hand in my purse. The forest is a really big place and there are a number of temples within it as well. We walked down to a water-related temple that was known in the tourist world as the Indiana Jones Temple- surrounded by trees and water, you have to hiked down a bridge of steps. There are monkeys and statues… you know the drill. Very cool and very worth the trip. A warning though– if you go to Monkey Forest, don’t pick up the old pieces of banana from the ground and hand them to a monkey– chances are that if it’s on the ground, they already rejected it for a reason. I made the mistake of picking up 1/2 a banana and holding it out to a monkey who bit into it and then proceeded to charge me with his teeth hanging out.

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After taking copious amounts of Monkey pictures, we worked our way towards the exit of monkey forest, where we came upon the preparations for a cremation. Remember my post about the importance and tradition of cremations, offerings, and death ceremonies? Well, this was the day before the event- tons of people were around and setting things up for the event. We spoke with a few locals during our time to understand the whole process. As it turns out, giant wood carvings of lions and horses are created to carry each body to the cremation. The entire carving is lit on fire and cremated and then the ashes are moved again into a smaller ceremonial temple of sorts. Additionally, large cremations only happen every so often, so this cremation was  to involve many many bodies. The colors were bright and people seemed generally happy– they were naturally, celebrating lives and through a rich cultural tradition. This particular cremation was not open to the public, so we did not get a chance to watch. Additionally, we had plans to hike Mount Batur the next morning for sunrise! We walked around town as well just for a few minutes, before heading back to Swasti to prep for our 3AM wake up call.

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Exploring Bedugul by Scooter

After a wonderful sleep, we woke up to the sun shining and a gorgeous view of the farm from bed through a wall-sized window. Just gorgeous. We got dressed and headed to the kitchen for breakfast; by the way, if you stay at Village Above the Clouds, I highly recommend that you get to breakfast before the other folks staying there– if you do, you get to sit at the sole table that is outdoors and has a wonderful view over the farm! Breakfast was filled with coffee, fruit, and coconut crepes for Andrew and Mie Goreng with an egg for me. After breakfast, we spoke to one of the employees and in about 10 minutes, we had hopped onto our scooters and we were ready to go. It was about a 25 minute ride back into the town of Bedugul– up and down mountains and around turns and although the scooters seem really easy- it took us a bit to get the swing of things. Luckily, it seemed up in the mountains of this area, traffic wasn’t as bad as in other places [thankfully, since I ended up on the wrong side of the road several times]. After the day of scootering around, we decided that next time we come to Bali, we’re going to ride scooters everywhere- they are awesome! Anyway ,back to the day…

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We first road up to the land of the monkeys- up the mountain on the other side of the valley- there they were. Just hanging out and wanting snacks from people. There was one really really fat monkey [I dubbed him fatboy] that would tug on people’s pants to try and get a snack. Most of the monkeys were pretty mild, but some of them had personality to say the least. If you go after the monkeys, just a warning- don’t get too close and don’t try to tick them off :).

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After checking out the monkeys, we headed back down the mountain into the valley with at least three purposes still for the day: 1] eat something with strawberries because this region is known for their strawberry growing, 2] check out the Ulu Danu Water Temple [one of the more famous temples], and 3] check out the open air market on the way back to our cottage. On our way back down the mountain however, I quickly became distracted by a tiny little stand next to the road that had two GIGANTIC bright orange iguanas sitting outside and sunning themselves. Naturally, I had to stop. We pulled over and it turned out to be some really weird touch zoo… at least that’s the best way I can describe it. The deal is you pay to have a picture with the animals. Before we could decide what to do– the guy working there took out a mongoose and promptly put him on Andrew’s shoulder. I’m not going to lie– I was kind of in love with that mongoose and he really seemed to like Andrew. Andrew’s picture day ended there and I jumped in. First, I got a picture with one of those orange iguanas I was talking about… then I got a picture with a giant bat hanging onto my belt loops. Next up was a boa constrictor– to be honest, I had no real desire to have the boa on me but I didn’t really have a choice- the guy just put him on me. My last animal was a little hedgehog… it was awesome. Naturally, it was bad that these poor animals are here and so tame when they could be in the wild and what not… but I still liked holding them :0) What can you do?

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After we played with the animals for a while, we were hungry…. so we went off in search of a strawberry place. We ended up at a small hotel/restaurant called Strawberry Hill where we promptly ordered strawberry pancakes and a strawberry milkshake– both delicious and fresh and just yum. After our snack, we went off in search of Ulu Danu Water Temple. This is one of the more famous water temples in Bali so we knew it would be crowded…and it was. It’s located on Lake Bratan. We read about some sunrise trips you can take on the lake that give you great views of the temple- didn’t get to them this time, but perhaps next time :). Anyway, the temple was positively gorgeous and the detail and designs were so intricate. The views were amazing and even though it was crowded, the temple area is large enough that you don’t really feel all that crowded unless you are in the “big picture” areas. Even still, we got a number of photos and were very happy with our visit to the temple. Bonus– the painting that Andrew had been talked into purchasing in Lovina… it was of Ulu Danu Water Temple! So it all worked out in the end- we got a painting of place we had visited…that really could have turned out worse :).

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After the temple, we made one more stop on our way back to Village Above the Clouds– the outdoor market. I have a real love of seeing different markets in different places in the world… [read about this historical market in Fremantle, Australia… I also need to post about an amazing Sunday Asian Market in London that we visited in 2012, as well as our hometown markets…]. Anyway, this was a small open market on the side of the road that was touristy but so cool. They sold all sorts of things from garden plants to masks to kites to spices to fresh fruits and vegetables to jewelry. While we ended up only purchasing some fruits [ok, a lot of fruit], we did also snap a few cool pictures of the various wares… afterwards, we bought a hot corn on the cob [they sell them a lot around here– it’s a bit on the tough side but still tasty] and then headed back to Village Above the Clouds for our dinner.

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