A journey to rediscover lost Nepenthes species not seen for a century!

  • Cost for Part 1 and Part 2 (4 week adventure): £4,600 per person for 29D/28N (all inclusive from start to end point)
  • Cost for Part 1 or 2 only: £2,450 per person for 15D/14N (all inclusive from start point to end point)
  • Start Point: Part 1: Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia. Part 2: Berau, Kalimantan, Indonesia
  • End Point: Berau, Indonesia
  • Dates: Part 1: Saturday 16th June to Saturday 30th June. Part 2: Sunday 1st July to Saturday 14 July 2018.
    Group Size:  8 (+ 1 medic + 2 expedition leaders)

This challenging two-part adventure for the fit and adventurous sets out to address the last great mysteries of Nepenthes taxonomy. There are three main questions that we seek to answer. 1. What is Nepenthes beccariana? 2. What is Nepenthes mollis? 3. What is the status of Nepenthes mapuluensisN. epiphytica, the type form of N. fusca, and the giant form of N. tentaculata in nature? The latter species are now amongst the least documented of all known Nepenthes.

The mysteries we seek to uncover are:

Nepenthes beccariana:  First described in 1908 from the island of Nias by John Macfarlane, Nepenthes beccariana has not been studied in nature since. Plants thought to resemble this species have been identified on the Sumatran mainland, but no efforts have been made to locate this species at its locus classicus. We will visit Nias, where this species was first collected, in an effort to relocate it, and visit related plants and more on the Sumatran mainland to determine whether or not they represent the same taxon.

Nepenthes mollis: This species was first described by Benedict Danser in 1928 from a single collection made in East Kalimantan (Borneo) in 1925 from remote Mount Kemul, a mountain that has not been botanised since. Though collected without pitchers, usually considered diagnostic in Nepenthes, its stems and leaves were so distinct and hairy as to convince Danser that it was new. To date, no one knows what this plant might represent and the mountain is so remote that no one has visited it since. The time has come to change that.

Nepenthes mapuluensis: This spectacular, dark pitchered species has only been knowingly seen on three occasions since it was described. In a region devastated by fires in the 1990s, much of its habitat potential habitat has been cleared for palm oil plantations, however it primarily grows on limestone formations that are not easily accessed by logging vehicles or suitable for plantation growth. It is thus believed that some strongholds may remain in the region.

Nepenthes epiphytica: This unusual species with its broadly funnel-shaped, toilet-like pitchers has only been seen on two known occasions since it was first collected in 1963 by botanist André Kostermans. It habitat lies atop Mount Nyapa, a remote but non-technical peak located in Berau Regency.

Nepenthes fusca type: This species, like N. mollis, was first described from Mount Kemul. Since then, it has not been revisited in nature and a broad array of plants across Borneo have been described under the umbrella name N. fusca. Only by visiting Kemul will it be possible to determine the true status of this taxon and those that are currently associated with it.

Giant Nepenthes tentaculata: Documented at a handful of sites in the interior of Borneo, it is hoped that Mount Kemul will be host to this unusual taxon also. Whether it represents a variety of N. tentaculata or indeed an entirely distinct species is yet to be determined.

During this adventure, we visit Sumatra and Borneo in order to locate and study these species to determine their statuses once and for all. However, this adventure is not a shot in the dark: we will visit a number of other known sites for different Nepenthes species along the way.

Since the expedition is to a remote region, a qualified expedition medic will accompany us while two expedition leaders will be present to maximise safety. It is not known what we will discover, but it will be a true adventure under challenging conditions. Any discoveries made will be jointly published by all those involved.

This adventure is divided into two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. Participants may join for just Part 1, just Part 2, or for the entire adventure. 

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Adventure Rating: Strenuous

This adventure involves multi-day hikes over significant distances on terrain that may be steep, rocky or unstable under foot.

Participants must be capable of challenging hikes and carrying a heavy pack with water, camera, tent and appropriate weather protection. River crossings may be necessary. In some cases local porterage can be arranged at cost.

Possible extensions

Extensions for this adventure are not planned owing to the length of the trip. However, we can recommend and organise relaxing or additional challenging excursions in neighbouring Sabah and Sarawak if you wish!

Adventure Itinerary

Participants may join for just Part 1, just Part 2, or for the entire adventure. 

Part 1

Day 1: Meet in Medan, transferring to airport for an early morning flight to Binaka Airport, Nias, near the island capital Gunungsitoli. Depositing our luggage at our accommodation, we proceed immediately to one of two low mountains identified as Nepenthes locations by local contacts. The first site is accessible directly from the road. A lowland site with Nepenthes will also be visited nearby if time permits. Both locations could harbour populations of Nepenthes beccariana. If we can relocate this species, we can conclude the question of the identity of this plant.

Day 2: Today we drive to a second site that could host the elusive Nepenthes beccariana; it is the highest point on Nias and is ascended on foot. This is likely to be a hot but interesting journey through the local forests. This is the third and final site where we can search for Nepenthes beccariana. Local contacts suggests these three locations on the itinerary are the prime remaining habitat for Nepenthes on Nias. They may contain N. ampullaria, N. gracilis, N. mirabilis and possibly N. sumatrana. If we are successful in rediscovering N. beccariana, we can resolve the identity of the species. If we are not successful, then it could be that the populations on Nias have been extirpated in the years since the species was discovered.

