How to get to Ketambe
Airport to city
If you arrive at Kualanamu airport before 9am, it’s possible to travel to Ketambe in the same day. Take the ALS shuttle bus to Simpang Pos OR the Damri (big blue bus) to Carrefour shopping centre. Each costs 20.000rp per person. Tell the driver where you would like to get off and they will tell you when it’s your stop. From there, you need to take a becak (motorbike with passenger side cart) to “Loket BTN” for the public bus or to “Komplek Citra Garden” across the road from the share taxi office. Becak drivers like to haggle, but you shouldn’t pay more than 10-20.000rp for this short 1-3km trip.
The BTN mini-buses leave when full in the morning, with the last one leaving before lunch time. If you miss that, they also have an overnight bus leaving at 10pm and 11pm - but it will not be a comfortable night’s sleep. A ticket to Kutacane will cost 70-80.000rp and the trip takes 6-8 hours.
When you arrive in Kutacane you will need to take the labi-labi (pickup truck with a roof) to Ketambe. Generally the sight of a foreigner in Kutacane will have people shouting ‘Ketambe!?” at you, and they will show you where the labi-labi is. The hour journey from here to Ketambe costs 15-20.000rp per person. The last one leaves at 5pm, and there aren’t any decent places to stay in Kutacane, so it’s best to allow plenty of time.
A share taxi is a little more comfortable and can take you direct to Ketambe. CK Travel Wisata is across the road from Komplek Citra Garden and is the only company that goes direct to Kutacane. They also only leave in the mornings about 10 or 11am, and then again at 10pm. It can be challenging to get to their office from the airport, so Safar can arrange airport pickup and travel all the way to Ketambe village for 300-350.000rp per person if arranged prior to arrival.
Private taxi's can also be booked through Safar direct to Ketambe. This is the fastest way to get there and for groups of 3 or more the best option.
Bus via Berastagi
Staying a night or two in Berastagi beforehand can make the trip easier. Public buses from Simpang Pos to Berastagi run all day, so it wont matter when you arrive. From Berastagi you can ask the receptionist at your guesthouse/hotel where to catch the BTN bus to Kutacane.
Coming from Banda Aceh
From Banda Aceh to Ketambe is a 2 day journey by bus. It’s possible to take a direct 17 hour bus that passes through Takengon and Belangkejeren before Ketambe and then on to Kutacane. Most buses will stop in Takengon overnight. Up in the mountains and a little cooler, Takengon has a gorgeous lake and excellent coffee, so not a bad place to spend a night or two. Bus trips the full distance will cost 200-300.000rp p/p.
Susi Air used to fly a route Banda Aceh to Kutacane, on Mondays, Fridays and every second Wednesday, costing 445.000rp. Currently this service is not available as it's rumoured to be changing carriers.
Where to Stay
There are 6 different guesthouses currently open in Ketambe, and one more 2km away within the national park. They are Pondok Wisata, Thousand Hill, Friendship, Sadar Wisata, Pak Mus, Wisma Cinta Alam and Gurah Guesthouse. Each has individual rooms or bungalows ranging in price from 50.000rp to 200.000rp per night. The oldest (Wisma Cinta Alam) has been open for over 20 years and the newest (Thousand Hill) only 3 years. Friendship and Pondok Wisata have both recently had renovations done.
Each guesthouse will have a restaurant or provide set meals, and each will have guides attached that they would prefer you trek with. The guesthouse owners make extra from this, as they provide the equipment and hire the guides. The prices will usually be the same, but in this case the guides make less money. When staying at Pondok Wisata, Thousand Hill or Friendship, they wont mind that you have pre-booked trekking with Safar. The other guesthouses can sometimes put pressure to book a guide through them, but if you assure them you already have one there shouldn’t be any problems.
If you are arriving late at night or staying during high season (July-September) its a good idea to book ahead. Here are the websites for some of the guesthouses:
Pondok Wisata - www.pondokwisataketambe.com
Thousand Hill - thousandhillsketambe.net
Friendship - www.ketambe.com
Meeting with Safar
It’s always nice to meet and chat with your guide before you’re already out the door and on your way. It also gives you a chance to ask any extra questions you might have. Without internet or a local phone it can be difficult to arrange a time to meet, but if Safar is expecting you and not in the jungle with other guests, you can always take a short walk down the road and meet at his sister’s house.
This will be where you start your trek from in the morning, and you can also store your other luggage here in a padlocked room. His sister Sarina runs a small cafe at the front of the house where you can order ‘teh’ or ‘kopi’.
There is no ATM in Ketambe, so to avoid a day trip to Kutacane and back it’s a good idea to bring enough rupiah with you. Paying before the trip is preferred so Safar and his porter can buy food and supplies. If you decide to extend your trip, add a night trek or want to give a tip, this can be paid for at the end of the trek.
Safar can be reached whenever he’s not on a trek by mobile +62 822-7254-0250, Facebook messenger or by chatting to someone in the guesthouse who can call him.