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Bukit Lawang

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Bukit Lawang is in Gunung Leuser National Park, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Bukit Lawang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the northern jungles of Sumatra.


Bukit Lawang is a small village situated 90 kilometers northwest of Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, Indonesia. It is the most famous site to easily spot semi-wild orangutans near convenient tourism facilities.

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. The orangutan is released back into the jungle after an intense period of quarantine, readjustment to the natural habitat and reintegration in the (semi-)wild population. After that all released orangutans are still monitored by the rangers and they are still provide by supplementary food at the feeding platform until they become fully self reliant. Out of this project the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) was founded.

With the arrival of the rehabilitation centre more and more tourists find their way to Bukit Lawang and it becomes one of the most popular destinations in Sumatra.

A flash flood hit Bukit Lawang on 2 November 2003. As this witnesses the tidal water wave was approximately 20 metres 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.

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 and the income of the tourism will help them in realization of their ideas for a brighter future of Bukit Lawang.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

  • Airports, [1]. The nearest airport to Bukit Lawang is Kualanamu International Airport.  edit
  • Kualanamu International Airport (Bandara Internasional Kualanamu), (100km), +62 618 888 0300, [2]. IATA: KNO  edit
Entrance to the national park

By bus[edit]

The most convenient way is to get an Uber from Medan. It is a bumpy 3 hour ride and Ubers are generally comfortable.

As of 2018, there are no large public buses to Bukit Lawang anymore, instead, smaller orange minivans serve the route every 15 minutes. (These are refereed to as the public bus).

Get a Grab taxi to drop you off at the Mawar Bakery & Cake Shop, which is 1km along the road from Pinang Baris terminal. This is where the orange "FA.PEMB.SEMESTA" Bukit Lawang buses leave from. Do not get dropped off at Pinang Baris bus terminal! Scammers are waiting there and will quote 120,000rp for a bus to Bukit Lawang. They will follow you the 1km walk to the bakery and talk the driver into charging you an extra "commission fee" to go into their pocket. Avoid this hassle and go to the bakery directly, find the orange buses parked along the road & try to find the bus driver and avoid the scammers.

The last stop of the public bus, 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). 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). 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) 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 on their sites

Get around[edit]

Climate[20]. The dryiest month in Sumatra is June or August. January and February tend to be the wettest months there. Day temperature ranges about 30o C and in night about 20-22o C.

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. Itself Bukit Lawang is situated at the eastern side of Gunung Leuser National Park. The motto of any jungle adventure should be take only pictures and leave only footprints.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Gunung Leuser National Park. It is known for the largest animal sanctuary of Sumatran orangutan with around 5,000 orangutans in this area.
  • Viewing Platform. Since February 2016, however, feedings have stopped pending the introduction of additional rehabilitated animals (an unlikely prospect in the medium term, since the current population is saturated). Access to the surrounding park many options for spots trekking (Making your visit achieve REAL change). Quality varies, but the are highly qualified and can tell you a lot about orangutans and the flora and fauna. There are also other national park staff around. Please always follow their instructions to guarantee your and the orangutans safety.

Do[edit][add listing]

