Finally! A follow up on the swamps...

August 25, 2012  •  2 Comments

Time is a strange beast. Recently, what has felt like merely a few days, appears in reality to have been several weeks. I guess that being in Indonesia doesn't help with this warped perception, as the strict timeframes we are used to living by in the West slowly dissolve, and the phenomenon known here as 'rubber time' takes hold. Anyway, this preamble is designed really only for one purpose: sorry it's taken so long to get more images to you all!


So here, finally, are some of my images from my trip to the beautiful swamps of Kalimantan, home to everyone's favourite ginger ape. However, since I was only visiting for a few days, I'm not sure I would call it home... ok, rubbish jokes aside, I do of course mean the Bornean orangutan. I was lucky enough to spend a whole day in the presence of a simply stunning flanged male called Salvador. A male orangutan develops the large cheek flanges when he becomes the dominant animal in his territory. I have spent a lot of time around many different species over the last few years, but I could genuinely feel the air of power and confidence that Salvador was creating. The word 'awesome' is used too frequently to describe completely un-awesome things in the media, but a character such as this can truly be described as nothing short of awesome. 


One of my favourite parts of the whole experience was seeing how an animal that can weigh up to 90kg can move with such grace through the canopy. Many people would possibly argue that grace is not the most accurate word for their method of locomotion, but any animal who can travel by bending trees to worrying angles before reaching out to the next without making too many catastrophic errors deserves some respect in my opinion! One species that calls the swamp home that may be more unanimously acknowledged as graceful are the F1 drivers of the forest, the Bornean agile gibbons... when not speeding through the trees, they can be found relaxing for a couple of minutes, even finding time for some gibbon gang signs...


These guys certainly keep you on your toes. Unbelievably long arms and reflexes that put the best fighter pilots to shame allow these speedsters to almost fly through the forest, which makes following them quite a challenge. The swamp forest is a difficult environment to move through even at low speeds, but while tracking these guys, I would have been completely and utterly at a loss if it hadn't been for the incredible local guides who apparently hover through the swamp. I'm forever soaked up to my waist, but I'm yet to see a guide with more than a light splashing around the ankles... 

Anyway, here is another gibbon comfortable at home in the treetops - these are now another of my favourite subjects, as they look incredible but certainly make you work for the shots!



Of course, life in the swamp is not limited only to the tops of the trees. Eyes watch you from everywhere, many of which are never even seen. That is certainly the case with this Wagler's pit viper, which I probably would have never seen, even if I had stumbled into it face first! Usually for these sort of shots I would be digging around my bag for my 105mm macro lens... however, I'm always wary of something that carries big teeth and venom in it's face, so stayed back a bit with a 200mm. 



All these experiences would have been impossible without the kind support and expertise of the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, and many of the images here are available as prints, of which 20% of the proceeds will go to support their work to study and protect this unique and threatened habitat. For more information on their work, please visit


I have many many more images from the swamps to show you, and plan on heading back sometime in the next few weeks to capture even more, but in my next post I'd like to bring you something a bit different. I've been learning how to access the canopy itself to find a different angle on life in the trees, and have just returned from two weeks of lugging myself and my camera into the sun-drenched branches to see what life is like up there - the shot below was taken before sunrise on my way to one of the secluded tropical islands around South Sulawesi... my Indonesian adventure continues...



Xaali O'Reilly(non-registered)
Reading your blog always makes me want to go to that part of the world even more!! I'll go some day... Great stuff Andrew, amazing photos as ever!
Asli Tatliadim(non-registered)
Extremely beautiful shots and a great message. Thank you Andrew Walmsley. I look forward to see more of your work.
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