Bukit Lawang literally means "door to the hills". Bukit Lawang is a small village situated 90 kilometers northwest of Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, Indonesia.
Bukit Lawang is most famous for being one of the last places in the world where one can see Orangutans in the wild. Bukit Lawang is situated at the eastern side of Gunung Leuser National Park.
In 1973 a Swiss organization set up an orangutan rehabilitation center in Bukit Lawang. The purpose of the center was to rehabilitate orangutans released from captivity. The rangers at the center teach the orangutan all the necessary skills to survive in the wild. After an intense period of quarantine, readjustment to the natural habitat and reintegration in the (semi-)wild population, the orangutan is released back into the jungle. All orangutans released are still monitored by the rangers and they still provide them with supplementary food at the feeding platform until they become fully self reliant.
In the years after the arrival of the rehabilitation center more and more tourists found their way to Bukit Lawang and it became one of the most popular destinations in Sumatra
A flash flood hit Bukit Lawang on 2 November 2003. Described by witnesses as a tidal wave, the water was approximately 20 meters high, as it came crashing down the hills, wiping out everything in its path.
The disaster, which was the result of illegal logging, destroyed the local tourist resorts and had a devastating impact to the local tourism industry. Around 400 houses, 3 mosques, 8 bridges, 280 kiosks and food stalls, 35 inns and guest houses were destroyed by the flood, and 239 people (5 of them tourists) were killed and around 1,400 locals lost their homes.After eight months of rebuilding, Bukit Lawang was re-opened again in July 2004.
For many villagers the trauma of losing family, friends and their homes has taken a long time to come to terms with. The people were facing unemployment and homelessness. It has been a long road to recovery and an especially hard task to rebuild a town with only limited financial assistance from the government. However the people in Bukit Lawang are survivors and the new village is taking shape and more and more businesses are opening again.
Especially the young generation is hoping to rebuild the village in more sustainable way than before and they are very aware of the importance of preservation of the fragile eco system they live in. They can use all the support they can get and the income of tourism will help them in realizing their ideas for a brighter future for Bukit Lawang. So what are you waiting for, finish reading this page, pack your bags and get on your way for your jungle adventure!
Take a taxi from the airport or hotel in Medan to Pinang Baris. (no more than 50,000 IDR); or made reservation and the price ussualy take 350.000-400.000,- rupiah for private car and for share van is 75.000,- Rupiah/person. DO NOT get off at the big terminal.. tell your driver to go on.. just a bit past there is a bakery called Mawar. from there you can get a minibus (max 20,000) or the big coach (max 15,ubig coach is government run but minivans are 'private'. They will stop many times along the way and in Binjai (about 40 minutes from Medan) they may stop for half an hour to fill up.
The last stop, where you get off, is normally the bus terminal in Gotong Royong, a village just 5 minutes from Bukit Lawang. From here you can get a becak (motorbike/sidecar/tuktuk type thing) for 10,000 IDR. This should drop you at the national park office in Bukit Lawang and you can then find your guest house.
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 Rp. 60,000 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.
You can go by tourist bus (minivan 5-7 persons;) from Parapat (Lake Toba; 130.000 rps/person) or Berastagi to Bukit Lawang. Tickets can be bought at local tour agencies; but sometimes they run the vehicle as speed driver; to reach the arrival place; just check it out and made a good decision for the transportation
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.
A jungle trek is a must. Seeing the Orangutan in the wild is one of the best experiences you will have in your life.
It is not permitted to go unaccompanied into the jungle. There are plenty 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. Ask questions and ask them if they follow the rules and DO NOT feed orangutans or any other wildlife. Ask if they will actually be your guide or if they will pass you on to another group. It has happened that travelers pay their money and get sold off and end up in a group of 10 people. Ask how many people will be in the group.
It is a good idea to ask for information at the guest houses... if anything goes wrong or you are not happy you can complain to them. And they have a reputation to keep up.
A fixed price for jungle treks is €25 per day. 2 days trek including rafting is 60 euros and 3 days trek including rafting is 85 euros! During the trek the guides always provide you nice indonesian traditional meals and exotic fruits! Usually you stop at a really nice waterfall where you have the chance to relax and swim!
Even though sightings of the orangutan and other wildlife can never be guaranteed, when following the instructions of your guide the chances are favorable.
Watch out for the locals there are a different breed there in Bukit Lawang tourist money has changed the peoples attitude don't let them pressure you to anything and remember nothing is for free and there are always catches.
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 jeopardizes 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 meters 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 Rp 10.000 per tube. Be careful on the water because currents are strong.
You can also visit the bat cave Rp 5,000 [make sure to take a flash light], make a stroll around the rice fields and rubber plantations, visit some of the social projects (like the Children's Home on the way to the bat cave), visit the Friday market or just hang out with some of the locals and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. Whatever you do, remember to enjoy your stay to the fullest!
In low season not many of the shops are open on weekdays, however in the weekend there are several small shops that sell the locally made coconut necklaces. Also there is a small shop selling bamboo souvenirs, like key chains, picture frames, etc. There are also a few shops that sell wood carvings and at the beginning is Genta's batik shop, selling traditional batik paintings.
At sunset a great place for a Bintang is the terrace at the Eco Lodge. The friendly folks there will serve you up a cold beer and you can watch the colours change over the town and river below.
In order of position up the pathway by the river in Bukit Lawang.
Jungle Inn has a couple of very special rooms namely 'Honeymoon Suite' for Rp 350,000+ and the new 'Penthouse' for over Rp 450,000. Contact name and no. to book. Rahman +6281375324015
For booking visit his Website: indravalleyinn.com or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Contact Obiwan: +6281397375818
Contact name and no. to book Andrea or Mbra +6281263643775 or +6281 370 349 124 or email email@example.com
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). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Down by the river there are a number of other accommodations to stay in.
It's also one of the main places to eat/drink at night and meet in the morning for treks.
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.
It is perfectly safe for female travellers here but do behave appropriately. Don't wear bikinis or skimpy clothing...this includes tight fitting and low cut tshirts.
Solo female travellers who seek a bit of reassurance should check with the guesthouses and arrange to go trekking with other travellers. Green Hill and Sam's Bungalows have good reputations for solo travellers as well the famous Nora whose family owns Rain Forest homestay. They only allow reputable trustworthy guides to visit the homestay and chat with the travellers. Nora and her family have been very strict about this for many years.
Any woman OR MAN who experiences sexual harassment in any form in Bukit Lawang should report the incident immediately to the Guides Association and to the head ranger at the national park office. Also make sure you get a photo of the person/guide as well.
When travelling down the river rapids on the rubber tyres, do not go past the bridge. There are narrow drains and sharper rocks the closer you get to the village.
Keep your villa doors and windows closed when you are not around, the long tailed macaques like to get inside and raid your belongings for food.
Public bus to Medan leaves all the time. Expect 20 people in a van with 10 seats, so snuggle in.
Hire a car from Andreas or Nicky at Yoga Car Rentals, Paradep Taxi, Tobatransporter (email@example.com or make a call +6285261492668) and anything else . They meet you at the airport and give you the keys and map. That's all you need if you've got any sense of adventure. The people are wondeful and the drive is a bit bumpy but great fun.
Tourist minivan (minivan 5-7 persones; e.g. PT Bagus Holiday's Taxi and Tobali tours) go from Bukit Lawang to Medan (75.000 rps/person; 2 to 3 hours; will dropp you off at the airport - if you ask for it - to catch a flight), Berastagi and Parapat (Lake Toba; 6 to 7 hours; 150.000 rps/person).