Climbing with Orangutans in Borneo


These photos were taken over a year and a half ago in Borneo on an adventure trip with Bailey Hart.  Since the juveniles were going up, I thought I should go with them.  In this moment, I was both elated and scared because even the little ones like to play rough; as comfortable as I am climbing pole-like objects, I was in their territory, not mine.  They tried to pull on anything they could take (like any toddler), so we ended up playing tug of war with my bandana and face mask (Babies are particularly susceptible to human diseases, so you wear masks to prevent transmission.).

Even as a child, I'd get a rush of intense emotion looking into the eyes of an orangutan.  I knew I had things to learn from them.  We all do, if we'd take the time to.  I love their gentle souls, their dark eyes and wild hair.  I love that the babies hold your fingers with hand-like feet; I, too, have hand-like feet, though not as dexterous or strong.  I love sitting on the forest floor, watching how they move as they fluently navigate any forest environment, descending hundred foot trees and gobbling up huge piles of fruit.

Learn more about the Orangutan Conservation here:  Orangutan Outreach

Borneo: Orangutuan Federation International Trip (December 2013)

I went on this adventure with a friend who shares my love for the orangutans.  I have always been intrigued by my similarities with orangutans and longed to have a closer encounter.  In Malay, orangutan means "person of the forest." 

We wanted to meet our red-haired friends in their home while it is still possible.  Unfortunately, the outlook for the orangutans is dire.  Because of the epic and careless destruction caused by the palm oil industry, the forest in which the orangutans used to roam free is gone, and the preserved areas are constantly under threat.  Under the guidance of Dr. Birutē Galdikas herself, we visited hundreds of orphaned babies and juveniles who have no forest to be released into.  There were many somber moments on this trip, and also some that brought me great joy.  In one such moment, I put my climbing skills to the test as I went a story or so into the trees to spend time with rambunctious juveniles.  They wanted to test me; they playfully shoved, they tugged on my clothes, they decided I make a good climbing apparatus.  Dr. Galdikas said she has never seen anyone other than the local climbers fly up the tree with such ease.  I came away leech free and only had one close scorpion encounter.  I also now know to never try eating in an Indonesian airport.  I fulfilled a bucket list dream and remain dedicated to raising awareness about destructive industries.

To learn more about the devastation caused by the harvesting of palm oil, and how each and every one of us unwittingly contributes to this industry (unless you are explicitly aware of the real contents and origins of all your cosmetics, household products and foods), visit: http://www.orangutan.org.au/palm-oil