We believe strongly that ecotourism can help safeguard the still-untouched forests deep within the Bengkulu region. With a growing population within a valley completely surrounded by protected land, and a severe lack of reliable employment opportunities, ecotourism goes a long way in giving people alternate means of income without further encroaching into the rainforest. Protecting the rainforest is not just about wildlife and the environment – over 7 million people (about 15% of the total population of Sumatra) and 10 million hectares of agricultural land rely directly on waters that these forests provide, including the cities of Padang, Palembang, Jambi, and Bengkulu. Primary forests help to reduce flooding in the rainy season and reduce drought in the dry season – vitally important for people who live and work so closely with the land. They also capture millions of tons of carbon every year, and likewise produce oxygen, helping to slow the effects of climate change and giving us all a breath of fresh air.
Until now, there has been very little quality information available online to make traveling here accessible — even for the adventurous. There is also very little infrastructure and few English speakers ready on the ground. This has made travel, especially to the most wild places of Bengkulu, challenging without prior planning and connections. We know it’s popular among backpackers and independent travelers to try to do everything on their own for a more “authentic” experience, and many believe that they’ll see more if they strike out on their own. However, in our time here, we’ve seen that many who travel to Sumatra with this idea usually end up trapped in the same touristy areas as everyone else, as it’s the path of least resistance. If they do get off the beaten path, often they end up frustrated that things didn’t go smoothly, or that they weren’t able to find that hidden gem that they’d heard about. Don’t underestimate the importance of a cultural insider!
We believe strongly that forest conservation through ecotourism is most effective when local community members are directly involved and empowered in their roles. This is why we don’t use guides from outside areas, but work hard to make sure that all guides come from the communities as close as possible to the forest-edge or site of interest. We also strive to work with guides that are both experienced in the forest, and experienced with English. Where a guide is still learning English, we send along a local translator to help bridge the communication gap for the traveler.