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Imagine. Witness. Explore.

Published: 02-Jul-2020

Written by: Amy Robbins

I've been leading RAW adventures since 2013, and have an incredible passion for my job and huge admiration and respect for what RAW is achieving, in giving back to forest edge communities and helping to provide alternative livelihoods that do not harm the environment. I’m incredibly fortunate to be entrusted to lead my guests on once-in-a-lifetime adventures that open their eyes, ears and hearts to the magical environments we are privileged enough to experience.

In April this year, I led a group of nine guests on a seven day Sumatran Wildlife Fundraising Adventure. All my guests fund-raised to contribute to two of RAW’s community programmes – The Rangers of Tangkahan and Sumatran Dog Health Program. They got to witness directly where their money will be used, to help benefit the wildlife and people of the Leuser ecosystem. Below are the highlights of our awe-inspiring adventure.

DAY ONE – Batu Katak


A short drive from Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra and we were in Batu Katak (meaning ‘frog stone’). The name of this forest edge community comes from a local story of an elderly woman fishing in the Berkail River, who repeatedly caught the same frog shaped stone. This community is new to eco-tourism, moving away from activities that harm the forest. Batu Katak has the majestic and jaw-dropping Karst forest, formed by the dissolution of rain on the limestone topography, creating incredible underground cave systems which we trekked through and discovered bats and porcupine dwellings. We heard and saw Lar (or white-handed) gibbons and evidence of orangutans having recently vacated fresh night nests. The food at Orchid Bungalow was outstanding – mouth-watering, fresh, local cuisine that had everyone adjusting their waistbands at each meal. The local guides here are second to none, and even our 20 year old guide Bima knew the forest inside out and gave a running commentary of local stories and fascinating facts.

DAY TWO – Bukit Lawang


This is the site of our serene eco-lodge tucked in next to the Bohorok River and the Gunung Leuser National Park. The highlight of our day was seeing eight orangutans, including mothers with young babies, one of which fed directly in front of us. Tucked just inside the Gunung Leuser National Park is Sumatra’s first orangutan rehabilitation and reintroduction site where until the late 1990s, confiscated and rescued orangutans were released. The primate gods were smiling upon us today, and we saw pig-tailed macaques up close as well as plenty of long tailed macaques and Thomas Leaf monkeys and a couple of snakes thrown in for good measure. We were entertained with local music into the night with guests requesting songs from the unbelievably talented Indonesian guitar and bongo drum players.

DAY THREE – Bat cave and Tangkahan


To the bat cave! A short stroll through the eco-lodge orchard and garden and past an orphanage to the jaw-dropping underground bat cave, where thousands of bats roost during the day. We donned head torches and explored the deep caverns while marvelling at the size of the cave centipedes and spiders before standing mesmerised while thousands of bats fluttered overhead. That afternoon we headed off to the hidden paradise of Sumatra: Tangkahan. That evening we were treated to a presentation from The Rangers of Tangkahan patrol unit, talking about their role in this new community conservation initiative, designed to protect the buffer zone of the Leuser ecosystem. My guests were incredibly impressed at the scope of the programme and the skill of the rangers and were humbled to see how their fundraising efforts would be used. 

DAY FOUR – Cooking class and camping

Tangkahan is the jewel in the crown of North Sumatra. Situated at the junction of the picturesque Batang and Buluh rivers, it's a forest edge community that sets an example to other villages along the forest border. In the early 2000s, the community made a collective decision to cease logging and develop eco-tourism which thrives today. Many of RAW’s inspiring local guides live in this magical place where the river lolls past monkeys jumping through pristine forest. Today we attended a traditional cooking lesson, making ourselves a sumptuous lunch. We then packed our bags for two nights of cave camping and were treated to a traditional canoe ride over the Batang river to begin our hike deep into the forest. When darkness fell we made our way into the forest and sat with our torches off in the inky blackness, listening to the noises of the night. 

DAY FIVE - Jungle


After being lulled to sleep by the sound of an overhead waterfall, snug in our bivouacs nestled in a cave, we set out for a day of trekking. As our multi-talented local guides cooked us an a la carte jungle lunch, we listened to the haunting sounds of white-handed gibbons and rhinoceros hornbills of which we saw plenty. The noise their huge wings make has to be heard to be believed, as does the ear-splitting sound of the multitude of cicadas that created a magical jungle symphony for us to dine by. We saw Thomas Leaf monkeys leaping through the trees then tired but fulfilled we headed back to our cave accommodation and slept soundly.

DAY SIX – Out of the cave


We left the comfort of the cave and trekked back out of the forest to the Batang river, where we picnicked and then explored the Little Buluh river and its’ beautiful waterfall. Some of the more adventurous amongst us climbed up and jumped off into the cool depths of the pool below. We then headed off down the river on inflatable tubes, putting “bums up” over the rapids and making a lot of noise. We ended up back at our newly renovated and very comfortable accommodation, Linnea Inn where we continued our nightly Monopoly Deal challenge before another delicious buffet meal of unbelievable Indonesian food was laid before us. We then moved on to a local establishment for an evening of music and laughter with the locals.

DAY SEVEN – Elephants and tubing


The last day of tour is always a sad one, but we had the most fun filled day on the river, first washing the Conservation Response Unit elephants in the river then tubing to a pristine waterfall with a deep swimming pool underneath. Guests lay back in the cool clear water and cloud-watched before we lunched on the riverbank in the shade of a tree. The setting was postcard perfect, with temperatures soaring into the 30s, making a dip in the river exquisite. We all loaded into the back of a pick-up truck before heading back to say our final goodbyes. Leaving is never easy and for me it’s like leaving my family and a piece of my heart behind. I take joy and pride in the fact my guests have had the most incredible, life-changing week and pleasure in their amazement. I’m not sad for too long as I’ll be back leading another group of wonderful adventurers.


Our next Sumatran Wildlife Fundraising Adventure departs on 4th July, 2017, and this one is lead by our very own CEO - Jess McKelson. We still have three spots available, so contact us todayto come along on this magnificent adventure. 


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