Thursday, October 10, 2019

Belitung Island

Before we move onto the next Indonesian island I wanted to post one more picture from our Borneo river trip. This is Chris and me heading up river --- or more accurately it is Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn playing us in the 1951 movie version The African Queen. It's kind of what it felt like.


After the river trip we headed down river and anchored for the night near the river entrance. We left early while it was still dark for a 200 mile overnight passage to Nangka Island. It was a good, fast passage with plenty of wind and not many fishing boats. We only anchored overnight at Nangka and took off the next morning as it was overcast and didn't look inviting in that weather. We motored most of the day to get to Belitung. Belitung is a decent sized island off the east coast of Sumatra with about a quarter million inhabitants. The island was British for awhile till it was traded to the Dutch in 1824. It exports pepper and tin. The large Dutch mining company Billiton was named after the island and founded to mine tin here in 1851 (it has now merged with the Australian company BHP, Broken Hill Proprietary).

There's an interesting, cruiser friendly resort on the beach near the anchorage, The Rock and Wreck Dive Resort It is constructed out of old wrecked boats, along with old, abandoned houses that were on the island. They were dismantled and rebuilt onsite as cottages for the guests.

Belitung is known for its granite boulders and rock islets, some of them looking a bit like the boulders in Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands.

There's a well maintained, Dutch colonial lighthouse that was built in 1842. Nice views from the top.

A view from the top of he lighthouse looking down.

Many of the tourists that come to Belitung are from Java. While Indonesia is a majority Islamic country, it is generally practiced at a fairly liberal level, with some areas being much more conservative in dress and practices, as you can see the dress of these two tourists.

Walking along the beaches in Indonesia is often a bit distressing with the amount of plastic trash you see. Chris is always hunting shells-- also a tough thing to find here as most are broken open so the critter can be eaten by the locals. And I'm always looking for Gold Doubloons. Over the years Chris has a found a lot more good shells than I have found doubloons -- but I'm not giving up yet. Sometimes you do run into some good castaway junk. Not too confident on what this bamboo and hammer are -- a drum, a mortar and pestle, a ???? Either way its now in my keepsake locker.

There are hundreds of fishing boats in the area along with many re-purposed to tourist boats. In the picture you can see a palm log tied securely under the bow of this boat. There is another one at the stern. It is used to hold the boat upright when it is dragged up the beach a ways and awaiting low tide. At low tide they put palm leaves under the boat and light them. This burning and smoking kills the worms that get into the keel wood. The keels are made from a single, long piece of wood that is nominally called mahogany. It is one of the many tropical hardwoods on the local islands.

The snorkeling hasn't been much here, as the reefs are fished out by the locals and the water hasn't been that clear. It's still nice to jump into the warm water for a look around in the morning while the winds are still low and its not doing an afternoon rain.
I got my eyes on you!
A sea urchin in the diadematids family. These are the only sea urchins that have eyes. 

Cruisers notes:
Leaving the Kumai River there is a good anchorage near the peninsula just off the river mouth. It seems a lot nicer than the one mentioned in the Scott guide that is pretty close to the busy channel. We headed in along the beach at low tide over a section with minimum depth of 9.8 feet. There were two boats anchored there. We continued on toward the pier. Before getting there, there is a 20 foot deep 'hole' area that we anchored in. Don't need much scope as its sand and up hill in all directions. It is well away from the channel and the tugs with tows making their sharp turns.
02*54.274S 111*42.273E
Passage to Nangka. This is about a 200 mile run, so we left at o'dark thirty and worked our way up the channel and out the bay in the dark. Had a great sail the rest of the way. Downwind 15-23kts. Only saw a few fishing boats. A fair amount of commercial traffic. Two of the tugs with tows called us up on the VHF to confirm passing.
Nangka: the reef sticks out further than you think as you approach. There are two small moorings on the inside that can have 3 or 4 fishing boats on them in the daytime, as they wait to night fish. Everywhere behind the reef is deep. We anchored in 80 feet at 02*29.473S 108*32.121E The bottom was a surprising good holding mix of sand/mud/shells.
To Belitung: No wind, a day motor. We went in and anchored in the B anchorage from the Scott guide. The winds pick up more easterly in the afternoon and make the A,B and C anchorages not very friendly. The E anchorage is better, but it can still get windy enough to have a wet dinghy ride. Good and safe dinghy landing at Ringos restaurant (ask someone in the anchorage to point it out). He can deliver fuel and arrange a driver and car to town, which is 45 minutes away. Good fresh veggie market in town and that's where you do any Immigration or Customs business.
02*33.153S 107*39.723E in 18feet sand.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Forest People

We took a 3 day, 2 night river boat cruise into the Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan. This is an area on Borneo that is a reserve for orangutans that was established in 1971 with the help of Dr. Birute Galdikas, who was one of Lewis Leakey's primate students (which also included Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall)  In Bahasa Indonesian, 'orang' means person or people and 'utan' means forest, so orangutan means people of the forest. This female above is walking off with some corn and her baby.

