Leaving the Sekonyer River – For a Shower!

The area where we found ourselves when we were staying in the Indonesian rainforest for four days was Tanjung Puting. Tanjung Puting has been a national park since 1982.

The Java Sea is joined by the humongous Kumai River, which forms one of the borders of Tanjung Puting National Park. From this river there are many others running through the national park, including the Sekonyer River.

And this was the river that we found ourselves on, aboard a klotok, in the rain…

Down the Sekonyer River

On our first day in the rainforest we moved down the Sekonyer River on our klotok, watching the wildlife, spotting birds and a wild orangutan, and admiring the view.

The river was brown, murky and exactly as we had expected.

The peninsula is low lying and swampy with a spine of dry ground which rises a few feet above the omnipresent swamp.

sekonyer river 2

We were told by our guide on the tour that the Sekonyer River is brown because it is polluted. The river is contaminated by illegal gold mines outside the national park, which are destroying the forest and important ecosystems within it. Not to mention the habitat of the Borneo orangutans.

The Shower Conundrum

There were no crocodiles in the Sekonyer River because they like clean water, we were told. And so the water is safe. However, we could not swim in the Sekonyer River because it was so filthy.

On our second day in Tanjung Puting, our guide advised us that we would reach clean water, when we were to cross to the Camp Leakey River, but that we still couldn’t swim because this river was indeed home to great teeth-baring crocs!

The Heat in Tanjung Puting

Even though we were visiting Tanjung Puting in the rainy season, it was hot. By hot I don’t mean ridiculous heat where you can’t breathe, can’t move and can’t do anything. I don’t mean that exhausting heat in which you pray for a breeze and a bit of shade. I don’t mean the kind of heat where you look at the clean, fresh, crocodile-infested water and actually consider going for a swim…

Oh, wait a minute, yes, I do!

That’s how hot it was in Tanjung Puting.

sekonyer river

As well as the heat factor there was also the fact that we were backpacking. When we arrived mid-morning at Pangkalan Bun airport, we stepped off the plane into a wave of stifling heat. We were instantly sunburned.

Then we had to collected our huge backpacks and lug them out of the non-air-conditioned shed that they called an airport. We fought our way through the crowds of people who wanted to sell us taxi rides, guided tours and trinkets. There were no tiny beads of sweat on us when we got into our taxi, but rather were were dripping. Then we set about slapping the hundreds of mosquitoes that were attacking us in the taxi – but that’s another story.

Once we reached the boat we were caught in the most terrific downpour I’ve ever seen. And then the sun came out again, more scorching than before.

Then, after travelling for a few hours down the Sekonyer River we made our first stop at one of the feeding stations where we hiked through the rainforest, with the midday sun torturing our shoulders and heads, to the place where we would see our first banana o’clock show.

Then it was back to the boat…

We couldn’t have a shower that day.

That’s because the shower on a klotok uses water directly pumped up from the river. You can’t shower in that filthy sludge.

When we went to bed that night we were what you might call grubby.

In fact, the next morning when I woke up on the open deck of the boat I couldn’t face dowsing myself in more insect repellent without first getting cleaned in some way. I went through about five face wipes, and they were black when I’d finished. I then set about wiping the remaining grime off my face and neck with a cotton pad drowned in my strongest eye make-up remover. It was amazing – my top tip for getting clean.

Read here more about the essentials you need to pack for the rainforest.

Then I covered myself in insect repellent again and was soon as grubby as before.

That morning we were exploring the jungle and then moving down the Sekonyer River again.

I think I’m making it clear just how much we needed a shower, aren’t I?

Camp Leakey River

When we came to a fork in the river our guide called us to show us the water: as we left the Sekonyer River to join the Camp Leakey River there was a clear line in the water where one river ended and the other started.

The water went from brown to clear as though someone had drawn a visible line. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Sekonyer River

Sekonyer River

Sekonyer River

Goodbye Sekonyer River

We all knew what this meant.

As soon as we saw that clear water, our clothes were off and we were fighting for the shower like our lives depended on it…

And then it started to rain. The rain came down heavier than the shower!


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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