Don’t call them monkeys

Somehow my internal alarm clock woke me at 7:30 after only a handful of hours asleep. When the girls (Christina and Nydia) arrived back the previous evening, we decided to go out for “a drink” at a nearby bar which doesn’t have a name. It’s decorated like a long house and owned by a local celebrity, Peter John.

Peter used to be a pub worker and a DJ before finding himself suddenly a pop star. Not bad for a lad who grew up in the jungle. He used the money he made to buy himself the bar and it had been recommended by our hosts. So, one drink, then back to watch a DVD.

As if.

Peter introduced himself and showed us a load of photos he’d taken at Uncle Chang’s on Mabul Island as he’d just come back. Then more photos of Bako. BY which time I was on my third and the girls on their second beers. More flowed as we were enjoying a good chat, then the girls managed to look pathetic and girly and got free rice wine shots from the bar tender. I’m not complaining as they got me one, too! I should wear a skirt and shave my legs more often.

By 3am, we were well sozzled and were chatting away with a bunch of locals. And got an invite to a party the next night. Thing is, my plan is to depart on the 8:30 boat on Sunday morning, so I’m either going to risk missing it, travel with a hangover, or have to stay an extra night.

I’ll worry about that later.

As I said, I miraculously rose at 7:30 and banged on the girls’ door as they wanted to go to Bako. I think I was hammering for almost a minute before I heard any response! I’d intended to wake at 7:00 so I had no time for breakfast, instead just grabbing everything I needed and running out the door to catch the 8:00 bus to Semenggoh.

This used to be a functioning wildlife rehabilitation centre, but now it’s just a reserve playing host to the animals that were reintroduced to the wild here. The area’s not actually big enough to support the number of orangutan, so they supplement their diet with feedings in the morning and afternoon.

To get there, you hop on a minibus outside the tourist office at 8:00 or 2:00. The journey’s around half an hour and it costs MR25 return, including park entry. All of this is given to the driver when you return to Kuching.

There isn’t really a lot to say about Semenggoh apart from that it’s small, pretty and chances are you will see some orangutan, but they can’t guarantee it. If it’s raining, don’t go as the orangutan don’t like to come out in the wet. The advantage is that if it rains in the morning, then you’ll likely see more of them for the afternoon feed should the weather clear up. The girls did this the day before and saw seven of the animals. I saw five including a baby, so Im not complaining!

They are magnificent animals. Despite their bulk and gangly looks, they move remarkably slowly and gracefully through the trees, traversing up and down the trunks effortlessly. To move around, they sit in one tree and wobble it until it bends close enough to the next for them to grab and swing over.

Contact with the animals is a strict no-no and generally there’s a warden around to make sure nobody gets within 5m when the animals are low down. At the end of the day they are wild animals and the adult males are more than capable of removing puny human limbs from their sockets if they feel in any danger.

There are also other animals loose in the area, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll be seen. Three crocodiles are penned up in cages towards the back of one of the feeding areas. I’ve no idea if the plan is to set them free or what. They just sit there looking very annoyed.

I talked to a Dutch guy in the bus both ways and it passed the journey time well. A bonus given that I should still have been asleep. Most people follow the same kind of trail north, so perhaps I’ll bump into him again in Kota Kinabalu.

The sun was baking, so I had a quick look at two of the mosques then walked back to the hostel to do a quick shirt-wash and type this lot up. And to check out the hundred or so photos I took of the apes. Oh, and I did find out where the name comes from. “Orang” simple means “person” and “hutan” means “forest” – so they’re “people of the forest”. Cool, eh?

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6 thoughts on “Don’t call them monkeys

  1. I am – and I’m bonkers about animals hence the silly long post! Now in a different town and the keyboard her is driving me mad so I won’t be posting an entry for a couple of days!

  2. Hi Mosher. Just bumped into your interesting (and amusing) site.

    ‘Hutang’ does not mean ‘forest’. It means ‘debt’, so if Orang Hutang is used, it means ‘the person who’s in debt’.

    ‘Hutan’ is ‘forest’. 🙂

  3. hey i stumbled upon your page and i find it a good read. 😀 and yes.. i wanted to tell you what orang utan meant in one of your posts when u were still in kuching until i saw this post, so i decided to read this one first before i say anything. and im glad you found out what it means. and the way you put it is way better than what i have perceived orang utan my entire life. “people of the forest” is waaay better than jungle-man. haha.

  4. Jungle man is pretty cool, actually! I guess it depends on the meaning of the Malay words. From what I gather “orang” is “person” – it’s not gender-specific. And I guess “utan” could be forest or jungle depending on how you take it.

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