07.03.2016 – 09.03.2016
Jungle trek, jungle trek, in Bukit Lawang. See the monkey, see the bird, see orang-utan! (Sung to the tune of Jingle Bells). While very catchy, this can be highly annoying and lame, but all part of the Jungle Trek experience.
We were fortunate to meet some awesome English travellers (Matt and Charlotte) in Lake Toba and they joined us for our time in Bukit Lawang and the long journey to get there. If you need to get to Bukit Lawang, don’t ever be in a rush! It took 12 hours to travel here from Lake Toba. First we caught the ferry from our hotel to Parapat (1 hour), then the bus back to Medan (5 hours), then the public bus across Medan (2 hours), then the bus to Bukit Lawang (3 hours) and finally a trishaw and walk from the bus station to the hotel (1 hour). A journey of epic proportions!
Although our time in Bukit Lawang was limited, it was incredible. The town essentially runs off the tourism and the only tourist attraction is the jungle trek into Gunung Leuser National Park to see the Orang-utan, among other animals. All animals in the park are wild, although some Orang-utans are more friendly than others due to high interaction with humans over the years. We chose a 2-day trek, but treks range from half day to multiple days in length and guides can be found at your hotel. Prices are set by the Guide Association, so there’s no need to haggle on price and the guides work together to give all trekkers the best possible experience in the jungle.
The trek was tough. We left our hotel at 8:30am and got to the campsite at 5:00pm in the afternoon, the only times we stopped were for lunch and to see animals. The ever-changing terrain presented a lot of physical challenges. At times there was no path to follow, just the person in front of you and the slippery clay-like soil made traction hard to find. The descent down the moutain to the campsite was the hardest part of the day and the best way to stay on your feet was to grab branches that you hoped would carry your weight. That said, the reward of the flowing river and seeing the animals that we did made it all worthwhile.
For 1,000,000IRP ($100AUD) each we got a tour guide, food, a place to stay, rapids ride back to town and an unbelievable visual experience. We saw 14 Orang-utans, 2 gibbons, a hornbill and countless monkeys throughout the two days which was capped off by a morning swim at the waterfall near camp.
After returning from our adventure in the jungle, we had to move quickly to the airport to catch the last flight back to Kuala Lumpur. Travel in Sumatra isn’t without frustration. The bus from Bukit Lawang to the city is only 86km, but took almost 3 hours.
OUR FAVOURITE BITS
- Staying a night in the jungle on the Jungle Trek.
- Seeing the Orang-utans up close and personal.
- Morning swim in the waterfall near camp.
- Riding downstream on the rapids. Worth the extra money!
- Barter hard with the company that transports you to Bukit Lawang, you can get a seat for 40,000IRP easily.
- Possibly look at taking a taxi or private driver from Amplas Bus Terminal (south of Medan) to the place where buses to Bukit Lawang leave (north of Medan). No need to take the local minibus, it takes too long and isn’t much cheaper.
- Book accommodation for Bukit Lawang in advance.
- If you do a Jungle Trek, stay overnight (at least a 2-day trek) and return on the rapids.
- Only go to Bukit Lawang if you are prepared to go for a trek to see the Orang-utans, there is nothing else here.
- Again, have plenty of money with you, there are no ATM’s, hotels charge a percentage and money changers have appalling rates.
Finishing our adventure through Indonesia in Bukit Lawang was perfect and receives 5 stars. Sumatra, we will be back to explore you some more.
See you back in Malaysia!