Orangutans in Kumai


We arrived in Kumai after a slow slow motor/sail from Karamungjawa – there is just no wind here which is starting to really frustrate Ian.   Kumai is in Kalimantan  which is the Indonesian side of Borneo – the other parts of Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) belong to Malaysia.  The reason we came this far out of our way was to visit the orangutans in their natural habitat in a huge national park called Tanjung Puting – which promised to be one of the highlights of our sail through Indonesia.   We arrived early in the evening and chose to anchor outside the mouth of the river for the night.  At the crack of dawn we sailed down to the main part of town – about 3 hours dodging huge tankers.  It was a change to be in a river rather than the ocean, murky brown water albeit still filthy from rubbish discarded from the land.

Beautiful Kumai river

Within about 10 mins of dropping anchor, we had a visit from Alam – one of the ‘boys’ working for Siti, our tour guide for the national park who we had pre-booked weeks ago.  Siti was due to come over to see us and the other boats on the tour but in the meantime could we order diesel, laundry and beer.  Sure…  great service and the best prices yet…  By the time Siti arrived, we had done all our general boaty stuff and were ready to explore.   The next day Siti took us all into Kumai as we needed the bank etc. We went up the river in small dugouts and visited the markets, saw the Sultans palace and got our phones topped up.

Travelling in style up the Kumai river.


The next day six boats were all picked up to go on our visit to the Orangutans.   Tom & Lilly (Tiger Lilly), Jan & Glen (Jenni D), Michelle & Phillipe (Tereva), Karel & Phil (Tehani-Li), Lisa & Fabio (Amandla) and us loaded onto our Klotok (Houseboat) for a pre-breakfast.  We were all so looking forward to this trip – 3 days and 2 nights living on an open boat up the River Kumai.

Typical Klotok
The standard of meals coming out of this galley was outstanding.
Our first meal.

We travelled for most of the day at a very sedentary pace – all watching out for any kind of wildlife but particularly orangutans.  We arrived at our first stop about 3pm and walked for ages in the heat to the first of our feeding stations.  There were quite a few people there and we did see some orangutans feeding which was great but they were not really close up.  I reckon there were too many people watching.  We were really hot and sticky by the time we got back to the boat, but with banana fritters waiting for us we soon perked up.  After our showers and dinner we wandered into the local village – which is so isolated from the outside world.  We saw no cars, and assumed it was because there was no road into it – only water access.   We watched them play a serious game of badminton and wandered around.  ….when we got back they had put out all the mattresses and mozzie net and we basically collapsed and slept like logs.

Just like a kids sleepover!!

The next day we were up early and went on up the river.  This time we were rewarded with some incredible sights.  As we were just tied up to the river bank a large orangutan came down and literally sat and stared at us.  She was completely wild, as she was on the side of the river that is not in the National Park, but was not afraid at all.   She even tried to climb on board our boat to get some food!   To be so close to her was a very humbling experience and we all felt very privileged to share this moment.  20161004_121907

How close are we?

Later that day we again went walking in the jungle and had a great experience with the orangutans coming right up to us on the path and jumping overhead through the branches.   There are over 6000 orangutans in the park, but the park is threatened by the logging associated with the Palm Oil industry – so with their habitat threatened, the park authorities are working really hard to promote these tours as it gives them much needed income to pay for guides etc.

Trekking through the jungle

That night was our 30th wedding anniversary.   What a place to spend it – in the jungle with friends on a Klotok.  We had a great night – champagne flowed and a cigar for Ian! We then went on a night trek with one of the guides.  His name was Udin an he was a Dyak – the original natives of Borneo rather than Indonesian.  He lives in the jungle with his baby son and feeds the orangutans at the feeding station so that the tourists can be guaranteed a sighting.  He told us that they only feed them a small amount to encourage them to still forage for their own food.   He was passionate about his orangutans and loves his jungle.   We saw many animal tracks, tarantulas, fire ants, fireflies etc.  It was quite eerie walking through at night.  When we got back we had a couple of drinks and then had  another night under the mosquito net listening to the sounds of the jungle ….  bliss.

On the third day, we came back down the river and stopped for another jungle trek.  This time we were treated to the sight of a huge male orangutan.  He is not the biggest I gather but he was enormous.   He feeds while all the other female and youngsters wait their turn. img_5661

The babies are so beautiful.

Underneath their feeding station on the ground where all the food scraps fall is where the pigs come to feed.   They seem to get on well, all with their own position


We were all exhausted by the third day – so we just enjoyed our leisurely trip down the river home lying on day beds, comparing photos, drinking, and occasionally jumping up to see another orangutan or proboscis monkey.

Dyaks (locals) live on the river
Hard work but someone has to do it…
The gorgeous Kumai River.
The black is the natural colour of the river – the brown is sediment from the Gold mine up river.  As soon as you go up  a tributary the colour changes this dramatically.

When we got home, we were all taken to our respective boats – had a quick shower and all went over to Grasshopper to celebrate Cherie’s birthday on a raft up of dinghies.  It was our first dinghy raft up.  All the dinghies tie up together with a long line attached to a yacht.  Food is passed around  from dinghy to dinghy – great fun and the locals must really think we are a crazy bunch of people us yachties.

The next day, we were taken to a school to help the kids practice their English.   They are just so sweet – all wanting to talk to us with their questions written out on paper.  “Where are you from” “what is your name”  “Do you like Kumai” etc…  20161006_083607

They all have smart phones and love to use them!
Karel (Tahani-Li) being interviewed
Learning how to play the drums!

We then went to have a breakfast with the locals bigwigs.  They all greeted us and we were treated to more traditional dancing, singing and speeches.  It was crazily hot – but we do appreciate how much hard work they put in for us.  Everywhere we have been we have been really well looked after, in fact spoilt completely.  The Indonesians are a very special people.

Banners everywhere heralding our visit
Ian trying to be scary in the local costume!
The local heads awaiting our arrival
Sail Indonesia yachties with the local dancers & local dignitaries

2 thoughts on “Orangutans in Kumai

  1. Gina Knight October 17, 2016 / 2:04 pm

    Another amazing adventure 🙂 So lucky to see those orangutans!!! Wow!!!


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