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Over the past couple of years there have been some wonderful posts on Thorn Tree with regards to trekking in Ketembe to see WILD orangutans.
I have cut and pasted the following posts to give potential travellers an idea of where to go, where to stay and what to do to see orangutans in the wild.
The first post is from RedApe who visited Ketembe in August 2005 and was the inspiration for me to visit there last year.
PLEASE NOTE: prices quoted in RedApe's post are August 2005 and have changed considerably since then.
Also NOTE there are no police checks in Aceh these days and absolutley no need for any special permits like in the past.

Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 13-Aug-2005 06:02

I just wanted to report that one can now travel into Central Aceh via Ketembe!

I just returned from there two days ago after a five day stay and it was SPECTACULAR!
To get there you should either leave early from Medan or (even better) Brastagi via a BTN or Karsima bus.
These pick up passengers beginning about 7 AM from the "Padang Bulan" area of Medan (on the road to Brastagi) It takes about 7hours from Medan to get to Kutacane (about an hour less from Brastagi). Fares are Rp. 40,000.

After this long trip you will arrive in the dreadful "road-town" of Kutacane.
Just before that you'll likely have to show your passport at a military post at the Sumatra Utara-Aceh Tenggarra border. I'd suggest getting out at the terminal and taking an ojek (Rp. 3000) into town to the "Terminal Local". But when you get there walk a few buildings to the north to the police station (it's next to the fire station and several large armored vehicles sit out in front). Really try to be here by 4 PM! Because you need to obtain a "surat" (letter) authorizing your stay in Ketembe and the official who does this sometimes goes home early. In addition the last local minibus to Ketembe leaves about 4:30 (although sometimes as late as 5 PM).

There is no fee for the letter, though the police may encourage you to buy them tea/coffee or cigarettes. And you have to tell them that you really need to get the letter done quickly since you need to catch the minibus.

In case of emergency and you need to stay in Kutacane...avoid the Maroon Hotel unless you get a higher quality room. I've heard the Bru Dihe (Jl. Yani...close to Mesjid Tekwa) is better and has rooms from Rp. 20-50,000.

Minibuses to Lawe Gurah/Ketembe cost Rp. 5000 and take about an hour. The local guys may try to get you to charter a bus...but hold back and more locals may show up and a driver may suddenly emerge to take you all up.

There are several places currently open in Lawe Gurah just outside the park gates of Gunung Leuser National Park. They all have rooms about Rm. 20,000 (Pondok Wisata, Pak Mus Homestay, Cinta Alam, Bhakti Wisata).

Gurah Bungalows WITHIN THE PARK is also available but you must hunt down the manager. You may have to cook your own food there. Sadar Wisata is currently closed, but may reopen if tourists start returning.

I was the only tourist there for five days. Two Belgian gals had returned to Medan two days earlier. If you go the effort is worth at least five days. I hired local guides for two of the days . Mansyah, Martdan, Pak Mus, Hasbi are good...though they often walk quickly. Tell them that you need to go slowly or that if they want to go ahead and check and want you to wait that is acceptable. That way you can relax, listen for sounds that might indicate nearby orangutans or other wildlife. If you try to keep pace you'll find yourself looking only at the trail. I paid Rp. 100,000 for day trips. Overnighters would likely run about Rp. 225,000. You should stop by the military post just inside the park entrance to say high to the guys there. They may even offer advice of finding orangutans or gibbons. There was no one taking park entrance fees.

The first two days of walking on day treks (the second day alone along the highway and on the main trails) I saw no orangutans...though plenty of Thomas' Leaf Monkeys, macaques and hornbills. The third day, while walking alone, I say three orangutans. The next day I went out weith Mansyah and a young friend of his and we spent nearly five hours looking at spots where he and the Belgian girls had seen red apes. Nada! I though my luck had rum out the previous day, but when we were returning on the verytrail we had walked that morning we heard the booming territorial call of a male orangutan. It was clearly one very irritated male, bellowing away constantly for 10 minutes. While heading toward it we came across another adult male, a female, and two adolescents feeding on several fig trees. Rather than chase off to the displaying male we stayed put and watched these guys. Then the other male stopped calling. It seemed he was threatening another male somewhere else, because he approached about 100 meters away with two adult females and a young subadult.
It was then that he saw "our male" and began his whooping call, making kissing sounds, and clearly displaying agressively toward our fella, who nonchalantly continued to gorge on figs. The agressive male then startedtearing of twigs and even some large dry brancjhes with a "crack" and throwing them loudly to the ground. The female had earlier moved down from her canopy perch and moved through the low shrubs in that general direction.

Eventually our bearded and cheek-flanged male went back to his females and settled in to feed. So we saw seven orangutans at close range and some great behavior! I suspect that the highly localized rich "mast" of the figs caused thes guys to cluster uncomfortably...which makes finding them a feast or famine affair.

