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Indonesia Adventure: Sumatra, Krakatoa, the Komodos and Bali


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Thought I'd share my recent trip to Indonesia with the crew here. I had a budget and checked out a few US operators and was discouraged at the price. I wanted to see Northern Sumatra (orangutans), Southern Sumatra (rhinos), Krakatoa and the Komodos (dragons) or just not go and find somewhere else. It would be my second trip to Indonesia and these are the spots I missed last time. I wanted all or nothing---those four locations or bust! The power of the internet led me to and Indonesian outfit called Adventure Indonesia which had a recommendation from Jeff Corwin's camera/film crew. Since that's the kind of trip I wanted, I went with them and was very very happy I did. They were great.


I had about 16 days total and I understand that this would NOT be everyone's choice but we had an ambitious agenda and off we went! The itinerary was as follows:


Arrived in Medan, Sumatra in the a.m. and set off toward Tangkahan in the jungles adjoining Gunung Leseur NP. We stopped at a scary little crocodile farm on the way out of town and set off on some pretty tough roads to Tangkahan. We arrived to a little jungle paradise, probably most popular with back packers but what a beautiful little spot. A rushing river, a hidden waterfall, a swinging bridge, hot springs tucked in the rocks...Thomas leaf monkeys and long tailed macaques jumping around in the trees...dinner was good and a local beer put us in the right frame of mind....locals with guitars serenaded the guests with a mix of local and western songs before bed...





The next day was a great adventure...we headed down to the elephant camp. The elephants help patrol the park and keep out illegal loggers but also give tourists rides through the forest, river and hills...but first is bath time, followed by your chance to give them a scrub. You get sprayed by an elephant, kissed by their trunk and the photo opportunities are great. Then you take off on an extended ride...










Afterwards, which was a surprise to me....we went tubing down the river over gentle rapids pulling off to the side for lunch to a little creek feeding into the river. When we followed it back we discovered a fantastic waterfall which we swam and played in until lunch was served. All the while surrounded by beautiful forest...


After returning to the lodge we set out for Bukit Lawang which is also on the border of Gunung Leseur NP.


The next morning we hiked into the forest and into the park to see if we could find any orangutans. We were lucky enought to see five. One large male bending the treetops and moving from one to the next like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon! We also had good views of a mother and baby as well as two juveniles. The Sumatran orang is orangier and has more of a beard than its Borneo cousins we were told...


Here's a glimpse of the male:










Here's mother and baby:






We left Bukit Lawang and travelled to the Highlands to a town called Barastagi. It was a little depressing driving through miles and miles of palm oil plantations knowing that it was cleared jungle habitat threatening the rich diversity of life on Sumatra island. It was cool due to the altitude. A couple active volcanoes surround it and the market is filled with color and fruits and vegetables...we also got a glimpse of Batak Karo architecture.


We returned to Medan the next day and saw some of the city: Sultan's palace, the Grand mosque before flying to Jakarta for the next leg of our adventure...




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The next leg was to fly via Jakarta back to South Sumatra and visit Way Kambas NP...we stayed at Satwa Elephant Ecolodge and it was just great. Clean, comfortable, good food and a wonderful respite. We were there three or four nights, I'm losing track! The main goal was to visit the Sumatran Rhino Breeding Center which is not necessarily a sure thing as they are critically endangered and providing a tourist attraction is not their number one goal. In fact, most Indonesians know about the elephant center more so than the rhino center. Publicity from last year's birth of Andatu has put it on the national and international map however. The elephant center was a little depressing from my western viewpoint but we did play with a baby elephant which was great fun..




The rhino center was fantastic and well run...the best veterinary and nutritional care but also large tracts of forest to roam in their semi captive environment. We did a tiger trek where we saw the fresh marks of the rare Sumatran tiger---claw marks on the trees, foot prints on the ground as well as scratch marks and pig hairs from a fresh kill...it's unlikely to see a wild tiger but it's great to know they are around. We also saw fantastic birds along the way. A cruise down the Way Kanan river was a fantastic highlight for me. We left in the afternoon and didn't get back until after night fall...we spotted several species of monkeys: silver leaf monkeys, short and long tailed macaques, pythons coiled in the trees overlooking the river, it took awhile to spot a sizeable salt water croc but finally did...after dark their eyes were everywhere! The high light was two malaysian sun bears cracking open a bee hive in a tree...we spot lighted them---it was a Jungle Book moment---the bear necessities!




