If like me, you’re adventurous, an animal lover and young at heart then Sumatra might just be perfect for you. Be mesmerised by swinging orangutans, explore giant crater lakes and relish deserted white sandy beaches – Sumatra is the perfect off-the-beaten track destination. Here’s my top 5 fave things to do on this beautiful island.
1. Swinging with orangutans in Bukit Luwang
Bukit Luwang is just North West of Sumatra’s capital, Medan and is an incredible biologically diverse area with lush green jungle and all kinds of tropical flora. The area is most famous for its orangutan rehabilitation centre along the Bohorok River. I love it because…well, because of the orangutans of course! You can watch them swing down from the trees at feeding time and you can almost swing with the apes yourself on a trek through the wild jungle. Even though it’s a well visited area, this experience really is as up close personal as you can get with our orange furry friends.
“The first time you spot our ginger friends, and considering their size they’re not difficult to spot swinging through the trees, you can’t help but smile.” Petra Shepherd, a freelance travel writer who recently ventured to Sumatra with us.
2. Bathing with playful elephants deep in the Sumatran jungle
Further North and even deeper into the jungle is a small place called Tangkahan which is definitely off the beaten track, complete with comfy places to stay and plenty of experienced guides at hand. I love the area because you can sleep by the river and spend evenings with fellow travellers surrounded by the sounds of the jungle. The elephants in Tangkahan are a main attraction and over the years they’ve assisted many guides with protecting the area from illegal logging. Start your day down by the river helping to give one of these gentle giants a good scrub – better than a takeaway coffee on the tube!
“Superb accommodation and elephant washing – an excellent experience” Jan Clarke, one of our Rickshaw Ramblers who recently traveled to Indonesia looking for adventure and to get a real taste of the country.
3. Exploring local villages in South East Asia’s biggest crater lake
Lake Toba is South East Asia’s biggest crater lake, and Samosir is like a fairytale island right in the middle with lovely Batak style buildings scattered all around. Tuktuk is the most popular area for travelers with its sandy shores and lapping blue waters. I love Tomok, a traditional Sumatran Village with beautifully painted Adat houses – it’s a great introduction to the area’s unique design and culture and a lovely relaxing place to unwind after a wildlife adventure.
“Lake Toba is one of the most beautiful places I have been, with its cultural villages and sleepy beaches.” Chloe, our Indonesia Specialist, (and author of this post!) recently enjoyed her first trip to Sumatra after spending much time all over Indonesia.
4. Climb the sulphurous Sibayak volcano near Berastagi
Berastagi is situated just south of Medan and is a breezy highland town with attractive Sumatran scenery. There is a semi active volcano called Sibayak volcano. The many steam vents and hot springs dotted around make Sibayak an interesting volcano to climb. I love it because the climb is a decent 2-hour trek and the impressive views from the summit make it absolutely worth it. You can even soak your weary legs in the natural Lau Debuk-Debuk hot springs on the way down. Although I do recommend finding an experienced guide rather than making it onto the list below!
“The volcano trek was superb” Jan Clarke, Rickshaw Rambler.
5. Go Robinson Crusoe on Cubadak Island
In Sumatra is one of Indonesia’s best-kept secrets, the deserted Cubadak Island. There’s only one resort on the island, with 13 rooms and a few small fishermen’s huts in the north. I love it because it feels like I have the island all to myself even when the resort is fully booked! Imagine gorgeous white sand, water so clear you can see your feet neck deep and plenty of tropical fish to snorkel through. Plus, even though it’s deserted there’s still 24-hour electricity and drinkable tap water which comes directly from the mountain – a rare treat in South East Asia.
“What a great place, it is basically a slice of paradise” Ruth, a Friend of Rickshaw, lists Sumatra in her top 10 places to visit.
Time for a Kuala Lumpur stopover?
What’s more Sumatra is just a hop, skip and jump away – oh alright maybe more like a short flight from Kuala Lumpur which opens up even more doors for adventure. Check out our top 10 things to do in Kuala Lumpur for even more inspiration.