Gunung Leuser National Park, see wild Orangutan

#Orangutan #ape #monkey #indonesia #sumatra #bukit_lawang

Orangutan the great ape that shares 96.4% of the same DNA as the human.
If you want to get close up with Orangutan in their natural habit, Gunung Leuser National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia its the place to go.

In 1973, a Swiss organization set up an Orangutan rehabilitation center in Bukit Lawang and in 2004 the National Park got enlisted on the UNESCO World Heritage.

These days the park is home to Orangutan, Sumatran elephant, Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros, Siamang, mainland Serow, Sambar deer and leopard cat.

You are more or less guaranteed to the Orangutan, and-and there’s a very small change to see the other, wild animals if you do a longer trek into to the rain forest and sleep there overnight.

Orangutan mother and baby on the feeding station.

To see the Orangutan you got two options, you can either visit the feeding platforms, where the semi-wild Orangutang that has been rehabilitated.
Feedings are daily at 08:00 and 15:00.
Attending the feeding costs  150,000IDR.

Or you can trek into to rain forest with a guide (a guide is required since its very easy to get lost in the forest) But be careful with your choice of guide, the guide I hired, was useless, he had no idea about any of the plants, trees in the Jungle, he was just walking around listening to music from his phone without headphones, so I’m still surprised we manage to see any wild Orangutan.

Bukit Lawang itself is one of the most relaxed places I have ever been, everything is so laid back and easy going there, when your not out looking for Orangutan your either tubing down the river or just relaxing in a hammock next to the river. And for lunch, you will enjoy some fresh fruit straight from the jungle around the river.

Fresh fruit plates for breakfast, lunch and dinner for less the 3USD.

But back to the Orangutan, if you were gone see the Orangutan at the feeding platforms I recommend you to do it during the early feeding season, since the later one often get very crowded with domestic tourists, visiting from Medan.

Mum and baby Orangutan in the wild.

If you’re into photography, there’s a big change your best photos will be from the feeding station since your able to get closer to the Orangutan.
But you should defiantly do the rainforest hike to and see the Orangutang in their natural habitat.

The trek trough the rainforest starts literally 5min from Bukit Lawang, its start just behind some of the guesthouses and begins with a steep climb.

The hike itself is great, its pretty easy but also very humid, so be sure to bring a lot of drinking water.
Unfortunately, my trek around the rain forest got a bit ruined by the guide, we did manage to 4 Orangutan in the wild, but we didn’t see a single another animal. Why? because my guide was walking around listening to loud music from his phone, the change of seeing other animals are quite small, but this didn’t help much at least.

An Orangutan is hanging there with a watermelon piece that some tourist gave her

Also, be sure to be in a small group when walking around the rainforest, we came across a few backpacker groups that were more than 20 people in the group, Young backpackers with a pre-booked tour trough a European travel agency.
They didn’t see any wild Orangutang at all, they were more much interesting in taking selfies, and drinking the vodka they had brought with them. Idiots.

Additional info about Bukit Lawang.

The only way to get to Bukit Lawang is to go trough Medan,

Medan the fourth biggest city in Indonesia and often called the worst city in Asia by backpackers.
Overall, Medan isn’t really a tourist destination, it lack good backpacker accommodation, its warm and polluted and doesn’t have any sights that apply to travelers, but it’s still a convenient stopover place on your way around Sumatra, it got some big international shopping malls, so if you do need to buy or fix anything, this is the place to do it.

How to get there:

Medan can easily be reached by air with direct flights from all the big city´s in South East Asia, with Air Asia flying from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, and Jetstar flying from a few other Asian cities.

From the airport in Medan, take a taxi to Pinang Baris bus station about 1km from the Main bus station. From Pinang Baris you can take a shared minivan to Bukit Lawang for around 15 – 20 000IDR, have to bargain.

There’s also a lot of travel agency offering air-con cars to Bukit Lawang for around 200 000 – 250 000IDR.

The road from Medan to Bukit Lawang is not too bad, and the trip should take about 3hours.

There’s ONE minivan a day from Bukit Lawang to Lake Toba a day if enough people.

There´s also at least 4 minivans leaving Bukit Lawang every day for Medan.



The «best» accommodation in Medan is around the grand mosque, just across the big shopping mall.

Hotel Residence, next to the grand mosque a decent backpacking guesthouse from 70 000IDR

Hotel Zakia. Also next to the mosque, not the cleanest but cheap. From 50 000IDR

Sultan Homestay. Next to Hotel Zakia. Cleanish and friendly staff. From 70 000IDR for single room got free Wifi and helpful staff. Probably the best option.

All the 3 guesthouses are less than 5min from each other so it’s a good idea to check out all off them. Across the streets there a Mcdonalds and a decent supermarket in the basement of the mall.

