Orangutans: Tips for Jungle Trekking in Bukit Lawang (Sumatra)

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Once in a lifetime to see orangutans in the wild – or: When a lifetime dream comes true! Sumatra gave us what is probably the most impressive encounter with animals. Near the small village of Bukit Lawang, you can watch the gigantic orangutans in the jungle that are threatened with extinction. And we promise you: This encounter is an experience that you won’t forget for the rest of your life!

Are you thinking, also a jungle trek to make the orangutans? Maybe you are a little unsure whether you dare to travel? Or you don’t really know what to expect? Don’t worry: it was exactly the same for us beforehand. If you knew how long we’ve been thinking back and forth. Our tip: just do it – it’s so worth it!

Ready for a trip to one of the most beautiful places on earth? Here we go come our personal travel tips for trekking to the orangutans in Bukit Lawang.

1. Orangutans on Sumatra: First information & things worth knowing Orang-utans live in the rainforests in the north of Indonesia Island of Sumatra. By far the most well-known starting point for a trip to the jungle is the small village of Bukit Lawang. Directly in front of the gates of the village you reach the Gunung Leuser National Park. It’s really crazy: you just walk a few steps and you’re in the middle of the jungle and in a completely different world.

Bukit Lawang & the Gunung Leuser National Park The Gunung Leuser National Park is not only the most important habitat of orangutans on Sumatra, but also home to countless other animals, such as the Sumatran tiger or the Sumatran rhinoceros. Although you will almost certainly not encounter these two animals, it is pretty crazy to know that you are entering the natural habitat of these animals.

The National Park is a ecosystem, like we’ve never seen before. Here macaques and Thomas Leaf Monkeys cross your path, you see hornbills and lizards and then of course there is the impressive background noise: Every step you take is accompanied by the incredibly loud chirping of the cicadas.

Bukit Lawang itself is idyllically situated on the banks of the Bohorok River. Countless accommodations and trekking organizations that offer tours to the orangutans have settled in Bukit Lawang for decades. Therefore, a note: Bukit Lawang may be isolated, but is quite touristy.

Travel Responsibly: Threats to Orangutans Orang-utans once lived throughout Southeast Asia. There are now only two places left in the world (!) where orangutans can be found in the wild: Sumatra and Borneo. The clearing of the rain forest for plantations (above all palm oil) deprives the orangutans of their habitat. In addition, orangutans can only reproduce very slowly. It is estimated that there are only about . Orangutans on Sumatra!

As impressive as an encounter with an orangutan is: Please be aware of your responsibility. This starts with choosing the right organization and continues with the appropriate behavior in the jungle. We will tell you our tips and recommendations later in this blog article.

The best travel time for jungle trekking to the orangutans In Indonesia there are – unlike here – only two seasons: rainy season and dry season. The good news: The trek through the jungle is possible all year round. Nevertheless, we personally recommend a trip in the dry season if possible.

Dry season is around between April and September. During this time it rains less than in the rainy season. However: Sumatra is strongly influenced by the southwest monsoon, which brings precipitation throughout the year. To make it short: You have to be prepared for the fact that it can rain during your hike in every travel month. The chance of staying dry is greatest between April and September.

We were in Sumatra in July and were lucky: it didn’t rain once on our jungle trek. However, the humidity is extremely high all year round (also in the dry season). Of course, the humid air makes the hike more strenuous.

How much time do I have to plan for the trip to the orangutans? The range of trekking tours is huge: from a few hours to tours lasting several days or even weeks, everything is included. The most popular is a two-day tour with an overnight stay in the jungle. Before and after you spend a night in Bukit Lawang. We therefore recommend that you plan at least three nights .

By the way: Sumatra is huge and although there is of course an incredible amount to see on this island , the orangutans are the number one attraction. Many travelers (including us) only visit Bukit Lawang and then travel on to another island (e.g. Java or Bali). Of course we would have liked to have experienced much, much more in Sumatra, but we are still very happy that we decided to go on this trip.

Travel guide for Indonesia: Our tip Personally, we hardly ever travel without a printed travel guide. In Asia we have a clear favorite among travel guides: Stefan Loose. We really like the Stefan Loose travel guides. They are well researched and perfect for individual travelers.

Stefan Loose’s Indonesia travel guide has accompanied us to Indonesia several times. It is (as usual from Loose) very detailed and filled with great tips. We have a clear recommendation.

You can buy the travel guide here: Stefan Loose Indonesia

2. Getting to Bukit Lawang on Sumatra: Our tips The nearest airport from Bukit Lawang is Kualanamu International Airport in Medan. Medan is served by several major airports in Southeast Asia, including Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Singapore, Jakarta and Surabaya. When choosing the airline, we trust Air Asia and Jetstar the most (we have flown with both several times and cannot say anything negative).

