Batu Katak: The Epic Guide to North Sumatra’s Hidden Gem 2023

Batu Katak is a dreamy little village lying on the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park in North Sumatra. Perched on the banks of the Berkail River, this place is teeming with natural wonders. It’s one of our favourite places to get off the grid and spend a few days communing with mother nature.

On one edge of the village, there’s an incredibly diverse and exciting karst forest full of cave systems and interesting landscapes, and across the river lies the famous National Park.

Although Batu Katak has previously been something of a hidden treasure, it is growing in popularity with visitors. This is partly because of its proximity to the famous trekking destination of Bukit Lawang, but also because of the unique flora and fauna on offer, such as the giant Rafflesia and Amorphophallus flowers found in the area.

People enjoy jungle trekking in Batu Katak in search of orangutans, gibbons, enormous plants, or even tigers (well, tiger footprints, at least!). It’s one of our  Top 6 Places to See Orangutans in the Wild!

There are only a handful of tourists here, and you get a slice of authentic Sumatran village life.

Read on for everything you need to know to visit this little patch of jungle paradise!

This blog was updated in July 2023 after we spent a week in Batu Katak, so you can plan your trip with up-to-date info!


Visit Batu Katak With Us!

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How to Get to Batu Katak

Batu Katak

Although staying in Batu Katak feels like an off-the-beaten-path experience, it’s not difficult to get to. The nearest town is Bohorok, which is only a hop, skip and a jump away from busy Bukit Lawang.

If you’re coming from Medan or Kualanamu Airport, expect the journey to take 3-4 hours (add a bit of extra time if you’re travelling by local bus).

How to Get to Batu Katak from Bukit Lawang

If you’re already in Bukit Lawang, ask your current guesthouse or a trusted local to give you a ride, The trip should take no more than 30 minutes, and the roads aren’t too bad.

Alternatively, contact your accommodation or guide in Batu Katak, and they’ll help you arrange transport.

How to Get to Batu Katak from Medan


While there’s no bus directly to Batu Katak village, it’s simple enough to reach Bohorok and find transportation for the last leg of your journey.

The most straightforward way to get to Batu Katak is to catch a bus that’s heading to Bukit Lawang, then get off at Bohorok.

In Medan city, buses to Bukit Lawang depart from the Pinang Baris bus station. However, it is recommended that tourists head to a nearby pickup area at the Mawar Bakery near the bus station to avoid the touts that may attempt to rip them off.

Either at Pinang Baris or the nearby Mawar Bakery pickup spot, you’ll be looking for a small local bus (don’t be confused, these often look more like mini-vans!) to Bukit Lawang. It will say B. Lawang on the windscreen.

When you get on, tell the driver you will be getting off in Bohorok, NOT Bukit Lawang.

For more detail on getting here, check out our blog on How to Get to Bukit Lawang and find the bus from Medan section.

Follow the same route, except get off the bus at Bohorok instead of Bukit Lawang.

Once you’re in Bohorok, your guesthouse can pick you up if you’ve pre-arranged it. Or, you can wing it and find a becak (motorbike transport); there are usually a few around that will take you the rest of the way.

If worst comes to worst, you should be able to find a local willing to take you to Batu Katak for a small fee.


The fastest and most comfortable way to reach Batu Katak is with a private car/driver. 

From Medan/Kualanamu Airport, it will cost around 800,000 IDR.

Need help with transport? We can recommend our favourite drivers or put you in touch with some of our great friends from Batu Katak who can help you get there. Don’t be shy – we’re happy to help.

Email us here

Drone shot of a wide, clear river with jungle on either side, misty skies and a person standing next to the river

Things to Do in Batu Katak

Like most places in Sumatra, Batu Katak will appeal to nature-lovers. You won’t find bars, restaurants, or souvenir shops.

What you will find is an enchantingly pretty natural setting and an endless array of outdoor activities to get stuck into.

Trekking is the number one thing to do – and it’s truly outstanding here. But even if you just want to take it easy, you can enjoy swimming in the river, relaxing at the nearby waterfall, or just sitting by the river doing some wildlife spotting.

Explore the Karst Forest

Karst refers to an area of land made up of limestone, and a karst forest is a forest that grows amongst this terrain. Karst areas are unique because they contain some pretty impressive rocky structures and plenty of caves and underground rivers.

The karst forest at Batu Katak offers a different trekking experience because of that stunning terrain.

There are lots of opportunities to do some minor rock climbing, which makes life interesting. We find that when you have to think hard about where to put your hands and feet, you forget about how hot, sweaty and tired you are!

This area is not part of the national park, so it’s not protected. This is potentially a huge problem, as all the animals found in the park also move around the karst forest. There are orangutans, gibbons, sun bears, tigers, and many more precious animals here.

When we first discovered Batu Katak many years ago, the land hosting the karst forest was owned by a cement company interested in developing the area – an outcome that would have been disastrous for all the species living there.

Luckily, the awesome local community successfully fought to preserve the area. For now, at least, it remains untouched.

One way to help keep this unique karst forest safe is to make it valuable for tourism. Your support in visiting helps the local community protect it.

Check Out Some Jungle Caves

Thanks to this karst landscape, there are some great caves to explore not far from Batu Katak.

One of the most impressive is the Water Cave. This cave stretches underground for 901 metres, following a small river.

While you enter through rather a narrow opening, it’s not a “crawling through small spaces” kind of cave. There’s plenty of room to move, and it’s not a challenging walk.

