Bukit Lawang and Gunung Leuser national park
pictures of orangutans, jungle trekking, getting there
Tragically, a massive
hit the town of Bukit Lawang during November 2003. The national park is open again to visitors.
Many people come to Bukit Lawang to see Orangutans at the nearby rehabilitation
centre. Bukit Lawang is also a good base for jungle treks into the Gunung Leuser national park.
Photos of orangutans at Bukit Lawang and Leuser national park. © Imtiaz Dharssi
The tourist town of Bukit Lawang is the main access point for the magnificent rainforest of the Gunung Leuser national park, covering an area of about 8,000 sq km. The park's extensive range of wildlife includes orangutans, gibbons, tapirs, elephants, tigers and rhinos. The park contains over 380 species of birds, notably the hornbills and argus pheasant, the largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia, and the tallest flower in the world, Amorophophallus.
Up-stream of Bukit Lawang is the Orangutan rehabilitation centre where young orphaned orangutans are taught to live in the wild. Twice-daily the young orangutans are fed a ration of bananas and milk. Tourists are only allowed to visit the rehabilitation
centre during feeding times, currently at 8.00 am and 3.00 pm. A permit, valid one day, must be obtained from the PHPA office at Bukit Lawang, before visiting the rehabilitation
To reach the rehabilitation centre from Bukit Lawang requires a 2 km walk along the river followed by a river crossing in a dugout canoe and a short climb along a steep muddy trail through the jungle.
Travel tips for Bukit Lawang
- Location of Bukit Lawang: Northern Sumatra, nearest city is Medan. Bukit Lawang is situated about 80 km to the north-west of Medan.
- Getting to Bukit Lawang: There are frequent public mini-buses from Pinang Baris bus station, Medan (2 hour journey). Tourist mini-buses are also available, these will pick you up from your hotel but only run twice a day and are much more expensive than public mini-buses.
Don't take the public bus as this will double the journey time.
- Access to gunung Leuser national park: Provided you are accompanied by a licensed guide you can go trekking
(walking) into the national park
whenever you like, wherever you like for as long as you like. You also need a permit but this is just a
formality to obtain. Guides tout for business at all the guesthouses, prices are negotiable.
- Accommodation: Lots of guesthouses dotted along the Bohorok river, upstream places have cleaner water.
- Food: Mostly disappointing, a few restaurants are better than the rest.
- Costs: Cheap. During 1999, a room with attached bathroom (no hot water), TV and fridge cost Rp30,000 per day. Meals cost between Rp10,000 to Rp20,000. A journey on a tourist mini-buses from Medan to Bukit Lawang cost Rp12,000, public mini-buses charge Rp3,000.
- Other activities: A popular activity is tube rafting down the rapids of the Bohorok river. Lots of places hire out the
inner tubes. If it has been raining heavily than the river becomes swollen, this makes rafting
very exciting and also very dangerous. I can vouch for this from personal experience.
- Warning: Don't carry a bag with you when visiting the orangutan rehabilitation
centre. The park wardens use
shoulder bags to carry the food to feed the orangutans. An orangutan may assume that your bag
contains food and snatch the bag from you. Orangutans are much stronger than humans and also bite.
Good Points about Bukit Lawang
- Good chance to see orangutan in the jungle and at the rehabilitation centre.
- Go jungle trekking.
Bad Points about Bukit Lawang
- The sky is often overcast (cloudy) and it can rain a lot.
Berastagi and Karo highlands
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