Those not flying with the group from London will meet the tour leader at the airport at 0900h (subject to change - see Final Joining Instructions) and will then meet the rest of the group there. From the airport we drive to Bukit Lawang (approx. 4 hours) on the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park. The afternoon is free to simply relax. Bukit Lawang is one of the most accessible places to spot orang-utans, thanks to an orang-utan conservation programme that has been operating on the eastern edge of the park since the 1970s. The national park is one of the orang-utan's last remaining strongholds, with more than 5000 animals thought to be living in the wild. Sumatran elephants, Sumtran rhinos and Sumatran tigers are all also found in the park, though very rarely seen. The village is very attractive, built along one side of the river; relaxing at the river side it is not uncommon to see wild orang-utans come down to the water to drink. Time permitting there is an impressive bat cave that can be visited today (if time does not permit we'll have the opportunity to visit it tomorrow), access involves some scrambling and a torch will be needed.
This morning we will head into the Gunung Leuser National Park which is one of the two remaining habitats for Sumatran orang-utans. This is one of the largest national parks in the world, containing over 800,000 hectares of virgin rainforest. We will spend time with our guide and have an opportunity to explore the trails, searching for orang-utans and other wildlife. Whilst the Organ-utan rehabilitation centre no longer exists, semi-wild orang-utans who still can't fully fend for themselves are fed twice a day. We will visit one of these feeding sessions. We get the opportunity to see these incredible relations of ours close-up and learn about the very real threats to their continued existence. This afternoon is free or explore further on your own.
This morning we return to the Orang-utan centre for feeding time. We will then venture further from the park headquarters today, discovering the flora and fauna of the park, and continuing our search for orang-utans. The park is host to approximately 700 different species of animal, more than 175 mammals, 320 birds, 190 reptiles and amphibians including Thomas leaf monkeys, macaques and gibbons. Other mammals found include the Sumatran elephant and elusive Sumatran tiger and rhinoceros, although the last is unfortunately facing imminent extinction. We are unlikely to encounter these shy animals. This trek will last approximately 6hrs and can be taxing given the steep, muddy terrain so is completely optional.
We head out (approx. 6hrs) to the cool and picturesque hill town of Berastagi. The town's setting is dominated by its two volcanoes Sinabung and Sibayak. Although Sibayak last erupted more than a century ago, geothermal activity in the form of steam vents, billowing sulphur fumes, hot springs and steaming mud pools can be seen around the volcano. Berastagi is known for its colourful fruit and vegetable market and famous for its passion fruit, rambutan and the foul-smelling (but to many delicious) durian, and we will have the opportunity stroll around it. We may also have the opportunity to visit one of the nearby Batak villages with their huge, wooden, communal houses.
Any visit to Indonesia, part of the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' would be incomplete without visiting a volcano. Today we climb Mt Sibayak and, if lucky, we may see the resident Siamang gibbons jumping from tree to tree as we ascend. If we dont see them we will undoubtedly hear them as they have large gular sacks (throat pouches) that can be inflated to the size of their head, allowing them to make loud resonating calls.
Tropical pitcher plants or Monkey Cups are also found on the mountain, the name Monkey Cups refers to the fact that monkeys have been observed drinking rainwater from these plants. After an approx 3-4 hour walk to the crater rim and back there will be time to relax at a hot spring before the short driving back to our hotel after lunch. The rest of the afternoon is free.
Today is a day of travelling. We first drive to Medan (approx 2 hours) before flying to Denpasar, Bali via Jakarta. Upon arrival in Denpasar we will drive to Sanur (approx 1 hour), arriving late afternoon/early evening. Sanur was Bali's first beach resort and remains largely unchanged compared to the rest of Bali's beaches.
Today we fly to Labuan Bajo (approx 1½ hours) on the island of Flores. This is the point of entry for Komodo National Park. Depending on the flight schedule, there should be some free time and options include taking a boat to one of the nearby islands for some snorkelling or visiting nearby caves where stalactites and stalagmites are found.