One final note: The Military post at the border told me that I could go right through central Aceh all the way to Bandar Aceh if I wanted. They said that there were no more hostilities...the war was over. They said all I had to do was check in at each city that I stopped at. I was invited to go with some people to a horse race in Blangkejeren but decided I wanted to trek instead. Apparently one can stay overnight at the "Tobacco Huts" at Green Sinebuk about 15km to the west. After Blangkejeren the next main town is Takengon,,,there are several hotels on the lake and another in town near the hill (away from the bus terminal) that are okay. Then you head north through the coastal town of Bireuen...though you can reach Banda Aceh by the evening. Then one can take a ferry out to Pulau Weh.

Remember to register in Banda Aceh.

I think eventually all the "registration" will stop.


Posts: 12
Registered: 12/04/00

Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 14-Aug-2005 01:08

RedApe, that is a fantastic post & wonderful news. Great to hear that the peace deal appears to have had an immediate effect & that the Aceh inland route is open again to tourists. I've not yet visited this part of Aceh but it's high on my list. Thanks again for the info.


Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 07-Nov-2006 05:07

Have just spent eight days in Ketembe,Nov 2006, staying with Pak Mus and family and unfortunately the flights from Medan to Kutacane and Kutacane to Banda Aceh have stopped.
The 7 hr bus trip from Medan to Kutacane was not a problem and as Hunty 73 mentioned re his trip, this one was very comfortable too.

Just caught a bus down to 'Padang Bulan' area in Jalan Juanda Medan, a short walk from Spoutnik where I was staying.
Did not find BTN or Karisma, but another company Pinem and ten minutes later at 12 noon I was on my way to Kutacane.
I stayed overnight at Maroon Hotel in Kutacane because I arrived at 7.00 pm.
Room was 60,000/night- o.k. not wonderful.
Checked out Bru Dihe, but was quoted 100,000/night.

Got the local bus the next morning to Ketambe at 7.30 am and cost was 7,000 rupiah. (Nov 2006 price)
All accomodation in Ketambe is along Jalan Blangkejeren and very well sign posted such as Pak Mus, Sadar Wisata who have opened again ( Iyuni the wife of the owner is an absolute delightful woman and a great one for a chat), Cinta Alam, Pondok Wisata.
My very comfortable room and mandi at Pak Mus was 35,000/night- prices have gone up with everything over the past 15 months.
Ate at Sadar Wisata some of the time as they have a better choice from my point of view- as well as Pak Mus.
And the little guy up the hill has great barbequed fish straight from the river. Great fun sitting there eating and checking out the monkeys up the trees.

Went on a 2 day trek- up to the hot springs- great area and loved sitting on those hot rocks, but saw only one orangutan.
However,my guide friend Faisal from Medan brought down travellers two days ago and they saw 4 orangutans on their way back on the second day.
Some people are just so lucky. just like RedApe above.
Would recommend Ketambe to everyone such a lovely laid back place- great people- great atmosphere.
There is a great river beach down the back of Sadar Wisata where the two english guys staying at Sadar Wisata saw up to 20 Hornbills flying around the area.
Got talking to one of the guides Sukiman and for my next visit I am thinking about trekking from Ketambe to Tangkahan another fantastic place I visited for 5 days in late September ( got a an ojek from Bukit Lawang to Tangkahan- 2 hrs over rough road for 100,000).

I am currently in Takengon, having arrived by bus from Blankejeren at 10.30 pm last night.
Yesterday morning I was waiting for a bus from Ketambe to Blangkejeren and had left it almost too late as by the time the buses got to me, they were full.
My suggestion is to get a bus about 7.00 am and then you will get a seat as lots of the early buses are only going to Blangkejeren and returning to Kutacane. Later buses are going onto Taakengon and generally are full from Kutacane.

Then my luck changed a guy and a work colleaguefriend in a big Jeep ( NGO employees) came along and offered to take me to Blangkejeren, which of course I accepted. Then when we got to Blangkejeren, he took me to the bus terminal and paid for my 70,000 rupiah ticket.
Indonesia never ceases to surprise me, even after 4 months of travelling.

Went to Hotel Rengallie, in Takengon on recommendation from people in Ketembe, only to find out all their rooms are 250,000.
However the staff were wonderful and someone made a phone call and took me back down to the town on back of his motor bike where I got a room at Gayo Hotel for 50,000, very clean hotel, clean separate mandi. Highly recommended.
Address is Jalan Pasar Inpress III Takengon.

Whilst eating in warung at midnight ( Indonesia is so safe even for a solo female traveller) I met a guy who could speak some English.
Next morning we went up to see the Lake in a becak from the Rengallie Hotel and then walked for a few kms and it is just so beautiful.
Found a warung that served great rujak(fruit drenched in a spicy chillie sauce- yum!) and sat there eating and gazing out over the Lake.

Late this afternoon I asked around in my dreadful Indonesian and found an Internet cafe here in Takengon at the school SMK NI.
Opens at 8.00 am and closes at midnight. Cost 5,000/hr.
It is the only Internet cafe I have come across since I arrived in Kutacane. Mobile phones work in Kutacane, and here in Takengon, but not in Ketembe or Blangkejeren.
Tomorrow morning at 10 am I will catch a bus from Takengon to Banda Aceh - cost 70,000 and it takes about 7-8 hrs.
Booked the ticket today at the CV Mandala Tour just on the corner near the Gayo Hotel.
Will be staying at Uncle's in Banda Aceh and then getting the ferry over to Pulau Weh the next morning.

