The first thing you notice when you sail to Borneo is the smoke.  The rainforests are on fire, and the smoke is so thick offshore, it seems like twilight at midday.  Los Angeles smog look like pristine clean air by comparison.  It's rare to see smoke so thick that it blots out the sun.  The last time I saw smoke of that magnitude was in Gulf War One when Iraq set Kuwaiti oil wells on fire, and a massive plume of dark smoke was visible all over the Middle East.  The smoke spread more than seven-hundred kilometers to the southwest where I could see it in Riyadh.

In spite of the smoke, we sailed up a shallow river to visit the endangered Orangutangs of Borneo.  Going up the river was tricky.  The deep keeled yacht sailing with us ran aground, and it took nearly an hour for them to get their keel out of the sticky mud with the help of some Indonesian fishermen.  The wide and meandering river shoals irregularly, and you must pay close attention to the rudimentary navigational marks or follow a larger vessel with local knowledge up the river to avoid running aground.

We spent the day working our way upriver and finally arrived at a moderate size city where we could put our anchor down.  It wasn't long after our anchor hit the water that we had visitors.  It wasn't officials that wanted to make our acquaintance, it was the purveyors of riverboat cruises.


The only way to see the orangutangs was to travel twenty miles into the jungle by flat-bottomed river boat.  A sixteen hour orangutang tour costs one-hundred and ten dollars for our crew of four.  That included tours, transportation, taxes, food, and a boat sitter who made sure Exit Only wasn't robbed in our absence.  We reckoned that sounded like a good deal and enthusiastically signed on the dotted line.

The next morning, at six am, we climbed aboard our riverboat and headed off for high adventure.  This was one of those trips that could never happen in America because there's too much risk involved.  You're traveling up river in uncertified boats without insurance to walk among orangutangs that are nearly as large as you are.  These human sized animals aren't in cages and move through the forest a few feet away from you.  If you did something they didn't like, they could rip you apart limb from limb.

Riverboats are the only transportation available to get to the orangutangs.  The riverboat ride is fun in its own right, and on the way there are monkeys swinging in the trees along both sides of the river.  The distinctive feature of one species of monkey is its giant nose.  Local people call these primates Dutch monkeys, in reference to the fact that this area used to be a Dutch colony, and the locals apparently didn't think much of the Dutch putting their big nose in Borneo's business.

The riverboat dropped us off at a research station, and we hiked into the rainforest to see the orangutangs.  Normally, these animals are high up in the canopy, and it's difficult to get up close and personal with them.  Although the orangutangs aren't tame, they like bananas, and if you show up at feeding time with a stalk of bananas, they will descend from the trees  to a feeding platform for food and water. 

The orangutangs move effortlessly through the canopy. Whether they're ascending, descending, or moving laterally, they make it look easy, and when they come down to your level, you realize how large  they are.  They are BIG.

We never felt threatened by the orangutangs when they were on the feeding platform, but when they started moving though the jungle at ground level, they were intimidating.  They could easily hurt you if they wanted to.  The mothers with their babies were more interested in food than they were in us.  Most of the time they kept their distance.

The dominant male orangutang was named Win, and he was was an orangutang with attitude.  He strutted his stuff at ground level letting us know who was boss.  Win had his hands full.  He had a bevy of females in the canopy above us, and one of the females was in the company of another male, and it was driving him crazy.  Win was agitated; he didn't know whether he should be down on the ground impressing us with his style, or up in the tree chasing away male suitors.


As if Win didn't have enough to deal with, there was a suicidal Japanese photographer who kept trying to walk up to Win for close ups.  The photographer was out of control and was lucky that Win didn't dismember him.  We were all holding our breath to see whether Win would take out his agitation on the photographer.  Fortunately, Picture Man survived, and Win faded back into the jungle.

The orangutangs are an endangered species.  No one is killing them outright; they do it indirectly by destroying their habit as they clear the rainforest.  Smoking rainforests are bad for an orangutang's health, not because it gives them lung cancer, but because it destroys their home.

I feel sorry for the orangutangs, because it won't be long before none will be left in the wild.  They will all be imprisoned in zoos for a crime they didn't commit.  We are the criminals, because we are destroying their home, and we are the ones who should be in jail.