We also night spotted for slow lorises---the one we saw made us work for it for sure! We visited four of the five rhinos during our stay---they are just fantastic. Siamangs played overhead on our way to the enclosure...I loved this part of the trip!











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Those Sumatran rhinos just warm my heart. I hope the species can be saved. Some Indonesian wildlife highlights drove your itinerary. You really knew what you wanted to do. Thanks for the Adventure Indonesia recommendation. Very orangy orangutans. I especially like the video clips of them.


Looking forward to the rest of your 16 days.


I'm sure you saw Mount Sinabung has been spouting off.

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Thank you, very much enjoying this. Love the orang-utans and the rhinos, they look so gentle. And really, really looking forward to the dragons. :)

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Thanks for this - great to see the orang utan! Looking forward to the rest

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This is a great report, so good to read about potential wildlife safaris closer to home. Really happy reading along, taking virtual notes and enjoying the photos.


Look forward to more...

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Interesting - I also would like to see the Komodo dragon, so looking forward to the rest of your report.

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Thanks very much---having re-read what I wrote I will attempt to retire the word "fantastic" for the rest of the report---maybe I'll use "awesome" instead! LOL


Thanks Lynn---because I have limited time, my trips are a little more "work" than most would perhaps want---lot of ground to cover---but on the other hand---most of you know the pace of a safari allows for plenty of relaxation too...we were on the move but had time to relax as well...so---on to the rest of the trip! Here are some pics from the Barastagi Highlands/market and Medan before heading on to Krakatoa:




As you can see, they can grow most anything in Sumatra...the bats were for a soup to cure asthma which is likely a wives' tale---but we saw multiple signs and cages full of flying foxes advertising Kalong (bat) soup! The pig tailed macaque was pretty imposing oalong the road side...


Few more from the Way Kanan River:




And a couple from Medan:




And the dreaded Palm Oil Factory:




Edited by gatoratlarge
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Sorry for the duplicate pics---it seems to pick and choose a little ---some pics aren't showing and some are on here twice---I'll press on! : )


The next leg was Krakatoa which we learned had erupted exactly 130 years to the day that we arrived! There was little fanfare however and we shared the beach on baby Krakatoa with an Australian couple. At times the volcanic activity can be intense but it was in a quiet period when we were there...we snorkeled where the last eruption's lava flow met the sea...and we climbed as far as they said it was safe to climb. The quick story is that Krakatoa erupted with such force 130 years ago that it basically blew itself up! There are four remaining remnants of it which are now jungle covered islands....and then in 1927 or so, baby or Anan Krakatoa began to emerge from the sea. It's now a rather active volcano itself and last erupted in a big way just a couple years back...we drove from Jakarta to a coastal town on western Java and took a speed boat....some pics:



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Last but not least (I'll post some pics of Bali too because we found an awesome place near Ubud) is Komodo---we commandeered a traditional Indonesian sailing vessel and it was simply great. Food was good...air conditioned cabins...island hopping and snorkeling is great locations around the Komodos...the setting is just superb! One thing I forgot to mention but might should is that trash is a problem all across Indonesia---so many times I thought, this place would be unparalleled paradise (Krakatoa in particular) but for the trash that I see on the beach or floating in the water...it was definitely a problem. Still, the water is pristine in color and clarity...a very beautiful country....we saw between 15-20 dragons (mostly on Rinca island but probably Komodo is where we saw the largest ones...a picture speaks a thousand words so here's a glimpse of our time in the Komodos:




And a few more:




One of the many cool events is the nightly exit of hundreds of thousands of flying foxes from the mangrove islands near Rinca Island....star gazing is grand of course and the top deck was perfect for laying on your back and trying to spot a shooting star or moving satellites. We were certainly wishing we had an extra day or two as there are spots where you can snorkel with manta rays, etc... would have loved to do that and quite honestly, the combination of seeing the jurassic dragons and then going leisurely from island to island was just fantastic (there's that word again!)

