I am not sure what it is but there is something incredible on elephant. It is huge and powerful, yet it is so gentle and lovely. That’s why I am not that surprised if some movies represent elephants as the true king of the forest.
Located within the region of Leuser National Park, Tangkahan - a quite remote and a totally peaceful village - is indeed could be a magnificent destination for those who adore elephants. A dozen of these big mammals are bred there and they are trained to interact well with their lovers. With addition of an evergreen scenery of Leuser tropical forest, Tangkahan would be one of the great escape if you demand some kind of serenity atmosphere towards the nature.
The closest city to reach Tangkahan is by getting into Medan. On this scenario, I was visiting Medan by air and then arriving to the city centre with a train which charged me IDR 100k for 45 minutes comfy ride. Got additional night at Medan? Grab me on my next blog article as I would put a bit more details for some interesting places that you can stop by when killing times in this big city.
Getting to Tangkahan can be by private arranged car or by bus. Yes, you don’t have to worry to dig out the details within the long paragraph as I will give you a sequential details like on below:
Medan - Tangkahan (100km++)
Private Car (3-4 hours): IDR 500k - 600k
Bus (5-6 hours): IDR 30-40k
The bus (Pembangunan Semesta) departed from Pinang Baris bus station around 10AM. So ensure that you are there before 10AM otherwise you will lose your chance to get to Tangkahan at the cheapest way possible. From what I heard in the internet, there are 2 buses that will go to Tangkahan daily, which is on 10AM and 1PM. However, I won't hang my luck to get to the 2nd bus as it may not depart if there is not enough pax on that trip. At least there is 1 bus that will go to Tangkahan everyday, and that will be the 10AM one.
Just a few trick. When you reach the bus terminal, get to the closest warung / shop, buy some mineral water (or food) and ask the seller where is the bus that go to Tangkahan. The shop seller is more likely to be honest rather than the person you meet on that terminal. Some of them might try to scam you by saying that the bus is not available today or the bus is just departed - so you will have no other choice except to charter a car from him. So I repeat it again, as long as you arrive at the terminal before 10AM, the bus is still there.
When you get a confirmation from the shop seller that the bus is available or perhaps has not came yet, ask her to notify you when it is arriving so you can straightly hitch a ride by then. On my case, the bus came around 10.40AM and departed from the terminal at 11AM. To fill up my waiting time, I bought a very nice Soto Medan there and you should try it as well. This will be a long, hot and tiring trip, so ensure that your tummy is full first.
The village is located only several minutes from where the bus stopped. Local people can assist you to choose a kind of inn you preferred. There are basically 2 area of cottages for your option - which is before and after the hanging bridge. The price is varying from IDR 100k to 250k. Mega Inn will be one of the most famous cottage that always becomes favourite among the tourists (http://www.mega-inn-tangkahan.op-het-web.be). Restaurant / food shops are also easily found with prices vary from IDR 15k to 50k. Be noted as well that there is national park entry permit (IDR 150k) that you need to bear for one time while you are there.
This would be one of the most exciting event on Tangkahan - when you can directly interact with the elephants for 1 hour full. Available 2 times daily, you will be provided with brush and a plastic bag of food where you can help to wash the elephant while feeding them. Feel the experience to wash their skin or to get wet together as those elephants will flush the river water right in front of your face.
Bathing time: 08.30 & 15.30
Price: IDR 100k - 1 hour
Ride the elephant and go through the rain forest jungle or crossing the river wild, there is so much fun you can imagine on this activity. For another 1 hour duration, you will be accompanied by this mighty creature while you are exploring the green atmosphere of Tangkahan. This event would be usually fully booked during high season so ensure yourself to reserve some spaces beforehand. The trip itself is priced around IDR 600k.
Jungle Trekking + River Tub
Tangkahan is not just about the elephant. It is the scenery and the places as well that will spoil you with the essence of true tropical environment. Get your senses sharper by getting deep on the forest and explore Tangkahan further via river ways. There are several choices of package that you can consider such as family trekking, medium or even a full-day exploration. Those trekking packages will be more fun if you combine it with the river tub so there would be a variation on the path you take. Just like this above Gelugur Waterfall which is only accessible if you go through the river way. It takes around 45 minutes from the the land I descend after the trekking and afterwards, took another 45 minutes until I arrived on the village I was staying.
Medium Trekking (60 minutes) + River Tub (1.5 hours): IDR 400k
Lunch: IDR 200k for 2 persons.
A River of Memory
It is correct that it was my amazement of elephant that attract me to visit Tangkahan. But by the time I was there, Tangkahan simply offers more than my expectation. The environment is truly untouched. I can’t lie that tourists are there, and plenty - but somehow the locals can maintain the balance between nature existence and modern development so there is no sacrifice at all on the mother earth side. The river is exactly matching with what I always imagine about jungle’s river. Clean, clear with a fresh cold water. Then the combination of plentiful activities really fill my day to the complete wholeness. It is a true escape and the beauty of its river simply can’t get my mind away of it.