Posts Tagged With: wildlife

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

Visiting Seldovia, AK by Boat

If you haven’t been able to tell yet, we really enjoyed Homer, AK! We decided to take our chances at another wildlife boat tour that doubled with a trip to the island community of Seldovia, AK (south-west of Homer). Fingers were crossed for slightly better weather than our first wildlife cruise in the Kenai Fjords! Camping out on Homer spit made our commute to the boat dock quick and simple (it was basically across the street from where we were staying). We booked tickets on the Rainbow Connection. For $59/adult they offered a 7-hour trip. We departed Homer Spit around 10:30AM and headed to Gull Island Seabird Rookery (home to 15,000 seabirds, including 8 pelagic- or open sea- species that nest there every year). From there, we headed to Eldridge Passage, a place to find sea otters, ducks, eagles, and occasionally, whales. After about 1.5 hours, we arrived at Seldovia, where we had three hours to explore and walk around before hopping back on our boat and traveling back to Homer. The boats had a naturalist on board who was extremely knowledgable and talked all about the Kachemak Bay. The boat itself was fairly large and they offered tea and coffee onboard. There were seats both outside and inside and the weather was much better than in the Kenai Fjords. We had a fantastic time and would definitely take the trip again. Plus, we were fortunate enough to see whales, birds, ducks, eagles, and sea otters!! Here are some pictures from the boat trip over:

Whale Tail!

Whale Tail!

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Friendly Otter

 

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Curious Otter

 

 

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Elephant with His Trunk Down

Elephant with His Trunk Up!

Elephant with His Trunk Up!

When our boat pulled around the bend and into the Seldovia Harbor, we were greeted by a series of beautifully colored houses and buildings. The dock was chock full of boats (the only way to get to Homer after all) and there were people bustling around getting their work done. We disembarked and enjoyed a nice picnic at a table up on a hill looking down on the docks.

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Enjoying a Picnic!

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Seldovia, AK

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After our lunch, we walked around the small community. There was some funky wood statues of fish and a historic boardwalk with shops such as the Thyme on the Boardwalk Nursery. We took photos of gorgeous flowers and enjoyed a gorgeous day in this small town hidden from the world. We also stopped by a Coffee Shop and met the owner who had just started the business perhaps a week before. When we entered she was just taking a large batch of homemade muffins out of the oven. Her shop was located down a wood staircase in an old wood building right on the water. It was cozy and wonderful and the hot coffee and muffin were just what was needed!

 

Fish Statue in Seldovia

Fish Statue in Seldovia

Funky Birdhouse on Seldovia's Historic Boardwalk

Funky Birdhouse on Seldovia’s Historic Boardwalk

Teapot Planters

Teapot Planters

Flowers in Seldovia

Flowers in Seldovia

More Flowers in Seldovia

More Flowers in Seldovia

A Little Coffee Shop on the Water

A Little Coffee Shop on the Water

After our allotted 3-hours, we headed back to our boat, snapped a few more photos of fisherman cleaning their catches and birds eating the leftovers, and then traveled back on to Homer. On the Spit, we were lucky to catch a glimpse of one of the Deadliest Catch’s boats at dock before enjoying a nice stroll on the beach. It was a wonderful day!

Cleaning Fish

Cleaning Fish

The Birds Feast

The Birds Feast

A Perfect End to a Perfect Day

A Perfect End to a Perfect Day

Here’s a picture of our route for all you map-minded people out there!


 

Categories: Alaska | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day#2: Kenai Fjords National Park Boat Trip (Seward)

On day #2 of the trip, I woke up super early… as in 3:45AM. I actually spent about 2 hours catching up on a few blog posts from our recent Indonesia trip. I worked out of the passenger seat in the front of the RV, gazing out at mountains, water, bald eagles, and a sea otter! The rest of the crew stirred around 6:00AM. We set to work cooking up some scrambled egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast and made sure our cameras were loaded up with fresh batteries and blank memory cards. We gathered layers and filled water bottles, and headed into town to The Bakery (where the French dip sandwiches we ate last night came from) to meet up with our boat crew. Around 8AM, we met up with eight other people and then met up with one of our two crew members/guides/boat captains for the day. We were headed out on a small group wildlife and glacier boat tour through the Alaska Saltwater Lodge (you don’t have to stay at the lodge to go on the excursion).

We were led down to the boat dock where we boarded the Stellar Sunrise, one of the company’s two small boats (maximum of 15 people). The boat was great- seats in the back, in the front and inside. The inside also had heat, coffee, hot chocolate, and tea. Blueberry Muffins were also served when we first took off. Wanting to have the best view on the boat and loving previous experiences of being upfront in all the action, once we made it through the safety instructions and overview talk, we high-tailed it to the front of the boat.

