Known as The Hidden Paradise of Tangkahan, this small village which sits on the edge of the famous Gunung Leuser National Park in North Sumatra, Indonesia, remains a relatively undiscovered gem.
It’s the ideal place to visit to get away from the more crowded and touristy areas such as Bukit Lawang and Lake Toba, while still being able to choose from a variety of accommodations and restaurants.
You’ll notice the difference the minute you arrive in Tangkahan. As opposed to many tourist spots in Indonesia, you will not be inundated with competing guides vying for your business or competing for your attention. The welcome here is genuinely warm and heartfelt, and the majority of the time you will leave feeling like you’re part of a brand new, very big and friendly family.
Tangkahan is often included as a day trip from the bigger tourist spots like Bukit Lawang, but there is so much more to do here than can be done in a single day, the vibe is so relaxed, you could easily spend a week here just swimming in the pristine rivers, spotting monkeys in the jungle, and singing along with the locals.
Here’s a list of our top five activities you can’t miss when you visit Tangkahan.
1) Jungle Trekking
Jungle trekking in Tangkahan is a truly wild experience. You won’t find many well-trodden tracks through the jungle here; you won’t be bumping into hordes of other tourists trekking; and keep your expectations in check: you won’t be feeding any wild animals! Here in Tangkahan we have nothing but respect for the animals that live in the National Park. We want them to stay wild and keep their natural behaviours and instincts strong. Truly wild animals SHOULD want to move away from humans and be wary of them. Illegal poaching and hunting is a huge issue in this area, and we want the animals to not become conditioned to humans and see them as a source of food. Also, close interaction with wild animals can pass any common flus or illnesses that humans may be carrying onto the wildlife, particularly in the case of Orangutans, who share about 97% of our DNA. A common cold for us could spell disaster for this highly endangered species. This is why you’ll never see any of the guides in Tangkahan feeding any of the animals.
Having said that, there is a high chance you will indeed see some of the incredible wildlife of this area including: Sumatran orangutans, Siamangs, Lar Gibbons, Rhinoceros hornbill. You’ll likely come across the footprints and scats of wild elephants, sun bears and tigers as well.
If you’d like an 100% guarantee to see an orangutan or a gibbon, we recommend you go to a good zoo who support conservation. However, if you’d like the chance to spot a gorgeous wild orangutan male sitting in the treetops where he belongs (it’s not normal or natural for orangutans to come down to the ground) or a family of Siamang Gibbons hooting and swinging about above you, then Tangkahan is the place to come.
Our trained guides will teach you about the medicinal plants you come across, and know the jungle as their own back yard.
2) Exploring with Elephants
Launched in October 2017, this new tour is one not to be missed. The rescued elephants of the CRU will enter the jungle to graze freely, enjoying exploring and manipulating the foliage as they search for lush green grasses, juicy young leaves, berries, seeds and bark to munch on.
During this tour, you first meet the elephants and join them for their morning mandi (bath) in the gorgeous Batang River, where you help the mahouts scrub them down.
Then it’s an easy trek alongside the elephants into the Gunung Leuser National Park with the mahouts and your experienced guide. You can relax and enjoy the beauty of the park, while watching the elephants and their offspring.
An incredible, natural and ethical way to connect and bond with the elephants.
3) River tubing
An incredibly relaxing way to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Whether you tube back to the village after a trek, or tube from the village to one of the beautiful waterfalls for lunch, this is an unforgettable experience. Joined by a local guide who will look after your safety, you float down the river, spotting macaques and Thomas leaf monkeys (even orangutans if you’re lucky!) in the trees, enjoying the peace and quiet of the jungle.
This is a safe and relaxing option, with very few areas of “small rapids” to add a bit of excitement! Choose from half hour to 3 hour options and get your waterproof go-pro ready because you’ll want to relive this again and again!
4) Camping in the waterfall cave
One of the hidden gems that can be found in Tangkahan is “Gua Kambing” or the goat cave. Not home to goats these days, this instead is a shallow cave opening that sits behind a small waterfall inside the Gunung Leuser National Park.
About a 3-4-hour trek will bring you to this amazing spot, where you can have a waterfall shower, enjoy a delicious cooked meal, and spend the night sleeping in this unique location, before trekking and tubing back to Tangkahan the next day.
5) Learn about Karonese culture and food
The majority of the locals living in this area are Batak Karo, or Karonese. The Karo culture has its own language, customs, traditions and of course food!
Join in with a cooking class where you’ll learn how to make one of the traditional jungle food dishes such as pineapple curry or banana tree curry.
You’ll also learn about the local culture and a few words of Karonese.
However you decide to spend your time in Tangkahan, you will leave feeling refreshed and relaxed, with a deep appreciation for the jungle and the people who work so hard to protect it. Tangkahan is a truly special place, with a welcoming community who want nothing more than for you to leave with good memories and come back to visit again and again!