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Enjoying the Orangutans of Kumai

September 26, 2016

We left Malaysia with 14 other boats as part of the Indonesia East Rally and checked into Indonesia at Tarakan where we were treated to a welcoming dinner at the Mayor’s estate. We relaxed and dove the islands of Derawan and Maratua and swam with “stingless” jellyfish in an inland lake before an overnight crossing to Sulawesi.

Our landfall was Toli Toli where we were met with great fanfare. Each boat was assigned two English students from the university to act as hosts. We were fortunate to get three hosts; Rhifky, Hapsa, and Shandi. They accompanied us on our tours and helped arrange fuel, laundry, banking and transportation. Tours were provided by the city and included a beach party with food, entertainment, and snorkeling. The next day we visited primary, secondary, and high schools where the four young teens in our cruising group were treated like rock stars complete with swooning girls. The third day included a visit to a mountain village where each cruising family was invited into a home for coffee. The houses had roofs that opened up to expose a rooftop platform where spices and coffee were dried. The roofs were easily closed when the rain came.  Each evening we invited our hosts to join us and other cruisers for raucous dinners along the waterfront. Many thanks to our host for making Toli Toli a wonderfully memorable stop.

We left the Indonesia East Rally at Toli Toli along with three other boats and headed south along the western side of Sulawesi. The landscape was gorgeous with high mountains, rain clouds, and beautiful rain forests. The charts are a bit sketchy and we ended up running onto a misplaced reef at 4 AM.  Luckily we were able to get off with only superficial damage.

We stopped at Mamuju for a couple of days while three of the boats resolved engine problems.  Persephone had to bypass one of its two engine fuel filters to get back to full performance. We then crossed back over to Borneo and worked our way along the south coast to the port town Kumai.

Kumai is known for its Tanjung Puting National Park and orangutan research center. We booked a 3-day river trip into the park through Liesa and Majid on a large houseboat that could accommodate our 10 cruisers. We saw lots of orangutans in their natural habitat as well as proboscis, gibbon, and macaque monkeys. The highlight was a small boat ride and hike to Camp Leaky, site of the first orangutan research facility. Our meals were deliciously prepared by our two onboard cooks and we spent much of our time sipping drinks while slowly cruising the river in the company of good friends.

We have just arrived in Belitung after a 47-hour crossing, thus completing our circumnavigation of Borneo, the world’s third largest island. We will provision here and check out of Indonesia as we hasten to return to the Malaysian Peninsula where we can put the boat in a marina while we catch up on some land travel.

Derawan and Maratua


Toli Toli


Sulawesi Coast


Kumai River Trip




From → Travel

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