Finding Serendipity on the Island of Sumatra
16 – Day Journey through the Land of the Minang, to the Land of the Batak and the Land of the Orangutan!
16 – Day Journey through the Land of the Minang, to the Land of the Batak and the Land of the Orangutan!
|GROUP SIZE||Maximum 18 people|
|GROUP MINIMUM||1 person (all our trips are guaranteed departures)|
|START DAY||Saturday at 9:30 AM|
Upon Arrival at Jakarta Airport from Medan at 3:30 PM
The largest island in Indonesia and the sixth largest island in the world, Sumatra is made up of some of Indonesia’s most stunning landscapes and stories that seem to jump right out of the pages of a classic old adventure novel – with volcanic highlands rumored to be protected by once fierce headhunters, old lost-in-time seafaring trading outposts, desolate palm-fringed sandy beaches, and thick jungles home to – the beautiful and oh so lovely, ORANGUTAN!
The orangutan name comes from the local lingo “orang”, meaning “person”, and “hutan”, meaning “forest” – so “forest people”, an apt name as you’ll see when we are trekking through the wilds of Sumatra and have a chance encounter with them. The only great apes in all of Asia, these lovely beasts bear an uncanny resemblance to humans in both their characteristics and behavior. Very intelligent, orangutans have been known to fashion tools for use in their daily chores, and which is not known by most people, orangutans actually build their own beds (nests) up in trees. Orangutan mothers are considered to have a very loving and “intense” relationship with their children – more than any other animal outside of humans – constantly carrying for their babies for five years or more, and nurturing them until their are 7 or 8 years old.
Our 16-day journey begins on the island of Java, Sumatra’s neighbor to the south, in the old colonial capital of Jakarta. A testament to the country’s growth, Batavia, as it was then known, was the Dutch seat of power in the East Indies for over 350 years. Today, this teeming mega-metropolis is the economical and political capital of the world’s fourth most populated country.
Then we’ll cross the Sunda Strait to Sumatra where we’ll learn about the people who have called the island their home for thousands of years including the Minangkabau of West Sumatra. The Minang are a matrilineal ethnic group who are not only known for their rich traditions, culture and distinct home architecture – but also for their tasty cuisine that has become the archipelago’s most famous local food!
Crossing over the equator, we’ll make our way further north before cutting deep into the island’s interior to the volcanic highlands of the Batak people! Centered much around Lake Toba, the cultural heartland of the ancient Batak was created roughly 75,000 years ago after a massive volcanic eruption said to be the biggest volcanic blast on the planet in over 2.5 million years. With an island (actually a peninsula) the size of Singapore at its center, Danau Toba is the second largest lake in Southeast Asia. It’s crystal clear blue waters that reach depths of 500 meters, compliment the Batak homeland’s pine-tree speckled grassy slopes and peaks, shore side paddy fields, small traditional villages, hot springs and fresh cool air giving the area a very serene and almost magical feel. As personal guests of our family and friends, we’ll be introduced to their unique way of living, culture and traditions.
Historically rumored to be a fierce tribe of savage headhunters, the Batak people’s “reputation” kept them to a great degree isolated from others, which in turn kept their traditions and customs very much alive and intact. These traditions include their unique and complex family structure and clan system, distinct folk music and songs, local ceremonies and rituals, beautiful artistic carvings and sculptures, fascinating home architecture, and tasty home brew (yes, home brew called “tuak” – a.k.a. jungle juice).
From the Batak highlands we’ll head into the wilds of Sumatra where we’ll explore it’s lush tropical rainforest one of the very few places in the wild that Orangutan still call their home. As guests of the incredible team behind the grassroots Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program – well spend our days in the rainforest with them learning about and supporting the important conservancy efforts they are doing to save the critically endangered orangutans and these lovely great ape’s habitat.
