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See the orangutans now before it is too late

Sumatra Orangutan Bukit LawangI just came back from a weekend in Bukit Lawang. Bukit Lawang is about a three hour, bumpy bus ride from Medan and is apparently one of the best places for seeing orangutans in the wild. It was my second trip to Bukit Lawang, but the first time to see orangutans.

There is a feeding area where National Park staff feed the orangutans two times a day – at around 8:30 a.m. in the morning and 2:30 p.m. You need to pay an entrance fee of around 20,000 rupiah for foreigners and 50,000 rupiahs to take photos.

When you arrive in Bukit Lawang you will be met by one of the many “guides” who won’t leave you alone until you book a trekking trip with them. It is easy though to get to the feeding station without a guide. When it is close to feeding time, just keep going up the river past the “Jungle Inn” hotel, where there is a small boat to take you across the river. You can pay your money there or at the National Park office near where the becaks (motorized rickshaws) park.

The National Park guide said morning was better to see more orangutans. I was only able to see two, but the previous day there were seven. The orangutans live in the wild and make their way to the feeding station if they need food. The park rangers feed them milk and bananas.

It was incredible to see them up so close, just a meter or so away. They looked at us while we took pictures. The larger orangutan was 5 months pregnant.

There are only around 7,000 orangutans left in Sumatra according to Wiki and they could be extinct by 2012. They are beautiful and amazing creatures and it would be a huge loss to see them become extinct. Apparently 96 per cent of their genes are the same as humans. The forests are being logged for timber and the land is used for palm oil and rubber plantations.

The park entrance fees are sent to the government, but little of that makes it way back to the National Park. The guides said they hadn’t been paid for two months.

I guarantee that anyone who makes the trip to see the orangutans, you will come back an ardent conservationist.

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

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The healing magic stone

It goes without saying that Indonesia is a deeply religious country.  Many of the people are also very superstitious.

Muhammad Ponari who is just 9 years old and lives in Jombang in East Java was supposedly struck by lightning and found a stone on his head when he came to.  That stone is now said to have magic healing powers, with people coming from all over Indonesia to be cured from their ailments.

In the stampede to the boy’s house at least four people have died in the crush.    The magic stone is dipped in water which the sick people then drink.  The boy’s name Ponari, sounds like the Japanese sports drink “Pocari”, so the magic water is now being called “Ponari Sweat”.

“Not only in villages do we see this phenomenon, but also in big cities,” Kartono Muhammad, a medical expert and former chairman of the Indonesian Medical Association said. “People who want to be healed quickly go to a shaman. People who want to get rich, they also go to a shaman.”

“Rich or poor has nothing to do with it. These people pay millions and travel across the country. It’s like these people don’t use their common sense so they are easily persuaded by promises and quick-fix solutions.”

Read more: ‘Ponari Sweat’ Magic Blasted As Ignorance and Exploitation

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