Project Description





Highlights: Crater lake geology / Lake ecology / Batak Toba culture / Geothermal springs

Crater Lake Cruising – 3 Days

Study Focus: Crater Lake geology, geothermal springs, lake ecology and ornithology

Over 100 kilometers long and 500 meters deep, Lake Toba in central Sumatra is the world’s largest Crater Lake. When the volcano that formed it erupted 70,000 years ago it spread ash from Australia to Sri Lanka and altered the earth’s climate. Today, this stunningly beautiful caldera is a naturalists dream, providing opportunities for lessons in geology, lake ecology and ornithology.

Students will stay at a beautiful lodge on Samosir Island, the largest island on an island in the world. They will explore this idyllic isle by bicycle and charter cruise boat, visiting ancient Batak Toba villages and a dramatic hot spring issuing from a towering volcano. A second day’s cruise takes the students to the base of a waterfall plunging from the crater rim directly into the lake. The water is so oxygenated here that fish literally dance in the spray.

Study Focus: Crater lake geology, lake ecology

  • Following pick up at Medan International Airport we transfer by charter tourist class bus to the cool mountain highlands of central Sumatra. We will break up the 3-hour drive with a picnic lunch along the way and have an opportunity to explore oil palm and rubber plantations that are transforming Sumatra’s landscape.
  • Soon we arrive at the rim of Lake Toba, the world’s largest crater lake. We gain some idea of the enormity of the volcanic eruption that created this caldera (70,000 years ago) as we follow the 100 km long body of water that now fills the lake 500 meters deep.
  • Arriving in Parapat, a small town on the lake, we board our charter boat and set sail on a wonderful cruise along the southern shore. Here isolated Batak Toba villages carry on time-honored traditions far removed from the outside world. We will go ashore to visit with some of these warm and welcoming people, to visit their village school and to learn about daily activities in their gardens, fields and subsistence fishing.
  • Returning to our boat, we will sail further south to a spectacular waterfall that plunges from the rim of the crater directly to the lake and so oxygenates the water that fish dance perpetually in the spray. This is a delightful place to swim and play under the falls with the safety of a life jacket. It is the quintessential initiation to our “wet, wild and wonderful weekend” as we immerse ourselves in Lake Toba’s enduring charm.
  • It will be sunset time as we cruise our way across the lake to beautiful Samosir Island, the largest island on an island in the world and our idyllic home for the next two nights. Flocks of herons, bitterns, and egrets will be seen migrating to their roosts for the night, so lessons in lake ecology will become part of our day’s study focus.
Study Focus: Batak Toba culture, geothermal springs

  • Breakfast on our elevated balcony, with dozens of songbirds feeding in the treetops beside us, makes a memorable start to another wonderful day.
  • Right after breakfast we board our charter boat for a full day of exploring Samosir Island. We start with a site where the Batak Toba king held high court in a circle of stone chairs set in a courtyard under a huge banyan tree. Here criminals found guilty were killed and consumed by the court and those in attendance.
  • Our next stop is another ancient site, where local Batak villagers symbolically reinact a water buffalo sacrifice ceremony to the accompaniment of an orchestra playing from the balcony of a traditional Batak uma (house). Nearby, we’ll visit the village school that always welcomes us with great enthusiasm.
  • By mid day we reach the furthest point of our voyage – a spectacular volcano where geothermal waters issue forth from a great chasm in the mountainside. This is a great place to see the potential of geothermal power, and the perfect place for lunch in a nearby restaurant and a soothing soak in these sublime healing waters.
  • Batak musicians will serenade us back to our lodge as we complete our voyage, stopping occasionally to plunge from the upper deck into the lake for a swim and watching the unfolding drama of another Lake Toba sunset.
  • A great beach barbeque and closing celebration will mark our final night together back at our little lakeside resort.

Overnight: Carolina Cottage

Day 3

  • Everyone can enjoy a morning at leisure to bicycle around the peninsula, shop for souvenirs at the many craft shops, or just relax in the sun on the beach. After lunch, we begin our return boat and bus trip back to Medan for the return flight home. If there’s a better way to unwind from a too hectic school schedule, we’ve yet to hear about it.
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