Sumatra - Stunning Pearl of Indonesia
where nature meets magic and past meets future
... mystic highlands ... amazing culture ...
Imagine a tropical highland 1000 meter above sealevel; a climate bright with colors, and cool like springtime in the mountains of France; a land where villagers leave food at night for panthers; off-shore islands with dazzling white beaches; native people who still hunt with bow and arrow; volcanic lakes and crater walls, covered with idyllic rice paddies and crossed by hair-pin roads; teak wood houses with antique furniture; steep mountains where only tigers dare; Indonesia’s most beautiful ancient palaces; giant steep canyons; one of the world’s unique matrilineal cultures (where property goes from mother to daughter!); delightfully hospitable people; the best food in Indonesia; and bizarre bull-against-bull fights more risky for gamblers than for bulls ….
All of this you can find within one small area: the region surrounding Indonesia’s former grand capital, the gorgeous mountain town called Bukittinggi (literally: tall mountain).
Packages from 3 to 30 days, starting from Singapore!
A unique trip for families, schools, and other groups …
In the photo-essay below, we describe modules from which you can choose freely and design your own trip, from 3 to 30 days! Each family (or school group) will be accompanied by one of our trusted staff (for schools, a team of staff), who act as your personal guide and driver.
Fully customized to your preferences …
Our guides will get to know you quickly, learn about your interests and personal preferences, and advise accordingly. They can adopt a fully hands-on style leading the way, or let you free to determine your own journey and simply be on hand whenever logistic support is needed. For overnight accommodation, we offer you a choice from lovely authentic homestays with home-cooked food to beautiful colonial style classic hotels. And at any time you feel like extending your stay or changing your itinerary, just tell our staff and they will make the necessary arrangements!
make your choice: our modules
Bukittingi and its surroundings
A must visit. The coastal city where you arrive with the airplane is Padang, which is about 1 hour away from Bukittingi via a breattaking road winding up to the Bukittingi plateau. Bukittingi is Sumatra’s ancient capital, with a magnificent palace reconstructed from the 14th century attesting to its past glory. The town itself, best explored by foot or via traditional horse carriage, has the feel of a mountain village, located on a 1000 m high plateau in the midst of stunning surroundings. From your hotel room you’ll see the Majestic twin Merapi and Singgalang volcanoes; at night, admire the flying foxes cruising in the moonlight.
Beautiful waterfalls and the world’s biggest flower (the Rafflesia) are just a short ride away. Its people are famous for their hospitality and even more famous for their fabled Padang food. In the heart of town you’ll find the market, exploding with colors and exotic smells, fruits and just about anything else. It is considered by many travellers to be the most wonderful experience of its kind in Asia. Some of Asia’s best handicrafts are found in the nearby villages (silverwork, woodcarving, handwoven textiles).
If you are pressed for time, you could see most of Bukittingi’s highlights in 2 days, but it is easy to spend 5 days or more here, and to allow its magic to gently embrace you.
Kerinci and its volcanoes
This is one of Indonesia’s wildest areas. There are a great number of lakes and ancient volcanoes, including the area around Danau Gunung Tujuh (literally: lake of the seven volcanoes) as well as Sumatra’s highest peak: Gunung Kerinci, standing at over 3800 meter. For those very fit and adventurous, you can trek up to its peak and back in 2 days. Its sacred slopes are covered with primary jungle and are home to the last remaining Sumatran tigers. Although you need luck to actually see the tigers themselves, you might well see its paw prints, so impressive that this author changed his mind about wanting to meet them up-close!
Both Kerinci and other (more accessible) volcanoes feature gorgeous mountain lakes, source of inspiration for many legends, which our guides will be happy to tell you … Should you wish to visit this area, the very minimum is 2 days, but you could easily spend a week or more exploring its peaks … Two bits of warning for Kerinci: bring warm cloths, as the nights are cold, and second, remember Kerinci is best enjoyed by sturdy nature loving travellers: in this whole massive area there is only one hotel with hot water, and treks up the volcanoe will definitely mean setting up your own camp (which our guides can do for you).
Siberut and other off-shore islands
Padang itself has some great beaches, very popular with local tourists and surfers. Off-shore from Padang, however, are some wild islands where you take a step back in time. Surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches, these islands are home to a native people who until very recently all lived as gatherer-hunters, using bow and arrows as their main hunting tools. Although the modern world is beginning to make its mark on the bigger coastal villages, deeper in the interior old habits are maintained by a proud people, who are nevertheless happy to let you share their lifestyle.
