Wildlife encounters like this one, with the Orangutans of Sumatra, are a specialty of Tough Love Travel.
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I reached out towards him, and he reached back. We held hands for a second and a half before he flew away again, back into the leafy refuge of the trees.
It was a sublime moment, the warmth of his rough finger making a complicated memory on my palm. It was a moment that, in a million years, I could never have seen coming, yet – in the blink of an eye – was gone.
I lived through this moment, and somehow, in ways that are both concrete and inexplicable, been changed by it. The jungle photos from that morning will mellow and wilt with age, but the intangible, irrefutable experience, I will hold within me, and it will last a lifetime.
Somehow, the rest of the trip – the incredible “nasi goreng” (Indonesian fried rice) that was cooked that night, the bathing by the river the next morning – all seems to pale in comparison to that second and a half.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE ORANGUTANS OF SUMATRA
Towards the end of my 3-month experiment in Indonesia, I decided to fly to the northwestern end of Sumatra – the largest and westernmost island in the Indonesian archipelago – and see what I could find.
Surfing… cultural exposure to one of the few remaining hunter-and-gatherer tribes… volcanoes…
I immediately found an opportunity to go on a guided overnight trek in the forest, and was told that this was one of only two remaining areas in the entire world where I could find orangutans. Without any hesitation, I decided to go meet the orangutans of Sumatra.
My best chance to meet an orangutan in Sumatra was in the Gunung Leuser National Park.
A guide is necessary, and you can choose to go for a 3-hour, to a 2-day trek.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO VISIT THE ORANGUTANS OF SUMATRA
For a cool 85 US dollars, I (and another brave soul) was accompanied by two guides through the rainforest, where for two days and one night, we got to pick wild jackfruit and passionfruit, see a number of the world’s endangered species, and bear witness to one of the last remaining habitats of the orangutans of Sumatra.
Guided treks to the orangutans typically include overnight camping and a rafting trip back to town, with all basic meals, guide fees, camping equipment and park fee covered in the package.
TELL MORE ABOUT YOUR TIME WITH THE ORANGUTANS OF SUMATRA
The humidity was oppressive, as we were trekking in the middle of Indonesia’s arduous wet season, yet somehow — in the face of nature’s vivid colors and raw textures, clicks hoots, and juicy tastes, — such discomforts become entirely trivial.
Then we spotted the orangutans of Sumatra! I tried to take pictures, to capture the mysticism of these beautiful creatures.
They swung through trees. Cupped their feet together to serve as some sort of plate for their passionfruit. Looked straight into my own eye.
Reminiscing back with those pictures now, they fall far short of the actual experience.
AFTER THE ORANGUTANS OF SUMATRA, WHAT ELSE DID YOU DO IN INDONESIA?
I learned to surf outside of Jakharta, rode ferries and buses, trekked to the top of the volcano for sunrise, hung upside down in coconut trees, meditated at water temples, danced at local festivals, played my guitar in the lanes of Ubud, and ate LOTS of vegan street food!
Selemat Pagi, Indonesia! (or, as they say, “Good morning, Indonesia!”)
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