There are two types of countries: those where you have a pleasant stay, where you enjoy your holiday and after your trip is over you just say I am happy that I’ve been there and that’s it. Then there are those which leave an impact on you, where you are sad when you are leaving and say I really hope to be back one day. Indonesia surely falls in the latter category.
The Orang-utans in Sumatra were the main reason why we decided to this place. Unfortunately there are very few places in the world where you can see them in the wild, namely the island of Sumatra in Indonesia or in Borneo. The choice was therefore between these two places and both were doable. We did not have a lot of time however and we had to try to do the maximum out of it. Another issue was the flight connections as we needed to get here from Malaysia and then leave towards Bangkok. So we opted for Sumatra, which is the largest island of Indonesia and the 6th largest island in the world. It is not the most popular with tourists, since the most popular destinations are the islands of Bali and the other islands to the east of the country. I do not recommend going around alone here as there is practically no organised public transport, there is a language barrier, and getting to and from a place can be problematic since driving is too chaotic. We booked a tour in advance and chose the activities we wanted to do.
Our trip started in Medan the main city on Sumatra and we got transferred to Samosir Island on Lake Toba. The scenery here is spectacular, mountains, waterfalls, rice fields and most of all the smile of the Indonesian people. This is the factor that made the difference in our opinion. Here we met the friendliest people ever! Everyone greets each other and the Indonesian are the happiest people we have ever seen. They are surely not the wealthiest people on the planet, but they are grateful for what they have and do not seem to wish for more. As you drive or walk around, children run to you and want to talk to you (even though they only know a few words in English). Peacefulness reigns here and everything is done at a slow pace; no rush and hustle. This is what we exactly what we needed after having spent some pretty busy days in Malaysia. We visited Batak villages here, witnessed the traditional dance and observed the everyday life of people. We took it easy here as some rough days were ahead in the rainforest.
After two days on Samosir island, we were transferred to Bukit Lawang, a small village by the Bohorok river at the doors of the immense Gunung Leuser National Park. The jungle trek surely wasn’t easy as it is very humid here, the terrain is slippery and steep and at one point or another it starts to rain making it even more difficult to find your way around. However it is worth the extra effort, since here it is quite easy to see quite a wide range of wildlife, apart from orang-utans which are here rehabilitated back in the rainforest, there are Thomas leaf monkeys, gibbons, peacocks, monitor lizards and different insects and birds. Moreover it is possible to go for a day trip to Tangkahan where you can get very close to the Sumatran elephants.
If you love wildlife and orang-utans are still on your wishlist, then Sumatra is the place to go. It may not be an obvious choice and a lot of people travelling in Indonesia do not even consider visiting this place. But that is the beauty of it; it is still undiscovered, the masses have not yet arrived here and the smile and the hospitality of the Indonesians will surely make it an unforgettable experience.