Author Julie Fison returned to Borneo 25 years after a visit that sparked a fascination with orangutans and inspired her children’s story - The Call of the Wild.
Early dawn light is filtering through the treetops on our last morning on the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo. My bleary eyes have barely adjusted to the day when I hear creaking in the canopy. In the tree right outside our villa a mother orangutan and her baby are going about their morning routine.
We’re staying at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge, a two-and-a-half-hour boat ride from the town of Sandakan. The lodge is perched on the banks of the Kinabatangan River, the longest river in Borneo, and a vital habitat for ten different primates, rare pygmy elephants and a vibrant array of birdlife.
For the past two days we’ve been cruising the river at dawn, dusk and at night looking for wildlife. We’ve spotted troupes of proboscis monkeys soaking up the late afternoon sun, noisy macaques squabbling over berries, hornbills, vibrant kingfishers and a lone orangutan high up in the canopy.
At times I’ve just enjoyed sitting back and watching the ever-changing river – the morning mist, the towering trees reflected in the water, the sun sinking behind the forest, the stars overhead. It’s all so beautiful.
I’m up early on the final morning hoping for one last wildlife encounter. I’ve heard a mother and her baby orangutan are regular visitors to the lodge. I leave my villa wondering where to start looking for them, and that’s when I hear them – right above me. I drag the rest of my family out of bed and we watch the orangutans for almost an hour, foraging for young leaves in the treetops, the mother sharing precious skills that will be needed when the youngster finally goes it alone.
It’s a magical moment – a reminder of just how special these apes are and how important it is to ensure their survival in the wild.
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By Julie Fison.