NORTH SUMATRA, HAVEN FOR THE SURFERS AND NATURE BUFFS
North Sumatra Province has been touted as one of Indonesia’s last surfing frontiers and is a haven for surfers looking for that perfect surf. Consisting of five islands or island groups – Hinako Islands, Nias, Telos and two other obscure island groups to the north of the province receives similar swell to Mentawais and enjoys its peak swell season from May to September.
But it’s not all sun and surf in North Sumatra. The province prides itself on having one of the biggest lakes in the world, Lake (Danau) Toba, which is a popular tourist attraction. It is also a paradise for nature lovers with natural reserves that house rare animals such as the orangutan, beautiful terraced rice fields, mountains, jungle-covered hills, and white sandy beaches. For culture buffs there is music, dance and folk arts.
North Sumatra is home to very heterogeneous ethnic groups, each with its own traditional customs, dialect, religion, beliefs and cultures. In the eastern coast are the Malays, around Lake Toba and Samsosir Island are the Bataks, while further south are the Mandailings and Angkolas. There are also several ethnic groups who live in the Nias Island, Medan and other towns of North Sumatra. Its largest groups are Chinese and Indian, who are naturalized Indonesian citizens. This cultural diversity is itself an attraction for tourists to visit the province.
Medan, the provincial capital, is an important trading centre and harbor and was once part of the Deli Sultanate. Its rich history is reflected in Masjid Besar (Grand Mosque) and the Palace of the Sultan of Deli, they have been restored to their past grandeur. As Indonesia’s western international gateway the city has regular air services to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Amsterdam and Vienna. Domestically it is connected to Jakarta and other destinations in Sumatra. It also has a sea link to Penang Island in Malaysia through the harbor town of Begawan.
Measuring 70,787 sq km wide North Sumatra is bordered in the north by Aceh, south by West Sumatra Province and Riau Province, west by the Indian Ocean and on the east by the Straits of Malacca.
The province experiences heavy rainfall, averaging 1,100mm to 3,400 mm per year, with temperature ranging between 18°C and 34°C.
PLACES TO GO, THINGS TO DO
Lake Toba (Danau Toba)
This lake is huge, measuring 80 kilometers long and 26 kilometers across, with a depth of about 427 meters. It is a very popular tourist attraction. Visitors can enjoy numerous leisure activities that include swimming, water-skiing, motor boating, canoeing, fishing and golf at the 19-hole Sally Golf Course.
Prapat (or Parapat)
The town sits on the eastern shore of Lake Toba, about 176 kilometers from the provincial capital of Medan, and is the gateway to tourism activities at the lake. Its cool, dry climate makes Prapat an ideal place to rest and relax. There are many hotels, bungalows, villas and rest houses for visitors, as well as small shops selling souvenirs such as Ulos (local woven cloth) and fruits found only in the region. It is home to the Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun tribes, happy and easy going people who are famous for their dances and lively songs, another must-see attraction.
This island is unique as it is in the middle of Lake Toba, with an area of 852 square kilometers and about a half-an-hour boat ride from Prapat. There are many hotels, bungalows, and rest houses for visitors. Recommended are visits to the villages of Tomok, Tuk-tuk, Siallagan and Ambarita that are famous for their traditional Batak Toba houses.
Great Bukit Barisan Forest Park
The park is located at Tongkoh Village in the district of the Karo Highlands, approximately 59 kilometers from Medan. It has a zoological museum and a gazebo with Karo ornaments decorating the top of the roof, which is painted with the word Horas, meaning welcome in the language of the Tapanuli, one of the biggest tribes in North Sumatra.
Berastagi is a pleasant hill resort located on the Karo Highlands, about 1,400 meters above sea level. It is famous for its flowers, vegetables and fruits, especially the Marquisa passion fruit. It also has a colonial-style golf course, as well as hotels to cater to tourists.
The main attractions on Nias Island, which lies off West Sumatra in the Indian Ocean, are the villages of Bawomataluo and Hilisimae famous for traditional war dances and thrilling dangerous leaps over two-meters high stones performed by the villagers. A place of interest is the hall of the Chief of Tribe built on wooden logs with stone chairs weighing up to 18 tons.