Initially focussed solely on rainforest protection the Green Life Project has extended its scope to include marine conservation.
The Green & Blue program offers volunteers two weeks on the Green Life reserve learning about the rainforest ecosystem and the threats it faces before moving to the Pulau Banyak islands, off the north-west coast of Sumatra, for a relaxing week learning about marine conservation while collecting rubbish from the beaches.
The Green Life reserve is situated in lowland forest in the Bohorok district on the border of the Gunung Leuser National Park, an area that is threatened by both legal and illegal commercial activity. Volunteers will learn how these actions affect the forest and its wildlife. They will participate in anti-poaching patrols: learning how to identify animal activity, position camera traps to monitor specific wildlife, record the details on the GPS system, and spot the presence of poachers. There are also the varied maintenance tasks of the reserve; clearing paths of debris and overhanging vegetation, replacing missing signage, repairing stairways, re-varnishing cabins, and the cooking tasks; vegetable preparation, fetching water and washing dishes.
There are opportunities to help with the education program at the Tiger House. Assisted by the teacher, volunteers can help the children improve their understanding of spoken English and their confidence in speaking themselves with games and lessons designed with an environmental conservation perspective.
The white sands of the idyllic Pulau Banyak archipelago provide the background to this project. The plastic waste that is washed up on these beaches comes from far and wide but there is also a local problem. Without a formal waste disposal system rubbish is usually burned or thrown into the sea. Our aim is to establish a locally run rubbish and recycling system to make it possible for locals to dispose of waste in an environmentally friendly way and to teach composting techniques to deal with vegetable waste. We will also be providing buoys as mooring points for fishing boats to prevent anchor damage to the reef.
Volunteers will be involved in the collection of rubbish from the many beaches and sorting it for recycling or disposal on the Sumatran mainland. They will stay in simple beach cabins on Sinkandang Island. There will be plenty of opportunities to swim, snorkel and generally enjoy the beautiful environment. Snorkelling is particularly rewarding because of the many beautiful fish and corals and if you swim at night you will see bioluminescent phytoplankton.
The Green Life project is not involved in the provision of humanitarian aid. All activities are aimed at the protection of the natural world, specifically the plants and animals of the Leuser Ecosystem and the Pulau Banyak islands. This includes environmental education programs for children and adults.
Each Green & Blue volunteer program lasts for 21 days. If there is space on the following program it is possible for volunteers to extend their time with us or do partial programs.
GREEN & BLUE – SUMATRA 2016 VOLUNTEER PROGRAM DATES
The maximum number on any program is 16 people
All 2016 dates are now fully booked – 2017 dates will be available soon
GREEN & BLUE Volunteer Program
GREEN & BLUE Daily Program
- Day 1: Arrive at Medan airport and travel to Batu Katak (4-6 hours depending on traffic), overnight accommodation in the village or at Tiger House.
- Day 2: AM Meeting in Tiger House to learn about safety and appropriate behaviour in the forest, discuss work party options and organise accommodation. PM Move to Green Life reserve, this is only accessible on foot and the journey takes around 2 hours.
- Days 3-6: Working on the Green Life reserve. There is always plenty to do and we try to make the work as varied as possible. Essentially the tasks fall into 4 categories:
- Maintenance of the reserve – clearing paths of fallen branches and overhanging plants, replacing damaged signage, cutting grass in the camp area, repairing the bamboo staircases, varnishing the cabins and building a new one.
- Anti-poaching patrols – monitoring the camera traps and looking for evidence of poaching such as traps, fires and camps.
- Cooking tasks – vegetable preparation, washing dishes and fetching water.
- Tiger House – help with teaching the local children.
- Day 7: Tiger patrol in the Gunung Leuser National Park – monitoring poaching in the area between the rivers Berkail and Sekelam, in small groups of around 6 people.
- Day 8: Free time.
- Some people like to find a good observation point and quietly watch the forest.
- Others prefer to go into the village, or go on the excursions
- Whatever you do in any of your free time, for your safety it is essential that the group leaders know where you are going and when you intend to return.
- Days 9-12: As days 3-6.
- Day 13: As day 7.