Re the letter I did not bother to do anything and the next day Pak Mus and I went into the police station gave them my photocopied passport etc.

Hope some of this information will of use to future travellers to Aceh.
This is my first time to Aceh and I am really enjoying the scenery, the friendliness of the people and although 'wet season' weather is great- just occaisonal showers or raining at night and the most amazing cloud formations I have ever seen- white and fluffy against an intense blue sky.



Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 14-Nov-2006 07:00

This reminds me good memories of Aceh. Thanks for sharing.


Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 07-Jan-2007 07:18

Hey RedApe and Pamela, thank you so much for your reports! Very helpful!


Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 07-Jan-2007 17:41 in response to: RedApe

Laerke~ I should point out that the original post was written while the military was still controlling some of the traffic.
My understanding now is that one DOES NOT need to register with the police in Kutacane on the DAY OF ARRIVAL anymore. One can go straight through to Ketembe.
I think your GH will arrange for you to be registered later.
It's always good to register with the local police in rural areas if you don't stay in an official hotel.

For those wanting to see an untouristy aspect of Indonesia going this overland route to Aceh is still an adventure...although the days when Bill Dalton had to trek three days between Takengon and Blangkejeren are long over.
You could do this in two to three days by bus...a bit more if you want to see orangutans at the Tobacco Huts near Blangkejeren ("Green Sinebuk" at Simpang)...or do some sightseeing in Takegon.


Posts: 1
Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 10-Jan-2007 02:21

thanx pamela and red ape for all the information. thats excactly what i was looking the tt up.

Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 23-Jan-2007 12:32 in response to: RedApe

Hello all,

I take advantage this topic is open to ask you all about transport from Singapore to Aceh. We are landing there in february and would like to travel to aceh. Does anyone knows how to get the best trasnportation either from singapore of malasya?

Thanks a lot, IF


Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 23-Jan-2007 22:52 in response to: RedApe

Take a flight from KL to Medan. Then a flight from Medan to Banda Aceh of it's the capital you're interested in. You can also catch a bus from Medan and head to Aceh.


Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 21-Jul-2007 03:07

In a post above I mentioned the flights between Medan and Kutacane had stopped back in October when I travelled to Ketembe from Medan by bus.

Well, from information recently gained from a traveller currently staying in Ketembe the flights have resumed again.
But they sell out very quickly so if you are intending of flying, get in quick and book at the travel agent.


Ketembe & Aceh - Orangutans
Posted: 16-Sep-2007 03:12

Great report, Keep it up Thanks.....

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Here is a second set of posts from May 2007 almost 2 yrs since RedApe's post above.
Posted: 11 May 2007
Heading to ketambe
I am heading back to ketambe on the first week of june .... I have been going to ketambe for the last six or so years and stay at pak mus homestay in ketambe .... if anyone is interested in going there around this time you can join with me ..... I know this area pretty well and can help you out in tracking down orangutans the people of ketambe are great people.
So if you are interested in going, be aware that if you take a guide from outside ketambe then the money stays in medan ..... every dollar that actually gets to ketambe save the rainforest as the locals do not have to make new gardens.... the jungle has changed alot since i first went in 98 ....
it only takes 10 tourists a week and then this area will stay the paradise that it is ..... enough of that but really if you want to see wild orangutans in a magical place ketambe is the place to go .... will be the highlight of your travels for sure .... hope to see you there I will be in ketambe for two months so drop in at pak mus's which by the way is a great place to stay and pak mus and his family have a great knowledge of the jungles so are awesome guides spot yah al

Posted: 11 May 2007
9:55pm 1.
Hi Blackgibbon,

Thank you so much for posting.
Will you please say a BIG hello to Pak Mus, Mamma Mus and all the children- 8 of them from Pamela from Australia.

I spent the most wonderful 8 days with Pak Mus in Nov last year.
Pak Mus and I went on a 2 day trek up to the hot springs and I had a wonderful time.
I just loved the fact I had my own little bungalow for 8 days set in such beautiful gardens. Used to love to wander around the property and walk right up to the top to look out at the scenery.
I agree with you 100% Ketembe is just the most relaxing laid back place.
I went down to stay for 3 days and stayed for 8 days and then ventured up the centre to Banda Aceh via Takengon. I could have stayed forever and I do so envy you staying for 2 months.
I would give anything to be going back there this year, but have to stay in Oz and work.
If you get chattiing with Iyuni from Sadar Wisata- say hello from me as well.
I heard from Ramona from Brestagi that Iyuni's husband had been very sick and had been in hopsital in Medan.
And say a big Hito all the guides in Ketembe, especially Mansa.
Check out my photos below taken whilst I was there.

Posted: 12 May 2007
10:07am 2.

Wow when did Iyuni go into hospital Pamela? my brother stayed there over a month ago for nearly 8 weeks and didn't mention any sickness, having said that when we met you there and me and my brother stayed there, papa was always complaining of chest pains and coughing continuous.
Blackgibbon, please say hi and a speedy recovery to papa to all at Sadar Wisata from Simon and Mark(brothers) please..........i have no contact and wont be back again for a long while. Cheers.

