Volunteering at Sumatra Rainforest Institute

Save The Rainforest and all of its Endangered Species.

Save The Rainforest and all of its Endangered Species

Sumatra Rainforest Institute (SRI) is an Indonesian grass-roots organisation which focuses on the conservation of the Sumatran rainforest and its endangered species, rescuing wildlife in need as well as assisting local farmers to implement eco-friendly agricultural systems and technology in Northern Sumatra.

SRI is responsible for managing the Batang Gadis National Park Conservation Support Program and is funded by the Tropical Forest Conservation Action Sumatra (TFCA Sumatera), with its goal of protecting the Batang Gadis National Park via an active and collaborative approach.

Symbol of recognition of local wisdom

The Batang Gadis National Park is located in the Mandailing Natal (Madina) Regency, North Sumatra. The National Park has been declared in 2004 and is named after the Batang Gadis River that flows thorough the park. Batang Gadis National park covers 73,803.75 hectares and is located at an altitude of 300 to 2,145 meters above sea level.

The main goal of the national park is to save animals and natural habitats but the National Park is also a symbol of recognition of local wisdom values in managing forests.

Broaden your horizon and explore the beauty of North Sumatra

If you are looking for a new way to broaden your horizon and you are looking for something impressive to add to your CV, volunteering abroad is the perfect choice. It is not only a good way to show that you are brave enough to visit another country but also a good way to illustrate what’s important to you, and show that you’re more than willing to try new things. 

So if you are willing to take the step to volunteer in Indonesia, SRI offers the experience to find out how it is like to live and work in North Sumatra. Besides working with wildlife, SRI offers you a great way to experience the exciting nature of North Sumatra in a whole different way.

See the habitat of the rare Sumatran tiger

See where one of the most impressive big cats of Asia lives in the wild. The Batang Gadis National Park is the home of the critically endangered and rare Sumatran tiger. It is the only surviving tiger population in the Sunda Islands because the Bali and Javan tigers are already extinct.  In 2008 the population of Sumatran tigers has been estimated to be between ca. 30 to 100. In 2013 their number has been estimated to be between 23-76, the equivalent of 20% of the total population in Indonesia.

Next to the Sumatran Tiger there are over 40 other different mammal species in the Batang Gadis National Park and over 240 species of birds. Next to the Sumatran tiger the park also offers home to some other amazing forest cats like the Asian Golden Cat and the Leopard Cat. The Asian Tapir is also a resident of the National Park and is the largest of five species of tapir and the only one native to Asia. One other very charactaristic animal in the Batang Gadis National Park is the sun bear which is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

The wildlife in the park is threatened by poaching, and encroachment by an Australian gold mining company that holds a 200,000-hectare concession that overlaps with the national park. As you can see on the map the National Park is therfore devided in two parts.

Coffee from local farmers 

Kopi Mandailing Jaya is a initiative of SRI and is located in the mountain village of Ulu Pungkut. The coffee production office is based in a beatifull area just a couple of hours from Panyabungan and in the middle of nature. The concept behind the coffee coorporative is working closely together with local farmers to produce regional coffee in an ecological way.

This way it is possible to produce local coffee with a good quality and keep in touch with the local farmers that protect the forest and the habitat of endangered animals.
Informing and working together with local farmers is the main goal of SRI so they can maintain and protect the beautiful and diverse nature of North Sumatra! Working at the different coffee farms and at the coorporatives production office gives you the change to experience the whole process of making.

Discover the beautiful nature and culture

Do you want to know how locals live near and with the rainforest? This is your chance to experience the local life with nature at your doorstep. While volunteering at the are many places to explore!

While voluneering you get a good taste of how the locals live in Batang Gadis National Park, Ulu Pungut or the Batang Toru National park. Taste what to locals eat and even learn how to make your own local drink. During your stay at the projects you will participate in the following activities.

Border patrol with local Rangers

Border Patrols are as important as necessary. It gives the local rangers the possibility to not only maintain and check the border points but also connect with the local farmers active at the serroundings of the National Park. 

