Written by Caitlin Cant
After spending a couple of days in the nearby town of Palangka Raya, I have now been given the go-ahead to travel into the Sabangau forest. Travelling to get to the forest camp involves a car, a klotok (a small canoe-like boat) and a rickety little “lorry” that runs along a rail into the forest. Arriving at camp, I was first aware of how green, lush and open it was, with lots of colourful plants and flowers growing everywhere. It is a nature-lovers paradise; numerous bright butterflies, small lizard-like skinks, countless geckos and the occasional squirrel. I knew straight away that I was going to be completely at home here.
The next morning I was woken early by the beautiful singing chorus of the white-bearded gibbons. I lay there listening to them and the other mysterious forest sounds and birdsong, so excited and relieved to be finally here. After breakfast and some safely procedures we set off into the forest with the hope of joining an orangutan follow. The peat-swamp forest is an unique environment and travelling through it is a task in itself. There are many hidden holes in the peat to fall in and tangled, twisted branches and vines determined to trip you up.
My first glimpse of a wild orangutan was something I will never forget. The orangutan, a huge flanged male called Salvador, was high up in the trees – a massive orange mass that looked very much out of place in the surrounding greenery. He turned his large face towards us and I could see the intelligence in his eyes as he observed the latest intruder of his space. He “kiss-squeaked” to let us know to not to come any closer before climbing further up the tree to feed.
Since that day I have been out again in the forest and managed to stumble across a group of gibbons, one carrying tiny little baby clinging to her chest. They were very agile and comfortable in the trees, hanging casually from the branches, seemingly unconcerned by our presence. I have also observed Salvador again, but this time he was on the move so it was only a brief encounter as he moved off deep into the trees. I cannot wait to spend the next five months in this forest as the new orangutan intern and observing these incredible primates as well as the many other creatures that make their home here.