Jessica’s parents first visited Borneo when they were students at Harvard University. In 1992, Jessica’s mom set up an orangutan research project in Gunung Palung. She has been traveling back and forth between Boston and Borneo ever since. Most summers, the family goes with her.
Just getting to Gunung Palung is an amazing adventure—five different airplane flights plus a long hike or canoe ride into the rainforest. The research camp is a cluster of rustic buildings. About 12 researchers and assistants work there full-time. Jessica and her family stay in a small house on a sandy river beach.
“The house is actually more like a platform with a roof,” Jessica says with a laugh. The family sleeps inside tents to keep mosquitoes and other biting bugs away. One night, while Jessica was working at the computer, a brightgreen snake slithered across the keyboard.
But the rustic conditions and scaly visitors are all part of the magic of the rainforest, Jessica says. She loves the days of hiking through the trees, swinging on vines, and diving into a river with water so clean she can gulp it down as she swims. She falls asleep to the musical chime of insects. She doesn’t mind if she’s woken up by the hooting call of a gibbon, a small primate.
And, of course, there are the orangutans.
“They are such cool animals,” Jessica says. “They behave in ways that are so similar to humans.”