START YOUR ADVENTURE IN THE SUMATRAN RAINFOREST
The Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the richest tropical rainforests in South East Asia and is located in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and placed on a list of world heritage sites in danger in 2011,
the Gunung Leuser National Park covers around 1,095,000 ha in northern Sumatra and has amongst one of the most diverse
biodiversity in the world by housing thousands species of indigenous animals, insects and plants.
This amazing rainforest provides also a home for endangered and protected species like the Sumatran Tiger, Rhinoceros, Slow Loris, Elephant and of course the wonderful people of the forest, the Sumatran Orangutans!
A rainforest with a unique biodiversity
The rainforest covers around 1,095,000 ha and peaks at 3,404 m with the summit of Gunung Leuser which gave the name to the National Park ! Its unique eco-system hides rivers, volcanoes and lakes. This rainforest is the most biodiverse in South East Asia with an amazing fauna & flora. It hosts approximately 750 different animal species – more than 200 mammals, 580 birds, 300 reptiles and amphibians. It is the only place in the world where you can see the big Sumatran mammals Tiger, Rhino, Elephant & of course the Sumatran Orangutans. Amongst these 200 mammals species, there are 8 species of primates living in the jungle : the Siamang, the Thomas Leaf Monkey, the White-Handed Gibbon, the Pig-tailed Macaque, The Long-tailed Macaque, the Silver Leaf Monkey and the Slow Loris. The Gunung Leuser National Park also has an enormous richness of plant species. The flora contains approximately 10.000 plant species, including the spectacular Rafflesia Arnoldi and Amorphophallus titanum, the biggest and the highest flower in the world.
Threaten by palm oil plantations
The wonderful Gunung Leuser National Park is an UNESCO World Heritage Site (listed 2004). In 2011 it was placed on the list of world heritage sites in danger. Scientists estimate that 98% of Indonesia's forests will be destroyed by 2022 and Greenpeace estimates that Indonesia destroys about 51 square kilometers of forests every day, equivalent to 300 football fields every hour.
The biggest threats to the rainforest in North Sumatra, are of course palm oil plantations, mining concessions and induced road development, agricultural encroachment but also illegal logging and poaching. In recent years efforts are undertaken for conservation purposes including attempts to establish community forests as well as other community development activities, and many tropical forests are now under government protection. However the extinction of endemic species especially plants and some of the world’s most endangered animal species remain a great threat!
Home of many endangered species
The 1,095,000 hectares of tropical rainforest which make up Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the last places in Indonesia where the increasingly endangered Sumatran Rhinos, Tigers, Elephants and Orangutans all live. Due to the increasing threats (deforestation, forest degradation, loss of habitat, etc.) to Sumatran rainforest ecosystems, all these endangered species and other fauna & flora species could disappear in the year to come.
Visiting Bukit Lawang is a good way to save the rainforest !
UNESCO and Gunung Leuser NP are collaborating to improve the Gunung Leuser National Park conditions and local capacities for ecotourism market development, as well as promoting the National Park as an international ecotourism stop. The example of Bukit Lawang has shown that tourism can make a difference in changing the attitude of communities towards the rainforest. Once local communities start receiving incentives from the presence of tourism, they will support and protect the biodiversity in the Park and significantly reduce forest crimes in these areas.
Let's visit us to PRESERVE the rainforest
MEET THE SUMATRAN ORANGUTANS
There are only two places in the world where you can still find Orangutans in the wild rainforest ! One of this two place is the Gunung Leuser National Park, home of the last Sumatran Orangutans (Pongo abelii). (The other remaining orangutan species (Pongo pygmaeus) is found on the island of Borneo.) Around less than 6500 Orangutans still live in the ca.1,095,000 ha of the Gunung Leuser National Park.
The "people from the forest"
Orangutan is the world’s largest arboreal mammal and means “people of the forest” (Orang means people & Hutan means forest) in Indonesian. There are only two species of Orangutans in the world, both located in Indonesia : the Pongo Abelli is coming from Sumatra & the Pongo Pygmaeus from Borneo.
If they are called "People from the forest" it's because Orangutans share 96.5% of their DNA with humans ! Indeed if you just have a look at them you will notice it directly!