We saw dozens of orangutangs at two different stops in the rainforest, and the naturalists accompanying us did a good job keeping us out of trouble.  Because of them we had an unforgettable adventure, and we emerged from the rainforest unscathed.

Life is good.


Log 1 Peter Pan Around the World
Log 2 Weapons of Mackerel Destruction
Log 3 Pirates of the Malacca Straits
Log 4 Kissing Cobras
Log 5 Debriosaurus Rex
Log 6 Go Ahead - Live Your Dreams

Log 7 The Man Who Built His House on a Rock
Log 8 Ambivalent Eagles
Log 9 One-Shovel Full at a Time
Log 10 Hitchhiker's Guide to Planet Earth

Log 11 Keeshond

Log 12 The Red Sea Blues

Log 13 Feel the Freedom

Log 14 The Danger Zone

Log 15 Lucky Man
Log 16 Dream Machines - Land Rover Defenders

Log 17 Trade Wind Dreams
Log 18 Logs With Fins
Log 19 Everywhere, Everything
Log 20 Shark Slayer Is History

Log 21 Viking Funeral - Burial at Sea
Log 22 Improbable and Impossible

Log 23 Keep on Trucking
Log 24 Dream Machines II
Log 25 Bodysurfing Whales
Log 26 Hitting the Wall
Log 27 Surviving the Savage Seas

Log 28 The Next Step
Log 29 Welcome to Barbados
Log 30 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
Log 31 The Man with the Unplan
Log 32 Dali Dolphins
Log 33 Flying Like a Turtle
Log 34 The Foolish Man Built His House on a Pitch Lake
Log 35 Go West Young Man
Log 36 Crossing the Atlantic in a Row Boat
Log 37 The Unsinkable HMS Diamond Rock
Log 38 Catamaran Capsize in 170 mph Winds
Log 39 When Are You Coming Home?

Log 40 Master and Commander of Anegada - Frigate Birds
Log 41 Baths of Virgin Gorda - Batholiths of Central Arabia

Log 42 Free at Last
Log 43 Stalking the Wild Manatee

Log 44 Spreaderman
Log 45 Attack of the Flesh Eating Bees
Log 46 Sharks and Coconuts
Log 47 Stingray Picnic
Log 48 Boo Boo Hill
Log 49 Whale Slayers
Log 50 Noddies (Not Naughty)


Log 51 Exumas Land and Sea Park
Log 52 David and Goliath
Log 53 Turquoise Clouds of Paradise

Log 54 Momma Nightjar
Log 55 Maximillian The Great
Log 56 Chiton Kingdom
Log 57 Flying and Holding On
Log 58 Far Horizons
Log 59 Clouds Are a Sailor's Friend
Log 60 Getting Connected
Log 61 Fear
Log 62 Grand Schemes and Other Important Things
Log 63 If Jellyfish Had a Brain
Log 64 Cousins That Don't Kiss
Log 65 Swimming With Sharks
Log 66 Perfect the Way You Are
Log 67 Space Travelers
Log 68 Aliens
Log 69 Monsters of the Mind
Log 70 My Butterfly Collection
Log 71 Somewhere Other Than Here Societies
Log 72 Five-Hundred Pound Spiders
Log 73 Red Sea Sunsets
Log 74 Gibraltar Sunrise
Log 75 Big Sea - Small Ship
Log 76 Just Cruising
Log 77 Castle Mania
Log 78 You Must Know the Sea
Log 79 Flying Like a Goat
Log 80 The Joy of Photography
Log 81 Universal Camouflage
Log 82 My Rainbow Collection
Log 83 Indian Ocean Reward
Log 84 Fiber W
Log 85 Turkish Reflections
Log 86 Mirrors and Mirages
Log 87 Lycean Tombs Rock
Log 88 Rigging Emergency
Log 89 Pamukkale
Log 90 Volcano Land
Log 91 Sniffing the Air
Log 92 Why I Don't Kite Surf
Log 93 Resurrecting Exit Only in Turkey
Log 94 Greased Pole Competition
Log 95 Tsunami Damage
Log 96 Afraid of Living
Log 97 Living on the Edge
Log 98 Borneo Adventure
Log 99 Uligamu Tree Tender with Full Benefits
Log 100 God's Fireworks Display

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