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The Sumatran jungle

Posted in: Planning Backpacking


The Jungle Expedition

Myself, Wanda, Bendy and Ping spent the next 12 days in the rainforests of Sumatra together. What a way to spend my 18th birthday

Over the trip, we witnessed all the animals I had been hoping to see: monitor lizards, mangrove snakes and even a reticulated Python which I had learnt about back in the UK at the zoo. At one point on the expedition, I actually had to move a python from the path in front of me which was surreal, to say the least. On the same day, we also had to wait two hours for a female orangutan to move off our path. It would not have been safe to scoot around her- they are big! Eventually, she shifted and we were able to continue with our hike. Seeing the Orangutans that close was an incredible experience…and the excitement didn’t end there. I’ll never forget watching the Macaque monkeys steal our pancakes on my 18th birthday morning. Not very typical for a young man's 18th, but nevertheless, I was over the moon to be spending time in a region like this that we lose almost daily I spent the birthday morning with the Macaques.

All sounds pretty amazing so far, right? Well wait for this…

Towards the end of the jungle adventure, we spent 2 days by a watering hole where we witnessed deer coming and going for drinks all night. As dawn arrived, they would disappear back into the jungle again which allowed us to catch a few more hours of sleep before our movements the next day. After some nights spent watching the deer, we knew it was time to begin the journey out of the jungle, down the river and back to Wanda’s village.

Honestly, though, the maddest moment of this whole trip is yet to come:

As we headed out on the following morning we passed the water hole where we had slept the night before. We noticed our makeshift seating area in the distance with the rocks and driftwood we had used to set up camp. We saw our footprints along with a water bottle we’d left behind. Then…right next to our footprints we saw a collection of tiger footprints as Wanda said "dan this is not deer this is a tiger print" with a grin on his face and I am sure I went as white as a sheet as he asked if I was ok I laughed it off and imagined how close it had come to us we would never know. in the exact spot where we had slept.  Talk about a close shave! I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to come face-to-face with a tiger in the middle of the night!!!

After arriving back in Wanda’s village, I thanked them all for the trip. The next day I was on my flight home back to the UK. My time in Sumatra was short and sweet but it changed my relationship with travel forever. 

You might be wondering if I was ever scared about being in an isolated place with a bunch of strangers who spoke a different language to me. Well, the answer is, no not really. Of course, looking back, I was young and naïve and I would definitely be a bit more careful knowing what I know. But Wanda, Ping and Bendy were just trying to make a living and I was paying them a good wage to take me on the adventure. When you travel, you have to have your wits about you, but trust me when I say, most people are good.  So, don’t be stupid, but don’t let fear stop you.

This was the trip that sparked my intense love and passion for adventure travel, and it is fair to say my 18th birthday will remain in my memory forever. It was not quite like a trip to Ibiza, but I much preferred it that way. 

The main point I want you to take away from this travel story is to stop living in fear and stop waiting for other people to explore with. I’d always had a passion for the natural world and had always wanted to travel, but I could’ve chosen to spend my money and time very differently as a 17-year-old. Thankfully, I chose myself and hopped on a plane on an adventure of a lifetime which has inspired my love of adventure, travel and nature ever since. I can’t imagine where I would be today had I never gone on that trip with Wanda, Bendy and Ping. 

What I’m saying is: make sure you commit your free time and money to do things you want to do. Go on the trips you want to go on and do activities you want to do, even if it means going alone.  As you can see from this travel story in Sumatra and many of my others, you are rarely alone on the road so don’t be worried about taking that first step and booking your first solo trip. Perhaps be a little wiser and more prepared than I was when I was 17, but do not forget that there is a whole wide world out there waiting for you to explore. All that is left to say is get a booking, get packing and get on with it!