Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tangkahan, North Sumatera - Indonesian Travel Destination

Tangkahan is an Eco-tourism site located in Desa (Village) Namo Sialang, Kecamatan (Sub-District) Batang Serangan, and Kabupaten (Regency) Langkat, North Sumatera Province. The Tangkahan Forest is a part of Mount Leuser ecosystem. The location in not very far from the North Sumatera capital city, Medan. It is approximately 180 km and I should say, it's a paradise that you don't want to miss if you visit North Sumatera.

There are many ways that you could get there. You could rent a car, go by a motorbike, or take a bus. If you take a bus, there would be many routes that you could follow at different times of the day. When I went there last 8th March, I and my friends took a 9 am bus from Pinang Baris Bus Station, Medan. This bus' name is "Pembangunan Semesta". You could have a look at the type of bus on the following picture.

This bus that set off Medan at this time does not go to Tangkahan directly. It would stop at Titi Mangga Station approximately 20-30km from Tangkahan. The fare for this trip would be IDR 15,000. It would take you around 3 hours to reach Titi Mangga. From there, we could take Ojek (motorbike service) and this would cost you approximately IDR 50,000 per person or IDR 40,000 if you could bargain. This ride would take you around 30 minutes.

This Ojek ride is NOT going to be a leisure ride. The road is a gravel-road and during summer it will be perfectly dusty. The ojek rider would ride at a full speed and you would require to be alert and hold tight.

The tips during the Ojek Ride:
  • Wear a long sleeve to avoid sun-burn and too much dust on your body
  • Wear sun-glasses to protect your eyes from dust, sun, and the palm leaves that may protrude over the street
  • Wear a mask or tie a scarf over your nose to avoid inhaling too much dust
Trust me, this ride is fun. The Ojek riders really know what they are doing, so you don't have to be afraid that you could get a fatal accident. The ride is a nice experience from my point of view.

However, there is another bus which goes directly to-from Tangkahan. The timing up-to the date we went was 10.30 am and you would be expected to reach Tangkahan in 4 hours or 4 hours and a half. You could check the timing with your guide first before you go. The kind of bus that goes directly to Tangkahan is the same as the above.

When you reach Tangkahan, you would be required to cross a bridge to eventually enter the tourism area. This is the bridge that you have to cross:

After you cross the bridge, this is what you will see:

Before you come here, you need to contact the guide if you wish to have a package including all the attraction that you could enjoy. There is a facebook page for this Tangkahan tourism attraction that you could go through to see the packages: Tangkahan Facebook Page. There are various packages provided for us, but they differentiate the packages for Foreigners and for Indonesians. I think that is the only glitch that we have on this tourism site. The rest is just picture perfect.

The People
Majority of the people residing at this place is Karonese. I should say that I was amazed by the hospitality of the people. They are warm, polite, and friendly. Tangkahan currently has 32 licensed guides that you could hire during your stay to explore the nature. The guides are extraordinary. They don't simply become guides for us, but also become our friends during the whole trip. They are very protective, very supportive, and very polite. These guides call themselves "Rangers" and I can't agree more. They are true forest rangers with a wonderful mentality towards nature. They love their habitat and they protect it like protecting their own child. They worship their place.
The Guides :)
There are several lodgings provided in this area, but we chose Jungle Lodge at that time. They have cabins that face the river and the food is good.
From Jungle Lodge restaurant, you could enjoy this while having your meal:

From your cabin, you would have a hammock at the cabin balcony where you could enjoy your afternoon nap :)

And when you wake up in the morning to this, you just can't ask God for more. Life is simply MARVELOUS :)
Good Morning Everyone :)
The Things to Experience:
1. Elephant-Bathing and Elephant-Ride
You want to be skin-on-skin with the elephants? kissed by them? sprayed by them? feed them? ride them? If you answer YES, then this is a perfect place for it. These elephants are bathed at the Batang Serangan river in the afternoon around 3 pm. You have to take your voucher for this service in the Visitor's Center.

There is a bathing session in the morning as well around 9 am. I think the pictures will say more :)

Perfect timing, perfect lighting, perfect FUN :)

Kissed & Blessed :). She really tickled me with her breath :)
Feeding time, baby :)
2. Hot-Water Spring
We visited two points of hot-water spring during our stay there. One is located exactly behind the lodge that we were staying, Jungle Lodge. We could see this hot-spring from our balcony. The other hot-spring is located not very far from the bat-cave in Batang Serangan river. You have to have a swim to reach these spots, but since we were there during summer, the water level is pretty low that you could reach there by walking through the river. You only need to cross 5-10 metres of the river to get there. The hot water contains sulfur which is good for skin, but the source of the hot-spring still has not been figured so if anyone is interested in doing some small research on this, it could be done by asking permit from the local tourism centre.

3. Trekking
Trekking here would give you a great experience. Some of the trekking tracks that you have gone before might be well-cleared from trees & other ivies for 1-2 metres wide, but in Tangkahan, do not expect that. The rangers do not allow the forest to be suited for our convenient and I really appreciate them for that. I salute them for that. The trekking track that you have here might be only around 40-50 cm without damaging significant number of trees. And the best thing about this is that you could experience the real jungle without any artificial touch. I love it.

However, the trekking route varies, depending on your preference. They have a long route and also shorter route. The route that we took was pretty short. We set off the lodge around 9.30 am, crossed the river to the trekking starting point, made a stop in the nearby river on the way to camping site for lunch at around 11.45, set off again around 1 pm and reached our camping site at around 3 or 4 pm. In order to reach the camping site, you would have to either swim or do a short distance of rock-climbing if you can't swim.

