The Gunung Leuser National Park comprises more than 100 kilometers of the Bukit Barisan Mountains. Because of that, the park consists of steep, almost inaccessible mountainous terrain.The altitude ranges from 0 meter, in Kluet (South Aceh), to 3,381 meter, on top of the Gunung Leuser (Southeast Aceh). The Alas river cuts the park into an eastern and western half.
Apart from mountains you will find several other ecosystems: beach forest, swamp areas, lowland rainforest, alpine and mountain forest.
A one-way bus fare on large, non air-conditioned buses from Medan, Pinang Baris Bus Terminal to Bukit Lawang, 86 km by road to the north-west, was Rp10,000 per person (in October 2008). There should be busses every 30 minutes, but sometimes some are skipped. Back to Medan, you can take a minibus (Rp12,000 per person (October 2008)) or a large bus (Rp10,000, but they might ask for more). They alternate every 15′ from Bukit Lawang Bus Terminal.
There are many drivers offering minivans from the Belawan ferry terminal direct to Bukit Lawang, bargain hard. Expect to be shifted minivan at least once (in Medan). Prices vary between Rp60,000 and 70,000 all the way to Bukit Lawang. The extra cost should outweigh the hassle of getting into Medan, finding the bus station, then finding a hostel in Bukit Lawang (especially if you arrive during a torrential downpour). The driver will usually recommend a family or friend’s hostel.
Another option is to self drive a rental car. This is possible with an international drivers licence and will cost around Rp350,000 per day plus fuel (Jul 08). The road to Bukit Lawang varies in state from well made dual carriage ways through to deep pot holed aphalt roads and some gravel. Anyone considering driving in Sumatra should travel with a local bus first to get familiar with the driving style of the locals. The drive takes about 3.5 hours and you can park the car with security at one of the local hotels for Rp10,000 per day. Yoga Car Rentals in Medan is the most prominent company on the internet and their service was great.
Access to the Gunung Leuser National Park is Rp20,000 per person–payable either in Bukit Lawang, or at the orangutan feeding ground. Permit should be included in all treks and jungle activities, but check with the guide to be sure.
Bukit Lawang is a small village and it is easy to get around by foot. You can walk from on side to the other in about 25 minutes. There are three bridges that provide access to the resorts across the river.
Explore around. A jungle trek is a must when you go to this park. Seeing the orangutan in the wild is one of the best experiences you will have in your life.
At least 130 species of mammals are recognised in this park like the Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatraensis), Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus), Sumatran rhinocheros (Dicherorinus sumatraensis , Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), Siamang (Hylobates syndactilus), macaques, clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa), ajak (Cuon alpinus) and various sub species of deers and sambars. Bird watchers might find this place to their liking for at least 325 species of birds live inside the park. Reptils and fish may also represent the still diversed ecosystem.
In Bohorok-Bukit Lawang lies the Orangutan Rehabilitation Station and in Ketambe stands the Ketambe research station. The research station is not open to tourists. An Orang Utan sanctuary of Bukit Lawang is located inside the park.. Estimated there are up to 5000 orangutans inside the parks, together with Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat national parks, they form a World’s Heritage Site. It is the only place on earth where four of world’s spectacular animals namely the orangutans, rhinocheros,elephants and tigers are found together.
It is not permitted to go unaccompanied into the jungle. There are plently of good and reliable guides around so take your time to get to know some of them, have a chat, make your choice and prepare for a great adventure. All guides have to be licensed so ask to see their permit if in doubt of someone’s expertise. A fixed price for jungle treks is €25 per day. Usually food and camping gear is arranged for by your guide. Always ask though to make sure.
Even though sightings of the orangutan and other wildlife can never be guaranteed, when following the instructions of your guide the chances are favourable.
Another hero is the Thomas Leaf Monkey. Such a wonderful creature that leaps into air with wild abandon as they move from tree to tree. Their mohawk hair styles and faces filled with millions of years of character really make these little guys stand out.
