Batu Kapal is right in the the buffer zone between the great Sumatran jungle of the Gunung Leuser National Park and the beautiful communities that live on its edges and surroundings.
Everything about our time at Batu Kapal was amazing. It was a truly life enhancing experience where we both learnt so much about the area, the incredible wildlife, the importance of its conservation, the local communities and, of course, ourselves.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to learn, live and grow, and to connect with the most wonderful group of people you will ever meet, then this is for you. The experience will change the way you see the world and confirm what you already know deep inside; the importance of conserving the last remaining natural world heritage areas left on earth.
This post is not the place to wax lyrical about our many learnings during our stay at Batu Kapal, I will leave that to the experts when you visit. I will, however, quickly summarise some of the great activities and ventures in which we participated. Annabel, who manages the project, and her staff are professionals with a deep understanding of all the issues and appropriate solutions for their area and their communities. In fact, they work closely with all the communities and other local projects fostering an environment of assistance and education through active and continuous collaboration.
We were immersed in the local Karonese and Indonesian language and culture. We worked alongside local teachers in English language classes with children from the surrounding community groups. We participated in plastic management within the project and learnt about the broader concerns of plastic in the environment. We planted trees which will one day grow into sections of arboreal corridors for the movement of wildlife across the buffer zone. We assisted in a program to help local farmers and, of course, we learnt all about the Orang-utans and the many other animals (including other primates) of the area. We both now have a better and deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding the conservation of these magnificent animals and the fine balance between the needs of the local people, the wildlife, the flora and the surrounding environment.
It wasn’t all just learning and lectures though. I never would have kept my Gen-Z daughter engaged if it was. There was a lot of fun and genuine warmth. It really felt like family. Everyone on site is so helpful, friendly and engaged. This goes for staff and volunteers.
In addition to the work involved in supervising and running the monitoring expeditions every morning (thanks Embera, Edy and Wanta), preparing meals (thanks Aldi – best pancakes ever!), and making sure the whole operation runs smoothly (many thanks Anabel), the staff also joined us in the free-time activities. Relaxing, enjoying the beautiful surroundings, swimming in the Landak River (including the secret jungle pool on the National Park side of the river), reciprocal language classes (Embera your wisdom, calm and patience will remain with me always. Thanks for the Indonesian lessons), games nights, and Edy’s tricks, puzzles and beautiful songs. (I have started listening to Iwan Fals. Edy, your version of Bento is hands-down my favourite.)
In conclusion, if anyone is reading this post and in two minds about going to Batu Kapal, don’t hesitate. Make sure you add this to your life’s experience. You will hold these memories forever. Don’t be surprised if, after you leave, you are already planning your next visit. It’s definitely high on my agenda for future travel.
Thanks again to Annabel, Edy, Embera, Aldi, Wanta, big Edy for organising all our transport, Jakka for always being available with any kind of logistics and general assistance, especially around Bukit Lawang, Rizal and Jimmy for our amazing jungle trek experience (7 days next time!), Adhee for our transport to and from Medan, all the staff at Jack’s Bar, the teachers at both the Market School and Jungle School, Hendra and Isma from next door and anyone else who showed us kindness and hospitality along the way. You all made our experience in Batu Kapal better than we could have dreamed.