- Day 14: Clean the camp and move to Batu Katak to await night transport to Singkil, a journey of about 10 hours.
- Day 15: AM Boat travel to Sinkandang on the Pulau Banyak islands. PM Free time.
- Day 16: AM Free time. Swim in the clear waters, snorkel to see the best of the fish and corals, kayak around the islands, or hire a motor boat, play beach volleyball, explore or just relax and enjoy the view. PM Cleaning Sinkandang Island beach while learning more about marine ecology.
- Days 17-19: Boat travel around the islands to clean the beaches, separating rubbish from recyclables ready for transportation to the main island. Help with the construction of a new cabin and general maintenance of the existing ones.
- Day 20: Free time.
- Day 21: Load rubbish onto the boat and sail to Singkil. From here we will head back to Medan. Depending on return flights, some people choose to stay at Berastagi, a nearby village, which is close to Lake Toba and two active volcanoes.
Price: £ 237 / € 310
INCLUDED IN THE PRICE
- All accommodation and meals.
- Boat travel to and around the Pulau Banyak islands
NOT INCLUDED IN THE PRICE
- Transport from Medan airport to Batu Katak
- Transport from Batu Katak to Singkil
- Transport from Singkil to Medan airport
- Entry fee to the Gunung Leuser National Park (Rp150,000 = £7). There are 2 scheduled monitoring patrols in each program. These activities are optional.
EXTRA TRANSPORT COSTS
Medan – Batu Katak
- By local transport + hired vehicle: Rp 135,000 per person
- By taxi: Rp 750,000 max 4 or 6 people
Batu Katak – Singkil – Medan
- small minibus (max. 8 people): 1,800,000 Rp – Batu Katak – Singkil
- bigger minibus (max. 11 people): 2,700,000 Rp – Batu Katak – Singkil
- car (max. 4 people): 900,000 Rp – Singkil – Medan
The cost of the vehicle is shared by the number of travelers. All prices are approximate. Travel time from Batu Katak to Singkil is about 12 hours.
HOW TO BOOK
Select one of the volunteer program dates and complete the online form. To confirm your booking please send a deposit of £80. The remaining balance is due 4 weeks before the start of your holiday. The deposit is non-refundable but may be transferred to a different program date if necessary.
For those unable to do the full 3 weeks, it is possible to do a partial program, or overlap sections of two programs if space is available. The price will be structured accordingly, with a small surcharge for administration. Please contact us for further details.
Several international airlines fly directly to Medan – Kuala Namu airport. Otherwise the easiest way to reach us is to fly to Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore and take a connecting flight with Air Asia or Lion Air for example.
Please send us details of your flight and arrival time and let us know your preferred method of travel to Batu Katak so that we can make any necessary arrangements. We can also put you in touch with other volunteers to help you synchronise your journey from Medan airport to Batu Katak.
GETTING FROM THE AIRPORT TO BATU KATAK
BY LOCAL TRANSPORT
There is only one exit from Medan airport, follow it and turn right for the bus station. Find the orange ALS buses and take the one heading to Binjai. Tell the driver that you are going in the direction of Bukit Lawang and ask to be let off at Pinang Baris bus station. The cost is about Rp 35-40,000.
From Pinang Baris take the minibus heading to Bohorok (approx Rp 20,000 plus extra for luggage).
Once in Bohorok, text us of your arrival and we will send a pre-arranged car (Rp 150,000 up to 4 passengers) or motorbike (Rp 70,000 per person) to take you to Batu Katak. Sometimes a larger car with seating for 6 passengers is available, but it needs to be booked in advance.
Although this journey sounds complicated, good prior communication with us about your travel plans will avoid many problems.
This is the simplest option. Email us with your flight details and time of arrival and we will arrange for a taxi to pick you up at the airport and take you straight to Batu Katak. A taxi can carry up to 4 passengers and costs approximately Rp 750,000. Minibus travel can be arranged for groups of up to 7 people. We can help coordinate your journey if you would like to share a vehicle with other volunteers.
Depending on traffic the journey from the airport to Batu Katak can take 4-6 hours.
Volunteers will be met in Batu Katak and accompanied to the Tiger House (10 minute walk) where they can meet each other, enjoy a meal and get a good night’s sleep. The Green Life reserve is only accessible on foot and we walk there the following day.
