Sumatran Orangutan Expedition

Filed in Charities, Places Of Interest, Workshops on Dec.22, 2010

Months of planning have finally all come together now in the form of this unique and bespoke photo tour to the amazing wilderness that is Sumatra. I will be leading this amazing Photo-Tour alongside expert trackers on the ground in Sumatra, working with the brilliant Charity- Sumatran Orangutan Society.

This charity is dedicated to the conservation of Sumatran Orangutans and their forest home, where each person on this photo-tour will directly be helping the Orangutan and their habitat, with money from each person booked onto this trip going to the Sumatran Orangutan Society, whose work is to help protect and conserve this area for the future of our closest relative.

I have always been fascinated with these Great Apes for as long as I can remember and upon first seeing one of these amazing animals back in 2000 in a rehabilitation centre in Thailand I have always wanted to help them when and where I could.  I had a close encounter with a male Orangutan, an experience that touched deep into my sole, as I watched and looked into the eyes of these beautiful animals, it was something I have never forgot as I sat on the ground, mimicking their behaviour of picking up ants with a small stem.  A powerful male with pronounced cheeks denoting his age, was slowly moving towards me, closer and closer until I could hear him breathing.  He slowly and gently took the stem off me, his hand almost perfectly formed the same as a human, with dark nails, he then just slowly moved away and out of site, a moment I can see as I type these words.  

I was lost for words, an amazing moment that I can still see as if it was yesterday, such is the beauty, grace of this animal.  The principal focus of this photo tour will be the Orangutan, capturing them within their natural habitat, looking for behaviours to capture and so on, as we visit some of the most magnificent forests on Earth, which are also the domain of many other beautiful and stunning animals and birds, where some only live in this part of the world and nowhere else on the planet. Sadly the ‘Old Man of the forest’ has been subjected to relentless pressures which has reduced the world’s population by as much as 50% during the last 10 years. Hunting for meat and the demands of the pet trade have been contributory factors but the more significant issue has been the large-scale clearance of rain forest throughout this region leaving very few habitats left for these apes

There are surely few more enduring creatures in the world than the gentle giant of the rainforest’s, the Orangutan. With around 97% of an Orangutans genetic makeup being the same as a human and where such a close affinity to Homo sapiens is obvious upon gazing into their beautiful faces and watching their behaviour and how they conduct their lives. The evolutionary links with mankind are plain to see after such encounters with this amazing ape that now only live wild in two places in the world, Borneo and Northern Sumatra.

Across the Orangutans entire range, conversion of forests to oil palm plantations is occurring on a massive scale, logging continues even within protected areas, and planned road networks threaten to fragment the habitat of the last viable populations. These factors are responsible for the loss of over 80% of Orangutan habitat over the last 20 years. We have to save this amazing animal and during this tour I will also be photographing the story of the local people, the palm plants and conveying with moving and powerful photography what is happening to these amazing forests where I will be reporting back for SOS and updating their Blog alongside my own as and when I have wifi access out there.

We will also be planting new trees in areas that have been safeguarded and protected for the Orangutans and all the other wildlife that live here. With projects concentrating on teaching local communities about the benefits of reforestation and developing alternative livelihoods. SOS  distribute seedlings and have established organic forestry centres near degraded forest areas, providing training so that communities can produce their own seedlings for future replanting.

They have established a number of nursery and replanting sites in Aceh and North Sumatra, and have now planted over 570,000 seedlings an area we will visit so guests can have the chance to plant their own trees here, we will also work in the deforested regions around and within the Leuser Ecosystem, which is the most important remaining habitat for the Sumatran Orangutan.

The charity also works in restoring degraded areas inside the border of the Gunung Leuser National Park, working with local government and local communities to restore vital Orangutan habitat that has been damaged by illegal oil palm plantations established within the protected area. So much brilliant work is going on out there to save these animals.  This trip as you can see by the Itinerary will be truly amazing, covering different areas, sleeping in the jungle with its amazing noises and uniqueness all of its own. 

Along with the guides I will also be showing some interesting and key skills and survival techniques derived from my own experiences of working in these jungle habitats on different continents over the years while serving in HM armed forces.  The trip has it all and I am so passionate about helping these animals so if you would like to book or want more information then email me or contact SOS. And you can view the trip on the BBC Wildlife Magazine Website here

A big thank you to Helen- the  UK Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Society for all your help in making this trip happen, thank you to Different Travel for their help also, and lastly thank you to those who book on behalf of the Sumatran Orangutan, I look forward to seeing you all in Sumatra next September.

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