Project Description





Highlights: Great apes / Tropical rainforests / Cave ecology / River hydrology & invertebrates / Waterfall micro climes / Cloud forests / Active volcanoes / Geothermal springs / Crater lake geology & ecology

North Sumatra Safari – 8 Days

Our North Sumatra Safari provides students with a study adventure unlike any other. It offers the thrill of coming face to face with orangutans in the wild – Sumatra’s legendary “Man of the Forest”.

Students will trek through the world’s oldest and richest rain forest in Southeast Asia’s largest national park. They will climb through breath taking cloud forests into the steaming caldera of an active volcano, raft down a jungle river, soak in natural hot springs issuing from deep within the earth, and plunge from a waterfall into the crystal clear waters of the world’s largest crater lake.

The fascinating Batak Karo and Batak Toba cultures of northern Sumatra will be the indigenous focus of this trip as we visit their ancestral homelands on the scenic shores of Lake Toba.

Where else in the world can you find a lake on an island, on a lake on an island in the ocean? Come join us on this unforgettable learning adventure to the world’s sixth largest island and find the answer for yourself.   Price includes: All transport (Medan to Medan), all accommodation and meals for 8 days/ 7 nights, all entrance fees, a qualified naturalist, English speaking guides, and a souvenir t-shirt for each participant

Best time to go for weather: January – August

Study Focus: River Hydrology / Macro Invertebrates

  • Morning pick up at Medan International Airport and drive by bus 2.5 hours to Bukit Lawang. Check in to Jungle Inn on the border of Gunung Leuser National Park and prepare for a short, but fun-filled rafting trip down river
  • Following our river run and lessons in river hydrology, we will study the macro invertebrates of this waterway.
  • Dinner at Jungle Inn followed by a beach bonfire beside the river and a group circle session

Overnight: Jungle Inn

Study Focus: Rain Forest Flora & Fauna / Cave Geology & Ecology

  • Wake up to jungle calls and possible sightings of wild orangutans on the hillside during breakfast. We set off early to cross the river by dugout canoe and climb to the feeding station where rehabilitated orangutans are being weaned back into the wild
  • We then hike for several hours along a rain forest ridge learning about the flora and fauna of the world’s oldest terrestrial ecosystem. Wildlife sightings may include: hornbills, orangutans, macaque monkeys, langurs, White-handed gibbons, and Siamang – the world’s largest gibbon
  • Our rain forest ridge hike concludes at Eco Lodge where we stop for refreshments before setting off to explore a series of connected caves rich in bats, swiftlets, cave aquatic life and invertebrates.
  • Lunch will be served jungle style on the banks of the Landak River. Student teams will challenge one another in a “Survivor Sumatra” exercise where they must start their own fire, cook rice and eggs in bamboo, bake fish in mud ovens, dig wild ginger for tea and serve it in bamboo cups. Skilled jungle guides will assist each team in this unique and fun-filled learning experience.
  • A big barbecue dinner will be served back at Jungle Inn for those that didn’t fare so well on their survivor challenge

Overnight: Jungle Inn

Study Focus: Plantation Conversions / Montane Forest Flora

  • We’re up early for breakfast before setting off by bus to Berastagi. To break up the long drive, we will visit a government run crocodile breeding center in Medan where over 2,500 of these reptiles – some huge and over 30-years old – completely fill a lake.
  • We will stop again along the way for a picnic lunch and a chance to learn about forest conversions to oil palm and rubber plantations. As we climb higher towards Berastagi, we will learn about montane forests, and possibly view Long-tail macaques, Pig-tail macaques, and Wreathed hornbills
  • Arriving on the slopes of beautiful Mount Sibayak, we will check in to our lodge and then catch a spectacular sunset silhouetted by Siinagung Volcano (2452 m) atop Gundaling Hill. Here we can also enjoy horse and buggy rides around the park before dinner