It takes between 1-1.5 hours to make your way through this cave, and you can see bats, frogs, lots of cool insects, and maybe even the odd snake!

Go Jungle Trekking

Drone shot of a river cutting through the middle of thick green rainforest, with forested hills in the background

Of course, jungle trekking in Batu Katak is top of the to-do list! While there’s no guarantee you’ll see some of the more elusive wild animals like orangutans or siamang gibbons, the chances are pretty decent – particularly during fruit season.

And at least you know that when you DO see them, they are 100 percent wild-born, wild-living animals.

Batu Katak is excellent because it’s still relatively undiscovered. The river can get a bit crowded with local tourists on weekends and public holidays, but the jungle is still peaceful. You are unlikely to bump into another soul during your trek, no matter how long it is.

We LOVE trekking here and have been many times, from half-day treks to three-night expeditions. You’ll come across the most photogenic rivers you’ll ever see, dotted with pools for bathing in and waterfalls that will refresh your body and soul after a day of trekking. It’s truly an unmissable spot.

You shouldn’t have to worry about irresponsible tourism here (fingers crossed it stays that way). The local guides understand about respecting the animals and keeping their distance. But if you’re concerned, it might pay to check out our blog on How to Choose a Responsible Guide (and why it’s so important).

Hang with some Honey Bees

Yup, you heard us right! The local villagers are continually thinking of ways to help the environment and provide value to tourists. The most recent initiative is the addition of beehives!

You can visit Mr Kelingi to see the work he’s doing and learn all about the process of bees and honeymaking, as well as buy some delicious jungle honey to sample. Ask your guesthouse or guide about how to do this.

Learn About Traditional Karonese Medicine

Like many small villages in the Langkat region, Batu Katak has a strong Karonese community. Batak Karo people are one of the six Batak ethnic groups found throughout Sumatra.

Karonese culture has its own language, cuisine, dance, music, and customs.

Part of this culture is a deep love and respect for the environment. You may find if you have a Karonese guide, they make an offering to their ancestors before they enter the jungle. And using jungle plants as medicinal herbs is a large part of their traditional heritage.

One of the things you can do when you stay in Batu Katak is take a traditional medicine class. You’ll spend time with an experienced teacher who will show you the various plants used as medicine, and you’ll help them make your own.

If you’re lucky, you might even be able to learn some of the traditional Karonese songs and get some personal instruction on their dances.

Karonese people are among the most open and friendliest you’ll ever meet, so don’t be shy to ask them anything you want to know. There are some great stories passed down through the generation that they’ll be happy to share.

Go River Tubing through the Jungle

Two Indonesian men and a tourist sitting on inner tubes gliding down an emerald green river

No rainforest trip is complete without a river tubing adventure! Floating down an emerald green river surrounded by rainforest, spotting animals, and cooling off in the pristine water is  an unforgettable rainforest experience.

And Batu Katak is an excellent place to give it a go.

If you embark on a trek, tubing will most likely be on the itinerary to get you back to the village after a hot and sweaty day (or days) in the jungle.

But even if you don’t do a longer trek, we highly recommend a tubing adventure. You can walk for an hour or so through rubber plantations to the edge of the rainforest, stop off for a snack or a cool drink by the river, then jump on some giant inner tubes/tyres and head home the best way possible!

Not only is it refreshing, but it’s alot of fun. Obviously, this can only be done safely when the river is relatively calm, so best done in the mornings or earlier in the afternoon before the regular rainstorms pay a visit.

Ask your guesthouse or guide (details at the bottom of this blog) about a tubing adventure.

Spot Some Wildlife

Orangutan in Batu Katak

Images Courtesy of Stay Wild/Facebook

Batu Katak is teeming with wildlife, and generally, it’s quite easy to see some incredible animals without even heading into the jungle.

At dawn and dusk, families of white-handed gibbons and Siamangs can often be found nearby in the karst forest or hanging out along the river bank.

When we stayed recently, we loved our daily “jungle alarm” – the calls of Siamang gibbons echoing through the forest to ring in a new day.

The awesome funky monkeys (Thomas Leaf monkeys) and macaques are also familiar sights. Many times, we’ve seen orangutans just in the forest behind Orchid Bungalow, as well as when trekking deeper into the jungle.

Further away in the jungle or karst forest, there is evidence of tigers, sun bears, porcupines, and so much more, but the chances of coming across these animals during a trek are very slim. You may get lucky enough to spot fresh tiger footprints or sun bear claw marks though, which is thrilling in itself!

See Incredible Giant Flowers - Rafflesia and Amorphophallus Titanum!

Batu Katak is home to not one, but TWO species of rare and enormous plants. The trick is being there at the right time, as each only blooms for a short period.

But even if you aren’t lucky to see the actual flower, it’s still awesome to see the other plant structures and learn more about them.

Amorphophallus titanum

A large amorphophallus titanum flower with guide standing next to it

The Amorphophallus titanum (or titan arum) is a flowering plant endemic (native to) Sumatra. It likes to grow on steep hillsides within rainforests. It’s quite picky, though, and can’t be seen in many places.

Batu Katak is one of the few areas in North Sumatra where it can be seen pretty easily, but the Kerinci Seblat National Park in West Sumatra also has these spectacular plants.

A quick Google search tells us that this plant boasts the “largest unbranched inflorescence of any plant and smells of rotting flesh.” But to be honest, we’ve seen it a few times and didn’t smell anything!

