Sumatra Paradise

The first thing that comes to mind for many when thinking of Sumatra might be coffee and it has that for sure. My reason for visiting Sumatra is not coffee but orangutans (orang = people, utan = forest). In fact I considered seeing these great apes as one of the must-do’s of my entire trip. There are two species of orangutan; Bornean and Sumatran; below are many (i.e. too many) photos of the latter.

 

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The town of Bukit Lawang is the jumping off point for treks into the Gurung Leuser National Park where you are guaranteed to see orangutans. Until recently there was a rehabilitation centre but as far I understand it was closed down as the local area is now firmly populated. There are many suspension bridges crossing the river, this was the sturdiest
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I stayed in an eco-lodge. The bamboo dorm was literally in the forest (on the edge mind you) and I could see monkeys from my bed
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Shortly after starting a 2 day trek we came across a mother and baby. They were pretty high up
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It made it worthwhile to carry around my ridiculous and heavy zoom lens
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Little kid doing his/her (?) stuff
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Hanging out

 

Some small video clips below to bring the orangutans to life

 

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A Thomas Leaf Monkey chilling out
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I found these monkeys’ hairdos seriously scary, they looked like dangerous monkey punks to me
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A baboon (I think)

 

We were lucky to see, and then get pretty close to, a big male

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So furry, made him look bigger and more imposing. But here he’s just thinking about how to get food from us
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Big hands, big belly and probably really strong too. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of this guy but he seemed fairly peaceful
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Apart from monkeys and orangutans the jungle itself was great to see and experience. The hiking was seriously tough and the temperature and humidity certainly didn’t help. However I guess all that heat and all that rain (it rained a lot when I was there) creates an environment extremely rich in biodiversity. I thought the above photo was interesting as this tree has two different vines climbing up it; it’s a tough evolutionary fight for survival
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We came across Jackie, a semi-wild graduate from the rehabilitation centre. She is the friendly one (more on that later) and is very used to humans

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You can get very close to Jackie, a little too close. It does seem a pity that she is so habituated to humans but I guess it’s better for her to have contact with humans (even daily as it seems to be) than be in captivity

 

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Immense trees. This was real jungle, dense, alive and full of creepy-crawlies

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Gross, but those teeth still look dangerous
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“Better to keep your mouth shut, mum”
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We had stopped for lunch and I was very grateful to be tucking into my fried rice. Suddenly one of the guides starts shouting “Mina! Mina! Mina!” He looked worried, the guides told us to pack up and start moving, Mina was coming. We had been warned that there was an aggressive female out there, some sort of mirror image to the friendly Jackie. We didn’t have to run, just walk quickly away. I caught a glimpse of Mina over my shoulder as I was fleeing (exaggeration…barely) and did indeed see a mean-looking orangutan slowly but steadily and with great determination following us, like some sort of jungle Terminator. I mean I don’t blame her, it’s (sadly) an easy way to get some food 
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We passed another female orangutan, who hung there and stared at us. Our guides didn’t seem too worried but they did bang empty plastic bottles off nearby trees to make noise as we walked past, these are big, wild animals after all, no need to forget that
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Apparently she was pregnant too. The guide said “look at her big belly.” It is indeed big but don’t they all have big bellies?
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We arrived that evening at our camp by the river
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Next day we were to raft down the river on tyre tubes. It was quite an adventure in itself as there was so much rain the river was quite high and definitely gave us quite the roller-coaster ride
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After the wonder and excitement of the jungle trek I also visited Bat Cave. I was the only person/man inside, therefore I was Batman, clearly
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The way the light entered the cave at the numerous openings was incredible. In fact this was a mini caving expedition. The man at the entrance didn’t mention how long you should travel inside the cave so it was up to me to continue until I couldn’t. I’m sure others have travelled further but I feel like I went more than most but then my courage ran out

 

Next up: Javanese Wonders

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