Long Beach Animal Hospital Informational Articles

Feeding Stations

 Time to eat!

When going up the Sekonyer river to Camp Leakey you pass several feeding stations where the semi-wild orangutans are fed twice daily. Once the large and dominant males like Doyak, who eat first, leave the feeding station the other orangutans, pigs, squirrels, and gibbons move in for their feast. They are not afraid of you and offer some great photographic opportunities.

The guides start calling the orangutans as the rangers bring in the food

This is Doyak showing who is the boss and taking his time while the others wait. Click on his photos to see more of him

The other orangs patiently wait in the trees until he leaves

Then its their turn!

They have various styles on how they obtain and eat their food

They stuff their mouths with bananas and eat them in the trees

Gibbons commonly make an appearance at the feeding station. Their phenomenal speed as they swing through the trees, jump on the feeding platform, and then escape back to the trees, tests the skills of any wildlife photographer.

They hang in the trees waiting for just the right time

You never know when they are going to jump from the trees onto the feeding platform, so your next shot is of them already eating on the feeding platform

Once they give you the stink eye you know they will be off any second, so now is your big chance.

Within the next 1-2 seconds they have run to the end of the platform and are landing in a nearby tree

These two short movies gives you a feel for how fast a gibbon can move through the trees. This method of locomotion is called brachiation, and the gibbon does it the best of all the primates.

In this first movie the gibbon is brachiating through the trees:


In this second movie it is jumping on to the feeding platform, scaring the orangutan for a second, ignoring the park ranger, and then jumping back into a tree and climbing it with one hand loaded with bananas. You can hear the guides calling the orangutans in the background.


Once the orangs are done feeding they are quite relaxed and let us approach them, including the females with young

When the coast is clear and everyone has gone the squirrels move in.

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Camp Leakey

Much has changed in Camp Leakey since my last trip. This is not surprising due to the decades that have passed, the major changes in the rainforest, and the tremendous pressure put on the environment by the logging industry and palm oil plantations.

If you haven’t already checked out the web page on my 1991 trip now is the time to do it for comparison purposes.

A side view of where 12 of us stayed in 1991.The bathroom is in the distance at middle of the picture, the entrance is to the right of the bathroom.

When you first arrive you might find this guy “hanging around” the kitchen. Any idea what it is?

Its a gibbon, the most acrobatic primate in this rainforest

A stop at the visitors center is a must to see the rich history of the area and to understand the challenge faced in trying to save the rain forest and its creatures

Its possible to encounter an orangutan at any time when walking around Camp Leakey. Your guide knows every orangutan by name, and will be with you at all times.  The orangutans are relaxed when the guides are present and will walk right by you.

If you encounter a dominant male like this little guy (his name is Tom) you give them wide berth. Click on his picture to get an idea of how large his shoulders and arms are.

To get to the feeding station you walk through the jungle. The ironwood boards are there to help navigate the terrain during the rainy season when you might not be able to see the ground (not a good time to go).

Along the way you encounter interesting vegetation. You need to be careful what you touch because some of the plants cause a bad rash, yet do not bother the native dayaks. The biggest danger in this jungle is not the animals, its the risk of falling tree branches hitting you.

These are pitcher plants (insect eating) just after a rain

The black sap we are pointing to is from the rengas tree and is highly irritating to our skin

The nutrients do not go deep into the soil, so the roots of the large trees establish their footing by going more lateral

The root system can be extensive and go across the path

Its a rainforest so there are fungi aplenty

Camp Leakey (and the other feeding stations) is a popular attraction, so be prepared to be around visitors from all over the world. This European family was traveling together in one klotok.

 Their mandatory guide is the dark haired man at the right

It is hot and humid, and even though you walk at an easy pace you need to stay replenished. Your guide will carry a backpack filled with bottled water.

At the feeding stations (Leakey, Tanguii, and Ambung) the semi-wild orangutans (those that were in captivity and have been released back into the wild but still hang around) are given nutrition. This is important because the forest is changing and they need help to survive.

The orangutans and various other freeloaders are fed milk, bananas, and pineapples in the morning and the afternoon. The park rangers carry this heavy load in a backpack as the orangutans start congregating. Once they see him its a free-for-all, unless the dominant male is around.

Click here to see lots of close up photos of orangutans, gibbons (and other critters), at all the feeding stations including Camp Leakey

This dominant male, named Doyak, usually arrives on the ground in contrast to all the other orangutans. When the sun hits him you can see how red he is. Click on his picture to get a better feel of how large he is.

