Gunung Leuser and Kerinci Seblat National Parks in Sumatra - Tourism Indonesia


Monday, March 8, 2021

Gunung Leuser and Kerinci Seblat National Parks in Sumatra

Teddy_Winanda / Getty Images

Many of the national parks in Sumatra are difficult to reach, but travelers who put in the effort reap the rewards. The wildness and biodiversity of Indonesia’s largest island are mind-boggling. Orangutans, tigers, elephants, and even a few rhinos still hide deep in the Sumatran rainforest. Until relatively recently, uncontacted indigenous tribes lived in the rainforest as well.

Sadly, conservation groups estimate between 40 to 50 percent of Sumatra’s rainforests have already been cleared, even in protected areas; most were replaced with unsustainable palm oil plantations. The national parks in Sumatra—along with many critically endangered species—face a quadruple threat from logging, paper mills, poachers, and slash-and-burn agriculture. As such visitors should take extreme care when visiting a Sumatran national park and search for sustainable and ethical tour operators.

Gunung Leuser National Park

A baby orangutan in Sumatra, Indonesia

Bas Vermolen / Getty Images

With 3,061 square miles of dense forest, Gunung Leuser is the second largest of national parks in Sumatra and most popular with international visitors. Ecotourism is important in the area, and the accessibility from Medan makes getting there fairly easy. The proximity to Lake Toba helps, too.

Visitors embark from Bukit Lawang to see rehabilitated orangutans in the national park. Although free to roam, these semi-wild orangutans frequent platforms where they’re fed fruit. With some luck, trekkers can also see wild orangutans deeper in the forest. Elephants, tigers, rhinos, and a long list of other species take sanctuary within Gunung Leuser National Park, but finding them is a challenge.

Where Is It: Gunung Leuser National Park is in North Sumatra. Most visitors enter the park from Bukit Lawang, a tourist-oriented village three hours west of Medan.

Kerinci Seblat National Park

A Sumatran tiger walking a trail

Steve Clancy Photography / Getty Images

Kerinci Seblat National Park occupies a whopping 5,310 square miles across four provinces, making it the largest national park in Sumatra. The Barisan Mountains run through the park and include Mount Kerinci (12,483 feet), the tallest volcano in Sumatra and yes, you can climb it! With at least five active volcanoes nearby, Kerinci Seblat is a playground for geologists.

More importantly, Kerinci Seblat National Park is home to the largest population of Sumatran tigers remaining in the world (still fewer than 200 tigers). Kerinci Seblat National Park is one of three important national parks that form the UNESCO Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra. 

Where Is It: Most visitors access the national park from Padang, the capital of West Sumatra.



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