Bird recording with Muhammad Idris in Bali and aiming for Camp Leakey in Borneo

21 December 2013

Overlooking the ocean at West Bali National Park

 Now that I have finished Birds of Australia's National Parks I can concentrate on the travel plans for Bali and Borneo. I have booked the flights and I am very pleased that my travel agent has been able to reduce my travel time on two flights from 38 to 21 hours and 36 to 21, respectively. That makes the flights much more enjoyable and I can focus on planning the 2 weeks in Bali and 2 weeks in Borneo/South Kalimantan.

While I am on Bali I will try to meet up with Muhammad Idris, a local guide who has helped me record the endangered Bali Starling during my stay last year. He works in a resort near the West Bali National Park and is one of the kindest people I have met in my life. When I booked him for a bird recording hike into the National Park he would easily identify every bird that was calling and point the birds out in a book that he carried with him. He had even thought to bring tea in a thermos bottle, cookies and dried sweet potato. While we were having afternoon tea on a pebbly beach that overlooked the calm and peaceful waters of Bali's north-west coast, he told me about the very low wage that he was earning.To us westerners it is absolutely incomprehensible how someone can support a family of four on the equivalent of $80 a month. Sometimes he does not see his children for weeks because he has to work every day of the week and his family lives half a day of travel by car away from where he works. Back then the idea was born to help locals like Muhammad to possibly find alternative ways to support themselves and their families. I took down his email address and if I can hire him again as a guide I want him to lead me to some more unique recording spots. If I get a complete album worth of recordings, the plan is to provide 20% of all profits of this album to Muhammad and his family. What he does with this money is his choice, however, I hope that it may help him to start a business in personalised guiding.

Apart from this I am thinking of staying at the Gedong Gandhi Ashram for some yoga and mediation practice and I will be spending some time in and around Ubud where I hope to record some local traditional musicians. If I am successful, I will offer them the same opportunity as Muhammad - 20% of all profits that come from a published album will go to the musicians if this is what they want.


I found that Bernie Krause has been on a number of trips to Borneo where he worked at Camp Leaky and the Orangutan Foundation International in the Taman Nasional Tanjung Putting (National Park). The Orangutan Foundation International, under the leadership of Dr. Biruté Galdikas, support "the conservation, protection, and understanding of orangutans and their rain forest habitat while caring for ex-captive orangutan orphans as they make their way back to the forest". This is a very worthy mission and I will get in contact with OFI to see if there are any opportunities to visit, record and raise awareness for their work.

I hope to get more time for planning the Kalimantan leg of the trip in the next few days, so stay tuned for more entries into my travel diary.

Until then, yours faithfully,