They spend 95% of their time high in the rainforest and have adapted their lifestyle according to the canopy changes. They spend most of their lives in the tops of the trees and climb from branch to branch. Orangutans can make several kilometers per day when they looking for food. That's the reason why they are making a new nest each night in another high tree. They mostly eat vegetarian stuff and insects. Orangutans love leaves and fruits including jack fruit, but they also often eat bird eggs, termites or ants.
Compared to other primate species, they are living alone and have minimal social interaction, generally meeting only during love season ! Orangutans have the longest inter-birth interval of any land-living animal as they are giving birth to a single baby only once every 8 years. The baby Orangutan stays with its mum until he is 7-10 years old. A female Orangutan will usually have no more than 3 babies in her life!
Adults Sumatran Orangutans are around 1.4 meters tall and males can weight up to 80 kilograms. Females are smaller, being 0,9 meters tall and weighting around 40 kilograms. Orangutans have a long life compared to other primates as they can often live around 45 years in the wild.
Our guides will let you know more about this amazing species during your trek!
An endangered species
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists Sumatran Orangutans as a critically endangered species. With less than 6500 remaining Sumatran Orangutans in the wild, current estimates suggest that they could be the first great primate species to extinct in the world!
The Sumatran Orangutans are living in the fragile rainforest what makes them vulnerable as habitat loss is by far the greatest threat to them but they are also threaten by other human activities. Here are the different threats they are exposed to:
The expansion of unsustainable oil palm plantations is the most important threat to their survival as it destroy the rainforest, their natural habitat ! Indeed, huge areas of rainforest is destroyed and converted into huge palm oil plantations. Palm oil is used by many manufacturers and is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet. It can be identified in half of all packaged products sold in supermarkets, from pizza dough and instant noodles, to detergent, shampoo, lipstick and biodiesel. In an attempt to combat global warming and climate change it has also been suggested that palm oil can be used as a biofuel BUT the amount of carbon dioxide released by converting forest to industrial plantations is 10 times that released by burning fossil fuels. Plus it destroys the Orangutan's natural habitat what makes them even more endangered ! Greenpeace estimates that Indonesia destroys about 51 square kilometers of forests every day, equivalent to 300 football fields every hour, leaving Orangutans homeless and often found wandering outside of protected areas, in forests under management by timber, palm oil and mining companies.
Another major threat for Orangutans is both legal & iIllegal logging of timber as it contributes to damage their natural habitat.
Pet trade also add to their decline even if many efforts are undertaken by organizations to reduce this trend. The capture of Babies Orangutans for the pet trade are mostly found on land when they destroy and burn the rainforest during conversion to palm oil plantations. The mother Orangutan has to be killed in order to get her baby because she will NEVER willingly give it up! Orangutans are often kept as pets by local rural people but also politicians and military/police staff even if it is forbidden by the Indonesian Law to possess an Orangutan.
Illegal mining of alluvial gold, silica, quartz is also becoming an important threat to Indonesia’s National Park and thus Orangutans.
Forest fires (to clear land for palm oil plantations, human induced or uncontrolled) also have a devastating effect on orangutan habitat. During the terrible fires of 1997-98 the Orangutan population of Borneo decreased by 33% in one year!
Bukit Lawang & its rehabilitation program
In Bukit Lawang, between 1973 and 1991, around 230 orangutans have been brought back into the forest from captivity in the framework of a Rehabilitation Program. Some of them have become wild-living animals in the primary forest. However, most of them remain semi-wild and keep coming back to the secondary forest close to the village.
JOIN US FOR TREKKING TO MEET THE
SEMI-WILD & WILD ORANGUTANS !
Follow our jungle guidelines when you enter the rainforest & meet orangutans !
WHAT ELSE TO EXPLORE IN NORTH SUMATRA ?
