Tangkahan Eco Tourism Area is considered as the as the hidden paradise of Gunung Leuser National Park, located between Namo Sialang and Sei Serdang. Tangkahan can be reached from Bukit Lawang, Medan. You can take Pembangunan Semesta bus from Pinang Baris Terminal in Medal directly to Tangkahan via Stabat. The journey takes approximately 3 to 4 hours from Medan to Tangkahan.

Tangkahan is famous for its rehabilitated Sumatran elephants. But what differs Tangkahan from other tourism area is that it is a model of how community based eco-tourism can stop illegal logging, and improve livelihood. In the 1980s and 1990s, illegal logging was rampant in the area. Due to the awareness of the destruction caused by illegal logging, the people in Tangkahan collaborated with Mount Leuser National Park to form Tangkahan Tourist Institute Lembaga Pariwisata Tangkahan – LPT).

Besides Tangkahan Tourist Institute (Lembaga Pariwisata Tangkahan – LPT), there is also The Community Response Unit (CRU). It was formed by Fauna & Flora International  to manage elephant-related tourism.  Several of the animals were brought in to Tangkahan from Aceh. These elephants used to destroy fields and houses in surrounding villages.

Tangkahan River Crossing Jungle BoatPhoto credit: http://waterwaterfall.blogspot.kr/2014/11/tangkahan.html

Tangkahan River Crossing Jungle Boat
Photo credit: http://waterwaterfall.blogspot.kr/2014/11/tangkahan.html

CRU initially trained wild elephants to be ridden by forest rangers to patrol and protect the forest. CRU maintains that their organization brings elephants and humans together to protect and conserve habitat. Currently the elephants are given better treatment to support Tangkahan as an eco-tourism attraction. They improve the livelihood of the local communities and in this way, they indirectly prevent illegal logging.

In addition to the illegal logging patrol, these elephants play strategic role in generating income for local people. The elephants can be used as a transportation to do jungle trekking.  LPT/CRU Tangkahan offers an hour of paid trips elephant riding for a limited number of people up to 3 times a day. Tourist can also try to bath the elephant, learn how the elephants live, and how to nurture them. The elephants are not available on Fridays as they always go into the jungle to patrol for illegal activity. To join the jungle patrol, tourists must report to the Community Tour Operator (CTO) Visitor Centre as they will arrange everything, including the park permit.

Besides patrolling with the elephants, you can also explore the jungle by yourself. In the Sumatran rainforest, everything around you is so vibrant. Giant trees are entangled with spectacular lianas, and coated in remarkable fungi, insects constantly flutter through the air and crawl across the dirt.

Activities that can be enjoyed in Tangkahan are cruising over the river in traditional way, caving, relaxing on the river shore, camping, etc. After a tiring day, you can rest in the comfortable accommodations within the area, most of them are nice bungalows in a natural setting along the clear river. There is also a hot spring nearby, which is perfect for relaxing. But if you prefer soaking in cold water, you can visit the waterfalls.

Tangkahan is one of the must-see places in Indonesia. I highly suggest that you include it in your bucket list!




By Anggi Nurqonita, ASEAN Correspondent from Indonesia