Sumatra (Indonesian: Sumatera) is an island in western Indonesia and part of the Sunda islands.It is the 6th largest island in the world, an area of 473,481 square km, and a population of nearly 55 million people. The people of Sumatra are multi-lingual, multi-diverse and multi-religious, there are over 52 languages spoken.
A majority of the people in Sumatra are Muslims(87%) while 10% are Christians, 2% are Buddhist and 1% Hindu. Sumatra has a wide range of vegetation types which are home to a rich variety of species, including 17 endemic genera of plants.Unique species include the Sumatran Pine which dominates the Sumatran tropical pine forests. Sumatra is home to 201 mammal species and 580 bird species such as the Sumatran ground Cuckoo, the island has about 300 freshwater fish species as well.
Famous are the Sumatran tiger, elephant and orangutan, in 2008 the Indonesian government announced a plan to protect Sumatra’s remaining forests with its incredible flora & fauna. Sumatra is the largest producer of Indonesian coffee, small-holders grow Arabica coffee in the highlands while Robusta is found in the lowlands. Arabica coffee from the regions of Gayo, Lintong and Sidikilang is typically processed using the Gilling Basah(wet hulling) technique which gives it a heavily body and low acidity.
Upon your arrival in Kualanamu airport in Medan, the main city in Northern Sumatra and then drive about one hour to the centre for a sightseeing. Then drive to Tangkahan, a beautifully remote jungle settlement on the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park. Tangkahan was established as an ecotourism spot in 2001. Previously the area was logged and poachers hunted the animals. The local people have transformed the region, stopping illegal exploitation of the forest and forming forest ranger groups to patrol for illegal activities. Seven elephants were brought to the area to support this initiative. The elephants are used to patrol the forest to keep illegal loggers and poachers out. Joining the elephants for their daily bathing or taking a ride on elephant back will help to support this initiative too. About 2 hours before Tangkahan the road is quite poor. You will drive over bumpy oilpalm plantation tracks.
It’s the time with the biggest mammal in the world. You will follow one hour elephant riding through the forest path. After the riding, you will join and help mahouts bathe the elephants in the river. It is a very nice experience and you can get up close and personal with the elephants. You are allowed to scrub and wash them. Once they are finished, then your turn. The elephant will spray you water with its trunk. Nice shower! Also chance for you to hand feed the elephants. Then off road with local jeep to Bukit Lawang, a small tourist village situated on the other side of Gunung Leuser National Park. It is the most accessible place to spot the orangutans in the park. And the park is one of the largest national park in the world containing over 800,000 ha of virgin rainforest. The jeep trip takes about 3 hours passing by oilpalm plantation tracks and rural areas. A bit bumpy drive but great fun! Arrive in Bukit Lawang, free to relax. Enjoy the scenery from the veranda of your hotel room.
First you will visit the feeding platform of orangutans. The platform was built to help the orangutans that have been released to the wild after their rehabilitation. As they are semi-wild, they are sometimes having trouble finding food on their own in the wild. Then they can come to the feeding platform for some milk and bananas. Wild orangutan occasionally come to the platform too. So the feeding platform is meant as the first place for the orangutans come to for help rather than plantations or village where conflicts can occur. When the orangutans are getting enough food on their own, they will not come to the platform because the food they find in the wild is more exciting than just milk and bananas! So although it is a marvelous sight to see the orangutans at the platform, it is also good news when they do not show up, as this means they are surviving well in the wild without help. From the platform you will follow a 5-6 hours jungle walk to experience the rainforest. It is not a flat walk but involves some ups and downs. A bit hard but in return you get a very nice experience. You have a big chance to see gibbons, thomas leaf monkeys, longtail and pigtail macagues, flying squirrels, Sumatra peacocks and hornbills. A wild Orangutans might cross your way. Simple picnic lunch on trails. Jungle trek ends by the river side from where you start your tubing experience. You will float down the river on car tubes about 20 minutes till your accomodation. Then short rest, packing and drive to Berastagi (1300m), a hill town flanked by two active volcanoes Sinabung (2417m) and Sibayak (2172m). It is the homeland of the Batak Karo, one of the six Batak tribes that inhabit the province of North Sumatra. Visit the local fruit market in town. Transfer to your hotel.
Scenic drive to lake Toba, one of the deepest and largest crater lake in the world with stop at Dokan, a small Batak Karo village with a number of traditional houses still inhabited by eight families each. Visit picturesque Sipiso piso waterfalls that plunge from height 120 meters. Proceed to Pematang Purba to see wooden palace (Rumah Bolon) of the former king Batak Simalungun. Enroute stop at SimarjarunjunAg for magnificent view of lake Toba. Somewhere afternoon you arrive in Parapat, the main tourist resort which lies on the very shore of lake Toba. From here you cross the lake by boat on about 45 minutes to Samosir, a volcanic island in the middle of lake Toba. You will stay in Tuktuk, a peninsula on the eastern coast of Samosir island.
After breakfast, explore Samosir island by car. Visit Ambarita, Samosir’s most interesting Batak Toba village. Ambarita is known for its unique ancient courtyard, made up of stone chairs and tables. This courtyard served as a court of justice. Visit the home of king Sidauruk in Simanindo village and witness Batak Toba folkdance called Tor tor performed by the villagers. Here you can also visit a museum built in typical Batak style. On the way back to your hotel, visit Tomok to see a very old but nicely decorated sarchopagus, the old tomb of king Sidabutar.
Across back the lake by boat about 45 minutes to Parapat. Followed by a 5 hours drive, enroute you will pass oilpalm plantation, rubber and cocoa. Afternoon, you will be arriving at the airport for yur flight to your next destination.