Tesso Nilo National Park, The Largest Rainforest in Sumatra
Located in the Riau province, the Tesso Nilo National Park is arguably the largest lowland rainforest on the island of Sumatra. Today the Park covers an area of 83,068 hectares, having grown twice as large from the former 38,576 hectares in 2004 when it was designated as a National Park. Tesso Nilo stretches along 4 districts, namely the districts of Pelalawan, Indragiri Hulu, Kuantan Sengingi and Kampar. Tesso Nilo is planned to be expanded to cover 100,000 hectares to serve not only as the lungs for the Indonesia archipelago but also for the world.
Riau used to have large tracts of jungle, however, because of large scale wild fires, and the building of palm oil plantations, almost two third of primary forests here has been destroyed. For this reason, to stem further degradation, the government has mapped out the area as a National Park, while plantations already in the park are being reverted to the jungles.
Even so, biologists assert that the Tesso Nilo Park still contains abundant tropical vascular plant species, surpassing those found in the Amazon region. The park is habitat to Sumatra’s endangered elephants, tigers, and tapirs. There are boars, deer, sun bear and other wildlife.
In 2012 Tesso Nilo counted some 150 elephants, while WWF found tracks of 50 Sumatran tigers. Nonetheless, the close proximity of the Park to human settlements still cause wild elephants to wander into villages and are, therefore, considered as pests by the local inhabitants. Illegal logging and wildfires also continue to threaten the Park.
The only accommodation available in the Park is at the Rangers’ lodge within the Park.
Tesso Nilo is a fantastic destination for nature lovers. Riding on an elephant trained by the Flying Squad, you can survey the jungle, watch animal tracks and animal homes, and admire the tall and sturdy ancient trees found in the park. The tame elephants are also trained to chase away willd elephants back into the jungle. By the ranger station where visitors stay, one can observe wild animals grazing or roaming, while others are hopping around among the dense foliage in the early morning or in the evening.
There is also an observation tower near Camp Flying Squad. From its heights you can overlook the park and it is the best point to watch awesome tropical sunsets and sunrises. It is also possible to charter a boat up the Nilo river passing thick forests, especially to where it joins the Tesso river. Rangers say that this is the best preserved part of the Park, and the most intact. Boat rental is around Rp. 400, 000.
In the park are Sialang, or wild honey trees where local inhabitants harvest honey. Before the harvest, they perform the Honey Gathering Ceremony to ensure the sustainable harvesting of honey. Such ceremonies may also be held upon request. Do not forget to take home this natural honey with you, which is excellent for your health or buy it for friends and family.
To enter the Tesso Nilo National Park, one must first have a permit, signed by the Head of the Tesso Nilo National Park, which can also be obtained at the WWF Headquarters at Pangkalan Kerinci at Pelalawan, Riau.
Pangkalan Kerinci is about 5 hours from Pekanbaru, capital of Riau province. WWF can also arrange your tours and accommodation in the park
All visitors must be accompanied by a ranger. There are two check points before you enter the Park, where the permit and accompanying ranger are required. The permit costs Rp. 45,000.
From the WWf headquarters to the Park it takes about 3 hours by motorbike, passing palm oil plantations, farmland and cleared jungle.
There are as yet no regular bus services from Pekanbaru to the Park. So best is to travel by car to Kerinci, and from there take a motorbike to the Park.
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