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Sumatra and Borneo accessibility?

Discussion in 'Indonesia' started by Thrillhouse, May 25, 2008.

  1. Thrillhouse

    Thrillhouse Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Vancouver, BC
    87
    0
    6
    My girlfriend and I are heading to Southeast Asia for 2 months beginning this summer and I'm hoping to get some scuba in. I know there are a lot of people familiar with Indonesia on this board, and what would be great is some advice about how accessible either Borneo or Sumatra are to Western travellers? We're planning to fly into Bali, hopefully check out Komodo and Java, and were planning to either bus up through Sumatra, over to Malaysia, then back to Bangkok, or do a quick trip over to Borneo. The reason for either trip would be to see the Indonesian wild and (most of all) Orang'utans. :14:

    Still, a few questions remain: first of all, how long would the trip up through Sumatra take, and is it reasonable for two foreigners (Canadian and American, 23 and 21 respectively) to do? Would it be safe and accessible, or a full-on ordeal that's best avoided? Also, would Borneo be a better option?

    Finally, we'll only have 2 weeks in Indonesia, I'm on student's budget, only have my OW, and would still like to get in some of the unbelievable diving Indonesia is renowned for. Will I find good stuff for a great price in this area, or will it all be touristy and costly?

    -Jack
     
  2. Bowmouth

    Bowmouth Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives:
    Location: Phuket and South East Asia
    1,699
    62
    0
    For your diving go to Pulau Weh on Northern Sumatra. Diving, accomodation, food and local transportation are all good and very cheap.
     
  3. Divehappy

    Divehappy BKK Divers

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Bangkok, Thailand
    83
    4
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    I think if you are on a budget, only have OW and two weeks and want to go to Sumatra, then Bali is your best bet for diving. It's cheap, it's right next to Sumatra, you could travel up there overland after doing some diving at Pemeturan (v near the Sumatra/Bali sea crossing) or Tulamben, which are amazing spots to dive and also very easy -- calm, warm waters and lots of amazing critters.

    Not sure how long the journey through Sumatra woudl take - a few days? It'll be basic - but then, you can probably find a budget flight from Bali to one of Sumatra's airports if you can't hack bussing it.

    Borneo is fantastic, but the diving is a lot more pricey than Bali - Sipadan/Mabul/Kapalai and Lankayan are two of the stand out places to dive there. Sipadan is pretty full on at times - I think Lankayan is maybe better for OW divers and also it's near Sandakan, which is where Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary is. If you go there, I heartily recommend the UncleTan.com jungle tour down the river.

    Hope this helps.
     
  4. Bora_Horza

    Bora_Horza Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Sweden
    236
    88
    28
    I think you may have to re-think your travel plans if you're planning to see Bali, Komodo, Java and Sumatra (northern Sumatra where the orangutans are is about a 1000 miles from Bali) all in 2 weeks... You'll be exhausted trying to schedule all that in - not fun. (PS - Divehappy - think you've mixed up the location of Sumatra with Java :))

    Personally if I flew into Bali for a 2 week trip I would just focus on visiting Lombok and the Komodo National Park (maybe take one of the 3/4 day cruises from Lombok east to Flores, with say :: Perama Travel Club - Bali :: ). Then diving the KNP for a few days, then fly back to Bali - thats a week already. You may be able to squeeze a whirlwhind tour across to Java to see Mount Bromo if you want, but this would be pushing it (say 3 days - 1 day travelling each way).

    Travel in Indonesia, especially by bus can be slow, the roads can be rough, plus its a massive country. Flights are pretty cheap though, and easy to book.

    I would estimate bussing it up Sumatra to Medan to catch the ferry to Penang would take at least 3 or 4 days hard travelling (and thats not even taking Java into consideration) - maybe others have more info...

    I've recently returned from a 4 week trip to Sumatra, its a fine place to visit, nice guesthouses at Danau Toba, and I chatted to people who went to Bukit Lawang to see the orangutans (3 hours or so by bus from Medan) who had a great time there. Plus very nice diving at Pulau Weh - see my recent trip report :)
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2008
  5. Divehappy

    Divehappy BKK Divers

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Bangkok, Thailand
    83
    4
    0
     
  6. Thrillhouse

    Thrillhouse Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Vancouver, BC
    87
    0
    6
    Hmmm... That sounds fairly exhausting. Is there ANY way we could work either Burkit Lawang (sp) or the place in Borneo where there are Orang'utans into our trip to Bali, etc?? I'd hate to travel to Indonesia and only see the touristy areas. What about if, when in Peninsular Thailand, we head down through Malasia to Medan, down to Burkit Lawang, then back up to Kuala Lumpur to fly to Bali, fly back from Bali to Bangkok, then home?

    Is that doable?

    (Cheers for the advice, guys! No one else I've asked personally has provided me with this much, and there are only 4 posts so far :D)
     
  7. Mike Veitch

    Mike Veitch Dive Charter

    12,447
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    i did thailand to Penang Malaysia and then over to Medan and to Bukit Lawang.. then spent a month in Sumatra.. Is a LONG way down Sumatra and over to Bali on buses. at least 2 36 hour journeys...

    There should be an easy flight connection between Medan and Bali. WOuld be about $100 or so each way i would think. Might have to connect in Surabaya or Jakarta though. It would be easier to get to Medan than to Borneo i would think
     
  8. Bowmouth

    Bowmouth Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives:
    Location: Phuket and South East Asia
    1,699
    62
    0
    Having only 2 weeks to travel in Indonesia is not very much. Why don't you just concentrate on doing 1 area this coming trip and have a truly worthwhile experience rather than rushing around and being unable to enjoy and appreciate the country?
    Borneo has a lot to offer besides the orang-utans and is absolutely HUGE. Sumatra is another HUGE "island" and you could spend months there without having seen it all.
    Imo many travellers make the mistake of rushing though countries/continents and having the objective of seeing all the major sites in as short a time as possible. I spend 10 months backpacking in Thailand and 2 months in Peninsular Malaysia and still haven't seen it all. If you have a limited budget and limited time you'll get the most out of your trip with just doing a relatively "small" area and really see and enjoy that one particular area....
     
  9. Thrillhouse

    Thrillhouse Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Vancouver, BC
    87
    0
    6
    Usually I'd totally agree, it's much better to do a small area well than a large one improperly, but the prospect of seeing wild Orang'utans in the same trip as komodo dragons and volcanoes (my girlfriend's a geology major) is just too alluring. I'm not sure when I'll be back and would never forgive myself if I nixed the chance to see wild apes for a few extra days on the beach!

    Medan to Bali then Bali to Bangkok sounds intriguing... Is it possible to get flights on any major airlines? I've heard from a few people that the Indonesian ones are best avoided.
     
  10. gregorio

    gregorio Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: The Netherlands
    203
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    If you really want to see all that you will have to take local flights, which are plenty and cheap.
    It is true that they are not to our standard of safety but I think it is much safer than taking the bus in Indonesia.
    Still, I think you will have to make a choice. In Sumatra, you can find Apes, Volcano and diving. It would be my choice.

    PS. I'm leaving the 2nd of July for 1 year volunteering for research about Oran-utan in north Sumatra, will be able to give you more precise advice in 1 year :wink:
     

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