From learning the secrets behind making tasty vegan Batak and Padang dishes in cooking classes at local homes, hiking out in the backwoods of Sumatra’s tropical rainforests spending time with orangutans in their natural habitat, and experiencing the timeless pace and way of life in off-the-beaten-track villages, to snorkeling marine-life rich coral reefs and learning the local lingo, we invite you to join VegVoyages along with our family and friends as we take you on a personal passage into the heart and soul of the Isle of Sumatra!
15 nights accommodations (combination of historical heritage inns, charming bed & breakfasts, serene retreats, guesthouses and jungle side bungalow)
43 meals (16 breakfasts, 14 lunches, 13 dinners)
VegVoyages Adventure Leaders & Local Guides
* Airport pick up is provided only if you arrive a day or two earlier than the tour date. If you would be arriving three days or more early, please arrange for your own airport pick up.
International airfare, airport departure transfer (adventure ends on arrival at the airport), visa for Indonesia, personal travel insurance, gratuities and items of a personal nature.
|START DATE||July 14||August 3|
|END DATE||July 29||August 18|
Day 1 JAKARTA – SELAMAT DATANG KE INDONESIA!
Selamat Datang ke Jakarta (welcome to Jakarta)! The capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta’s name derives from the word “Jayakarta” that traces its roots back to the Old Javanese word meaning “victorious deed” or “complete history”. Meeting in our hotel lobby in the morning, we’ll take a short walk through one of the city’s famous modern malls where our introduction to Indonesia will begin. So what does a mall have to do with Jakarta, much less Indonesia? Well, with the country’s economy on the rise, as a developing country – lifestyles are changing and believe it or not, the mega-capital actually has one of the highest number of malls in the world – 173 to be exact where Jakarta locals flock to avoid the sun, heat, and rain – as well as crowded streets, and congestion, and class disparity. In a city that skyrocketed into development, parks are at a minimum, so the popular answer you’ll get when asking family and friends where they want to meet up will be… “which mall?”. It is interesting to note, under Soeharto, development was primarily “pro” Java, and more so “pro-Jakarta”. So as we head from the skyscraper filled-skyline of big city Jakarta after a couple of days to the island of Sumatra – whose development has only begin to take off over the past decade – you’ll notice the big island, like much of the rest of Indonesia, is still well behind from an economic infrastructure point of view than Java. After orientation meeting where you’ll get the chance to meet with your fellow travelers and discuss the adventure ahead, we’ll head out into the back alleys, backstreets – and yes, bustling bazaars of this teeming historical capital of Indonesia before settling down at a local family’s home for our first introduction to the local snacks, food and desserts of Jakarta. (Breakfast, Lunch, Diner)
Day 2 JAKARTA – BACK ALLEYS, BACK STREETS & BUSTLING BAZAARS – EXPLORING INDONESIA’S VIBRANT CAPITAL FROM A LOCAL’S POINT OF VIEW!
After breakfast, without hesitation we’ll head out to explore hustle and bustle and the many faces of Jakarta and learning about its rich history and culture that is slowly fading behind its big city skyscrapers. Established in the fourth century, the city became an important trading port for the Kingdom of Sunda. It was also the capital of the Dutch East Indies Company (who named the city – Batavia (1619–1949)). Our first stop will be the historical lanes and streets around Kota Tua (Old City). Though it is just a small part of Jakarta, Kota Tua is home to the some of the better-kept remnants of the Dutch colonial administration in the old city. After spending time in the morning learning the history of Jakarta, latter in the afternoon, we’ll hop aboard our van toward Tanah Rendah (Tanah means: Land, Rendah means: Low), in the district of Jatinegara, East Jakarta. Once arriving in Tanah Rendah, you will understand why the area gets the name. Here, we’ll see the “other face” of Jakarta. As guests of our family, we’ll learn about the ups and downs of living and working in the largest city in South East Asia and join them for fruit tasting (Jakarta has some of the best fruit selections you’ll find in the country), and a delicious home-cooked dinner where we’ll also learn how to make traditional tapioca snacks. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
“Your “Finding Serendipity on the Island of Sumatra” tour has brought new understanding of different religions, of cultural differences so beautiful they should be celebrated, and a firsthand experience of the kindness of humanity that crosses the barriers of race, language, and daily customs. More than anything, this tour filled our hearts. It filled them with hope. Hope that others can experience this tour and realize that despite our differences, we are the same in many ways. We all laugh. We all cry. We all have hopes and dreams. Our hearts were filled with the love from the locals who opened their homes to us. With pride they had in their heritage, customs and culture.
