Jungle Trek

In Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia we took a two day jungle trek. ‘Bukit Lawang’ means gateway to the mountain and is on the perimeter of Gunung Lesuer National Park.

We set of a 9am and walked through the village and rubber plantation to the gateway of Gunung Leuser. Within 2 minutes we saw our first orangutans, a large male which is rare to see because they are only around during mating season. There were a couple of females close-by, one with a baby orangutan. The male only had eyes for one female and made deep low frequency grunting noises to scare the other female off. He walked straight passed us when following his suitor but then played it cool by pretending to ignore her by walking straight past and sitting 5m away.IMG_7425IMG_7426IMG_7428IMG_7446

IMG_7485We were slightly apprehensive being so close to such a powerful ape, but he was quite slow moving and seemed chilled out. We carried on our trek and came across 2 more females with their babies. The little ones were wrestling in the tree tops whilst the mothers hung out. We also saw gibbons far off swinging through the branches.IMG_7496IMG_7498

In the reserve there is a famous orangutan called Mina. She was sitting with her baby and an older female offspring. We were careful not to get too close as Mina has a reputation for chasing people. Our guides tempted her off the path by giving her sunflower seeds so that we could pass by.

We continue our trek up and down the valleys, we saw Thomas leaf monkeys, giant ants, a leech, and pig-tailed monkeys which looked a bit like baboons.IMG_7451IMG_7492

Our guides made us fried rice, egg and chicken for lunch with lots of fruit, which we ate sitting by a waterfall. After lunch we had some even steeper ascents and descents taking in panoramic views of the jungle. We reached our jungle shelter about 5.30pm and we’re greeted by another orangutan, her baby and a tribe of long tailed macaques. We cooled off in the river and washed in the waterfall then had rendang curry for dinner and lots more fruit!




IMG_7561There was a massive thunder storm overnight but we still slept soundly, in fact the river noise was louder than the thunder.

On the second day we spent time by the river and shelter watching the wildlife, apes, macaques, butterflies and monitor lizards.

IMG_7606IMG_7613IMG_7625An orangutan turned up at the shelter when we were leaving. I showed it the banana I had saved from breakfast and the orangutan came straight down and took it from my hand piece by piece and then also ate the skin. When looking in the orangutans eyes there was a recognition for each other, both apes, both eat bananas (albeit not the skin), both sprouting ginger hair. 🙂GOPR0830_Moment(2)GOPR0830_Moment

The orangutan then staying in the shelter about 1.5m from us until it worked out that we didn’t have anymore food.



The tubing back to Bukit Lawang was completely nuts. Two large tractor tyre tubes and two small tractor tyre tubes were roped together, one behind the other, to make a raft. Beth and I sat in the large tubes with four other raftsman hanging of the sides, navigating us down the river. The river was quick and rough. We were flicked up and down, side to side and I was flipped out at one point. It was exhilarating albeit a little dangerous after the storm.


Time to start our honeymoon…

After Mirissa we travelled back to Colombo in a taxi with Diamo and Em where we stayed for the night before taking a flight to Kuala Lumpur. KL has been a good hub for our travels around SE Asia.

From KL we had a short flight across the Malaka Straight to Medan.

Indonesia is the final country on our trip and also our honeymoon destination. Many thanks to everyone for our wedding money, we are grateful that you funded our trip. All this travelling is tough and exhausting…I’m so glad we finally get a holiday haha.

We stayed a night in Medan (which is nothing special, just another dirty, polluted Asia city) and then took a taxi to Bukit Lawang, passing many palm oil plantations on the way. Bukit Lawang is on the edge of the Gunung Lesuer National Park but this is where the palm oil plantations stop and the protected area begins. It’s the place to go to see orangutans!

Whale watching 

After Arugam Bay we travelled to Mirissa.

We took a tour with Raja and the whales, to do some whale spotting, and after an hour and 15mins of travelling we saw two whales in the distance identified by the spray of water blowing into the air as the whale expelled air from its blowhole. We caught up with the whales which were two blue whales, grey in colour. Only the back and tiny dorsal fin was seen approx 10 times while the blue whales breathed at the surface and then they displayed their tail fins before disappearing back deep underwater.

