Crazy Orange Monkeys

I’ve been told I haven’t written enough about Borneo. Probably because I haven’t written anything about Borneo. So, here it is folks – the true story of what happened when we went looking for orange monkeys…

We found them, of course.

They were down the back of the sofa. I ALWAYS said we should look there first…

Happy OrangutanNo. These guys were swinging happily around the most amazing animal enclosure I’ve ever seen – over 100 hectares of primary rainforest, trackless and unsullied by human-kind. On the edge of the preserve is a series of feeding platforms, and that’s where we waited to see the orangutans.

Orangutans are over ten feet tall, live for hundreds of years and eat anything smaller than themselves – including humans. Or maybe that’s dinoasuars? To be honest I had a fit of laziness (something to do with me writing this on the beach, no doubt) – so feel free to insert your own orangutan facts here via the magic of Wikipedia.

One thing I will say is that Orang-utan means ‘Man of the Woods’, and the word ‘Orang’ – meaning ‘man’ – is one of the most commonly used words in the Malay language. Seriously – it crops up in every conversation I hear around me, leading me to believe it’s used like ‘bloke’ or ‘fella’ – as in, “So I was playing pool with these three orangs in the pub…”

The apes, when they showed themselves, moved slowly and effortlessly, not scampering like monkeys but sort of draping themselves across the trees and letting them bend down and deposit them where they wanted to go. Seriously, if they were any more laid back, they’d have been horizontal. Peace-loving vegetarians with brown, soulful eyes, they definitely qualify as the hippies of the animal kingdom. I think I saw one wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt.

Mellow OrangutanWe were lucky enough to be there before the feeding, when a younger orangutan was strolling along the boardwalk fence, beckoning us to follow him, and to stay until the bitter end, by which point we’d seen about ten of the scruffy beasts.

And a little while later, we met their closest human relative.

For three incredible days and nights we cruised on, and hiked around, a massive jungle river called the

Kinabatinanangananagana… ananagan… agan agan… a nanna again? …an anagram game? Anyway, the point is, it’s a river. With a ridiculous name. And while we were there, we found evidence that not only was there a Missing Link between apes and humans in the distant past, but that the Link is alive and well today (and, apparently, lives in Maui). Oh yes – short, dumpy and slow-moving, our strawberry-blonde cruising companion Annabel was a dead ringer for an orangutan. She had the kind of intelligence level where, if she were caught waving a stick in the air, you’d be tempted to say, “Aw, look! She’s learning to use tools!”

But don’t worry! I’m not going to be needlessly mean to a defenceless woman. I’m going to tell you what she said, and let you decide…

A good example came on our first dusk cruise. We’d been lucky enough to see several orangutans in the wild, nesting in trees just back from the riverbank, and several troops of macaque monkeys, who swarmed around us as though we were invisible on their way down for an evening drink.

But when our guide pointed out a crocodile gliding silently on the surface of the water, Annabel asked him for his binoculars. “Wow,” she said, after a few seconds studying the creature, “it almost looks like a little reptile…”

I couldn’t help myself. “That’s because it IS a little reptile,” I told her.

“Yeah…” came her reply – not only blithely unaware of my sarcasm, but clearly not appreciating she’d said anything stupid in the first place.

Annabel – getting stuck in on the jungle hike

Her ignorance was matched only by her ability to be so annoying it made my hands twitch with the desire to choke her.

Next morning, on the dawn cruise, we were all staring at a bird our guide had spotted. Roo (my wife) was checking it out in the bird identification book.

“Hey, can I see that?” Anabel asked. But rather than leaving it there, she did her trademark trick of asking again – and again – without pausing for breath. “Hey, can I see that one from yesterday? You know, the one we looked at in the evening? That little bird? Is it in there? Can I see it? The one from yesterday? Remember? Can I see that one? From yesterday? I want to look at that one. The little bird, from yesterday? Can I see it? Can I—“

At which point Roo just shoved the book at her and said “Take the damn thing.”

Quite unaware that she’d done anything out of the ordinary, she started flipping through the pages. “Oh, there are lots of little pictures in here! Lots of little birdies!”

She flipped a few more pages. “Wow, there’s more pictures! That’s amazing! The whole thing is pictures! And they’re all birds!”

