Welcome to responsible travel in North Sumatra
Known as the 'Hidden Paradise' of North Sumatra. Located on the border of the Gunung Leuser National Park, its home to a few Sumatran Elephants but offers forest, clean rivers and interesting geological marvels
Tangkahan - The Hidden Paradise
Tangkahan is an eco-tourism destination located in North Sumatra and known as the 'Hidden Paradise' of the Gunung Leuser National Park, because it sits at the junction of two rivers: the Buluh and Batang River.
Just a three-hour drive from Medan or a two-hour drive from the tourist hub of Bukit Lawang, it's very different from the lines of souvenir shops and guesthouses in Bukit Lawang. Its remote location is perfect for relaxing, visiting the hot spring and admiring the natural scenery.
Tangkahan is famous for its herd of rescued Sumatra Elephants, rescued from conflict situations in Aceh by the Elephant Response Unit. Now they live in a safe environment and are trained to patrol the forests with their mahouts. Visitors can also join the Elephants in the forest and bathing in the river.
Although many visitors come to see the Elephants, Tangkahan has 17,000 hectares of virtually untouched forests with wild orangutans, waterfalls, caves and hot springs to explore.
The small village of Tangkahan was built after local people saw the damage they were causing by actively logging between 1980 - 1990. The community decided to stop illegal logging within the Leuser area and develop the area into a sustainable eco-tourism destination.
In 2001, the community decided and agreed on fixed regulations that prohibit illegal logging and the Tangkahan Tourist Institute was established. From this the Conservation Response Unit was formed where troublesome elephants have been rescued, trained and with a group of mahout's patrol and protect the local forests.
As an eco-tourism destination, Tangkahan never really flourished, which in a way, gave it its charm! However, the locals still depend on tourism for their income. What did draw many Asian, local and sometimes foreign tourists was the Elephants at the Conservation Response Unit (CRU). Before the Covid pandemic, much of the tourism income came from offering daily Elephants rides and washing. Since the pandemic, we are happy to say that they have stopped the Elephant riding. Visitors can still join the elephants for morning and afternoon bathing, but this is something we do not support due to the exploitation of the Elephants and the current worldwide scrutiny of it.
Why Elephant Washing isn't Cruelty Free
If visitors would like to support the CRU and the Elephants, then we do offer the new experience of 'Walking with Elephants'. This is a hands-off experience, allowing you to follow and watch the Elephants walk through their natural environment. If visitors are still against this, then it is still possible to see the elephants by the river with their mahout and can see them also in their outdoor pen.
If Elephants are not your thing, Tangkahan is still a great place to explore. We offer a variety of trekking options to see wild orangutans, waterfalls, caves and tubing activities. We are trying to develop more community-based tours as part of our Sustainable Action Plan. By joining these treks, you are supporting the local guides and economy. This continuous support keeps the local people from illegal logging and other illegal activities.
Bat Cave Trek and River Fun
Trek for 2-3 hours through the less explored part of the Gunung Leuser National Park enjoying the incredible scenery. The trek can quite challenging, passing many large trees and a chance observe any wild animals, like Orangutans or Gibbons. Arriving at the cave, guests will see many bats and pass through several caverns. At the end of the cave, there is a natural hot spring to relax in, if its not too hot! Guests then cool off with the thrill of tubing back down the river.
Duration: 6 hours
Start: 6-7am from Bukit lawang
Included: guide with motorbike, local guide, permit fee, tubing
Cost: 850,000 p/p
Group Size: 1 - 5
2 Day Cave Trek
Be a Caveman.....Trek in the jungle & sleep in a cave
Trek in the jungle for a full day, looking out for orangutans, gibbons, siamang or even a hornbill. The trek is quite challenging and no established trails. A true experience. The local guide will explain about the flora and fauna along the way. Lunch will be eaten at a suitable point before making your way to Goat Cave to spend the night. Here enjoy the waterfall, swim and relax. Enjoy dinner cooked over an open fire and the sounds of the jungle. Wake up to the sound of gibbons. After breakfast, guest will make their way back to the village.
Duration: 1.5 days
Start: 7am from Bukit lawang
Included: guide with motorbike, local guide, permit fee, food, fruit, camp equipment
Cost: ask for price
Group Size: 1 - 5
Waterfall and Tubing
Trek to see one of the waterfalls, swim, relax and eat lunch at the waterfall before river tubing back down the river.
More info coming soon
Duration: 5 hours
Start: 8am from Bukit lawang
Included: guide with motorbike, local guide, lunch, fruit, tubing
Group Size: 1 - 5
Walk with Elephants
Get up closs to Sumatran Elephants in their natural habitat without the touristic activity and scrutinised activity of riding them. Enjoy a 3-hour experience with first watching the Elephants bath then a 2-hour trek walk with the Elephants and their mahouts in the jungle
Duration: 3 - 4 hours
Start: 9am or 1pm
Included: transport with guide, elephant activity, permit fee
Cost: from 1,400,000 idr p/p
Group Size: 1 - 4
Note: If there is more than 2 people taking any of these activities, we recommend hiring a car for the day, as the cost can be shared and will be cheaper.
Any of these Tangkahan activites can be enjoyed as part of the Orangutan & Elephant Tour, or they can be combined with the Sumatra Eco-Explorer Tour