North Sumatera; Local Community, Rain Forest, Lake Toba & Batak’s Culture

This program will give you the experience staying with local people on the coastal line, taking part in their daily activities. You will also get the opportunity to explore the rain forest of Leuser Ecosystem in Bukit Lawang, visit the rehabilitation center for Orangutan and learn the process to return this great ape to the habitat in the forest. At the end of program you will spend in Samosir Island, an island in Lake Toba. This is a large volcanic lake formed by a volcano eruption about 74,000 years ago. The eruption was known as “Toba Catastrophe”. Lake Toba and its surrounding area is the home for Batak ethnic group, known for their directness, bravery and also good singing voice

Duration: 10 days / 9 nights; Participant: 2, 3-5, 6-8; Type of accommodation: Hotel, Local people house, Ecolodge; Type of transportation: Minibus; Start/end: Medan; Grade of difficulty: Moderate

Day 1: Arrival in Medan   Arrive in Medan, transfer to the accommodation, briefing for the tour program. (Night: Dharma Deli Hotel or Equal)

Day 2: Full day in Medan   In the beginning Medan was a piece of swampy land with an area of about 4000 ha and the confluence of Sei Deli and Sei Babura. Sei means river in local language. Other rivers cross the city are Sei Sikambing, Sei Denai, Sei Putih, Sei Percut and Sei Muara Belawan. All these rivers flow into the Melacca Strait. When found by Guru Patimpus Sembiring Pelawi, Medan was known as Kampung (village) Medan. 1 July 1590 was declared as the birth of Medan. Later in the year of 1632 Medan was made as the centre of government of Deli Sultanate. This is a Malay Sultanate. European came to Medan since 1823. Medan today has become the financial centre in Sumatera and is regarded as one the main cities in Indonesia alongside with Jakarta and Surabaya in Java and Makassar in Sulawesi. Trading, financial and service sectors are the main income for the city. Agricultures, fisheries and plantation are mainly in the districts around Medan with head offices in Medan. The size of Medan is about 265 sq. km and with population about 2,279,894 people, inhabited by multi ethnic such as Batak, Malay, Chinese, Javanese and a small group of Tamil.

You will have one day to explore one of the oldest cities in Sumatera. Maimun Palace is one of the places to visit. This palace was designed by Dutch Army Architect named Captain. Theodoore van Erp. Ma’mun Al Rasyid the Sultan of Deli who ordered the construction that begun on 26 August 1888 and finished on 18 May 1891. One of unique buildings in Medan is Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni or Our Lady of Good Health Church. This is a Catholic church built to commemorate a Marian apparition dating from the 17th century in Velankanni, Tamil Nadu. The uniqueness of this church is its appearance that resembles the Tamil shrine. Another recommended place to visit is the old town in Kesawan ares. There is one building that is different from the most buildings in Kesawan. This building is the fusion of Chinese-European Art Deco style and well known as Tjong A Fie Mansion. Tjong A Fie (1860-1921) was a merchant who migrated from mainland China. His business in plantation made him the biggest landowner and richest man in Medan. Few meters walk from Tjong A Fie Mansion is Tip Top Restaurant, Bakery & Cake Shop. This restaurant was established in 1929. Today is the third generation who operates this restaurant.. To make the ice cream, this restaurant still uses the same ice cream maker and the recipes from 1934. For baking breads and cakes, they use firewood oven. Still in Kesawan Area walking distance from Tip Top Resturant, is Merdeka Walk, an area very popular amongst people in Medan for gathering with friends and relative or just killing time because of its various culinary selection and relax atmosphere. This area opens for 24 hours. (Night: Dharma Deli Hotel or Equal)

Day 3: Medan – Tanjung Rejo Village   Tanjung Rejo is one of the villages in Percut Sei Tuan district in the province of North Sumatera. This village is located on coastline in the north of Medan the capital of the province. Because of its location, Tanjung Rejo has mangrove ecosystem which plays very important role as the resources for income for people in the village as well as the protection from the abrasion. Looking at the name, it sounds like Javanese name. It is probably because its first inhabitants are from Java. Dutch brought many people from Java  to North Sumatera for working in the plantation in the early of 20th century. Inhabitants in Tanjung Rejo nowadays are multi ethnics such as Javanese, Batak, Malay, and Chinese. People in Tanjung Rejo get their income from farming, fisheries, grocery sellers, and home industries. Many young people from the village also leave for big city such as Medan for working. (Night: Local people house)

