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Published: 02-Jul-2020

Written by: Amy Robbins

I have been a Wildlife Leader for RAW since 2013, making me one of the most experienced leaders in the RAW family. I am passionate about Sumatra – its people, culture, wildlife, landscapes and food. I’ve been privileged to have led many guests from all over the world on eco-adventures around North Sumatra and here are my top five destinations that I highly recommend you add to your bucket list.
  • Lake Toba – a great time will be had by all here, you can guarantee it! Lake Toba is a vista of perfection. The ferry ride over to Samosir Island in the middle of Lake Toba makes you feel immediately like you’re on holiday on your way to a resort. I love mixing with the locals and this is the perfect opportunity – from the bustling markets of Parapat on the mainland where the ferry departs, to the traditional live music you might be lucky enough to be serenaded by on the way over. Different lake activities make you appreciate the world’s largest caldera volcano, responsible for the most violent eruption ever known. Sunrise over Lake Toba will blow your mind, as will the views in the highlands (hire a scooter and drive up!) Tiki-touring through the winding roads of the highlands gives you ample opportunity to chat to locals and appreciate their traditional way of life. Lake Toba offers the perfect mix of exploration and relaxation and is a must-see on my list.

  • Berastagi volcanoes – by far one of my favourite places to explore. The landscape is other-worldly and the scenery breath-taking. Berastagi is famous for its two active volcanoes: Mount Sinabung which is currently off limits to climbers after recent eruptions and the much friendlier Mount Sibayak which has active vents and a landscape that makes you feel like you’re on another planet. The views are to die for and the level of exertion required for this is just right – enough to push you but comfortably so. I love this place.

  • Tangkahan – Tangkahan has a well-established eco-tourism industry but has retained traditional authenticity and its people are genuine. One thing is certain: you will leave this place with lifelong friends and memories. You can’t fault the picture perfect scenery and environment here – nestled alongside the magnificent Gunung Leuser National Park at the junction of two rivers, this forest edge village offers so many opportunities to explore or relax in a variety of landscapes: rivers, caves, forest and gardens. The community mindedness of this village is a delight and you will be hard pressed to find a place that you feel more genuinely connected to, or that will tug at your heartstrings and make you long for Sumatra. Tubing is a must here and I highly recommend the waterfalls and bat cave. I’m a sucker for rock jumping and the opportunities for that here are endless!
  • Batu Katak
    – I LOVE caves and Batu Katak has one that’s hard to top. Bukit Lawang’s bat cave is a firm favourite of mine but the two are very different. Batu Katak’s underground limestone cave system is part of the unique and stunning Karst forest of this area. Karst topography occurs when rain water dissolves limestone, creating complex underground waterways, caves, sinkholes and rock formations. Being underground for around a kilometre, wading through the darkness in a slow moving river that is up to your waist in places is literally thrilling, with the added excitement of thousands of tiny bats and cave birds flying overhead. This place is stunning and I highly recommend you grab your head torch and get to Batu Katak, a pristine forest edge community new to eco-tourism that will take your breath away with its natural, raw beauty. Batu Katak has the added bonus of being home to an abundance of gibbons and other primates such as Pig-tailed macaques and orangutans as well as the critically endangered Sumatran tiger.


  • Sumber Waras – I was lucky enough to spend some time on patrol with The Rangers of Tangkahan patrol unit recently and to walk along the fresh trail of wild elephants in the forest. The excitement of being so close to a wild herd, knowing we could literally bump into them at any time in the thick forest was thrilling and to see how incredibly agile and sure footed their tracks proved them to be was incredible. I will be introducing a limited number of guests to this area from 2018.
    There is no eco-tourism here, it is untouched and gives you a glimpse into the lives of authentic forest edge communities that struggle to survive. I’m really looking forward to sharing my enthusiasm for this community and sparking wonder and excitement in my guests who will get to stand in footprints made by truly wild elephants. This is a great chance to point out the huge problem of human-elephant conflict and what steps we are taking to help address this giant issue.

Photos: Courtesy of Amy Robbins and Jason Savage.

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