After a light breakfast at the backpackers it was time to head out and find the local bus so that we could visit Semonggoh Nature Reserve to see if we could see any orangutans. Originally we had planned Sepilok, but as Sandakan where our accommodation was had been added to the do not travel list we. Made alternative arrangements. Now a couple from Holland had expressed their disappointment with Sepilok, suggesting it was a bit zoo like and we heard the same here in Kuching we are happy we were Semonggoh bound! It’s apparently the only place you can find semi-wild orangutans. There are currently 27 in the reserve, but all roam free, so the down side to all of this was because they roam wild we many not have seen any (we did and I’ll get there in a minute!)
We did hear a few horrific stories about the plight of the orangutan. We heard a story of one body being found, hands, feet and head missing – apparently used for medicinal purposes. We heard stories of illegal poaching and the cruelty that happens – where there is demand someone will always be willing to supply, whatever the trade! Then there is the logging and this includes illegal logging. These amazingly graceful creatures are butchered, left orphaned and maimed and I am not sure how people can think it is OK, they are not part of our food chain as humans and the load of crap that comes in the form of animal cruelty and “medicinal purposes” is, quite frankly, bollocks!
Anyway instead of doing an organized tour we headed for the local bus, this caused a couple of dramas, we didn’t quite know what time it was due or where exactly to catch it and we were told “wait here” and we did like fools for about 30 mins before Alan checked again only to find the bus left from around the corner and was literally about to leave now! So we headed across the street around the corner jumped on the K6 bus and paid our 3MR and sat back until we arrived at the nature reserve.
When we arrived at about 11:05 they told us they closed between 11 and 2, we were gutted, miles from anywhere in the heat, fortunately the guy at the desk rang through to the park and they allowed us to go in as long as we didn’t walk the tracks because last week two french women went off alone and an orangutan tried to pull one of the women’s skirts and they threatened to sue – hence the closure, a typical example of the disregard and disrespect of some affecting the whole. The orangutans are free to roam wild here and they are semi-wild animals! Anyhow we headed off on the 1.3km walk to the park and hung around watching the trees eagerly. We saw nothing to start with, then Alan decided to head for a drink, I got off the steps and followed. As we walked I saw it, an orangutan and I called Alan back to share the sight of this graceful amazing creature as she made her way from the tree across the rope to the other side of the path. We watched her for a while and then a mum and daughter turned up, we were told to stay 5 meters away, but they don’t stick to the rules so at times they were much closer. We had been told that this mum was a biter so to take care. Then low and behold another mum and son popped up – we just watched in amazement as they posed for us, played and climbed, very soon a male turned up but kept up high and out of the way. We did eventually sat down for a drink and very soon another mum and daughter was spotted, walking down the road towards the park!
At one point as we spoke to a ranger we saw the biter, the naughty one she had turned on the tap and was drinking and washing under the tap. The rangers had to try and encourage her away because while she knew how to turn the tap on she had not mastered turning the tap off! Words will never truly do justice to what we witnessed today it really was an amazing sight. Their movement is graceful, not at all cumbersome or clumsy. I thought at a couple of points that they had come to observe us rather than the other way around!
After about 4 hours watching these beautiful creatures it was time to catch the bus back, tired and hungry but very happy little bumble bees with a memory of a sight never to be forgotten oh and an adoption certificate for Seduko a female orangutan 🙂