Big male orangutan walking through the trees

Tips on the Orangutan Jungle Trek in Bukit Lawang

This post was last updated on May 20th, 2020 at 09:06 am


For travelers who love natural beauty and spotting wildlife, Bukit Lawang is a true paradise on earth. The region is known for its great biodiversity. Here, you’ll find wild rhinoceroses, tapirs, elephants, tigers, and leopards. But the park is mainly known for its great apes; the orangutans. One of the best things to do here is a jungle trek in Bukit Lawang.

 

Tips For Jungle Trekking in Bukit Lawang

Gunung Leuser National Park is the only place in the world where you can still see orangutans in the wild. This is the main reason for travelers to go on a jungle trek in Bukit Lawang.

 

If you want to see the orangutans or “the people of the forest”, in their natural habitat, a jungle trek in Bukit Lawang is a must-do.

 

Bukit Lawang is a great place in Sumatra. It is located in the middle of the jungle and the atmosphere is relaxed. You can relax in one of the many restaurants on the river and it is the ideal place before you start your trek through the jungle.

 

Our Opinion on the Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek

Seeing orangutans in the wild has been on our to-do list for years, but this particular jungle trek has surpassed every expectation. Due to the great biodiversity, it is impossible not to see wildlife during the trek. You are constantly surrounded by the most diverse fauna. The trees and plants in the rugged jungle are breathtaking!

 

This is truly the most beautiful trek we have ever done! Both in terms of views, and the diversity and amount of animals we have seen! If you love nature and wildlife, a jungle trek in Bukit Lawang should be at the top of your (bucket) list.

 

Orange Orangutan in the green leaves of the jungle

 

The Jungle Trek From Day to Day

Because it is often difficult to estimate what to expect during a jungle trek, we have written out our experience of the 4-day jungle trek in Bukit Lawang. It’s good to know what awaits you!

 

Day 1 ➜ From Bukit Lawang to Camp 1

The trek started at 9:00 a.m. from Bukit Lawang. The first day does not include breakfast, so it is advisable to have a hearty meal before starting the trek. On departure, you will meet the guide who will take you into the jungle.

 

After a 20-minute walk from Bukit Lawang, you will leave the beaten track and walk straight into the jungle. The start of the trek is equally strong, as you have to cross a large mountain peak. Due to the heat in combination with the high humidity, there will be plenty of sweating!

 

First Encounter with the Orangutans

Once over the first ridge, the guide searches for orangutans and other animals. The first orangutans were found quite quickly so we couldn’t believe our luck! We quietly followed the orangutans (mother with her son) who walked on the ground looking for food.

 

When the little orangutan was tired of looking for food, he decided he wanted to play with a tourist. Suddenly he takes one of our group members’ leg for a big hug. Now we have always wanted to see these magical animals up close in the wild, but this was a bit too much.

 

When the little rascal tried to sink his teeth into the leg, it was time to expertly remove the orangutan.

 

This is not easy because an orangutan is about 6 times stronger than an adult male. Fortunately, we got his arms free and the orangutan went his own way again.

 

TIP – Always keep enough distance from the orangutans. They are faster than you think!

 

Orangutan in the jungle of Bukit Lawang in Sumatra

 

Lunch with More Monkeys

After the first close encounter (a bit too close) with the orangutans, we continued our way in the park. Soon a family of white gibbons passed by high up in the trees. The appearance of the oh-so agile gibbons is beautiful when they swing through the treetops at lightning speed.

 

In the meantime, we had walked through the jungle for a few hours and it was time for lunch. We decided to sit on a tree root to have our nasi goreng here.

 

This quickly caught the attention of a male macaque, who clearly had a taste for nasi goreng and the accompanying fruit.

 

When the macaque came stomping at us from the bushes, the guide said very comfortingly; “He’s just showing off he doesn’t do anything …”. So, pounding macaques don’t bite. After this, we quickly ate our lunch without losing sight of the macaque.

 

On to Camp 1

After lunch, the journey slowly started to the first camp of the jungle trek through Bukit Lawang. We heard from another guide that an orangutan mother with her baby was nearby, so we would still make a small detour on the way to the camp.

 

Once we arrived at the first camp, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Even in the camp, it was full of animals. For example, a lizard of about 1.5 meters walked through the camp and three different types of monkeys were present.

 

As if this wasn’t crazy enough, the orangutan mother with her baby had decided to build her nest in one of the trees in the camp. Something that happens very rarely, according to the guide.

 

While our chef pulled off the most delicious dishes in his big pan, we were completely ecstatic about what we had seen on the first day in Gunung Leuser National Park.

 

Green forest of the jungle at Bukit Lawang
The gorgeous green jungle at Bukit Lawang

 

Day 2 ➜ Looking for Gibbons!