These flowers are stunning. There’s an inner “spike,” which is the tallest part and is usually a yellowish colour. The spike (spadix) can grow to more than three metres (9.8 feet). Then there is a kind of enormous petal around the outside (known as a spathe, incidentally) which is kind of creamy coloured before opening, but reveals a beautifully rich, crimson/purple interior when it unfolds.

As we mentioned, you need to be right on the money with your timing, as this flower only blooms for 24 to 48 hours.

Smartypants fact: these flowers have the charming stench of rotting flesh to attract beetles and flies for pollination.

There are so many cool things about this plant, I could write a whole page of facts! But in fear of boring the non-plant-enthusiast, I’ll just leave this great little link to for those who want to know more.


Unrelated to the titan arum (but apparently just as smelly), the Rafflesia wins the award for having the largest single flower in the world. The bloom can be as big as one meter in diameter (3.3 feet) and weigh up to 11 kg. 

Interestingly, the rafflesia is a parasite that lives on vines of other plants, which happen to only grow in primary rainforest areas.

Unlike the titan arum, the rafflesia doesn’t have any recognisable plant structures (it doesn’t need leaves for photosynthesis because it takes all its nutrients from its host plant) aside from the flower, so it’s tough to find if it isn’t in bloom, and only blooms for five to seven days.

 It too is endemic to Sumatra and is recognised as a national “rare flower.”

There are many different species of Rafflesia, and several are found in this area. The one pictured here is the Rafflesia micropylora.

Rafflesias are a reddish/brownish/orange colour with white patterns and five petals. Some are said to be super stinky, but the ones we saw had no odour.

Rafflesia can be found in several areas of Sumatra, such as the Kerinci Seblat National Park, and are less common in North Sumatra – making Batu Katak even more special!

Relax in the River and Bathe in a Waterfall

A beautiful clear river with rocky shores winding through green rainforest. A woman in a pink tshirt, black shorts, with blonde hair is walking through the river away from the camera

Need a break from trekking? No worries! There’s a pristine river right on the doorstep to wash away the worries of the day.

We’re big fans of waterfalls of shapes and sizes too (check out our Favourite Waterfalls in Lake Toba). Luckily, there’s an utterly appealing little waterfall just upriver with a pool perfect for floating in. Just follow the pathway up past Orchid Bungalow towards Jungle River Guesthouse and you can’t miss it.

You can check these areas out unaccompanied.

Important note: As lovely as the local people are, this is still a small, conservative village. It is disrespectful to show too much skin.

When swimming, we advise you not to wear a bikini or swimsuit unless there are few or no people around. Stick to shorts and a T-shirt or singlet.

Trekking with the Sumatra Wild Team

The guides you choose for your trek can make a world of difference to your experience.

Not only should your jungle guides be taking good care of you, but they should also take good care of the jungle and its inhabitants. 

Batu Katak is home to some incredible guides, such as  the Sumatra Wild Team, managed by our good friend Joe Sinuraya.

Sumatra Wild – Batu Katak is an ethical trekking team with hand-picked local staff.
“We believe in community-based tourism and responsible trekking to help us preserve and protect our amazing jungle and wildlife!
Our team is made up of experienced English-speaking guides who are certified by the Indonesia Tourist Guides Association (ITGA-HPI Himpunan Pramuwisata Indonesia).
We strictly follow the Gunung Leuser National Park guidelines and do our best to keep the jungle clean and the wildlife safe! All profits raised remain in Batu Katak and go back into the community.”
Guests have nothing but positive things to say about Joe and the Sumatra Wild team – if you’d like to know more, simply scroll down to the comment section at the end of the blog and read all the glowing reviews!
Take a look at Sumatra Wild on social media:
Contact Joe direct via Whatsapp: +62-812-6340-3452
It’s important to note that several of the guesthouses in Batu Katak have their own guides associated with them and prefer to support their internal teams.
If you’d like to use Sumatra Wild for your Batu Katak adventures, you’ll need to stay in Jungle River in Batu Katak, or come from Bukit Lawang for your day or overnight jungle treks.

Where to Stay in Batu Katak

Batu Katak is still an ecotourism destination in progress, so there aren’t many places to choose from, which is part of its charm!

Currently, there are three main Batu Katak guesthouses to choose from. All three are located alongside the Berkail River in gorgeous natural settings.

We’ve had the pleasure of staying in all three over the years, so can give you insight into which is the best Batu Katak accommodation for your trip.

Bear in mind that this is a small village still bouncing back from the economic impacts of COVID. Some of the furnishings and decor in the guesthouses need freshening up, but these are just cosmetic hiccups that can be easily fixed.

Find more about each place and how to book below.

Batu Katak Gibbon Guesthouse

250,000 IDR per night, including breakfast.

Rooms and restaurant have WiFi – the strongest in the village!

Batu Katak Gibbon Guesthouse was the first accommodation to be built in this charming village.

The rooms and restaurant look across the river to the towering karst forest and its limestone cliffs. 

When we stayed recently, we saw Siamangs swinging around the trees high above and woke up to their alarm call in the mornings. 

We loved our stay at Gibbon Guesthouse and would happily have spent another week or two here if we could have! 

Perched on a curve of the stunning Berkail river, this spacious spot has an excellent position.

There is a wide stone “beach” area next to the river where you can soak up the sun between swims (when there has been a decent dumping of rain, this beach is engulfed by the river, but you wouldn’t want to be swimming when it’s that high anyway!)

