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This is the place for a truly wild and off-the-map adventure. Having ticked off seeing the orangutans in Bukit Lawang, in-the-know ecotourists are now trickling north to experience the jungle aboard elephants in this undiscovered retreat.
Towards the end of the 1990s a few foreign ecologists and conscientious locals decided to take a stand against the palm-oil loggers working in this wild part of northern Sumatra. Armed with a few rifles and machetes, and using elephants to patrol the jungle against loggers and poachers, the locals have gradually lobbied the government into declaring the region a protected area. Fast-forward 15 years and the once-doomed region is still home to all manner of apes, monkeys and, of course, elephants. Not so much a village as a bus stop, a park entrance and a handful of basic riverside bungalows on the wild banks of the Kualsa Buluh River, Tangkahan has a tiny community of amiable loggers-turned-guides selling an experience as close as you’ll get to Tarzan living on this untamed isle.