Sumatra Loop: Orangutan, Mount Sibayak and Lake Toba

Sumatran Orangutan, found only in the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, it is rarer than the Bornean orangutan. Tourism can only help the community but awareness of the Orang Utan decreasing populations will help support conservation efforts to preserve it.

How to get to Bukit Lawang?

We flew in directly from Kuala Lumpur via Air Asia to Medan, from Medan airport, followed the sign post in the airport to the bus terminal. We took a bus to Binjai at platform P3. It cost IDR 40K (USD 2.80) per person for a comfortable ride to Binjai. If you booked a private car, it can cost around IDR 700K (USD 50).

Once at Binjai, go across the street to a mall. It was about 10 minutes walked. In front of the mall, there was a bus stand. From there, we managed to get a minivan to the foothill of Bukit Lawang. It cost IDR 30K (USD 2) with a luggage per person. The minivan was small and made a few stops along the way. It took us about 2 hours and if you are with a few other tourist, feel free to get a private car for about IDR 500-650K. We took a tuk tuk up the hill for IDR 15K (USD 1) from where the minivan stopped. It was also one way the folks make a living, and I wanted to support them. Please also be aware you need to walk for about 20 minutes to Bukit Lawang accommodations as vehicles are not allowed due to the narrow road.

Accommodation in Bukit Lawang

We stayed in Riverside Guesthouse owned and operated by an Indonesian-French couple, Fadill and Marie. It was a scenic view and peaceful environment. We spotted a few wild Orangutans while we are on the balcony too.

The view from our guesthouse

We are happy we went to a day hike with Ari for EURO 45 per person. He worked in this guesthouse and it was one of the highlights of our trip. He was very kind and informative throughout our hike. Please be aware that humans are not supposed to touch and feed the Orangutans. It increases the risk of passing along diseases and infections from humans to orangutans, which jeopardizes their health as well as the well being of the entire wild orangutan population. Please choose a certified guide and find the guides who have a genuine care for the survival of the species, rather than those who encourage orangutan feeding. You can also read more from Bukit Lawang Guide website.

Make sure you are in good shape. It’s not that you cover a lot of ground – you actually don’t hike that far. It’s the difficulty of the terrain. But I did saw old and young people hiked and camped in Bukit Lawang.

We are quite lucky because after 3 hours of hiked, we spotted the male, a female and a baby Orangutan. It was a wonderful rare experienced.

After the trek, you can choose tubing down the river. Just paid an extra of EURO 10 for the tubing. If your focus was just to see the wild Orangutan, feel free to talk to the guide and you can hike back instead of continuing the hike to the tubing after your lunch.

How to get to Berastagi from Bukit Lawang?

We planned our route from Bukit Lawang – Berastagi – Lake Toba. We were glad to stop at Berastagi after 3 hours than heading straight to Lake Toba. We would be in the car for at least 6-7 hours if we go straight to Parapat (Lake Toba). We paid IDR 170K per person (USD 12) for a shared taxi to Berastagi. The area surrounding Berastagi was beautiful, with vegetable gardens and orchards everywhere. The soil – fertilized by volcanic ash – was super fertile and said to produce the best-tasting fruit in the world!

Accommodation in Berastagi

We stayed a night in a basic local guesthouse Kaesa Homestay. We had a short hiked to Gundaling hill in the evening. It was cloudy, but we saw both the Mount Sibayak and Mount Sinabung. Mt. Sinabung has been erupting pretty much since 2013, it was just next to Mount Sibayak. The view was awesome but Gundaling hill was a bit of a letdown due to lack of maintenance. The locals threw rubbished around the area and it was not a sight to remember.

Map to Mount Sibayak
View from Gundaling Hill

We head out to Mount Sibayak Volcano the next day. As it was cloudy, we did not went for the sunrise. You did not need a guide to Mount Sibayak as the route was clearly marked. But please be careful, we encountered big stones, muddy terrain and slippery slopes. We started our journey from the registration office and paid IDR 5K per person. It took us 3 hours in total to complete the hiked. Is was an amazing and enjoyable experience!

Mount Sibayak Volcano to Lake Toba Pulau Samosir

We decided to hire a private car from Mount Sibayak tour agency and started our journey at 7.30 am. It was cheaper than what was offered directly from the guesthouse. It worked out well for us because for IDR 700K (USD 50) it included private rides two way to and from the Mount Sibayak registration office from our Kaesa Homestay, four stops to Batak House, Sipiso Piso waterfall, Kings Palace and finally to Parapat town. Just in time to catch a ferry ride at 4.30 pm to Lake Toba Pulau Samosir. Ramli our driver was so honest and patience with us. He waited for us for more than 3 hours while we hiked our way up and down the foothills of Mount Sibayak. You can reach out to Anita at contact number +62 812 6488 8989 via whatsapp and asked for him.

Ferry ride to Pulau Samosir cost about IDR 15K perperson

Please be aware there was a guy in the ferry, who will try to get you to come to guest houses in Tuktuk area. That guy was associated with Hot Chili Restaurant. Please do not eat, stay or even book a tour with them. We had a bad experience and I kept reading the same bad reviewed from other blogs about them too. The prices and services offered was expensive and untrustworthy.

Lake Toba or known as Pulau SamosirBiggest volcano lake crater in the world

We stayed in a basic accommodation but we loved it! Is just a few minutes walked to the lake. Liberta Homestay was a lovely quiet place and they have a few lovely dogs. We rented a motorbike for a day at IDR 80K (USD 6) to explore the island.

The view of the lake from Liberta Homestay

We navigate our way to explore the island for a day. It took us nearly two hours by motorcycle to reach Toba Samosir Simanindo beach. We also went to Huta Gurgur area, it was the best day of the whole trip in the island. We have seen amazing lake views, padi fields and encountered many water buffaloes along the way. Feel free to see more photos here teawithcay Instagram. We navigated using google offline maps and we asked the locals by showing them the photos we found from our research.

Kids cleaning up the beach 🙂
At the viewpoint
Huta Gurgur
We stop by the Hot Springs
The Hot Spring pool for men

Lake within the Lake

On the way back, we took the route through the forest and we stopped by at Lake Sidihoni to enjoy another amazing view. You can read more about it here at Toba Indonesia Tourism.

We fly out from Silangit airport to Kuala Lumpur.

We managed to get the bus from Parapat bus terminal to another bus terminal. Took a minivan that cost 4K per person, from Parapat town to a bus terminal, told the driver that we are going to a bus terminal in order to go to Silangit Airport. The minivan driver dropped us outside of the bus terminal at the main road to wait for another mini bus to Balige. And our plan is to take another minivan to Balige then straight to our hotel near Silangit. But while we are waiting for the minivan, a guy came and we managed negotiate 300K for a private car straight to our hotel. So we took it because minivan was fulled as it was the lebaran peak holiday in the country.

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