SUMATRA HIDDEN PARADISE
Surrounded by secondary forest and palm oil plantation, Tangkahan is where the Buluh and Batang Rivers meet.
The forest around Tangkahan provides a great visitor to see the natural succession of the tropical rainforest, with a lot of vines, rattans, stangling figs, and dipterocarps, as well as to watch many birds species found along the forest egdes.
Spotted doves, Kingfishers, and Eagles commonly spotted along the road to Tangkahan. Orangutans, Thomas Leaf Monkey and maaques frequently visit forests along the batang riverbank. Seven tame Elephants and their Mahouts or trainers stay in Tangkahan to assist park authorities to patrol and mitigate human-elephants conflict while at the same time becoming a tourist attraction and icon for Tangkahan.
In 1997 many of the villagers in Tangkahan were illegal loggers. Realising the value of the forest beyond that of harvesting timber, the local community wanted change and turned to Indecon for guidance. Indecon became involved in early 2000, and working with the community set out a master plan for the development of ecotourism in the area. The Lembaga Pariwisata Tangkahan (LPT) or Tangkahan Tourism Institute was formed with an aim to promote ecotourism and provide sustainable incomes that would render illegal logging obsolete. Thirty-two out of the fifty-five founding members of LPT were illegal loggers, showing the high level of commitment of the community to change.
In 2002, the National Park authority signed an MOU with the LPT giving the local community the authority to manage an area of the park for ecotourism with the condition that they would protect and conserve the area. This was unprecedented in Sumatra at that time and aside from giving the community the responsibility for protecting around 10,000 hectares of forest (now 17,500), it also gave them a sense of validity in the transition they were undertaking.
Through forming relations with organisations such as Indecon and Flora and Fauna International, the community was able to develop the skills of its members in areas such as ecotourism development and management, planning and policy development, conservation management, and monitoring and assessment. These skills were merged with Karo culture and values to ensure community ownership of the initiative and equality in the distribution of benefits.