My plan for Indonesia was Lombok, Gili Islands, Bali, and Java. With the limited time I planned to spend I figured this plan included enough of the country’s highlight to get a small taste for what these 17,000 islands were about. I read a few articles about jungle treks to see orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo. I initially didn’t consider seeing orangutans as appealing. I’m not into animals and I defintely am not a fan of roughing it in the jungle. It was a friend’s recommendation that convinced me to go to Bukit Lawang in Sumatra. My review – totally worth it. Roughing it for one night is definitely worth the scenary and all the animals.
Bukit Lawang is a journey to get to, 4 hours by car from the nearest airport and potentially longer in traffic. Some people pair it with nearby Lake Toba to add to the trip. The village itself is adorable. The impact of tourism is everywhere. English menus, sarongs for sale, and too many guesthouses to count. The village was quiet as I came in the off season. One of the first things I noticed was the children hanging out by the river. Every day there was dozens of children playing by the river. As this is a small community there isn’t a local school. Children learn informally from family and the community.
The trek I chose was a two day, one night excursion to the jungle to see orangutans. I joined a group of 3 travellers because I didn’t want tondo the trek on my own. The jungle is massive – with orangutans, tigers, elephants, and loads of birds. My guide told us the elephants and tigers are deep in the jungle. The five day treks are more likely to see the larger animals. He did mention he once saw a tiger’s footprint by the river and in the night his group could hear the tiger growling. No tiger sightings for me.
Orangutans! I saw over a dozen orangutans on the trek. Most hung out in the trees but there were a few who came closer down the trees so we could get a better look. And for photos of course. My guide Angga warned us about an orangutan named Mina. She’s very clever and known as the most aggressive orangutan in the jungle. She has injured people in the past so we stayed back when we encounter her. Our group had a small scare after we had finished lunch. There was still a few pieces of fruit on the ground we hadn’t yet cleaned up. One of group yelled out to look out. We turned around to see Mina approaching just one metre away from Angga. I dont think I’ve ever seen someone move so fast. Luckily Mina was just after our fruit and not us. We quickly left the area so she wouldn’t follow us.
The trek itself is a little challenging given the heat and the mud. The ground can be quite slippery when heading down hills. We did have delicious food after the trek. I’m always impressed with the food on these types of treks and in remote areas. People can cook better with one pot over a fire than I can with a fully equipped kitchen.
Another lovely part of this jungle is it’s clean. If you’ve ever travelled south east Asia you’ll know the amount of litter everywhere. Everyone appears to make an effort to keep the jungle clean. People even take their cigarette butts with them to throw away in the village. Why can’t people do this everywhere? Seriously, if you smoke please don’t leave your litter behind.
The way back to the village is the easiest part of the journey. You can pay an extra fee to travel back in the river by raft. Everything goes inma dry bag and in 30mins you’re back in Bukit Lawang. My guide navigated wit a stick. It was the size of a walking stick but still it was a stick. I’m always impressed with these modes of transportation that I find challenging.
There it is, my journey to Bukit Lawang. If I as a non animal/jungle trek person can enjoy myself, I’m confident anyone can.