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Day 7 of David McGonigal’s Orion II “Faces in the Forest” cruise to Borneo

Baku National Park

Pitcher plants are a pretty clever evolutionary trick. At the end of the leaf a long strand extends down to end in the “pitcher”, a liquid-filled colourful container covered by a canopy. They are designed to lure insects to their death to supplement the plant’s nutritional need for protein. We saw these carnivorous plants in all their various permutations as we took a walk in the forest of a small island within the national park.

In the afternoon we took a much longer two hour walk along the Telok Pandan Kecil Trail from a sheltered sandy beach over a ridge and down to the Park Headquarters. Despite the heat and the sweating and the tired legs I doubt that we worked off even our most recent Orion dessert.

Some had taken a longer walk, others had come in directly by Zodiac. No matter what walk you took and what way you arrived, we all ran around Park HQ trying to take in the array of bizarre wildlife that populated its grounds. The most noticeable were the bearded pigs, some with piglets, that made even warthogs look relatively attractive. Next were the macaques, mischievous monkeys that appeared to be waiting for us to drop our guards. In the forest behind were silver leaf monkeys that seemed quite elegant. Over the path a very green viper was hanging from a branch.

The jungle here gives the impression of being poised, waiting to take over the whole site the moment the groundsmen drop their guards or the buildings are left vacant for even a day. However, it’s evident that the rangers have an evacuation plan in place as there are extensive boardwalks and viewing platforms extending over the mangroves.

In our temperate zones lives, sometimes it’s easy to forget the verdance and raw fecundity of the tropical jungle or rainforest. When it started to rain solidly it took five minutes before the first drops penetrated the canopy to reach the forest floor and us.

As dark descended the animals became even more prevalent, particularly the macaques that took over the paths and bridges completely. We had been told to ensure we had no food in our pockets or backpacks so they completely ignored us.

The rain switched from intermittent to downpour as I joined the last zodiac back to Orion II. It pelted down so that Max McGuire, our expedition leader and our driver was shielding his eyes from the horizontal droplets. But it was warm so even the stinging was only a mild inconvenience.

After the cities and the coral gardens the forest was a welcome change and a good introduction to our next few days looking for orang-utans in the jungles of Borneo.

Words and photos: David McGonigal