Sumatra is one of the densest forestries in Indonesia with rich natural resources. Unfortunately, it’s been constantly corrupted and exploited by both giant companies and local residents who turn into illegal loggers, miners, or fisherman.
One group of local villagers is trying to save their environment by turning it into an ecotourism site. Tangkahan used to be one of the most exploited forests in North Sumatra. Now the local residents turn it into an ecotourism site that is primarily managed by local residents who also collaborate with other institutions to grow the site and train the locals on tourism service.
Read the full story before we move on to the four reasons why visiting Tangkahan can be your next big trip!
1. Exploring the complex, mysterious beauty of a rainforest
The forest is one wide and dense place where you can never get bored of exploring. There are famous objects to the site, such as the hanging bridge, the Sei Batang River, the waterfall and the hot spring. But even beyond these objects, you will discover a lot more than your eyes can see.
A tree isn’t just a tree. It could be a home for the kuau bird who builds its nest on the branches. It could be growing a rare type of wild mushroom on its trunk. What you see is not all you get.
2. Exotic wildlife
Tangkahan rainforest is home to many wildlife species, including the orangutan, elephants, along with 380 bird species and 129 mammal species.
You can meet and even interact with them without having fears of them being treated unjustly. Unlike commercial zoos or tourist sites who most of the times abuse animals in order to get income out of them, Tangkahan is primarily a conservation site. So, the management prioritises in protecting the animals.
A popular conservation program that is open for the public is elephant bathing. The Conservation Response Unit (CRU) is taking care of elephants who used to come to the villages. At the conservation, these elephants are fed and bathed twice a day. Tourists who come usually helps to bathe these elephants.
3. Rare plants
Tangkahan is also home to some of the rarest plants in the world, including Rafflesia arnoldii or the corpse lily. This plant is noted for producing the world’s largest individual flower. It has a distinctive unpleasant smell of decaying flesh, which is where it has got its nickname.
There are also many species of nepenthes or the tropical pitcher plants. It is a carnivorous or meat-eating plant that usually grows in rainforests. No worries, though, because its prey usually consists of insects and the largest nepenthes species occasionally trap small vertebrates like rats or lizards.
3. Stomping illegal logging
Before Tangkahan becomes an ecotourism site, most of the villagers’ source of income is from illegal logging. But over the years, as the ecotourism grows, less and less illegal logging occurs in Tangkahan forest. The villagers have other jobs now of building and maintaining this site.
The ecotourism site has given its residents not only a new source of income but also a sustainable one. If the trees keep getting cut down, they will eventually run out of resources (which is not only logs but also other resources that come from the forest, such as plants and water). By converting Tangkahan into an ecotourism site, their income would last as tourists visit and revisit the site; and the forestry would last because they are conserving it at the same time.
4. Support locally managed ecotourism
There aren’t many tourism sites that are locally managed like Tangkahan. Even Bali is mostly managed by private businessmen while employing local Balinese.
The benefit of a locally managed tourist site is that the management has a sense of belonging, thus they would much less likely to exploit or harm the site. Logically, why would you destroy your own home?
They may not have enough power to deliver professional marketing strategies to promote the site or even to fund the supporting facilities or infrastructure.
But if more tourists are coming to the site, they will have a steady source of income to maintain the site without damaging it (as they are providing ecotourism, not ordinary tourism).
Besides, if the site is growing, they will attract more institutions and organisations to collaborate with them for knowledge sharing and perhaps funding. This will strengthen sustainable welfare for the locals and the protection of the natural resource.