Stretching across a swathe of land more than twice the size of Bali, Sumatra’s largest national park offers ample adventure for those dreaming to see Indonesia at its wildest.
Sumatra is an elongated landmass spanning a diagonal northwest-southeast axis. The Indian Ocean borders the west, northwest, and southwest sides of Sumatra with the island chain of Simeulue, Nias and Mentawai bordering the southwestern coast. The Bukit Barisan mountains, which contain several active volcanoes, form the backbone of the island, while the northeast sides are outlying lowlands with swamps, mangrove and complex river systems. The equator crosses the island at its center on West Sumatra and Riau provinces. The climate of the island is tropical, hot and humid with lush tropical rain forest once dominating the landscape.
The Sumatran rain forest is host to a multitude of species, including Sumatran Orangutan, Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sumatran Elephant, Sumatran Striped Rabbit, Malayan Tapir, Malayan Sun Bear, Bornean Clouded Leopard and many birds and butterflies. Of the 10,000 plant species recorded in the West Indo-Malayan region, it is estimated that 45% are found in the Gunung Leuser ecosystem. It is also home to Sumatran Pine, Rafflesia arnoldii (world’s largest individual flower), Titan arum (world’s tallest and largest inflorescence flower).
The Sumatran tiger(Panthera tigris sumatrae) is the last of the island subspecies. Tigers are being lost rapidly from across the entire region and maybe the entire world, and nowhere is that more important than Indonesia, where the Balinese tiger already went extinct in the early 1920s. Sumatran tigers are threatened by poaching for Chinese medicine, and the remaining tiger habitat in Indonesia is being rapidly deforested. The forest is fragmented amidst oil palm plantations.
Mostly nocturnal and extremely shy, tigers are among the world’s most elusive beasts, thus the chance of spotting one in the wild – is next to none. But there’s an undeniable thrill to trekking in tiger country and, if you’re lucky, you may come across fresh pugmarks from these apex predators.
When to go:
Weather conditions are very erratic and hard to predict in Sumatra, but the heaviest rains typically fall between December and February. Locals say that tigers are most active just after rain, but wildlife is generally easier to spot outside this wet season, forest fires pending.
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