Komodo National Park, established in 1980, is comprised of islands and the surrounding sea and includes mangrove forests, sea grass beds, and colourful coral reefs. The three main large islands are Komodo, Rinca and Padar although many smaller islands come within the park boundaries.
Early this morning we will board our boat and sail to Rinca Island (approx 2 hours). We leave the boat and, after a short briefing on the life and habitat of the Komodo Dragons, travel on foot in search of these giant lizards. Rinca Island is smaller than Komodo and the frequency of sightings on Rinca is higher. We will walk for between two and three hours today before returning to our boat for lunch. We then sail to a nearby beach and coral reef teeming with fish, where turtles are frequently spotted and if lucky Manta Rays. Snorkelling (optional) is highly recommended. Tonight is one of the most idyllic as we spend the night on board the boat anchored just off Komodo Island. Whilst the exact spot where we anchor may vary it is usually just off of some mangroves. Sleeping on the boat means we can spend more time enjoying Rinca and Komodo and avoid having to return all the way back to Labuan Bajo only to sail out again the following morning. Accommodation on the boat is dormitory style though many people chose to spend the night on deck, sleeping under the stars.
The next morning we travel the short distance to the ranger station at Loh Liang (about 15mins). Here we will be escorted by a local guide and trek one of the routes which takes us through dry forest, a dry river bed and over a hill, for about two hours. Vegetation on Komodo island is different to that on Rinca being denser and with less grassy hills. At the end of the walk we will return to our boat for lunch, before sailing to 'Pink Beach' for more swimming and fantastic snorkelling (optional). The beach is named for the colour of its sand a mix of red/pink corals. We end the day back at Labuan Bajo. The day-to-day schedule for these two days should be taken only as a general guide. A variety of factors, including currents and adverse weather conditions, can lead to changes. Snorkel equipment can be hired in Labuan Bajo before setting off at a per day rate.
We fly back to Denpasar this morning and then drive (approx 2 hours) to Ubud, surrounded by rice fields and temples, our final destination. Ubud gets its name from the Balinese word ubad (medicine); the town was originally important as a source of medicinal herbs and plants, but these days is known for its artistic community, awash with artists' workshops and art galleries. Ubud's history can be traced back to the eighth century, when a Buddhist priest came to Bali from Java, he meditated at the confluence of the two Wos rivers at Campuan, just west of the modern day town centre. A shrine was established and later expanded by Nirartha, a Javanese priest who is regarded as the founder of Bali's religious practices and rituals as we know them today. When Ubud became a Dutch protectorate at its own request, the colonialists interfered little, allowing the traditional arts and culture of the area to remain relatively unchanged. From the 1930s onwards western artists and intellectuals arrived furthering the local art scene, amongst them Charlie Chaplin and H.G. Wells. Ubud is still a haven for literati, glitterati and art collectors. Upon arrival in Ubud the day is free to explore.
A wide range of optional excursions are possible today depending upon peoples preferences. There are many temples and palaces to visit including Goa Gajah, popularly known as the Elephant Cave. Dating back to at least the 11th century, and originally a dwelling for Hindu priests, the main highlights of this temple is the short cave with a massive carved face of a demon at its entrance and the holy pools. Legend has it that the pools were considered to be a fountain of youth. The Mother Temple of Besakih, or Pura Besakih, in the village of Besakih is the most important, the largest and holiest temple of Agama Hindu Dharma in Bali. The temple probably dates to the fourteenth century. It was built on the south slopes of Mount Agung, the principal volcano of Bali and is actually a complex made up of twenty-two temples that sit on parallel ridges. It has stepped terraces, and flights of stairs which ascend to a number of courtyards and brick gateways that lead up to the main structure. Gentle treks around Ubud's rice fields or white water rafting are available for the more adventurous, while interesting dance performances in former palaces, or temple ceremonies depicting the eternal struggle between good and evil play out in Ubud's mythical Barong and Kris dances. Your tour leader will be more than happy to advise you on how best to use your time.
Trip ends after breakfast for Land only clients.