Indonesia, the last frontier for Adventure Travel ~ Extreme Kayaking in Kuantan River, West Sumatra

By Dian Hasan | September 19, 2009

Move over Amazon & Costa Rica, Indonesia is the new adventure travel destination. Rugged and unspoiled, awaiting the world’s adrenaline junkies seeking Extreme Adventure! Hurry, before the cat’s out of the bag!

Kayaking through the wilderness. Kuantan River, West Sumatra. Photo: Playak

Kayaking through the wilderness. Kuantan River, West Sumatra. Photo: Playak

It’s a mixed blessing for Indonesia that’s attempting seriously to develop itself into a formidable travel destination in the region, as tourism is a long-term development that requires deep long-term strategy of attaining the right balance between Profit, People, and Planet. Ensuring enough basic infrastructure investment and deep-pocket tourism promotional dollars spurned by the Government, would attract private investors to develop the facilities, while benefiting the local economy and not endangering the environment that tourism touches. For now though, let Indonesia shine through her greatest gift to the modern traveler: the planet’s ultimate adventure destination. And that may not be an overstatement. We’ll look at how others – mostly adventure travelers – are enjoying Indonesia, her intoxicating natural beauty, her oft impenetrable wilderness, and the indelible culture of her warm-hearted people. Here’s a look at Extreme Kayaking in Kuantan River, West Sumatra, as appeared in Playak.

In the heart of Sumatra, a few km south of the Equator lies the Kuantan River in some of wildest Jungles of Indonesia. The upper part of it’s valley is of incredible beauty with several hundred meter high limestone cliffs, caves and picturebook rainforest.

The river has been rafted about 10 years ago but seldom receives any paddlers due to it’s remoteness. Recently the regional government of SIJUNJUNG district improved the road along the river which eases access tremendously. The government wants to develop adventure tourism here and invited the most successful Rafting team ARUS LIAR ( ‘ wild currents’ in Indonesian – they are all nice guys, no liars…) to an expedition to Westsumatra. Their boss, Lody Korua , thought it might be a good idea if a kayaker would join them as kayaking is not yet populer in Indonesia but people usually get very exited if they see someone in a tiny boat to tackle some big rapids…
Thanks to sponsor ‘Mr. John’ , Pak Muchlis Anwar… and all the others who put their money and energy into the expedition – it was worth it !!! – We hope this area will get more visitors in the future !

Most of the rapids are not too difficult ( grade 3 ) but there are some big ones as well on Kuantan river:

Above: bashing through a hole of PALUKAHAN rapid ( don’t ask me what PALUKAHAN means – even the villagers living close by don’t know – they say : ‘ that’s just a name ‘ )

Also the rafters from ARUS LIAR and the local team from SIJUNJUNG had their fun.

To me the environment was even more fascinating than the rapids: there were huge trees full with flying foxes which reach a span of more than a meter here on Sumatra – once more than hundred swirled high above our heads and we felt as in the midst of ‘JURASSIC PARK’

We went into some of the caves along the river…

crawling creatures of the dark…

…and visited some traditional MINANGKABAU houses:

Even an audience with the tradional Rajas (Kings) of the area was organized. These Rajas still have a lot of influence on matters of land use, traditions and religion in their area.

Above: a BANYAN tree – a strangling fig begins it’s life as a seed dropped by a bird onto any tree. From the seed some roots will grow down the host tree. These roots get stronger and stronger until one day they strangle the host tree to death and the strangling fig stands alone. Its fruit is an important source of food to many animals of the forest; orangutans LOVE figtrees…

Let’s go back to the river !

It is possible to do a several day-expeditiona down the KUANTAN river, however, the lower section does not have much rapids and is not necessarily considered wilderness anymore.

Getting there:

From SINGAPORE or Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia): For cheap flights go with AIR ASIA, TIGER AIR or VALUE AIR to PADANG – when I checked last time it was about US$50 one way.
From MEDAN (North Sumatra): I paid for my flight to PADANG US$45 one way –

Transportation: From Padang Airport, Taxis can be chartered for US$40 – 50 to MUARO SIJUNJUNG (3 hr-drive).

Accommodation: At Muaro Sijunjung the best Hotel is HOTEL SAHID BUKITTINGGI (US$ 20 – 40/night).

For further info: you can contact SUMATRA SAVAGES at

Alternatively – if you speak some Bahasa Indonesia, call MUCHLIS ANWAR from the local government in SIJUNJUNG
mobile: + 62 81535200678,
or PRIYONO, journalist and Nature guide in Sijunjung +62 – 754 – 21141 , mobile: +62 – 8126765373
Now, if You can’t speak Bahasa, here comes ZUFNAL to the rescue, this fellow even speaks English, Dutch & German !!! His mobile is +62 – 81374646802

Source: Playak

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Filed under Adventure Travel, Asia, Indonesia, Sumatra, Unique Travel Destinations

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