Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Responsible tourism in Bukit Lawang

There are currently only about 5000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild and Bukit Lawang is one of the few places you can see them in their natural setting. In doing so you can help protect them - a few tourist dollars into the local economy provides an added incentive to preserve both orangs and their habitat - and that habitat is facing critical threats.

Throughout their range forest is being cleared for oil palm and rubber plantations. This is widely documented and probably the major threat to the survival of this species and many others. But all is not well at the local level either, and visitors can really help orangutans by insisting on a responsible approach to local tourism.

Too many of the guides are not well trained, and some commit the serious error of offering food to orangutans encountered when on forest treks.
This is both irresponsible and dangerous, setting back the rehabilitant orangutans who are learning to become less dependent on human care, and increasing the risk of disease transfer. It doesn’t help the tourists either – one 30 odd year old female orang (“Meena”) has become aggressive and can be a risk to visitors. It is very tempting to touch the orangutans, but you would only be adding to the problem.

Take advice from the Park authorities and people like Samsul (of "Sam's Bungalows"), to recommend good and responsible guides who know and respect the forest and do not
put the orangutans in danger. Then you can relax, learn about the forest and leave only the imprints of your boots in the soft forest floor.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Sam's Bungalows – Bukit Lawang

You could quite literally throw a stone from the balcony of Sam's Bungalows across the Bohorok river in north Sumatra and it would land in the Gunung Leuser National Park. If you did you might startle a Thomas’s Leaf monkey foraging in the greenery, or disturb a water monitor basking in the sun on riverside rocks. Better than attacking the local fauna would be to sit with a cup of jungle tea and one of Sam's special fruit salads and watch the jungle move.

Sam's Bungalows are ideally situated up the river opposite the Park entrance, a short walk from the orangutan feeding site. There are currently 3 bungalows, all with their own balcony and shower room - beautifully decorated with rounded stones, smoothed by the river, and blending with the surroundings. The soothing sound of a nearby waterfall reminds you that this is rainforest, and you feel at one with nature.

Electricity has not yet reached this far up the river, but a generator provides power daily between the hours of 6pm and midnight. There is also only one temperature for the shower – Fresh! Daily rates range from between 80,000 – 150,000 IDR (£4.50 - £8.50) and the adjacent “Sam’s restaurant” overlooking the river below, is the perfect place to enjoy delicious home cooking from Ifat’s kitchen.

For bookings, contact Sam on: +62 813 7009 3597

I would like to encourage anyone who has stayed at Sam's Bungalows or been to Bukit Lawang to write a review in the form of a comment on this post to advise others who are thinking of travelling to this beautiful part of the world.

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