To reach Gibbon Guesthouse, you’ll need to cross over the river and take a short 5-minute stroll to the property. (Don’t worry if you have heavy bags and need assistance, just reach out and they’ll send a bike to pick you up!)

There are six rooms here – two are slightly newer and larger, but all are clean, tidy, and very comfortable.

You’ll find fans, mosquito nets, drying racks and freestanding wardrobes to store your stuff in.

Rooms have terraces in front with tables and chairs.

Bathrooms have Western toilets, although you’ll need to use the accompanying tub of water and bucket to flush them.

The newer rooms have wall shower and bucket shower options, while the older rooms just have the bucket shower (this is a large tub of fresh water with a small tub for pouring it over your head – very refreshing after a hot and humid day of trekking!)

There is a restaurant on site – and the food here is DELICIOUS!

As with the other Batu Katak guesthouses, there isn’t a menu, but you will be given 2-3 choices of what you’d like for each meal, and they are open to requests.

Vegetarians, vegans and dietary restrictions can easily be catered for – just let Sam know when you book in and he’ll get it sorted for you.

NOTE: If you plan to go hiking or trekking while staying at Batu Katak Guesthouse, they ask that you use the chosen guides from their own team. Manager Samuel can help you arrange all of this, and anything else you need.

Email Samuel here:

WhatsApp: +62-812-1451-4733

Jungle River Batu Katak

250,000 IDR per night, including breakfast

WiFi is available throughout, although it can be patchy.

Jungle River is the newest addition to Batu Katak guesthouses – and it could not be in a more idyllic spot!

Surrounded by trees and crafted from wood, Jungle River blends beautifully into those gorgeous forest backdrops.

The vibe here is laid back and welcoming. It’s the kind of place where you can wander into the kitchen and make your own cup of coffee, fish with the locals at the river in the evenings and sit up late chatting in the restaurant.

On weekends, local tourists often come to enjoy the adjacent rocky beach area and soak up the jungle vibes. 

To reach Jungle River Batu Katak, you’ll need to follow the path alongside the river for about 10 minutes from the central village. You’ll need to do the last 5 minutes on foot as there are stairs and paths that can’t accommodate motorcycles.

This nature-centric accommodation is on the edge of that gorgeous Berkail River, but it also has an enchanting small waterfall and waterfall pool just steps away from the rooms!

There are two rooms here. Both are small and simple, featuring a bed, mosquito nets, a small table with a small fan, and a basic bathroom.

The toilets are Indonesian style (squat toilets), and the showers are bucket style (large tubs of water with smaller buckets to pour over yourself).

But realistically, are you really going to be showering inside when you can choose from a pristine river or a waterfall to bathe under? We think not!

Bear in mind that the rooms here are quite basic – fine for those used to backpacking, but not for those looking for a bit more comfort. The beds could use improvement for sure, and the rooms are not very bug-proof. 

Each room has a small terrace overlooking the waterfall and river – and you are literally a few steps away from a cool, refreshing swim.

The restaurant and kitchen area here is so pretty, with unbeatable views. 

There is no set menu; instead, you’ll be served up a few “family food” dishes – various curries, soups, egg, rice and noodle dishes. If you have special dietary requirements, let them know ahead of time so they can prepare.

For more information and booking enquiries, contact Joe via WhatsApp: +62 812 6340 3452 

Orchid Bungalow

250,000 IDR per night, including breakfast

WiFi is available throughout

Orchid Bungalow is a lovely place to stay. It’s right on the river, with the karst forest towering just behind it.

Management has a bit of a green thumb and have put a lot of energy into landscaping, so there are beautiful trees, greenery, trickling streams, and flowers everywhere.

Pre-COVID, we often stayed at Orchid Bungalow and found it lovely and comfortable.

Orchid Bungalows is the first guesthouse you’ll come across if you keep wandering down the main path past the village. It is the largest of the three guesthouses, with spacious grounds and a variety of rooms.

The river is directly in front of the property, and the karst forest behind it. 

The rooms at Orchid Bungalow are simple but comfortable. You can get twin or queen beds, and every room comes with a Western-style shower (cold water only) and a sit-down toilet.

You’ll have a fan to cool you down during the night and a mosquito net.

Each room has a balcony and chairs to relax on.

The restaurant is large, airy, and open, with lovely views. There’s no menu to choose from, but the cook makes delicious meals from fresh, local ingredients every day, and can cater to your dietary needs.

There are also cold drinks (yes, Bintang!) in the fridge.

NOTE: If you plan to go hiking or trekking while staying at Orchid Bungalows, they ask that you use the chosen guides from their own team.

If you’d like to book a room at Orchid Bungalow, contact Sarimen on WhatsApp: +62-852-1165-8948

(If possible, please communicate using message rather than a phonecall to assist with language difficulties).

Ecotourism and Convservation in Batu Katak

Gunung Leuser National Park
Siamang in Batu Katak
Ecotourism Batu Katak

Like many of the small, forest-edge communities in Sumatra, Batu Katak once relied on destructive activities like poaching and logging to get by. People in these remote areas don’t have many options. They can work in the endless palm oil or rubber plantations; a few lucky ones have their own land to grow crops on for an income.

However, the tide is slowly turning. Batu Katak is a pioneering community that embraces ecotourism initiatives and is passionate about protecting its natural resources.

Ecotourism gives local communities a much-needed income and equips them to protect the jungle rather than pillage it.

The presence of tourists, rangers, and guides that comes along with tourists discourages poachers and illegal activity, giving these precious ecosystems and their inhabitants added protection.