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post-6239-0-03266700-1385493951_thumb.jpgpost-6239-0-31264800-1385493501_thumb.jpgLast but not least, Bali---we found a great place to stay there but we only had one night. They recommended the stayover as they were not confident of the Indonesian airlines being on time for a connection...Bali is not a bad place at all to have to stay a night---in fact, I would have loved to stay several nights. Another nice thing Adventure Indonesia did was offer complimentary airport service to and from our hotel---they did this although they had not arranged our lodging or any part of our overnight in Bali. I'm not sure they knew we booked a place in Ubud which is an hour from the airport but with a smile and no complaint they picked us up and dropped us off at the airport---it's the little extras, right?


We stayed at a place called Bambu Indah and it was just paradise...a real enviro-eco friendly utopia.Ubud is considered the cultural heart of Bali and deserves several days of its own...problem is you hardly wanted to leave the grounds of Bambu Indah. Very hard to describe but the food is delicious---you stay in these old Javanese wedding huts---just wow. I did spend an hour or so wandering the streets of Ubud and ran across a band of children practicing traditional Balinese music...it was a shame we had sucha short stay...




Here are some of "band" practice : )




And one last picture of that famous Balinese hospitality LOL Seriously, the people, even though used to decades of tourism, exude an easy charm and are laid back....I know why travellers have enjoyed Bali for so long...



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And last but not least a short video...anyone who's ever been in a band or choir will recognize the bored stares, the distracted looks and horsing around....but as someone who needs to look at the keys while i type, I was amazed at these children and how they could play these hardly looking at the "keys"...pretty cool to run into this on a stroll in downtown Ubud...



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I've noticed that it didn't take some of my pics---I'll fill in a few for each site just to give a little more feel for the place --- sorry for the disorganization of it all. A little more organizing next time and I'll have it down! :P


Tangkahan in North Sumatra:




And Bukit Lawang:



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OK---last one! LOL Thought i'd post some of the smaller animals and wildlife from the trip as that's what this forum is all about :)

The following pics include a green tree viper, a king cobra skin we happened upon, a reticulated python, sambar deer and I think a timur deer (dragon food), a slow loris, a pied hornbill?, not exactly sure of the blue billed bird but the stork-billed kingfisher we saw plenty of, a wild pib, the paw prints of a Sumatran tiger...we saw a lot




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Wow, those dragons really are impressive. Every documentary I´ve seen on them mentioned they can be very dangerous and do attack humans. But you even tickled one with a stick! What safety instructions were you given on them?


Stunningly beautiful places you´ve been to, thank you very much for sharing.

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My pleasure --- yeah the dragons can definitely be dangerous. You are accompanied by a park ranger with a forked stick at all times. On the other hand, like reptiles do, they lay around in the sun and shade a lot expending as little energy as possible. The pic with me behind the dragon was carefully orchestrated lol the ranger was right there : )

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Thanks for posting this, I’ve been to the region but never actually to Indonesia so I’ve never seen a Sumatran orang utan. Good to see those rhinos I hope they have more success breeding them because Malaysia’s attempts to captive breed Sumatran rhinos have been a complete disaster and I fear that the species is probably doomed but I sure hope I’m wrong.


Your unidentified blue-billed bird is a black and red broadbill

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Some great experiences on this trip, and not your everyday safari. What was the personal highlight for you? You can come away from this having seen some really rare rhino and the volcano looked awesome. Matt.

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That pic of you and the komodo is eye catching. How did you approach it and why did the ranger feel it would be safe? A gator and a komodo! Quite the combo! Did you see most of the komodo dragons around the ranger station or further out? When I went we hiked all over the island looking for komodos, but only saw two near the ranger station. Years and years ago, visitors arrived with a goat that was fed to the dragons. Rather gruesome, as it was a tethered, live offering. Almost 20 years ago, when I went, I was told that the live bait was no longer done, but the komodos still hung around the ranger station, as that is where the goats used to be offered. By now that behavior should be extinguished. Maybe the rangers still feed the komodos?


It's nice you got some with the signature tongue sticking out look. I've heard the bacteria on that tongue is what is so deadly. If they wound prey in an attack, they don't have to go in for the kill. They just shoot their tongue into the gash, then wait for the bacteria to kill the wounded prey.


