Orangutan Obsessed and Borneo Bound
Working on Planet Ark’s ‘Palm Oil Free’ campaign I learnt more about orangutans than I know about almost any other subject. So taken was I by this incredible creature and the situation they face – threatened by deforestation, palm oil plantations, poaching and other dangers, that I packed my bags and headed to Borneo. Here I visited the Samboja Lestari project in East Kalimantan, run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation. http://www.orangutans.com.au/
I arrived at Samboja Lestari in the late afternoon after some rough and ready four-wheel driving through jungle and over rock. But once I got there, it was more than worth it. The entrance into the project is spectacular, as you wind your way up to the lodge there are orangutans playing, swinging and relaxing in the afternoon shade. If my guide had not promised I would see this and much more over the next four days, he would have struggled to get me back in the car.
My guide was right – with the project home to over 220 rescued orangutans (and over 50 sun bears) there is no shortage of orangutan sightings. While some will never be released due to disease and disability, for the most part the keepers are working hard towards release and so are the orangutans - they attend forest school everyday to regain their forest skills! This is serious monkey business.
As a guest at Samboja Lestari I had the opportunity to view feeding time, see the orangutans sleeping in their nests, playing in the afternoon and hear the calls of the male orangutans at night. If you choose to come to Samboja Lestari as a volunteer, you must stay for at least 19 days, but will have the opportunity to get your hands dirty for a great cause, assisting in conservation activities including maintenance of orangutan and sun bear facilities, tree planting and learning about organic farming.
Visitors and volunteers stay at the Samboja Eco-Lodge, which is run by BOS. Built amongst the treetops and made from recycled materials, this lodge is a unique holiday experience. While it will set you back a few pretty pennies, part of the cost of staying here is a donation to the BOS Foundation to help them keep up the good work.
A Trip Worth Doing
A trip to Samboja Lestari is unlike anything else I’ve experienced and I couldn’t recommended it highly enough. Bring binoculars, a camera and plenty of mosquito repellent. But there’s no need to pack your book. Instead you will pass hours just sitting and watching these incredible creatures and they will do the same.
By Lucy Band