After a night full of jungle sounds, we woke up early again for our second day. After a short shower in the river and a delicious jungle sandwich, we were ready for the next adventure.

 

The guide told which route he had in mind and asked us whether we agreed. The chance to see gibbons was the greatest on this route, he said, but it would be a tough climb.

 

With this warning in mind, we naturally decided to go for the tough climb with the chance of spotting gibbons.

 

TIP – Sturdy shoes are useful! Also, bring enough dry socks.

 

The Grumpy Orangutan

It is quite a steep climb in the first part but the view above is definitely worth it! When we descended into the jungle again, we met another group that had seen a special orangutan; Mina.

 

Mina is the most famous orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park because she is known for taking tolls (in the form of fruit) from groups of tourists.

 

If she doesn’t get this, she often becomes aggressive and attacks people. Because the orangutans may not be fed, this sometimes causes problems. Now it may not be the most sensible idea, but we still felt we couldn’t skip the most famous orangutan. So… on to meet Mina!

 

We received a brief explanation of how to behave when Mina came our way and continued our walk. Soon people from another group ran to meet us on the run from Mina.

 

Very carefully we approached Mina, who (luckily) was in a tree at the time. When Mina slowly started to climb out of the tree, we thought we’d seen enough and got out of her area (at a slightly faster pace than we were used to).

 

On to the Gibbons

But the mission of the day was still to see the siamang gibbons so we moved on to the next ridge! After another steep climb, they were finally there! A family consisting of a father, mother, and a little one was in the treetops.

 

Once they got their sights on us they climbed down out of curiosity which made them really visible at just a few meters away.

 

When the gibbons had looked at us and disappeared into the treetops again, it was time for the last descent of the day. The guide noted that it was going to rain soon and that the trails could get quite slippery.

 

From this followed a small sprint to the camp where we could enjoy coffee, tea, and the dishes of our jungle cook again.

 

Black Gibbon in the jungle of Indonesia

 

Day 3 ➜ From Camp 1 to Camp 3

Because we skipped camp two, the third day became a busy day. After all, we had to reach the third camp from camp one. We were given the choice of whether we wanted to take the long (more flat) or the short (steep) route.

 

Since walking through the jungle is quite intensive and we had already spent two full days on it, we chose the short and steep route.

 

Finally in Camp 3

After about 5 hours of climbing and scrambling (and here and there witnessing an orangutan) we finally heard the familiar sound of the big river again. Camp three couldn’t be that far anymore! Meanwhile, muscle pain is present on all sides, so we are happy that we have arrived in camp three.

 

You would think that after these three days the surprise is gone when you see animals in the wilderness, but nothing could be further from the truth. From the camp we calmly watch a troop of monkeys jumping from the tree into the river and a monitor lizard trying to catch them. What a life!

 

This night, however, we still get a tropical downpour on our roof. It was as if the Niagara waterfall was above our cabin! Miraculously our cabin didn’t seem to budge and withstood the amount of water with ease!

 

TIP – Bring plastic bags for your wet clothes!

 

Orangutan sitting and watching near the water in the Gunung Leuser National Park

 

Day 4 ➜ Back to Bukit Lawang (Optional)

We chose a 4-day trek, but the standard tour is 3 days. You’ll see plenty of amazing things in just 3 days.

 

The fourth day was the last day of the jungle trek in Bukit Lawang. After three majestic days in the jungle, it was time to return to civilization in Bukit Lawang. After some coffee and a delicious banana pancake, it was time for some tubing!

 

The walk back to Bukit Lawang would take another day, so there is an option to go back on a tube.

 

These are some tied together tractor tires that will take you down the river until you are back in Bukit Lawang. Instead of a day’s walk, you are back in civilization in about an hour this way.

 

The guides are on the front and back to make sure you don’t hit the rocks and so you float back to the point where it all started under loud singing!

 

TIP – If you want to go tubing, bring a dry bag!

 

Nasi Goreng in a bundle of leaves during a jungle trek
Time for a snack! Fried rice wrapped in a banana leaf

 

How to Get to Butik Lawang

Bukit Lawang is the main gateway to the Gunung Leuser National Park. From here you can book tours to the park. Bukit Lawang is easiest to reach from Medan.

 

From Medan to Bukit Lawang

Medan has an airport and is accessible from all over Indonesia and even Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. From the airport, you can take the bus or minivan to Binjai (50,000 IDR). From here, large buses or minivans go to Bukit Lawang.

 

Prices may vary but assume 30,000 IDR (around US$2) for the big bus (less frequent) and 100,000 IDR (around US$6.70) for the small minivans.

 

TIP – Read all our tips about Bukit Lawang.