Agree with you both, the most relaxed place i have ever been to, was there also in 2000 when the trails were better and more wildlife was around.
Did some self day treks behind Pak Mus last time and bumped into many guys with chainsaws, taking out all the largest trees!!! for days on end!
They didn't welcome our being there and bumping into them, we asked for direction to another trail and we were told lies, ended up walking 100's metres of the main trails and nearly getting lost, before backtrailing to find them all grinning, although wasn't funny to us.
We asked papa if they were legally allowed to fell the trees there, and he said no he will spread the word to head of the village at the next meeting.
never found out the conclusion.
So you might be a little dissapointed when u return Blackgibbon.......................then again can always trek on the other side of the river, that never changes, we bumped into the researches one day who told us we can trek on the otherside but only if we dont inform anyone............a bit dodgy though Emoticon: Smile bro trekked for 10 days on the otherside in 98 starting from Kutacane and finishing further past the research station.
Enjoy it again BG.

Posted: 12 May 2007
3:56pm 3.
the other side in the research staion is the best part indeed alot of the bigger trees fell down during the eathquake but at least the researchers are back if only the indonesian ones ..... it will be so good to see how many orang-utans are still in the area it is a pitty that alot of the trees logged are the big fruiting ones and of course i will be on the look out for the black gibbons which are even more wonderfull than the orangs in my eyes anyway ... spot yah

Posted: 12 May 2007
4:20pm 4.

I can't remember how long ago now, maybe sometime late Jan, early Feb. Ramona my guide friend from Brestagi ( met him in Ketembe and then again in Brestagi one weekend) smsed me and told me Iyuni's husband was in hospital in Medan. I sent sms to Badar Iyuni's brother in Kutacane and he gave a mobile number for Iyuni but I never got a reply so not sure what happened.
Haven't heard from Ramona for weeks either, so not sure what has happened. There is no mobile signal in Ketembe so cannot contact anyone direct.

Posted: 13 May 2007
6:57pm 5.

Pamela, cheers though, hope he is well, but he never really looked well anytime to be skinny and always coughing.

Redape was there a couple of months before me when the fig trees were fruiting, he saw many if i remember correctly(at one time).
Also my brother spent 7-8 weeks there this year a month or two back, he saw maybe 30 Orangutans in his time, of-course probably the same ones each day. I think he counted 5 together in one time. He also saw a totally white gibbon? Don't know the name, but the first time he ever saw them.
The researches we met were westerners, this was end of last year, they ate at Sadar Wisata, Iyuni had met them a few times, knew them so they must have worked there some time.

Thanks again Pamela

Posted: 13 May 2007
7:04pm 6.
My brother left Sadar Wisata around mid March, he mentioned papa and Iyuni being ok, so he must have recovered!!!! Emoticon: Smile great news hey Pamela? but surely his time is coming.
Best family i ever met in Indonesia, the whole family are superstars!!

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Another great set of posts with up to date info' on Ketembe from a trip undertaken in July 2007.

Aceh is wild
Posted: 29-Aug-2007 02:10

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let fellow travellers know about the amazing experiences I had in Aceh for the last month.
I travelled from Medan via Berastaghi to Kutacane (just a town) and Ketambe(where you've got to check out).
Medan is a chaotic city and I couldn't wait to see it disappear into the distance as I rode on top of the mini-bus weaving up the mountain pass to Berastaghi(only about 1-2 hours from Medan)where the fresh cool mountain air and mountains of forest are like a tonic for the soul.

Berastaghi is a small town with volcanoes nearby that can be climbed on day trips. Apart from that it is a good base to explore the surrounding area and use ATM, moneychanger etc before you head in to Aceh.
Kutacane takes about 4-5 hours on a bus ( from Berastaghi) and then Ketambe is under an hour further north (change bus in Kutacane).

You can also fly direct from Medan-Kutacane(90,000rp...CHEAP) or Banda Aceh-Kutacane(220,000 rp) with Riau Airlines (I think). A great scenic flight to see the national park.

Aceh is muslim, but has some of the most friendly,honest and honourable people you will meet on your travels.
Western women have no hassles traveling alone, but are expected to dress modestly (ie: t-shirts and pants or longer dresses).
I have been visiting Aceh for over 10 years and it is now safer than ever after the peace agreement in 2005.. The people really look after you here.

Ketambe is set on the Alas River with towering 3,000 metre mountains on both sides and is surrounded by the wilds of Gunung Leuser National Park.
I have been to this area 6 times now and most people will agree that it is one of the most gorgeous places to stay in Sumatra(at least in the mountains).

Pak Mus has a great guesthouse and is a good guide to find the wildlife of the area.
Orangutans, Monkeys, Sun-Bears, Tigers, Rhinos, Elephants and lots of other weird and wonderful critters can be seen in the area.
You can also explore the river and walk to the nearby hot springs without a guide on a day walk.....a guide is handy to spot the orangutans etc and to fight off any hungry tigers in the area.
Be prepared to stay here longer than expected it is a great experience.