A free 30 day visa is available to 90 countries for the purpose of tourism, but there are restrictions on the airport or harbour of entry and exit. The free 30 day visa cannot be extended for any purpose. If you think you might want to stay longer or leave by a different route, you should purchase a 30 day VOA (Visa On Arrival) which can be extended by 30 days if necessary. If you are certain you will be in the country for 30-60 days, it is less time-consuming to organise this in advance in your home country.
All visitors to Indonesia will require
- A passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the day you enter Indonesia.
- A passport that has at least one complete blank page.
- Proof of a return flight or onward flight out of Indonesia.
Only local currency will be accepted in the villages, so make sure you bring enough IDR (Indonesian Rupiah) in cash for your trip. IDR 2 million will probably be sufficient. There are cash machines in Medan and other cities, but they break down frequently so we recommend that you bring cards from more than one bank if you plan to rely on them.
IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM
Although all activities are optional, the volunteer program is priced on the assumption that you will help with the upkeep of the reserve. Most days we get up around 7:00am, have a leisurely breakfast, work from 8:30-11:00am and then stop for a long lunch during the maximum heat of the day. In the afternoon we usually work from 14:00-17:00pm, depending on the weather. Showers are usually late in the day and do not last long. The Tiger Patrol likes to set off early, around 7-8am. There is no set time for sleeping, but volunteers will be expected to make sure they get sufficient rest for the next day’s activities.
The Green Life reserve is part of the forest and we try to minimise our impact on it. Apart from requiring all visitors to use environmentally friendly washing products, we also have rules about the playing of music and noise generally. Music or radio may only be played through headphones and we ask everyone to make as little noise as possible, especially at night. The forest itself is not quiet, and you can enjoy a variety of bird and monkey calls during the day and a concert of cicadas and crickets in the evening.
If you want to go into the forest without a guide, it is essential that you tell someone where you are heading and your expected return time, or it can be written in the camp book. It should be remembered that the Green Life valley and surrounding forest is tiger territory, therefore we recommend that you do not go walking in the evening or after dark.
Volunteer T-shirt 2016
Cotton T-shirts, printed with the words GREEN & BLUE 2016 can be ordered in advance. There are 4 sizes available: S/M/L/XL. They can be purchased on site but to ensure that we have your size in stock, please email stating size and quantity required if you are interested. Your order will be waiting for you in camp. They can be sent to your home address with an extra cost for P&P. The price per T-shirt is £XX.
GREEN & BLUE Volunteer T-shirt 2016
SAFETY, HEALTH AND VACCINATION
Indonesia is generally a safe country with minimal crime. Thieves are more prevalent in big cities, but please take the usual precautions to protect valuables such as passports, money, phones and cameras anywhere you go. Agree a price in advance for all services.
Despite living alongside tigers, bears, snakes and spiders, the Green Life reserve is not a dangerous place as long as sensible precautions are taken. All volunteers will be given safety advice on arrival.
We advise volunteers to bring a basic first aid kit, but it is important that anyone requiring specific medication brings an adequate supply with them. It is not recommended that anyone who might suffer a life-threatening allergic reaction come to the Green life reserve.
Vaccinations: only hepatitis A, B, tetanus and typhoid are required.
Mosquitos are present on the reserve but they are unlikely to carry malaria. They are most active at dawn and dusk so we recommend the wearing of long sleeves and trousers at these times with insect repellent used on any exposed skin.
MEALS ON THE GREEN LIFE RESERVE
All food is vegetarian or vegan and is plentiful. With a varied selection of fruit and vegetables, rice, potatoes and beans, we supply three meals a day and no-one ever goes hungry. We have a small oven and can also bake bread and cakes. The cooking is done by those that are good at it, and jobs such as chopping vegetables, washing dishes and fetching water are shared by the others.
MEALS IN PULAU BANYAK
We do not presently have cooking facilities on this site and have arranged with local people for the provision of cooked meals, which will be vegan or vegetarian.
All participants must be 18 years of age or over. By agreement younger people may participate if they are accompanied by an adult who is responsible for them at all times.