 

How and Where to Book a Tour

To see the orangutans in the wild you must book a tour as you are not allowed to enter the park unaccompanied. This is possible in Bukit Lawang, but chances are that most of them are full. Especially in the high season.

 

Good Guides

All organizations use local certified guides. These have to go through years of training so that they are familiar with all the plants and animals that appear in the park. They also receive training in dealing with different orangutans.

 

For example, the guides know how to handle Mina (the aggressive orangutan).

 

Booking Options

We were so enthusiastic about this jungle trek that we immediately contacted an operator to see if it’s possible to offer this tour. We believe that travel happiness should be shared.

 

And this trek definitely contributes to your travel happiness. We’re convinced of that. That is why we can now offer this super cool trek via Viator!

 

We have walked this trek and can say from our own experience how unique this experience is. At Akisoto we want to share the happiness of traveling and so you can recently book the orangutan jungle trek through us.

 

A 3-day tour costs US$259 per person. That’s a lot of money, but we guarantee you will never forget this tour!

  • Book one of the most unique experiences in Indonesia.
  • Spot the orangutans in the wild.
  • Take this adventure with professional, trained, and certified guides.
  • Trek for 3 days through the pristine rainforest of Sumatra.
  • This tour includes English speaking guides, entrance fees, camping equipment, and food.
  • Pay safely and quickly via Akisoto.com.

 

What Does the Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek Cost?

Actually there is no price to attach to this unforgettable experience, but here is an overview of what a jungle trek should cost.

 

The prices are as followed:

  • Two days jungle track US$150 per person
  • Three days jungle track US$259 per person
  • Four days jungle track US$320 per person

 

There is an additional fee of US$10 per person if you want to use the tubes so you don’t have to walk back. Also, a minimum of 3 people is required for the tour. You can also go with two people, but often you pay more to cover the costs.

 

 

What Do You Need to Bring?

We recommend bringing as little as possible. You are walking all day so a heavy bag on your back is not very pleasant. In addition, many things are also included in the jungle trek in the Bukit Lawang tour.

 

The following is included in the price:

  • A guide and a cook who both speak English.
  • A tent including a mosquito net and sleeping mat for the nights.
  • Breakfast (except the first day), lunch, and dinner.
  • Snacks for on the go.
  • Coffee, tea, and biscuits upon arrival at a camp.
  • Free storage of your backpack at the hotel where you are staying.

 

In addition to the facilities that are included in the price, you must also bring a number of things yourself:

  • Water (we were advised to bring 1 liter p.p. We recommend 2 liters)
  • Dry clothes for every day
  • Shoes
  • Poncho
  • Camera
  • Swimsuit and towel
  • Flashlight
  • Toiletries
  • Sunscreen
  • DEET / anti insect spray
  • Toilet paper

 

The first tip is to take more than 1 liter of water with you. Due to the heat and high humidity, the water literally runs over your back. Although they can boil water from the river in the camp, we still recommend that you bring 2 liters yourself.

 

Also, bring enough dry t-shirts because these are often soaking wet after a day of hiking through the jungle.

 

In addition to the things you need to bring with you, we also had the following with us:

  • Earphones
  • Flashlight
  • Flip flops
  • Power bank with solar panel (to charge the flashlight)
  • Snacks for on the go

 

Monkey family on our jungle trek in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra

 

How Hard is the Jungle Trek?

This question is always difficult to answer because it differs per person. Your guide will also play an important role in this. The guide will walk an easier route if your fitness is at a lower level.

 

So you can make the trek as hard as you want. In any case, it is not a walk through the park. We were lucky that it was dry for 4 days, but in the rain this trek is tough.

 

Different Routes and Paths

The routes that you walk are not always the same. Guides often know where the monkeys are or where other groups are. In order not to run into each other, a guide can choose to take a different route.

 

Whichever route you choose, you will always have to cross mountains. There are paths in the jungle, but (fortunately) very primitive. Don’t expect paved paths. You really walk in the middle of the jungle.

 

Pace for Young and Old

We have seen travelers in all age categories. Anyone who has good mobility and is able to walk several hours a day can do this tour. Young and old. In addition, the guide will adjust the tempo to the tempo of the group.

 

TIP – Speak up if you feel like the tempo too high. Guides do this every day and can walk a lot. If you cannot keep up with them, please speak up.

 

State of the Camps

The camps are basic. You are in the middle of the jungle and hotels, guesthouses or hostels aren’t available. The camps are often tents where you spend the night on a mattress with a pillow. There is not much more to it.

 

There are no showers, you wash in the river. There are basic toilets and electricity is not available in any of the camps. You often share the camps with other travelers, but you do have your own tent.

 

There is no power in the camps!

 

There is nothing else in the camps. Also no light, so a flashlight is not an unnecessary luxury.

 

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