Discover Camp Leakey

Much of our stay in the rainforest was spent in Camp Leakey.

In Camp Leakey we would go trekking and exploring. We would watch the orangutans ape-ing around at feeding time. And we would get to see many other wildlife species native to this area.

camp leakey

Sign in Camp Leakey

What is Camp Leakey?

I have decided to discuss Camp Leakey today because so much of our stay in the rainforest was spent there and many people don’t realise what Camp Leakey is or why it is there. In fact some people were under the impression that Camp Leakey was a campsite!

Camp Leakey is the main base of the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) where research into the species takes place, as well as serving as a sanctuary for wild and semi-wild orangutans.

Located in Tanjung Puting Reserve, Camp Leakey is like a national park within a national park: visitors to Camp Leakey must be accompanied by a local guide and must be out of the camp’s limits by nightfall – no visitors are allowed to over-night there.

Camp Leakey was founded in 1971 by Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, and she named the camp after her mentor Dr. Louis Leakey. Read here about this woman’s extraordinary work in the area.

Camp Leakey originally consisted of just two huts, but nowadays there is a visitor centre, accommodation for park rangers and staff, and is a place where research is carried out and where ex-captive organutans are monitored after their reintroduction into the wild.

In the 1970s and 1980s Camp Leakey was also a rehabilitation centre for ex-captive orangutans but nowadays they are taken to a centre just outside Tanjung Puting National Park. The orangutans that we currently find in Camp Leakey are those that were rehabilitated here and their offspring, as well as any wild orangutans that come into the area.

Camp Leakey

One of the inhabitants of Camp Leakey during feeding time

There are other camps in Tanjung Puting National Park, where rangers organise the feeding and research of orangutans and where park rangers monitor their progress and look after the forest. Of all these camps or bases, Camp Leakey is the largest and the most famous.

At Camp Leakey, visitors are allowed to observe the orangutans and to explore the park. And while we were there, that’s exactly what we did.

My Visit to Camp Leakey

Due to its location, deep in the forest, we did not arrive in Camp Leakey until the second day of our stay in Tanjung Puting National Park. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to take a tour for a few days, not just one day. Read more here about why to stay in the rainforest for three nights.

Trekking in Camp Leakey

Me exploring Camp Leakey

Camp Leakey is accessible only by river, and the normal way to get there is by klotok (Indonesian river boat) just like we did.

Once we’d arrived in the area, our klotok was moored just outside the camp and we could explore the camp with our guide after checking in with the rangers, who all knew Rambo well because he used to work there before becoming a guide.

Feeding Time at Camp Leakey

The first time we visited Camp Leakey was at banana o’clock, or feeding time for the orangutans.

Feeding time at Camp Leakey takes place at 3pm every day, and just before that, the feeding station starts to come to life with orangutan activity: trees start swinging violently, branches crack and break, there are shouts, cackles, squabbles. Then the tree-top acrobatics begin.

On the ground below, in front of the feeding platform, camera-wielding visitors start to congregate. There is a buzz of excitement as the first orangutan is spotted. Shutters click, people gasp and point, the show begins.

Camp Leakey

Patience

At Camp Leakey during feeding time there tends to be a good turn-out of orangutans and there is always a lot for the visitors to see, often more so than in other camps.

Trekking in Camp Leakey

We also went trekking in Camp Leakey with our guide, Rambo, who took us on the route that he used to follow every day himself when he worked at Camp Leakey. He was a researcher there and used to walk through the forest every day searching for wild orangutans. When he spotted one he would follow it for ten days to monitor its activity.

The treks in Camp Leakey for visitors don’t tend to be strenuous and generally just last for half a day or less depending on the requirements and fitness of the visitor. The park is flat too.

The trek in Camp Leakey begins from the jetty directly from where the klotok is moored, and much of the walking is on raised wooden walkways like bridges that lift us high above the rainforest floor and the vegetation.

Trekking in Camp Leakey

The team in Camp Leakey is also responsible for repairing and maintaining these walkways to keep people off the forest floor beneath. This serves two purposes:

  • For the visitors it keeps them out of the mud (don’t forget, it rains every day in the rainforest) and also elevated from poisonous plant as well as reducing the chances of dangerous bites or stings from the rainforest’s more threatening inhabitants.
  • For the rainforest it allows vegetation to continue grow naturally without interference from the clumsy steps of visitors trudging through every day.

As it happens, our trek in Camp Leakey was fairly eventful and we spotted a few animals that we didn’t expect to see as well as having one or two strange encounters. I’ll be telling that story another day while The Rainforest is still our Destination of the Month.

(You can now read that here)

Night Trek in Camp Leakey

Another reason for visiting Camp Leakey on a tour by klotok in Tanjung Puting National Park is to participate in a night trek.

This is a terrifying experience, I won’t lie to you. But nevertheless, I highly recommend it! Look at it this way: you’ve come this far, now you just have to take everything that is thrown at you. Even if you are so far out of your comfort zone that you can’t even see your comfort zone anymore.

A night trek is a trek at night – obviously. This means that you walk through the forest with your guide at night time. As I’ve mentioned before, the rainforest at night is in pitch darkness, so you are without a very important sense, making all your other senses heightened.

Experiencing a walk in the darkness in the rainforest is not the only reason for a night trek: the other reason is to try to track down the nocturnal creatures that you are not likely to encounter during the day.

The night trek doesn’t actually take place within the boundaries of Camp Leakey because you can’t visit at night, but there is a place for the klotoks to moor just close to the entrance of the camp and that’s where you can do a night trek.

Anyway, I’ll be telling you all about the actual night trek itself in a few days time – it deserves its own post!

(You can now read that here)

Camp Leakey FAQ

There is a question that is often asked by people who are considering a visit to Camp Leakey and it is this:

As Camp Leakey is the biggest and most popular camp in Tanjung Puting National Park, does that mean it gets very busy and touristy?

And that’s a good question. The last thing you need after travelling all that way is for loud-mouthed tourists shouting to each other scaring everything away, or for it to feel like you are at the circus – you can visit the circus at home!

My simple answer is this: In my experience, Camp Leakey is no busier with tourists than any other camp. I personally was expecting to see more people than I did and I was pleasantly surprised. At feeding time there were never more than 20 people watching the orangutans’ antics and during the trek we met only two other people.

However, we visited in November, which is the beginning of the wet monsoon season (Borneo has two seasons: wet monsoon and dry monsoon – or in other words, wet or very wet). November is low season in terms of tourism and it is said that there are many more klotoks up and down the rivers during the dry monsoon season (April to October).

If you are planning a trip to Tanjung Puting National Park and have any questions about Camp Leakey, please write them in the comments section here and I will incorporate them into this section of the post so that others can benefit too.

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: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....

RSSComments (2)

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  1. Simisha says:

    Hi Lisa. Thanks for the information. I wanted to know if it is worth seeing the other camps as well. Do they offer something different? And are they ethical?

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Simisha,
      Thanks a lot for reading. I’m sorry but I only visited this camp and a few feeding stations. Apart from understandably wanting to make a buck off the tourists, I saw nothing to suggest that the workers and organisers of the camps and projects want nothing other than the best for the animals and for the conservation of the rainforest. In such a short visit it is never clear if there are hidden agendas or not, but you will have to go and form your own opinions…
      All the best,
      Lisa

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