IT BEGINS: The big adventure on Borneo has started!

A couple of months ago, I was bored. I was waiting to go to Indonesia for three months. Now I am on Borneo, and to be honest – it is rather awesome!

For the next 130 days (until end of august) I will do research in the central Kalimantan on the Bornean orangutan. Together with a small research team, I work here to help finding out more about the species. Every two minutes, 12-14 hours per day, I will note what they are doing. I will note if they are eating, pooping, swinging in lianas or making love.  They will literally be a part of my life during this time and I will be a part of theirs.

A spider trying to catch prey in a flower

A spider trying to catch prey in a flower

How would you prepare yourself for an expedition to the peat swamp forest? I promise, it easily happens that to forget to buy some things. If it is not the vaseline, it’s the de-worming pills. I have kind of done similar things before, but in smaller scale so I still miss t a lot of stuff. For example I forgot to check the glue in my boots – the acid swamp can apparently dissolve many types of glue due to the pH-value. At the moment the water levels are supposed to be pretty high in the peat swamp forest – so I might just as well wear my running shoes instead. However, I can’t buy new shoes here since I got too big feet x). Size 43…I’ve loaded up with 12 bottles of mosquito repellant, new camera equipment and about 1000 caramels in preparations. I hope that will be good enough! (1000 caramels / 120 days = 8.3 caramels/day)

Eating fruits before going to the forest is a good idea, since there won't be on the menu there!

Eating fruits before going to the forest is a good idea, since there won’t be on the menu there!

I have previously been describing what I will be doing briefly with the Orangutans, but I will give you some more details about why this is interesting!

Orangutans are one of the great apes, closely related to humans. They currently are in great danger due to the ongoing deforestation and the making of new palm oil plantations. There are two species of orangutans; the Bornean and the Sumatran orangutan.

The orangutans are using tools, they are building nests and have many other fantastic abilities. However, unlike the other great apes orangutans are not particularly social. They live solitary most part of their life (though the females bring up their young for ca 7-8 years), so the possibilities for learning and interact between individuals are few.

I will work as a research assistant for Anna Marzec from Poland. My part of the research will be to collect and administrate data of how the orangutans build their nests, what they eat and how they are eating it.

The burning sky was taken in the evening in Palangkaraya

The burning sky was taken in the evening in Palangkaraya

And here comes the cool stuff: Some orangutans pour water over their fruits before eating, some use leaves as napkins or gloves and some use sticks to “fish” termites. The orangutans eat differently and build their nests for several different reasons and design their nests differently. They can make nests for sleeping as well as for sun shading. They can make bridges for walking between trees even! They make nests with pillows and some may roll a little ball of leaves to hold onto at night like a little teddy bear. Isn’t that awesome? But all orangutans cannot make these different nests. The nest-building skills are highly personal and the two orangutan species are differently advanced when it comes to making nests etc. So, what we are aiming for is to identify cultural units in orangutans.

Currently there are 8-10 people working in the remote little camp: My supervisor Anna Marzec, Wendy Erb who does research on the male orangutan long calls, Julia and Yann who are research assistants like me and about five Indonesian assistants I haven’t had contact with yet.DSC08252

So now I am finally here! The first thing I did arriving to the island was to go to a traditional Borneo-wedding. I met some Finnish guys on the plane, and long story short: They knew a guy, who was related to a guy…and he suddenly had to go to a wedding! Since we were all sitting in the same car, we were all invited! We were a popular attraction on the wedding for everyone, and we were all asked to take pictures with the new married couple and danced the traditional dance of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).

Notably, Im not a wedding photographer!

Notably, Im not a wedding photographer!

I will now head out in the field with the orangutans in a day or two. Here on Borneo, the geckos are squeaking in the roof and cicadas are playing in the trees. Bats gives me wind in my face as they fly around my head, while trying to capture a tasty meal with their sound waves. The locals are friendly and generous who gives me meat although I am vegetarian. (I know I have to suit myself, they really are super nice!). Soon I will be in the dwindling heart of Borneo together with its soul – the orangutans.

Become a godfather and help in the work of saving the orangutans. Photographer: Jimmy Syahirsyah, thank you!

Become a godfather and help in the work of saving the orangutans.
Photographer: Jimmy Syahirsyah,  a big thank you!


