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Roughing It in Mawas – Part 3, Camp Tuanan to Camp Release

March 7, 2013

January 13, 2013. To continue the journey to our next destination – Camp Release – we had to return to Mantangai because Camp Release cannot be accessed by speedboat. The narrow and densely vegetated canals that lead to Camp Release are only navigable on a kelotok, which is a traditional Dayak wooden longboat. Thus we must go back to Mantangai to switch our transportation mode.

Tommy and Sofi did not join us this time. We left them at Tuanan as they had work to do there. But still, there was only so much room in the kelotok for the four of us, plus a driver and our belongings. Sitting cross-legged and sandwiched between the driver, our backpacks (stacked behind the driver), and the rest of my travel mates, I must admit that it wasn’t comfortable in the beginning. Within the first 10 minutes, my legs went to sleep and my back was killing me from sitting upright. But then I realized that if I turned around, I could lean against our backpacks and have a little room to stretch my legs a bit. So I did, grinning apologetically to Odom, Sungkono and Kurniawan because they could not do the same. The rest of the journey was enjoyable. Well, at least for me.

Changing our transportation mode to a kelotok

The trip from Mantangai to Camp Release took 1.5 hours. The canals crisscross with one another, forming a complex labyrinth thickly bordered with rasau trees (Pandanus helicopus) – a type of tree that resembles pandan, but larger and with spiky prickles all over it, causing us to duck and shift to the left or to the right from time to time to dodge the thorns. It is important to have someone who knows the area very well to guide you through, otherwise it is almost certain that you will get lost or crash into the thorny trees.

Riding on a kelotok through tiny canals

The Perfect Hideaway

Camp Release is my favorite place in Mawas. Built on nutrient-rich black-water swamp and surrounded by lush peatland forest, it was the perfect hideaway. The large wooden cottage was designed to complement its surroundings with a large front deck and a jetty as well as a “garage” that fits 3-4 kelotoks!

There are 5 rooms, 2 bathrooms with showers, a terrace overlooking the spectacular beauty of the forest and canals, and a roomy living and dining area, powered by solar panels during the day and a generator whenever needed at night. Fish is in abundance. Guess what we had for lunch and dinner that day. Freshly caught fish!

The perfect hideaway, Camp Release!

Camp Release was established to accommodate the releases of our newly rescued semi-wilds and wild orangutans from areas of habitat conflict, directly into natural, secure habitat, in this case, in Mawas. 148 orangutans were relocated here in the past. But after the population was estimated to be at full carrying capacity for the area, we had to find a new area. Currently we translocate wild orangutans into other sites within Central Kalimantan, and semi-wilds and rehabilitated orangutans into Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest.

Camp Release was then used as a research base by the National University of Singapore for two years. But following that period, it has since been used mainly as a transit camp for Mawas team members and KFCP project team members. Mr. Atu Juhani and his wife Mrs. Acin are stationed there to look after the camp.

Camp Bagantung

After a quick but delicious lunch, Sungkono and Kurniawan told me to board the kelotok again. We were going to visit Camp Bagantung, around one hour away from Camp Release by kelotok driven by our own staff, Samsul. At Camp Bagantung, I met Udin (Mr. Atu’s son), Indra and two Mawas staff based there.

At Camp Bagantung (left to right: Indra, Samsul, Udin, Rini, Sungkono)

Working together with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Camp Bagantung was established as the basis for peatland and hydrology research, though later that project was discontinued. However, we still collect various data for our own benefit, including climate data and river water levels. The camp also functions as a monitoring camp, mainly monitoring illegal logging activities and forest fires. This will be the third update that I will share and publish in more detail in the next few weeks. Hope you hang around to read it because it is also a story full of adventure. Hint: we got lost in the dark on our way back to Camp Release!

Part of Mawas after a forest fire

As for this trip, I will continue the story tomorrow in “Roughing It in Mawas – Part 4”.


Text by: Rini Sucahyo – Communications Advisor to the CEO
Photos by: Rini Sucahyo & Baba S. Barkah

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