Our sea days were enlivened by excellent lectures from the expedition team, and my excitement began to build as I learnt more about the places we would visit and the things we would do in the days ahead. It was great meeting my fellow passengers, who all had their own reasons for choosing this particular itinerary. Some were excited about meeting the orangutans at Camp Leakey, some had come to see Java's impressive volcanoes, while others, like me, were simply here for the adventure.
Our first stop was Tanjung Wangi, where I visited a local village and coffee plantation to see the fascinating process of harvesting coffee, rubber, cloves and cocoa. The following day we arrived in Probolinggo, and made the journey to the smouldering Mount Bromo. The volcano is very active, and unfortunately we were unable to go all the way up to the rim of the crater as planned. However we got as close as we could and enjoyed the view of the grey smoke billowing from the crater.
My itinerary continued to surprise and delight as we explored the Indonesian archipelago. I had a fantastic day of snorkelling in Karimunjawa, swimming off the jetty amongst the amazing marine life. Silversea staff appeared with drinks and ice creams, and the dive masters told us about the different species of fish and coral. It was lovely to get back on board each evening and enjoy all the comforts of the ship, chatting about what we had seen and done that day, and looking forward to the fine dining that evening would bring.
The real highlight, however, was our time at Camp Leakey, which was the main focus of this cruise. The journey along the Sekonyer River to reach the camp was fantastic, one of the best days (and best birthdays!) I've ever had. The jungle was full of surprises: we saw groups of proboscis monkeys, gibbons, long-tailed macaques and many different species of birds close up. We spotted a monitor lizard sitting on the river bank, and a pair of rhinoceros hornbills in a tree just above us, like something out of 'Jurassic Park'.
We met our local guides for a walking tour through the forest to the orangutan sanctuary, the place that our guest lecturer, Dr Biruté Galdikas, called home for 45 years. At the feeding station we sat quietly and waited, until the canopy around us began to shake as the orangutans approached. Mothers with babies swung down and cautiously made their way down to feed on the fruit they had been given.
As we made our way back through the forest we suddenly had to stand very still, as we had three orangutans just behind us, observing us for a while before eventually moving on. It was an amazing moment. We continued our journey along the river in local wooden boats observing the wildlife, and we arrived at another feeding station where we hoped to see Tom, the dominant male. The males tend to remain solitary, and sadly we didn't see him on this occasion, but I have the feeling he saw us.
In Kumai we also had the opportunity to visit Dr Galdikas' Orangutan Care Centre & Quarantine, This facility is closed to the public, but Dr Galdikas had agreed to a visit exclusively for Silversea guests, under her watchful eye. Here we met the vets and amazing local staff who care for orphaned, sick and injured orangutans. We watched the young ones playing in their jungle gym, and I laughed as it reminded me of my grandson's play group. I even had the privilege of holding an infant in the nursery, baby Holland, whose mother had been killed on a palm oil plantation.
It's impossible to summarise my trip in just a few hundred words. It was a true adventure in a part of the world that was new to me, meeting great people, seeing some amazing wildlife, meeting Dr Galdikas and learning more about her work, and not just meeting the orangutans, but really spending time with them and their carers. It was an amazing experience, which was made possible by the wonderful team on board the Silver Discoverer.
Borneo packing list
- Light waterproof jacket
- Good walking shoes/sandals
- Clothing that dries and packs easily is a good idea for those wet and even dry landings, since you never know when the rain will come
- Remember your camera - you will have some amazing pictures and incredible memories!