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.

Tangkahan is a tourist site situated on the edge of the Gunung Leuser national park, around 20km due north from Bukit Lawang. As with Bukit Lawang, prior to tourism there was no village at Tangkahan itself, but the area is in situated in the vicinity of two established villages, Namo Sialang and Sei Serdang, while Tangkahan itself is purely a tourist/conservation site. Tangkahan is in Batang Serangan district, northern Langkat regency, while Bukit Lawang is in the Bohorok district southern Langkat regency.

In the past there were many wild elephants on Sumatra and often caused great problems for the local population as they destroyed rice fields and eating the crops. Instead of being killed by the farmers, the elephants are now trained to work in the forest and as a tourist attraction.

Interesting in this regard was that when the Sumatra railroad was build in the 1880s, and telegraph poles were directly put besides the rail, many of these poles were shortly afterwards pulled out of the ground by elephants who did this for fun. This shows that in those days there were many elephants in the Gunung Leuser region.

Nowadays the Sumatra elephant is almost extinct. Only at a few places we can see them in their natural environment, the largest is the elephant training center in Waykambas near Bandar Lampung in South Sumatra

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. When its bath time at the elephant camp on the outskirt of Gunung Leuser National Park tourists are allowed to help. By joining the elephants by their afternoon bathing or taking a 1 hour trek on an elephant you will support this local initiative.

Elephants in Tangkahan
In North Sumatra in Tangkahan are also a limited number of elephants stationed by the world wildlife fund. Here are the elephants used for forest patrol and work in the forest for logging. Besides that are they five days a week available as tourist attraction. Tourists can ride an elephant and bath them in the river. Herewith became the beautiful Tangkahan area a major elephant attraction.
Like all rural villages in Indonesia, employment opportunities are poor, and there was pressure on the jungle as a result, as local people seek to make a living from the natural resources by logging, or planting oil palms. In 2001 Lembaga Pariwisata Tangkahan (Tangkahan Tourism Foundation) was established by the local people to provide an alternative to deforestation.

Elephants in Tangkahan River
In the 1920s former governor Westenenk of East Sumatra district, published a book named ‘Where man and tiger are neighbours’ in which he described, besides extensive stories about the Sumatran tiger, also about elephants, who were in these years still all over Sumatra. The following quote is from his book:

‘Just at the moment when she reached for the durian fruit, along the tree, something which looked like a giant snake came down and approached her. She looked up and saw that it was an elephant trunk. The naughty eyes of the elephant seemed to be lighting up, and subsequently she began to see another animal and one more.. Without knowing it she had wandered into a herd of elephants… She began to scream out of fear which in turn shocked the elephants and sparked a thundering chaos. In the kampong the children suddenly felt the mood turning bleak and everybody was shocked and silent. ..They followed the herd.. deep in the mountains they heard the well-known roaring and falling of trees…. The herd passed by and at a short distance from the herd.. six cows appeared. A young bull with little ivory; sociable ear flapping and with deep, sounds, the company slowly strolled along…’ ( Westenenk, L.C. Waar Mensch en Tijger Buren Zijn ‘s Gravenhage 1928: 64-66)

The village sits at the confluence of two rivers, the Batang, and Buluh, so at weekends it can get busy with local tourists, whose favourite activity is to 'mandi' (swim/bathe) in the river.

The main tourist draw at Tangkahan is the presence of Sumatran elephants, which can be bathed in the river, or taken for elephant treks.

On Fridays there are no elephant rides/bathing, as the elephants are on jungle patrol.

Tangkahan has no public transport links to Bukit Lawang, but our Tangkahan trips use our off-road vehicles to travel between the two villages.

After custom formalities at Medan airport, and then drive to Tangkahan which takes approximately 5 hours. You will cross over the Batang River by local raft to the lodge inn. 2 overnight stays in Mega Inn or Bamboo River Lodge or similar.

Breakfast will serve at the lodge. Morning, you will go for Elephant trekking explore part of the Leuser National Park about 1 hour. Afternoon will be free at your own leisure. You can walk a long the bank of the Buluh river, is to see thousand beautiful butterflies by the river, visiting and bathing at the small waterfall in the rainforest close to the river and or swimming in Buluh river itself. Remarks: Elephant ride is not available on Monday and Thursday Accommodations in Tangkahan are basic, built with simple materials to keep in harmony with nature. Electricity run by own generator and not available after 22:00 pm. Room is equipped with mosquito net and has own bathroom which comes with shower with cold water (no hot water).

After breakfast, drive to Bukitlawang passing through the local villages and estates area. You will enjoy the 2 hours driving on bumpy road with 4WD vehicles. Arrive in Bukitlawang, organize the visit to the feeding platform to see the closest primate to humanoid so-called Orang Utan while being fed and prepared for release back into their natural habitat. You trek about 2 hours in the park to explore other side of the park4. Steep, slopes and dense vegetation will bring you the excitement of the jungle. Overnight stay in hotel Rindu Alam or Ecolodge Bukit Lawang Cottages or similar. Remarks: Those who brings camera/video in the Orangutan site will be charging additional Rp 50,000 for camera and Rp. 150, 000 for video.

After breakfast, you will drive back to Medan for your onward departure flight and or next destination - Tour End

Rate: USD 550/person/twin share, Minimum 2 person

- Hotels as mentioned above + breakfast
- AC transport as mentioned in the program + fuel & driver
- 3 meals - English speaking guide
- Entrance & parking fees as mentioned in the program
- Elephant trekking for 1 hour in Tangkahan
- Local guide and permit to see the orang utan at the feeding area and during 2 hours jungle trekking in Bukit Lawang

- Flight tickets
- Donations, tips
- Laundry
- Personal insurance
- Alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks
- Laundry
- Any personal expenses