All participants are responsible for their own actions and must comply with the advice and instructions of Green Life and the Gunung Leuser authorities.
In the case of gross violations of decent behaviour towards other volunteers or nature, any participant may be expelled by a majority decision of the other participants.
We do not recommend that anyone who suffers from panic attacks or extreme phobias, or who might have a life-threatening allergic reaction, join the program.
The terrain can be quite challenging in places, so you must be confidently able to climb and descend steep hills, and wade through moving water. The website photos show typical examples. If you have any concerns about your abilities please contact us for more information.
HYGIENE ON THE GREEN LIFE RESERVE
As the reserve is part of the natural environment and washing done in the river, all visitors are required to use only organic, environmentally friendly personal hygiene and laundry products. These are most easily purchased in your home country.
We can recommend brands such as:
WHAT TO BRING
Sheet for sleeping, head torch, spare batteries, hat, water bottle, protective gloves, mosquito repellent, sunscreen, swimwear, snorkel, mask and fins, small backpack for treks through the forest, medication (be sure to bring sufficient if required), towel, toiletries and possibly laundry detergent. A few energy bars may come in handy for long journeys.
Shoes for the forest: the best shoes to wear in the forest are trainers or canvas rubber soled shoes. They are lightweight, non-slip and you can feel where you are putting your feet. We do not recommend rigid boots.
Shoes for water: the best shoes will be flexible rubber or plastic that fit well, drain quickly and do not fall off easily. Shallow streams are often the easiest path through the forest.
Appropriate footwear is very important. It will improve your safety, comfort and confidence on sometimes difficult terrain.
WHAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO BRING
Personal sleeping mat (we have mats in camp), pillow (we don’t have them) water filter (we drink water straight from the river with no problems, but if you are concerned bring water purification tablets or filters), camera, binoculars, swiss army knife.
WHAT YOU WILL NOT NEED
Tent, mosquito net, dishes or cutlery etc as we have these in camp.
We ask each volunteer to bring a small quantity of dried foods (that they particularly like) because many products are not easily available in Sumatra. This makes our menus more interesting, Herbs and spices are particularly useful. Please do not bring perishable foods.
Foods we are particularly happy to receive include: any beans (other than mung), lentils, chickpeas, bulgur, couscous, semolina, powdered plant milk (soy, oat, rice etc.), cocoa, baking powder, custard powder, ground black pepper, paprika, cumin, and dried herbs such as thyme, oregano, marjoram.
ELECTRICITY ON THE GREEN LIFE RESERVE AND IN PULAU BANYAK
Since the summer of 2015 the Camp 2 reserve site has a small solar generator, so it is possible to recharge cameras, phones and other things. The capacity of the generator depends on the amount of sunshine, and rainforest is often cloudy, so we still recommend that you bring spare batteries for anything essential. There are no facilities in Camp 1.
In Pulau Banyak we use a petrol generator for a few hours in the evening to give us light and the opportunity to recharge battery-powered items.
There is nothing to fear from the many creatures of the forest if sensible precautions are taken. It is worth noting however that this is a wildlife reserve and there are small animals and insects everywhere, we do not discourage them as they are harmless.
Although not numerous on the reserve, mosquitos are most active at dawn and dusk and bites can be prevented by the use of repellent and appropriate clothing at these times. They are not known to carry malaria.
In the wetter places there are also leeches. You will encounter them but they are easily removed and cause no problems.
During the day small bees that like to suck sweat are active. They are not dangerous. There are potentially aggressive territorial bees that we sometimes come across, but as long as you move away and do not hit out at them, they will not attack you. Anyone who is likely to have an allergic reaction should bring appropriate medication and carry it with them.
There are many spiders here but they are mainly active at night when they are a favourite subject of macro photographers. They will not bother you; they are only looking for insects to eat.
Scorpions are also present on the reserve but you are unlikely to see them unless you are looking as they are shy creatures that prefer rotten trees and stumps.
As a precaution it is recommended that you shake shoes and items of clothing before putting them on in the morning, to dislodge any night visitors.
The snakes will not bite unless you try to capture them. Leave them alone and they will not harm you.