Alternatively, you can also take the ferry from Melaka (Malaysia) to Dumai (Sumatra). However, there are relatively few reports on this. In addition, you can never make the route from Dumai to Bukit Lawang in the same day. Therefore, arriving via Medan Airport is the most common way.

From Airport to Bukit Lawang From Medan Airport you need about 4 hours to Bukit Lawang, depending on the traffic situation. The first half of the route can be covered on a well-paved road. After that the roads get worse and the cars and trucks struggle over the many potholes.

In Bukit Lawang it is common that you not only book the accommodation, but also the jungle tour and the (private) transport booked from Medan and back. Private transportation costs approximately 400. IDR (round trip) and is definitely the most relaxed option. We will tell you more about these packages later in this blog article.

Not everyone opts for such packages and therefore you can of course also use the public one on your own Take bus to Bukit Lawang. To do this, you first take the bus (ALS – Antar Lintas Sumatera) from the airport to Binjai (40. IDR , 2 hours).

In Binjai, walk to Binjai Supermall. There you wait until the bus to Bukit Lawang (PS – Pembangunan Semesta) comes by – it should all 30 drive minutes. The price for this route is 10.000 IDR. (Attention: We have often read that excessive prices are charged here.) It is also important that you start this trip as early as possible, because there are no fixed bus times and it can happen that you miss the last bus from Binjai.

Conclusion: If you are in the mood for adventure, then the bus ride is definitely an experience. However, we rather recommend saving energy for the trek and booking private transportation.

Visa for Indonesia Are you traveling to Medan from another country (e.g. Thailand, Singapore)? Then you have to go through immigration first. Good news: For several years now, thanks to the Visa Free Entry, you can free of charge with an Austrian, German or Swiss passport stay days in Indonesia. We will give you more information in this blog article: Tips for Indonesia.

3. Accommodation in Bukit Lawang: Our tip We wholeheartedly recommend our accommodation: EcoTravel Cottages Bukit Lawang . Not only is the accommodation simply a feel-good place , the tours offered also place great value on responsible, sustainable interaction with nature and animals. A big recommendation!

The EcoTravel Cottages Bukit Lawang are run by a German-Indonesian couple and you feel from the first moment in good hands. The facility is lovingly designed, very clean and the employees are incredibly competent and friendly.

The accommodation is located directly on the Bohorok River – Pure idyll! Our room was on the ground floor and had a very pretty patio with a hammock. Breakfast is included in the price and is extremely tasty. Best of all, you can enjoy it right on the river. We can’t imagine a nicer start to the day.

Information on the combined booking of accommodation & jungle tour Well, most people come to Bukit Lawang to spend a night in the jungle. It is therefore customary to sleep the night before and after in your accommodation in Bukit Lawang – to relax and recharge your batteries, so to speak. You therefore have two options when making a booking:

Variant no. 1: You book one of the packages offered directly on the EcoTravel website. The most popular package with a night in the jungle is called Hello Jungle. The room will be cleared for the night in the jungle, ie you have to pack up your things and they will be safely stowed away.

Variant No. 2: You book one night on Booking.com – you leave the night in between free for your jungle excursion. Personally, we would even advise not just one, but two or three nights after the jungle excursion. Bukit Lawang is so cozy and personally we would have preferred to have had more time. If for any reason (e.g. convenience) you absolutely want to keep your room during the jungle excursion, you can of course also book three nights (or more) at a time. Of course, the costs for the unused night will not be reimbursed to you.

By the way: No matter which variant you choose – in the Gunung Leuser National Park itself there will be a small entrance fee of 150. IDR per person due.

You can book your stay here: EcoTravel Cottages Bukit Lawang

4. Equipment and packing list for the jungle trekking Before we tell you more about the trek, we’ll let you in for a moment some tips for your packing list here. We personally had a backpack with camera equipment and a backpack with equipment (clothing etc.) with us.

Shoes: It is important to have a non-slip sole, because you walk over hill and dale in the jungle. Ankle-high shoes are not necessary. We trusted in our beloved Scarpa shoes – best decision! Clothes: Many guides and travelers go into the jungle with long pants. This protects against branches, thorns and plants. However, we wore something short and didn’t regret it. Since you really sweat a lot, it makes sense to wear clothing that dries as quickly as possible. Take extra clothes with you for the evening at the camp. We really missed our wide, airy trousers when we struggled into our tight jeans. Someone from our group had long pajama bottoms with: Good choice, we think! Thin sleeping bag: Most providers provide quite thick sleeping bags for the trek. Apart from the fact that these are very heavy, we probably would have sweated quite a bit in them. We were already pretty hot in our cotton sleeping bag liner. However, it may well be that this changes depending on the season. It’s best to ask what the temperatures are like. Flashlight: At night it’s pitch black in the middle of the jungle. If you don’t have a mobile phone with a light function, you should take a flashlight with you. Pad or something that can be converted into a pad: In our tent there were inflatable, water wings-like things to disposal. We could never have slept on it. We have converted our robe into a pad, but would have been extremely grateful for a little more comfort. Rain protection: We were lucky and were completely spared the rain when it came here However, once it rains properly, nothing and nobody is spared. So take a rain jacket with you and pack at least one set of clothes in a plastic bag. (EcoTravel will provide you with one.) It would be best if your backpack also had a rain cover. Hand sanitizer: We were grateful to someone one of our tour group had with us. Bug repellent and sunscreen: Don’t worry: when we were there, there were far fewer mosquitoes than we feared. Of course, you should still spray yourself often enough. Flip Fops are very useful during the time in camp. Bikini/bathing trunks and Towel, so you can enjoy the refreshing flow. We had our travel towel with us. What you don’t need: Mosquito net (available in the camp), hiking boots, cosmetics such as shampoo, creams etc. (take up too much space and weight), large and heavy towels.

