Bukit Lawang -Jungle trekking with wild orang utans

The flight with Lion Air from Padang to Medan was punctual and everything went without problems.

In Medan I wanted to withdrawal money but had some problems with the ATM again. So it took all the time until my driver showed up and I couldn´t buy anything to eat again. He had another passenger with him; a local and both didn´t really speak English. The traffic in Medan is horrible and it took ages to get out of town. Shortly before we left town the driver bought some tempeh on the roadside and shared it with me. Finally some food, I was very happy. We arrived in Bukit Lawang at about 5:30 pm after a pretty bumpy ride. The guesthouse owner Muhdi picked me up at the bus stop and walked with me back to the accommodation. I had a very nice and spacious room with a private bathroom, balcony and a nice view all too myself. There was also a mosquito net over the bed and all for 100 000 Rp. (about 6,25 €).

After refreshing myself I booked the jungle trekking for the next 2 days with the Ida Guesthouse, had dinner and used the WiFi. It was very slow so I couldn´t really do much. Wrote my diary and read a bit before going to bed. The next day I packed the stuff for 2 days in the jungle, brought my luggage down for storage and had breakfast. There were a few more people going on this tour, 3 Dutch (Floor, Gabriel and Tobias) and 4 French (Nathan, Alexandre, Alexandre & Adrien) plus 3 guides. I was a bit disappointed that the group was so large, but at least they were all nice, young and fit people. We started walking through the village over one of the many swinging bridges, past the former education center, through some rubber trees and into the jungle. Our guides explained quite a lot about plants and wildlife and we could also try a few things throughout the day, like termites including their nest, bark from a tree that is supposed to taste like chocolate (it doesn´t!), some leaves,…. After about 1 hour we saw our first Orang Utan. Bukit Lawang is one of the few places in the world where are still wild orang utans. They are protected in the Gunung Leuser National Park; the animals and also the jungle. There are many palm oil plantations in this area which derive the habitat of the orang utans, but in the national park it is forbidden to cut down any trees. It´s quite amazing to see those big apes in their national habitat!

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We stayed a while at this spot to watch before heading on for a bit. The guides prepared our lunch. We had Nasi Goreng and tons of fruit. It was great!

We saw a few more orang utans including a big male who had stolen a water melon from someone having a break. We had to keep a bigger distance to that one than to the smaller apes. We also saw a few other monkeys and animals on our way.

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At about 4 pm we arrived at our camp next to a river. It was very hot and humid and we were all soaking wet only after a few minutes of walking. It didn´t get better with climbing up and down all day. So we were all grateful for being able to jump in the river for a cool down and washing the sweat off.

We also got some tea, coffee and cookies. It started to rain so we hid under the shelter. We did some riddles and magical tricks and played cards. Then we had dinner, again very nice food and lots of fruit as desert. We continued playing for a while. We were all pretty tired though and went to bed quite early. They have mattresses and pillows there and even put up some mosquito nets. The mattresses were almost all broken and basically not existent, so I was lying directly on stones and roots. It was pretty uncomfortable. But I was anyway impressed about the organization and what they had put up there for us as camp.

I didn´t sleep very much so I was quite tired the next morning. It didn´t stop raining all night. But in the morning it had stopped finally. We first got tea, coffee and cookies again and then they surprised us with a great breakfast. We had like sandwich burgers with omelette and cheese and a giant lovely decorated fruit platter. Awesome breakfast in the middle of the jungle.

After breakfast we packed up our stuff, refilled the water bottles with boiled water and first walked through the river for a while before heading uphill steeply again into the jungle. We saw a few more orang utans including Mina and her babies. Mina is a semi wild ape. She used to live in the breeding station for a while and is thus used to humans. She is very aggressive though and we had to be very careful and keep quite a distance. Her offspring was born in the wild and doesn´t behave like that.

Due to the lack of sleep and my arm being hot and swollen from the bee sting the walking and climbing in this humid heat asked a lot from me the second day. I sweated even more than on the first day, if this is even possible. We also had to do more climbing since there where a few landslides due to the first rain of the beginning rain season and we had to get over those parts. I was very happy when we reached a nice waterfall where we had our lunch break and another swim.

From there it was only like 10-15 more minutes to the river where they already waited for us with some big tubes. They put out stuff in big plastic bags that they tied pretty well and off we went down the river on the tubes to end exactly before the Ida Guesthouse. Totally soaked, but super happy.

I can absolutely recommend this trip. Seeing the orang utans is amazing, walking through and learning about the jungle and its inhabitants and plants is super interesting, the trekking itself is very strenuous but also fun and challenging, the food is great and the whole thing is just one big adventure. I checked in into my room (another smaller one this time, but same price), had a long shower and put on some dry clothes finally. I handed in my laundry, decided to stay one night longer than intended, had dinner, spend some time on the computer and went to bed. The next day I just chilled. I slept in, got a massage, walked around the village a bit taking pictures, cleaned my shoes local style in the river, bought some snacks and a T-shirt and gave Muhdi my Jungle pics when he asked me for them.

I was a bit disappointed though that he didn´t even have the decency to offer me at least a free tea or something for it. He uses those pics for advertising his tours and might even sell some of them, but doesn´t want to pay. I didn´t expect any money, but at least a gesture would have been nice. Well, sometimes I am just too nice… The next morning I had to get up early in order to catch my bus to Berastagi. I should have been picked up at 8. At 8:25 finally someone showed up but only to bring me to the street and let me wait for another 20 minutes. The bus was pretty full with 6 passengers. The driver was quite unfriendly, hardly spoke any English, drove in a way that made me feel like we would never arrive in one piece (there is crazy traffic in this country, but so far I always felt safe with any driver I had no matter if car or motor bike, not with this guy though!) or one of the many motorcyclists he cut off or almost run over would die on the way, stopped several times for quite long without any apparent reason (and he wouldn´t tell us) and he had no idea where he was going. It took until 3.30 pm until I was finally in Berastagi, so 7 hours instead of the usual 4.5 to 5. Around Bukit Lawang we passed man many palm oil plantations. It´s so sad to see! Everything is full of palm trees in line and order, no natural forest anymore. The deforestation due to these plantations derives so many animals of their natural habitat and leads to the extinction of many animals and plants. Plus the deforestation has a huge effect on the climate. IMAG2368 (FILEminimizer)What´s even worse, is that most of those plantations don´t even belong to locals who would earn money with it. No, it´s foreign companies – around Bukit Lawang an English one – who owns all this. The locals only profit maximum in earning a low wage working on the plantation. Humans definitely need to change their way and get away from this profit only no matter how bad for the nature thinking.

Anyway, apart from the palm oil plantations Bukit Lawang is a great place. The village is very chilled and relaxed and perfect to calm down and take a breath. The people are very friendly, the jungle trekking is just amazing and the hostel is nice and cheap. I don´t know how it looks like in high season though, probably quite different. But in low season it´s great. I can definitely recommend going there.


  1. Great post and stunning photos. I spent a couple of weeks touring Sumatra a few years ago, it’s an amazing place. We saw the orang utans in the wild and our eco lodge had its own resident, named Abdul! Some great memories that I should get round to writing about. Good luck with your travels.


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