Staying at the Rimba Ecolodge (West Sumatra)

Between the rainy season and the alert on Mount Agung, we’ve been trying to look outside the Bali/Lombok box and ended up at the Rimba Ecolodge in Sumatra last month. Getting there is a bit of an effort (fly to Padang + 1h30 car + 50min by traditional wooden boat) but really worth it: the few bungalows are set on a beautiful white sand beach with good snorkeling (we saw turtles, parrot fish, rays… just swimming off the beach), and are surrounded by 400 hectares of jungle (silvery leaf monkeys can often be seen in the surrounding trees).

Rimba Ecolodge was founded by a French woman who first came to Indonesia 10 years ago as a tourist and a volunteer for Kalaweit . She came multiple times and eventually met her husband Reno. They both wanted to continue helping local communities and protect the environment and that’s how Rimba Ecolodge and Rimba non-profit organization were born in 2013. The Ecolodge allows tourists to enjoy this little corner of Sumatra in a sustainable way (ex: electricity usage and waste production is kept to a minimum) and finance the non-profit organization’s projects.

The facilities of the Ecolodge are basic: our wooden bungalow had a bed and a mosquito net and we shared our bathroom with another bungalow and had no hot water, yet we were always outside and never felt like we were missing anything (there is a family bungalow but it was already booked at the time of our stay). Electricity was very unstable but being right on the beach meant we were never too hot even without air-con (we even slept with blankets as early mornings were cooler). We had internet occasionally, which was more than enough.

It was a wonderful holiday, the kind I had imagined when we decided to move to Indonesia  and the ideal break from Jakarta: the kids were either swimming, snorkeling, chasing crabs, playing with the cats and dogs, building sandcastles or collecting seashells. The beach is very kid-friendly with big trees providing shade at all time, small waves and shallow waters. The weather was perfect: no rain and slightly cloudy which means we could stay outside the whole day without worrying too much about the sun (but sadly it also means I couldn’t get a good picture of the clear water).

For those looking for more than a beach holiday, the Ecolodge can also arrange guided day trips (into the land to visit villages and see waterfalls, island hopping…) and even immersion stays with the Minangkabau or Mentawai tribes (at least 5 days).

This ecolodge is probably not for everybody but for those who don’t mind a bit of adventure (the boat ride can be a bit rough if the weather is not great), I highly recommend it. Also, staying at Rimba is very affordable: Rp200,000-300,000/per person including accommodation and all meals, kids pay half while babies are free.

Rainy season is around October to December, but even then, weather is hardly predictable.

Here’s a list of what to bring:

  • Beach towels (the ecolodge only provides small towels)
  • Long pants and a sweater for cooler evenings/mornings
  • Snorkeling gear (the ecolodge does provide adult masks and slippers but bring your own if you are specific, and especially if you have children)
  • Flash light
  • Snacks (the ecolodge provides 3 meals a day and free flow of water/tea/coffee but no snacks)

The meals were served at fixed times (8-10:30, 13:00, 20:00) with Indonesian fixed daily menus. Even though we couldn’t choose, we all enjoyed the food, which was quite varied and came in good portions.

  • Life vest/floats if you are traveling with children (for the boat ride, and it also makes snorkeling much easier)
  • Something to keep the kids busy in case of rain
  • Mosquito repellent: surprisingly, we were never bothered by mosquito (perhaps not the season) but there were some stinging tiny flies…
  • Good walking shoes if you plan to hike
  • First-aid kit, just in case (although the ecolodge does also stock up on medecines)

I found most items from the newly opened Decathlon in Alam Sutera (no affiliation here), got this, this, this and this on my last visit.

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