The Ultimate Guide
History of Bukit Lawang as Rehabilitation Center
In 1972 a Swiss based organisation initiated Bukit Lawang as the center for orangutan rehabilitation. Its main purpose was to preserve the decreasing population of orangutans due to hunting, trading and deforestation.
In the rehabilitation phase, rangers taught survival skills to the rehabilitating orangutans. Thereafter, the orangutan was released to their natural habit for reintegration. However, the orangutans that have been released in this area are still being monitored by the rangers.
Over the course of time Bukit Lawang became increasingly visited by tourists, and consequently the orangutans were increasingly exposed to human interaction. Unaware visitors touched and fed orangutans, which made the orangutans sick, food poisoned, and dependent to humans, and which jeapordized the objectives of the rehabilitation center.
The rehabilitation centre closed in 2002 as the place got too crowded and unsuitable for animal rehabilitation, but the role of Bukit Lawang as the centre of ecotourism to see the semi-wild orangutan keeps going on until now. In order to minimise the human impact on orangutans, local guides explain to travellers why it is forbidden to get near or feed orangutans.
What to do in Bukit Lawang
The must-do activity around is the Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek in Gunung Leuser National Park. You will be trekking through the jungle, spot orangutans and other animals, and stay overnight in jungle camps. We recommend to do at least a 2D1N Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek to experience a magical night in the jungle. However, visitors enjoy the 3D2N Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek even more because of the full day in the jungle. For trek lovers with more time, we also offer longer jungle treks to get deeper into the jungle.
Day-to-day-itineraries for all Orangutan Treks
(for the itineraries, click on the tab above the image slider)
Below is the day-to-day itinerary of the 3D2N Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek.
Itinerary for 3D2N Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek
Day 1: Start in Bukit Lawang: All-Day Jungle Trek
We start around 8-9 a.m. after breakfast at your hotel. We walk for around 6-7 hours into the Gunung-Leuser National Park and will along the way see a lot of wildlife, such gibbons, leaf monkeys, longtail and pigtail macaques, flying squirrels, Sumatran peacocks, hornbills and of course orangutans.
Our guide will show some natural medicinal plants and explain how to use them in practice. After a nice lunch in the afternoon, we continue towards our campsite where we will rest, get a hot drink and take a refreshing jungle bath in the clean stream.
We will end our day at dark with a well-deserved diner at the camp fire!
Day 2: All-Day Jungle Trek
Waking up in the middle of the jungle is a magical feeling. You hear the morning sounds of the birds and the excitement of the gibbons in the distance as you breath the fresh air.
After a good breakfast, we get ready to leave the camp and walk for 5 to 6 hours in the jungle towards another camp site (usually “Aras Pinang”). Along the way, we enjoy the nature and wildlife, try all sorts of ‘jungle-food’ and how to recognize them and use them. We have lunch in the jungle somewhere half-way.
At the camp we can relax and swim in a clean jungle river. We end the day with dinner at campfire.
Day 3 – Return with Rubber Tube Raft
The following morning you can choose to either do a short jungle trek or to simply relax at the campsite.
After lunch we head back to Bukit Lawang with a exciting tube raft on the river through the jungle! Alternatively, we can return by foot (depending on your personal wish or for safety reasons)!
How difficult is the orangutan Jungle Trek
The jungle treks in Bukit Lawang is done by people from all ages, ranging from solo traveller’s in their 20st, to families with young children and elderly people.
The regular all-day treks take 6/7 hours with breaks in between, and the terrain is relatively easy with here and there some odd small climb. The guides tailor the trek as well as the speed to the wishes and abilities of the clients. Fit travellers may get a more challenging route with more climbs, while families with young children will do some short cuts and have more breaks with more time spent on explaining the animals, insects and the medicinal properties of the plants on route.
The jungle is relatively dry and therefore the humidity is less of an issue than in rain forests elsewhere in Indonesia.
When you book your Bukit Lawang Jungle trekking, just inform your guide of your fitness and make sure that they will adjust the itinerary to your abilities. If you book your Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking with Local Guides, you can just mention your wishes in the online booking form and we will tailor the itinerary, accordingly. We will always discuss the itinerary also just before we start the jungle trek so that we can accommodate any wishes up to the very last moment.
Is the Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking safe with children
The Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking can be tailored to wishes and abilities of visitors. In our experience, kids are among the people that enjoy the jungle trek the most. While Local Guides pays special attention to families with kids already by default, in case you book the tour with anyone else, ask the guide for the following arrangements for a carefree and enjoyable time with your kids:
- Ask for a private tour to make it easy to tailor the trek length and speed to the abilities of the children
- Ask for extra breaks for the kids to play around and rest a bit during the trek
- While kids are excited to see Orangutans, they are also excited to learn about all the insects. So ask the guide to also talk about the insects (or medicinal properties of plants) – kids love that!
- Ask your guide to choose an easy path
How are the jungle camps?
There are several different jungle camps in the Gunung Leuser Nation Park where one can have an overnight as part of the jungle trek. They are all situated next to the Bohorok river, so you can have a fresh bath at the jungle camps.
However, beware that the camping here is not glamorous! While you sleep under mosquito nets against insects, the mattresses are thin. The toilet is a simple squat toilet. So this tour is not for the glamorous traveller.
Instead, expect fun, adventure and a back-to-nature experience! You’ll never forget your night sleeping in the lush jungle, and waking up with the morning sounds of the monkeys and birds!
How is the food
In contrast to the jungle camps, the meals are of relatively good quality. All meals are freshly prepared; at Local Guides, we even send a private cook with you to the jungle.
