By Aliki Kraterou
A British couple who have found themselves stranded in an exotic paradise due to Coronavirus, spend their days watching wild orangutans.
Jeff Yip, 37 and Zuzana Barancova 36, from Staffordshire, spent two years saving to explore South East Asia.
And although the couple were able to visit most of the countries planned, they got trapped in Sumatra, Indonesia, when they visited the village Bukit Lawang to see the wild orangutans in March.
And as the pair’s flight home on April 12 was cancelled, they have been staying in a £5 per night guesthouse and have £1-2 meals, while they are awaiting for the flight regulations to change.
Jeff, who works as a technical operator and Zuzana, originally from Slovakia, an import administrator, were originally planning to visit Java and Bali before returning to the UK in June.
Jeff said:“It’s normally hot and sunny, and there is no lockdown, so we try to go on walks on most days.
“We have seen plenty of wildlife during our walks – a variety of monkeys, huge monitor lizards, tiny and huge frogs and even a snake once or twice.
“The best encounter we had was when we went down to the river, a few metres from our guesthouse, and saw a young orangutan across the river.
“His mother arrived shortly afterwards with another surprise-a few week old baby orangutan.
“We’ve also, somehow become the parents of two adorable cats- funnily enough, they show up mostly around meal times.
“Of course, we are in the rainforest so we try to get back before the thunderstorms arrive in the late afternoon.
“Apart from meeting the local wildlife, we have tried to be productive as well during our time here.
“Sometimes we just chill on our terrace and catch up with friends back home while we watch the macaques run around from roof to roof.
“We don’t spend our budget on any unnecessary items-there isn’t actually a lot to spend our budget on.
“It’s been great-we would’ve returned to the UK with nowhere to live and job uncertainty with the lockdown in place.
“We also feel a little better protected from the virus here-there may not be a lockdown but it’s not possible to travel between cities and no one can visit Bukit Lawang from outside the local area.
“Staying here has also given us a chance to really immerse ourselves into the community.
“We have become like family with the owner of the guesthouse and he even invited us to Eid al-Fitr,something that tourists rarely get a chance to experience. “
Starting their trip in December, Jeff and Zuzana were able to visit Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos- their plan was to fly from Indonesia to Bali and Java and the return to the UK.
After a while the pair were planning to start a new adventure exploring South America.
But after finding out about the virus outbreak on social media they decided to stay in the island of Sumatra and wait until the lockdown and quarantine is over.
Apart from meeting the local wildlife, the couple have found ways to keep busy- Jeff writes for his travel blog, Zuzana, catches up on reading and they both do short online workouts and watch documentaries.
Jeff added: “We had planned to do a tour of Southeast Asia and South America, it was something we had been planning for a few years now.
“We worked really hard to save for this trip,working extra shifts,being careful with our expenditure and cutting back on luxuries.
“We found out about the virus in January when we were in Thailand.-one of our friends from the UK posted something on his Facebook about ‘coronavirus’- we had to google what it was.
“There were still tourists everywhere that we travelled to so there was nothing to indicate that the borders would close so suddenly.
“The more we travelled, the more we saw the virus in the news and on social media-the number of tourists also dropped as we travelled to more countries.
“We planned to spend a few days here to do a jungle trek as Bukit Lawang was only one of the few places in the world where you can see wild orangutans.”
“The Gunung Leuser National Park, where the orangutans reside, was closed a few days after we arrived-luckily we managed to do a trek before it closed.
“Most of the shops and restaurants, except one or two, have been closed for months-no bars are open and most of the trekking guides have had to find alternative work to support themselves and their families.
“A full-scale lockdown wasn’t introduced so people in the local villages seem to go about their lives as normal.
“With the UK’s lockdown and Slovakia’s 14 day arrival quarantine, it seemed like a better idea at the time to stay put and see what happens.
“Now, after three months, there are no signs that the rest of Indonesia is opening up to international tourism any time soon.”
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