If you want to get in to the higher mountain areas of Aceh continue north from Ketambe to Blangkerjeren (3 hours) and go to KEDAH via the village of Kutapanjang (30 minutes from Blangkerjeren),then up the hill to Kedah via Becak (approx 20,000rp and 15 minutes).
Near Kedah there are bungalows on the edge of the forest by a river.
Mr.Umar has worked as a guide here for 14 years and is an expert at finding animals in the area.
When you find an orangutan in the forest here it will often throw sticks at you from 50 metres away because you are in its territory...these are wild animals...very different to the experience at Bukit Lawang.
There are bungalows beside the river at Mr.Umar's place and further up at Mr.Jally's.
You can also stay a bit further up the mountain at the tobacco huts, where you will wake up to the sounds of dozens of gibbons and siamangs going nuts at about 9am when the sun hits the top of the rainforest canopy.
The views here are sensational and it is a lot cooler sitting at about 1700metres altitude,so bring a sleeping bag. the tobacco huts grow plenty of coffee,tobacco, and jamaica's finest if you are that way inclined.

Kedah is also the best place for those wanting to climb up to the summit of the big mountains in Aceh.
A minimum of 3 days trekking (return) is required to reach the top of the Bukit Barisan Range (Mt.Angkasan).
A guide is compulsory by law and should be as it is very remote and rugged terrain.
The climb from Kedah travels through an incredible change in forest from 50-60metre rainforest giants full of primates to the higher cloud forests full of moss and orchids to the bonsai forests and glacier carved alpine meadows at around 3000metres.
It is simply a naturalists paradise. You can also go on treks to the mighty summit of Gunung Leuser (the name of the national park) which stands at 3,440 metres and looks out over the west coast of Aceh and the Indian Ocean and the curvature of the Earth as Sumatra spreads out below you like a globe.

Treks to Gunung Leuser require a minimum of 12-14 days and is very difficult terrain with lots of tigers howling out at night-time to let you know they are there.

I am planning on doing a third trek to the Gunung Leuser summit area leaving Kedah around the 19th September if anyone is keen to join in.
It will cost approximately USD300 for all inclusive 14 day trek(food,guides,permit,equipment)...all you will need is warm clothes,sleeping bag,rain jacket and a sense of adventure...

From Kedah you can also keep traveling north to Takengon (via Blangkerjeren) on an 8 hour ride through the mountains(jump on the top of the bus if you are keen) and then further north to Banda Aceh via Biruen.

Near Banda Aceh there is Pulau Weh...a jewel of an island not spoilt by overdevelopment (locals are sensible !!) and blessed with beautiful beaches,coral reefs and great locals..most people stay here a lot longer than intended.

Happy travels....

Aceh is wild
Posted: 29-Aug-2007 04:24

Oh, Richard thank you so much for your report.
You brought back so many memories for me. Wish I was there now.
Did you get to meet Al ( Blackgibbon1 here on TT) at Pak Mus?
He was staying in Ketambe for about 2 months and told me in a PM that the flights had resumed.

I travelled to Ketambe last year late Oct 2006) via bus from Medan, ( the flights had been sadly suspended) just on 7 hrs to Kutacane where I stayed overnight at the Marron Hotel, not the best, but o.k.
Next morning I got the local bus at 7.30 am up to Ketambe and to Pak Mus's homestay.
I had intended to stay 3 days( so took few clothes and no guide books with me) and head back to Medan, but that certainly did not happen.
I fell in love with Ketambe and stayed for 8 days, did a trek with Pak Mus overnight camping by the hot springs and the river.

Then the rest of the time hung out with the locals, Pak Mus's son Atej was home from Uni so I helped him with his English, went walking with Mansurah one of the guides, also went walking with one of older guides' son.
He took me into the Jungle near by for 3 hours and I really enjoyed that looking at all the different plants etc.
Went into Kutacane a couple of times, once with Pak Mus on the bus to register with the police, another time with one of the guides on the back of the motor bike.
That day would you believe I actually picked up some money at a Western Union branch, took one hour but I got my money sent from a friend in England. ( I had helped her relative in BL.)

From Ketambe, I planned on catching a bus north to Blangkejeren and then to Takengon. But I left it too late to catch a bus to Blangkejeren ( one has to be out waiting for a bus at 7am or go into Kutacane and book a seat).
However, luck was on my side as it always seems to be in Indonesia and I got a lift in a brand new NGO car to Blangkejeren and the driver even paid for my 70,000 rupiah bus fare to Takengon.
Arrived Takengon really late, everyone stopped for dinner and I convinced the driver to drop me out to the Hotel Rengallie. Everyone in Ketambe had told me to stay there.
But rooms at 250,000 were too expensive so with lots of gesturing etc a phone call was made, a scribbled 100,000 on paper brought a nod from me.
Within 5 minutes I was on the back of a motor bike down to the Gayoland Hotel where I later discovered there were rooms for only 50,000 with free soap and a nice clean PINK towel- what more could a girl want!!