He climbs on the feeding platform and lets it be know to all the other orangutans that are in the trees watching that he is the boss

Doyak put on quite a show of dominance. Click here to see him in action.

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This is Doyak in all his splendor (oops, wrong Doyak, this is a guide at the feeding platform pretending to be Doyak)

The real Doyak!

Males this size range between 250-350 pounds. They are comparable in strength to 8 large men at least, and are not intimidated by much in their jungle. They have a powerful bite they use when fighting each other.

Here are some pictures of him at one of the feeding stations as he came in to get his share of food and confirm his place in the hierarchy. His territory does not encroach on Tom, the other dominant male in the area, and the one who is the king of all the male orangutans at the moment. Rumor has it though that Doyak is taking over Tom’s role.

Doyak hangs around the feeding station until the ranger brings the milk, which he then hoards. He keeps the other orange away by an intimidating look, and for the juvenile that approached him, a motion of his long arm warning not to come any closer. Watching his face and body language as he puts on his show of intimidation is fascinating.

Light conditions were constantly changing, and you will see that reflected in the color of his haircoat. I use the Canon 1Dx and the Canon 5D Mark III for these shots, and even used flash on several occasions.

Approaching the feeding platform

He is the only orang on the platform when the ranger brings the milk

He hoards the milk with his huge arms and menacing stare

When he is done with the milk he starts on the bananas and pineapples

This juvenile in the tree had to wait his turn

Eventually the juvenile decided to test Doyak’s tolerance of his presence. Doyak chased him away with a wave of his arm and the juvenile retreated. The younger male tried again a little later and this time Doyak tolerated him.

Doyak continued his munching at his leisure with his arm still sticking out as a warning to others that get too close

Every few minutes he would give his “Doyak” stare

Sometimes he would get up and stare down the other orangutans. Intimidation is a big part of what he does, and he has the bulk to back it up.

A few final stare before he decided to leave and let the others eat

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Proboscis Monkey

21 years ago when I first cruised down this river my camera equipment was modest compared to what is available today. I used a Minolta XG-M camera that was manual everything; focus, film advance, and exposure. This camera had slide film at an ASA of 400, which was fast film at that time. It  was small and light and the battery would last for months.

At the time I used a 500 mm mirror lens to shoot the proboscis monkeys from a canoe. A mirror lens is a lens with only one f-stop, in this case it was f/8. Why this limitation? Because the lens is very small and light and relatively inexpensive compared to a regular 500mm lens.

The following 3 photos are digital scans of the original slides from 1991. The quality difference between them and the digital photos to follow will be apparent.

This is Mr. Uil, a dayak who was born in the jungle and my personal guide to find proboscis monkeys in the trees in 1991

Here are the photos of the proboscis monkey 21 years ago when I went for a canoe ride with Mr. Uil

Almost all of the proboscis monkey photos captured on my current trip were taken with a Canon 1Dx camera and a Canon 70mm-200mm f/4 IS lens. I sometimes used a 1.4X TC. I included the EXIF info on each photo for your viewing pleasure. Be sure to click on them to see them in larger resolution.

Our first order of business is to find the proboscis monkey. Lucky for us they tend to stay along the riverbank so the klotok will give you access to them in many situations.

This is an adult female

ISO 1000, 1/200th, f/5.6

This is a young female; notice her long tail and big stomach? These monkeys eat vegetation that is not digestible by them. The bacteria in their gastrointestinal tract do the digesting, and need a big fermentation vat to do this.

ISO 1000, 1/60th, f/5.6

This is the dominant male. The large size of his nose (proboscis) compared to the female is obvious. He is also much larger.

ISO 1000, 1/1250th, f/5.6

This is a younger male

ISO 1600, 1/3200th, f/4

ISO 1600, 1/3200th, f/4

The challenge with the proboscis is to shoot them (with the camera that is) when they are jumping from tree to tree. The first problem is the fact they stay behind the foliage. Next problem is being ready for their instantaneous jump.

To help increase my odds of nailing them on the fly I sat at the front of the boat with my camera and constantly scanned for any movement. I would continuously prefocus every 50 yards in order to help my autofocus have less searching to do when they jumped.  I also tested my exposure constantly since one side of the vegetation might be in shade while the other side is in the sun. Using the Canon 1Dx was a big help, and its hard to think of a better camera when you want to nail one of these guys in midair.