Travel Warning WARNING: DO NOT feed orangutans or any other wildlife and do not get close to the animals
Bukit Lawang waterfall
  • Bat cave. Take 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 traditional market or just hang out with some of the locals and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.  edit
  • Bird and Nature Walks, Ecolodge Bukit Lawang. The surroundings of Bukit Lawang offer not only orangutans, but birdwatching too. These daytours (3h, 6h or 9h) lead you along the Landak River to Batu Kapal and its surroundings, where you can explore the area and refresh yourself inside the Landak River. Walking through a mix of secondary forest, gardens and plantations you can dive into the biodiversity of a less crowded area of Bukit Lawang. The guides are not only Bird-Nerds (Bird Nerds are a two-person team dedicated to exploration, adventure, and non-intrusive birding), but also will show you the local birds, butterflies, reptiles and mammals.  edit
  • Ecofarm Tour, Ecolodge Bukit Lawang, +62 812 607 99 83 (), [3]. 2 hours. Learn about local fruits, vegetables and about Organic Farming in general. You can adjust this tour to your own interests. Ecofarming Center was established by the Environmental Education Center PPLH Bohorok. It is payable attraction is served at least minimum 3 person group.  edit
  • Jungle Guide Eru, +6281361153649, [4]. Guide Eru guides tourists through the jungles of Bukit Lawang since 1994. Easiest way to contacts is via WhatsApp (note he may be in the jungle without reception) or ask for him at the Garden Inn.  edit
  • Jungle trekking, +62 852 761 55332 (), [5]. It is the primary activity in Bukit Lawang as it is the gateway to the nearby Gunung Leuser National Park. Most tourists hire a guide as the jungle is easy to get lost in and requires a permit from Gunung Leuser National Park guide office. 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 about the group and the rules. Even though sightings of the orangutan and other wildlife can never be guaranteed, when following the instructions of your guide the chances are favorable.  edit
  • Local Guides, Bukit Lawang, (), [6]. Local Guides is a community of licensed guides, known for eco-friendly jungle trekking tours. The guides were born in Bukit Lawang and run community projects in the remote village Selang Pangeran, where volunteers teach children English.  edit
  • Orangutan watching, +62 812 222 36808 (), [7]. 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 have to keep themselves at least 10 meters away and move away, if an orangutan approaches.  edit
Thomas Leaf Monkey
  • Swimming in the Landak River, Ecolodge Bukit Lawang. 0.5 hour. In half an hour from the Ecolodge Bukit Lawang you can reach a nice and clean spot to take a bath.  edit
  • Thomas Leaf Monkey watching. Another interesting animal is the Thomas Leaf Monkey. They have mohawk-style hair and leap into air with wild abandon as they move from tree to tree. 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 but many options for spot. The reward at the end of your jungle adventure is a late afternoon paddle in the river back to the village.  edit
  • Tubing or traditional Rafting (Bukit Lawang Adventure), Jalan Orangutan, Bukit Lawang 20774, North Sumatra, +62 823 601 99772 (), [8]. This is another popular activity. Tubing one uses an inner tube to float down the river. Tubes can be rented at various stalls along the village. Be careful on the water because sometime currents are strong.  edit
  • We Care Program, [9]. Volunteer at the school that provides free English lessons, lessons on the environment and key skills to disadvantaged children in Bukit Lawang. They appreciate any time you can give, you can join them for a lesson or volunteer long-term. They welcome any visitors to the small school in the village. You can meet the lovely teachers and see what local life is like. You can also trek with them and proceeds will go for the school.  edit
  • Workshop activity, Ecolodge Bukit Lawang. The Environmental Education Center PPLH Bohorok together with the Ecoldoge Bukit Lawang organize Workshops (Recycling Paper, prepare traditional medicine, cooking, etc) for local and national schools as well as for companies. But it is also possible to arrange workshops for the foreign tourists.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

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.

Travelers with Visa ATM cards should bring cash to be sure to cover your expenses in Bukit Lawang. While there is a Mastercard ATM machine 7 km from town, the nearest Visa ATM is 60km away in Binjai. If you run out of money, the 4 hour roundtrip motorbike ride will set you back.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Almost every guesthouse has a restaurant that will serve you good local and western food. In addition, the following places are specialist eateries.

  • Jungle Tribe, Sampe Raya, Kec. Bohorok, Bukit Lawang, Sumatera Utara 20852, +62 822 739 06363. Cocktail cafe and restaurant owned by Erika-Canadian woman and her husband Agun. Situated next door to Sam's restaurant across the road from Sam's Bungalows - 3 very pleasant rooms with great views of the river.  edit
  • Lawang Inn, Bukit Lawang, Bohorok, Langkat Regency, North Sumatra 20852, +62 852 617 55832. Restaurant – Guesthouse (B&B) – Jungle Trekking  edit
  • Yusricafe, (It is situated across from the National Park Ticket Office), +62 852 972 43719. A very homely feeling cafe with Yusuf and Rita will take care of you. Serving tasty local Indonesian food at local prices with decent portion sizes. Good western selection of food for breakfast.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

