Pulua Bangkaru Travel Blog› entry 26 of 44 › view all entries
Indonesia at last! Medan airport was quite hectic and for the first time in a while we didn’t see any other tourists, we were met by a really friendly lady by the name of Angke who smoothed our journey from Medan to the Banyak islands in Aceh. We were whisked off on a small mini bus accompanied by two other British volunteers, Will and Cindi and we got on really well which was lucky seeing as we were to be stranded on a remote island with them for a month.
Sumatra looked lush and green as we wound our way up out of the city into the hills, the houses were brightly painted and kids and chickens were running about everywhere.
The car arrived and the bad weather set in even thought the view was obscured by thick fog we made out the bases of dormant volcanoes and lush rainforest. We cut past the huge lake Toba and stopped for lunch high up in a cloud/ we then began our descent into Aceh and wound our way through rainforest valleys before reaching the hot coastal swamp and oil palm plantations.
The next day was a bit touch and go with the weather and so we waited around for a gap between the storms. Suddenly it was all go and we scrambled onto a speed boat and we were off, churning the black waters of the mangrove creak up behind us.
The weather cleared and we were so excited to be making our way to Pulua Bangkaru an island only inhabited by 5 researchers, huge and clad in thick jungle and where we were to spend a month working on a sea turtle project. Again the sea was quite ruff and for two and a half hours we crashed through the waves eventually being greeted with a view of P. bangkaru, it looked wild almost prehistoric and we couldn’t wait to set foot on it. We got our first views of the base camp a great timber structure as we made our way round the black rocks into a bay, the staff all rushed down to help us unload and we were shown around. The camp was amazing with a garden full of papaya lemons and coconut. There was a kitchen and showers and our rooms had bunk beds in, it was really luxurious.
The staff were really friendly and we were fed till bursting with rice, noodles, rice some more rice and fish and every morning we were served up huge banana and coconut pancakes, it was amazing. The first few nights were rainy and so we couldn’t go out and patrol the nesting beach for turtles. However the days were fine and we would trek half an hour through the thick forest full of a million different types of thorns, spikes and prickles to the 1km stretch of sand where the turtles nest, getting to the beach involved crossing a small crocodile inhabited creek but this was fine at low tide and we only saw crocodile tracks once.
The night surveys were great, they began with the slog through the forest and the sound of a thousand horny insects buzzed, beeped and rattled. Tiny mouse deer scampered across our paths, cute geckos with eyes like those of a cat prowled the huge buttress roots, flying frogs chuckled at us as we crossed their pool and we often found snakes and lizards curled up asleep on the end of the branches over hanging the path.
One morning we encountered a huge green turtle who had managed to get trapped on some rocks and coral and we spent a good hour heaving and coaxing her in the direction of the sea, they are such cumbersome animals on land and she was in danger of over heating from the sun, we were really relived when she swam off into the crashing surf.
The snorkeling was fantastic clown fish shot into their anemones as we swum by and huge trigger fish and rays swam off at our approach. The fish had bizarre names and appearances, sweet lips, unicorn fish, powder blue surgeon and clown trigger fish we spent hours absorbed in the goings on of the reef and would often see turtles cruising by, and they were a totally different animal in the water, graceful and fast.
The forest by day was also pretty cool, mynah birds were pretty common and their whistles accompanied us on our day time walks, we often saw snakes and lizards and one day Suzan spotted two yellow throated martens crossing the tree bough above us, yarring at each other and crashing on into a palm tree. Another day we aw a Colugo an arboreal leaf eating mammal with huge eyes and a wing like membrane between arms and legs, every day we saw something new and were never bored.
Camp life was great with brilliant Aceh coffee and endless games of cards. We taught English and tried to learn Indonesian and had a great time.
On several occasions we were lucky enough to see turtles emerging from the nests and making there way to the sea like tiny clock work toys they moved en masse to the huge crashing waves, they were picked off along the way by creepy looking ghost crabs which we would try and chase off.
The high light was probably the nights the leatherbacks came to nest. We had seen their huge tracks in the sand, like those of a tractor. We saw three of these ocean giants laying there eggs, a sight we will never forget. They were immense. 1.7meters long with hugs black fins and sleek black shells with longitudinal ridges making the turtle look like it was covered in medieval amour. The texture of the shell was like that of an aubergine. The face was not much to write home about especially from the mucus which ran from its eyes as it laid its eggs, to be honest it had the facial features of an STD, but we were bowled over at seeing such a majestic creature and it is a sight we shall always remember.
In no time at all our month was up and we had to say goodbye to paradise and to the staff who had become our friends, but not before a final beach BBQ, the fish were cooked in a beautiful stuffing within half an hour of being caught over a fire we made as we watched the sun go down, it was the perfect end to a perfect month.