by Hayley Kopp (BNF Volunteer 2018)
The hammock swayed gently as I wrote in my journal. Taps of rain hit the roof of the lounge area. I glanced up to see a gecko resting on a beam. I heard the laughter of my fellow volunteers engaging in their nightly card game. Empty cocoa cups lay abadoned on the picnic tables.
After seven years dreaming of visiting Borneo, I was struck by how very real this place is.
Our adventure started with a stroll through the woods. It was hard to focus on the world around me while balancing on wooden beams. What’s that root looping out of the ground? Oh, look! That tree has roots growing out of it’s trunk! I asked about a fern-sized plant with sharp, grass-like blades, which is called Pandan. I learned that orangutans suck water out of the plant, and humans have various uses for it including weaving bags and for an ingredient in cakes. Jenn, the volunteer coordinator, joked that I get entertained so easily with the plants that I almost don’t have to see any wild animals.
Later on that walk we heard a flanged male orangutan’s long call. His low voice could be heard from about a kilometer away. My ears perked up and I smiled. Wow, on the first day! I walked well behind the rest of the group and stopped to take pictures of a colorful hairy catepillar, a plant that lives in symbiosis wih the ants that live in it, and a pitcher plant! Hendri, the senior coordinator and one of the guides for this walk, called us over and pointed at the trees. There was a red langur with silky ginger fur lounging on the branches. He was picking leaves from an adjacent tree, and I wondered what species he was eating from. After a minute or two, he slunked through the trees and vanished. The next morning I heard a chorus of gibbons whooping in the distance. Someone pointed out an individual in a tree before it swung off.
I felt lucky to have already seen two wild primates in under 24 hours. In fact, we were always very close to wildlife within the forest and around camp.
We watched the geckos on the ceiling hunt a moth and have an intense staring stand off with a praying mantis! The skinks skittered around on the wood panels. Dragonflies soared around the laundry lines. We watched a huge monitor lizard crawl under a bush outside the dining area. Then, over the railway tracks, past the badminton court, we got a full view of our first orangutan sighting as it crossed through the trees. In just two days in Borneo, I have already witnessed so much that the forest has to offer and I am anxious to see what more is to come over the next month.