Volunteer News

Life as an OuTrop Volunteer: Kah Ming shares her experiences

Finally, here we are! At the Setia Alam Research Camp! To reach here, we had to take a Bemo, a boat and Nimbus 2000, an odd-looking train that runs on an old creaky railway. 

Lis loading up Nimbus 2000

The first two weeks spent in camp were, to say the least, surreal. The camp area was peaceful and relaxing with a constant symphony of cicada buzzes and bird calls in the background, and occasional indonesian songs strummed on guitar and sung by some of our talented Indonesian guys who work in the camp. We have regular visitors such as Boris the bearded pig, plantain squirrels, praying mantises, all sorts of crickets and skinks. Finding critters in bed, and being woken up by strange animal cries in the middle of the night are also part and parcel of life in here. Wearing a sarong, mandi-ing (Mandi is a very traditional way of bathing by scooping water from a big bucketload and pouring onto one’s body) and burning our trash are but a few unusual things we do normally. Everything is so simple, beautiful and within reach of nature. 

The stuff we do so far are still exceedingly exciting! There is so much to learn and whatever that’s going to happen or see are unpredictable! (Not to mention the uncountable muddy holes in the forest floor waiting for us to fall in!) We learnt to measure diameters and heights of trees, tree and butterfly identification, catching, handling and measuring butterflies and identifying pitcher plants. I have also gone on an orangutan follow and it was truly awesome! It was the first time I could be in such close proximity with a wild orangutan. The orangutan we followed was Indy. She’s a lovely orangutan who’s currently about 6-month pregnant. She loves eating fruits from lianas and occasionally comes down to the ground to feast on termites. Do note to avoid standing directly under the tree she’s on or she could be showering lots of seeds, bark or even urine! Twenti and Aman, the Indo guys, who brought us on the follow were simply impressive. They were able to collect massive amount of data within 5 mins! During another field trip, by a stroke of luck, we managed to see an elusive denizen of the forest as well – a kelasi (red langur monkey). We were all awestruck when it just ran past us and gave alarm calls while escaping from something else, possibly another male kelasi. It was Animal Planet channel coming alive!

Every day is a new adventure waiting to be unfolded and new pits to be discovered. Looking forward to more adventures to come! 

Kah Ming (Singapore)
OuTrop Volunteer 2012