She closed the book to study the cover in wonder.

It was called ‘The Borneo Book Of Birds’.


Now, in case I didn’t make it clear, this was not some eleven-year-old child; this woman was clearly in her late forties. On the one hand I feel I should applaud her spirit, to be traveling at that age, and all alone. Well done her! On the other hand, I think it’s quite likely that she was alone because in all her forty-odd years on the planet, she’d never found anyone who could stand to be in the same room as her for more than an hour.

She was at her worst on our last morning, when, just as the sun was rising, we spotted a big male orangutan, sitting with his back to us in a tree about thirty metres from the boat.

orangutan back“Oh my goodness!” Annabel exclaimed. And then it began. With her eyes glues to the screen of her camera, her whining voice ratcheted up several notches in volume; “Oh, you beautiful creature! Please turn around! Pretty please! Say hello to us! Say goodbye to us! Hello there! Oh please turn around! Please? Turn around! Say hello! Say goodbye! Give us your blessing! Please say hello! Say goodbye! Say hello! Please turn around! Please say hello! Please turn around! Say goodbye to us…” And on – and ON – for the next five minutes.

I had to do something then which I’ve never done in my life (other than, occasionally, to my long-suffering sister). I put my hand on Annabel’s shoulder and said rather firmly, “Shut up.”

But I was sorely tempted to push her into the river.

The River

When it came time to leave, Roo and I were gutted. We’d had an amazing experience, staying in a little wooden hut, seeing giant monitor lizards, endangered hornbills and monkeys a-plenty, trekking the jungle day and night, feeding our fingers to fish (some kind of perverse justice there) – and we didn’t want to leave. As we sat enjoying our last breakfast in the rainforest, Annabel stood up to go.

“Well everybody,” she announced, “I’m Oh-Eff-Eff!” She glanced around smugly, quite pleased with her joke –  but she couldn’t resist letting us in on it. “Off!” she explained, beaming with her own cleverness. And then, thank God, she was off – leaving us all to bask in the warm glow of her wit.

People wonder if I make these characters up, and I’m both shocked and ashamed of the answer: no. Not a word of it. Sad to say, these individuals really are out there – and are at least partially derived from the same genetic material as the rest of us.

Be afraid.

And now, here’s a couple of Roo’s fascinating pictures to further illustrate our adventures!

Feeding Fish 1fEEDING Fish 2

Big camera lens
Roo was seriously out-lensed on the river!

20 thoughts on “Crazy Orange Monkeys

  1. First: late 40’s is NOT ancient! I am sorry you had to deal with Lady Orangutan, but she could have been doing it just to get you back if she had heard how ancient you seem to think late 40’s is 😉

    Second: are you trying to say the orangutan is the sloth of apes?

    1. Nah, Orangtans are more like the stoners of the jungle! Just kind of chilled out, hanging there, munching on leaves… well, when you see how fast the monkeys move, it makes sense…
      And 40 isn’t ancient at all!Hell, I’m nearly there myself :0)
      I just meant, I don’t see many solo travelers over the age of about 24. Mostly they’re in couples or groups or families after that, not 100% of course, but mostly. Just seemed to make more sense in her case, that she’d be traveling alone…

  2. ‘needlessly mean to a poor defenceless woman’ hmmm just about sums it up then……! And the photo…..Tony!?!

    1. S’all good! I don’t think she’s tech-savy enough to read this… hell, I’d be amazed if she could find the ‘on’ button on a TV, let alone a computer! But Roo took the picture – while I gallantly offered her my hand from just off-camera to the left. But it has to be said – I was sorely tempted to push her in here, too…
      Some things are just nigh on irresistible :0)

      1. Hey dude, just checking back in now…….hmmm she was tech savvy enough to book her trip to Borneo or maybe she used a travel agent? All she would have to do is type in her name, country that she lives & country of holiday and bam there you go on page 3 of listings turns up your blog!! I’m just thinking I would be so hurt if I read a blog that described me like that. An arrogant or rude person who had that ‘know it all’ attitude would make me want to push them into the mud but I wouldn’t feel the same about someone who was annoying in a harmless way – but hey, different things push people’s buttons! Anyways…….are you guys enjoying Vietnam? I was thinking you would wind up strangling one of the touts at some stage 🙂

        1. Ha! I’ve come pretty close on a few occasions… the worst is when I’m riding a wobbly old bicycle hired from the hotel, and I’m trying to cross an insane intersection with traffic going 5 ways on both sides of the road, all beeping like hell at each other – and a guy grabs my elbow as I wobble past – so he can try to sell me sunglasses… damn near killed me, AND I was wearing sunglasses at the time!