Photos during Trekking:
We found this Beautiful "Cicada" during the second rest point
Half-way Trekking. Seeta said I looked like a Shaman with my stick and shoes over my neck :))
Jungle Break in the middle of trekking. Need to work out those thighs now ;)
When you borrow a Wild Male Elephant's route for your trekking route, this is what you will encounter. Look how huge his track is!!! Oooooo la la!!!
4. Camping
Here is our camp :)

You would be provided with mattress and sleeping bags in this tent. But if you wish to bring your own sleeping bags, that would be great.

When you wake up in the morning and get out of the tent and look around, these would be the views:
When you follow this stream, you would end up at the second hot-spring spot

Fresh water, shallow, and mild current - perfect for a dip before you start your activities for the day
5. Bonfire (if no bees around)
If the bees around are not feel disturbed with your bonfire, then you could put your mattress around the bonfire, lay on your back, and watch the moon, the stars and have a wonderful conversation with your companies. And if the rangers are lucky in getting corn and fresh water fish, Praise God you would have another wonderful meal before you snooze out for the night.
Dinner in the middle of the Jungle near the Bonfire. If this is not Paradise, then what else could it be? ;)

6. Bat Cave
Bat Cave is another site that you must not miss. I had never been into a cave before and I was pretty intimidated with the fact that I should be inside a pitch black cave with thousands of bats resting around, but thanks to Susan and Seeta to keep saying that I could make it and special thanks for Guide Edi and Benny for watching my back. I definitely would miss big time if I didn't get into it.
Can you see the tiny glittering dots on the ceiling of the cave? Those are bats' eyes folks. Imagine being in a pitch black cave with thousands of those glittering eyes watching over you :)
The Pitch Black Cave
Just Speechless when you realize how beautiful nature is!!!
7. Tubing
After you done with the trekking, visited the bat cave,  had your hot-spring bath, and had your lunch, you would get back to your starting point by cruising through the Batang Serangan River with this Tube. The river is very calm and since we came here during summer, the river is not so deep. If you want to jump out of the tube and do some swim, you are free to do so.

8. Tangkahan - Bukit Lawang Trekking
Bukit Lawang is another tourism site in North Sumatera which is famous with the sights of Orang Utan and other types of primates that you could spot. Tangkahan and Bukit Lawang share the same ecosystem, so you could reach Bukit Lawang through the forest by trekking for 3 days. We haven't tried this one, yet. Maybe one fine day in the near future.

Previously, you could go to Bukit Lawang by riding the elephants through the forest, but since such activities are considered too strenuous for the elephants to carry 3-4 people on his back and all the tents and logistics required during the trip, the elephant ride no longer available. However, if you wish to have a more challenging trekking, this would be a good option.

AND Finally at the end of trekking, having your blood sucked by leeches, scratches almost all over your body, and sweating like a pig, you could sit here and say "We are GOOD" ;)
Shouting at the top of our lungs "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" :)
Final Note:
I should say that the amount of money you would spent for a 3-4 days getaway at Tangkahan is extremely cheap for what you get in return. This place is a paradise taken care by the people with great sense of belonging and responsibility.

And I should emphasize that the amount you spent to pay the Guide Fee will not go directly to the guide's pocket. It would go back to the community to preserve this place. It would feed the people who clean the forest, feed the people who cook your meal during your trekking, and part of it would go to the local school to pay for the children's education. When you visit this place, it is not only for your pleasure, but also for the welfare of the local community. So, visit this place, enjoy the paradise, maintain the cleanliness, and give back to the community. Nothing could be more perfect than that.

Tips during the visit:
  1. If you want to have a dry visit, then make sure you come here during the summer that is around February to May. If you come during rainy season, the water level will be higher, the current is stronger, and the trekking tracks would be a lot more slippery. But if you enjoy the challenge and witness the wild rain on this paradise, then August to December is advisable.
  2. Bring minimum clothing, but make sure you bring enough as you are going to get wet everyday. It's impossible to resist the river. Make sure you bring something warm to wear during the night as well.
  3. Bring some snacks as you won't have much there except main course.
  4. Bring cash. There is no ATM there.
  5. Bring mosquito repellent, balm for any sprain or insect bites, and anti-leech socks/outfit if you are sensitive to leech bites.
  6. Bring dry-bags for your electronic gadgets & other stuff. If you don't have, just bring a couple of thick plastic bags.
  7. Wear comfortable shoes for trekking & bring a pair of mountain sandals (the thinner the better). We used flip flops and they were not very convenient during river-crossing as they have the tendency to slide off your feet due to the current.
  8. PLEASE... PLEASE... Take care of your garbage. If you could take snacks with you, then please don't throw the wrappers in the Jungle. Keep all with you in a plastic bag and throw them back when you return to the Lodge. This wonderful paradise is not a place to throw garbage. Take care of her and she will take care of you :)
Guide Contacts:
Edi (+62 852 7086 7454)
Benny (+62 812 6046 3071)

Special thanks to Seeta and Susan for the extraordinary trip to this Paradise and for their shots with the superb cameras. And folks, If you decide to visit this place, wish you have a wonderful and safe visit to Tangkahan, North Sumatera - Indonesia, from the Jungle Queen who finally had the chance to return to Jungle after a long long time ;)
Going to miss this place a lot!!