There’s off-the-beaten-path, and then there’s this expedition. We head deep into Sumatra’s Gunung Leuser National Park, travelling into the rainforest by foot and raft, in order to reach a land where few humans have set foot before-- the last home of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino, tiger, elephant and orangutan.
Jhon is an ethnic Alas from the village of Ketambe. His people are the original inhabitants of the Leuser rainforest and have lived within the jungle for centuries. Jhon has worked as a trekking guide in Gunung Leuser National Park for the past 25 years and is extremely passionate about protecting the rainforest.
Matt is a co-founder of Inertia and experienced expedition leader. He's previously lead some of our wildest programs in Socotra, Afghanistan, Siberia, Greenland, the Congo and beyond. He coordinated the recon for this expedition in Sumatra. He's an avid photographer, documentarian and geopolitics nerd.
- Observe wild orangutans, elephants, and more in one of the world’s last primary rainforests.
- Look for nocturnal animals by high powered flashlights at night.
- Raft, trek and camp in the jungle with an incredible local crew.
- Venture where few others have in the deep Leuser rainforest.
- Learn about the wildlife in this unique and fragile ecosystem with locals who are dedicated to conservation.
Jhon has been living on the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park in Aceh, Sumatra for his entire life. His people, the Alas, have inhabited this forest peacefully for centuries with the wildlife. As a trekking guide for nearly twenty years, Jhon has been leading an effort to save his homeland from loggers and those who seek to destroy the jungle. This is his story.
Day 1. Sunday, July 5, 2020. Arrive in Medan
The group will meet in Medan, the largest city in Sumatra. We will have a trip briefing at the hotel followed by a group dinner.
Day 2. Monday, July 6, 2020. Medan / Bukit Lawang
We will depart from Medan after breakfast for the town of Bukit Lawang, a four hour drive to the edge of the eastern reaches of Gunung Leuser National Park. We will have our expedition orientation in this jungle town. Once home to an orangutan rehabilitation centre for pet orangutans released back into the wild, many of the furry inhabitants of the jungle near Bukit Lawang are semi-wild and are still dependent on humans for food. For the purpose of learning more about the situation in Sumatra, we’ll experience this side of wildlife tourism during orientation and go for several walks into the forest to meet these orangutans. During orientation, we’ll undergo wilderness gear and preparedness training, team bonding, and get adjusted to the time difference.
Day 3. Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Bukit Lawang / Ketambe
After an early morning jungle walk, we will drive to the remote village of Ketambe in Aceh (about 9 hours away). This small village is the entry point to Gunung Leuser National Park. We’ll meet our trekking team in the evening and spend the night at a small guesthouse in Ketambe.
Day 4-6. Wednesday-Friday, July 8-10, 2020. Gunung Leuser National Park Orangutan Section Trek
We will spend the next three days off-grid in the Orangutan Section of the west Gunung Leuser rainforest. This area is known as the orangutan section, as several orangutan groups have made this area their home due to the abundance of fruit trees. We will spend the day hiking through the rainforest in search of wildlife, setting up different camps in the evening along the river, as this is one of the only places where there is flat land suitable for setting up camp. Along with our local team of expert wildlife trackers, we will immerse ourselves in the rhythms of the forest. In the evenings, for those interested, we will also organize an opportunity to go nocturnal wildlife spotting with flashlights and head lamps.
Day 7-11. Sunday-Thursday, July 11-15, 2020. Gunung Leuser National Park Elephant Section Rafting Trek
Now here’s where we head deep into the rainforest. Using inflatable rafts, we embark to lands far beyond roads and paths into territory few have ventured before. In order to reach the elephant sector near the coast, we must travel by raft and foot through the jungle. Along the way, we’ll go spotting for rarely seen wildlife, set up remote camps, and track elusive Sumatran elephants in the jungle. The trek ends where the river meets the sea on the fifth day of the journey from Ketambe.
Day 12-13. Friday-Saturday, July 16-17, 2020. West Banyak Islands
The West Banyak Islands consist of an archipelago of 99 remote and mostly uninhabited islands off the northwest coast of Sumatra. A tropical paradise surrounded by colourful coral reefs that form underwater forests, crystal clear water, white sand beaches, we will spend the next couple days exploring the island. From the mainland, we’ll charter a boat for the weekend, giving us ample time to relax and see the underwater side of this incredible island.
Day 14. Sunday, July 18, 2020. West Banyak Islands / Medan
From the West Banyak Islands, we’ll head back to the mainland Sumatran town of Singkil and from there make our way back to Medan by road (8 hours). We’ll host a concluding dinner in Medan for everyone.
Day 15. Monday, July 19, 2020. Depart from Medan
Departures throughout the day from Medan. The program officially concludes at check-out time. Each participant is responsible for making their own way home or to wherever else the winds may carry them.
Most nights are spent tent camping in the jungle. Vegetable-heavy Indonesian meals are prepared by our cooks and porters, and everyone pitches in to help. When not camping, we stay in bungalows and small guest houses. We sleep at a high-end hotel in Medan.
A team of local trekking guides, porters and cooks will accompany us into the jungle. Everyone is responsible for carrying their own packs, excluding camping equipment and food. Each participant is expected to help out with building our camp and engaging locals.
We trek and bushwhack on non-existent paths, observe wildlife, learn about the ecology of the rainforest, explore uninhabited islands and beaches, and meet with locals in small villages. Expect 4-6 hours of daily hiking, wildlife (including bugs), mud and sweat.
All guides, porters, trek leaders and staff
All accommodations and activities in the itinerary
All ground transportation to and from Medan
Entry fees and permit costs
International airfare to and from Medan
Trekking gear (excluding tents)
Insurance and personal spending
Indonesian visa fees (if required)