We do not recommend that you touch any animal. Some, such as the red and black centipede can inflict painful, moderately toxic bites if threatened. Others, such as dogs and monkeys may carry rabies.
Encounters with large animals are rare. They will be aware of your presence long before you notice them and will avoid you.
An exception to this is in the evening and after dark. Tigers hunt at night and the reserve is part of their territory, so we recommend that you do not put yourself at risk by being outdoors at these times.
ORANGUTANS AT GREEN LIFE AND BUKIT LAWANG
During your stay on the Green Life reserve there is a good chance you will see wild orangutans but we cannot guarantee it. Volunteers may want to visit the orangutan rescue station in Bukit Lawang. While we recognise the value of their work, we do not promote this organisation as we are opposed to it as an attraction. We believe that the regular feeding and human contact disturbs the natural behaviour of orangutans and prevents their full return to the wild. It also exposes them to human diseases.
VOLUNTEERS AND WILD ANIMALS
The Green Life project is committed to the preservation of the rainforest in its natural state and seeks to minimise any disturbance to wildlife. We ask you to follow these basic rules:
- The feeding of animals is prohibited. They do not need it. The action creates an unnatural attachment between animal and human, and there is a risk of human disease being passed to animals.
- The capture or manipulation of animals for study or photographic purposes is prohibited.
- Fishing for sport or food is prohibited.
- The collection of plants or seeds is prohibited.
Any breach of these rules will be reported to the Gunung Leuser authorities with the intention of prosecution.
SUPPORT THE BATU KATAK COMMUNITY
Interested volunteers can go on excursions accompanied by local guides. The Green Life Project welcomes the move towards ecotourism by the Batu Katak community.
Visit the caves at Batu Katak
Take a guided tour of the partially submerged caves near Batu Katak. After an hour walk through plantations and a rainforest gorge you will reach the entrance to the caves. Here you spend two hours wading through the dark limestone caverns admiring the rock formations and creatures such as crickets, spiders, snakes, frogs and bats that live in permanent darkness. For the most part the water is knee deep but there are sections where it will be waist deep. You will need a head torch and well-fitting flexible-soled shoes.
Price: Rp 200,000
The Batu Katak region is also home to the Titan Arum and a few different Rafflesia. Plant lovers will know that it is rare to see these magnificent plants in bloom as their flowering period is unpredictable and short. If there are any in flower during your stay, local guides can offer trips to see them.
The Titan Arum (Amorphophallus Titanum) is found only in the rainforests of Sumatra. After a period of dormancy a solitary flower spike (spadix) appears, growing at a rate of 10cm per day and reaching three metres in height. It is surrounded by a leaf-like structure (spathe) which is pale green on the outside and a deep crimson (meat) colour on the inside. When the flowers are ready for pollination, the plant emits a powerful odour, leading to its local name “corpse flower”. Other stages of its lifecycle are equally impressive. If pollinated, the spadix grows into a large club-like head of orange-red seeds. The single leaf which follows flowering can reach the size of a small tree.
Rafflesia arnoldii is a parasitic plant without roots or leaves that is only visible when it is ready to flower. Also known as “corpse flower” because of its unpleasant smell, it is thought to be the largest single flower. Spherical buds push through the bark of the host plant, slowly growing to cabbage size before the metre wide reddish brown flower opens and then dies within a few days. The berries formed by the female flowers are eaten by tree shrews, who then spread the seeds through the forest.
Price: Rp 50,000 – 150,000
- depending on the distance from the village. Make sure to establish in advance which “corpse flower” you are going to see and its current state of growth.
Raft down the river Berkail
Starting from where the river widens close to Camp 2, you can take an exciting trip down the river on a raft made of truck tyre inner tubes, through rainforest valleys and rubber plantations all the way to Batu Katak. During the dry season the river is shallow and not too fast, so with local guides steering, you will have plenty of time to admire the scenery along the river. With your backpacks securely wrapped in plastic, it is a fun way to leave camp without having to carry your bags back through the forest, making it an ideal activity for your last day.
Price: Rp 200,000
Thanks for taking the time to read this far. If volunteering is not for you, there are other ways to be involved in environmental protection. Please see the Support Green Life page…
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