Tangkahan – The Hidden Elephant Paradise
Tangkahan well-known as the hidden paradise of Gunung Leuser National Park, is an Eco Tourism area in the Langkat district of North Sumatra. The peaceful jungle retreat is located along the Kualsa Buluh River next to the dense rainforest, just 2.5 hours far from Bukit Lawang driving on a bumpy road through palm oil plantations and rural villages. It is the perfect place to lay back from strong traveling and spend a memorable time with seven rehabilitated adult Sumatran elephants and a few small calves.
This tiny, remote village was practically built on the logging trade in the 1980s and 1990s, because the people became aware of the damages by such activity. They collectively decided to stop illegal logging and transform the area into an functional, self-sustained ecotourism destination. So in April 2001 the community banded together to form the Tangkahan Tourist Institute (Lembaga Pariwisata Tangkahan - LPT) and fixed regulations prohibiting the exploitation of the surrounding rainforest. So the Conservation Response Unit (CRU) was born - a team of Sumatran elephants and their mahouts that helps safeguard the national park to protect it from encroachment. By joining the elephants by their afternoon bathing or taking a 1 hour trek on an elephant you will support this local initiative.
In fact, most of our EcoTravel guests are happy with the elephant activities in Tangkahan. But visitor numbers to this hidden jungle village have been increasing over the last few years. Unfortunately, other tour operators do not always restrict themselves to smaller groups. In the recent past this has led to disappointment for our EcoTravel guests doing the Tangkahan day tour to see the elephants only bathing in the river. The activity of elephant riding is still limited to a maximum of 8 people but sadly the number of people joining the elephant bathing is unlimited. That’s why we heard reports from our guests who had to "share" one elephant with up 10 visitors from other tour operators. Unfortunately we do not have any influence on the elephant activities in Tangkahan as they are not run by our EcoTravel team. But we would like to prevent our guests from doing a day trip including 5 hours of off-road transport just to take part in a disappointing elephant bathing. So we decided to remove this tour with „only bathing with the elephants“ from our website program starting in September 2016.
Our partner LPT/CRU Tangkahan still offers 1 hour of elephant riding for a limited number of 8 people up to 3 times a day – at a rather high price, admittedly. Although elephant riding is under worldwide criticism we are still supporting this ecotourism project in Tangkahan as it is unique for Indonesia. So we can still arrange for EcoTravel guests to go elephant riding, if required. Even at a higher price it is still a controlled activity for small groups and supports the elephants as well as the villagers in and around Tangkahan. To remove the elephant riding from our program would weaken CRU/LPT and is not an alternative for the time being.
Note: Even you have booked a 1-hour elephant ride in advance it may be cancelled at short notice when the elephants are needed for control duties. In this case our EcoTravel team will return 750.000 IDR per person (1 Mio IDR, price CRU/LPT 2016 for elephant riding & bathing). Starting times for elephant rides are also subject to sudden changes! CRU/LPT are no tour operators but just an organization!