Crash! The huge male orangutan swings over into another tree, searching for fruit.
He climbs higher, overlooking the canopy searching for another meal. Every day while following orangutans I notice how many different fruit trees they go to, usually around 15 or so.
They crash and clamber through the forest like hungry, hairy acrobats searching for the most nutritious meals.
One of the orangutan’s favourites is a fruit called durian.
Picture of a split-open durian fruit. The interior of a wild durian, split open with the sections of creamy flesh visible.
I am basically crazy about durian, maybe even more than the orangutans. Most people probably don’t even know what it is, especially if they don’t live in Southeast Asia.
Durian is a pineapple-sized yellow or green fruit that is covered in sharp spines. It grows on large trees and is cultivated by the local people in Borneo. The fruit has concealed sections that contain their seeds covered in edible flesh.
To open a durian, I have to carefully search for the place where the sections meet. Then I insert a large knife and twist, popping it open.
The orangutans however pry them open with their teeth and bare hands, seemingly with ease.
The pulp that covers the seeds is unlike any other fruit. It is creamy yellow or white. It tastes a little like butter with a hint of banana creaminess, but each fruit tastes different and it is virtually impossible to describe in words.
To really understand the taste and why I love them, you have to try them yourself
Picture of Russell Laman with an orangutan researcher examining cultivated durians at a fruit stand.
Each year that I visit Indonesia with my family, my first question is always, “Is the durian in season?”
It is sold all over the small towns in Indonesia. Probably the most popular fruit, it dominates the market. As I drive down the streets I am immediately aware when durians are near.
The odour that they release will clog your nose and overpower your sense of smell. Yet for me the smell holds the promise of durian, and so I have come to love a smell that many find so repulsive that the fruit is banned in hotels and on planes.