Sumatra is the biggest island of Indonesia! Far from mass tourism, Sumatra is a real hidden gem which is worthing to explore if you are looking for authenticity, culture, stunning different landscapes and an amazing fauna and flora! North Sumatra is easily reachable with good air connections to/from Medan and Banda Aceh but also good transportation means. North Sumatra offers various activities and stunning spots from jungle trekking to spot Orangutans, climbing volcanoes in Berastagi, admiring the incredible landscapes of Lake Toba, skim the waves off the Banyaks and Nias, snorkel and dive in Pulau Weh... North Sumatra is the perfect area to start exploring the undiscovered island of Sumatra.
Berastagi is a lovely hill town in the Karo highlands, about 120 km from Bukit Lawang. Located around 1300 meter above sea levels, this area offer amazing panoramic view on all North Sumatra and a refreshing and cooler climate. It is particularly popular spot as a starting base for climbing the Gunung Sibayak. You can hike it with or without a guide, but for sunrise we recommend to opt for a local guide. You can also take a walk to Gundaling Hill and enjoy the panoramic views over the town and the 2 volcanoes. Besides hiking you can explore the green surroundings, fruits plantations and stop at the amazing fruits market in the village! Don't miss the impressive Sipiso Piso waterfall between Berastagi and Lake Toba.
Danau Toba is one of North Sumatra's most incredible sights, located around 110km from Berastagi. It is the largest lake in Indonesia but also the largest volcanic lake in the world! The lake is surrounded by the most inspiring landscapes made from mountains, hills and ricefields. On the center of this stunning lake stands Pulau Samosir, home the Batak culture. We recommend to stay at Pulau Samosir to enjoy all the wonders of Lake Toba. Explore the island by scooter, discover the amazing green surroundings and learn more about the Batak culture (King Siallagan’s Tomb & Batak Museum in Siminando). Chill at the lake side, enjoy a refreshing swim in the lake and try the water activities if you are looking for some fun! Hike the mountains to explore the hidden spots of Samosir (small lake, amazing waterfalls, hot springs, white beach and many others).
Pulau Banyak means “Many Islands” in Indonesian. The archipelago is located 29 km off the West Sumatra Coast, in North Sumatra. Some islands are really tiny and mostly are uninhabited. It is really heaven on earth and perfect if you are looking for chillling beach vibes and down time without internet connection. All the islands offer white sand beaches with coconut trees perfect to relax and a crystal blue water to swim. Accommodation on the habited islands are basic bungalows on the paradisiac beaches where you can lay down and relax. You can take a kayak or a boat to do island hoping, swim in the crystal clear water and enjoy the colorful sunsets and sunrises! Pulau Banyak has some of the most beautiful snorkeling spots in Indonesia that can be reached just by swimming from the beach but also amazing diving spots!
Pulau Weh also known as “Weh Island” or Sabang, is a hilly volcanic island located at the top of northern Sumatra and mostly covered by tropical jungle. The island is about 156 km2 and offer many amazing spots and different activities. You can hike a small volcano, enjoy hot springs and an amazing waterfall in the middle of the tropical jungle, explore the island by scooter, enjoy the viewpoints, do an early morning cruise to see dolphins, go to Kilometer 0...! Among all the activities the most unforgettable one is the discovery of the amazing underwater life by snorkeling or diving. The islands also offers stunning sunrise and sunset points! We recommend to spend some days in Iboih and then on the white sand beach with coconut trees in Padang.
EXTEND YOUR ADVENTURE IN WEST SUMATRA
Unspoilt islands, amazing waves, indigenous culture, volcanic lakes, green valleys, climbable volcanoes — you will find all the ingredients for a memorable adventure in West Sumatra.
Even if some areas are still really preserved from tourism, intrepid adventurers often wander south after a trip in North Sumatra to discover the hidden beauty of the rest of Sumatra.
Padang is a lovely city if you're interested in the history of Indonesia and if you are a food lover! Originally it was a port for traders of gold, spices and timber with a lot of trade from/to China. Thus many Chinese immigrated to Padang that's the reason why Padang has an amazing China Town with many restaurants and spice shops. Padang Old Town, is the old part of Padang where you can see many colonial Dutch buildings that are still intact along Batang Arau River. Padang is famous for its tasty food, you can go everywhere in the street and taste the delicious Sumatran cuisine! The most famous dish is Beef Rendang (Sapi Rendang).
