Out of Office: Field Trip to Lubuk Baji

By Petrus Kanisius, GPOCP Communications Officer
In late March, GPOCP and the Gunung Palung National Park staff (BTN) hosted a field trip to Lubuk Baji, a rainforest camp in Gunung Palung National Park, originally built by GPOCP. But this was not an ordinary field trip, there were no students joining us. The purpose of this field trip was to develop synergy between the organizations working to conserve GPNP by actually going to the area we are working to conserve. For three days, members from GPOCP, BTN, the local police, the spatial planning office (BAPPEDA) and the Natural Resources Conservation (BKSDA) team hiked, camped and enjoyed the beauty of the outdoors together.
The activity started with the group having a rendezvous at a friend’s house in the village of Sedahan, where we all ate lunch together. Soon after, we began the hike to the camp site. The look on everyone’s faces showed the struggle to hike this mountain, as it is literally straight up for two hours. As some participants noted, you can tell who works in an office and who spends a lot of time in the forest. Hehehe….
Environmental Education Manager, Mariamah Achmad, making the climb to the camp at Lubuk Baji. 
Once everyone arrived at camp, the tiredness was washed away by the sheer beauty of the forest. A group of hornbills greeted us upon arrival, and not long after a few gibbons began communicating with calls through the forest. Not far from the campsite is the Lubuk Baji waterfall. Many participants stopped for a quick swim and to collect some fresh cool water to quench their thirst as a treat for completing the hike.
The following morning we awoke to the sounds of the forest and had a wonderful breakfast of rice, vegetables and fish. Soon after eating, we were prepared for the days’ activities. We started with a presentation from Pak Bambang of BTN about the history of GPNP, their principles for area management: protection, preservation and utilization, and their plans for Lubuk Baji as an ecotourism destination. Next up was Terri Breeden, the Program Director for GPOCP. She discussed each of the programs implemented by GPOCP, how each has had a positive impact on the local communities and our plans to continue our activities throughout the next few years. Following Terri, Mas Wahyu Susanto, the Research Director for GPOCP at Cabang Panti gave a presentation. He described the eight habitats found throughout GPNP and the research going on at Cabang Panti involving not only orangutans but the biodiversity of trees, plants and other wildlife as well.
Field trip participants stopping at the Lubuk Baji waterfall for a refreshing dip before reaching camp. 
The protection of this environment is a shared responsibility between the government agencies, the private sector and NGOs working in the area. In order to have maximum efficiency it is imperative that all organizations work together to complement and support each other. It was agreed to create a more synergistic relationship between all parties in attendance, nothing like a few days camping together to make that work! The afternoon was spent discussing joint activities that we can work on together. A member of our advisory board, Pak Yohanes Terang was also able to join. He is a well-known community leader, activist and author. While listening to our discussions, he was inspired to write a beautiful and motivational poem that he shared with the group.
Research Director, Wahyu Susanto, giving a presentation about the research activities happening at Cabang Panti Research Station in Gunung Palung National Park.
On the last day, we began with an early hike up to Batu Bulan (or moon rock). I will say it was hard to motivate over 15 people to be up and ready at 5 AM… so we did not quite make the early sunrise, but we still had a magnificent view when we finally did arrive.
This field trip, along with the presentations and discussions in the forest, gave all parties who work to protect GPNP the opportunity to actually spend some quality time together and enjoy the beauty that GPNP has to offer. Many of our days are spent working in the office and with local village communities, so it was a real treat to bring the office to the forest this time!
The group together in front of the Lubuk Baji camp before the hike down.