Your valuables (laptop, money etc.) you can stow away at trustworthy accommodations. At EcoTravel, valuables are kept in a large envelope that is signed by you.

5. The trek in the jungle: itinerary, things worth knowing & experiences The most important thing for a successful trek is the right tour guide. We were incredibly lucky with the guys at EcoTravel Cottages Bukit Lawang and would not hesitate (!) to book another tour with them.

Why choosing a tour guide is so important ? Apart from the fact that the experience is of course great, it is also important that guides behave responsibly. Wrong behavior can be very dangerous for the orangutans.

Responsible behavior in the jungle Orangutans may not be fed! Some guides actually lure orangutans with fruit so tourists can take photos with them. Please never support something like that! Some orangutans (e.g. the ominous Mina) have become so used to it that they become really aggressive by the time they finally get the fruit. In addition, orangutans live in trees and are not usually on the ground. This protects them from their natural enemy, the tiger. Our guides only had fruit with them for emergencies – for example, in case an orangutan got too close. Orangutans must not be attacked under any circumstances! Because orangutan DNA has evolved into 97 percent overlaps with that of us humans, they are incredibly susceptible to disease. That also brings us to the next point: Always keep a sufficient distance to orangutans. As a rule of thumb, approximately 14 Meter. Never go into the jungle without a guide or even alone. Never! In our eyes this goes without saying, but it cannot be stressed enough: Don’t leave any garbage in the jungle.

Procedure & information about the 2-day trek Most travelers (including us) opt for a 2 day trek. This excursion starts quite early in the morning. You hike through the jungle for almost the entire first day. It goes uphill and downhill for several hours. It’s impossible to predict how many orangutans you’ll encounter – we had at least ten in all. Your guides will also show you countless other animals: from insects to birds and other monkeys.

After a few hours the guides will serve you lunch and even fresh fruit in the middle of the jungle. In the afternoon you will reach the camp, which is located on the riverbank and where you will also spend the night. Your guides will prepare the food in the evening and then we will eat together.

The next day there is a trip to a waterfall (at least that’s how it was for us), then you get there with old tires (“Tubing”) back to Bukit Lawang. In the early afternoon we were back in Bukit Lawang.

The 2-day trek is of course just one option of many: There are also multi-day hikes, for example, where you can sometimes go as far as the Banda province Aceh in northern Sumatra is coming. Of course, the experience becomes more intense the longer you stay in the jungle. Many families with small children prefer a trip to the former feeding platform, which is not far from the entrance to Gunung Leuser National Park and after about 20- minutes walk away. So even if you don’t want to sleep in the jungle, you can still see orangutans in Bukit Lawang.

What else you should know Remember that you are going into the jungle and need to lower your inhibitions a bit. You will sweat a lot! The trek is strenuous, especially those stretches that go steeply uphill or downhill. You will encounter dozens of animal species, including flying and crawling ones. Luckily we didn’t have any uninvited guests in our tent, except for one grasshopper. (And if we did, then we didn’t notice them.)

Remember also that there is no toilet: The jungle is your toilet, the flow your shower. The sleeping pads in the tent are padded, but you still sleep on a very hard surface.

When tubing it is best to wear swimwear and a T-shirt and don’t forget to put on some sunscreen. All your belongings, except what you wear on your body, will be packed waterproof with the help of the guides. At Ecotravel, among other things, the plastic bags that were handed out to you in the accommodation are used. Depending on the season, the journey is more leisurely or rather rapid. Either way, you won’t stay dry. So if you want to take photos during tubing, you have to use a waterproof camera (e.g. GoPro).

6. The village of Bukit Lawang Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to get to know the friendly village of Bukit Lawang better. On our next visit (and it will definitely come!) we definitely want to spend a little more time here. Be that as it may: Luckily, a walk along the river worked out. After that it was even harder for us to leave the nice jungle village…

Transparency: Affiliate Links This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!

Have you been to Bukit Lawang in Sumatra and seen orangutans in the wild yourself? Do you have any additions to our tips for trekking in Bukit Lawang? We look forward to your comment!1500