There are several international organisations based in Batu Katak that are empowering the community to care for their environment. They make many things possible, but one of the most noticeable to us was the rubbish program.

Compared to many similar communities, Batu Katak village and the river is very clean. You’ll find rubbish bins all over the village (a very rare find in Indonesia!), and signs about recycling and trash. I believe this is, in part, thanks to an organisation known as Green Life. But in no small part is successful because of the passion and open-mindedness of the community in general.

Amenities in Batu Katak, North Sumatra

Batu Katak Village Sumatra

Batu Katak is a tiny village with very little in the way of shops. That’s why we love it so damn much.

If you’re in need of some snacks or basic supplies, you’ll find them at one of the small shops in the village, but for anything else, you need to head to nearby Bohorok (about a 20-minute drive away).

Luckily, Bohorok is quite a big town, so you should be able to get most of what you need there.


The nearest ATMs are in Bohorok.

One is from BRI bank and gives out up to 2.5 million at a time.

The other is Mandiri and gives a maximum of 1.25.

Do bear in mind that ATMs throughout Sumatra are not the most reliable of machines; sometimes they’re broken, have no money, or don’t work with your card.

Our best advice is to take out as much as you can on each machine when you find one that works!


Nearby Bohorok has “apotek” (pharmacies) and a medical clinic. The nearest local hospital is in Binjai (about 2 hours away), while there are larger, more well-known hospitals in Medan (3 hours away).


All the guesthouses at Batu Katak now have Wi-Fi, so you can stay connected even when it feels like you couldn’t be further away from the “real world.”

Do remember that the signal can be patchy at times, and power cuts are relatively common – patience is key!

Your Essential Sumatra Travel Toolkit

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MONEY MANAGEMENT: Grab a free Wise account to easily store and switch currencies, send money all over the world, and withdraw from ATMs throughout Indonesia. We would be LOST without this amazing tool.
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FLIGHT FINDER: Nothing beats Skyscanner for sourcing the best flights to, from, and around Sumatra. Filter your search according to the cheapest or fastest options. We use this every time we fly.
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BOOKING ACCOMMODATION: We always use when we travel throughout Sumatra and beyond. Easily find your ideal guesthouse, hotel or resort.

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This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. Meri

    I’m so glad I found this webpage before our trip to Sumatra! It’s the reason we ended up spending nearly 2 days and 3 nights in Batu Katak. We went to over-touristed Bukit Lawang first to ensure we saw orangutan and then escaped to sweet, authentic Batu Katak. We found the locals in Bukit Lawang a bit grumpy. (Their town has been overtaken by tourism, so it’s to be expected.) Batu Katak was like night and day. – The village is small, beautiful, and sleepy. And the people were so welcoming!

    We stayed at Jungle River, which is the best location in my opinion. The waterfall was right outside our cabin and my husband came and went to it constantly.

    We had Joe as our guide. He was happy to tailor an experience just right for us. We had planned a full-day trek in the jungle with him, but I was exhausted from our 2-day trek in Bukit Lawang. Joe pivoted seamlessly! – He took us on a short walk into the forest to see the Amorphophallus titanum flower, then to the weekly rubber market, which was fascinating to watch. We spent time learning about Karonese medicine and then ended the day chatting with the local beekeeper.

    I do recommend stopping for coffee at Orchid Bungalows. When I asked if they had coconut milk, they went out, grabbed a coconut and made some on the spot. The proprietor also makes fantastic cigars. It was a lovely experience chatting with him about his locally-grown tobacco.

    I cannot recommend Batu Katak (and Joe!) enough. Thanks for a memorable experience!

    1. Carly

      Hi Meri. Thanks so much for the fantastic comment! We are SO pleased that you discovered our site and found your way to awesome Batu Katak. The people there are just lovely, and Jungle River really is in such a picturesque spot – that waterfall is gorgeous. Fantastic that you got to see the titan arum flower with Joe and learn about the local culture and traditions. How cool! And really pleased to hear that you had such a positive experience at Orchid Bungalows too – sounds really interesting! Really happy you had such a fulfilling and memorable trip.

  2. Jordan J.

    Hi Carly,
    Thank you for a very detailed blog post, it was instrumental on our trip.
    We chose to go with Joe as a guide. He didn’t join us in the 2D1N trek but he arranged and managed everything flawlessly.
    We decided to go to Bukit Lawang first to guarantee we’d see orangutangs and we decided to go to Batu Katak for the full jungle experience.
    We stayed at the Jungle river. We wanted to stay at Orchids but A) it was impossible to communicate with them and B) Joe arranged with Jungle River instead. The restaurant is great, and Christine preps delicious meals. The passion fruit pancakes are a must. Herman, who runs front of house, is full of great stories and a pleasure to be around. He introduced us to putting ginger in your coffee… Now it’s a staple. I would say that the mattress is in desperate need of changing. I slept better on the floor in the jungle, at least I didn’t have springs stabbing my ribs.
    The trekking was great, not too hard, and although we didn’t see any orangutangs we glimpsed a few Thomas Leaf monkeys from a far. Happy and Herver, were great guides and we had a truly fun night playing games… Those damn jungle puzzles are not easy (no matter what they say to you 🙂 ).
    The cave was quite eventful. We saw two water snakes (harmless) and one very large King Cobra. It was a thrilling experience for some of us, but if you’ve got a phobia of snakes, I’d recommend taking the jungle route round the cave.
    The jungle taxi (donuts down the river) was phenomenal. The food and the constant fresh fruit was spectacular, I honestly think Happy has a Mary Poppins bag on him or something… So much fresh fruit!
    I would absolutely recommend doing Batu Katak and supporting the local community. The town is a mere 200 people comprised of 13 families, so please manage your expectations. People are warm and welcoming and have a great sense of humour.
    This town is the last one before the jungle starts, it’s remote and isolated, getting things such as paracetamol can be a mission, so plan accordingly and embrace the jungle way.

