What To Do When An Orang-utan Tries to Kidnap You

Camp Leakey Trek

Well, we still have a little way to go until the end of February, so that means that our Destination of the Month is still The Rainforest, and I still have a few things to share with you from my amazing trip in Indonesian Borneo.

During my time in Kalimatan, I visited Camp Leakey as you already know. Today I’m going to tell you about the trek that we did in Camp Leakey. The are two reasons you might like to read this post:

  1. You are interested in visiting Kalimantan and want to know what to do when you get there.
  2. You want a good laugh at my (or rather, my travel companions’) expense.

First of all, if you’d like more information about Camp Leakey, read here.

Setting off on our Camp Leakey Trek

Our klotok was moored just outside Camp Leakey. In the morning after breakfast we set off directly into the camp, walking on a high, wooden walkway, elevated off the ground.

Our guide, Iim took us deep into the forest on a route that he used to follow when he was a Camp Leakey researcher.

Camp Leakey Trek Camp Leakey Trek Camp Leakey Trek

It didn’t take long before we were far away from any man-made sounds of boats, people around or any other activity – not that there was much human activity anyway as we were there in low season.

Soon it was just us and the forest. Iim had gone into wild animal mode as he often did when we were walking through the forest: he would walk a couple of steps and then stop dead without a sound, turning slowly towards whatever had caught his attention.

I’m sure that he would have seen a lot more had he not had the four of us trotting behind him like baby elephants, but he was patient none-the-less.

“Listen,” he’d say squinting through the trees.

We’d all come to a crashing halt behind him and strain our eyes and ears. Nothing.

“A mouse-deer,” Iim would say. We’d see a vague movement through the trees and then nothing. “It’s gone now, we’ve scared it,” he’d say trying to keep the accusing tone out of his voice.

We did see a few monkeys and gibbons though in the trees. On the Camp Leakey trek was the only time we saw gibbons.


The Camp Leakey trek was the only time we saw leeches too, thankfully.

It had rained a lot in the jungle during our stay and even when the sun was out and it was hot, the ground was always damp and the vegetation always moist.

We had been walking for about an hour when we left the wooden walkway and had to walk on the ground. The path had taken us up and down and there had been a bit of clambering over rough terrain.

When we came to a clearing, our guide told us to stop.

“Everybody look in their socks,” he said.

He looked in his own sock and pulled out what looked like a black slug.

“Leech,” he said proudly holding it up for us to see. He took a step closer to give us a close up. We all took a step backwards.

“Take off your shoes,” Iim ordered. We all tentatively started fidgeting with our footwear. Obviously we didn’t want to have leeches in our socks, but we didn’t want to find them with our hands either.

I was the lucky one. I was wearing what you might consider unusual rainforest footwear which turned out to be the best decision I could have made.

My companions had trekking shoes on and socks. But I had not wanted to carry heavy shoes in my backpack on a month’s trip when I would only use them for four days in the jungle. So I had compromised. I had brought lightweight plastic shoes that were for different outdoor sports and could also be used to go in the sea. They were a bit like Crocs but with an inner lining that held the foot in place and could be taken out and washed.

Anyway, so it seemed that the leeches had nothing to grip on my purple plastic shoes and I realised with a sigh of relief that I had no unwelcome, blood-sucking visitors.

The others all did though. Just as Iim had said, they were on their socks. Luckily for the boys they were on their socks and not in them.

Yoko was not so lucky! As soon as she found it in her sock she screamed. She was clinging onto the branch of a tree with one bare foot up in the air at the bottom of the muddy slope she had just slipped down.

Her boyfriend, Omar, was standing right by her.

“Get it off me,” she yelled. Omar didn’t move.

“Yes get it off,” he encouraged her. She was clearly not getting any help from him.

Iim was rooting around in the earth. He’d found some kind of beetle or something that he wanted to hold. So he was no help either. Toni and I were both far away and shoeless.

With a hefty whack and a shudder she slapped it off and it fell on the floor. She got her shoes back on and then turned to scold Omar for not helping her.

Encounter with Peta and her baby

When we got towards the end of the trek we were once again on the elevated wooden path when we saw an orang-utan walking towards us. Normally orang-utans stay in the trees; they don’t walk much on the ground.

We expected her to spot us and shoot up a tree or run off into the woods. But she didn’t, she continued walking towards us.

“It’s Peta,” said Iim. He recognised her and it seemed that she recognised him too and was coming to say hello.

Obviously we slowed down and walked cautiously so as not to scare her, but she continued walking boldly right up to us. She had an infant clinging to the hair on her body.

Iim went slightly ahead of her and met her alone. He turned back to us and said “yes, it’s alright, she says we can take a photo with her!”

camp leakey trek

We all advanced cautiously, hardly daring to breathe. We squatted around her and she sat perfectly still while Iim clicked away with my camera. When he’d finished, Peta got up as if to continue on her way, but she tried to take something of ours away with her: Yoko!

She gently took Yoko by the hand and started to lead her away. When Yoko resisted, Peta’s grip became strong around Yoko’s hand and she really started to pull her! Iim had to step in and explain to the orang-utan that Yoko wasn’t going anywhere.

Peta was a bit disgruntled and followed us to the boat, where she sulked for five minutes up a tree until our crew enticed her down with something juicy and then she sat with us posing for photos on the pier.

And that was our Camp Leakey Trek!

Here are all the photos if you’d like to take a look:

This is just one post of twenty that make up the Rainforest Blog.
Read the rest of it here.
I would like to remind you that all the photos used on InMyShoesTravel are my own unless otherwise stated.
You can see my whole collection of Travel Photos here.

Filed Under: asiafeaturedIndonesiaKalimantanRainforest

About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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  1. susan sykes says:

    Great post I wouldn’t have liked the leeches at all, I wish I could have seen Yoko being led off.

  2. Lee says:

    Enjoyed your story! I’m going in May and was wondering where I could find the Croc-like lightweight plastic shoes you wore on the trail?

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks so much for reading, Lee. I’m sure you’ll have a brilliant time. I bought the shoes before I left for the trip in a local shop on my island (Mallorca). They are called CCILU if that helps. Unfortunately the only colour in stock when I needed them was bright purple! Hopefully you will have better luck.
      Enjoy the jungle and watch out for the leeches!

      • Lee says:

        Thank you for responding so quickly! The shoes look incredibly comfortable and they are all bright colors! I am looking forward to seeing the Orangutans and hope to avoid all leeches!

      • Lee says:

        Thank you for responding so quickly! The shoes look incredibly comfortable and they are all bright colors! I am looking forward to seeing the Orangutans and hope to avoid all leeches!

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