The river boats take 2 to 6 guests up the river on 1 to 4 day tours. The price includes an English speaking guide, Anjit, along with a captain, a mate and a cook.  We opted for the vegetarian meals and they were excellent. We used Satria Majid Tours, aka Liesa and Majid. (best contact is probably WhatsApp +62 852 4859 0487). If you are a cruiser, Majid will most likely meet you in his dinghy as you arrive in town and tell you were to anchor. He has a government friend who works near the river mouth who calls him when a cruiser is heading upstream.
We slept on a decent double mattress on the upper deck under mosquito nets, although it was very clean the en-suite left a little to be desired.

There are three orangutan feeding stations along the river. As you slide down the river you get glimpses of the orangutans, but the best sightings are around the feeding stations where the rangers chum the waters with fruit. We were there just at the very start of the wet season. As the rains are more common the orangutans go deeper into the forest and enjoy the local fruits. During the drier season they rely on the afternoon clockwork delivery of fruit treats.

They have incredibly powerful arms and climb 50 feet up a tree in seconds. Not bad for animals that weigh in around 80 lbs for females and 165 lbs for males.

While you see a good turn out at the feeding stations, the orangutans live a solitary lifestyle and there isn't too much interaction or socializing at the feeding stations. The primary bonding is between mother and child, the little one stays with mom for at least the first 5 years of life. We saw one mother with a baby and a young adolescent in tow. You can see the child hanging on tightly here as mom takes a leap carrying a mouthful of tangerines. Sometimes the young ones stay up in the trees as mom goes down to get food. If she doesn't come back soon, you hear the toddlers start up a whine that would make a human toddler proud.

 A fairly young orangutan keeping an eye on mom from above.
Their arms are a far stronger, and longer, than their legs.

A few portrait shots

 Now its not all orangutans in the rain forest. We took two night hikes with a park ranger.  

There were,of course, giant spiders.

 And not to be outdone, tarantulas.

With all these bugs around  you need some trusty frogs.

Chris' least favorite nighttime meeting, a black scorpion doing battle with a stick being held by the ranger. 

And nothing like a carnivorous pitcher plant to compete with the frogs for bugs.

An early morning river view.

There are hoards of very social long-tails proboscis monkeys-- can you see the nose? They cruise through the upper canopy by simply leaping off a branch, confident that they will catch something before hitting the ground. They break the silence of the jungle with screeching arguments among each other. 
 The proboscis monkeys and macaques climb high trees on one side of the river and leap off into the river with a belly flop style splash and then swim like crazy to avoid the crocs. You can see a couple swimming here. Why did the monkey cross the river?

Here you can just see one in mid-air center picture and one that has just hit the water on the left. 
Here is are a few getting ready to leap into the river. Let's see, no crocs - check, no speed boats - check, Go!

The bird life was pretty fascinating. Here's a hornbill watching the river.

We were tied to a wood pier after we went on a hike. On the center of the table on the boat was a bunch of small bananas left over from our desert. All of us were on the same deck, near the bow. One of these macaques leaps on the boat, takes a half-a-second look at us, grabs the bunch and leaps off the boat. Score!

I have no idea what this bird is. It was sleeping on this branch as we walked past in the night. The best I could understand form the ranger was that it was a red bird.

This wood-pecker is buried in its hole, safely sleeping the night away.

Didn't catch the name of this gal also sleeping on a branch.

I was up early sipping my morning tea and reading on my Kindle. I looked over to the side and saw a pair of eyes looking back. An Indonesian owl.

A very colorful stork-billed kingfisher. These beauties were zipping up and down the river in the morning. They're a good size, at least 6 inches tall and with a cry like a Cookaburra.

A large monitor lizard. When we first saw him or her we thought it was a croc. There are both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles on the river, but we didn't see any.

Its kind of a tough life living on the river.

We made it 40 km (24 miles) upstream to Camp Leakey, the research station. This is our river boat mates and cruising friends from Sweden, Katherina and Anders off s/y Carpe Mare.

The ranger telling us about the trees in their nursery that they use to replant after the forest fires. This section was burnt by deer hunters, clearing the area to make it easier to kill deer and is mostly re-forested. The current issue on Borneo is the clearing of land by fire to plant more palm-oil palms.
One of the tress planted by the Georgia crew.

The ship's horticulturalist.

There has to be at least one really destructive group in the forest, this is the Indonesian bearded pig.

This is Terry, one of the three large male orangutans in this area. You can see the cheek jowls that distinguish the males. It is suggested on the park signs that you not get between a male orangutan and a female-- noted!

And few more gratuitous people of the forest pictures.