The rainforest in Kedah is slimmed down due to logging for agriculture but it is still wonderful. There is plenty of rainforest left for the Orangutans, Gibbons and other monkeys to live in. By visiting the rainforest in Kedah, you support it to be kept and saved from logging.
We weren’t supposed to go to Kedah, but after hearing the stories of 2 Swiss guys we met earlier in Cambodia and Laos and later on again in Pulau Weh, we decided to go to Kedah. They stayed at Mr. Jalli’s for 4 days and were feeling homesick for Kedah after leaving it. They told us about the tree up the hill near the bungalows, filled with fruit attracting Orangutans, Gibbons and other monkeys. We didn’t want to miss out on this. Especially because the animals here aren’t used to people (yet), so you really see them in their natural habitat and behavior.
It can be really difficult to spot the Orangutans in the wild, therefor a lot of people choose to go to Bukit Lawang where they feed the Orangutans. You are sure to see them here, but they are not really wild and we think that it is less special to them there.
After leaving Kedah we've been telling other backpackers about this amazing place. Another couple decided to go as well and they enjoyed it as much as we did, maybe even more! Unfortunately the fruittree was empty to they had to go a bit further into the jungle, and saw a lot of them as well. They even spent some nights in the jungle with the monkeys. So it doesn't really matter when you visit Kedah, the change you will see the Orangutans is very likely!
We started our journey from Banda Aceh to Kedah at 9:30 am taking the minivan (150.000 rupiah) with a couple of locals and Saigontom from England (check him out on Instagram!). It took us about 8 hours to get to Takengon.
Our trip from Takengon to Kedah (110.000 rupiah) started at 9.30 am in a minivan that was playing the latest hits of the early 00’s. The beginning of the trip the road was not at his best, but when it started raining harder the road luckily got better. We arrived in Blang Kejeren at 3 pm. From there you can take the local bus (50.000 rupiah) to Mr. Jali’s house in Kedah, or arrange pick up by Robby.
Because we arrived quite late in Takengon, and the rain kept falling down, we didn't really explore the city. Nearby our hotel is a small area with several food stands where you can get simple, cheap but good food.
In Kedah you don't have much choice where to eat. Fatima cooks for you and that's what you get. But no worries because she is a good cook. At the bungalows the boys working there, take care of you. You can get all the tea and coffee you want and they prepare your food. If you are lucky you have some diversity in your food, but we also heard stories that people got the same dish three times a day. So if you don't like to eat fried rice all day, you can bring some food of your choice.
In Takengon we stayed at hotel Darussalam (150.000 rupiah, breakfast included). It is not the best hotel (no windows and a cold bucket shower) but it was fine for 1 night. We thought it was the only hotel taking foreigners, but later on we found out that there are more. You can also arrange your busticket here and the minivan picks you up from the hotel.
When we arrived in Kedah we were welcomed by Fatima (Mr. Jali’s wife) and Mr Robby. Fatima made a wonderful meal and kept feeding us fried sweet potatoes and banana samosas while sitting us down in the kitchen and talking to us. Great night! The first and last night we stayed at Mr. Jali’s house. The second night we slept in one of the three bungalows built in the rainforest, next to the river. They don’t have fixed prices. You can decide for yourself what you want to pay. Let them know in advance that you're coming. You can find more info on their website on call mr. Jali: 081362291844
On the first morning we walked up from mister Jali's house to the bungalows (takes about 30 minutes) where we saw our first Orangutan within 5 minutes. Amazing! We just sat on our chairs for about an hour, watching the Orangutans eating fruit from the trees. Later we went for a hike up the mountain, to the place where the monkeys hang out. We saw Mackay monkeys, Black and White Handed Gibbons and of course our orange hairy cousin from the forest: the Orangutang. Apparently we came to close to the mother with baby and we got harassed by her fellow mate who was hanging in a nearby tree and who chased us away by trowing sticks and branches at us. Amazing experience. And it was really nice to see that mister Jali enjoyed this moment just as much as we did.
You can also do a jungle trekking that takes one day and is about 14 kilometers. We did not see a lot of wildlife (we only heard the Hornbill but unfortunately we did not see it) but this trekking really goes of the beaten track. They cut their way trough the dense forest and because of all the rain during the days we were there, the ‘paths’ were extremely muddy and slippery. It wasn’t a question if you were gonna fall, the question was when and how often.
We know that one of the things you should not do while traveling, is compare places. But because Kedah and Ketambe are close to each other, and you visit them for the same reason: spotting
Orangutans, we make an exception. Our advice for visiting Sumatra to spot Orangutans: Don't even think about going to Bukit Lawang, forget about Ketambe and go to Kedah! The experience is much
In Ketambe we were walking on paths (we even saw some plasticized arrows guiding the way), the guides are quite young and therefor have less experience and we came across 2 other groups during our trekking. Comparing it to Kedah where there were no clear paths (they had to cut their way through the jungle), Mr. Jalli and Mr. Happy are older and have much more experience (they almost live in the jungle) and Mr. Jalli is the only tourguide in Kedah and has only 3 bungalows, so you won't see any other groups in the jungle.
You can read about our time in Ketambe HERE.