Seeing Orangutans in the wild will live in my memory for the rest of my life. It is an experience I will never forget. But the people of Jakarta, Balige, Bukittinggi, Medan, Bukit Lawing and all the others we met while in Sumatra will live in our hearts forever.
We are so THANKFUL we got to experience Sumatra with you. You think of every detail. Seriously. Every detail. You make traveling so easy, all we have to do is show up and you take it from there. This review cannot do justice to the amazing time we had, but I hope that our continued business and support will convey our love of VegVoyages.”
Luke and Alta Bergquist (Seattle, USA)
Day 3 PADANG – HEADING OFF-THE-BEATEN-TRACK IN WEST SUMATRA – THE LAND OF THE MINANGKABAU!
Today, we’ll be crossing the Sunda Strait as we head out to Sumatra! After an early breakfast, we’ll board our van and make our way to the airport to catch our flight to Padang, West Sumatra – the land of the Minangkabau people. It is interesting to note that the Minang people are one of the world’s largest matrilineal societies, with property and land passing down from mother to daughter, while religious and political affairs are the responsibility of men. Known throughout Indonesia for their delicious curries, in the evening we’ll have our first introduction of the vegan versions of their tasty cuisine. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 4 PADANG – UNINHABITED ISLANDS, COOL CORAL REEFS, BEAUTIFUL BEACHES & A BEACHSIDE LUNCH!
The West Sumatran coast is home to a beautiful underwater world and an eclectic variety of marine life. So without hesitation, in the morning we will hop aboard our local boats and venture out into the Indian Ocean where we’ll spend the day exploring the colorful coral reefs and marine life rich warm waters around the uninhabited nearby islands. So be on the lookout for parrotfish, trigger fish, clown fish, sweet lips, barracudas, groupers, rays and if we are lucky – the elusive black tip reef sharks and sea turtles – to name just a few. Returning to our hotel, you’ll have time to freshen up and relax. As the sun sets, we’ll meet up for another delicious dinner of Minang delicacies! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 5 BUKIT TINGGI – BEAUTIFUL RUMAH GADANG, TRADITIONAL DANCE & SCRUMPTIOUS FOOD.
Today, we’ll focus on learning about local Minang culture, house architecture, customs and way of life. The Minangkabau, though strongly Islamic, also follow their historical ethnic traditions. We will also have the chance to experience traditional Minang dance performance. So we’ll board our vehicle and set off inland to Bukit tinggi. Formerly known as Fort de Kock during the colonial times, the Dutch established it in 1825. The city was officially renamed Bukittinggi in 1949, replacing its colonial name. Learning about some of West Sumatra’s early history, we’ll make our way up into the hills to Bukit tinggi where we’ll be staying in the heart of the old town near its most famous landmark – Jam Gadang (Jam means: clock, and Gadang means: big), the Big Ben of West Sumatra. Arriving at our historical mansion in the late afternoon, you’ll have time to freshen up before we meet up for dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
“You have, again, surpassed all expectations! I loved my Sumatra voyage and feel I’ve experienced this beautiful island and her people as few have. I’ll never forget meeting and becoming part of your families. Truly a treasure and an honor – thank you for sharing them with me. The food was delish! As always, accommodations if not luxurious were charming. I loved all of it! The hike through the national park totally blew me away! Everything I wanted from this trip met – meeting & getting to know Sumatran families, and experience the orangutan in the wild – and so much more! I can’t express all that I’ve enjoyed properly but I thank you & thank you! Thank you a million times over for all that you do, for the animals (non-human and human), culture, traditions, history, adventures – opening and nourishing the minds of all of us. I can’t wait to travel with you again!”
