By Hugh Biggar
When a man with a machete silently joined us at the edge of the rain forest, my sister and I weren't sure whether to be alarmed or comforted. We already had a guide and park ranger accompanying us as we set off into Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra. The mysterious machete man made five.
The Indonesian island of Sumatra is one of the few places left in the world where elephants, rhinos and - of particular interest to Heather and me - tigers live together in the wild. Critically endangered, wild tigers are fighting to survive in the face of widespread poaching and forest-clearing. With that in mind, we'd went to Sumatra to see what we could while we could.
Before the trip, the eco-lodge making the arrangements warned us it was extremely unlikely we would see any tigers. There are roughly 30 Sumatran tigers remaining in the 502-square-mile Way Kambas park in southern Sumatra, and they mostly prefer to stay in the deep interior. Across Sumatra, there are fewer than 400 tigers left, and they are extinct on the nearby islands of Java and Bali. Sumatra's tigers are smaller than their cousins elsewhere and have thicker black stripes.
Though getting a glimpse was a long shot, Heather and I were ready to try, hoping at the very least to spy a tiger paw print or claw marks on tree bark - any signs of the jungle cats would do.