Twenty minutes later at midnight I was out in the street sitting eating dinner with hundreds of Indonesian men and felt 100% safe. Even got to meet a young guy who could speak English so I invited him to sit down and bought him and his friend dinner for the sum of about $2AUD.
Later because they had no where to stay (Riktzi lived far away with his wife/children and worked as parking man) I paid for a room for them at my hotel ($7AUD).
Next day I paid Riktzi to be my guide for the morning and we walked around the beautiful Lake Tawar and ate the best rujak gazing out over the Lake.
Later he helped me buy a bus ticket for Banda Aceh ( ticket office is near Gayoland) and next morning at 10 am I travelled 8 hrs to Banda in the front seat of the mini bus- a very comfortable trip.

In Banda I walked around for half an hour and then got a becak out to Uncle's Homestay and spent one day there before heading off to Pulau Weh.

I have got to say the people of Aceh are just wonderful and although I was a female travelling by myself I felt 100% safe at all times.
It was my first time to Aceh, but it definitely will not be my last trip there. Hoping to maybe get back there late this year, but only for a short time.

Aceh is wild
Posted: 30-Aug-2007 02:53

great info folks, thanks.

Aceh is wild
Posted: 30-Aug-2007 11:43 in response to: richardgeddes


Aceh is muslim,but has some of the most friendly,honest and honourable people you will meet on your travels.

I don't quite understand why you write "but" here. But apart from that, I couldn't agree more with this. Acehnese are truly wonderful people.

Aceh is wild
Posted: 30-Aug-2007 16:00

wow...sumatra has just blipped onto my travel radar -today in fact (in my lunch break!) flipping through my LP - then i thought i would lurk about here for a while to see what I could find...and I am now REALLY excited - just wanted to say thanks for the great post !!!!!!!!!

Aceh is wild
Posted: 31-Aug-2007 02:04
hey strawberita,

sorry for using the 'muslim, but...' are right that was a bad choice of words. i live in australia where there can be bad media about muslim people...unfortunatley i a am used to trying to tell people that muslim people are like any other people and aceh is a very friendly place....i have many friends that are muslim and believe there are good people all over the world regardless of their religion...thanks for the reminder...

happy travels,



Aceh is wild
Posted: 31-Aug-2007 07:08 in response to: richardgeddes

no worries richardgeddes. Happy travels too.

Aceh is wild
Posted: 31-Aug-2007 07:10 in response to: richardgeddes

hey guys,

Ketambe sounds great. i might have missed that in earlier much do you pay roughly at Pak Mus for accomodation and something like daytrip-trekking? how do you get there exactly, anticipated you can make the flight to Kutucane? wondered how many local buses go up to Ketambe from there..probably one or two..

how terrible would you imagine the weather up there in mid october, any idea?

thanks a lot!

Aceh is wild
Posted: 31-Aug-2007 15:59 in response to: richardgeddes

Hi Nic66,

I stayed in Ketambe at Pak Mus from about October 29th 2006. I paid about 35,000 rupiah for one of the bungalows with its own bathroom with no roof.
Check out my photos below- I took photos of the bungalow and the grounds.
Juz was there in April so he captured some of the very beautiful flowers in the huge gardens at Pak Mus.
The weather was really beautiful at that time of the year- in 8 days there was a couple of days of intermittent rain and the night of my trek in the jungle it rained all night- however we slept in a tent so was o.k. though it leaked a little.
The next day the weather was sheer magic. Again look at all the photos I took in the period late Oct early Nov-see the magnificent blue sky.

I think you will find the mini buses leave about every 30 minutes- they leave when they are full. I went up to Kutacane a couple of times by bus during my 8 day stay in Ketambe. I think the last bus leaves about 5-5.30 pm, but if you miss that bus you can stay at the Maroon Hotel.
I deliberately got into Kutacane late so I could stay there for the night and be able to let other travellers know you had the option.
Maroon at 60,000 is not great, but o.k. for a night. Met a couple of people who speak a few words of english, when I stopped to eat food in the main street so had a great night chatting.

There are a few different places to stay in Ketambe dotted along the main road as you come into Ketambe. First place is Pak Mus, then there is another place Pondok Wisata, then Sadar Wisata and Wisma Cinta Alam.

Aceh is wild
Posted: 31-Aug-2007 17:57
hi nic66,

It seems that there is an average standard price of about 50,000rp (USD$6) a night for own decent bungalow(or room)with bathroom throughout Aceh, including Pak Mus's place in Ketambe....You can often get a cheaper deal if you are going to stay longer so don't be afraid to make a reasonable haggle..just remember most of the tourist industry in Aceh has collapsed after the Bali bombing,civil war and tsunami and most businesses are just hanging on...

weather in Ketambe should be OK in mid-October as the monsoon doesn't normally really kick in until Nov-Dec...but you will probably get a thunderstorm most afternoons and there is no better place to be in the rain than the rainforest, it really comes to is really worth getting up early in the mornings in Ketambe and strolling down to the Alas River or checking out the rainforest as that is when most of the animals are active...
Ketambe is well set up for doing short day walks by yourself (be careful!!!)...but taking a guide will guarantee that you will find the bigger animals....trekking starts at 300,000rp per day(all inclusive and overnight camping)


Aceh is wild.