    1. Carly

      Hi Jordan! Thanks so much for your comment, we are so pleased to hear you had an amazing time in Batu Katak. It really is a special place! We have been in touch with the management of Orchid Bungalow and will update the information to help people get in touch with them more easily. From what we gather, it’s easier for them to communicate using WhatsApp messenger. Glad you enjoyed your time at Jungle River – it’s a fantastic spot, but we hear you on the bed situation!
      How cool you saw snakes in the cave! What an experience.
      Fantastic comment that gives people a great idea of what to expect in Batu Katak. Terima kasih!

  3. Angele

    Hi Agung and Charlie !
    Thank you so much for your blog, it was very helpful, especially to get in contact with Joe to organise our trek in the jungle of batu Katak.

    Thanks to Joe and his team we had probably the 2 best days of our trip in Sumatra !! We were lucky enough to see gibbons, and 4 wild orang outan, and it’s just a more amazing experience when you are trying to find them hiden in trees. Also jungle is not just about monkeys, the density and the sounds of nature are amazing. We also had the chance to see 2 arum titan (bigest flower).
    Joe and his team are very nice, the food during the trek was very good, we had a very nice evening all together in the jungle, talking and playing games 🙂
    Thank you so much again Joe !
    Angel & Fanny
    PS : bigup for below, the jungle dog 😉

    1. Carly

      Thanks so much you two for the lovely review of Batu Katak and Joe. It really is the best place, and we are so glad you got to experience it (and meet the intrepid jungle dog!)

  4. Fred

    We chose to go to Batu Katak because we wanted to see wild orangutans in their natural environment. We were very happy with our experience in Batu Katak.

    We found Joe’s details through this site. Joe organised transport and accommodation for us in advance and was very communicative before and during our stay. We did a one day trek in the Carpe Forest with Rudi and Hendra. Rudi had excellent English and was very knowledgeable about the jungle, flora and fauna. Hendra was my wife’s guardian angel and helped her to negotiate the trickiest parts of the path. I heard stories about 4 day and 9 day treks, so I am sure that Joe and his team can satisfy anyone’s thirst for adventure!

    Joe and Rudi were clear with us that there was a good chance, but no guarantee, of seeing an orangutan. We were lucky enough to see three orangutans, Thomas’s leaf monkeys, black gibbons, hornbills and long tail macaques as well as the Amophophallus titanum in flower (the tallest flower in the world) and countless beautiful butterflies.

    This is not like an African safari where you sit on the back of a truck to watch the game and get driven back to the lodge at night. You are staying on the frontier of one of the wonders of the natural world. You need to work for your wildlife, break a sweat and get dirt and under your nails. Perhaps that makes the whole experience more rewarding.

    We had some magical and unforgettable moments in the jungle.

    Thank you to Joe and his team for looking after us in Batu Katak and for all the work they are doing to protect the jungle and share their knowledge of it with others.

    1. Carly

      Hi Fred – so happy to hear that you our connection with Joe helped you discover the amazing place that is Batu Katak! Very well put about the style of trekking here in Sumatra – although technically it is a “walk in the park,” it is very much not just a walk in the park! You do work hard for the experience but boy is it worth it. Thanks for your kind words about Joe and his team – they appreciate the feedback and do a stellar job.

  5. Ryan Marlowe

    We had an amazing experience in Batu Katak. We found the experience to be ethical and authentic, which was important to us. Joe (+62 812-6340-3452) was extremely helpful from arranging transportation to his skills and knowledge guiding. He and Hendra brought us on two 1 day treks and we saw wild non-habituated orangutans both days. On the 2nd day, we saw 10 in one ficus tree feeding! They also brought along plenty of fruit and a great lunch each day. The ‘Jungle Taxi’ down the river at the end was so fun too! Our expectations were far exceeded. The area is pristine and full of wildlife. This morning we woke up to gibbons singing right across the river.

    1. Carly

      Hi Ryan! Thanks so much for the comment – sounds like you had an incredible trip! Batu Katak really is a special place, and Joe is awesome!

  6. Eric

    I found Joe through this helpful website. Joe was extremely responsive and flexible in the planning stage. Our group was my wife and I and our 19 and 16 year old sons.
    We only had one day and we hoped to see flowers in bloom at Batu Katak and orangutans in Bukit Lawang and built a plan to see both and still manage to catch a 20:50 flight from Medan. Unfortunately, the flowers that were blooming were 3 hours from Batu Katak so at the last minute we adjusted our plans and just visited Bukit Lawang with Joe and his guide friend from Bukit Lawang Arif.
    We had an amazing day starting at around 8:30am and finishing at around 2:30pm. Joe also arranged for our airport pick up the night before, recommended the Ida Guest House and airport drop off afterwards.
    During the trek itself Joe and Arif found wild and semi wild orangutans for us a few times. We saw children and male and female adults up close and at a distance. We also saw peacocks, a viper snake and several types of monkeys. Joe and Arif were very pleasant and knowledgeable, constantly trying to please. They prepared for us a spread of many delicious fruits for a break after around 5 kilometers and 3 hours of trekking. At the end of around 6.5 kilometers of trekking at about 1pm they served us on the riverbank a delicious vegetarian Nasi Goren with some delicious spices. After lunch we took a “water taxi” back to Bukit Lawang – this is basically tubing down the river which is lots of fun, just be prepared to get wet!! Our backpacks were wrapped in plastic so they stayed dry. In short, I highly recommend Joe and Afir for a great day in Bukit Lawang and to also allow yourself 2 days so you can also see flowers in bloom in Batu Katik, which we unfortunately missed.

