So this is meant to be Dry Season in Borneo. I guess they mean Dry like NOT UNDERWATER because, sheesh, are we regretting not packing waterproof shoes!* It’s that whole Glastonbury vibe except here I’m generally to be found standing under a tree squinting very hard to try to catch sight of a monkey’s bottom, which is not something I’ve ever done at Glastonbury (but, to be fair, I’ve done pretty much everything else).
One thing they don’t tell you when you arrive here is ‘The big monkeys hate you’ because it would kind of ruin that ‘Yey! We’re here!’ feeling you get when you step out of a jeep that’s carried you along unfinished roads for 2.5 hours (sorry, did I mention it was a massive shag to get here?) and you might well consider insisting they feed the big monkeys or drug them or something because THAT’S WHY WE CAME AND WE DEMAND TO SEE ONE.
But it’s a full day day and a half into our stay in Borneo that we catch sight of our first orangutan. He’s called Khai and he’s 15 so he’s up a tree on his iPhone when he should be doing his homework. He’s also got extremely elegant genitals, at least that’s what you’d think given how many photos of them I ended up taking. The thing is, you get very excited when you see one (safari-goers, you’ll know this) that you snap the shit out of anything that moves, even when it’s miles away. Khai’s balls are so well-documented I could pick them out of a line-up. It’s about 30 minutes later on (after I’m fetched a couple of reclining armchairs so as not to lose my spinal column to something that feels like rigor mortis) that we really get into business.
Khai comes swinging down through the tree, all elegant auburn fur (is it wrong that I can totally see it on a jacket?) and Gettaloaddathis facial expression. He’s MIGHTY and he gets very close. Then he gets closer. And I think this is when Adam wet himself. No, only kidding. But honestly, myself, Adam and Jamie were pretty much doing little involuntary squeals and moans at this point. Khai must’ve thought we were nuts. There was a small coterie of researchers (they record each orangutan’s every move on a chart in pencil) who didn’t appear to be overly excited by how close he was.
But it was when he got so he was almost eye-to-eye with Jamie and reached out his hand that the researchers finally cracked and warned us away from him. It’s easy to forget he’s not a Disney Pixar orangutan, it really is. That we’re not like the family in Free Willy and this will be one of those magical moments where beast and man find common ground and – for a split second – the wonders of the universe are revealed like sun through cloud. No, this was a potential arm-removal situation. Jamie backed off and Khai, I swear, gave us a final flash of his balls and was gone, lolloping across the forest floor, to be bum-ogled by another group of badly dressed Homo sapiens. Teenagers these days.
* Yes. Yes we are regretting it.