I would say 8-10 days in North Sumatra if you wish to see Bukit Lawang - orangutans - feeding platform and day/overnight jungle treks, Tangkahan- elephants, jungle, swimming in the river, hot springs, Lake Toba - great lake- relaxation, Batak culture and Brestagi- batak culture and architecture and volcanos.
Recommended small tour operator is Bob Sumatera.
Bob could drive you all the way down to Bukittinggi if you are interested in a trip like that.
OR Fly from Medan to Padang and visit Bukittinggi, Lake Maninjau, Harau Valley.
Recommended guide in Bukittinggi is Hendri - contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org and mobile +628126782675
Recent trip report from Lake Maninjau by emma33 whom I got Hendri to organise a social visa for her in March 2006.
Click on her link in her post for some great information on her experiences.
An amazing place to stay in the Harau Valley is Abdi Homestay.
Read my recommendation from another forum
Make sure you check out the You Tube video - picture not great but the sounds of the gibbon calling to each other in the early morning is just amazing.
If you would like some maps of the above areas email me at
email@example.com and I will send them to you and I can also answer any questions you may have.
Pamela.Edited: 9:09 pm, April 03, 2012
Sorry in my haste I forgot to put up Emma's link on her recent stay in Lake Maninjau.
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Many thanks, Pamela. Time's not really an issue so we can easily extend our plans to do N and W Sumatra full justice. A good call too on Bob Sumatera - I'll give him a call in the next week or so.
You've travelled extensively throughout the island, I suspect. Visited in May / June? We'll be flying KL- Medan and I'm debating whether to book flights/ tours in advance. Sumatra seems to be under the radar of most western travellers but I'm not sure how many Malaysians/ Indonesian nationals visit at this time. Prefer a little serendipity but if there are 'busy' periods...
Any thoughts welcome.
I have travelled to Indonesia in June which is considered high season with July and August.
If you are interested in using someone like Bob best to contact him as he can get quite busy at times.
Actually you would be amazed at how little western travellers there are in Sumatra these days compared to the past - used to be years ago- pre 1995 Bukit Lawang used to get 20,000 western travellers per year, but over the years this dwindled down ( remember having a great informative conversation in May 2008 with the Aussie wife of the owner of Jungle Inn BL)
and then the flash flood of Nov 3rd 2003 stopped everything for a few yrs.
Travellers in BL are back again but overall with Sumatra being so big the amount is quite small.
And West Sumatra is very quite for western travellers. So you can have a lovely time there and what a paradise it is.
If you would like maps of both areas North and West Sumatra, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward them to you.
If time was not an issue you could fly KL - Banda Aceh and see Pulau Weh, and do a bus trip down to Ketambe via Takengon - did the opposite trip in 2006.
Here is a great blog on travelling from Banda Aceh to Takengon to Ketambe.
Have a read and see what you think.
From Ketambe you can get buses to Prapat Lake Toba, then stay a few days and then a bus up to Brestagi, spend a day or two in the cool then head for Medan.
Then you could hire someone like Bob and head to Bukit Lawang and Tangkahan.
Lots of options and I am happy to help you anyitme.
Many thanks for your info last month. Any alternatives to Bob for tours in N Sumatra? He hasn't replied to my emails.
Are you besieged at the airport by people offering tours or is it a question of scouring the travel outfits in Medan?
Oh I am surprised Bob has not replied to your emails.
Are you sure you emailed to the correct email address?
His email is a strange one - email@example.com
Have no idea why he chose .com.au
I think the traveller who did his website years and years ago for him chose the email address for him.
I know he gets a lot of emails, but he usually gets back to any requests.
Have you tried contacting him via text message.
Mobile No. Mobile : (+62) 813 61164282
I will send him a message and find out if he received your emails.
That was the email - maybe he's upcountry somewhere.
Finally contacted him last night and yes he has been very very busy and will attend to his emails today.
He apologises for any inconvience caused.
There really is no one else I know, whom I would be 100% confident in recommending.
Been helping travellers on Internet for 12 yrs now ( 5 yrs here on TA ) and even though I am purely a volunteer I care about all the travellers too.
You are all planning on visiting my special country Indonesia and I would love everyone to enjoy it as much as I do.
Bob has a comfortable air con car that he drives himself, he is an excellent careful driver, speaks quite good English, has a lovely happy engaging personality and really cares about his clients.