Help local farmers

Local people help to protect the National Park but also live from the land around the park. Help local farmers with harvestig their produce and learn how to harvest and process for example coffee, brown sugar and paddy rice.

Install trap camera’s

Hike together with local rangers deeper into the dense jungle and install camera traps to capture incredible images of different kind of animals living in the National Park.


Tubbing is a  nice and fun way to explore the waters in Batang Gadis National Park. It is not only a fun way to enjoy the rivers in and around Pastap Julu but also a good way to refresh during a warm day!

Pastap Julu Village Special Ecotour

During the project you will stay in Pastap Julu village at the border of the Btang Gadis National Park and help with:

  • Border patrols in the Batang Gadis National Park
  • Installing camera traps
  • Illegal snare dismantling
  • Helping local farmers

The whole process of creating the best local coffee!

In Ulu Pungkut you will find out what it takes to produce that perfect cup of coffee. You will be part of the whole process:

  • Helping in the coffee nursery
  • Maintaining the coffee plants
  • Picking, drying the beans
  • Roasting and grinding the beans
  • Packaging the coffee beans

Batangtoru Forest Ecosystem Landscape: Natural Home of Tapanuli Orangutan (Pongo Tapanuliensis)

SRI also works with the Batangtoru Forest Ecosystem Landscape wich is located in South Tapanuli and North Tapanuli. The landscape is about 4 hours from Panyabungan and is the habitat of the rare Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo Tapanuliensis). The Tapanuli orangutan is one of three orangutan species next to the Sumatran orangutan that lives northwest on Sumatra and the Bornean orangutan. Just like the Batang Gadis National Park, the Batangtoru Forest Ecosystem is threatened by illegal logging and encroachment by commercial companies and locals. What is now left of this unique forest spans some 141,749 hectares, divided in two main blocks separated by the Sumatran rift valley.

The orangutan Tapanuli conservation program

The program is designed to connect two important orangutan. The main activities during this project are:

  • Border patrols for the Sibual Buali nature reserve and Dolok Sipirok Nature Reserve
  • Illigal snare dismanteling patrols
  • Ground checkings for orangutan nests outside the nature reserves

Forest rehabilitation program

Maintaining the rainforest is as important as the rehabilitation of it. During this program you wil help with planting new trees and be involved with:

  • Three sapling production in the tree nursery
  • Tree planting
  • Monitoring of the trees
  • Border patrols

Travel Information and Prices

Airport Information

Ferdinand Lumban Tobing (FLZ)/Sibolga airport

About 1.5 hours from SRI Office (Padang Sidempuan Town)

  • Good connection with Jakarta and Bali
  • Pick-up from airport is IDR 800.000
    • includes car rent and driver

Siborong-borong (DTB)/Silangit airport

About 3 hours from SRI Office (Padang Sidempuan Town)

  • Good connection with Jakarta, Bali and Singapore
  • Pick-up from airport is IDR 1.000.000
    • includes car rent and driver

Medan Kuala Namu (KNO)/ Medan Airport

About 10 hours from SRI Office (Padang Sidempuan Town)

  • International airport
  • Pick-up from airport is IDR 1.200.000
    • includes car rent and driver

Package for volunteering

Information about the accommodation and stay at SRI and at the projects

During your stay SRI provides you with a save but basic accommodation in Panyabungan. Living at SRI is similar to how  locals live in Panyabungan and the vilages where you will stay during the different projects. It may not be as luxurious as you are use to at home, but it provides you with all the necessary things and gives you a good and realistic experience of living in North Sumatra! During your stay you will live in the SRI office in Panyabungan and during the different projects you will stay with locals or in one of SRI’s offices near the projects.

Food and drink
Traditional Sumatran food is very spicy because Sumatran people like to eat almost everything with chilli. Besides chilli they also like to use a lot of other different spices like lemongrass, ginger or garlic. If you are not into spicy food you can always tell the people you want the food not to be spicy. If you are a vegetarian we could recommand you to bring some B12 and Iron supplements because most of the diet in this region is chicken and fish. There are ofcourse also options for vegetarians like Gado Gado, Nasi Goring, Mie Goreng, Indomie, Infumie or Pacal but they usually do not contain a lot of vegetables or substitutes for meat. The people in North Sumatra also like to eat tempeh or Tofu and it is almost all the time served fried as a side dish. The consumption of alcohol is not allowed outside the office and any kind of drugs are strictly forbidden!

