Sumatra Morning Coffee

House boat on Camp Leakey River

One of the best times of the day – morning coffee. Let me describe where I am having my coffee. My bungalow is built into a hillside on the edge of one of the last remaining rainforests on Sumatra – Gunung Leuser National Park. I am sitting in an open-aired cafe which is connected to my bungalow. The cafe and this little village are all perched along the side of the fast flowing Bahorok river. I can hear the rush of the rapids and I need to speak a little loud to be heard above the surging river when I order my coffee with (hopefully) milk. No such luck again. No milk here…at all. Oh well. It’s not a HUGE deal. Semi-huge only :-(.

We had a HUGE rain last night that woke me up. We are in the wet season. Here in the rain forest, the rains don’t just come every afternoon. They can come at any time. The problem is that, with my forest guide named Darma, I have to cross this river in a small zodiac to get to the national park. The rains raise the river and can make the crossing impossible. Darma will be here in a few minutes and I will find out if we can cross.

This is Darma:


He is quite a character. He reminds me a lot of the macaques. He talks a lot, laughs a lot and moves a lot. He seems to jump from one spot to the next. He is extremely amiable and chirps happily until he starts talking about the orangutans and conservation of the forest. Then his outgoing happy-go-lucky personality changes and he loses his smile. He is a forest ranger as well as a guide, and like the people I have been working with so far, his entire life and heart are dedicated to saving the last vestiges of the Sumatran forests and the animals that live within them. Darma has a little saying that he feels describes him best. He told me, “I’m not useful, but I am not useless!”. This is such an understatement of course because I cannot begin to tell you of all the projects that he is involved in to plant endemic trees, save primary forest and to save orangutans. I just hope that some day I can borrow this saying from him.

Today I will search for a large male Sumatran orangutan. I want to photograph this guy with his gorgeous long beard which is one attribute that differentiates him from his Bornean cousin. Another sip of coffee….ahhhhh…sort of. This darn “elixir of the gods” is always one extravagance that I have trouble doing without. Food, showers, clean clothes, insects and the rest are not nearly as consequential as my LOVE for gosh darn coffee.

~ Jami Tarris

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