At sunset a great place for a Bintang is the terrace at the Eco Lodge. The friendly staff will serve you a cold beer and you can watch the colours change over the town and river below.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Bukit Lawang Garden Inn
  • Back To Nature, Jl. Bukit Lawang, Sampe Raya, Kec. Bohorok, Kabupaten Langkat, Sumatera Utara 20774 (Guest House is located 3 kms in jungle from feeding site), +62 813 754 00921. Ecotourism Guest House  edit
  • Bukit Lawang Hill Resort, +62 821 663 16641 (). It is located at the top of the hill with an altitude of 95 meters above the Bohorok river, restaurant without palm oil and rooms with its panoramic view covers all over Bukit Lawang village area, Bohorok river and Gunung Leuser National Park  edit
  • Ecolodge Bukit Lawang (Cottages), Jalan Besar Jl. Bukit Lawang, Sampe Raya, Bohorok, Langkat Regency, North Sumatra 20774, +62 812 607 9983 (), [10]. Different characteristic lodges surrounded by wild nature and organic garden. Partner of Education Centre PPLH Bohorok and Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), which are supported with every overnight. Unique bamboo Restaurant "Kapal Bambu" and bamboo dormitories. Based just across the river from main village at the base of the hill and where the walking tracks start.  edit
  • Eriono Guesthouse & restaurant, Orangutan Road, Bukit Lawang 20774 (From Bukit Lawang village: Keep the river on your left and follow the small road upstream), +62 813 612 19238, [11]. A charming lodge on the Bohorok riverbank, with a lush garden and amazing view of the tropical rainforest. Eriono Guesthouse is a fine place to relax. It is right by Bohorok wild river and has an exotic garden where the thomas leaf monkeys play. The 3 rooms are suitable for 1 to 4 people and have a balcony overlooking the jungle, a double bed with 1 or 2 extra beds available, mosquito nets, a fan, bathroom with towels, western toilet +toilet shower+ shower, and mandi.  edit
  • Garden, Orangutan Street, Sampe Raya, Kec. Bohorok, Bukit lawang, Sumatera Utara 20852, +62 813 960 00571 (), [12]. Inn & Restaurant has traditional/local Indonesian food or Western options for very affordable prices! Rosa is so friendly. Enjoy cheap and delicious eating in Bukit Lawang while sitting near to the river and close to all the souvenir shops.  edit
  • Green Hill, Jalan Orangutan, Bukit Lawang, Bohorok, Sampe Raya, Kec. Bohorok, Sumatera Utara 20774, +62 813 703 49124, [13]. Guest House & Eco Trekking. 5 rooms built high up behind their beautiful open air building with incredible views.  edit
  • Indra Valley Inn, Jl. Bukit Lawang, Timbang Jaya, Bohorok, Langkat Regency, North Sumatra 20852, +62 813 973 75818, [14]. Inn has a wonderful riverside location with jungle views.  edit
  • Jungle Inn, Orangutan Street, Sampe Raya, Kec. Bohorok, Bukit Lawang, Sumatera Utara 20852 (directly opposite the orangutan sanctuary), +62 822 763 72436, [15]. Offers reasonably priced rooms, but slightly inflated prices for food by Sumatran standards.  edit
  • Junia's Guesthouse, Jl. Bukit Lawang, Timbang Jaya, Bohorok, Langkat Regency, +62 813 967 72804. Enjoy both scenic river and forest sounds as you relax at Junia's guesthouse. Situated between Gunung Leuser National Park and the Bohorok River – you are in the perfect place to stay in Bukit Lawang for trekking, tubing, enjoying Indonesian culture and food. Whether backpacking through or on holiday, Junia’s is a new, jungle-style guesthouse with comfortable and beautiful rooms.  edit
  • Mboy, Bukit Lawang, Orangutan Street, Bukit Lawang, Bohorok, Sampe Raya, Kec. Bohorok, Kabupaten Langkat, Sumatera Utara 20774, +62 812 639 94818, [16]. Guest House & Coffee Shop with clean fan-rooms, western-style bathrooms and big balconies, great river and jungle views, not far from Indra Inn and Greenhill and just 3 minutes walk to the entrance of the Gunung Leuser National Park, coffee shop.  edit
  • Rainforest, Jl. Orangutan, Bukit Lawang, Bohorok, Langkat Regency, North Sumatra 20774, +62 813 621 99018, [17]. Guest House with 5 rooms and restaurant. Some wikitravelers have reported an aggressive sales style from Nora and her trekking guides. There is apparently a guide using Nora's email address for his own services too, promising room bookings that Nora is not aware of. When booking perhaps call to confirm she knows you are coming.  edit
  • Rumah Papa Homestay, Timbang Jaya, Kec. Bohorok, Kabupaten Langkat, Sumatera Utara 20852, +62 813 772 81785. It is in Gotong-Royong Hilir which takes 5 minutes by a becak(traditional vehicle). It is surrounded by the rice paddy field with a great view of the mountain. There are four really nice clean rooms and one balcony where you can watch the sunsets. Staying at Rumah Papa Homestay you will have an opportunity to explore the local culture in the village and learning to cook local cuisine.  edit
  • Sams Bungalows & Restaurant, Sampe Raya, Bohorok, Langkat Regency, North Sumatra 20852, +62 813 700 93597, [18]. Right next door to Jungle Tribe cocktail bar, this restaurant has the best in panoramic views of the river. Sam's cook uses an array of herbs and spices that give her cooking an extra dimension. Try the Gado Gado special. All the curries are rich in flavor, filled with nutritious and natural food.  edit
  • Sawah Indah Guest House, Timbang Lawan, Bukit Lawang, Kec. Bohorok, Kabupaten Langkat, +62 813 624 14129.  edit
  • Wisma Bukit Lawang Indah, Jl. Bukit Lawang, Bukit Lawang, Medan, Kabupaten Langkat, Sumatera Utara 20236 (It is across the river next door to '''Yusman''' which is next door to Wisma Sibayak), +62 852 761 55332, [19]. Cheap rooms with a double and single bed Bukit Lawang Indah has excellent cheap food.  edit

