Project Description





Highlights: Tropical forest flora & fauna / Crater lake geology / Canyon geology & fresh water invertebrates

Sumatra Highland Adventure – 3 Days

What better way to beat Southeast Asia’s tropical heat than to retreat to a refreshing weekend in the mountains. Our ‘Sumatra Highland Adventure’ puts students in the lush, cool green of the legendary Harau Valley in just a few hours from the airport. Here stunning canyon walls, refreshing waterfalls, hidden caves and unique pitcher plants seem like a dream land, lost in time.

On this trip we will explore the world’s oldest and richest rainforest in search of Raflessia arnoldi, the world’s biggest bloom. We will trek down an ancient crater slope covered in montane forest and swim and fish in one of Asia’s most beautiful crater lakes – Lake Minanjau.

The rich culture of the Minangkabau, one of the world’s few matriarchal societies, will add a wonderful human dimension to this delightful study weekend.

Study Focus: canyon geology, constellations

  • Following the group pick up at Padang International Airport, it’s just a short drive to the cool highlands of West Sumatra. We’ll stop at a spectacular waterfall along the way for a picnic lunch and explore some of the ancient Minangkabau village sites on our way to the spectacular Hararu Valley, located just south of the Equator.
  • Our home for the night is the lovely Echo Lodge with its classic Minankabau roofs, jutting like water buffalo horns into the air. In every direction, towering rock walls rise up vertically, clothed in jungle vegetation and graced with plunging waterfalls. It’s hard to believe how quickly we’ve been transported to paradise!
  • Following an exploratory hike and a refreshing shower under one of the falls, we return to our lodge for a wonderful dinner, group games and a campfire under the stars.
  • Weather permitting, the Hararu Valley offers superb star gazing. Opportunities to learn about the constellations of two hemispheres are excellent for both the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper can be seen in this sky.

Overnight: Echo Lodge

Study Focus: tropical rainforest flora & fauna, montane forest, crater lake geology

  • Today we set off right after breakfast for a full day of adventure. Not far from the Hararu Valley the world’s largest flower (Rafflesia arnoldi) can often be found blooming in the rainforest.
  • The trek through the rice fields and rainforest in search of this elusive bloom will provide us with opportunities to study the flora and fauna of Sumatra – the island with the greatest diversity of plants on Earth. Hornbills, macaque monkeys, langurs and gibbons are among the many animals we may spot along the way.
  • Even if rafflesia flowers are not in bloom during our visit, an alternative activity will be to attend a cow racing event if there is one locally scheduled this day.
  • From the top of a huge caldera that formed Lake Meninjau, we will descend by mini vans through the lush montane forest all the way to the lake shore. Here again, opportunities for wildlife viewing abound.
  • Following a great lunch on the shores of Lake Meninjau we’ll celebrate our descent by embarking on a charter boat for a lake cruise. It’s fun to dive from the rails into the pristine waters to swim and to fish the lakes great depths for our dinner.
  • At sunset time our vessel will drop us off at a lake side lodge where simple but cozy accommodations will give us feeling of camping out under the stars. A beach barbeque and songs around a camp fire will mark a wonderful final night together. Anyone for a moonlight swim in the lake?

Overnight: Lake Meninjau Camp

Study Focus: stream macro-invertebrates, Minangkabau culture

  • Sunrise over Lake Meninjau is an event not to be missed. Following breakfast, we set off by passenger van to Bukittingi, the center of the Minangkabau kingdom – one of the world’s few matriarchal societies. Visiting the cultural museum and meeting locals at the fascinating mountain market will help us learn more about this society where women have ruled for countless centuries.
  • Following lunch at a great restaurant and a chance to buy souvenirs in Bukittingi, we head back down the mountains to Padang on the coast. Along the way we will stop at a mountain stream to refresh and to conduct a study of the macro-invertebrates that inhabit Sumatra’s wild rivers.
  • As we descend from the cool climate of the mountains to the equatorial heat of the lowlands for the return flight home, we’ll know that our “wet, wild and wonderful weekend” is coming to a close. Fortunately, for all those taking part, lessons learned will outlive any text information from a school book
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