Beautiful Borneo! Well, one wee bit of it...

July 03, 2012  •  2 Comments

A couple of weeks ago I had the enormous privilege to visit the Sabangau tropical peat swamp forest near Palangka Raya, Kalimantan. Located in central southern Borneo, this area of forest is positively teeming with wildlife, and is home to an incredible array of endemic primate species, namely the Bornean orangutan, the red langur and the Bornean agile gibbon. I'll bring you pictures of all three in my next post, I promise, but for now I would like to start their story by showing you the simply stunning landscape in which these animals' lives are played out - I give you...the Bornean rainforest!



All three of the above photos show the same patch of forest - the only difference is the time at which they were taken and the weather during the sunrise. The colour differences are purely down to the quality of light on the morning in question. I love to revisit locations that I know well, as the moods can change every minute, especially in the first few moments as the sun appears over the horizon. The other, intangible ingredient of each image is one that everyone should endeavour to experience... hearing the whoops and cries of gibbons drifting through mist-wrapped trees is something else. 



Speaking of the sunrise, here it is in all its glory! For camera fans out there, this was shot with a 300mm lens, with a 2x converter on a D300s, which gives an effective focal length of 900mm in old-school terms... be careful when taking this sort of shot, as pointing something that closely resembles the Hubble telescope at a massive nuclear reaction is generally not advised... I have learned from my mistakes, and this time I pre-focussed on the horizon before the sun rose. By then locking the focus and taking care not to nudge the manual controls, I peered in to the side of the viewfinder to see whether my aim was true - even without seeing the whole picture, it's fairly obvious when you've got the sun in frame as a rich glow emanates from the depths of the camera body. Best not keep it pointed like that for too long if you would like the camera to maintain the shape it was when you bought it...



The reason why I found myself up to my thighs in water, mud and fire ants in the first place was to document the work and wildlife of the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, otherwise known as OuTrop. They are working to study the flora and fauna of this essential habitat, as the more that we know about a forest and its inhabitants, the better prepared we are to protect it should a developer find their sights settling on it. As ever, the race is on to show which has more value: on one side, there is the peat and the wood; on the other, the balanced ecosystem that we, and all other life on this planet rely on to provide us with food, air, water, and countless other essential environmental services. I'm sure it won't take you long to work out which is currently seen as giving investors a bigger bottom line, but by studying exactly how we rely on the forests the scientists working here can hopefully give the case for the trees a bit of a boost. Similar work is being carried out around the world, as governments look to put an economic value upon the very life support systems that allowed us to flourish on Earth. It is a real shame that those in charge can only see in terms of currency, but this is sadly the state we currently find ourselves in. Maybe one day we won't make each and every species justify its existence by the value of what it does for us, but for now we will just have to continue to prove that every form of life has its place and every loss of biodiversity will hurt our wallets, as that seems to be the only language that the people in power understand. 

I hope that by visiting these extraordinary places filled with truly stunning wildlife I can help to show people the visual beauty and the aesthetic value that it provides; endless tracts of treeless, burnt no-man's land doesn't tend to have the same appeal. The image below simply shows one of those rare moments that it all comes together - before getting on the boat, the sky was clear - as soon as I got on board and we started moving, this perfect cloud appeared across the sun, scattering beams of light across the sky over the local village. As soon as we got to shore, it had moved on. 



Be sure to check back again soon, I have spent the last few days sorting out the 8000 images that I have somehow managed to take since arriving in Indonesia, and have plenty more to show you soon. Many of them feature large, ginger haired primates in dense forest... I'm waiting for your jokes now...


Such stunning photos of the forest. I cant wait to see your gibbon pics :)
Mrs Amer(non-registered)
Impressive Andrew, these have such a marvelous feel to them I am there really there!!
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