 

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We grabbed seats right below the captain’s window. There was a very light on and off drizzle but nothing too bad. Oh how naïve we were… The tour was awesome. We learned that our two boat crew members spend summers in Alaska and winters in Hawaii. They provide tours in both locations and love it. They were well versed and explained that most of the boats in the harbor and going out in search of wildlife will radio to one another when they see something so others can partake in it. Pretty cool system.  The idea was that we would boat a few hours out until we reached a calving glacier. We would park in front of the glacier for lunch and then head back to Seward. We ended up eating a bit before reaching the glacier because of all the wildlife we saw and how much time we spent following and learning about the different animals on our way. Lunch consisted of turkey sandwiches, a bag of chips, soda, and a cookie.

We had hoped for sun but it didn’t work out quite as we hoped… it rained on and off all day and it was SO COLD. And WET. But, to be fair, we did that to ourselves. It was on principle. We were trying to be the diehards staying upfront, however with 8 foot swells bringing seawater overboard and rain water running off the boat roof and down our backs, it made it quite difficult. We were literally wet from head to toe, inside and out. We almost made it too. But at some point, we just had to take a break and sit inside in the warmth (where everyone else was). Even with the rain and the cold weather, it was awesome!!! My advice if you are planning on taking this or a similar tour in Seward/other areas of Alaska: wear rain pants or at least bring them with you just in case. A poncho or a rain jacket is also a must. Gloves and waterproof shoes are very very helpful. Also, make sure you either have a hood on your jacket or wear a hat.

As I mentioned earlier, even with the cold and wet, the tour was still phenomenal and Andrew and I both agree that we wouldn’t have traded it for the world. You travel out into Kenai Fjords National Park, into a few little coves and up into a few inlets around Resurrection Bay before heading out into the Gulf of Alaska. Because the water is a bit rough and you get tossed around a bit, there is also a little passage that is extremely calm where the boat slows down and/or stops so folks can use the restroom.

The calving glacier that we went out to view was Holgate Glacier, one of about 30 that are found in Kenai Fjords National Park. A massive glacier located on an ice-infested portion of water. Our boat pulled up into the icy waters and actually pulled a large chunk of glacier ice from the water onboard. She explained how the clearness or opacity indicate how cold the ice is and how long it will take to melt. We added some of the chunk sample to our cooler (not that it needed it because things were already quite chilly). We sat for about 30 minutes or so watching this gigantic glacier. Every once in a while we would hear what sounded like crashing thunder and then we would see a portion of the glacier collapse and crumble down into the ocean. The pictures below show the glacier from our viewpoint, still over ½ mile away from the glacier itself.

 

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I mentioned earlier in this post that we saw a lot of wildlife on the trip. We sure did. Here’s a list of what we saw:

–       Orca Whales

–       Humpback Whale

–       Eagles

–       Sea Otters

–       Dall’s Porpoise (look like miniature Orca Whales)

–       Harbor Seals

–       Stellar Sea Lions

–       Grey Porpoises

–       Puffins

 

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When we add this list to our Day#1 list, we total 10 types of animals on the trip so far. Not too shabby!

 

When we arrived back to the harbor in Seward, we were frozen to the bone. But still, we couldn’t resist stopping for a photo or two with the statues in town first. Afterwards, we headed back to our RV, changed into warm, dry clothes, and then dined on RV-made grilled cheese and Ramen. Andrew and I also spent some time packing breakfast and snacks and loading up our packs for tomorrow morning—we have a long day planned that starts at 4AM.

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Resources:

1. Alaskan Saltwater Lodge Small Group Wildlife Boat Tour: http://www.alaskasaltwaterlodge.com/alaska_whale_watching.htm (Cost: $259 including tax and fees; $216.43 if booked online)
Highly recommend taking advantage of the small group boat tour- maximum of 15 people means minimized number of heads and arms in your way while trying to see and/or take pictures :0). Plus, the tour guides are fantastic. Remember that you get coffee, tea, water, soda, an onboard restroom, maximized guide-visitor ratio, comfy seats, heat and outdoor space, snacks, and lunch (sandwich, chips and cookie)! Let them know if you’re a vegetarian beforehand!
Tips for the Traveler Going on the Boat Tour:

  1. Rain Jacket/Poncho (A MUST)
  2. Camera (A MUST) Bonus points for an SLR camera with a decent zooming capability. Double bonus for ISO)
  3. Hood or Hat of Some Kind (A MUST)
  4. Waterproof Shoes
  5. Gloves (Nice to have- it can get really chilly) *Note- if you forget your gloves, you can contact the owner of the boat tour and she’ll actually lend you some gloves for the trip*
  6. Rain Pants (Nice to have- all I’m saying is that if you get caught in rain, you will really really want to have them)
  7. Sunglasses (Nice to have- especially if you’re sitting outside; can block the sun and the wind!)
  8. Dramamine (A MUST if you are prone to sea-sickness; they actually ask people who are prone to it to take the medication when we are just starting the trip to avoid and unpleasant trip). *Note we did have one person get sick on our boat- she just high-tailed it for the end of the boat, did her business, and moved on. I’m not sure the majority of people on our boat even knew)
Categories: Alaska | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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