Located in the Riau province, the Tesso Nilo National Park is arguably the largest lowland rainforest on the island of Sumatra. Today the Park covers an area of 83,068 hectares, having grown twice as large from the former 38,576 hectares in 2004 when it was designated as a National Park.
Tesso Nilo stretches along 4 districts, namely the districts of Pelalawan, Indragiri Hulu, Kuantan Sengingi and Kampar. Tesso Nilo is planned to be expanded to cover 100,000 hectares to serve not only as the lungs for the Indonesia archipelago but also for the world. Riau used to have large tracts of jungle, however, because of large scale wild fires, and the building of palm oil plantations, almost two third of primary forests here has been destroyed.
For this reason, to stem further degradation, the government has mapped out the area as a National Park, while plantations already in the park are being reverted to the jungles. Even so, biologists assert that the Tesso Nilo Park still contains abundant tropical vascular plant species, surpassing those found in the Amazon region. The park is habitat to Sumatra’s endangered elephants, tigers, and tapirs. There are boars, deer, sun bear and other wildlife.
In 2012 Tesso Nilo counted some 150 elephants, while WWF found tracks of 50 Sumatran tigers. Nonetheless, the close proximity of the Park to human settlements still cause wild elephants to wander into villages and are, therefore, considered as pests by the local inhabitants. Illegal logging and wildfires also continue to threaten the Park.
To enter the Tesso Nilo National Park, one must first have a permit, signed by the Head of the Tesso Nilo National Park, which can also be obtained at the WWF Headquarters at Pangkalan Kerinci at Pelalawan, Riau at +62 781 494728.
Pangkalan Kerinci is about 5 hours from Pekanbaru, capital of Riau province. WWF can also arrange your tours and accommodation in the park. All visitors must be accompanied by a ranger. There are two check points before you enter the Park, where the permit and accompanying ranger are required.
From the WWF headquarters to the Park it takes about 3 hours by motorbike, passing palm oil plantations, farmland and cleared jungle. There are as yet no regular bus services from Pekanbaru to the Park. So best is to travel by car to Kerinci, and from there take a motorbike to the Park.