Tracy Scott (Washington, USA)
Day 6 BUKIT TINGGI – LEISURE WALK AMONGST THE FARMLAND & DELIGHTFUL COOKING CLASS!
Bukit Tinggi is blessed with fertile land and stunning landscape. Today, we’ll explore the surrounding areas, visiting farmlands and picking up some fresh veggies for our cultural culinary experience (a.k.a. a Minang cooking class) in the afternoon. Under the guidance of some very talented chefs from the local village, we’ll roll up our sleeves and get ready to chop, slice, dice and blend as we learn the art of cooking one delicious Minang dishes. Most often referred to as Padang food (after the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra), it is the most popular cuisine in Indonesia. One cannot travel in Indonesia without seeing a Padang restaurant – and tonight we’ll not only be tasting, but also cooking, the vegan versions of some of their most famous dishes! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 7 BUKIT TINGGI – FUN TRADITIONAL LOCAL GAME & BASO MINANG SESSIONS AT A LOCAL SCHOOL .
After breakfast, we’ll hop aboard our vehicle and visit a local school. As guests of the school, we’ll be joining the teachers and students in their classrooms. The students will have the chance to practice their english with us and we’ll practice our Baso Minang (Minang Language) with them. After spending the time in the classroom, we’ll sit down for a lunch together with the teachers of the school. After lunch, we’ll head back to our historical mansion. You’ll have the afternoon free to walk around the town, sip a coffee at a local café or simply relax and take in the historical atmosphere of our mansion. (Breakfast, Lunch)
Day 8 PADANG SIDEMPUAN – THICK JUNGLES AND VIBRANT VERDANT VALLEYS – CROSSING THE EQUATOR AND HEADING NORTH INTO SUMATRA’S LUSH INTERIOR RAINFOREST!
After breakfast, we’ll make our way through Sumatra’s lush rainforest interior. Home to small villages, thick jungles, rolling streams and rushing rivers, family farms and plantations – along with stunning epic views of jungle clad mountains and never-ending scenic valleys. Crossing the Equator, we’ll journey northeast into the island’s vibrant green jungle interior. Arriving in the late afternoon, you’ll have time to freshen up before we meet up for dinner. Dinner tonight will be selections of delicious local delicacies. (Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner)
“Such an awesome adventure! Thank you again for a wonderful journey through another small part of Southeast Asia. Jakarta and Sumatra and their history, people, customs and environment were exciting and inspiring. We can’t wait until we travel with VegVoyages again.”
Justine & Chris DeJonge (Australia)
Day 9 BATAK VILLAGE – JOURNEY INTO THE HEART & SOUL OF THE BATAK PEOPLE ON THE BACKROADS OF BATAKLAND!
Our journey today takes us to a small village on the edge of the stunning volcanic Lake Toba. Danau Toba (danau means lake), or just Toba, as it is referred to locally is actually the world’s largest volcanic lake stretching 100 kilometers long and 35 kilometers wide. It is also home to what is believed to be the biggest explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years (this happened between 69,000-77,000 years ago)! With its stunning scenery, clear blue warm water and beautiful mountains. The blue sky, rolling hills, serene villages, and beautiful traditional Batak homes that dot the skyline are truly a sight to behold! The Batak people over the centuries earned the reputation as being the “head hunter” tribe of Sumatra. Mostly living around the Lake Toba area, they kept to themselves away from outside world, living in relative isolation in their own lands for many centuries. Over the next three days we’ll join our family and friends in their village as we learn about local Batak culture, customs, traditions, way of life – and of course cuisine in the rural countryside in the heart of Batakland! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 10 BATAK VILLAGE – COOL KAMPUNGS, MAGNIFICENT MARGAS, BAHASA BATAK, TERRIFIC TUGUS & JUNGLE JUICE – WELL OFF-THE-BEATEN-TRACK IN RURAL VILLAGES ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST VOLCANIC LAKE!