Day 4 : Activities in Tanjung Rejo and its surrounding areas   During the stay in Tanjung Rejo, you can follow daily activities of the local people, going fishing, to the rice field and farmland, visiting local market, and home industries. Some people using parts of mangrove trees for natural color for their textile home industries. Mangrove ecosystem in Tanjung Rejo nowadays is facing the degradation due to human activities. Some areas have been converted into fishery industry such as fish and shrimp ponds. With helps from the local NGO and support from the district government, people in Tanjung Rejo have been doing mangrove replanting. When you are there, your tour leader will coordinate with the village administration to take part in this replanting activity. One of the fishing methods done by fishermen in this village is using “began”. There are two types of bagan; mobile and not mobile. Mobile began is using boat while not mobile is a semi-permanent platform built on bamboo polo which usually not very far from shore. Depending on the fishing season, it is possible to visit this began while staying in Tanjung Rejo village. (Night: Local people house)

Day 5: Tanjung Rejo – Bukit Lawang   Leave Tanjung Rejo for Bukit Lawang by a hired minibus. This journey will take about 3-4 hours including stop on the way. You will drive along the urban and rural areas and plantations. Some parts of the road are still in bad condition especially after the rain season. (Night: Eco Lodge, Bukit Lawang)

Day 6 : Explore Bukit Lawang   Bukit Lawang is a village situated by Bahorok River bank. This village is the main entrance from the eastern side to Gunung Leuser National Park. Gunung Leuser National Park covers almost 1 million hectares, lied between two provinces in Sumatera; Banda Aceh and North Sumatera. This National Park is the habitat for Sumatrean Orangutan, Sumetran Elephants, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sumatran Tiger and other mammals such as clouded leopard, Thomas Leaf monkeys, langurs, siamangs,  and gibbon. A number of birds also inhabit the forest in this National Park such as Great Argus, hornbills, bulbuls, pigeon, fruit dove, leafbirds, partridges, and pittas. Rafflesia and Amorphophallus plants also exist in Gunung Leuser National Park.

Orangutan conservation status had become international concern in the 60’s. In 1973, Regina Frey and Monica Boerner, two Swiss zoologists established orangutan rehabilitation center in Bukit Lawang. That time keeping orangutan as pets was already popular and baby orangutans were the main target as it is relatively easy to handle compare with adult orangutan and baby orangutans look cute as pets. The problem is, to get the baby orangutans poachers must killed the mothers. When the baby orangutans grew up, many of the owners were not able to handle anymore and they handed over their orangutans to the rehabilitation center. One of the main purposes of this rehabilitation center was to help ex captive orangutans to be able to return to their habitats. Working together with other international NGO such as WWF and Forestry Department of Indonesia, this rehabilitation center trained the orangutans that had been captivated to be reintroduced to their habitat in the forest. After passing special training, the orangutans were released in the forest across Bahorok River. After some years they were able to breed. These semi wild orangutans had attracted visitors to come to Bukit Lawang. It opens the opportunity for the local people in Bukit Lawang to earn income from tourism since the 90’s.

You will do 3-4 hour trekking to explore biodiversity of Gunung Leuser National Park. A local guide or ranger from the national park will accompany you to find the location for orangutans and other mammals along the trek. They will also help you to identify flora and fauna that you might find during the trekking. In the afternoon you can just stroll around the village to see the daily activities of the people. (Night: Eco Lodge, Bukit Lawang)

