At 3,805m, Gunung (Mt.) Kerinci is Indonesia’s highest non-Papuan peak, and the highest volcano in SE Asia (actually the highest volcano in all of Asia east of Iran and west of the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia).
It takes a good eight hours, depending on your fitness level, to reach the summit. Generally, people start their climb early in the morning and set camp at one of the shelters near the tree line. In the darkness of the next morning, they scramble up the scree towards the summit for another two hours to greet the rising sun and unsurpassed views of the surrounding area.
Climbing the mountain is not the only thing Gunung Kerinci is good for. Its forested slopes are famous amongst birdwatchers and provide primary habitat for a slew of other creatures, including the Sumatran tiger. More photos here.
This mountain is just across from Mt. Kerinci, but is a much easier (3-4 hour) hike. At about 2,000 meters you will find a large, pristine crater lake surrounded by virgin rainforest and seven mountain peaks that rise for another 800 meters or so. It’s the highest volcanic crater lake in SE Asia. At the top, if your guide has arranged for it ahead of time, you can rent some of the local fisherman’s dugout canoes and paddle across the lake to set up camp. More photos here.
Renah Kemumu is a small but very old community of about 100 homes completely within the boundaries of the Kerinci Seblat National Park. To reach the village, you can travel by foot along traditional forest paths from the village of Lempur in southern Kerinci, passing through core zones of the National Park. It takes about 15 hours to reach the village walking at a leisurely pace, taking photos, and looking for wildlife. Villagers use the path about once a month, and make the trip in about 6 hours. On a 3 day trip there and back, you can expect to see countless hornbills and other birds, leaf monkeys, skinks and monitor lizards, squirrels, bats, and more. You’ll possibly come across evidence of tigers and other wild cats, sambar deer, wild boar, civets, and more. You’ll definitely hear the enchanting songs of Siamang gibbons. Your guide will also point out many edible forest fruits and vegetables along the way. You can see images of a trek to Renah Kemumu here.
The Ladeh Panjang Wetlands, at the western foot of Mt. Kerinci and deep within the Kerinci Seblat National Park, is the highest wetlands in Southeast Asia at over 2000 meters in elevation. The trail there takes about 6 hours or less of fairly easy hiking, with four of those hours through primary rain forest of the Kerinci Seblat National Park. Two lakes can be found within the 150 hectares of wetlands, Danau Singkarak and Danau Sakti, the latter of which takes a further three hours to reach. The marshlands and the primary forest surrounding it are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including barking deer, tapir, and tigers. For more pictures, check out my album here.
At the foot of Gunung Tujuh are the Rawa Bento swamps, a destination point for migrating birds from as far away as Russia. From the village of Jernih Jaya, you can take a canoe on the Sanir river upstream through the swamps to their starting point in Lake Bento. Keep an eye out for monkeys, birds, and other wildlife along the way.
More photos here.
This active volcano is in the southern end of the valley, so named Kunyit (turmeric) for the abundant sulfur that can be found on the mountain. During the six hour trek to the summit, you pass through enchanted cloud forests and encounter steaming sulfur vents, making for an interesting climb. The starting point is the village of Talang Kumuning, one hour south of Sungaipenuh. Within the crater, a bubbling hot spring can be found after a short hike, and there is the mystical “Taman Dewa” or Garden of the Gods where the local hero Depati Parbo meditated, supposedly gaining invulnerability to Dutch bullets as a result.
The Goa Kasah Cave near the village of Renah Kasah, is possibly the largest cave system in Kerinci. It has yet to be fully explored. A trek to the cave system starts at the village of Sungai Sampun, and takes you through beautiful rice fields skirting the edge of the Rawa Bento swamps, before coming to the forested foothills closer to the village. The walk takes about two and a half hours one way, making it a good day trip. More photos here.
Danau Kaco, translated as glass lake, is a striking, bright blue lake of volcanic origin found in the southern end of the valley. It’s about a three-hour hike through the jungle from the village of Lempur, one hour and fifteen minutes south of Sungaipenuh. The trail is fairly flat and easy, but can be a bit muddy and has some leeches.
Bear Grylls visited the lake in season 2 episode 10 of Man vs. Wild.
You can view more images in this Facebook album.
The Bukit Tapan road connects the town of Sungai Penuh with the coast of West Sumatra and Bengkulu, and cuts right through the middle of the Kerinci Seblat National Park. Walking or driving along the road, especially in the early morning/late afternoon hours and even at night, is a great way to spot some of the beautiful fauna and flora of the region. The start of the forest is about a 30 minute drive into the mountains to the west of Sungai Penuh. View more pictures here.
Located around Mt. Kerinci, the tea plantation was planted during the Dutch era and is now the largest tea plantation in the world, and at over 1500 meters, it’s the second highest in the world after Darjeeling. Walking through the endless fields of green while breathing in the cool, fresh air is a lovely way to spend the morning or late afternoon. Employees at the tea factory near the village of Bedeng VIII (Delapan) are usually more than happy to give a tour of the facilities and teach visitors about the tea-making process. More photos here.
Sungaipenuh is the main village in the Kerinci valley, and falls right about in the middle. It’s a great jumping off point for other parts of Kerinci, as it features the only true hotels in the valley (all fairly small and inexpensive). Highlights of Sungaipenuh include:
There are a number of other lakes surrounding Lempur as well: Danau Lingkat, Danau Duo, Danau Nyalo, Danau Kecik. Each one is said to have a slightly different color, ranging from green to black. Visiting all or some of them makes for a good day trip and affords many opportunities to also see surrounding highland farms and maybe some wildlife. See some more images of the different lakes scattered around Kerinci here.
Many hot springs are scattered around the valley. The most famous ones are in the village of Semurup, where locals like to boil eggs in the hot water, and bathe in the nearby bath houses. Site 1 in Semurup is the more visited of the sites, however, the second site, “Air Panas Situs 2” is larger, more natural, and more interesting. The village of Sungai Medang also has hot springs and bathing facilities.
One of the most impressive hot springs is Grao Sakti, near the forest enclave of Renah Kemumu, deep within the Kerinci Seblat National Park and about a 15 hour hike from the village of Lempur in the south. Another site, to the north west of Gunung Kerinci, is equally impressive, but takes about three days journey through the rainforest to reach. More photos here.
Some are very easy to access (Telun Berasap, north of Kersik Tua), while others are more of a day hike, like 75 meter tall Pancuran Rayo, about a 30 minute drive south and three hour hike from Sungaipenuh.
Other waterfalls can be found near the towns of Sungai Medang, Kumun, Semurup, Pelompek, and other places. Most of the waterfall locations are actually a series of waterfalls (some as many as 12 in a row), often a 10 or 15 minute walk between waterfalls.
Danau Kerinci, by far the largest lake in the Kerinci region and its lowest point at 710 meters, is a great place to watch local life unfold. It’s possible to join with local fishermen in their daily routine, eat in a number of floating restaurants along its shores, or just relax at the Lake Kerinci Recreational Park in Sanggaran Agung and watch the sun go down.
There are also many megalithic stones scattered around the Kerinci Valley, remnants of a 1,000+ year old civilization that no one knows much about. While the stones themselves might not be too exciting for most visitors, the journey to see them is great for seeing the hill farming communities and their crops of coffee, cloves, chilies, and cinnamon.
Running between more remote villages, a number of traditional forest trails cut right through the National Park. A few examples: