Sumatra is one of Indonesia's biggest and most exciting islands to discover. Sumatra is a huge island full of places to explore and activities to do. Make your journey to the thick rainforests and discover the world’s largest flower. Get to know the indigenous culture, and enjoy the delicious cuisines.
Wet wet wet it is! The climate in Sumatra makes one think of the famous 80's band 'Wet Wet Wet', nonetheless, the island has endless amounts of highlights to offer, making Sumatra an island you need to explore on your journey.
Bengkulu and West Sumatra are the wettest places on the island, with average rainfall approaching 3500mm. Sumatra is the world’s sixth largest island and a neighbor to Java Southeast, Malay Peninsula in North, Borneo on East and Indian Ocean on the West. It is home to some 45 million people, being the world’s fourth most populated island. More than 50 different languages are spoken on the island, which says a lot about the cultural and traditional blend.
Wildlife in Sumatra
The natural richness is incredible. There’s many rare plant species not to be found anywhere else on earth. There are over 200 mammals and almost 600 bird species living on the Island. The endangered Sumatran Tiger is probably the best known, but there are also orangutans, rhinos, leopards, bears and tapirs.
Sumatra has over 10 beautiful National Parks. Kerinci Seblat National Park, Gunung Leuser National Park, Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park are probably the top 3 of them all.
In West Sumatra, you’ll find some thick tropical forest and you might see the worlds largest flower Rafflesia Arnoldii. There’s great National Parks and reserves to be explored in this province. Bukittinggi is a center of culture, music and food and you can find many museums there.
The Barisan mountains chain is in the west. There’s a majestetic active volcano called Mount Kerinci ranging up to 3,805m, which also is the highest point in the Island. Geologically super interesting deep Lake Toba is 100 km long and the largest volcanic lake on earth. It was created due to an eruption of huge magnitude about 75 000 years ago. Since that, there have been some smaller eruptions. People living along the shores of Toba are Bataks. Their traditional houses are known for extraordinary roofs and colorfulness.
The island´s urban centers are Palembang and Medan, where you can find all the services, shops good bars and restaurants. Medan is known for its multiculturality shown in streets but also in the cuisines that are really good.
Danau Maninjau is as beautiful volcanic lake couple hours away from Bukittinggi where you can catch a bus to get here. Danau Maninjau is in the middle of rice fields. The scenery is mesmerizing!
Bohorok Orangutan Viewing Centre is located around Bukit Lawang. It has been running for over 30 years helping the amazing animals to adjust back to nature. There’s feeding sessions a couple of times per day, which gives you a perfect chance to observe these beautiful animals close by.
Activities in Sumatra
Volcano Gunung Sibayak is a popular day trip destination. You can hire a guide to take you for several hours of trekking. Don't forget to bring your hiking shoes because the trails might get slippery. The walk to the top takes a few hours, but it’s worth the sweat as the view is simply great! When you’re descending from the top, on the way to Berastagi, there are some nice hot springs where you can relax for a while.
Want to catch some of the best waves on the planet? The Mentawai islands are located about 150km from the West coast of Sumatra and draws a lot surfers. Sipura, North Pagai and South Pagai are the main islands. On the islands such as Karang Bajat Island, Mainuk Island, Mapadegat in Sipora Island tourism is more developed so you’ll have hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. Mentawai is good for scuba diving too!
Gunung Leuser National Park has great hiking trails, ranging from couple of hours to overnight treks. You’ll probably see the magical creatures, the orangutans! You’ll get here by bus from Medan to Bukit Lavang. Also, check out Tengkahan which is home to elephants and there are almost no tourists at sight. You can hire a guide if you wish to do a jungle trekking.
Paragliding is also possible in West Sumatra.
Usually, travelers fly to and from Medan or Padang and between these two there’s a ferry. The ferry also runs between Melaka and Dumai & Singapore and Pekanbaru stopping also at Bintam Island.
While moving around in Sumatra, you can take a ferry to nearby islands. There’s also a train connection between Bandarlampung and Palembang. You can use buses, rent an own car, motorcycle or bicycle.
When to go
The best time to go to Sumatra is from May to June and September to October. The wet season is starting around November lasting to March in South but in North it starts raining already in October. The most busy tourist season is around July and August, as well as Christmas time. During this time be prepared to pay more for accommodation.
Security in Sumatra
Aceh is still recovering from the 2004 tsunami, reconstruction is visible and aftermath earthquake on 2005. More earthquakes can occur assume the seismologists. The last strong earthquake was just recently on September 2007 causing a lot of damage. Follow the news carefully.
The island used to be covered with rainforest, but illegal logging has resulted in deforestation problems. Be a responsible traveler and don’t buy any tropical wood products!