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Indonesia 2012 Part 4 - Night trek in Bukit Lawang looking for softshelled turtles

Indonesia 2012 Part 4 - Night trek in Bukit Lawang looking for softshelled turtles

Thur 28th June 2012

Spent three nights in Singapore and back in Medan today. Had to go and come back for another 30 day visa. It is expensive there, about the same as England. The only reason I mention it, and something that interested me, is that it used to be lush rainforest, a long time ago, but Singapore got built over it. They have kept a lot of trees, unlike some places where the trees vanish completely.

Returned to Banda Aceh to collect my luggage and say goodbye to BPKEL staff.

Wed 18th July 2012

Heading to Kuala Simpang with Joko Guntoro. We started early boarding a cool mini-bus. Three hours later after passing though endless palm oil plantations we arrive back in Aceh and swap transport to drive to the police station to get a permit, well, a permit basically for me. Being a non-tourist area, and me being here on a tourist visa means paperwork. Luckily my previous BPKEL permission to travel permit helps matters.

We then goto a fishing village Seruway which has a very Dutch feel for some reason. The group is made up of some of the staff of SatuCita Foundation, supriydai (staff of forestry office), parmin (local journalist/public relation), Ambar Wangi, datuk laksamana (community leader), me, syafril and Joko.

We board a fishing boat and head down the river to the sea. I notice straight away an abundance of life on the river banks. As we arrive at the sea I see a flying fish for the first time in my life. The noisy engine bangs away as we forge out to to sea and then dog leg to an island. This is a sandy island where turtles lay eggs. Which, unfortunately is becoming a little of a tourist destination for the beach, not the wildlife.

We then board the boat and follow the river to the main area for the painted terrapin. I am so taken with the amount of wildlife to see, much more than the river trip to Suaq. Some of the creatures I had only ever dreamed of seeing. Soon our boat starts to ground on the mud and we have to turn about. We return to the village, the tide is out and presently we all have to get out of the boat and waid ashore as it grounds in the mud.

Once we clean our muddy feet at the fishermans house we drive to the SatuCita Foundation's headstart facility. Joko shows me the concrete breeding pens and two Malayan box turtles (Cuora amboinensis). Unfortunately it is dark and raining now which makes photos hard. The facility looks impressive even in the dark and rain and I see this is an exciting venture.

Fri 20th to Mon 23rd July 2012

I visited Bukit Lawang which is a popular place to do a jungle trek. It is a bit like Goa with market stalls and restaurants with the possible jungle trek. A river threads through the town. From the town you walk down the river and would not know of the massive palm oil plantations that butt up to the Gunung Leuser National Park. The journey from Medan was a 3 hour bus ride through the endless palm oil owned by massive corporations.

I join Joko for a jungle trek and night. We unfortunately do not find any turtles or tortoises. The guide found two the day before. At the end of the trek we arrive at his house to see them, before releasing them back into the wild.

On the last day here we take one more look for Kura-Kura in the waterfalls along the river. No luck.


I see great potential for the projects in India and Indonesia and am encoraged by the progress and awareness. Hopfully they will bare fruit and can save, for example, Burmese Brown tortoises before China eats them all.

For myself I am not sure yet where I go from here, am planning and researching at this time.

All pictures here:  

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