July ecotourism volunteer program in Sumatra
After a two-year covid break and a period when the country was closed to foreign tourists, we finally rekindled the spark of ecotourism volunteer programs in Sumatra. It was kind of last minute considering that Indonesia allowed entry for Czech and Slovak tourists about a month before the start of the first listed date. 3 volunteers from the Czech Republic and Slovakia arrived for the first tour in July 2022, and two more joined them for the Blue program. A lot of work awaited these pioneers even though the camps were generally maintained by members of our Indonesian teams during the break.
The first half of the program took place in the Green Life Reserve. We started with a general overhaul of equipment and stored material that had to be sorted. Then we set about renovating the kitchen. We sanded and varnished the kitchen counter and shelves, then we cut out a piece of the wall so that there was a view to the washing counter. It was partially dismantled and supplemented with additional storage space. A great novelty and luxury is the supply of water both for washing dishes and for cooking and drinking, as water is supplied from a spring above the campsite.
From the kitchen, we moved on to sanding the common space of the dining room. Large area will require the strength of another volunteer group as well as cabins. After purchasing necessary and proven tools, work will go a little better. In the meantime, we cleaned and weeded areas under all cabins and buildings and raked hay in the camp, including clearing leftover material after building the toilet shed. We found and applied stones suitable for repairing the stairs to the stream aka bathroom.
In addition to working in camp, volunteers also went on tours in the reserve, assisted with data collection from camera traps and filming with a drone. The main purpose was to get to know and experience wild nature, which they enjoyed during walks not only around the reserve, but also during patrol with members of the Green Patrol in the border area of the national park. Here we found an abandoned poaching camp on the ridge. We recorded the GPS location and helped with deconstruction of shelter and cleaning up waste after uninvited guests.
In the second half of their stay in the reserve, the group moved to a location that will become the second project background, i.e. the Čoles cottage. Due to increasing risk of landslides or falling trees, Camp 1 is no longer suitable for a long-term stay of groups and will be transformed into an observatory, while the rest of material will be gradually transferred and used for development of a new base. We started cleaning the area in the immediate vicinity of the cottage. Pioneer trees and ferns smothered the cabin in shade, so the area had to be cleared to provide light and eliminate moisture. It was also cleaned of waste that had historically remained here, for example overgrown under thickets.
In the middle of our stay, we returned to the Tiger House and the volunteers enjoyed some rest and an adventurous sightseeing trip to beautiful caves and tubing on the Berkail River.
In the second part of the program, another portion of work awaited us, this time at the Blue Life camp on the island of Sikandang. We were very curious about the state there. After all, conditions at the sea are a bit more demanding, as regards the weather and its effect on buildings and equipment. Immediately upon arrival, the same routine as in forest camps awaited us, i.e. revision of equipment and materials, sorting from unusable pieces and proper cleaning, especially of the kitchen and kitchen utensils.
From interior spaces, we moved on to reconstruction and care of the surrounding. Space behind the main building received the main attention. We concreted the footings of the back stairs and built a new dishwashing counter with a running fresh water supply. We deconstructed exuberant sitting areas by the beach and gave the camp a natural and airy feel again. From some pieces volunteers built nice benches for sitting by the dining room.
We moved on to the wider area and cleaned the beach of washed-up and rotten wood, which we gradually burned in evening fires. We cleared the beach of stones and corals brought by the sea. Mainly, we cleaned the camp from garbage left by Indonesian tourists who visit the island for recreation and like to refresh themselves in the shade of palm trees near the camp. Although most of the garbage was in a barrel basket, straws, rubber bands from rice packets and some plastic cups have not all ended up there. After cozying up camp, we finally moved to cleaning beach not only on our island, but also on Asok Island, where the group stopped after visiting the village of Ujung Sialit on Tuangku Island. We must finish cleaning both islands with other teams because we were very busy rehabilitating the facilities this time.
However, we invited small helpers from the village to do this work for one day. Thanks to volunteers’ willingness to agree to finance the trip for children, we were able to organize an educational and motivational event. For the amount of 1.2 million rupees, i.e. less than 2 thousand Czech crowns, we supported rental of a boat and crew to transport children to the island and back, as well as small refreshments. About 50 children accompanied by teachers and several mothers took part in the event. Children of different ages attend an educational club focused on English and environmental education led by our colleague Rius. Together with Zbyňek, he told children about problems caused by plastics and other waste in the sea. Then we set out to clean a piece of beach all together even with foreign tourists from the Riuses resort, who joined the event as one-day volunteers. Children enthusiastically collected over 15 bags in less than half an hour and brought them back to the base together with us. And since it was quite far and the sun was strongly shining, a cheerful swim in the sea followed. Children were happy and volunteers were moved. Everyone will remember this day and it will certainly not be the last event.
During free days and moments between work activities, there was also time to enjoy the sea and beach, go snorkelling and learn about the beauties and animals of the coral reef. Volunteers occasionally cleaned waste from the seabed. Even though the reef is in a slightly worse condition after invasion of crown-of-thorns starfish, it remains beautiful and full of life.
Our first small group of volunteers did a lot of work and prepared the groundwork for their next followers. We are already looking forward to where we will take things again in August and September.
Do not hesitate to join us and lend a hand to work! We look forward to you!
“camp” leader in Sumatra