You won't meet many other people outside of Indonesia who've been to Sumatra. It's a vast island where protected National Parks, like Gunung Leuser, face a continuous battle against palm oil, logging and rubber industries. Sumatran tigers and rhinos live deep within the jungle, and observing wild orangutans in their natural habitat is a credible prospect. Riverside lodges are simple and traditional, with ceiling fans and mosquito nets providing basic home comforts. If you're looking for a unique, off grid adventure, you'll be in for a real treat.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
There's a really rugged feel to much of Sumatra. It's a place where you can get out of your comfort zone and stay in rustic accommodation that you might not usually consider, such as simple jungle lodges and riverside eco-retreats. Pushing your boundaries and sleeping under mosquito nets won't be for everyone, and there's a fabulous hotel in the city centre of Median where you can treat yourself to a bit more extravagance if you wish. However, if you’re up for an adventure, and perhaps re-enacting the excitement and spontaneity of travelling experiences from ‘way back when’, then Sumatra might be exactly what you're looking for.
As you sit on your balcony overlooking the Bohorok River, listening to the calls of the surrounding rainforest, it's obvious why Bukit Lawang is seen as such a travellers’ treat. Spent the days trekking in Gunung Leuser National Park, treading over several high boardwalks, and perhaps catching your first glimpse of a Sumatran orangutan. These rather wispy-haired cousins of their Bornean counterparts are critically endangered and seeing them in their natural habitat is an incredibly rare experience. There are still some more contrived adventures available, such as ‘tubing’ over fast flowing rapids, for those with a need to take the adrenalin up a notch! Maybe another time… until then, we’re happy to sit with a cold Bintang beer and listen to the call of the wild.
Although many of Lake Toba's designated swim spots get very busy, it's possible to escape the crowds, (and the jet skis) on a hike around the water's edge. This is Indonesia's largest lake, and the deepest volcanic lake on the planet. The region is also an epicentre for indigenous Batak tribal culture. Visiting a village on Samosir Island, in the middle of Toba, unveils examples of Batak architecture as well as intricate, handmade art and crafts at the local market. Elsewhere on Samosir, you can trek to waterfalls and stay in a traditional guest house, where the surrounding mountain scenery more than makes up for any lack of home comforts.