Overnight: Sibayak Multinational Guest House

Study Focus: Cloud Forest Flora & Fauna/Volcano Geology / Batak Karo Culture

  • It’s another early morning as we enjoy a hearty breakfast and set off up the slopes of Mount Sibayak (2095 m) for our exciting volcano climb.
  • Siamang and White-handed gibbons will be screaming their morning territorial calls from the rain forest as we climb up into the stunningly beautiful cloud forest, and eventually into the steaming caldera of the volcano itself
  • There will be a full morning to explore the powerful sulfuric vents, the boiling mud pools and other geological features of a living volcano, before heading back down the mountain.
  • Lunch will be followed by a soothing soak in a geothermal spring and then a trip to Lingga Julu Village to view the ancient community houses of the Batak Karo tribe
  • We will have an opportunity to learn much more about these people as we enjoy a traditional dinner and Batak Karo dance performance back at our lodge

Overnight: Sibayak Multinational Guest House

Study Focus: Waterfall Micro Climes / Crater Lake Geology

  • Following breakfast at our guest house, we set off by bus (1 hour) to the dramatic shores of Lake Toba. A colossal volcanic eruption here 80,000 years ago altered the world’s climate and left a gaping 640 sq. km caldera that has now filled with rain water to form the world’s largest crater lake.
  • A stunning panorama of the crater unfolds as we reach the ridge top on the north shore of the lake. Nearby, Sipiso-piso Waterfall plunges 120 meters over the escarpment.
  • We will descend stairs to the very base of the falls to feel the power of the wind and mist it generates and to study the flora of a waterfall micro clime.
  • Continuing on by bus along the ridge of the crater, we arrive at the town of Parapat where we transfer by ferry to our lakeside resort on Samosir Island.
  • There will be time to relax, swim in the lake, or cycle around the ancient lava flow that formed the Tuk Tuk peninsula before dinner time.

Overnight: Carolina Cottages

Study Focus: Batak Toba Culture / Geothermal Springs

  • Sunrise over the lake will be a special treat for early risers, and bird watching from the lodge’s balcony restaurant is superb. Following breakfast we set off by charter boat for a full day exploration of Samosir Island.
  • Our first stop ashore is at Ambarita village where the ancient Siallagan King held conferences on stone chairs under a huge banyan tree and decapitated and consumed his enemies.
  • Our next port of call is Simanindo, where Batak Toba villagers reenact their ancient dances and ceremonies in an ancient village setting. Nearby is the village of Suhs-suhi, where time-honored traditions in weaving are kept alive.
  • We then cruise on to the base of Pangururan Volcano where we will study the fascinating geology of geothermal springs issuing from a gaping, pumice strewn gorge on the flank of the mountain
  • Our last stop will be Tomok Village that holds the revered tomb of King Sidabutar, before returning to our lodge for dinner and a group circle.

Overnight: Carolina Cottages

Study Focus: Lake Ecology

  • We will have a morning at leisure to swim in the lake, or cycle and trek through the beautiful rice terraced countryside. Following lunch at the lodge, we will set off by boat for an afternoon cruise to an amazing waterfall.
  • Along the way we will explore the ecology of this vast lake, from its native and introduced vegetation, to its bird life of egrets, kingfishers, herons and fish eagles. We will also see extensive aquaculture farming of fish that helps sustain the local economy.
  • Binangalom Falls is a real Shangri la, as water plunges from the rim of the crater directly into the turquoise waters of the lake. The water is so oxygenated here that fish literally dance on the lake surface. Diving from rock ledges beside the falls into the 525 m deep lake is exhilarating.
  • Our sunset cruise back to our lodge will be highlighted with Batak musicians and singers, for the beginning of a wonderful last night together. A sumptuous meal of local delicacies will be followed by a closing celebration of music and dance on the lakeshore

Overnight: Carolina Cottages

Study Focus: Human Impacts on Sumatra / Economies & Ecology

  • Following breakfast we bid a fond farewell to Samosir Island and our Batak friends as we ferry back across the lake to Parapat and board our bus to Medan.
  • During the 3.5 hour drive to Medan International Airport we will pass a landscape being radically transformed by global demands. Through use of a bus microphone, students will engage in an open forum discussion on current issues – the global demand for biofuels (palm oil and corn oil) and rubber plantations that are forever diminishing Sumatra’s biodiversity and altering its landscape
  • Departure from Medan International Airport
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