    1. Carly

      Hi Eric. We’re so happy to hear what an amazing time you had with Joe and the team in Bukit Lawang. A shame you didn’t make it to see the flowers in Batu Katak, but sounds like the trip was incredible anyway. Thanks so much for commenting – so happy your trip was a memorable one.

  7. Natalie

    Hi Carly, thank you so much for the recommendation to visit Batu Katak and go jungle trekking with Joe @sumatra_wild. We had the best few days ever!! We were so lucky to see four wild orangutans over the 3 days, plus gibbons, macaques, Thomas leaf monkeys, frogs and otters! Joe and his team are absolutely fantastic guides, so knowledgeable, they were so talented at spotting wildlife and we felt so safe throughout the whole trip. We also had so much fun with them what a lovely group of people! Would recommend visiting Batu Katak and trekking with Joe to anyone, such a gorgeous village and a truly authentic and ethical wildlife experience. We were very pleased we trekked here and saw truly wild animals.
    Thanks again!!

    1. Carly

      Hi Natalie. Thanks so much for your comment! We are SO pleased that you had such an incredible time in Batu Katak – it really is a special place, and Joe is an excellent guide that makes the experience so much fun.

  8. Indra

    Hey Carly, how can I get In touch with Orachard Bungalow ? It’s my girlfriends birthday when we will be there and I haven’t decided whether to do a jungle trek in Bukit Lawang just to have a guaranteed chance to look at orangutans or whether to just go straight to batu katak for a more local and ethical experience which we would usually root for 🙂

    1. Carly

      Hi Indra! I’d recommend reaching out to our friend Joe who lives in Batu Katak. He can help you book your accommodation, transport or treks as required (both in Batu Katak and in Bukit Lawang). You can reach him on WhatsApp: 6281263403452
      What a fabulous way to spend a birthday! I love both options. Make sure you tell the guides wherever you go and they can set up a special treat for her – like a jungle, beautifully decorated picnic spot or something like that – they are so good at those special extra touches.
      If you have any issues getting in touch with Joe or need anything, feel free to email us:

  9. Lindsay K

    Hi Carly,
    Your blog has been so helpful in planning our trip to Sumatra! We will be in Bukit Lawang at the end of April this year and I was wondering if you would recommend going to Tangkahan or Bukit Katak if we only have limited days? Also would you have a guide to recommend for these places? Thank you so much for your advice!

    1. Carly

      Hi Lindsay! So happy to hear that the blog has been helpful in planning your trip, and really excited for you to be coming so soon. Our recommendation would likely change depending on whether you’re travelling with kids or solo or as a couple, because each place has different positives and negatives. But if you have limited time, then really Batu Katak is the best pick to add-on to Bukit Lawang, as it’s only a 30-min drive. Tangkahan takes a few hours to reach (on bad roads) and would be a shame to have to rush that trip. For Batu Katak, we recommend contacting Joe. He can help you organise transport, accommodation, trekking, and anything else you need. You can reach him on WhatsApp at this number: 6281263403452
      For Bukit Lawang, there are a number of great ethical companies that we recommend. Choose from Green Hill Guesthouse, Sumatra Orangutan Explore, Sumatran Orangutan Discovery, and Sumatra Ethical Expeditions! You can find them all on FB or Insta I believe.
      Best of luck planning your trip and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need any help:

  10. Eddie Ramprakash

    Amazing Blog Carly! Did you have any problem with leeches during your trek? We are travelling in December and had read that even though you can be fully covered, leeches will find a way to get to you

    1. Carly

      Hi Eddie – thanks for the feedback! So glad you’re enjoying the blog. We have trekked many times in different areas, with a variety of leech involvement haha. If you hit a particularly wet day, you’ll have more. But you are likely to meet a few even when it’s dry. Even if you wrap a scarf around your neck, tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks, they are very good at getting past the defences! Good thick socks can help though. Best advice is to lather yourself in mosquito repellent (which you should do anyway for the mozzies), as leeches aren’t fond of the taste of it!

  11. Nyitrai Júlia

    Hi Carly,
    What a great blog, thanks for all the useful information! 🙂
    I am planning a trip this October and I was hoping you could help me with a few things.
    My plan would be to start in Bukit Lawang with an overnight trek then travel to Batu Katak for either another overnight trek or maybe for just a few hours trek to see those amazing flowers.
    I was trying to find out if the two flowers will be blooming that time (beginning of October) – do you know that by any chance?
    Also, do you know around what time the treks start in Batu Katak? Would it be possible to travel from BL to Batu Katak in the morning and do the flower trek the same day? Without needing to leave Bukit Lawang at 4am already…. 🙂
    Thank you in advance for your help
    Have a wonderful day 🙂