What a coincidence that you were at Krakatoa on the anniversary of the big eruption. A little spooky.


Such an exciting report. You look like you're having a blast!

Edited by Atravelynn
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Lynn I wondered the same thing. We saw the most dragons on Rinca Island some on a long hike and others around the ranger station. On komodo we saw no dragons on our hike but around four big ones around the ranger station and the chow hall in particular. We saw no evidence they were fed and it would seem a terrible idea to associate food with rangers or humans in general as they would likely come right at tourists and rangers losing their natural fear. But none the less they were laying around the area! The picture I am behind the dragon perhaps even out of his sight line. Our guide and the ranger had a pronged stick and so it didn't look like the dragon had much interest besides napping. If he spun around I certainly would have tried to fend him off with that stick I can tell you! I've heard two stories regarding their deadly bite...some contend that they have some terrible bacteria that quickly becomes infected. If they bite a buffalo, it may take a while but they'll follow along for a week or so until the buff keels over...others say that they are even venomous. I don't know which is true but the venomous theory seems current...


Game warden: good question. The trip had many many highlights for me and it's hard to say what was my favorite part...I'm a rhino nut so to see four of the perhaps remaining 100 or so Sumatran rhinos was a huge thrill. That marked a sort of accomplishment or goal to visit the remaining habitats of the five rhino species. Way Kambas was the last of the five rhino homes for me...I've seen four of the five of course the Sumatran rhinos were semi- captive. I visited Ujon Kulon NP in western Java and didn't see the Javan rhino but that's a near impossibility. Only camera traps verify that there are about 44 left...


The elephant experience in Tangkahan was exceptional but my buddy said the orangutans were the highlight for him. I had seen orangs in Borneo as well before but it was awesome all over again in Bukit Lawang/Gunung Leuser. Another highlight was the traditional sailing vessel we used all around the Komodos. It wasn't just the dragons but the crystal clear waters for snorkeling. The deserted beaches. The sunsets and sunrises...the giant bats leaving the mangroves at sunset... I think we could have added a couple nights in the Komodos just to enjoy the surroundings. If we'd had more time, we could have hit some of the outlying islands and swam with manta rays etc...and last but not least the boat trip on the Way Kanan was another highlight not just for the remoteness ( no other boats or humans did we see) but we saw pythons balled in the trees, saltwater crocs, monkeys, hornbills, and other great birds, but what I loved was that transition from dusk/sunset to starry night. We brought out the spotlight and we had that great rush of adrenaline spotting the one then two Malaysian sun bears in the trees and hearing them cracking open the bee hives--that was one of those special sightings you hope for but you can't really count on...as cool as Karakatoa was if we had to eliminate one thing that would probably be it...we were able to do some spectacular snorkeling in the Komodos so we wouldn't have missed that, and the tent was a little warm so therefore it was probably the only uncomfortable night of sleep on the whole trip...so I know that doesn't really answer your question lol but we were lucky to have enjoyed so many different experiences almost equally...

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Sun bears and pythons too! What was the name of your boat and how many people did it hold? For wildlife you had abundance, diversity, and rarity. A really outstanding trip! No wonder you look so happy in those photos.

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I'm not exactly sure of the boat's name Lynn but we booked it through Adventure Indonesia. It had three air conditioned cabins in the front with possibly two to a cabin if need be. We had the whole boat booked for ourselves which was pretty awesome. There was a top deck to star gaze, if you wanted to sleep on deck I'm sure you could. The meals were great. It was top notch.


Thks for the kind words. It was definitely a special trip!

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@@gatoratlarge could you please post your itinerary when you have a moment? I am very interested in your planning and how you stitched this varied itinerary together so I hope you don't mind the following questions.


Did your accommodation have ensuite facilities throughout the trip?


Where was the accommodation in Tangkahan with the swinging bridge?


Did you stay overnight in Bukit Lawang or did you return to Tangkahan?


Was the river cruise in Way Kambas NP operated by the accommodation place or was it booked separately?


When you say you 'commandeered a traditional Indonesian sailing vessel' around Komodo, was this arranged through Adventure Indonesia?


