Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Morning For Orangutans

Researching the trip to Kinabatangen River we knew there was a chance we could see Orangutuns in the wild.  We have been to some good places and seen more than our share of amazing things across the globe but animals encounters have not always been the most lucky parts of the trips.  Well, not at Kinabatangen.  We saw 7 Orangutans, including 2 mothers with babies!  The only problem as you can tell is that they were far away.  Those heavily cropped images are all we could get, but they still ROCK!

Our best encounter was the last morning of our stay on the 6am morning cruise.  The previous day had been tiring due to a long jungle walk through the mud in the heat the day.  When the alarm went off at 5:50 we both rolled over and for a split second considered not getting up, since we hadn't seen anything notable on the morning cruise the day before.  Better jugement prevailed and we threw on our flip flops, stuck the camera in the waterproof back, grabbed our life jacket and stumbled to the boat.  Coffee was only served after the morning cruise, doh!

The previous morning's cruise didn't have a big turn out, only a few birds, so our expectations were a little low.  As the morning wore on we had seen plenty of birds and a few cool hornbills.  As we sat looking a tree full of hornbill birds some of the branches appeard to move below the birds. Our guide grabbed his binoculars then pointed at the trees, "Orangutan.  Wild Orangutan", he said quietly.  It's just one of those moments, like on safari in Africa seeing the first pride of lions or seeing the first great white shark.  Any first or rare sightings of animals in their natural habitat create such energy and suspense.  It's electric!

Looking closely, there he was, swinging in the trees having breakfast!  We are awake now; who needs coffee?  Orangutans are solitary animals, living alone most of their lives.  This one spooked easily and quickly skirted off into the branches so we couldn't see him any longer.  The guide said let's go and we headed up river expecting that to be the "one" good sighting of the morning.

Not long after we had spotted a crocodile, the guide put the boat in reverse and grabbed his binoculars.  In the trees was another orangutan.  Then somebody in the boat said, "are there two of them"?  No wait, that's a mother with a baby.  Are you kidding?!  We sat and watched them swing from the trees in complete awe as the guide tried to keep the boat at a good viewing angle.  Luckily they didn't spook quite as easily so we got a few minutes of their time before they ducked in the nest to hide.

The guide looked at his watch telling us it was time to head back.  Turning the boat around and putting it on full throttle we cruised down the river.  We saw another boat stopped at the riverside and as we approached and saw the tell-tale singular shaking branch in the tree, we slowed down to see.  The guide grabbed his binoculars yet again, "no way" he muttered.  Yep, another mother and baby within viewing distance in the trees.  It was unbelievable.  What a morning for sure and it wasn't even 8am!

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