While treking in Gunung Leuser National Park, we heard a loud rumbling sound, seemingly half from the throat, half from the gut. Our guide immediately stopped, looked up and excitedly claimed 'It's a King' - a huge male orangutan.
Our guide asked us to wait as he went off to search. He was back in five minutes and we took off. Shortly afterwards we heard the sound again. We were closer.
Then he was spotted, a huge male 25 metres up in the treetops. We were able to take a couple of photos before he spotted us. He moved quickly, and with great agility through the treetops.
He moved through the branches until he was almost immediately above us. Then began eating some fruit and purposefully tossing the left overs on top of us!!!
What an incredible experience!
There are a number of different treks that can be taken starting from Ketambe - day trips, overnight, or several days. Without prior knowledge it is hard to know whether you have a reliable guide. I was fortunate to have a young man named Achte on one of my day trips. He was very keen to ensure that we got to see as many animals as possible. He also had a great deal of knowledge to share about jungle life - showing us how orangutans keep themself dry in the rain and pointing out used orangutan 'nests' as orangutans tend to build a new bed each night. He was also very helpful when crossing rivers and showed us the best spot for bathing near the hot springs.
Achte was the guide provided by Friendship Guesthouse and as good as he was, negotiating a price with the owner was difficult. We later found out that Achte wasn't a guide but actually a porter - although I can highly recommend him for day trips.
The best advise we received was from Johan and his family at Wisma Cinta Alam.
At first it all seems so overgrown and green, but as you trek through the jungle other colours stand out. There are a wide array of wild flowers to be spotted including many varieties of delicate wild orchids.
While most trek into Gunung Leuser Park to spot orangutans and other animal life, it could also be a botanists delight.
Exploring Gunung Leuser National Park from Ketambe is the place to go if you want to see wild orangutans but there are also many other animals to see in the jungle if you are alert and if you have a good guide. There are still some wild tigers and rhinoceros - our guide said he had seen both in his ventures deep into the jungle.
Besides orangutans, on our trek we were lucky enough to spot an owl, many Thomas-leaf monkies along with a myriad of insects.
The baby cobra pictured here was spotted in the garden of our accommodation!
On a trek into the jungle of Gunung Leuser National Park, our guide gave us a great demonstration of his jungle skills by playing Tarzan. Hanging from the tree tops were long, thick vines, and he showed us their sturdiness by swinging out over a ledge and careering over the jungle floor some 10 metres below.
But, the main reason why I'm throwing in this tip is for readers to get an idea of the size of some of the trees. Compare our guide swinging on a vine with the elevated roots of one of the massive trees.
A 5km walk into the jungle from Ketambe a hot spring meets the Sungai Alas. Approaching the spring, the water appears to seep harmlessly out of the earth, but beware, it is boiling. Even as it meets the river, there are sectins where the water is so hot it will scald. I put my foot in the wrong spot and suffered a burn.
But across the opposite side of the river as the hot water meets the river proper, there are great spots to sit and relax in warm bubbling water - much like a spa.
At the side of the river, the hot springs are a natural attraction for flights of butterfly.
It is possible to reach the hot spring without assistance, but a guide is recommended - they are aware of the safe paths.
A highly recommended day or half-day trip, and it is possile to camp overnight at the hot springs junction.
The jungle is obviously home to a wide range of insects, and perhaps the most beautiful are the butterflies. While treking through the jungle of Gunung Leuser from Ketambe, we stopped at natural hot water spring. The minerals in the water and the warmth of the surrounding air and steam was obviously very attractive to butterflies. There was a wide variety sipping at the water's edge almost oblivious to our intrusion. The continuous fluttering of their wings makes in hard to capture a good image but hopefully these photos give you an idea of how beautiful they are, and another good reason to visit Ketambe and go treking.
On a trek into the jungle one's eyes are often fixed on the trees searching for orangutans and other fauna, but don't miss the opportunity to admire what is at your feet.
I was suprised by the range and beauty of the fungi in the jungle of Gunung Leuser. To be honest, I'd never really thought of fungi as beautiful - but in the jungle there were species I'd never seen before, thriving in the moisture of the jungle floor or living of the rotting fallen trees. It really was one of the (many) highlights of trekking into the park.