English / Indonesia / Photography / Travel

Meeting Orangutan in Bukit Lawang

Triggered by my friend’s post about orangutan in September 2013, I wanted to see these endangered primates with my own eyes. Noni’s husband is a researcher in primates that’s why she regularly writes about this special mamals. I have asked them many questions preparing this trip. Thank you so much you two.

There are several spots to see orangutan in North Sumatera. I chose Bukit Lawang due to the distance which fit better in my itinerary. It took about 4 hours by car to get to Bukit Lawang from Kuala Namu airport in Medan. Bukit Lawang is a village on the entrance of the Bukit Leuser National Park where orangutans live. Tourists must hire a guide to see orangutan in this park. The guide’s fee includes the park’s entry, registration, trek permit and fruit for snack. The jungle treks vary from short trek to a number of days camping.

This post contains many pictures of the 5 hour jungle trek I took. So get ready to scroll.

Before entering the park, there is a rubber plantation. The rubber trees are slanted according to direction where the wind blows. The guy looking at the camera is my guide, Edo. I hired him to guide my family, a party of six.

Rubber plantation Bukit Lawang

This is how rubber is tapped from the tree, droplet by droplet.

rubber tapping Bukit Lawang

First encounter with Thomas Leaf monkey. It was so difficult to capture it as it moved so fast high up on the tree. This is the best shot I made.

Thomas Leaf monkey Bukit Lawang

The deeper I walked in the jungle the more dense the vegetation became. It was humid but luckyly the path was hard and dry despite the rain the night before. Due to the short time this was the easiest route.

Bukit Lawang Gunung Leuser National park

After 1,5 hour walk, there she was. The first orangutan I saw was a female. She was a mother with her child who was shy to show itself. Orangutans in this jungle live in the wild. There was a feeding station before but it was discontinued two years ago.

Orangutan Bukit Lawang

Orangutan is worldwide only found in Sumatra and Borneo. Sumatran orangutan is critically endangered. There are estimated 0nly 6000 orangutans in Sumatra left. There is high demand for baby orangutan as pet, this causes the killing of mother orangutan. Forest fires form the danger of declining orangutan population as well.

Orangutan on the tree Bukit Lawang

Orangutan eats primarily fruits. When the food is scarce in the rain forest, it eats leaves, barks, flowers and insects.

Orangutan Bukit Lawang

Female orangutan gives birth every 7 – 8 years. An orangutan mother has 4 – 5 children all her life. The mother nurses the child until it has learnt the survival skills as orangutan is a solitary animal. Before that the child lives with the mother.

This is Pesek, an orangutan mother with her 3 years old child. My guide told me every orangutan has a name. The guides and reservation workers are able to distinguish who is who. Pesek put this show for us. She went down low, posing like this.

orangutan Pesek and the child Bukit Lawang

Her child climbed away but Pesek (meaning flat nose in Bahasa Indonesia) got off the tree and stood there. I was 10 meters away from her as instructed by my guide. The hair looks so beautiful. Seeing Pesek standing there reminded me that orangutan shares nearly 97% DNA as human. It is an intelligent mammal.

Pesek orangutan Bukit Lawang

Mission accomplished I had seen two pairs of mother and child orangutan, this was the last pic I took of Pesek before the group continued the trek.

Orangutan Bukit Lawang

Deeper in the rain forest I saw many of these lianas. Impressive. I imagined Tarzan swaying with it.

Liana Bukit Lawang

This tree is about 450 years old.

450 years old tree Bukit Lawang

450 years old tree Bukit Lawang

Another uniquely shaped root and a broke tree. Sometimes lianas grow and strangle their host tree.root and liana Bukit Lawang

A view of the river Bohorok and some houses down there.

Bukit Lawang

After having our lunch, the group went downhill.

Bukit Lawang vegetation

And reached this Bohorok river. I crossed this river three times proceeding last part of the trek.

Bukit Lawang

And finally I reached the end point of the trek. The group swam for half an hour in the crystal clear water of Bohorok river. It was so refreshing after exploring the humid jungle. The swimming was fun too as the river had a fairly mild/strong current which dragged the group along. We came back to our hotel by tubing the river.

