Thursday, 13 November 2014

Welcome to the Jungle!

Leaving the city of Balikpapan, East Borneo behind we hit the country roads and headed for the forest. My driver spoke very little English, but he had been sent to collect me from Samoja Lestari and ensure I got supplies of food etc on route.

We spoke very little on the way due to the language barrier. Instead I watched the landscape go by and took in my new surroundings once more. As we turned off the road and on to the dirt tracks, he looked at me with a wry smile and simply said "Welcome to the Jungle" in a really thick Indonesian accent. We both burst out laughing. There was no need to ask if he was a Guns N Roses fan or indeed, if he had used that line before!

The tracks went on for some time as we went deeper in to the jungle,  passing through a security check and in to the restricted area. This would be my home for the next few days and I had no idea what to expect! All I knew for sure was these tracks were PERFECT for Rhonda! I was missing her already!

The staff quarters was a large building with a tower at one end, overlooking the surrounding jungle. I soon settled in to my room and promptly fell asleep after a particularly late night the night before, in an Irish bar teaching Adi how to play pool! My legacy to my new friend before leaving Jakarta! Annoyingly he went on to beat me. Beginners luck is the devils work!

This morning I woke up quite excited at the prospect of getting to know my surroundings. I still had no idea what to expect. Soon I was in the back of a pick up and heading down some more tracks to meet the crew.

A gentleman's welcome from Antonio
I was introduced to Wiwik, a young woman who has worked here since 2003. Originally from East Java, Wiwik now lives on site with her two dogs and is Animal Care Coordinator here at Samoja Lestari.

This site is one of three run here in Borneo and is set up to take in and care for Orangutans who have found themselves in less than perfect circumstances. There are sadly many reasons they may find themselves here. They could be babies who have lost their mothers to TB or hunters. They could have lost their homes due to deforestation, or they could have been taken in as pets who have grown too big to handle. The stories are sad and the results in some cases, irreversible. However, there are many who are retrained and reintroduced back in to the wild.

Today I met the babies in the nursery and in the quarantined area as well as many troubled adults who could not be put with the main groups for various reasons.

In the afternoon I joined Sam, one of the head keepers on a small wooden Canoe filled with fruit. We rowed around the 7 islands that house many of the Orangutans waiting to be released, and we fed them! Once again I was centre of attention as they spotted me coming a mile off. I was clearly not one of the regular faces! The whole day was an amazing experience and I felt so lucky to meet these guys yet sad that they should need our help in the first place.

Tomorrow I have been granted permission to join the babysitters who take the youngsters in to the forest and teach them jungle skills. This process can take years as they would not normally leave their mothers until the age of around 6 or 7.


I have been warned that I will be a new toy to these mischievous youngsters and that I may end up being bitten and having my hair pulled. I cannot wear any Jewellery and I am expected to be exhausted by the time I get out of there at the end of the day!!

Looks like I may end up getting my first Borneo Tattoo! As long as I come out with all my fingers I will be happy! I need those for my clutch and

To read more about the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation please visit their site:


  1. Wow. What an amazing experience. I know you will be having the time of your life there Steph. I'm not the slightest bit jealous.... grumble grumble...... :-)

  2. I`m sure one would make a great pillion for the rest of your journey. even help out with repairs. monkey wrenches do come in handy some times, LOL xx

  3. Once again some amazing pics!! You lucky, lucky person!!! The wet jungle school keeper in your latest punkts is particularly fetching!!! Big sis Kaz xxxxx

  4. you are having an amazing experience. love the way you write. I enjoy reading your adventures.

  5. Looks great fun Steph. What an experience.