    1. Carly

      Thanks for the lovely feedback! Great idea to fit in a visit to Batu Katak while in Bukit Lawang since it’s so close. Batu Katak is one of our favourite spots. I’ve answered your question about the flowers in your other comment, but want to add that there should be more accurate insight into whether there will be any in bloom a month or two before your trip. Fingers crossed!
      The area where the flowers are in Batu Katak isn’t too far, you could easily do it in an afternoon – so drive to BK in the mid-late morning, do a trek, have lunch by the river, tube back, and return to Bukit Lawang late afternoon. If you’d like help to organise this, we can put you in touch with a local guide from BK, so feel free to send us an email at

  12. Juli

    Hi Carly,
    Great blog, thanks for all the useful info 🙂
    I am planning a trip to Bukit Lawang and Batu Katak to see orangutans and those amazing flowers you talked about.
    Do you know if they are in bloom in October?
    Also, do you have any up to date info on the prices for an overnight trek starting from BL or from BK? I wonder if there is any difference betweem the two.
    Thanks a lot in advance for your help.
    Have a great day 🙂

    1. Carly

      Hi Juli, sorry for the late reply, we’ve just arrived in Sumatra and had a busy week preparing for our trip! Great to hear you are planning to visit later in the year. The timing of the flowers is a tricky one, as there’s not really a “season” for these as such. The guides often let us know when they find a young flower bud and can predict when it will be ready to view, but getting the timing right can be challenging! Prices in Bukit Lawang and Batu Katak for overnight treks are similar, as the guides belong to the same organisation which has set fees, although these can vary between guesthouses. I’ll give you a bit more insight in your other comment 😉

  13. Giles Mallinson

    Hi Carly
    I’m planning on travelling to Sumatra in June-July 2022 with two other friends (19-20). We will definitely come to Bukit Lawang and after reading this probably come to Batu Katak for more authentic, secluded and untouched aspect of Sumatra. We’re looking to do an overnight jungle tour to see as much wildlife as possible. Would it be possible to travel from BL to Batu Katak and go straight into an overnight jungle trek there on the same day, then return to BL the next day? We’ll be in BL for 4-5 days and one of these days we’ll head to Batu Katak for a tour but I’m not sure if we should do the overnight tour in Batu Katak or BL? What would you recommend? How much does an overnight tour cost if you know roughly?

    Your blog is incredibly helpful for researching Sumatra and I’m sure you’ll see another comment of mine pop up in another thread somewhere! Thank you

    1. Carly

      Hi Giles
      Thanks so much for the comment! So glad you’re enjoying the blog and finding it helpful. And yay how exciting you are planning a trip to Sumatra next year! I think a great idea to check out Bukit Lawang and Batu Katak to get two different experiences. And they are so close together that it’s worthwhile. With the timing, definitely possible to head to BK and start a trek the day you arrive and then go back to BL the following day – there’s plenty to see in Batu Katak that doesn’t require multi-day treks, so it would work well. I haven’t caught up with our guide friends there for a wee while, as we haven’t had visitors enquiring over the last year or two, so I’ll check with them about prices. I have your email here so will be in touch soon! Happy travel planning.

  14. Trevor

    Thank you for your blog. We are planning a trip primarily for nature trekking to Sumatra area, hoping to see orang utan and various other primates in the true wild. It seems that this spot and Ketambe are the best places to go so far from what I have read. Your insight has been very helpful. We hope to spend a week or so truly away from everything here in the west (including the internet – that’s great) and wake up to the call of the jungle. Tiny village is ideal 🙂

    1. Carly

      Hi Trevor! Thanks so much for your comment, it makes our day to hear that our blog has been helpful. We LOVE helping visitors to Sumatra discover the lesser-known spots, plus it means our local friends in the areas with fewer tourists have an opportunity for an income outside of the palm oil industry! So a win-win for everyone. We’re sure you will fall in love with Batu Katak – it really is a gorgeous spot, and everyone we recommended to go there has absolutely had an amazing time. Do feel free to get in touch if you need help with planning- or to let us know how your trip went!

  15. Dominic

    Thank you so much for your nice blog. It gaves me a lot of advise on my journey in amazing Sumatra….
    And about Batu Katak, specially
    Thanks to Ucok, Amelia, Mariandi, Ricky and Jessaya for their welcome in Orchid bungalow.
    I came there after reading a good website about Sumatra ( and I don’t regret anything! I loved walking in the jungle and above all, in addition to seeing animals, watching the guides who are looking for them … Those who guided me are from the village, they know their forest in every corner and above all they are good : They scrutinize, see something very far away and say: look over there the orangutan, the lar gibbon, the band of monkeys thomas leef etc, while me, I have absolutely nothing suspicious and that c it is by the force of long indications that I see the thing! You will tell me, it is the work of a guide, yes, but they impressed me with their competence.
    But because of a lumbago, instead of 4 planned, I spent 9 days at orchid bungalow Batu Katak…. Unexpected but great experience. Because suddenly, I had time to see live a village of Sumatra, to start to have my habits in the small shop of the corner, and to better know the adorable team of guides, assistants, cook, of Orchid bungalow
    (as i needed to rest, they settle an hamac for me and take care of me).
    So nice people, no worry, you can trust them, and this is so good.

    1. Carly

      Hello Dominic! Thank you so much for your lovely comment! We are so pleased to hear from you and even more so to hear that you read our blog and discovered the beauty of Batu Katak (and its amazing people!)
      Sorry to hear about your lumbago, but I couldn’t think of many better places to rest and be taken care of than Orchid Bungalow. They truly are a great team and very good at what they do.
      I think we watched some of Ucok’s videos with you in? It looks like you had an amazing time. Thank you again!!

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