2 Wheel Vagabond

2 Wheel Vagabond


Friday 22 May 2015

Orangutans and Elephants

Sumatra is known for being an island that is ideal for adventure riding and finding adventure in general, potholed roads wind there way through thick jungle covered mountains and past mirror surfaced lakes and active volcanoes. It is also known for being home to some of the worlds most endangered species of animals, the Sumatran Rhino, Tiger, Orangutan and Elephant are the big four animals that people hope to see during a visit here. The Orangutan and Elephant are the most accessible, thanks to sanctuaries that protect against deforestation and there was no way I was going to visit this island without visiting these amazing animals.
The Orangutan sanctuary was located in the mountain village of Bukit Lawang, it was like a jungle paradise, with guesthouses lining a fast flowing river and jungle on either side. I would have really liked to spend an extended amount of time trekking the jungle to see genuinely wild animals but time wasn't on my side so a day trip was my best option. The Orangutans were a mixture of "semi wild" ( ones that had been released into the sanctuary) and "wild" ( usually the babies of the
semi wild orangutans). I was pleasantly surprised that even though there were a large amount of tourists the guides kept a safe distance and even though these Orangutans  were used to people it felt as though you were visiting them in  their own environment and on their terms. Seeing the mothers and their babies in their small family groups was amazing, and looking into the sad eyes of these beautiful animals made the trip worthwhile. As my guide and I headed down the mountain to the river I got a reminder that these weren't domestic animals, we had been told there was an orangutan ahead of us which the guide was keen to see but he explained we had to be careful because these particular one was aggressive and had bitten many guides and recently even broken ones leg. We couldn't see her as we made our way down the steep track and all of a sudden we heard screaming and shouting from the group 100m behind us, my guide shouted at me to get down the track quickly and the look in his eyes told me he wasn't joking. We got to the river and as we waited at a beach to river tube back to the village we were eventually joined by the group behind us, apparently the female Orangutan had snuck up to the group and tried to attack them, one guide came away a little bruised but luckily there were no serious injuries. We river tubed some small rapids back to the village which was also great fun, I was even surprised to see western girls in bikinis along the river, a pretty rare sight outside of Bali, especially in Sumatra, which can be very conservative but the guide told me no one had an issue here because of the large amount of western tourists that came through the park. This was definitely a highlight of my trip (the Orangutans not the girls in bikinis), hopefully the conservation efforts continue to be a success.
Just outside of Lampung is the Way Kambas national park and Elephant sanctuary, another opportunity to see some amazing local wildlife. Once again I would have loved to see genuinely wild Elephants while doing a multiday trek but I was happy to take what I could get. I was in 2 minds about visiting Way Kambas, I have read plenty of articles about Elephants being ill treated in tourist parks but I thought it best to judge for myself. It was interesting to find out that there were still quite a few wild elephants in the surrounding area as well as the ones in the sanctuary and some of the elephant handlers told us to be very careful when we rode back to Lampung in the late afternoon. The Elephants were amazing, Sumatran Elephants are a smaller  type of Elephant but the adults were still huge and looked so powerful. One thing about Indonesia is that they let you get up and close to animals so it was pretty amazing when the curious babies came over to check us out, even these little guys were very strong and had to be treated with a great deal of respect. It would be wonderful to see these majestic animals roaming around freely in the wild so it was sad to see some of the adults with chains on, sure its easy judge but unfortunately these parks are necessary to preserve these animals. The absolute highlight was taking the bike onto a dirt road to do a little sightseeing, we stumbled across a family of elephants and the babies ran over to check us out, amazing!!! we didn't stay for long though because we didn't want to piss off the parents and I was a little worried that these little guys might get a little to interested in the bike and do some damage. This was another great experience, both the Elephants and Orangutans were a reminder to get off the bike and check out the scenery, there is so much to doing a motorbike trip than just riding.

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