Posted: 01-Sep-2007 05:21
Dear Pamela, dear Rich,

thanks a lot for your infos. thanks :-)

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Photos of Ketambe by Australian traveller Justin from his trip there in April 2006.
Justin was another traveller besides RedApe who inspired me to head off by myself to Ketambe in Nov 2006.

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Latest Up to Date Report for Ketambe and Tangkahan from Traveller Nic66
taken from Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum on Indonesia.

Sumatra: Ketambe & Tangkahan trip report
Posted: 18-Nov-2007 21:55

I visited Tangkahan and Ketambe in October and felt to post a report. Tangkahan is not yet well known, but it is really worth visiting.
Stayed at the Jungle Lodge, run by German Sylvia, her indonesian husband Alex and his brother Bobby where you have the most amazing view over the rainforest while sitting at the restaurant.
Hornbills pass by and Thomas Leaf Monkeys pay their almost daily visits. Sylvia and Alex really make you feel at home- the atmosphere is super relaxed.
You can do elephant riding, and here I was asked to post that 160.000 Rupiah is the price for ONE hour and not three as someone posted before,
Tubing in huge tyres which is like some ancient way of rafting, hang out in the hot spring or hike a bit.
However the trails are very limited and you'll be discouraged from trekking by yourself, the idea is to hire a guide if you want to enter the national park.
All accomodation is simple with mandi, but very comfortable and the food is good. If you are lucky you might taste Sylvia`s so yummy eggplant curry.
The lodge('Bamboo River) next door run by Jane, an English lady, lost it's restaurant in a fire, so you might eat at the Jungle Lodge if you stay there.
The girl which was working in the kitchen at that time got her legs burnt very
seriously as in burns of third degree and.. since it was Hari Raya(end of the fasting time celebrations), there was NO-ONE at
all at the nearest hospital- everyone was on holiday, so she couldn't even get a drip infusion! Unbelievable. I heard she was very brave though and did 'ok' under Jane's care and first aid when I left.

I hired a car to get there which was 550.000Rp and a good 4 hours ride.
On the way back I took the bus which is supposed to run to Medan 3 times a day from 8am to 2:30pm and costs below 30.000Rp, can't remember exactly, but ended up a lot longer as the driver stopped several times to wait for more passengers.
The road is very bumpy and dusty for about 2,5 hours of the trip, just like any very bad conditioned road in indonesia.
An idea is to come from Bukit Lawang if you plan to stay there too which would make each trip shorter.

Ketambe is full of natural beauty and definitely needs more tourists!
I was the only one within one week, which is nice for youas you have it all for yourself but, terrible for the local people.
I stayed at Pak Mus which is the first accomodation coming from Kutacane. He is a nice man with a mannerly family and the little bungalows are sitting in a flowery garden. It would be good to bring soap, towel, toilet paper, a torchlight and enough batteries(however you could charge them from the kitchen socket). The food in Ketambe is not of much variety due to the lack of tourists, but I went to the market in Kutacane and brought back veggies
to spice up my Nasi Goreng.
The is a little market in Ketambe too. The view from my bungalow was simply amazing and Thomas Leaf Monkeys come right into the garden!

If you want to go trekking, there are several little trails from the main road, if you pass by all accomodation including Gurah Bungalows, just where the road starts descending.
But be careful, you can loose your way easily as they all become several
smaller trails at some point. Here I saw wild Orang Utans.
Gurah Bungalows is not an option to stay at in my opinion.
I went there for a coffee and the place is really run down with mouse
droppings all over the rooms.
The other places around Pak Mus are worth an inspection and they are all within a 150 meter range, left and right from the main road.
There is one nearby the river where you can organise rafting. Boat and equipment looked quite proper.
A great thing to do would be an overnight trip to the hot springs with Pak Mus. Else there is a waterfall for bathing behind Pak Mus grounds reachable from a very slippery trail by the bungalow on the hill.
If you are more adventerous, you might want to do a longer trek.
There was some battlefield up in the hills were a tiger killed a bear and all its prints when I was there, a 3 or 4 days trip.
The road from Medan is very bendy, ascending and falling steeply with no enclosure and is anything but comfortable or reassuring, plus the trip by bus(once you are on the right bus) is about 6-7 hours to Kutacane from where it's another hour to Ketambe.
Make sure you don't want to hire the bus to Ketambe! The bus fare is 7000Rp. The bus from Medan to Kutacane is 50.000Rp from Padang Bulang bus terminal.
Riau Airlines has flights Medan-Kutacane return and the fare is 117.000Rp one way.
You really can't get one if you are pressed for time, you'll need a few days to book it and i'd go to the airport for that.
Travelagent Narasindotours gave me wrong infos about the flights- they said they were suspended.
But they were not! I couldn't get one from a day in advance though.
Flight Schedule should be Medan-Kutacane 9:00am - 9:25am and Kutacane-Medan 11:00am - 11:25am on Tuesdays and Fridays.

