Thursday, 16 December 2010

Sumatra: Do's and Don'ts!


It's incredible to think that nearly two months have passed since we were standing in dense jungle, watching the orangutans swing from tree to tree overhead. Sumatra was an amazing place, and here are my tips for visiting...

Do's

- See our gorgeous relatives. Although the orangutan population of Borneo receive more attention and visitors, our time in Bukit Lawang was amazing, and the lack of other tourists really worked in our favour. The village was quiet, we didn't see anyone else on our overnight jungle trek, and there were plenty of orangutans to see. Pick a guide carefully and the experience will be educational and magical.

- Spend a while exploring the island. Although we had a good amount of time, it still wasn't enough! Although I was grateful for a hot shower and a soft bed on our return, the island is full of contrast and a range of incredible areas to explore, from nature and wildlife to friendly villages and towns.

- Consider using taxis. Usually on trips we try to experience as much of the local transport as possible, be that buses or tuk tuks or hanging off the side of minibuses. However, although there are coaches available between major towns, public transport is lacking in other areas, and for a minimal amount more, a nice clean (and often air-conditioned!) taxi will go pretty much anywhere quickly and efficiently. Never underestimate the power of cool air in heavy humidity!

- Chat with as many local people as possible. Without a doubt, Sumatra has to be one of the friendliest places I have been to. Directions were given freely, frequent 'hellos' in the street common, and many people were happy to talk and spend some time.

Don'ts

- Get too close to the wildlife. It's really sad to hear of stories where people have touched the animals, particularly the orangutans, when the slightest cold or virus can cause so much damage. Please encourage the guides to stick to the rules in the national parks and keep your distance!

- Expect any luxury. The toilets are basic, there is, on the whole, no hot water, and electricity is lacking in many smaller villages and towns. Just something to be prepared for! Wet wipes are an ideal packing item...

- Miss out! Sumatra is often overlooked in favour of the more popular Indonesian destinations. But its beauty, wildlife and spirit really shouldn't be missed. It's cheap and easily accessible, so go!

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