Sumatra holidays, Indonesia

Wild and rugged are words that spring to mind when thinking of Sumatra; it’s certainly a destination for those with a taste for adventure. Boasting one of the world’s richest eco-systems and ten National Parks, the island is all about nature and wildlife.

Sumatra’s spectacular natural beauty encompasses forested mountain slopes (ideal for growing coffee), impressive crater lakes and active volcanoes. Over 25,000 square kilometres of the island’s rainforest have been declared of UNESCO importance, although economic development and illegal logging has still destroyed some of it.

In terms of wildlife, Sumatra is home to some of the world’s rarest animal species, such as the critically endangered Sumatran tiger and Sumatran rhinoceros. But its most notable indigenous inhabitant is the orang-utan.  This is one of only a handful of places where our ginger-furred cousins can be seen in their natural habitat.

Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world, but at Selective Asia we focus on the highlights of its northern region. 

Where to go in Sumatra

Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang is a popular inclusion in any Northern Sumatra itinerary. This small tourist town, in the depths of the Gunung Leuser National Park, is famous for its orang-utan rehabilitation centre.

Sadly the rehabilitation programme for orphaned orang-utans has ceased operation, but frequent feeding sessions take place at nearby feeding platforms in the surrounding forest, offering an almost guaranteed chance of viewing a semi-wild orang-utan.

Trek deeper into the jungle for the opportunity to spot wild orang-utans: keep an eye out for their lofty nests or the shaking of trees. It’s worth noting that due to its easy accessibility to the city of Medan, Bukit Lawang is especially popular (read ‘busy’) at weekends. 


Dubbed Sumatra’s ‘hidden paradise’, Tangkahan sits just inside the Gunung Leuser National Park. Its main draw is the presence of Sumatran elephants.

There is an opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures, thanks to the work of the local villagers; their successful community project makes Tangkahan particularly special.

The villagers are working together, with the help of the indigenous elephants, to sustain their environment, and the income generated through eco-tourism has encouraged them to stop illegal logging.

Now, the locals patrol the forest on elephants, to protect the park from illegal activities such as animal poaching and illegal logging. A win-win situation which is well worth supporting. 

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