// Wilhelm

P.S Here you have a small galleri with more pcitures I didnt fit in:

  24 comments for “IT BEGINS: The big adventure on Borneo has started!

  1. April 18, 2014 at 06:46

    Reblogged this on Cristian Mihai.

  2. jessieefrost
    April 18, 2014 at 08:47

    lovely photos!

  3. April 18, 2014 at 09:07

    Tank you Jessiee!! I just bought a new lens for this – hope to see more cool stuff once I’m in the forest!

  4. April 18, 2014 at 12:45

    Don’t forget visit Irian Jaya island if you love adventurely place and Raja Ampat is the best diving sea in the world. I recommended this

  5. April 18, 2014 at 15:18

    Yeah I will check it out when I will go on 2 wek holidy from m work!

  6. April 18, 2014 at 16:46

    Oh, great shots! Have read a lot about the orangutans on Borneo so shall follow your trip with much interest. I’d need more caramels/day than your allowance though!

    • April 18, 2014 at 16:55

      Hi Angela! Thank you for taking part of my story and thanks for the compliment! I bought a new lens and then photography became easy suddenly. Time is 00.00 here now so ill go to bed now. I will check you up later! Good night

  7. April 18, 2014 at 17:32

    Love the post! Looking forward to hearing more about your research and trip.

  8. April 18, 2014 at 17:47

    Congrats on this awesome opportunity. Orangutans have always been my favorite animals to watch at zoos. I wasn’t aware that they aren’t as social as other apes. Actually I wasn’t aware of half of the information in this post now that I think about it haha

    • April 19, 2014 at 04:22

      Yeah, well it’s good that I don’t just bring up old stuff, isn’t it? 😉

  9. OJ
    April 18, 2014 at 19:09


  10. April 18, 2014 at 19:16

    Thank you very much for trying help the Orangutans in my country :). Maybe later you are interested to see Komodo in komodo island (they are only live in Indonesia), turtle conservation in Bali island, sumatera tiger in sumatera island, cendrawasih bird in irian jaya island etc. I hope you enjoy your time here :). If you need some help, just send email to me, I will help you as much as I can. I live in Jakarta.

    • April 19, 2014 at 04:02

      Yeah actually I was here in 2010, just as a random traveller. Then I was visiting Komodo and saw the dragons. They were very nice!! I was also on flores, lombok and timor 🙂 But yeah I would like to see sumatra. Most likely my vaccation will be on Sulawesi though 🙂 Raya Ampat is expensive to go to :/. Thank you for your tips and engagement!

      • April 23, 2014 at 11:33

        Hey if you still wish to go to Raja Ampat you can go as a Backpacker hehe then you will cost almost for nothing :)… Eco Misool Resort is one of the expensive there, but others a lot cheap for sure.

  11. jethroda20sumpin
    April 19, 2014 at 06:03

    This is so awesome! The work you guys will be doing is very important and at the same time infinitely fascinating. Those pictures are gorgeous! Hope you’ll keep us updated on your progress!

    • April 19, 2014 at 09:07

      Thank you for both your support and compliments! I will keep you updated as well as I can. The research station won’t have any internet. I hope to be able to post every three weeks an update about the orangutan life!

  12. April 19, 2014 at 11:39

    Reblogged this on Is there anyone listening? and commented:
    Beautiful Nature pictures!

    • April 19, 2014 at 12:01

      Thank you for your reblog – they are of course always highly appreciated!

  13. April 20, 2014 at 14:32

    Your sunset shot took my breath away!

    • April 20, 2014 at 16:00

      Thank you 🙂 amateurs are sometimes lucky!

      • April 20, 2014 at 16:13

        Don’t be modest! 😉

  14. April 21, 2014 at 04:02

    Reblogged this on Verde Holistico: The Green Holistic Way and commented:
    Hey! Good idea of eating fruits before going to the forest!

    • April 21, 2014 at 04:13

      Yeah I heard so! Ill leave in 50 min so better make the best out of it!! I made sure to eat pasta before I go at least! 😉 thanks for the reblog! You been here? Would be nice to stay in touch although my connections will be very bad!!

  15. April 21, 2014 at 20:21

    cool post 🙂
    I’m Indonesian, and I want to personally thank you for caring our native species.
    great adventures ahead!

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