Day 7: Bukit Lawang – Samosir Island via Tebing Tinggi, Pematang Siantar and Parapat   Long journey, almost 6 hours, along the scenic view combined with passing through farmland, plantation and towns such as Tebing Tinggi and Pematang Siantar. Leave Bukit Lawang early before 8 AM. You will travel by hired vehicle in order to reach Parapat on time before the last ferry to Samosir Island leaving. This way will also give the opportunities to stop if you find something interesting such as landscape, local market and historical building, etc. Lunch stop will be in Pematang Siantar. Arrive in Parapat you will cross by ferry to  Samosir Island. As soon as you are on board, there will be sellers, mostly ladies, offer you to buy something such as instant cup noodle, peanut, bottled water, and souvenir. Just say; “terima kasih or makasih” (polite way to say no, thank you in Bahasa Indonesia). Apart from loud music from the cars on board, ferry ride is very interesting.  This 60 minutes ferry ride will bring you to Tuk Tuk harbor, in the east side of the island. Free program in the afternoon to give you the opportunity to relax after a long drive from Bukit Lawang and get the feeling of the area. (Night: Hotel in Tuk-Tuk)

Day 8: Day to Explore Samosir Island   Lake Toba; a natural lake in the province of North Sumatera, about 100 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide and estimated 500 meters deep. It is located about 900 meters above sea level. Lake Toba was formed by a super volcano eruption occurred some 74,000 years ago. The eruption created ash layer that covered almost whole of South Asia and deposited over Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and South China Sea. It also caused global climate change that affected to the declining human population.

Another result of this super volcano eruption was the island within the lake named Samosir. This island is about 630 square kilometers, is the center of Batak Toba culture (There are six group of Batak inhabit the province of North Sumatera). Their traditional house called “Sopo” has curving shape, at glance looks like buffalo horns. And there are usually ancient stone tombs nearby traditional house. Batak culture is unique and for outsider it is very complicated to understand. Every person’s second name indicates their clan and origin. Most Batak Toba people are Christian but old rituals are still practiced especially in wedding and funeral. Amongst Indonesian, Batak people are known for their remarkable talent in singing. One of the best places to listen Batak people singing is in the church on Sunday as most of service is in Batak  language.

You will a full day to enjoy Samosir island. Tuk-Tuk will be your home-base to explore Samosir island as it is close to many interesting sites on Samosir. Visiting one of the villages with “Sopo” (traditional house) and ancient tomb is amongst many activities you can do on Samosir Island. On request you can also organize traditional dancing and singing performances in this village. One village named Ambarita is very popular with its King Siallagan’s tomb along with an old courtyard and execution ground for someone convicted as criminal.  About 6 km to the south of Ambarita is Batak Museum in Tomok. Walking distance from the museum is ancient tombs from Sidabutar clan. Further south, about 3.5 km is Samosir Botanical Garden. This botanical garden has collection of North Sumatra plateau plants including plants the local people use for food resources, natural coloring for traditional hand weaving, local fruits, spices, and medicinal herbs.  You can also visit the handicraft center. Women in the villages help family economy by making hand weaving with Batak Toba motif and sell it to tourists. You can also hire a bicycle and ride as long as you can and stop anywhere you find something interesting such as landscape, farmland, local market, etc.

(Night: Hotel in Tuk-Tuk)

Day 9:  Samosir –  Parapat – Medan   Return to Parapat by morning ferry. You will have the opportunity to explore Parapat. Parapat is a small town located on Siuhan Peninsula and overlooks Lake Toba. Parapat is one of the main entrances to Samosir Island. This small town is also the hub to connect northern to southern or western part of Sumatera via trans Sumatera road. In Indonesian history Parapat also known as the place used by Dutch to exile Soekarno, and two other Indonesian freedom fighters Sjahrir and Haji Agus Salim. During the Dutch era, Parapat was popular as weekend resort for Dutch people. Maybe because of its cool and fresh air. Several buildings from the Dutch time still standing and one of them is the house where Soekarno was exiled. While in Paratap you can visit local market, farmland or just stroll around and enjoy the town, have drinks at local stall and chat with people. Some corners in Parapat have nice view to Lake Toba. Finally, heading back to Medan. (Night: Dharma Deli Hotel or Equal)

Day 10:  Medan – Next Destinations


  • During the trip participants must respect and obey rules, laws and customs valid in the area/location they are visiting.
  • This itinerary is subject to change with or without prior notice due to weather condition, flight and ferry schedule change or other causes beyond organizer control (force majeure)


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