If you had 3-4 weeks, where would you recommend adding in to this itinerary (Gunung Leseur NP? Way Kambas NP?) and where would you add in more time other than Komodo/Rinca?





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Did your accommodation have ensuite facilities throughout the trip? All accommodations had ensuite facilities except camping on Krakatoa and the boat. But it was jut the two of us on the boat so the bathroom was all ours...


Where was the accommodation in Tangkahan with the swinging bridge? It was called the Mega Inn I believe although it wasn't real clear during our stay what the name was. It was in a beautiful spot on the river. It was certainly rustic but clean and had ensuite facilities if not a bit spartan. We were only there for a night but certainly enjoyed it


Did you stay overnight in Bukit Lawang or did you return to Tangkahan? We did stay the night in Bukit Lawang and our hike into the national park started off the backside of the lodge property


Was the river cruise in Way Kambas NP operated by the accommodation place or was it booked separately? The ecolodge can book all the various activities in Way Kambas. We used their well known guide Hari and he pretty much took us everywhere we went except another lodge employee took us to the rhino reserve. I think the lodge manager


When you say you 'commandeered a traditional Indonesian sailing vessel' around Komodo, was this arranged through Adventure Indonesia? Yes it was. I tried to get more info about the specific vessel before I departed but didn't get much. We were told it was a nice boat and no one had complained! Lol we loved the boat. It had several air conditioned cabins and a hot shower. I was impressed with the bathroom on board although I banged my head on the door jam a number of times! ( I'm tall)


If you had 3-4 weeks, where would you recommend adding in to this itinerary (Gunung Leseur NP? Way Kambas NP?) and where would you add in more time other than Komodo/Rinca? Well I would add time to every place we visited because we were on the move due to my ambitious agenda! We only stayed multiple nights in Way Kambas. I would have stayed a night or two longer in each location with the exception of Krakatoa. The tent was a little hot at night with a lack of air flow at Krakatoa and Made it hard to fall asleep. If I had several weeks I would have stayed two or three nights longer in Tangkahan, Bukit Lawang and I would have added Lake Toba (sp?) just didn't have quite enough time to fit it in...at least three nights in the Komodos too. Will follow with the itinerary

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Arrival at Medan in the morning. Drive to Tangkahan about 93 KM away from Medan. Due to the condition of the road is very bad we will need about 4 hrs to reach Tangkahan. Hotel plan MEGA INN.
















Early morning, you fly to Bandar Lampung, south of Sumatra. Then another 2.5 hr car ride will take you to Way Kambas. Hotel plan WAY KAMBAS ECOLODGE.




Night spotting for nocturnal creatures tonight or tomorrow night.






11.00, we drive back to the airport (another 2 hours drive), then fly to Jakarta at about 15.30 - 16.00. Arrival at Jakarta, then pick up by the guide for transfer you to the hotel. Free at leisure. Hotel plan SANTIKA JAKARTA


Day 9/27 AUG: JAKARTA – LABUAN – SERTUNG ISLAND (B,L,D) Actually we camped on Anan Krakatoa -- I assume the campsite is based upon the mood of the volcano

Early morning pick up service at hotel then drive to Labuan, fishing village for about 4 hours. Upon arrival, onboard for the 3,5 hours sailing to Sertung island. Afternoon free program where you may enjoy swimming or snorkeling at Sertung clear and crystal water. Overnight in tent and dinner over the camp fire prepared by our guide team.



Wake up early morning to witness the magnificent view of the Krakatau Volcano. After breakfast at the camp site, onboard to sail to Anak Krakatoa Island, if possible land and hike on the active Mt. Anak Krakatau or we swim and snorkel at the sites surroundings. Then sail back to Carita. Proceed back to Jakarta for rest and overnight. Hotel plan JAKARTA AIRPORT HOTEL



Having breakfast at hotel then transfer you to the airport for catching flight to Labuan Bajo / Komodo Island. Upon arrival at Labuan Bajo Airport, you will be met by our local staff and with a private car take short drive to the harbor to board on your boat and cruise











The last part of the trip was altered a little as we only had one night on the boat and one night on mainland Labuan Bajo and the night in Bali because of the concern of on time domestic flights

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