A visit to these islands is definitely not for the faint-hearted or those valuing their luxury (the house featured above would be your typical home-stay), but for those wanting an unforgettable experience, this is the place to go. Realistically, you should set aside at least 10 days for a visit, due to limited access to and within the islands.
Maninjau lake and other mountain lakes
Maninjau lake (see also first photo on this webpage and slideshow below) is judged by many people to be Indonesia’s most beautiful lake, located inside the crater of an ancient volcano. It connects to Bukittingi via a beautiful 1 hour long road, which winds up to the crater edge and then curves down steeply via 44 famous hairpins encircling idyllic rice terraces. Other than rice terraces and magnificent old houses with beautiful antique furniture, the crater walls surrounding the lake are covered with primary jungle, home to the residents’ much beloved wild Kucing Emas (literally: golden cat, whose coat sometimes is pitch black, which is why locals refer to them as black panthers).
Many villagers place fish outside their houses to allow these large cats to feed at night, and you might see one if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of sleep … You could kayak on the lake or trek up its beautiful hills, or cycle around the lovely 55 km road that circles its shores. There’s a hang-gliding club which will soon offer commercial services to our guests in the form of half to 3 hour flights.
A must-see destination, 2 days at the very minimum, but it is easy to stay much, much longer …
rugged adventure, cultural immersion, community services
Being educators who have travelled the South East Asian region widely, we can safely say there is simply no match for West Sumatra’s potential for school trips, in terms of flora and fauna, landscape and cultural variety, natural beauty, architecture, and community service opportunities.
And in terms of cost, it’s half the price of a trip to Thailand!
The developers of this program, Dr. Marc van Loo and Ms. Isabelle Lacoste, have taught at schools and universities in Singapore since 1991. Isabelle is founder and Coordinator of a 500 student strong French Language program at NTU. Marc is Professor of Math and Physics at a local affiliate of CalState U as well as Coordinator of Critical Thinking at NTU. He is chief editor of an authorative Cambridge University Press book on the IB Diploma (detailed educational resume is posted on this book site).
We have developed (and continue to review) our educational programs together with Outdoor Ed specialists from visiting schools to ensure we deliver the best educational programs this region has on offer.
Our regular visitors include: Linz school (Austria), Tanjong Katong Sec, UWCSEA, Seng Kang Sec, American, French, Dutch, German, Canadian, and Swiss school, Genesis school for the disabled, ISS, Chinese Girls school, CalTex Pekanbaru, ITE Bedok, Pasir Ris Sec, Yishun Town Sec, Yio Chu Kang Gardens, Chatsworth International School, Tanjung Katong Girls Sec, Chung Cheng, ZhongHua, Springfield Guangyang Sec, Yusof Ishak Sec, OFC, Queensway Sec, Outram Sec, Queenstown Sec, Bedok View Sec, Alliance Francaise, First Toa Payoh …
Safety is really no issue compared to other locations, despite recent media concerns on seismic activity (see the safety section below). Perhaps most tellingly, neither MOE nor SOS International (a world leader in risk assessment) have put West Sumatra on a risk warning.
Schools who wish to have more information about the kinds of programs we run (3 to 30 days, 10 – 300 students), please e-mail us or contact an authorized travel agent. Singaporean schools, please right-click to download this geography itinerary tailor-made to the national curriculum.
we cater to companies on three different levels:
There are of course the celebrated company and group events at LooLa Adventure Resort run by our resident staff, as well as the events facilitated by Singapore-based trainers, including the founder and owner of Loola, Dr. Marc van Loo.
Dr Marc van Loo also runs highly acclaimed corporate workshops in Singapore, using his experience as a Professor of Mathematics and Physics, the coordinator of Critical Thinking at NTU, and as a corporate trainer at LooLa. Download a 2 page PDF file here with more information.
Finally, for exciting and unique corporate events in Sumatra, including the use of seminar facilities in grand old classic hotels, please email Clare Loh.
what guests are saying about our trips!
Please note that we have only started our first promotional tours in July 2005, so stay tuned for updates as they come in! Schools used to be somewhat worried for taking trips to Sumatra, but attitudes are changing as West Sumatra is recognized for what it is: one of the foremost cultural and natural jewels of Asia.
Schools that visit us now in Sumatra every year include St Joseph Insttute International and the United World College of South East Asia, and other enthusiastic local MOE visitors include Tanjung Katong Sec, Bukit Panjang Sec and Regent Sec.