Ten minutes later more water spray was seen in the distance but disappeared before we got there. While idling, another boat was seen close-by so we knew whales where around. About 200m away we saw the backs and dorsal fins of two more blue whales but no further entertainment this time, disappearing within 30s of seeing them.

We had a few similar sightings every ten minutes but no tail fin but did see a turtle energetically swimming away from the boat.

We got luckier towards the end of the trip when whales surfaced within 50m of the boat. We had some good whale time as the huge mammal took some small breaths and then held at the surface for some time taking a larger breath and then flicked it’s tail in the air and submerged back down to the depths. We noticed a few small  black blobs on the tail which turned out to be sucking fish. When we saw a sucking fish close up, not attached to a whale, it was about 2 foot long.

We had about 20 sightings of blue whales and the guide thinks it was approximately 10 different whales. They also pointed out some whale poo, lumpy and bright orange in colour.IMG_7383

Raja and the whales a provide an excellent tour, the crew are friendly and professional. They actually tell you interesting information which is rare for the tours we’ve been on in Asia. It was great to see they picked up sea litter when we saw it, protecting the environment and their futures.

A little bonus at the end of the trip was the sighting of a bryde’s whales, approx 10-14m long with a small dorsal fin._DSC7601


We set off for the safari in the blistering afternoon heat. We travelled through Kumana National Park in a jeep but didn’t see a huge amount because the animals were sheltering from the sun. We did see a mongoose though, deer, rabbits, plenty of wadding birds and egrets, ibis and painted storks.

The safari got better as is got cooler. Around 5pm the elephants seemed to come out of hiding, we saw 4 in total and the same number of crocodiles. IMG_7288

We had a fantastically lucky moment on our way back through the national park. As we pulled up behind one jeep we could see two horn bills in the tree ahead. We sat for a while admiring the the birds then decided it was time to move on. The other jeep didn’t move. We pulled past the jeep and the other driver quickly leans out of the window signalling to our driver to turn of the engine….we didn’t realise that there was a leopard emerging from the bush. We stopped and were in ore of the beautiful cat. The leopard clocked us and hesitated for a few seconds checking for safety and then trotted off to the next area of bush. It was behind the vehicle out of sight but being in an open vehicle I was hoping the leopard didn’t decide to pay us a visit. I was quite wary of this and was checking behind us but when my eyes return to the view in front i could see that we were extra lucky and we’re graced with the presents of a baby leopard. It was very wary and froze on the spot. It was awesome for us because it gave us chance to have a good look. The baby leopard looked around for a while, turned back towards the bush it came from but then turned around again and followed it’s mum. It was the highlight of the safari, we were all super smiley after that little treat.


Two horn bills

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Wary leopard

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Leopard cub

During the safari we also so a few wild boar, lots of wild buffalo, a jackal, a displaying peacock and an eagle. The Kumana national park is a fantastic place to see the wild animals.

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Wild water buffalo


Jackal trotting across open space


Wild board and other avifauna


Wallowing buffalo


Displaying peacock


Our driver impressively spotted this eagle in the tree

Jungle BBQ

The jungle BBQ is one of the highlights of our time at Arugam Bay.

We set of around 4.30pm to pick up cold drinks and beers and then travelling along the main road where our host, Sudi, spotted two elephants so we pulled over to a spot we had past 6 times in the previous two days. We were 6-7m away as the elephants roughed up the grass with their feet and then tugged it with their trunk before putting it into their mouths. It was so exciting to finally see some elephants and it was close enough and light enough to get some photos.IMG_7140

IMG_7142We travelled west inland into the jungle for half an hour spotting a group of Languors on root and a few brief sightings of crocodiles around the lakes before they were scared off by the jeeps and dashed into the water. IMG_7175

It was really peaceful watching the sunset over a flooded man-made lake with the only noise coming from the avifauna.

