Our first trek wasn’t until 8:30am, but Sam awoke before dawn and went out for a quiet walk on her own. She was on the lookout for gibbons, but this morning they were shy, not even singing their howling chorus. Nevertheless, Sam enjoyed her meander about the riverside, lodge and nature trail. A mouse-deer ran by, too fast for her to snap a good photo, and many birds (and birders) were about, searching for their morning meals.
Six of us plus Faezen set out one last time together for a short morning trek along the Hornbill trail. For the most part the walk was uneventful, there weren’t too many leeches, conditions were nice and the trail was easy. The highlight was a spot of millipede golf, tapping the small creatures so they roll into a protective ball and then rolling them away, gently of course. Faezen and I led the way on the final stretch, we’d almost reached the end of the trail, when Ed spotted something in the foliage, “Orangutan” he shouted. We all rushed to see two hairy ginger apes swing high into the trees above. Using his walkie-talkie our guide radio’d in the find.
With the orangutans heading out of sight, Faezen, and now another guide too, led us off-trail into the dense jungle itself, heading after them. We quietly, and ever-so carefully, trampled through the trees and vines towards the tree they’d stopped in. Finding angles to view the treetop was difficult, we squatted on the floor, or leaned precariously, and moved our heads about to and fro, looking for line of sight to the wonderful wild apes. And there they were, sitting quietly in the treetop, eating, relaxing, grooming, two of them. I lined up the camera, full zoom at 200mm, hand-held, manual focus, and delicately began snapping, but that elusive profile shot of an orangutan looking right at us evaded me. Either leaves covered my view, or they looked away, nonetheless it was magical just to have the opportunity. We were motionless and transfixed for almost 20 minutes, whatever creepy crawlies were clambering on us from the close proximity leaves, they were irrelevant. In that moment we watched the orangutans, and nothing else mattered. It was incredible.
When we did decide to leave, our guide pointed out, “This is leech paradise, watch out for the baby ones”. And, as expected, we all had leeches somewhere on us. The babies were so tiny, it’s hard to imagine how’d you’d ever stop them from getting through the gaps in your clothes. Miraculously Sam and I were bite free. Sam stayed the longest, and from the trail, even though I knew she was there and not far away, and wearing bright clothes, I couldn’t see her. The plants obscured all view of her. When she did materialise, I’ll always remember that smile, an ear-to-ear grin. Yes, those last 20 minutes were a little bit special.
On the lodge veranda we all shared one last meal together, swapping emails and dropbox accounts for photo sharing, and then we said our farewells. We were staying on for another day of treks, and our next activity was at 4:30pm, a dusk walk. Between now and then we filled our time with some short trails we could do ourselves, heading over to the river view platform, around the little nature trail, around the lodge itself. I enjoyed patiently watching whatever it was I found, without the need to continue on a trail, whether it was a spotted fantail, a yellow rumped flower pecker or a family of long-tailed macaques. It was very hot, and it was the only day without any rain.
In the late afternoon we began the long Segama trail which crosses the river and continues alongside its bank before crossing back and joining the Ginger trail, which in turn ends at the canopy walkway. About 4hrs of hiking in total. The smells of barringtonia filled the air again; a fragrant jungle. Either brave or foolish, I set out in a t-shirt this time — without signs of rain, and with a lower humidity this was probably the most pleasant of conditions (ultimately my arms were bitten by a peculiar jungle bug that left an itching mark which frustrated me all the way home). Scattered on the floor were “fake coconut seeds”, a large kernel with two silky white wings, they float down from trees like butterflies. I saved one and threw it from the canopy bridge to watch it fly.
We came across red leaf monkeys again, more millipedes (though no giants), great strangling fig trees and odd fungi. We heard the calls of hornbills. With clear skies above us and the sun setting there was a lovely blue light filling the forest, which gave way to the colours of dusk. The cicadas stopped, and on time, as if scheduled, the calls of leafhoppers begun, like an alarm siren they droned incessantly. A wake-up call for the nocturnal. Near our path was another new noise, a beeping, not unlike the regular chirps of sonar; it was a little litter frog hiding in a branch.
By sundown we were at the canopy walk. Faezen pointed out two flying squirrel nests, one in the tree above us and one across the bridge. “They come out about now, and fly only once”. Patiently we stood on the swaying rope bridge, angled to see whichever squirrel decided to come out first. Finally, as the light was fading, a small dark silhouette emerged and scarpered about the branches. Then, without warning, as if making a sudden decision, it launched itself from the tree, arms and legs out, ‘wings’ open, it glided effortlessly to the forest floor far below. And I got most of it on camera.
It then became a night trail, and as we followed the road back to the lodge we used our torches to search for creatures. In a tree we spotted another tarantula, and a timid mouse deer hid amongst the bushes. But despite tonight’s perfect conditions we were relatively unlucky, the tarsiers and loris remained out of sight. It was World Earth Day, so between 8pm and 9pm all the lights were out at the lodge. It meant we were eating our last dinner here by candlelight. Ordinarily that’s romantic, but light attracts bugs, lots and lots of them, so too does food. It was awkward at best. We finished up quickly and called it a night.