Stride climate

Reflections From a River Cruise Newbie in Indonesia

By Arielle Anthony
November 5, 2015

Earlier this summer Stride Destination Expert, Arielle Anthony, visited Indonesia. Part of her trip took place on a river cruise and it was a beauitful experience full of unexpected surprises and revelations:


Orangutan in Indonesia

Thomas Sauzedde via Flickr

“Oh!” I gasped, as I craned my neck up towards the trees. “I think I see one!” I whispered, motioning. There he was, a little ball of auburn hair, peaking through the foliage, my first spotting of a wild orangutan. As soon as one appeared, there were several more, all converging towards the feeding platform, where park rangers brought daily bananas.


Orangutan baby

Arielle Anthony, Stride Destination Expert

I watched this natural theater for an hour, mesmerized by their human-like qualities, their relationships with one another, and their movements.



 Arielle Anthony, Stride Destination Expert

Pushing through giant palms, my guide and I trekked back through the forest, surrounded by the primordial sounds that have echoed through these jungles for thousands of years -- the shrieking of monkeys, mosquitos buzzing in alternating frequencies, the gentle downpour of leaves as orangutans lazily shift from branch to branch above us. Our guide had taken his 8-year-old daughter along on the three-day trip, but she was already a veteran to the tour. She knew exactly where to go, skipping barefoot in front of us, down the dirt trail.


Indonesia Trek

Thomas Sauzedde via Flickr


Back on our little boat, I was greeted by a tall glass of cool soda and a cloth dunked in ice-cold water. It was heaven after the heavy humidity of the jungle. I sat at the helm, watching the waters part as the boat maneuvered the river ahead of us. In the late afternoon, I had a delicious fresh meal cooked by our boat crew.


River Cruise Indonesia night

Arielle Anthony, Stride Destination Expert

For three days, every single meal was different and equally delicious. I was very surprised that they could cook such good food in the cabin of a tiny boat. As I ate, my guide sat beside me, pointing out different bird and animal species. I kept a lookout for the elusive Kingfisher that might fly in front of the boat. In the evening, we anchored by the edge, where the river meets the forest, and wisps of palm fronds reached onto our deck like slender arms.


River cruise boat

Arielle Anthony, Stride Destination Expert

As baby blue skies turned to a starry blue black, the crew settled in for the night. With no wifi, television, or even radio, I let my natural surroundings take center stage as I chatted with my guide. Since the tour was entirely customizable, he asked me what I wanted to do the next two day so he could plan. Choosing between options like trekking, staying overnight at an eco-lodge, and learning first hand about indigenous dayak culture by staying overnight in a longhouse, we decided on seeing orangutans each morning, some light trekking, and maybe a short trip to a traditional Dayak village. Our boat crew had set up a very cozy bed on the deck, with a couple of thick mattresses, clean linens, and a mosquito net. I slept under the stars that night.


Borneo Sunset

Kate Nevens via Flickr

In the morning, I woke not with the sun, but to an incessant jungle symphony; the almost thunderous sound of insects swarming somewhere deep in the forest. Soon after, the sun followed, with strong rays quickly drying the morning dew. After a few days, it was easy to fall into the rhythm of the sun and the stars. I had no need for alarm clocks here.



Ken Marshall via Flickr


We set out further down the river to catch the orangutans at their morning feeding time. After docking, we walked about a mile through the jungle on a high wooden boardwalk. This time we sat even closer to the feeding station and got a great view of the orangutans’ activities. Every question I had about the wildlife or culture in Borneo, my guide answered with expert knowledge.


Indonesia wildlife

Jack Versloot via Flickr

Our next stop was the dayak village some ways up the river. Behind the dense leaves and branches of the shore, I was surprised to see a wide, open strip of green land housing a small traditional village. This particular village had a long main street where chickens roamed free and women donned a face cream made of turmeric and mud to protect their skin from the sun. Back on the boat, I was met with freshly made tea and banana fritters and we pulled away looking for a place to dock for the night.


Traditional Indonesian village

Arielle Anthony, Stride Destination Expert

On my last day on the river, my guide brought some umbrellas along for the trek and orangutan watching. To me, the weather showed no signs of clouds, but the late afternoon dampness in the air hinted at something different. Even through the drizzle, I stayed to watch our furry relatives hang out. As it started to rain a little bit harder, I began to pack up for our journey back to the boat. It was a good idea to leave when I did because five minutes later, it was a full-on tropical storm. Rain came down in sheets and little rivulets became rushing creeks in an instance as I clung to my umbrella, struggling to keep my camera and my shoes dry.


Indonesia landscape 


The guide’s daughter was in heaven, dancing and splashing in the mini rivers. My guide, seeing the longing look in my eye, offered to keep my purse safe under his own umbrella. I shed the umbrella and my belongings and stopped fighting the storm. Instead, I accepted being completely soaked, with clinging shirt and heavy waterlogged sneakers. As I jumped in puddles and hurdled over running streams, an incredibly palpable viatal energy surged through me. I felt a return to my own natural state and the wildnes at the core of the human heart.



Explore Indonesia like Arielle with these tours, available on Stride:


Borneo Family Adventure - Intrepid


Best of Borneo - Intrepid


Wild Encounters From Borneo to Bali - National Geographic Expeditions


Best of Sumatra - G Adventures


Share and Enjoy
1690 Views    3 Comments
By Jared Alster
November 9, 2015 at 12:43 PM
Amazing images Arielle - especially of the orangutans! It seems like you got so close!
Indonesia is definitely on my list and a place where a guided tour makes sense.
By Samantha Scott
November 9, 2015 at 3:08 PM
Great post, Arielle, I feel like I'm there with you! Sounds like it was an incredible experience.
By Arielle Anthony
November 22, 2015 at 9:21 PM
Thank you both! Indonesia is an incredibly vast and varied country with countless things to do and see, but it can get overwhelming. These tours take care of everything so you can focus on once in a lifetime experiences like this.

Write New Comment

Tours & Operators on Stride Awarded and Featured by:

  • National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure
  • Outside, The New York Times
Sign in to Save Trips
Welcome back! We're so happy to see you. ? Forgot Password?
Don't have an account? Join
  • Bookmark trips you like
  • Share with your travel companions
  • Track price changes
  • Access private discounts on trips you save
Sign in to see your results

TripFinder is a member-only feature. Don’t worry, it’s free!

With a membership you:

  • Save up to $700 per person!*
  • Access private deals and offers
  • See personalized trip recommendations
  • Save favorite trips
*See Member Savings Program details
Activate your free Stride membership

Just use the email address and password provided in the email we sent.

? Forgot Password?

With your free membership you:

  • Save up to $700 per person!*
  • Access private deals and offers
  • See personalized trip recommendations
  • Save favorite trips
*See Member Savings Program details
To Follow, sign in or sign up (it's free) ? Forgot Password?
Don't have an account? Join
member benefits
First name is required!
Last name is required!
First name is not valid!
Last name is not valid!
This is not an email address!
Email address is required!
This email is already registered!
Please enter valid email address
Password is required!
Enter a valid password!
Please enter 6 or more characters!
Please enter 32 or less characters!
Passwords are not the same!
Terms and Conditions are required!
Email or Password is wrong!
Please select the captcha checkbox!
Please select the valid captcha!
Something went wrong! Try again later!
Find the 3 best trips for you.
Take a short quiz to recieve your top matches.