North Sumatra’s Treasure

Sumatra is a huge island running up a volcanic plate that has formed with steep ridges and mountains to the west and tropical plains to the east. The east has developed into cities such as Medan and thriving communities, yet the west lies as a natural treasure trove of biologic wonders. Starting on the west coast you will find pristine beaches with waves and breaks surfers dream of the best are the Mentawai Islands and Nias. Yet as you step off the beaches you enter what is better known as the Leuser Ecosystem, which is without parallel for diversity.

The Leuser Ecosystem
The Leuser Ecosystem (Source :

From sea level to 3,455 meters you cross rivers, ancient villages, dense rain forest, swamp lands, all enclosed on a 20,000 square km sanctuary. This area is home to a huge variety of species that are both rare and breath taking. To mention but a few the famed petit Sumatran 2 horned Rhinoceros, the enigmatic Sumatran Elephant and the most popular of all the Wild Orangutans.

This is a vast area and some of the more famous and common areas are. Bukit Lawang and Berastagi.

Bukit Lawang has a wide variety of accommodation and a wider variety of activities for you to enjoy. Here you will find the Orangutan Center that enables you to get up close and personal with semi-wild orangutans. The need for such a center was not first envisaged as a tourist center but actually a rehabilitation center to re-educate orphaned orangutans thus enabling them to re-enter the wild. The work the people do here is amazing and you can feel a real sense that everyone involved has a true passion for their work. You will be happy to see no cages or bars just feeding platforms that the orangutans visit at certain times of the day to get a healthy diet.

The wild Bukit Lawang Orangutans
The wild Bukit Lawang Orangutans (Source :

Berastagi is a great simple get away spot from the commotion of Medan. Yet this is not a well-kept secret so at the weekend and public holidays it gets busy. Nevertheless if you grab a pair of comfortable walking shoes there is a vast array of places to enjoy in the area. But before that you will have to enjoy a light spot of Elephant trekking. Lau Kawar is a lake that offers many trails and paths; as for the more adventurous Gunung Sinabung is ready to be climbed, which offers great views of the western plains. Most people will visit Sibolangit Tourism Forest with good reason as it offers a rich variety of plant life and spectacular views. It is a good family friendly spot as the paths are wide and well marked.

Berastagi (Source :

As with most things, the further you delve, the deeper you become surrounded by pure nature. This region typifies this rule. If you are in search of the Sumatran Rhino then you should head to the west coast. There are only a couple of hundred of these beautiful beasts left in the wild and they live solitary lives quickly moving from one area to another in search of food and escaping the public gaze. There is not guarantee you will see one but a good place to start would be around the Tapaktuan area plus you will find great Treks into the rain forest and the possibility to see so much more.

Tapaktuan, Aceh
Tapaktuan, Aceh (Source :

Life follows the water; this is true for animals as it is for humans. The Alas River provides homes for a small number of communities but more importantly it is home to the Sumatran Elephant and an impressive variety of Gibbons. As you move along trails made by elephants you see darts of colour whisk before you, kingfishers, hornbills, hawks and eagles. Plus you will hear in the morning the choir of Siamang gibbons calling out to you as you wake up. After you have taken all this in with a slow trek you can then zoom past with a spot of while water rafting (Soraya & Serakut).

Rafting on the Alas river
Rafting on the Alas river (Source :
After all this adventure you will need to have a good hot bath and where better than at Gurah Hot Springs. Ok, it does take about a 3 hour walk to get there but it is worth it. Plus keep your eyes out as if you are very luck you will also spot some truly wild Orangutans.

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