For everyone who feels tempted to go up there, but fears religion and etiquette issues as other travellers during my trip did, the people up there are some of the most hospitable, helpful and just good natured people I have ever met.
A guy from Banda Aceh changed his route a little to get down from Tangkahan to Medan by bus with me, just to improve his English and help me to get on the right buses in Medan itself- and I was so glad when I saw the chaos in Medan arriving in darkness.
No street signs, no-one spoke english. He was a real nice guy, showing me a picture of his girlfriend and curious to find out about every day-life in our culture. Just one of a hundred nice things I experienced while I travelled.
I had no problems and in my opinion there is nothing really to worry about beyond crazy drivers, impossible roads to conquer and withstanding the most horrible Indonesian techno sounds during a 7 hours minibus ride..

Especially Ketambe needs more promotion :-)

Sumatra: Ketambe & Tangkahan trip report
Posted: 22-Nov-2007 07:05

Techno mini buses is exactly what I want to avoid at all cost.


Sumatra: Ketambe & Tangkahan trip report
Posted: 22-Nov-2007 08:12
now that will be difficult if you want to take your wild orang utans fotos up in Leuser NP ;-)

it'll still be worth it.. try to get the flight or bring earplugs.

Sumatra: Ketambe & Tangkahan trip report
Posted: 22-Nov-2007 14:23 in response to: Nic66

Thanks for this nice report!

Sumatra: Ketambe & Tangkahan trip report
Posted: 22-Nov-2007 18:23
What a great report. Thank you so much.

Toe42, I have replied to your PM from yesterday.
As I said Ketembe would be ideal for you if you can get a flight to Kutacane. And ask Pak Mus about staying in the house high up overlooking the jungle and river.
I would have given anything to stay up there last year, but it was in need of repair and there was a huge nest of wasps that silly me did manage to disturb when I visited with Pak Mus. Luckily I did not get bitten.
From what I have been told recently the house is available for travellers so stay up there- you will have a great view and privacy.
Wish I was heading there real soon.


Hey Pamela, thank you too for all your input before! And this bungalow is great, but still for the "camper's soul"..LOL! The waterpipe is broken nearly half an hour after repair, no electricity or lock(that`s fixed now however), but i liked it to be far away from everyone but the monkeys :-)

P.S. What was the lady`s name you had great chats with in english across from Pak Mus? She left to Medan since almost half a year already..due to economy issues, I guess.

RedApe, registration requirements came to an end indeed. Which is great. There were 3 police checks on the way back to Medan though.
First one got all our bags searched, second wanted money from the bus driver and third checked randomly. For weed? No idea..

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Thought I would add Uncle's Homestay details and photos here for future travellers to Banda Aceh. Try to make it simple for travellers wanting to maybe do a similar trip to what I did in late October/November 2006.
I stayed with them for a few days in November 2006-2 days at the beginning and once again after I returned from Pulau Weh and really enjoyed myself. They even took me to a local wedding around the corner which was a fascinating experience.
A poster from Lonely Planet Juz wrote this info' after his trip in April 2006.

"Uncle has set up a new homestay in Banda Aceh, located only 100m from his old place. It's a 5-10 minute becak ride north of the city centre... ask the driver to take you to "Jalan Syiah Kuala, di simpang Lambaro Skep"
(Syiah Kuala St, at the Lambaro Skep junction".
When you get to the simpang (junction), you willl see a side road running off Jalan Syiah Kuala. This side road is Uncle's street... his house is the first one on the right... it is new with a blue roof.
Just ask the locals for Uncle and they will point you to his house.
Rooms at Uncle's are Rp70,000/with fan, Rp100,000/with AC, Rp200,000/large with AC.
The full address is: Uncle's homestay, Jalan Mujahidin No. 2B, Lambaro Skep, Banda Aceh

If you are having trouble finding the place, call Uncle on: 0852 6028 4432 (mobile phone) or 0651-26219 (home phone).
Both Uncle and his wife Yulia speak some English, and can offer advice on Banda Aceh & surrounds.

The fast ferries leave Ule Lhee (BAceh) for PWeh at 9.30am & 4pm daily. Returns from Weh to BA at 8.30am &2.30pm daily.
Downstairs class is Rp60,000/one way & upstairs class is Rp75,000/one way. Journey takes 1 hour.
Also there is a once-daily slow ferry (2-3 hours) which costs Rp15,000/one way.
Here is photo of Uncle (Abdul) and Yulia
And Uncle's Homestay house where I stayed for a few days

Also in Banda Aceh I know there are some interesting treks being organised to visit surrounding areas of the Banda Aceh-check out my photos below.
A Dutch guy Mendel took me around on the back of his motor bike to see a few places last November.
Here is a website with details of places to see in the Banda Aceh region and some of the treks available.
Note at the bottom of the first page of the website you can email Mendel, the guy who took me around Banda Aceh for 6 hours on the back of his motor bike.
Next time I visit Banda Aceh I will definitely be doing one of the treks- the scenery and views are just so wonderful.
Check out the snake I came across in the area where at least one of the treks will pass through.
Oh, to be back there now.....
Pamela. Emoticon: Smile

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