Monday, December 5, 2011


The next destination of our journey was Ketambe.  We wanted to see this area in part because the AZA’s (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Ape TAG Conservation Initiative is supporting a project called KREDI (Ketambe Restoration and Ecotourism Development Initiative) in this area.  This project was initiated by OIC (Orangutan Information Centre).  As the “hornbill flies” the distance between Bukit Lawang and Ketambe is not far at all.  However, since we had to drive the long way around Gunung Leuser National Park, this drive took about 10 hours, and much of it was very bumpy on mountain switchbacks.
Forest trekking with our guide Jhon Kanedi (this was his real name!) was a great experience but after about three hours the steep, muddy conditions were taking their toll on some of us.  We found nests and traces of orangutans, heard gibbon calls, and saw Thomas’s leaf monkeys, then it started to rain (go figure…it IS the rainy season!).

Our next order of business was to visit a fledgling reforestation site.  There are huge challenges in this area due to farmers from the next village encroaching on the National Park land.  OIC has been working with the community for two years, trying to get farmers’ support and commitment to stop encroaching on park land.

In meeting with village leaders later that evening, we learned that they would like to expand ecotourism in the area so that there is more sustainable income and less pressure to encroach on the forest.  Although they have a long way to go, it is good that they are working in that direction. 

We stayed at the Friendship Guest House.  There was a very friendly cat who kept us company at meal times – which made us home sick for our own pets at home.  The food was excellent, but the accommodations were somewhat challenging and basic.

On the way back to Medan we experienced our first (and only) flat tire in over 40 hours of driving on this trip.  We drew a huge crowd of local children who seemed amused and interested in the predicament of these western tourists. 

Although the drives to and from Ketambe, which is in the province of Aceh, were not very comfortable, the scenery was beautiful.  It was the only place we did not see miles and miles palm oil plantations, instead we saw quite a bit of intact forest.  We also saw an incredible amount of corn grown on mountainsides (that can’t be fun to cultivate). 

One interesting thing we saw was two goats tied up to two cows, and the goats were leading the way down a mountain road.  Unfortunately we saw several cases of macaques being kept as pets.  The strangest situation was a baby macaque clinging to a dog, which was balancing on a dog crate on the back of a motorcycle. 

After spending the night in Medan, we met with Panut Hadisiswoyo, founding director of OIC.  He did a presentation for us showing some of OIC’s great projects, including HOCRU (Human Orangutan Conflict Resolution Unit) and the education programs which have reached 10,000 children in Indonesia.

We are currently in Kuala Lampur, we will fly to Hong Kong next, then Los Angeles, then Denver…we are all looking forward to our own beds, our favorite American foods and drinks. 

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