Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gibbon spotting up north

Yes that really is a gibbon swinging through the trees - I kid you not
You may recall me whinging about my visit to Ratanakiri province back in April when I joined a bunch of enthusiastic wildlife spotters as we went, successfully I might add, in search of the rare northern buffed-cheeked crested gibbons in the back of beyond amongst the forests of this northeast Cambodian wilderness. It was actually a very special experience, hearing their mesmerizing whooping call piercing the quiet of the early morning and seeing these rare creatures swinging through the trees above my head as we ploughed through the forest undergrowth to keep up with them. They chose the easiest route by far. The cycling, to get to the ranger station deep in the forest, was hard work for an unfit git like me and going arse over tit over the handlebars on the way back to civilization wasn't funny. Well, not to me. The hammock sleeping is something I avoid whenever possible, but in the forest, it's the best way to keep clear of creepy-crawlies, so I had to put up and shut up. Essentially, it was a trip split between an unforgettable experience with the gibbons and a tough adventure for someone as unfit as I am. Next time I'll put in some pre-trip fitness training. The purpose was to test out a brand new wildlife adventure product put together by a couple of local companies, Conservation International and the indigenous local communities. The aim is to preserve the environment of the Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area and gibbon-spotting is one way they hope to do that. They have plans for more spotting so to speak, red-shanked douc langurs and endangered giant ibis birds but for the meantime, the focus is squarely on a family of habituated gibbons (habituated means they don't mind the presence of humans). And it was an experience I won't forget in a hurry. The treks are now happening, they will become set departures from October onwards, though, as I've mentioned, you have to be fairly fit and don't mind roughing it a bit, but hey, that's all part and parcel of the adventure isn't it? You can read all about it here. Oh, and the cost is from $300 per person once you've made your own way up to Banlung, the capital of Ratanakiri province.
On the local ferry before the start of the bicycle ride. I'm wearing the cap. Photo: Peter Jones (See Cambodia Differently)

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