Sumatra Eco Tourism


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The northern part of Sumatera, i.e. the provinces of Aceh (Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam) and North Sumatra (Sumatera Utara) lies just above the equator. To the east is the Malacca Straits and in the west the Indian Ocean. There are both active and dormant volcanoes. Many of them well over 2.000m above sea level. The east coast consists mainly of lowland with mangrove swamps next to the sea. Several big rivers carry down sediments to this area and over the centuries the coastline has slowly moved eastward. The west coast has a steeper coast and many great sand beaches. Off the coast are the big islands of Simeulue and Nias and in between the archipelago of Pulau Banyak. A very deep trench in the sea west of these islands gives excellent conditions for surfing in many places. This part of Sumatra is unique with its scenery and grand nature.

The climate is tropical, but due to its many highlands, temperatures can be lower than one expects. Temperatures are approximately between 22-30 degrees Celsius. The rainfall differs from area to area, but averages 1.000-4.000mm per year. The relative humidity is 70-90% in lowlands. The year can be divided in two major seasons, dry season from February to August and wet season from September to January. However, the difference between seasons is not as big as in other parts of Indonesia. The change of season is also normally extra wet. The dry season is of course the best time for mountain climbing, to visit nature parks and for the visibility of animals, etc.


Click to enlargeThe Flora and Fauna in Sumatra is similar to the Asian mainland, but Sumatra has still vast rainforests and much wildlife. Until the end of the 19th century the almost only thing you could find on the island was forest. Nowadays only 30% of Sumatra's former jungle remains. This doesn't mean that Sumatra has changed into a deforested island. There are vast areas of untouched lowland rainforest and sub-mountainous and mountain forests. Alpine vegetation occurs at the higher altitudes. Extinction and destruction goes on also in Indonesia, but it started later than in other countries. There is still time to both see and save it. The island of Sumatra can brag with several hundreds of mammals, almost 200 reptiles, over 60 amphibians, almost 300 fish species, and more than 450 bird species. Of all these, 9 mammals, 30 fish species, and 19 bird species are endemic.

Even though North Sumatra is one of the more populous provinces of Sumatra, there is still enough of wilderness for anyone. There is the huge national park of Leuser and several smaller parks. The Orangutan, the Sumatran tiger, and the Sumatran rhinoceros are famous inhabitants of northern Sumatra. Other friends are for example the Sumatran elephant, many species of monkeys, the Tapir, the Honey bear, and several kinds of Deer. Sumatra has also 10 species of The Hornbill, a bird noted for its enormous horn-tipped beak.

About 400-500 wild Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) are believed to survive in Sumatra, primarily in Sumatra's five national parks. 210 captive animals live in zoos around the world. The Sumatran tiger is the smallest tiger sub-specie. Males are in an average 2,4 meters from head to tail and weigh about 120 kilograms. Females are somewhat smaller. Wild Sumatran tigers have been isolated from its relatives on the Asian mainland for about 12,000 years and has probably the most different set of genes compared to other tiger species. The Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is probably the most endangered of all rhinoceros species. It prefers tropical rainforest and mountain moss forest. It is the only two-horned rhino in the Asian region. Numbers have declined due to poaching and very few are left. It weighs about 600 - 800 kg and is 0,9-1,5m tall at the shoulders. It feeds on fruit, leaves, twigs and bark. The main habitat is in Leuser National Park.

The most well known flower is the Rafflesia arnoldi, the biggest flower in the world. It is found only in certain parts of Sumatra. This plant is parasitic and grows on certain lianas but does not produce leaves. It can measure up to 1 meter in diameter and have 2 cm thick petals weighing up to 18 kg. The smell is awful.

The Orangutans were once living in almost all of Southeast Asia, between South China and Java. Today, however, they are only left in Borneo and Sumatra. 90% of the total orangutan population lives within the borders of Indonesia. Habitat loss and illegal pet trade seriously threaten their existence. The orangutan has, as a species, recently been re-classified. The two former sub-species are now considered to be two distinct species of orangutans. There are several sub-species. The densest area for orangutans is in Aceh Singkil, in the part of Leuser National Park called Rawah Singkil. In this area the orangutans use tools (sticks) to open fruits, a sign of basic culture. The word orangutan is from the Malay (Indonesian) Orang (Person) and Hutan (Forest). The Indonesian word is orang hutan. In many areas in Sumatra orangutan is also called Mawas. In some areas, like in South Tapanuli, the word orang hutan is often confused with other types of monkeys.

Bukit Lawang is famous for its orangutan rehabilitation center, where captured orangutans got a chance to return back to nature. When the training is finished they are released near the center where they are fed twice daily. The diet is monotonous in order to make them start looking for other food and eventually become independent of humans. The feedings are a major tourist attraction. If you go there, only go to the official feeding site.

On a narrow strip of land between Rawah Singkil and the Indian Ocean is the small isolated town of Kuala Baru. Eco-tourism will soon be developed here. Watching Orangutans and birds will be the major attractions. This website will be up-dated with Kuala Baru in the middle of 2008.

Sea turtles have a heaven in Pulau Banyak on the west coast. The Amandangan beach on Pulau Bangkaru is the most important Green turtle rookery of Sumatra. Also Hawksbill turtles and Leatherback turtles lay egg there. The rare Dugong can also be seen in Pulau Banyak and the biggest island, Pulau Tuangku, probably has endemic reptiles.




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