If you want to go on a multiple day trek make sure you are fit and in good condition. The humidity coupled with the intensity of grade of the hills makes for some hard work. The reward at the end of your jungle adventure is a late afternoon paddle in the river back to the village.
Everyone who is planning to go on a jungle trek or even to the feeding platform is asked to refrain from any physical contact with the orangutans. Getting too close to an orangutan increases the risk of passing on disease and viral infection, which jeopardises the orangutans chances of survival and in turn the health and survival of the wild orangutan population in the entire area. All guests should keep at least 10 metres away and move away if an orangutan approaches. The motto of any jungle adventure should be take only pictures, leave only footprints
Another popular past time activity is tubing. When tubing one uses an innertube to float down the river. Tubes can be rented at various stalls along the village and expect pay around 10.000Rp per tube. Be carefull on the water because currents are strong.
You can also visit the bat cave, make a stroll around the rice fields and rubber plantations, visit some of the social projects (like the free English School, Children’s Home and free clinic), visit the Friday market or just hang out with some of the locals and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
For a different kind of experience altogether, you may consider hiking to the peak of Mount Leuseur (3,404 meters), which takes about 10-14 days. The small village of Angasan is a suitable starting point. The first five days will be spent trekking through virgin rain forest where rare primates can often be seen. Need to be physically fit and accompanied by a guide.
Whatever you do, remember to enjoy your stay to the fullest!
In order of position up the pathway by the river in Bukit Lawang.
* Jungle Inn, directly opposite the orangutan sanctuary. Offers reasonably priced rooms, but slightly inflated prices for food by Sumatran standards.
Jungle Inn has a couple of very special rooms namely ‘Honeymoon Suite’ for 350,000+ and the new ‘Penthouse’ for over 450,000. Contact name and no. to book. Rahman +6281375324015
* Sam’s – 3 lovely rooms with prices from 80,000-180,000, Contact name and no. Samsul +6281370093597,
* Jungle Tribe A free standing house at 250,000/night with ‘a bar and restaurant’ next door. Contact name and no.Iman +6281263749602
* Garden Inn not far from Jungle Inn is another pleasant place to stay in Bukit Lawang (Nice double bed rooms, cold shower and mandi for Rp 50k to Rp. 60k). Contact name and no. Pardil +6281396000571
* Hostal Indra Inn, directly at the river at your left hand side when you walk to the orangutan centre.
Authentic rooms and 3 new rooms that were completed on the end of March 2007. Good healthy food for reasonable prices.
* Greenhill, now have 2 rooms built high up behind their beautiful open air building with incredible views. Rooms are 150,000 rupiah/night.
Contact name and no. to book Mbra +6281263643775 or +6281 370 349 124
* Rain Forest New accommodation built by Nora’s family – 5 rooms and restaurant. Rooms from 40,000/night
It is a great place to stay, lots of fun entertainment with many of the guides playing guitar and singing in the evenings, great food and as always Nora herself provides great company. Contact name and no. to book Nora +6281362070656 ( note Nora’s mobile no. is incorrectly written in LP Indonesia guide.
Down by the river there are a number of other accommodations to stay in.
* Bukit Lawang Cottages also known as ‘Eco Lodge’ (just across the river from main village at the base of the hill and where the walking tracks start) is a good option with prices starting from 80,000/night particularly good, if you arrive late in the day.
It’s also one of the main places to eat/drink at night and meet in the morning for treks.
* Wisma Bukit Lawang Indah is across the river next door to Yusman which is next door to Wisma Sibayak.
Cheap rooms with a double and single bed go for Rp. 35,000. Bukit Lawang Indah has excellent cheap food
In village of Gotong Royong where the weekly market is held in Fridays is Nora’s other homestay. Almost opposite the new hospital built with the inspiration and determination of the amazing Becky Coley of Bukit Lawang Trust Foundation.
* Nora’s Homestay, approximately two kilometers by road from the river. A great kampung-style experience from 25,000rp upwards per night including self-contained shower and toilet.
Best time to visit is from June to October.