- For breakfast, there are typically banana pancakes and tea.
- For snacks, there are a lot of fresh fruits to choose from ranging from pineapple, oranges, mangoes to passion fruit and melons.
- In the evenings, there are several options to choose from ranging from tasty chicken dishes, a traditional Sumatran fish casserole, vegetable dishes, with fried potato or rice, and with – of course – fresh fruit. Throughout the evenings, you can take biscuits, tea or water.
In case you have any dietary restrictions, just inform your guide about it in advance so that they can accommodate for when doing the shopping.
How to get to Bukit Lawang
Fly to Medan. The gateway to Bukit Lawang is the Medan, Sumatra. Fly to Kuala Namu International Airport in Medan. From Medan it is ±3/4 hours driving to Bukit Lawang.
By Local Bus (budget travellers). Most local buses to Bukit Lawang leave from a terminal at Kampung Lalang, on the outskirts of Medan. Local buses can get you here for around 6,000 Rupiah, but you may need to learn a bit of Bahasa Indonesia to survive! From Kampung Lalang, a minibus to Bukit Lawang will cost ±30,000 Rupiah per person, and the journey will take 4-5 hours. Be prepared for a lot of Indonesian music being played by the driver! Last bus to Bukit Lawang leaves at 17.30hrs.
By Luxury Bus. A more luxury option is to take a tourist bus to Bukit Lawang. These depart from near the Grand Mosque in Medan and they are relatively good quality buses (by Sumatran standards) that don’t break down as often as the minibuses. The price for a bus ticket is ±100,000 Rupiah.
Private Transfer (Recommended Option). The most comfortable and fastest way to get from Medan to Bukit Lawang is by taxi. You won’t have any hassle of finding the bus terminal and are not restricted to the timetable. If you do a Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking with us, you can book the private transfer directly with us for a price 600.000 IDR for up to 5 people. You can be picked up at your hotel or airport in Medan.
Where to stay in Bukit Lawang
A recommended accommodation in Bukit Lawang is Ecolodge . It is a beautiful facility and it also donates parts of the proceeds to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.
Another recommended accommodation is Sam’s Bungalow .
What is the best period to visit Bukit Lawang
Orangutans can be seen all year round as part of a jungle trek from Bukit Lawang.
From a weather point of view, the best period to visit Bukit Lawang is in dry season in the period April – September. The busiest period is July – August.
The wettest period is December – January: There are still mostly periods with sunshine but also frequent heavy rain falls typically at the end of the afternoon.
The shoulder periods October-November and February-March are quite good periods to visit Bukit Lawang as well. While there are rain falls in this period, these last just for a few minutes. Also there are very little tourists in this period, so it will feel as if you have the village and the Gunung Leuser National Park all for yourself!
Is Bukit Lawang a Touristic Destination
Over the past few years, Bukit Lawang has seen the number of visitors rise significantly. Together with Lake Toba, Bukit Lawang is considered the touristic hotspot of North-Sumatra. However, it is still a small village, with plenty of locals not living from the tourist sector, and compared to other places such as Bali, Flores or the Gili islands, the village feels still authentic and during the day it is easy to chat with friendly locals.
Also during the day most people are trekking in the jungle and you can relax in the beautiful village almost on your own or chat with the friendly locals. But during the main season from May to August it is likely that you will encounter other groups during the jungle trek. At Local Guides, we do our best to avoid the mass also during high season.
Do Not Feed Orangutans & Respect the Environment
Feeding orangutans is an absolute no-go. All our clients are instructed to treat orangutans respectfully, keep a safe distance, do not touch them, and do not feed them. The orangutans are wild, and should be treated accordingly.
Feeding orangutans may at first sight seem innocent or even a kind gesture, but it will make them aggressive towards humans, lazy to find their own food, or even sick.
We believe it is our responsibility to respect nature and educate our clients about the fragility of it. And we know that travellers will treat our jungle with the same respect once they understand the environmental consequences of our behavior.
Also, please always make sure you do not throw anything away in the jungle. Our guides will pick-up the rubbish they will see along the way and therefore the jungle is still very clean despite the number of visitors, but our goal is to further increase awareness and sense of responsibility among all visitors so that there wouldn’t be any rubbish to pick up at all:-)
What to bring for your Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking
- comfortable/closed shoes for the trek
- sandals or flip-flops for walking in the river
- light trousers and shirts with long sleeves
- insect repellent (DEET 40%)
- small backpack for the trek
- mobile charger for your electronic devices
Where to go after Bukit Lawang
A popular combination of destinations in North Sumatra is Bukit Lawang, Tongkahan, Berastagi, Lake Toba.
Tangkahan is ±2 hours away from Bukit Lawang by car and is known for its elephant sanctuary where visitors can wash elephants and do elephant trekking.
The popular activity in Berastagi is climbing the volcanic mount Gunung Sibayak. Especially the sunrise volcano trek is a beautiful and satisfying activity. The climb is easy and takes ±2 hours; other activities include visiting traditional villages, natural hot tubs or the famous Berastagi market. It is ±5 hours driving from Bukit Lawang.
Lake Toba has been formed by a super volcanic eruption ±70.000 years ago. In the heart of the lake the idyllic Samosir Island is located which is the place to be around Lake Toba. In addition to the pristine scenery and serenity, you can learn here about the local Batak Culture, relax at the beach, explore the island by motor bike or play with the friendly and curious children.
- Day-to-day-itineraries for North Sumatra tour packages
(for the itineraries, click on the tab Sumatra Tours above the image slider)
- Prices & Availabilities are found on the online booking form