Tangkahan, located on the border of the GLNP in North Sumatra, has been an exemplary site of community led ecotourism since 2002. The Lembaga Pariwisata Tangkahan (LPT), a community organisation formed to develop ecotourism as an alternative livelihood to logging and forest clearing, oversees all ecotourism services in the area. Previous to the inception of the LPT and the collective will to shift direction in terms of the environment, such logging and encroachment was a major problem in Tangkahan.
Tangkahan is now perhaps most well known as a tourism site for ex-captive Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatrensis) viewing and forest trekking. These activities are currently managed by the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) who also oversee the Conservation Response Unit (CRU) programme, wherein these same ex-captive elephants are used to patrol the GLNP forests to deter illegal logging and encroachment.
The people of Tangkahan wish to attract more domestic and international visitors to come and experience what Tangkahan has to offer. However, in order to improve capacity whilst avoiding any potential negative impacts on the GLNP rainforest ecosystem from increased visitor numbers, the LPT need assistance in order to better manage and control the local ecotourism enterprise. Increasing levels of tourism to the area may have negative consequences for the natural habitat unless development pressures are anticipated, controls and guidelines are implemented, and the community has a deep appreciation of sustainability. Infrastructure development to accommodate increasing numbers of visitors must be planned carefully in order to prevent negative impacts on surrounding forests and wildlife. It is therefore vital that a sustainable ecotourism master plan for Tangkahan be (re)developed and adopted by key stakeholders, so that the natural beauty that is drawing visitors to the area is not lost due to saturation and over-exposure. In addition to restructuring Tangkahan’s ecotourism development plan, other aspects need to be considered, such as the more practical matters of increased promotion of the site for tourism, and developing a more independent food supply to the local guesthouses through organic farming.
It is the goal of the TEDI project to develop Tangkahan into a well-managed ecotourism site, with the ultimate aim being to sustain local community livelihoods whilst also contributing to the conservation of the GLNP. It is indeed a careful balance that must be struck, but with our past experience in developing ecotourism projects, and with the motivation of the local people along with the conservation oriented mindset of the local people, it is our desire now to assist Tangkahan in better establishing its name on the map of ‘must-see’ sites in Indonesia. Collaboration with key stakeholders will be an essential element of the programme, such as the GLNP authority, local government, and local communities. These are all involved and consulted in the development process, so that the desired path is agreed upon by all, and processes transparent. The project works closely with these stakeholders, with the end goal being to re-establish Tangkahan as an exemplary site for sustainable community led ecotourism in Indonesia. The goal of the TEDI project is to facilitate the implementation of a sustainable ecotourism development plan for Tangkahan that benefits the local community and the conservation of the GLNP.
- Facilitate LPT to build a participatory and sustainable ecotourism development plan for Tangkahan as a key tool in improving the community ecotourism model;
- Improve the capacity and skills of the LPT rangers to develop additional alternative economic opportunities through organic farming practices and a tree adoption scheme;
- Assess the distribution of ecotourism benefits to local communities around Tangkahan;
- Improve the promotion of Tangkahan as an exemplary community led ecotourism site.