Bohorok river Langkat

Bukit Lawang is quite popular as the place to see orangutan. Another entrances to Bukit Leuser National Park are Ketambe and Tangkahan. I chose Bukit Lawang as it was closer to lake Toba, my following destination. The trek I did was the easiest one. I think this is suitable for children from 8 years and older.

During my visit in Bukit Lawang I stayed at the Ecolodge Bukit Lawang. It was an amazing experience to sleep there. The rooms are basic but you don’t need more, trust me.  The jungle is more than interesting to feel. During the nights I heard various animal sounds; the noisy macaca (monkeys) on the roof, birds and others I couldn’t define. I didn’t take pics of the rooms but you can see them on the website. 

This is the eco-friendly lounge above the restaurant at the Ecolodge. The wifi was amazingly fast, and that in the middle of the jungle. The restaurant serves delicious food as well. The staff of the lodge is exceptionally professional, no wonder it has wonderful reviews.

This is how it looks like from the other side of the river. The rooms hide behind the green lush. The restaurant is the lung of the lodge with its unique design made of sustainable bamboo.

Ecolodge Bukit Lawang

After Bukit Lawang, my family and I moved to our next destination; Lake Toba. That is a long drive from Bukit Lawang. Stay tuned!


28 thoughts on “Meeting Orangutan in Bukit Lawang

  1. Waaah sounds like an amazing trek! Would love to do this in the future, and going back by river tubing sounds awesome. Glad you enjoyed your stay mbak 🙂

  2. waw.., menyenangkan….lihat pose2nya Pesek..
    dan balik dari sini dengan river tubing, dua pengalaman berharga banget ini

  3. Seru abis mba, bener2 one life time experience ini tripnya.
    Foto2nya jg keren2 banget, pas gitu sama pose2 orang utan nya, so cute ya pengen gendong 🙂

    • It was, si kecil aja suka. Dulu waktu masih ada feeding station pengunjung bisa gendong baby orangutan kata guide gw. Sekarang feeding stationnya udah ditutup, karantina pindah ke tempat lain.

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  5. Wah, mbak beruntung banget bisa lihat orang utan yang lagi main di bawah pohon..rezeki saya baru sampai lihat mereka nongkrong di pohon aja, tapi itu juga udah bersyukur banget bisa lihat, nyaris gak percaya bisa lihat langsung. Baca post ini jadi pingin balik lagi ke Bukit Lawang..ditunggu cerita serunya di Sumatra mbak 🙂

    • Iya, mana si Pesek turun pula ke tanah jadi bisa agak deket untuk di foto. Walaupun seneng bisa lihat orangutan di habitatnya tapi aku juga sedih mikir nasib mereka yang hampir punah karena ulah manusia. Barusan terbit cerita di Samosir.

    • Gw jarak terdekat seperti rekomendasi guide 10 meter dari orangutan. Orangutan in the jungle is in their own habitat kayanya kalo friendly maksud loe jinak, ngga deh. Dilarang deket-deket juga.

  6. Si Pesek cantikk bangett ya mba Yo.. Rambutnya ituu lhoo.. 😀 Dann.. Ditengah hutan wifi kenceng.. Keren bgt ya Ecolodge ini, langsung kepoin webnya 😀

  7. Bagus Yen, foto2 nya dan it is as raw as it can be. Itu pohon yang 450 tahun pohon apa namanya? Bayan tree? Once in a lifetime trip to see the beautiful Indonesia. I’d love to do this trip one day.

    • Ngga tahu namanya, Banyan itu kan pohon Beringin ya? Kayanya bukan. As I know pohon Beringin ngga setinggi ini.

      You’d better hurry coming there because Orangutan is sadly endangered.

      • Ok, Planning to go for vacation within the next year, ntar share info2 nya dari elo ya:)

    • Ngga, udah jadi wild lagi Tje. Memang katanya guideku kebanyakan turis lokal maunya kasih makan orangutan tapi dilarang karena para guide dan pekerja di reservasi orangutan ini (termasuk suaminya Noni) juga menentang keras memberi makan ke orangutan. It is against their nature, nanti survival skillsnya mereka hilang.

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