Day 3: We travel to the west coast of Nias to visit Danau Megoto, a lake from which Nepenthes have been reported. The lake is a 4 kilometre hike through lowland forest and scrub in an area known for its birdlife, while deer, crabs and monkeys can also be seen.

Day 4: Before our flight in the early afternoon, we will visit a mangrove area near to which Nepenthes have been seen, thereafter transferring to Sibolga, Sumatra.

Day 5: We visit excellent known locations for Nepenthes sumatrana, N. longifolia, N. eustachya, N. ampullaria, N. mirabilis and N. gracilis before and after lunch, and a second N. longifolia site after lunch. By contrasting N. longifolia with N. beccariana, we seek to clarify once and for all whether or not the two species are one and the same. In the evening we review our findings with respect to observations made on Nias. Overnight in Sibolga.

Day 6: We take a morning flight to Medan, transfer for a flight Jakarta, and finally travel on to Balikpapan on the east coast of Kalimantan, Borneo.

Day 7: We begin a full day's drive to the Sangkulirang Peninsula, one of the largest karstic landscapes in the world, arriving in time for dinner.

Day 8: Chartering a boat from the local jetty, we travel upstream to our jump off point. A remote frontier town from which we will explore the local limestone formations for the elusive Nepenthes mapuluensis, led by local bird's nest collectors. The region is also known for its wild orangutans, which, if we are very lucky, we may encounter.

Day 9: We explore a number of target sites in the region for Nepenthes mapuluensis.

Day 10: We explore the remaining sites for Nepenthes mapuluensis. Note: during both days of searching, there is a high probability that we might encounter N. ampullaria, N. gracilis, N. mirabilis, N. rafflesiana and N. reinwardtiana.

Day 11: Returning to Sangkulirang, we charter vehicles to take us north on a full day journey to Tanjungredeb (Berau), arriving in time for dinner.

Day 12: We set out for Gunung Nyapa in search of Nepenthes epiphytica, seen only two or three times in nature; originally in 1963 and again in the 2000s by those who described it. Starting our hike, we strike out into the forest in search of our first campsite on the flanks of the mountain; we might encounter N. ampullaria, N. gracilis, N. mirabilis, N. rafflesiana, N. fusca, N. tentaculata and N. reinwardtiana.

Day 13: Summitting the peak, we attempt to photograph plants of Nepenthes epiphytica on the more accessible trees.

Day 14: We return to the base of Nyapa and make our way back to Berau for evening.

Day 15: Those not taking part in Part 2 will fly from Berau airport to Jakarta arriving in the evening for late departures or to overnight. For those remaining for Part 2, we prepare for our journey to Mount Kemul in the Kalimantan interior, securing logistics and transport. For those undertaking both expeditions, the flight from Medan to Berau is included in the cost of the trip.

Part 2

Participants may join for just Part 1, just Part 2, or for the entire adventure. 

Part 2 of the Last Great Nepenthes Adventure focuses on one goal: reaching the summit of Mount Kemul. In 1925, Dutch explorer Frederik Endert reached this remote peak and discovered Nepenthes mollis and Nepenthes fusca. No one has ever been back to Mount Kemul since. If we are successful in reaching Mount Kemul, we may rediscover N. mollis and learn once and for all the secrets of this mysterious species. As the specimens Endert collected were lacking pitchers, no one knows what pitchers Nepenthes mollis produces. Equally, some confusion even surrounds Nepenthes fusca, perceived as common across Borneo. It is not known if the plants we believe to be N. fusca truly match those which Endert discovered on Mount Kemul.

Please note: this expedition to Mount Kemul is exploration in its truest sense. There is no clear trail to Mount Kemul and we will be working with local communities to follow hunting tracks to reach the summit. As no one has documented a visit to Mount Kemul for over 90 years, we cannot guarantee that we can reach the summit of the mountain. Participants should be physically fit and capable of walking tens of kilometres a day. The nature of this expedition is such that we cannot prepare a day to day itinerary, rather just set out with a clear window of time and budget to work within, in the hope of achieving our goal. This is exploration at its purest! Come for an adventure to one of the most remote and little-explored wildernesses on Earth!

Day 16: Travelling first by road and then by boat, we reach a Punan tribal settlement 40 km from the summit of Mount Kemul. Where we begun our voyage into the unknown with local elders as our guides. We have planned 6 days trekking towards Mount Kemul to reach its summit (Day 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22) and 5 days back (Day 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27). There is a very high probability that we will encounter N. ampullaria, N. gracilis, N. mirabilis, N. rafflesianaN. reinwardtiana and N. tentaculata ‘typical form’ along the way, and possibly N. hirsuta and N. veitchii. A bonus could be the little-known giant form of Nepenthes tentaculata; on mountains close to Mount Kemul, unusual giant forms of N. tentaculata with pitchers up to 30 cm tall have been found. These plants may represent a new species or at least a new variety of N. tentaculata. It is our hope to find out what they are!

Day 28: We depart the Punan village and make the long return journey to Berau, arriving in time for dinner.

Day 29: We fly from Berau to Jakarta, arriving in the evening for late departures.


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Getting there

This adventure begins in Medan, which is served by various airlines from Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The adventure ends in Jakarta. Flights can be easily booked through all major airline websites.

Last Great Nepenthes Adventure Sumatra Map
Last Great Nepenthes Adventure Kalimantan Map

What's Included

All transport during the itinerary
Professional guide
Expedition Medic
Porters for group logistics
Accommodation is on a twin basis when hotels are available
All main meals during the itinerary

What's Not

International flights
Personal porters (if requested)