The prices above are including 3 meals a day, free use of water and there is thee and coffee at the projects. Costs for extra drinks and snacks are not included. 

Dress code
Especially for female volunteers it is important to bring covering clothes to wear if you go in public. This is because of the local culture in the whole North Sumatran region. Women need to wear covering clothes in public and most of the local women wear a hijab (headscarf ) as well. Volunteers do not need to wear a hijab. Wearing a T-shirt is accaptable but still more revealing than what everyone else here usually wears. For men the rules are less strict but it is appreciated by the locals if you do not wear clothes which are to revealing.

Dress Code: Good Using in Public Space

Dress Code: Not Good Using in Public Space

IImportant side note: in Sumatra, especially during the rainy season, there are many mosquitoes and Malaria and Dengue are present in the areas of the different projects. Make sure to bring covering clothes to wear especially during dawn and sun set (this is when Malaria mosquitoes are active). And if possible,try to get information about the risks and precautions in your own country before coming to Indonesia.

Spare time 
During the weekend (saterday and sunday) you are free to discover the beautifull region of North Sumatra.

Some interesting and recommendable places that are worth a visit are:

Lake Toba

Lake Toba, whith its lenght of 100 kilometers, is the biggest lake in Indonesia and the largest vulcanic lake in the world. It is a very beautifull place and definitely worth a visit when you are in North Sumatra. There are many things to do like Kayaking, hiking, visiting the famous stone chairs in Ambarita or taking a boat ride on the lake.

  • About 6 hours by bus from Padang Sidempoan Town and 5 hours from Medan
  • Price for a singele bustrip from Padang Sidempuan Town to Lake Toba is about IDR 100.000 to 160.000

Sibolga/Mursala Island

Sibolga is located on the west coast of North Sumatra and is a city in the natural harbour of Sibolga Bay. It was once  a port for British, Dutch, French and American traders. Mursala Island is one of the most famous places in Sibolga and is the biggest island in the region. The Island is most famous because of its amazing scenery and especially the Mursala Waterfall is very famous because it is 35 meters high and drops directely into the ocean. Around the island there are beautifull reefs which make this place perfect for snorkeling and diving.

  • About 4 hours by bus from Padang Sidempuan Town
  • Price for a singele bustrip from Padang Sidempuan Town to Sibolga is about IDR 50.000
  • Private boat rental is about IDR 1.500.000/day

Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang is one of the more popular tourist attractions of North Sumatra and definitely worth visiting for a couple of days. The village of Bukit Lawang is located in the middle of the jungle near the Gunung Leuser national park which makes it a very interesting and beautiful place to visit. In Bukit Lawang you are able to book a guide for 1 or more days to track into the jungle and see  endangered spicies like the Sumatran orangutan.

  • About 12 hours by bus from Padang Sidempuan Town and 3 hours from Medan (no direct connection, with a transfer in Medan)
  • Price for a singele bustrip from Padang Sidempuan Town to Bukit Lawang is about IDR 170.000 (to Medan) + 70.000 to 110.000 (from Medan to Bukit Lawang)


Medan is the capital of North Sumatra and is Indonesia’s third largest city. It has not that many tourist atractions as other big Asian city’s but it is interesting to go there for 1 or 2 days or combine the visit when you go to Lake Toba or Bukit Lawang. The city is large and there is a lot of traffic, which makes it not the most beautifull place in Indonesia. But there are still some interesting things to see from the colonial age and the city has some big shopping mall’s, temples and the great mosk.

  • About 10 hours by bus from Padang Sidempuan Town
  • Price for a singele bustrip from Padang Sidempuan Town to Medan is about IDR 170.000

If you are planning to go somewhere in your spare time, always ask the SRI staff for more information and discuss your plans with them first because they are responsible for you as a volunteer!