Things to do in South Sumatra
While we all love visiting popular spots like Iceland and Japan, there are times where we just crave to visit places less explored by others. I always believe that there’s a little explorer in all of us, and the beauty of travel is that the opportunities are endless.
Recently, I got a chance to visit South Sumatra and was taken aback by it’s natural beauty. To be honest, I never knew what to expect before the trip. We’re all familiar with places like Bali, and Yogyakarta, but no one seems to know what are the things to do in South Sumatra. One of my friends even exclaimed “who goes there?”
Sumatra is huge, but just 1hr 10mins away lies Palembang, one of the most convenient gateways from Singapore to South Sumatra. As an up and coming destination, you get to skip all the tourist crowds and be one of the first to explore this beautiful region.
After spending a week there, here are 7 reasons why I think you should visit South Sumatra.
(1) Be awed by sunsets at Ranau Lake
With Mount Seminung as a backdrop, sunsets here are unbelievable. I remember just sitting on a docked boat by the pier, watching the sky turn from a warm orange hue to a mesmerising purple, ending my day wonderfully.
Ranau is the second largest lake in Sumatra, and was formed many years ago by an earthquake and volcano eruption. Now you can find local fisherman looking for their catch of the day.
For those who want to do more, you can even check out the beautiful Marisa Island or Pulau Marisa that’s right in the middle of the lake. It has a natural hot spring, waterfalls, and paddy fields, which makes for an ideal day of exploration!
We stayed at the edge of the lake, and I almost didn’t want to leave because it was so peaceful.
(2) Mingle with friendly tea pickers at Pagaralam
Pagaralam is known as the land of a thousand waterfalls and megaliths. But they are also famous for their tea plantations and friendly people. Stretching out from Mount Dempo to as far as the eye can see, the blanket of green was extremely pleasing for the eyes.
We were just walking around the plantation randomly, when we were warmly welcomed by the tea pickers with big smiles. I couldn’t understand Bahasa Indonesia, but they really made me wish I did. Thankfully some of us knew the language and could translate for the rest.
Perhaps it was because I grew up in the city, it was extremely refreshing being surrounded by fresh air, greenery, and warm smiles.
(3) Feast on Indonesian cuisine, South Sumatran style
If you love food, the city of Palembang is the place to be. Famed as the culinary centre of South Sumatra, Palembang is best known for their Pempek, a fish cake like dish made from fish and a dough mixture. Apparently the locals love having this for breakfast and as a snack throughout the day.
There are dozens of variations though. You can fry it, steam it, or even wrap it in stuff. My favourite was the Pempek Kapal Selam, which is fried Pempek wrapped around an egg. Wash it down with local favourite Teh Botoh for maximum enjoyment.
Outside of Palembang, fish or ikan dishes are very popular as well. Our favourite Durian also makes an appearance in many dishes!
(4) Get your adrenaline fix
From trekking, white water rafting, paragliding, to dirt biking, there are tons of adrenaline pumping activities that one can do. Especially for white water rafting, you can do it at so many different places in South Sumatra that we did it twice! Once along Sungai Musi, and the other along Sungai Enim. The guides are professional, and really look after your safety.
At Pagaralam, we went to a circuit where we could go on dirt bikes and buggies. For those who are not confident of handling the vehicles, you could always be the pillion or passenger!
(5) Explore ancient caves
One of the more popular caves we went to was the Princess Cave, or better known as Goa Putri. Easily accessed from Baturaja city, the large cave is filled with stalactites and stalagmites, forming interesting shapes and pillars.
I heard that you can even bring food and mats inside as long as you clear your rubbish. There are areas where you can sit on the rocks and have a nice picnic. That would be quite an experience. Do watch your step and wear proper shoes though! It can get quite slippery inside. A torchlight would also be useful.
(6) Feel nature’s power under the waterfalls
I love waterfalls and there are literally thousands of waterfalls in this region.
The highest waterfall in South Sumatra is Bedegung waterfall. At 99m, it’s quite a sight admiring it from a distance at the look out point. If you’re adventurous, you can even go closer via a path on the left and feel the sheer power from the waterfall. You’ll definitely get wet though!
My favourite however was Embun Waterfall, located near Mount Dempo in Pagaralam. The waterfall splits at the top, forming 3 beautiful streams on the way down. The best part though, is that you can swim in it! The water is pretty shallow, so it’s safe to go as close as you like, even standing directly under the waterfall if you’re crazy enough.