Though development has started in the Batak land, people in and around the village still follow many of their older traditions and customs, thus preserving the beautiful countryside. After breakfast, we’ll hop aboard our local boat and as guests of a nearby village, be introduced to life in a Batak Lumban (village). Hiking in the countryside through rice fields, forests and some stunning views – we’ll learn about their traditional way of life which has continued much the same as it has for centuries. On a side note, the Batak are one of a few tribes in Indonesia that make their own “jungle juice”, known as Tuak. During our walk today, we’ll stop by a local home where we’ll be introduced to Tuak and shown the process of making it. After having our picnic lunch, we’ll hike down the hill and head back to our rooms where you’ll have some free time to freshen up before we meet up for a dinner of delicious traditional Batak dishes and of course, your first introduction to the magical melodies of Batak music – so be ready to sing! (Breakfast, Picnic Lunch, Dinner)
Day 11 BATAK VILLAGE – MAGICAL MELODIES, BUSTLING BAZAARS, ANCIENT ANCESTORS & A GORGEOUS GEREJA (Church)!
Waking up in the morning near the shores of Lake Toba, we’ll be guests of a local historical church. The Batak are predominantly Christian. Converted by a German Missionary, Ludwig Nommensen around 1862, he is considered one of the most influential missionaries of his time in the region due to his work among the Batak people. As guests of the church, we’ll meet with the pastor and learn about the history of the church. Then we’ll head out to a local elementary school by the traditional becak (local rickshaw). Arriving at school, we’ll join the students and teachers in the classroom and practice our Batak language skill while the students practice their english with us. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 12 SAMOSIR ISLAND – AN ISLAND WITHIN AN ISLAND – KICKIN’ BACK ON THE PEACEFUL SHORES OF DANAU TOBA – HOME TO THE LARGEST EXPLOSIVE ERUPTION ON EARTH IN THE LAST 25 MILLION YEARS!
From one side of Lake Toba to the other, today we’ll journey to the center of the lake to the picturesque Samosir Island. Almost the size of Singapore – without the skyscrapers and congestion of course, Pulau Samosir is the most famous part of Lake Toba and is known for it’s fields, forests, clear waters and mellow laid-back pace. Arriving in the early afternoon, we’ll enjoy a tasty fusion cuisine lunch at our lakeside bungalows before sitting down for our Bahasa Batak (Batak language) lesson. During our journey you’ll actually be learning three different languages – Bahasa Indonesia (the national language of Indonesia), Bahasa Minang when we are in West Sumatra (the language of the Minangkabau people), and of course – Bahasa Batak when we are in Batakland (the nickname for region around Lake Toba). After our Bahasa Batak lesson, we’ll get on our bicycle and visit a very important and historical sight on the island. After the bike ride, you’ll have the late afternoon and evening free to explore on your own. Whether you want to catch up with souvenir shopping as the Batak people are known for their wood carvings and traditional hand-woven ulos (textiles), enjoy a cup of Sumatran coffee at a local coffee shop, go on a hike through the nearby fields and villages, take a dip in the clear waters of Toba, or simply relax poolside, this is your time to freshen up and re-charge for the next part of your Sumatran Adventure. (Breakfast, Lunch)
“You are incredible! The planning and work you put into making these trips so memorable is amazing – no one does it better! We had no expectations for Sumatra but were blown away by all we did and saw. Coming back to VegVoyages is like traveling with family and this time we got to meet our extended family (Yusi – VegVoyages Adventure Coordinator). Please also extend our thanks to Yusi’s mother, father, sisters, aunts, etc. it was so special to visit them. And then there were the local guides, villages, , the list goes on. You work tirelessly to provide all of us a meaningful experience and we want you to know how much it is appreciated!”
Jim Barnak & Kelly Byrne (California, USA)
Day 13 GUNUNG LEUSER NATIONAL PARK – FROM THE BATAK HIGHLANDS TO THE JUNGLES OF GUNUNG LEUSER, WE’LL LEARN FIRSTHAND ABOUT THE EXTRAORDINARY FIGHT TO SAVE THE ORANGUTANS AND THEIR THREATENED HABITAT.