After sunset we were taken to a rock about 10m higher than the surrounding farm land. While our hosts prepared dinner we explored the area finding numerous peacock feathers. We sat on the warm rock as the light disappeared and watched the flashing lights and farmers with torches patrolling the fields and protecting them from elephants.

IMG_7215The BBQ food was fantastic, the shrimps and rock fish was super fresh and cooked in a garlicky buttery sauce. The accompanying salads, potatoes, veg and bread complimented the meal well. There were ten of us altogether and we were entertained by the fireflies and the star-filled sky.

On the way home Sudi was on the spot light pointing out numerous animals. In the distance we saw three elephants walking back into the bush and another eating the long grass by the main road. What a fantastic night!

No elephants at elephant rock

In the morning I drove Beth, Jo, Jon in tuk tuk North through Pottuvil and along the sandy spit to Pottuvil point.20170415_110929

It was extremely hot so we jumped straight in the water to cool down once we found the deserted beach. We had fun playing with the waboba in the sea and then cowered under our towels from the sun before deciding to head back for lunch.

We went south to Elephant rock after lunch in search for some shade but our tip of failed on this one so we ended up hiding between the rocks from the sun. When the intense heat started to ease we climbed the north side of elephant rock and then waded through the lagoon over to the beach.20170415_163713

20170415_175146It was a pleasant spot and the sunset was great but it was spoilt by the arrack drinking, pot smoking, Sri Lankan beach boys perving on the girls and taking photos of the girls. One approached me asking for a “selfy” took one of us and his friends and then carried on trying to take more angling the camera to try and get the girls in the background. After I kept on moving to block the girls he gave up but walked to another girl on the rock, stood half a metre away and took photos of her. The guy then took his phone in the water and looked like he was still trying to take photos of the girls from there but we weren’t sure. It was completely shameful!

We were hoping to see some elephants at dusk on our journey home but still didn’t see any. We did see plenty of peacocks though. We were quite excited when we saw the first few because we hadnt seen them for years in England. There are loads of them here, we probably saw one every 100ms. 20170415_123353

During the evening curry at East Surf Cabanas with the other guests we found out the elephants had been seen from the road but North of where we were, we were always in the opposite direction to where they were. The curry was good for meeting the other guest who we would share tours with and meet up with in the following days.

Jon and I provided some entertainment after the curry by setting off the fireworks we bought in Kandy, 20 for £2. It was an amateur affair with the fireworks being set off from a wine bottle. The stick of the firework was massively oversized so our first few fizzed across the field instead of flying. Our display got better and better and we even had a finale of 6 fireworks each setting the other off one after the other.

Tuk tuk around Abay

Arugam Bay, or Abay as it is sometimes called, is a chilled out surf spot on the east coast of Sri Lanka with cool jungle fauna close-by.20170414_174515

We hired a tuk tuk for two days so we could buzz up and down the coastal road in search of waves and elephants. With two surfy B’s strapped to the roof of the tuk tuk we set out to Whiskey Point is search of some swell swell, right breakers and off shore winds……my terrible surfer dude lingo is on par with my surfing. Whiskey Point is a good surf spot North of Arugam Bay offering some fairly powerful 1.5m high waves decent enough to surf but also gave me and Jon a good beating when we fell off. I caught a few decent waves before it went flat at noon so the trip was worthwhile. Beth and Jo had a good bodyboarding session but also felt a bit beaten up afterwards.20170414_170729

The tuk tuk chugged and spluttered on the way back through Potuvill and came to a halt….we had run out of petrol.20170421_131547

Luckily there were lots of other tuk tuk taxis around but being lunch time the first two petrol stations the driver took me to were closed 😦 We visited his mates house and interrupted the family meal to get some bottles out of a shed….I was greeted by the teenage muslims with an excited chant of ‘white man…..white man’. I felt massively out of place in my beach attire.

