Tangkahan: Elephant Conservation at Gunung Leuser National Park.


Tangkahan is very enticing. It is a village located in Gunung Leuser National Park. Administratively located in Namo Sialang village, Batang Serangan District, Langkat Regency, North Sumatera Province.

It takes about 5-6 hours drive from Medan to Tangkahan. Along the drive, we passed farms, villages, and also large area of Palm Oil Plantation, which has been infamous for its conflict with nature sustainable of Gunung Leuser National Park. I went passing Stabat area, which sometimes i saw some Rumah Panggung (wooden-stilthouses). I find them beautiful and just the right size for a house, not to big, not too small. And often with a vast garden in front of it.

There are two major rivers in Tangkahan, Buluh River and Batang Serangan River. Both are very clean and blueish and source of local community life. They also enjoy relaxing at the river banks which local call as pantai (beach).

The most popular attraction in Tangkahan is Elephant bathing. The elephants are already tame, they were caught after several times raiding farms. And it is said that now the elephants favor illegal logging patrol. And locals who were previously illegal loggers shift their occupations to tourism. Some visitors consider the Elephant activity is an animal exploitation.

Everyday there is two schedule of Elephant bathing, morning at 10.00 at afternoon at 16.00. There are about 9 elephants in this group in this elephant bathing. They walk from the other side of Batang Serangan river and crossing beautifully to towards visitors. Before bathing started, the elephants must defecate first so that when bathing they will not poo in the river that will not cause river dirty. That was what the guide said. Elephants then bathed and visitors can also involve brushing and bathing them. When i said brushing, it means really brushing using brush, which i thought was too too rough for the elephants. But the guide told me that it was okay, as usually elephants swiped their body to a tree which is more rough than the brush. After bathing then visitors can feed elephants, make sure one washes their hands first, in case of lotion of mosquito repellent still applied on hand can make this susceptible animals suffer an illness.

Other activities can be done in Tangkahan is Jungle Trail, where visitors will be taken to see the jungle and if lucky, will be meeting gibbons, siamang, or other wildlife.For this one will need to prepare with mosquito repellent, comfy footwear, clothes which blends to nature, camera, some snack and water, hat, sunscreen and recommended to wear long sleeves and trousers.

And visitors can also explore the rivers, by river tubing. I myself enjoyed the river-tubing. As i went alone, the local guide, Nopa, tied the tubes therefore we could enjoy the tandem river-tubing and have small talk along the tubing while enjoying the view, sometimes we saw grey monkeys and snake on trees on the river bank.

We stopped by at Buluh River and walk to some beaches there. And pay a visit to a waterfall at the bank of river. Not far from the waterfall, located a hot spring. The hot spring is located in the crack of rocks that only 3-4 adults can fit at the same time. This river, hot spring and waterfall locations have visitors on Saturday and Sunday but on weekdays, very quiet.

The big waterfall located in Buluh river were damaged totally by landslide. So i went to two small waterfalls.

All in all, Tangkahan has potentials for tourism and it gives enriching and experience to visitors, whether they look for nature, knowledge, tranquility.