If you are looking for nice beaches where to chill and swim, head to Bungus Bay, located 25kms south of Padang and can be reached by mini bus in 45 minutes. Bungus Beach is on a beautiful calm bay with white sandy beaches. From Bungus Beach you can take a boat to the nearby islands and do some island hopping. If you are looking for stunning brown-white sand beaches, visit Air Manis Beach and Sweet Water Beach located 10kms south of Padang. Padang is a good starting point for surfinf tours organized by different tour agencies.
There are about 70 Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra which are home to the Mentawai people, an indigenous tribe of hunter-gatherers also called "Flower People". The Mentawai culture is fascinating : customs include traditional tattooing and sharpening of the teeth and many traditional activities such as dancing, fishing, hunting... But the Mentawai islands are also a famous spot for experienced surfers! The unforgettable, world-class waves break over reef and rock. Adventurous travelers are going there for trekking, diving/snorkeling, to learn about indigenous culture, to get traditional tattoos and of course to surf the amazing waves.
Easily reachable from Padang, a nice journey across hills and valleys, through plantations and small villages will lead you to Bukittinggi, the cultural centre of Minangkabau culture. The town is surrounded by volcanoes, lakes, canyons and traditional villages and is located on the Agam plateau above a deep river valley. You can walk into town discover the market and most of all the Minangkabau culture in which the women play the dominant role. Their wealth is expressed in beautifully woven traditional dress and the adat houses with their distinctive roofs.
If you feel like an adventurer, you can explore the amazing surroundings of Bukittinggi which is full of wonderful unspoilt places : Ngarai Sianok Canyon, cliffs covered in tropical vines, ricefields and volcanic lakes. Lake Maninjau is a big crater lake 22 miles west of Bukittinggi perfect to chill, swim and spend lazy days of reading, fishing and maybe even watching a seasonal pacu jawi (cow race) event in West Sumatra. You can rent a bike, explore the area by foot or rent a canoe.
The verdant Harau Valley is around two hours north of Bukittinggi by motorbike but is also reachable by local bus. The Harau Valley is sometimes known as the Yosemite of Indonesia as it offers an amazing scenery between the enormous brown striped cliffs which rise up from the village. It is located in the Lima Puluh Kota district which has been designated as a nature conservation area, covering some 669 acres and hosting gibbons, macaques and a variety of wildlife. Its beautiful landscape, its peaceful serenity make the Harau Valley the perfect spot to relax after an intense road trip through Sumatra. The Harau Valley is famous for its steep rock walls which attract rock climbers and photographers. Do a trek up to the cliffs to enjoy the amazing panoramic view and take a plunge into the refreshing water of hidden waterfalls! Besides the 300 climbing spots, you can take time for a short walk around the village and watch the local everyday life or rent a (motor)bike to go through the rice paddies. Some women work in the rice fields while men plough the fields behind water buffalos, providing an interesting cultural trip.
The Kerinci region is a remote highland valley, located mountains and volcanoes and famous for its natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and a unique traditional culture. The Kerinci Seblat National Park, with almost 14,000 km2, is the largest National Park of Sumatra. In fact, it’s one of the largest protected areas in all of Asia as it hosts the highest population of tigers of any protected area in all of Southeast Asia! The Kerinci Valley hosts the highest volcano and one of the highest volcanic lakes in Southeast Asia. Just behind the Mount Kerinci, you can observe the beautiful scenery of the The Kayu Aro Tea Plantation, with an area of more than 30 km2, it's the largest tea plantation in the world! This area offers great opportunities for trekking/hiking during several days into the cloud forests, at the top of mountains and volcanoes with Indonesia’s best chances to see Sumatran tigers in the wild. You can also opt for day trips to hot springs, waterfalls and unique lakes where you will be able to swim, chill and relax!
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO TRAVEL SUMATRA
VISIT THE TRAVEL BLOG OF CARLY & AGUNG : WE ARE SUMATRA
Charlie and Agung are a couple living in Sumatra, they adore it and want to share their love of Sumatra with people! There is still little information about travelling here so their mission is to bring Sumatra into the limelight and to help adventurous travellers who want to explore this stunning part of the world.
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