There’s also a travel agency across the street that offer a private air-con car to Bukit Lawang and other destinations in Sumatra.

Bukit Lawang.

When arriving in Bukit Lawang you have to walk about 5min from where the minivan/car drops you off.
Walk trough the tiny market, you can either continue walking north to the feeding station or across the high suspension bridge

There’s accommodation «everywhere» the closer you get to the feeding station you get, the more relaxed and peaceful it gets. It’s absolutely no problem to find a place to stay, I’ll recommend you to check out a few.

All guesthouses have a small restaurant and offer guided tours in the jungle.

Prices range from 25 000IDR for basic room to 200 000IDR for a great room

Wisma Bukit Lawang Indah: Cheap room, with western toilet, bucket shower and mosquito net around the bed, from 40 000IDR


There’s NO ATM in Bukit Lawang, so be sure you bring enough from Medan. There’s an ATM that accepts MasterCard about 7km away, but it was empty when I was there, and the locals said it rarely work.

The closest ATM that accepts visa is 60km away and will take around 4hours round trip with a motorbike taxi. It will also set you back 350 000 – 400 000IDR.

So remember to bring enough cash!!

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  1. Hi Chris, thanks for this post. I loved Bukit Lawang and trekking for Orang Utans. However, I would not recommend visitors to go to the feeding platform. It seems the feeding is a dangerous tourist attractions that keeps the apes close to the village. Several accidents occurred due to this behavior in the last years with Orang Utans being killed by farmers. Also, since these Orang Utans stay close “guides” bring tourists into the jungle and lure the apes from the trees with fruits and sometimes even sweets. Don’t forget, Orang Utans are pretty strong and even accidents happened. But worse, the food makes them sick and several apes died because of it. I was lucky and found a great guide, Doni Pesik, who took us deep into the forrest, cooked the best food, knew everything about the nature and kept us from being too close to the animals. He also asked us to not stay longer than 30min close to the Orang Utans so they don’t get stressed. If anyone needs his contact please ping me.

    1. Hi Robin, we still have time until we will go (September 2016), but started to do a Little Research on things.. If you would have the contact from your guide, we would really appreciate that. Thanks in advance.

        1. Hi Robin,
          thank you so much for your quick help. I saved his contacts in our “Route 16” Folder 🙂
          And I will tell him “hi” for sure.
          Have a good day. Meksi

  2. Hi. I totaly agree that visitors should stay away from the feeding platfroms, but unfortunately some tourist are not able to do the hike into the rainforest, i meet a few old western tourist that wast able to do the hike because their age/physical fitness level.

    Unfortunately alot of the guides in Bukit Lawang, is not suited to be guide, and even worse are the guides that not based in Bukit L, we passed a few groups from Bali that had prebooked the guide and everything from back in Europe/America/Oz, those people should have been shoot on sight, they where feeding chips,cakes and shit to the Orangutans in the rain forrest, and their guide was encourage the western tourist to do so.

  3. Being very familiar with Bukit Lawang, I agree choosing carefully your guide for the trek is very important. There are so many self-proclaimed guides around who just don’t have a clue and no respect for the fauna / flora. It seems unbelievable that some tourists behave as if in a zoo as well. Anyway, thanks for the post.

  4. beautiful guide chris about something I always wanted to do! though i am undecided if i shouldn’t put gorillas in Uganda first… 😛

    btw… I can’t pin any imagies on your blog by right clicking (the way most ppl do) and when I finally find the pin it button…well the description of the image is a bit off! Might want to fix that 😉 Good for social shares and good for Google (SEO) as well 🙂

    1. Hi Norman, just did the Gorilla trekking, it was amazing, but a completely different experience: First of all, it’s only a few hours. Second, it costs 600-750$ to get the permit, depending on the location. But you get extremely close and you will contribute to keep these creatures alive. But it’s not an adventure as you can have in Gunung Leuser, where you can stay for nights in the jungle, sleep under the stars, learn about the environment. It’s also significantly cheaper. But as said before, many guides exploit the forest and the Orang Utans and more and more “cheap” tourists head to Bukit Lawang. If you have specific questions drop me an email.

    2. Hii.

      I would put the Gorillas in Uganda first, i did Gorilla trek in Gabon some years ago, and to be honest it was much more exciting then seeing Orangutans, but seeing Orangutans are MUCH MUCH cheaper and accessible.

      Thanks for letting me know about the right click problem, i think i have fixed the issue now:)

      I will change the description, Thank you:)

  5. Orangutans are magical! It’s a great time to just sit and watch them. We have seen them in the two only places in the world to see them in the wild and like i said before magical.

  6. My bucket list is getting sooooo big, heading off to Borneo both Sabah and Sarawak in July to see the “old man of the Jungle”.. Haven’t been to this part of Indonesia looks like a must.

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