Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Jungles of Borneo

Sammy takes over the Tortuguita
My New Captain's Chair (for a few days)

We came to Borneo to see the Orangutans but had a really incredible time just going up the rivers to get there.  Our trip was organized by Herry Roustaman.  He came highly recommended by friends who had been here before and also in the cruising guides and literature.  He owns Harry's Yacht Service and really knows the cruising community.  He has been doing this for 18 years.  We had no idea what a find he was. 

Our lookout post on the African Queen

We were a little disappointed when we arrived and anchored in front of Kumai Town.  The smoke was awful and we thought it would really put a damper on our trip to see the Orangutans.  Booker had some real concerns and made a list for me.  I called Herry, asked and had answers to all our questions.  We discussed things.  I called Herry back and made the deal.  His guys would pick us up at 9 AM.  We would do a two day trip, and be back the following evening for a price of 2,000,000 ID Rupiah per person.  That's about $150 USD each.
Entrance to the Sekonyer River
We were in the northern part of the park (green area)

We were ready and waiting when the "African Queen" arrived (that's what we called her).  Herry arranged for Sammy (his real name is Samsel) to stay on Tortuguita while we were gone.  Not that there is any real theft or danger concerns, except for illegal logs being floated down the river which may hit the boat, but for $12/day, it helped me sleep better knowing Sammy was on the job. 

Once we boarded the African Queen, we were treated like royalty.  We had a crew of five.  Captain Iyur (called him Igor), First Officer Nurdin (call him Norton), our guide Pi'i (just called him 'P'), the assistant guide Giri (called him Gary), and the cook Sithi (called her Cynthy).  This was all for just the two of us.  Our own private boat with a crew of five.  I felt like the owner of a superyacht.  The coffee, tea, meals, and snacks were nonstop and great. We ate better than ever and our Balinesian cooking classes really helped us with what Cynthy was cooking.  The best thing for me was being on a boat for two days and never having to touch a thing.

Room with a view

Sungai Sekonyer Village Homestay Bungalows
We headed down the Kumai River and entered the Sekonyer River at the entrance to the Tajung Puting National Park.  We had the option to sleep on the African Queen, in a bungalow at a village, or at an eco-lodge.  We stopped at the village and eco-lodge to check them out before making our decision.  Even though staying at the eco-lodge supports a corporation while the village stay would support the local economy, we chose the Rimba Ecolodge ($75/night) because they had air conditioned rooms and it would be a relief to be out of the smoke.   It was a very nice place.
Rimba Ecolodge

African Queen's Engineering Department

Norton (left) and Igor (right) at the helm
Igor pushed the African Queen up some rivers where it looked like we would never get out.  He would spot a croc or monkeys and stop so we could get an up close and personal view from the safety of the boat.  We came back from Camp Leakey after dark and after a rain had washed lots of debris into the river.  Even though he had a long day, he worked like a champ getting us back to the Ecolodge using only a small light on the bow and a flashlight.  The Rimba Lodge let the African Queen stay on the dock connected to their shore power for the night.  The next day started at 6AM when a troop of Macaque monkeys were jumping the tin roof of our cabin.  We visited two ranger stations for Orangutan feeding and we ended up at Tortuguita after dark around 6 PM.

We couldn't have had a better trip.  It was great.  Thanks Herry for such a first class operation in such an outback place.  Thanks African Queen and crew.  What an amazing treat.

The Crew's Quarters

Cynthy in the Galley

Pushing up the Sekonyer  river

Getting deeper into the jungle

P and Gary watch for crocs with Booker

Got one, a freshwater croc.

It doesn't look like the boat will fit

Great food onboard the African Queen

Proboscis Monkeys at the side of the river

The 'African Queen'

Dave and Herry

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