          1. Ha! If they were your usual style sunnies then he prob thought it was worth the danger rather than allowing you to commit such a fashion crime!! 🙂

  3. Sorry, the photo was my bad… But she was thundering along oblivious of where she put her feet while trying to keep up with the guide and talk at him! Perfect oportunity to learn from her mistake and not go THROUGH the swamp…
    Orangutangs, they are way cooler than slothes! The way an orangutang slowly reaches out a long shaggy arm for the nearest tree, then pulls it in their intended direction untill they reach the next tree… Effortless! Beautiful!

  4. OMG. Hilarious!! I swear that woman was on my flight to NZ!!!
    I’m happy you were bold enough to tell her to shut up… I would have opted for the “Oops, sorry about accidentally shoving you ‘oh-eff-eff’ the boat!!! See you at the camp!! You CAN swim, right? What…..??? Sorry, didn’t catch that….”
    Great pics, Krista!!

    1. If only I could have quoted all the stuff she said! She only got stuck in the mud because she was concentrating so hard on explaining her life back in Maui to our guide – who spoke NO English at all! He had maybe 10 words, and when he grunted or looked blankly at her, she just raised the volume and tried to tell him the same story again…

    2. If I’d been confident that she could swim, I would have. But seemed a bit cruel to drown the chick – when I was fairly sure she was too stupid to figure out the whole bouyancy-in-water thing…

      1. You would have been very popular with the rest of the group, though! 🙂
        You’re too nice… (in a good way, though).

  5. Hmmm I think I heard this story before…hihihi!!! Enjoy your travel…
    I am already in to my normnal life here, but still a bit of travel fever…traveling The Netherlands for a bit…last two weeks hihi..


    1. Good stuff! It’s hard to stop, eh? I bet it won’t be long before you’ll be finding ANY excuse to be back out there (or should i SAY, HERE…)!
      Stay safe!
      PS. TOTALLY went caving the day after you left, with that Dutch dude you met in the dorms! It was EPIC. In fact, may have to write about that…

  6. There’s one in every group. In the 90’s, I was on trek in Alaska with an organized group of 16. Among us were two middle-aged brothers from Texas. One was a nice guy, but the other was an arrogant asshole who constantly reminded us that he was not only a heart surgeon, but James Mitchner’s heart surgeon (and I think Mitchner was already dead at that point, something I wouldn’t have bragged about being a part of). The surgeon was always telling people what to do, how to do it, etc., with his most prevalent instructions always being how to stand for photographs. Some photographer had once told him to put one hand in a pocket and have the other at his side, and anyone posing for photos, no matter who they were or who was taking the picture, were interrupted and told how to “best pose.” After 10 days of this, we were finally all grouped for one final group picture before splitting up and going our separate ways. I happened to be standing just behind the surgeon and his brother. The guides took everyone’s cameras and were just starting to snap pictures when the surgeon couldn’t resist and stopped the whole show to tell everybody how to pose. Without thinking, I thumped one of his ears from behind (rather more vigorously than actually required) and said loudly, “Oh, [insert name here], stop being so anal!” It broke up the entire group, but I thought his brother might actually have apoplexy from laughing so hard. Revenge is sweet. You should have pushed her in the mud.

    1. Ha ha! Makes me wish I had taken more direct action! Although she was doing a damn good job of making a fool of herself – my favourite bit was when she showed up for the three-hour jungle hike ten minutes late, spent half an hour trying to figure out how to put on her brand-new anti-leech socks – and then checked with the guide if her sleeveless top was alright. Well, yeah… just depends which end you want the leeches to chew on, I guess! She certainly wasn’t impressed when I pulled them off her!
      Like you say – there’s always one! I just wonder why they always end up next to me…

  7. Oh, and having lived on Maui for many years, I can tell you that I’m very glad not to have met this woman…but I know exactly who she is. Maui has always been a nut magnet.

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