BOSF Central Kalimantan

I’ve known BOS Foundation for quite some time due to our common goals: conserving Orangutans and the Rainforests in Indonesia. I got to know them because they reached out to me after I won several awards with my Orangutan in the Rain photograph. We collaborated on several photo exhibitions in Switzerland with great success.

In case you don’t know about BOS Foundation, they are the largest Orangutan rescue center in the world. Originally founded in Indonesia, they have many branches all over the world including Australia, USA, UK, Germany, and Switzerland.

After collaborating with them on several projects and getting to know them deeper, I had a strong desire to go to their centers in Borneo to experience being in the rainforest, looking at Orangutan rescue, and documenting what they do. I expressed this interest to the BOS Switzerland CEO and she liked this idea. She told me that two delegations will visit Indonesia and I can go together with them to document their visit and look at the BOS Foundation’s operation. Sadly, this visit was delayed by about 2 years because of the pandemic.

At the start of 2022, everything finally starts to happen. After multiple Zoom calls, we finally agreed to start this project! The project will have 2 parts: Central Kalimantan and East Kalimantan. In both projects, they allowed me to join their field team in action to photograph and document my findings.

I felt so excited! I booked my flights and arrived in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan on a Saturday. I met the BOS Switzerland team at the Bukit Raya Guesthouse in Palangkaraya.

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Sebangau National Park

We had a day off before the projet officially starts so we decided to visit the Sebangau National Park, the largest National Park in Kalimantan. The Sebangau National Park is a 800,000 hectares of protected forest area which is managed by the Borneo Nature Foundation. To get there, we had to take a speedboat and navigate through the maze of swamp plantations. Up to this day, I am still amazed at their navigation skill. Without any signposts, lighthouse or GPS, I miraculously arrived at my destination! We spent the whole day there looking at the rainforests which has been impacted by the recent forest fires. there and stayed from the morning until the late evening and i got to enjoy seeing the sunset at the swamp.

I got to see firsthand how the forest was impacted by the fire and learned what the locals had to do future fires from happening. Being right there on the spot feels completely different than watching it on TV or reading the news on the internet. It was quite an unforgettable experience for me. We stayed there the whole day and on our way back to Palangkaraya, we managed to see beautiful sunset right in the middle of the swamp forest.

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Mawas and Tuanan Research Station

After Sebangau National Park, we got into gear and started our journey the next day. We started in the Mawas Station. This is the main office of BOS Foundation in Central Kalimantan. The people in Mawas station helped us organize our travel to Tuanan Research center where we can stay near the rainforest and study the wild orangutans. To reach Tuanan Research station, we had to travel 2 hours to a harbor in Palangkaraya. After that, we need to travel 4 hours by speedboat to arrive in a small, remote village called Terapung. From Terapung, we need to walk for about 15-20 minutes to reach the Tuanan Research station.

The BOS Team told me that there will be no internet connection in Tuanan and cell phone signal is rarely available. We will be staying there for 7 days. So, I tried to finish whatever I needed to do online and got ready for my digital and internet detox! Also, there will not be a mini market there so I did all the shopping for the necessary stuff in Palangkaraya.

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The Tuanan Research station is owned and managed by Rutgers University. There, I really get to see how the researchers observed the wild orangutans daily. They start their day at 4am to start following the orangutans that they’ve found. Wild Orangutans are very shy and they do not approach humans. So, we need to be very quiet when doing the observation from the ground.

Living by the forest and getting to know about wild orangutans was an amazing experience for me. I did my own observation as well about the rainforest and Orangutans and I decided to turn it into an article for BOS Foundation that they proudly publish on World Conservation Day.

Nyaru Menteng Center

After the Tuanan Research station comes the best part of my Central Kalimantan travel. I got to visit the Nyaru Menteng School for Orangutans! The Nyaru Menteng Center is where they rescue orphaned Orangutans and taught them the skills needed to survive in the wild. The activities at that center have been well documented and even made into a series called the Jungle School by the Smithsonian.

They just reopened the center and due to the pandemic, they had to enact strict rules. I was allowed to photograph the orangutans but only at a distance of 10m or more. My telephoto lens came in really handy here! I got to observe the little orangutans play and learn in that centre. Due to their similarities to us humans, I was immediately reminded of a typical kindergarten environment! You can see many personalities in actions: playful, dominant, submissive and even lazy!

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I tried my best to stay at a distance of 10m or more from the Orangutans but some Orangutans got really curious (maybe it’s because of my lens) and tried to get close to me in a sneaky way. Luckily, their caretaker spotted that and immediately grabbed the Orangutan back to their “class.”

Having this experience of being close to the orangutans and also being in the wild forest everyday really opened my eyes to the issues that we are facing right now. I’m really thankful that I can be involved in this project and I’m very excited for the second part of this project: East Kalimantan!

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BOSF Central Kalimantan Gallery


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