Fancy spotting orangutan in the wild? Or other big game as Sumatra tiger, rhinos, bear and elephant? Find more quite place than Bali? – Mostly 90% of tourists go to Bali. Then get ready for looming large to Gunung Leuser National Park, special area of more than a million hectares of dense tropical rainforest in the north Sumatra. The National park has almost all that being offered from a tropical rainforest and a wild jungle.
This is the largest conservation area contributed for natural wild conservation, a home for thousand of fauna from mammals, birds, reptile, amphibian, fishes and invertebrates. And also home for about 4000 species of flora. Many of them are critically extinct. There is no other ecosystem in this world discovering this number fauna and flora species living together in one place. No wonder if Gunung Leuser National Park equally compared with Manu ecosystem in Amazon or Kongo in Zaire. This is one of the World Heritage areas of UNESCO in 2004.
Mount Leuser National Park named after the highest peak mountain called Gunung Leuser or Mount Leuser in 3.404m altitude. Gunung Leuser National Park is a beautiful region of transpiring mountainous rainforest and active volcanoes standing. It is surrounded by coffee and tobacco plantation and palm oil by the communities. Generally, the National Park bordered by 10 subdistrict cities around Aceh and North Sumatra province. The climate is under inter-tropical convergence zone. It is categorized into wet and hot tropical rainforest climate. It’s monthly temperature reach 18 degrees celcius.
For its wide area, the National Park is divided into five physiographic units and each unit divided into several subzones. Various spots of exploration available in Leuser, anyone just need to point out most comfortable starting point to go trekking to the mountainous hills range of Leuser summit, Kemiri summit and Bendahara summit, riding elephants, rafting at wild river, orangutan trekking at Ketambe and many others. Visitors should really focus on what they love to see the most or visit them all for more challenge and experience. Local guide for each place is available under National Park authorities and locals who have license and experience in the area.
Here, I would like to share for the most visited place to spot orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park at West Alas Chain – Ketambe block, in south for Bukit Lawang observation center and Tangkahan for jungle conservation and elephants.
Sumatran Orangutan at Bukit Lawang and Ketambe
Only found in northern and southern Sumatra, orangutan Sumatra is very rare and has been considered to be critically endangered animal. Each year, numbers of orangutan in the wild continuous to decline due to deforestation, conflict with humans and habitat loss for palm oil plantation. The survey on 2004 said the number continues to dwindle to around 7,300 in the wild. Bukit Lawang and Ketambe are the best places to spot incredible and graceful orangutan.
Previously, Bukit Lawang was only a place to provide rehabilitation for orangutan. As for now, Bukit Lawang becomes the center for research, observation and viewing center of orangutan. Here, you may find semi-wild and tame orangutan and also monkeys. They are approach to human nearby. They always ready to be picture taken together. Visitors may hold young orangutan, tame enough to sit on your lap. From central city of Medan to Bukit Lawang is about 86 km by public transport, taxi or bus.
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Should original orangutan in their natural habitat is the one you looking for, then visit them up in the jungle via Ketambe. As from Medan to Ketambe, you can either take a taxi or booked car service for over 200 km for 8 hours travel. Alternatively, you may reach Ketambe by taking flight through from Medan to Kutacane and take taksi for 30 km away from Kutacane to Ketambe. There are frequent taxi and van, leaving from a small place near the old market.
Bukit Lawang and Katambe are area both named of two small villages in Leuser area. Try walking by foot down in each village. It is refreshing with the exquisite view of jungle and Leuseur Mountain on top. In each village, resorts are available within various ranges of budgets, most of it in the form of a bungalow starting from USD10 per night.
As you make all things prepared, start trekking to the Leuser Mountain for Rp20.000 entrance ticket. Then climb up into the jungle which last for about an hour to the jungle door past palm oil and vegetable that are seem closer and closer to the jungle. Prepare at least 10-14 days to hike up to the jungle to see wild orangutan and at least two porter or more to help you to hike on correct route and bring supplies. It’s recommended to hike on dry season on Mei to July.
There is time that worth every effort of trekking on the slippery hills, hot and humid jungle, and ascent up wet of sweat when you find the beautiful creature. Several or mass rare orange fur Sumatran orangutan hanging by the trees or jump over in canopy, in their terms not anyone. Eating fruit or carry the young sitting by the trees. Take picture slowly of this beauty and freedom that we hope to see this for good. In the deep jungle you may find a river with hot natural water from the mountain, jump in and enjoy heaven. Continue your journey to the summit for more adventure.
Jungle Conservation of Tangkahan
Tangkahan is a very small village and not swamped with tourist. It situated where Batang and Buluh rivers meet. It is a hidden paradise in Leuser. Located in Namo Sialang village, Batang Serangan, Langkat district on over 17.000 hectares land. Most come to see and ride elephant and off again. Elephant eco-tourism is providing locals with an alternative living by supporting conservation after they had stopped illegal logging. In scheduled time, few elephants and their mahout do patrols.
Sightseeing through the jungle riding an elephant is most original and idyllic experience. To get to the guest houses at Tangkahan, visitors need to cross the river either by small ferry or the suspension bridge. Guest houses are available for staying over within affordable price. Other option is to stay over at camping ground nearby. Porters and local guides hang around the guest houses offer service for visitor to hike the mountain.
To reach Tangkahan from Medan need to take three hours land travel past Binjai and Tanjung Pura cities. Road along the way is smooth and nice. No juggling on the road. Other alternative is to through Stabat-Simpang Sidodadi cities, nearer route from the first however the road is not pretty smooth, especially around the plantation area. So, what are you waiting for?