For some Singapore magazine write-ups on our LooLa operations, refer to the July 2003 issue of Lifestyle, the March 2003 issue of the Chinese language magazine Life, issue 11, 2003 of Banter magazine, and the Dec 2003 issue of the Magazine for NPCC cadet.
This is the most amazing place on earth!!! Indonesia’s best kept secret is finally out!! The padi fields, the hills, the mountains, the breath-taking scenery … wow!! My camera just went on clicking and clicking… I couldn’t wait to capture every bit of this, to put these memories on coloured, glossy papers, to show off to my friends! Be it for the young and old, it is a place to relax and unwind, away from the hustle and the bustle ….. and the good thing was the place was not sleazy! Good for family visits with kids, school trips … with such abundance in resources, I think West Sumatra is the next new exciting destination. Dodi and his staff were great companions, they ensured that our stay was memorable and exciting. Thank you for bringing us on this unforgettable journey. I felt like I was Indiana Jones when he raced us skilfully to the airport to catch our plane back! I will certainly be telling more people about this place and I will certainly find some excuse to be back!!
– Clare Loh, Global Adventure Consultants
‘Our trip to Padang & Bukittinggi was definitely one to remember! Thanks to Loola for a fun filled and enriching 4D3N programme. The view in Sumatra was spectacular. The food was fantastic. The people were awesome. The culture was rich and colourful! Loola definitely delivered what they promised… an unforgettable experience!’
– Mr Azmann Rahman, HOD Malay Language, Tanjong Katong Sec
I went over on one of your 5N6D packages together with my 9 year old son Marc, while visiting Singapore from France. I concur with everything Clare said, and should add to this that the place is great for kids, with many beautiful areas where they can play safely in shallow waters, far away from busy roads, of which there are very few in Sumatra. Your guides are lovely and friendly, and were always ready to go out of their way to help us! The trek in Harau was fantastic, and Konti, our guide, was extremely knowledgeable and had many interesting stories to tell about the plants and animals we saw. Also the cycle ride around Maninjau is not to be missed, it’s so beautiful! The one thing that I would really have liked to have done if I had a bit more time is climb this great volcano you see from your hotel window in Bukittingi: Gunung Merapi. Next time!
– Yves Gosselin, PE teacher
Jeff, the guide is very nice. He played a lot with me, so I liked him! I liked Bukittinggi market and the clock-tower is nice with all the horses. I also liked the turet cafe and all the panorama views and the parks with the monkeys. I liked the Pusako hotel, but the bread for breakfast was a bit funny! Harau was very nice and we did a fantastic trek for 7 hour (incl 2 hour stop). I liked to see the ants and termites walking in long rows, the guide was really good and told us some very nice things like the meat-eating plants! There are many beautiful panorama views but the last one was really the greatest! I liked Echo cafe, it’s quite simple but the people are very nice. At Maninjau lake, Martin, the owner of the bungalows, and everybody else was again very nice. At night Martin often comes out wit the guitar, and his daughter, who has a really nice voice, sings. The cycling of 55 km was really good and I did it in 4 hours! I liked the cycling and the views are so nice, every two minutes you could stop and take a photo. The people are so nice and everybody waves and says hello!
Anything else you want to say Marc? Yes, I really like Sumatra!
– Marc Gosselin
We’re looking for pioneers and offer spectacular promotional rates: pay as little as 200 Euro for a one week unforgettable experience!
Right-click to download this PDF file for detailed information.
Email us, or call us in Singapore at +65 – 9643 0478 if you need further information.
has never been easier. With Tiger Airways flying in one hour from Singapore to Padang for as little as 10 Euro, this is the time to make a quick decision! Where are you going? Check the map!
kerinci.org is a superb website for flora, fauna, geography, and just about anything else you want to know about Kerinci.
While our programs are exciting, risk is kept to a minimum: our drivers are carefully selected, treks are accompanied by experienced and authorized guides, and medical facilities in Bukittinggi are good. At 1000 meter height, tsunamis naturally can do no harm; we only trek volcanoes upon advise of the relevant authorities, and earthquake risks are extremely low. A careful look at the statistics shows there is no geological reason to assume Sumatra is at an elevated risk: see the excellent wikipedia earthquake and volcano websites for detailed data to put the risk in perspective.
Perhaps most tellingly, neither MOE nor SOS International (a world leader in risk assessment) have put West Sumatra on a risk warning.
In summary, risks from natural disasters in Sumatra’s highlands are low, and certainly no higher than they are anywhere else.