Saying goodbye to the serene scenic shore of Lake Toba, we’ll travel to the thick jungles and wilds of Gunung Leuser National Park (Leuser Mountain National Park). At roughly 7,927 square kilometers, this lush tropical mountainous jungle protected area is billed as one of the largest wilderness reserves in South-East Asia. The thick rainforests that cling to the steep mountain terrain which stretch out in areas giving way to verdant valleys, plains and swamp lands, is home to an incredible amount of wildlife – including over 380 species of birds, 194 species of reptiles and amphibians and 130 of the 205 species of mammals found on the island of Sumatra. Unfortunately, some of these great mammals are critically endangered. These critically endangered species include the Sumatran Rhino, Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Elephant and of course, the most intelligent of the great apes and our closest living relative – Orangutans. Sumatra is one of just two places on Earth the Orangutan can be found in the wild, the other being on the island of Borneo. In a never-ending struggle as their environment is encroached, the Sumatran Orangutans face a constant battle to survive. Other mammals found in the national park include Leaf Monkeys, Gibbons, Slow Loris, Macaque Monkeys, Sambar Deer, Leopards, Giant Squirrel, and Sun Bear to name just a few. Arriving in the late afternoon, we’ll check into our jungle huts and you’ll have time to relax and freshen up before we meet up with local experts from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program and the Foundation for a Sustainable Ecosystem (Yayasan Ecosistem Lestari – YEL) who are on the frontline of the battle to save the Orangutan and their habitat. As the chorus of creatures come alive in the night’s jungle, we’ll settled down for delicious vegan dinner of local regional Indonesian dishes. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 14 GUNUNG LEUSER NATIONAL PARK – EXPLORING THE RAINFOREST WHILE LEARNING ABOUT THE VITAL ECO-SYSTEM THAT IS SO CRUCIAL FOR THE ORANGUTANS SURVIVAL.
Waking up to the sounds of the jungle, the river below, and possibly some monkeys bouncing on your roof, we’ll meet with the wonderful team from the SOCP and YEL who lead the campaign and fight for Orangutan protection and conservation in Sumatra who’ll be introducing their ongoing conservation efforts to save the Orangutans and their vital threatened habitat, which we’ll be trekking out into today. The Sumatran Orangutan interestingly has different habits and a different lifestyle than their cousins in Borneo. After learning about the plight of Orangutans and the amazing work the this incredible conservation organization is doing, we’ll venture deep into the jungle with their local team in hope of sighting some of these beautiful and extraordinary creatures. Today’s lunch will be in the jungle to give us more time exploring the surrounding rainforest. Returning to our jungle hut by river in the late afternoon, you’ll have time to freshen up and before we set out back into the jungle in the early evening to visit a nearby cave. We’ll return to our bungalows where you’ll have time to freshen up before we meet up for drinks and dinner while learning more about other key conservation and wildlife protection issues facing Indonesia. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 15 MEDAN – MAGNIFICENT MASSAGE & VEGAN BUFFET MEAL IN THE CAPITAL OF NORTH SUMATRA.
After spending two days in the jungle and learning about the plight of Orangutan, we’ll travel to Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra province. Arriving in Medan, we’ll have lunch one at one of our favorite local vegetarian restaurants in Medan before checking into our hotel in the middle of the old town square where we’ll unwind from our travels with a rejuvenating traditional massage. Meeting up in the evening, we’ll enjoy our last dinner together on the island of Sumatra. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 16 MEDAN to JAKARTA – THE JOURNEY HOME
Saying goodbye to Medan, we’ll take a leisurely stroll to the nearby train station to catch our train for the one-hour journey to the airport. While on the train, be on the lookout for the change of scenery as we pass through the big city of Medan out into the countryside before arriving at the Kuala Namu Airport. Boarding our flight, your adventure ends upon arrival back at in Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Jakarta. Terima kasih banyak banyak (thank you very much) for joining us on our Finding Serendipity on the Island of Sumatra VegVoyages adventures! (Breakfast)
|START DATE||May 28||June 3|
|END DATE||June 12||June 18|