Stay safe[edit]

In general tsunamis are common due to the high seismicity in the Sumatra area. The nearest seashore from Bukit Lawang is more than 50 km away, but disasters were not avoid.

When travelling down the river rapids on the rubber tires, 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.

It is perfectly safe for female travelers here, but do behave appropriately. Don't wear bikinis or skimpy clothing, tight fitting and low cut t-shirts.

Solo female travelers should beware of unlicensed guides, and of trekking or other activities where they might be alone with a man. If going to the jungle, meet up with fellow travelers and find a guide. All licensed guides have photo permits. Ask to see them before booking a trek. Green Hill and Sam's Bungalows have good reputations for solo travelers.

Anybody who experiences sexual harassment in any form in Bukit Lawang should report the incident immediately to the Guides Association Office in the entrance to the village and to the head ranger at the national park office. Also make sure you get a photo of the person/guide as well.

Get Out[edit]

  • Medan. The cheapest way from Bukit Lawang to Medan is by public bus. Here are the steps to take: 1) Take a short 2km Tuk tuk ride from Bukit Lawang to its bus station. 2) Get the orange bus with "FA.PEMB.SEMESTA" written on the side to Medan (Pinang Baris bus stop) 3) Use grab taxi from pinang baris to city centre. Journey can be 3 to 5 hours depending on the change over/ waiting time and traffic. BE WARNED: This is not a very comfortable journey if you don't like sitting very close to other people. It is not air conditioned! It is the transport the local people use & it can get cramped. Not many people speak English but are happy to see you & sometimes want to take a photo with you. The road is bumpy with frequent short stops to collect and drop off passengers along the way. The driver will try to put your luggage on the roof but you can keep it with you if there is a space.
  • Kualanamu. If you are going to Kuala Namu (Medan) Airport the easiest option is to get off the bus at Binjai (Not Pinang Baris). Just ask the driver to stop at the bus station for Kuala Namu Airport (It is on JL. Ikan Paus street) Be careful, the last bus to leave Binjai is at 6PM. (Make sure to leave Bukit Lawang a minimum of 3 hours beforehand to give enough time to catch this bus). This is a large comfortable bus with aircon and space for luggage. Allow 2 to 3 hours to get to the airport from here, depending on traffic. NOTE: it does not stop at Pinang Baris, it goes straight to the airport terminal.
  • Berastagi. If you're intending to go to Berastagi you'll still need to head to Medan first then change to one the larger ornately decorated buses. Even if you find a 'direct' minivan to Berastagi it still passes by Medan. If you let the driver know on the way to Medan that you're heading to Berastagi he will drop you off at the one of the changeover points. The bus to Berastagi, is most likely to have a blaring sound system and a boom box so bring some good ear plugs if you're not into Indonesian love pop videos.

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