BOSF Samboja Lestari

After Central Kalimantan, my project (and adventure) with BOS Foundation continues in Samboja Lestari. Samboja Lestari an Orangutan rescue and rehabilitation center, tropical rainforest restoration project, sun bear sanctuary, and eco-lodge all in one place. It is located in the town of Samboja in East Kalimantan, about one hour drive from the Balikpapan International Airport.

The road going to Samboja Lestari is not completed yet and there were many unpaved roads. Getting there was quite challenging. BOS Team picked me up with a pickup truck in order to navigate the terrain and reach the lodge.

Samboja Lestari is where it all started for the BOS Foundation. In 2001, Willie Smits, the founder of BOS Foundation began purchasing land near Samboja. Back then, Samboja was the poorest district of East Kalimantan. About 50% of the population is unemployed and the crime rate is high. People spend 25% of their income buying drinking water. The landscape was also challenging. It is mostly covered in Alang-alang grass which put it at high risk for repeated forest and land fires. Many forestry experts were sceptical at first when BOS Foundation started this project.

When I was there, that place is nothing like the description you read in the previous paragraph. It’s a completely different world. It was completely transformed by BOS Foundation. Everything is very well managed. The Orangutan centre, forest, sun bear sanctuary and the lodge were all professionally managed. Looking back at the history of that place, it truly amazes me by what the BOS Foundation has accomplished here.

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Samboja Lodge

Since the lodge is located deep inside the forest, getting food outside is quite challenging (you have to travel the unpaved road). When you stay here, you will be provided with food: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I thought the food will be average but actually, the food served was quite great! It is cooked with Indonesian spices with a clean, balanced taste that I think both locals and foreigners would enjoy.

In terms of rooms, the lodge has probably about 12 rooms. The two best rooms are located upstairs. You have to climb quite a series of staircase to get there but the view outside those rooms were simply breathtaking.

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Orangutan Islands

Outside the lodge, you can take a short walk to see the Orangutans Island. The islands are used to take care of orangutans who cannot be released back to the wild. Instead of sending them to zoos, the Foundation placed them here where the habitat is more natural to them. The small waterways separating the islands from the main road is used for the staff to feed Orangutans food and enrichments.

My guide told me that they also have an orangutan Forest School in Samboja Lestari like the one in Nyaru Menteng (Central Kalimantan). However, the road going there was even more challenging compared to the main road so I didn't have a chance to visit the forest School and make a comparison between those two.

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Solar Panel Inauguration

After exploring all the venues in Samboja Lestari in the first few days, the big day is finally coming. It’s the day of the Solar Panel inauguration and it’s the most important thing to photograph on my list. Being so deep inside the forest, the Samboja Lestari needed to rely on fossil fuels to generate electricity all this time. It is quite costly and not environmentally friendly.

With the help of their partners, BOS Foundation was able to raise funds to build a new solar plant to generate electricity in a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly way. One of the pioneers of this project is Tony Gilding, the president of BOS Australia who sadly passed away 2 weeks after I photographed the inauguration. To honour him, the solar power plant was named after him.

The inaugurations were attended by many delegations. Among them are Philippe Strub (Deputy Ambassador Switzerland for Indonesia), Moritz Wyss (BOS Switzerland Representative) and Dr. Ir. Jamartin Sihite MSc. (Chairmain of BOS Foundation).

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I'm really happy to meet so many people that have the same vision of conserving rainforest and orangutans in this project. It shows me that there is hope for conservation and that we need to do a lot more for the environment. Of course, we cannot fix the conservation issue overnight but for me, taking action and making progress is much more important than waiting for the perfect solution.

I really hope I can support more conservation projects in the future with my photography. This assignment and adventure with BOS Foundation have given me an unforgettable experience and also hope for the environment.

As final words, I'd like to thank everyone that I met in Samboja Lestari. All the representatives of BOS Foundation, BOS Schweiz and BOS Australia, you are all amazing and I believe more great stuff will come from all of you. I also would like to thank the Switzerland Embassy for their support and care in the Indonesian rainforest. It is truly an honour and pleasure to meet Mr. Philippe and his family during this trip. You’ll all have my support now and in the future.

If you want to be a part of this amazing journey of rainforest and orangutan conservation, you can visit the BOS Foundation and make a contribution there. They have a number of ways or options for you. You can pick one or two that you like. Check them out and I’m sure it will be a really fun and exciting experience for you!

BOSF Samboja Lestari Photo Gallery

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