Day 1-Within about an hour of entering the jungle, we were watching a family of orang hutans, our guide Acak was quick to spot every bird, monkey, centipede, bear, snake, flower, mushroom, poisonous plant and any other curios alive inside the jungle…. understandably, because this is his stomping ground. Born and raised here in Ketambe, like the other guides at Wisma Cinta Alum, they are trained here and tread these tracks most days. Without a guide, I could have been convinced there were no animals, and been lost within 5 minutes. My friend and I enter the jungle and are awkwardly clodhopping through while Acak and Karim effortlessly walk the path, spotting animals, carrying everything and finding the way.
After watching the orangutans do what they do, we stop for an awesome lunch of fish, rice and vegetables cooked by Johan's wife.
Acak somehow managed to track a Siamang gibbon which was hanging out with about 10 orangutans, we followed him while Acak played the gibbon call from his mobile phone, so funny watching as the gibbon tried to figure out where his friends were.
Back to the campsite, which was already set up by Karim, my friend and I go swimming, sip coffee and chain smoke while Acak and Karim make fire, and cook lots of Indonesian food. After sunset we learned some Gayo dance which thankfully is done sitting down! You'll probably leave the jungle with sore cheeks from laughing, there is no shortage of jokes in this jungle.
I went trekking four times, once for 3 days, then for 2 days, then 4 days and 3 days again. Also did 3 night hikes, but I'm still not bored! If it weren't for my visa expiring, I would stay forever. `
Johan and his wife, as well as the rest of the extended family, are all good people, any guide or porter you could be sent with has been trained over many years by Johan, who learned from his father. If in doubt, ask tourists from another guest house if they saw any orang hutans today and you might find you picked the right guide! Wisma Cinta Alum means love nature, the owner Johan actively protects the wildlife at a grassroots level which is a good reason to back him, to help him get the resources to do more.
When I wasn't in the jungle, I learned some cooking from the ladies in the kitchen, went to the market, practised my Bahasa Indonesian, went swimming and tubing every day in the Alas River with the kids- which is in the backyard, by the way. The life here is simple, and the people are real, and this is what appealed to me most about Ketambe. You can escape the horrors of modern Asia and experience life in an unspoilt village. Don't expect 5 star hotels, but if you want to have an authentic experience, do visit Ketambe, and use wisma cinta alum.
There are not many tourists, but you can still access the internet if you want (if you have a telkomsel card).
I noticed a negative review and thought it was relevant to mention that Ketambe is quite a strict Muslim community, and tourists should act accordingly to avoid unwanted attention... ie wear long clothes and be modest.
Also the nearest decent sized town-Kotacane is about 45 minutes by labi labi, and here you will find (mastercard only) atms and no western food. Get used to eating rice and noodles!
Be specific when discussing with Johan what you want from your adventure, there are many options and almost anything is possible.
Sorry for raving, I guess this is a rave review.