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Carl Ottersen 7 Days Sumatra Islands

  • Seven Days in Sumatra's Islands

    The Ancient Traditions Tour

April • May • June 2017

This tour will run once a month. Right now we are keeping the actual start dates flexible so that we can fit in with your own travel intentions. Once we have 4 confirmed participants, we will block the date.

US$ 4,250 per Participant

US$ 525 reduction for companions. To view the terms of booking and to provisionally reserve a place, please scroll down to the form at the end of this page.

Group Size

The target group size is from 8 to 12 participants, so that the experience and training is personal. We need a minimum of 4 participants to confirm the tour is a 'go'.

Full Package

Excellent 3-4 star, family run hotel stays, with full amenities for relaxing at the end of the day. Dining in high quality local places with varied menus to suit all palates.

Photo tour led by Carl Ottersen

in partnership with Andi Afrianto

Off the coast of Sumatra are a string of fabulous islands: the larger string of the Mentawai islands, and some smaller jewels closer in to Sumatra. Other than their outstanding beauty, these islands and nearby Padang are great places to explore the culture, art, crafts and lives of two distinctive and ancient traditions: the Mentawai and the Minangkabau.


Of course you can bring your companion with you! With our local partners we have created a number of interesting and rewarding activities for them to fully enjoy the time too.


This is the dry season so, though it does rain from time to time. In the plains it is hot, but up high, as we will be, it is very cold at night, even close to freezing, so bring a mix of clothes.


Energetic but not mountain climbing. You do have to be in reasonable health, capable of one hour hikes up hills. Do bring good walking shoes.

Tour Program

Touring Sumatra is ideal for the photographer, with the light and shadow playing off its myriad hills, steep mountains, verdant forests, dark jungles, deep lakes, surf scoured islands and the constant presence of ancient cultures. These seven days are much about stopping to photograph the natural scenery and local life as it is to see the places mentioned. You will learn and practice several photographic techniques: composition, street photography, unusual angles, portraits, film/shutter/aperture combinations, depth of field, using light and many others. Photo skills will be reviewed "as-you-go" and also at the end of the day so you get the best from these opportunities. At the end of the day you will also have something to see and enjoy, always with photography in mind.

Setting Sail

Everyone has to arrive at Padang airport by the early afternoon at the latest, as we have to take a boat to the islands by 7pm. Dinner is on board and we will use the time, if the crossing is calm, to have an orientation session.

Day One • Siberut Mentawai

We arrive at Siberut Mentawai Island just after dawn. Once breakfast is done we report to the police station (as we must), then take a boat to Kesagu, gateway to the jungle). From Kesagu we walk to Rorogod. On the way your guide Andi will tell you about the islanders and their life style. We eat and sleep in Rorogod, in a traditional Mentawai long house.

Day Two • Mentawai culture

Today we show you how the local people make kabid, the traditional loin cloth made of bark, as well as the poison they make to be used for their arrows. In the afternoon we go hunting around Rorogod with them. Great photo hunting too!

Day Three • Wild Nature

We walk to a nearby village to see the daily activities of the villagers. Afterwards we head off to Kulukubuk, where you can enjoy its beautiful and natural waterfall. During photo shoots you can even swim there - all work and no play is boring!) From the waterfall we walk to Sikalio and back to Rorogod. In the evening the villagers will dance the Turuk, a sacred dance that goes with the barbecued pig that all share. Fabulous photography all day.

Day Four • Back along the trail

After breakfast, we walk from Rorogod back to Kesagu, taking the boat from Kesagu to Muara Siberut. During this time we shoot for the activity around us, the traders, the porters, the myriad boats. In the evening we sail back to Padang, then head off to a wonderful island hotel on one of the smaller islands that sit in Bungus bay.

Day Five • Island hopping

Small coralline islands dot the coastline here - we spend the day island hopping from one to another: places like Pagang, Pasumpahan and Pamultusan. This is a mix of scenic landscape photography and simple fun, for these islands are little jewels that many people never visit.

Day Six • Bull Races

The Pacu Jawi (bull race) started ages ago when farmers wanted to show how strong their bulls were before selling them at market. Now it is a celebrated and popular event that many people come to see. The action is tremendous! After getting mud splattered we head back to the hotel to relax and review the many photos you will have taken.

Day Seven • Padang

We arrive in Padang the early afternoon, leaving us time to check into the hotel and tour the town, focusing on its old quarter market and street activity, before having dinner and a relaxing evening reviewing the photos, dining gracefully and ending the tour on a high note.

Photos from tours in Sumatra's Islands


We provide shuttle from/to Padang airport or seaport, tour transport, accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner, light refreshments and soft drinks, museum passes and other related tickets. For indoor photography we have reflectors and light boxes. All fees quoted are inclusive of taxes.

Don't forget!

Other than your digital camera (any type will do) you should bring some lenses, a sturdy tripod and ideally a shutter release cable. There is a fair amount of walking, some in rough patches, so wear sensible shoes and casual clothes with lots of pockets. The sun can be strong; light headgear might be good for some.


If you do not have or do not want to bring a PC with you, we can arrange for you to use one locally. If you do not have imaging software on your computer, we can provide you with a free copy that has basic functionality. If you don’t bring a tripod we have some spares. If you are using a Canon DSLR then we also have some extra lenses.

Reserve your place on this tour

Once we receive your request we will call and email you to confirm details.


Bookings are made directly with the photographer. For more details please contact Carl Ottersen by email to carl.ottersen@gmail.com.


  • Fees are exclusive of your own travel to and from Padang.
  • Fees do not cover international travel and medical insurance.


  • 50% to be paid on confirmed booking.
  • Balance of 50% paid at least 45 days before the tour start date.
  • By credit card or bank wire transfer.


  • 100% refund if made 30+ days before the tour start date.
  • 50% refund if made 15+ days before the tour start date.
  • 25% refund if made 7+ days before the tour start date.

Registration Form

Just to be clear, filling in and sending this form does not commit you to anything or any payment until the booking is confirmed, which will be done with the photographer directly after you both have spoken and agreed everything.

Please fill in all the fields.

Your Name

Your eMail address

Your telephone number

Your ideal start date for the Tour

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Carl Ottersen

Carl offers photo tours in Italy and Indonesia. He is the author of six books, mostly on travel, which are full of wonderful photographs. His photographs and articles have been published in several travel magazines and travel related websites. Carl also has an ongoing exhibition in Jakarta, Indonesia in partnership with JW Marriott to promote educational support for children.

Read more about Carl and his photo tours
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