Jungle Paradise for GPOCP’s Annual Meeting 

By Petrus Kanisius, GPOCP Communications & Media Officer
At the start of February, the whole GPOCP conservation team hiked the 5 hour trek into the forest and joined our research team at Cabang Panti Research Station in the heart of Gunung Palung National Park for our Annual Meeting. For some of them, despite working for GPOCP for years, this was their first time at the research station!
GPOCP staff at Cabang Panti Annual Meeting. Photo by Rizal Al Qadri.
Excitement and a sense of comradery filled the air as we got deeper into the forest and were surrounded by the sheer variety of plants, animals and enormous trees. The hike itself became a team-building exercise with frequent words of encouragement given, and the joy of being able to freely joke and intermingle with staff from different ethnic groups, religions, cultures and countries. Just minutes before arriving at Cabang Panti Research Station we were greeted first by a blessing of rain (literally)! We were soaked but thrilled to have arrived and made our way through the jungle and deluge.
After dinner, on our first night at Cabang Panti, our fellow research colleagues invited us to sing along with them to soothe away all thoughts of the hustle and bustle of the city. Some people also played card games, ate dried cassava and some choose to go to bed early because of the long hike in.
GPOCP and National Park staff at one of the waterfalls within Cabang Panti’s trail system. Photo By Simon Tampubolon.

Our Annual Meeting filled two whole days, followed by movies and sing-alongs at night. After which we had the opportunity to visit two of the big waterfalls in the park together with National Park staff. The waterfalls were not only beautiful and offered refreshing swims after the tough hikes to find them, but were also framed in greenery that really amplified the feeling of a jungle spa. Relaxation wasn’t the only effect the waterfalls had though, some of the staff started having a jumping contest from the 10 meter high cliff! Our Environmental Education Field Officer, Hendri Gunawan, commented after jumping “Maybe one second of life was lost when jumping into the waterfall.”

Enjoying another waterfall in Cabang Panti’s trail system in Gunung Palung National Park. Photo by Haning Pertiwi.
The gorgeous variety of biodiversity in the form of flora and fauna in Gunung Palung National Park provided not only beauty but fruit snacks for us during our stay. New shoots of Shorea spp (meranti) plants appeared without hesitation and orchids decorated the trees.  We swam and relaxed in the cool waters of the river – surrounded by macaques, hornbills, and accompanied by fish.
Shorea spp. shoot germinating at Cabang Panti. Photo by Petrus Kanisius.
At Cabang Panti Research Station there is a main building which contains the kitchen, labs, storage and common areas, offices and volunteer accommodations. There are also two houses for the camp managers, a lodging area for foreign researchers, as well as two structures for the full-time research assistants and the National Park staff, which doubles as an education display and an enlightening photo gallery.
Cabang Panti Research Station nestled into the jungle. Photo © Tim Laman.  
The experience brought many new insights for us all. We shared and discussed our organization’s plans for the upcoming year, as well as benefited from everyone’s knowledge and comradery as we made new friends and shared in the excitement! Jungle settings, with the humidity, biting insects and tough conditions, offer excellent team building opportunities! There is always a hand to pull you out of the mud, a keen eye that points out gorgeous birds, or kind laughter as you pull off your fifth leech that afternoon.
Thank you to the researchers at Cabang Panti, friends of GPOCP, and colleagues from Gunung Palung National Park Office for hosting us with a warm welcome! We can’t wait to visit this hidden paradise again!