We had a slow lunch (which is the only way in Arugam bay) and polished off some veggie curry with rotti, a bargain at 200 rupees  (just over £1).
After lunch we headed South to Peanut Farm beach, having to drive the tuk tuk off road across bumpy tracks, sometimes wet sometimes deep sand. It was Sri Lankan New Year but it was quiet at the beach….the Sri Lankans must have been celebrating at home. Peanut farm was a nice beach to relax on as it had a 10m high bamboo dome, originally put up for a beach rave, shading part of the beach. We cowered from the roasting sun between surfing and bodyboarding sessions in the sea.


Before sun down we took the tuk tuk further south to Panama lagoon primarily to see if we could spot any elephants. There weren’t any in sight (but we did see a tortoise) so we walked along side the electric fence next to the lagoon, had a quick chat with the local farmers and then returned to the tuk tuk.

It was a lot of fun having the tuk tuk to buzz along the coastal road and navigate down the windy beach tracks.

Jon and Jo arrive :-)

Jon and Jo arrived in Kandy the night after us and we met them in town for dinner. It was great to see them, to have a good catch up and find out about their new house down the road from us in Bedminster.20170412_181623

The next day we all met up again and took a walk around the Udawatta Kale sanctuary, a protected jungle in Kandy city. We took 2 hours wandering around, getting a bit lost at times and didn’t see much wildlife unfortunately…probably because we (Jon) were (was) too noisy. We did see some wild boar though, they made us jump when they fled from us through the trees.20170411_112129

Next day Beth, Jon, Jo and I squeezed into a 3 seater tuk tuk and took a tour of Geragama tea factory which was surprisingly good. It’s really interesting finding out how the trees is processed.

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We also went to the spice garden where they showed us and demonstrated the use of the natural medicines. Jon found out first hand that the hair removal cream was very effective. We were also given a rough head massage while they put coconut oil in our hair and a more pleasant massage when they rubbed herbal oil into our backs.

We were cultural in the evening, it must have been Jon and Jo’s influence because we went to “Kandy Dance”. It was entertaining enough….the drumming was cool but the fire eating and fire walking were a bit lame. The highlight was the fat bloke doing back flips!

Tomorrow we travel to Arugam Bay on the east coast for the golden beaches, surfing and Yala National Park.

Sri Lanka

From Cambodia we flew to Colombo, Sri Lanka via a night stop over in Kuala Lumpur.

Colombo was a similar heat to Cambodia but felt hotter because we were out in the hottest part of the day walking through the busy markets shoulder to shoulder with the locals while we waited for our train to Kandy.

For the first hour of the train ride we watched the lush green landscape and paddy fields from the train window but then it got dark. When we arrived in Kandy our host had prepared us a selection of veggie curries with rice and popadoms. 20170409_203604

The next day we we took a trip to the botanic gardens and had a great time, despite being charged 15 times more than the locals to get in. We saw double coconuts from the Seychelles, giant bamboo that can grow up to 30cm wide, Jack fruit through can weigh up to 35kg and a pretty orchid garden. The botanic garden was also rich in wildlife and avifauna. The toque macaques are friendly and tame here but they do have an abundance of Jack fruit to eat. We also saw thousands of fruit bats in the trees. They think there’s 20,000 in total and they eat their bodyweight in fruit per day…I can see why they’re considered a pest. We really enjoyed our morning and it was funny to watch the macaques sneaking around the flower beds munching the flowers. One of the macaque accepted me as one of their own and groomed my hairy feet.


We’ve really enjoyed the Cambodian/Khmer food. It’s tasty, good quality and cheap. Here are some of the dishes and drinks we’ve enjoyed:

Grilled betel leaf with marinated beef topped with broken peanuts.20170407_205349

Lok lak with stir fry beef veg in a peppered gravy served with rice and a fried egg on top.20170402_202709

Amok fish a mild curry in coconut and red chilli sauce served in a banana leaf.20170406_201056

Passion fruit mojito if the best cocktail I’ve ever had. Truly scrumptious. 20170404_192429

The hotels we’ve stayed in have been good quality, comfortable and serve a good breakfast.