Kerumutan Forest Reserve is a Wildlife Reserve spanning over 1.3million hectares of lowland forests, and inhabited by hundreds of species of flora and fauna. The grand Kampar River runs along its border, lined with thick mangrove trees. The reserve’s boundaries are the Kampar River, the Indragiri River, the East Coast of Sumatera, and Jalan Lintas Timur Sumatera, the Cross East Sumatra Highway. The forest extends across two regencies, Pelalawan and Indragiri Hulu, in the Riau Province, in the central part of Sumatra.
Kerumutan’s carbon rich peat-lands are some of the largest remaining carbon reserves in the world, which make the forest a key defense against climate change. The area is composed of 75% peat and 25% dry marsh, with much of the area’s peat reaching deeper than 3 meters, making it illegal to clear under Indonesian law.
Kerumutan is well known as a haven to the critically endangered Sumatran Tigers, Sumatran Elephants and Orangutans, and is also habitat to Sunbears, Hornbills, Long-Tailed Macaque, White Egrets, Arowana Fish, Wild Ducks and Crocodiles, to name a few. The forest has also become a destination for a variety of migratory birds, and has been recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA,) and an Endangered Bird Area (EBA.)
In addition to migrants from other parts of Sumatra, Java and the Malay coast, the area around the forest is inhabited by certain indigenous people, such as the Duanu Tribe and the Petalangan Tribe. Government census puts the population of the Kerumutan Forest Reserve at about 27,000 persons.
Kerumutan was established as part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Network in 2009. Biosphere Reserves are globally considered as sites used for the conservation of biological and cultural diversity and economic and social development between people and nature. These sites are also used to demonstrate innovative approaches to sustainable development, both locally and internationally.
The forest consists of three main types of soil, and is therefore divided into three areas: Kawasan Inti, or Core Region, covering about 93,000 hectares, Peat Protected Areas, currently covering 52,000 hectares, but which may potentially be expanded, and the Non-Core Regions, a group of preserved forest ecosystems, covering 1,178,000 hectares.
Despite being a National Reserve, much of this area has been designated towards industrial plantation development and the landscape is actively being drained and cleared.
Upon entering the Forest Reserve, roads are lined on either side with neat rows of towering palm trees. When you reach Pangkalan Kopau, the entrance to the wooded area, you can continue your tour by motor-boat, along the tree-lined corridor that is the Kerumutan River. Amidst the deep, lush rainforest, once the sounds of the motorboat cease, all that is left to be heard are the crisp and clear songs of the birds from the surrounding foliage.
The stretches of peat-swamp forests are worth exploring to examine the various elements of the swamp ecosystem. Living within the swamp are wild ducks, white egrets, arowana fish and even crocodiles. Bring binoculars and try spotting the hornbills perched high within the canopy overhead, or observe the varying species of migrating birds, if it is that season. Long-tailed Macaques swing from treetop to treetop, and if you’re lucky, you may even see tigers or bears resting amongst the branches.
To get to Pelalawan, one must first make way to Pekanbaru, capital of the Riau province. The SSK II International airport serves the International destinations of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Dumai, Rengat and locally, and domestically, Jakarta, Padang, Medan , Batam and Tanjung Pinang.
From Pekanbaru, you can hire a car to take you to Pangkalan Kerinci, the Capital of Pelalawan. It is approximately 70 km away, or 1.5 hours.
Kerumutan Forest Reserve is located in the Village of Kerumutan, Pelalawan. This is about 2 hours away by road, across rocky terrain, or alternatively, you could hire a car direct from Pekanbaru, which will take approximately 4 hours by road, followed by an hour by speedboat.