The lighting was terrible for my first attempts. I was shooting upwards and into a bright sky. I had to increase my exposure by almost 2 stops . I used the 1.4X TC for the following 3 photos shooting at 280mm.

ISO 1000, 1/6400th, f/5.6

ISO 1000, 1/6400th, f/5.6

ISO 1000, 1/6400th, f/5.6

When the light got better they stayed behind the foliage. I only got this one when he finally jumped and I had no branches in the way.

ISO 1000, 1/640th, f/5.6

ISO 1600, 1/8000th, f/4

With patience, persistence, better lighting, better anticipation, and a little luck, I was able to get a complete sequence

ISO 1250, 1/500th, f/5.6

ISO 1250, 1/500th, f/5.6

ISO 1250, 1/500th, f/5.6

ISO 1250, 1/500th, f/5.6

ISO 1250, 1/500th, f/5.6

ISO 1250, 1/500th, f/5.6

ISO 1250, 1/6400th, f/5.6

ISO 1250, 1/6400th, f/5.6

ISO 1250, 1/6400th, f/5.6

The large male even gave me a few keepers. You can tell it is him by his larger size and white patch at his rump. He is secretive and stays behind foliage until he is ready to jump. Because of this I only got him halfway through his jump and landing.

ISO 1600, 1/8000th, f/4

ISO 1600, 1/4000th, f/4

I would love to go back and spend a few days just proboscis shooting and bring the 1Dx again.  Next time I will bring the Canon 300mm f/2.8 II IS and show these monkeys a thing or two!

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Klotok Time

Klotoks are a wonderful way to travel the Sekonyer to Camp Leakey. They are called klotoks due to the unique sounds of their one cylinder engines. They travel at just the right speed to get you to your destination, while at the same time allow for wildlife viewing and photography in the vegetation along the river.

This is the engine room of the klotok

Click on the link below to hear its unique sound for a few seconds


The four of us spent 3 days and 2 nights on this klotok as we cruised the Sekonyer river upstream to Camp Leakey, stopping at feeding stations along the way

Some people still live along the river and eke out a basic living

Many different kinds of powerboats navigate the Sekonyer as they move supplies and people back and forth to Kumai

The Sekonyer river has an abundance of wildlife. Many birds, large crocodiles (which is why swimming is not allowed any more), garials (fish-eating crocodiles), macaques, and proboscis monkeys to name just a few.

This is a stork-billed kingfisher

This is a male proboscis monkey

Click here to see a full page of proboscis monkeys jumping from tree to tree

This is a rainforest, so when it rains, it pours. This brings out the birds to catch the hatching insects. We were there at the end of the dry season, so it only poured a short period of time. In the rainy season it can rain nonstop for days.

When the hard rain comes we have to “batten down the hatches” and ride it out

This movie below shows the birds that catch the insects that have hatched due to the rains


Before you get to your final destination of Camp Leakey there are several stops along the way at feeding stations for the semi-wild orangutans. They feed the orangutans (and other critters that show up) a combination of milk, banana, and pineapple. These animals are having a hard time finding adequate nutrition in the devastated rainforest, so this supplemental feeding is highly beneficial to them.

Depending on your specific itinerary, the first feeding station is Pondok Ambung

The next one is Pondok Tanguui

This is the equator, which means around 12 hours of sunshine and 12 hours of daylight every day since there are no seasons. As the sun sets around 6 PM its interesting to hear the night sounds of the rainforest and see the fireflies and nocturnal animals.

Before we went to bed our first night at Pondok Ambung we went on a jungle night walk

We met a cute frog

He took a liking to Jade and jumped on her

You sleep on the klotok on comfortable mattresses with mosquito netting. Even though we chatted away, and even sometimes played cards, most people went to bed early since you would be up early as the gibbons did their morning serenade.

It was still hot and humid at night when we went to sleep. Portable fans were a big help

Before we went to bed a sociable Praying Mantis made friends with Jade and then promptly fell asleep on her hand!

Our boat captain got up early to do some fishing (to no avail that day)

After our early morning yoga class it was time to continue upriver to Camp Leakey

 The tranquil morning waters gave a perfect reflection on the klotoks docked from the night before

Its interesting to be in a rain forest in the early morning, seeing the mist, and listening to the hoots of the gibbons

Other klotoks were returning from Camp Leakey as we proceeded upstream

The river narrows significantly as you approach Leakey

Camp Leakey! Hard to believe I was here 21 years ago to the month. Click on the photo below to learn much more about Camp Leakey

Click here to return to the Orangutans of Borneo home page.

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