Bukit Lawang

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Bukit Lawang is in Gunung Leuser National Park, North Sumatra.



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 a site to easily spot semi-wild orangutans near convenient tourism facilities. 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. Out of this project the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) was founded.

In the years after the arrival of the rehabilitation centre 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 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.

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!

Get in[edit]

Entrance to the national park

The most convenient way is to get an Uber from Medan. It costs around 15 GBP or 18 USD. It is a bumpy 3 hour ride and Ubers are generally comfortable and convenient.

Take a taxi from the airport or hotel in Medan to Pinang Baris. (no more than 50,000 IDR per car); Do not get off at the big terminal, rather the driver to continue .. just a bit past there is a bakery called Mawar, (this is good advice, mawar bakery only 1km further up, left as you walk out of the bus terminal) . (Touts are waiting for tourists at the terminal, go outside, to the main street where the minibuses and public buses are) From there you can get a direct minibus to Bukit Lawang(max 20,000 pp, bargain to 15,000 each if you are more than 3 people, February 2013) or the big coach (max 15,big coach is government run but minivans are 'private'. The coach 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 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) 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) 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]

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.

See[edit][add listing]

Orangutan Feeding in Bukit Lawang
  • Bukit Lawang. Bukit Lawang is most famous for the Orangutan 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 and its population of orangutans is now only possible via a (expensive, for Indonesia) guided bush trek. Guide quality varies, but the rangers are highly qualified and can tell you a lot about orangutans and the project. There are also other national park staff around. Please always follow their instructions to guarantee your and the orangutans safety.
  • Exciting News The new Governor of North Sumatra comes from Bukit Lawang and one of his promises was to mend the road from Medan to Bukit Lawang. Work has already commenced and compared to previous years the road has improved a lot and work is still ongoing. There are still some bumpy parts but in general big improvements are being made.

Do[edit][add listing]

Jungle trekking 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 ranger 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 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 been known that tourists pay money, get sold off and end up in a group of 10 people. Ask how many people will be in the group.

Travel Warning WARNING: It has happened quite often that some guides feed the orangutans with normal, human food during a trek just to coax the wild animals for the tourist, and as a consequence orang-utans have become sick or even die. You should not get close to or call or feed ANY of the animals. even if your guide tells you it is ok tell him not to do it.

Even though sightings of the orang-utan and other wildlife can never be guaranteed, when following the instructions of your guide the chances are favorable.

Another interesting amnimal 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. 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], 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 market or just hang out with some of the locals and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.

  • We Care Program, [1]. 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 towards the school.  edit
  • Ecofarm Tour, Ecolodge Bukit Lawang, [email protected], +62 812 607 99 83. 2 hours. Learn about local fruits, vegetables and about Organic Farming in general. You can adjust this tour to your own interests. The Ecofarming Center was established from the Environmental Education Center PPLH Bohorok. Price is per person (min. 3 people). Rp 150,000.  edit
  • Bird and Nature Walks, Ecolodge Bukit Lawang, [email protected], +62 812 607 99 83. 3-9 hours. The surroundings of Bukit Lawang offer more than just Orangutans! 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 Bird-Nerds but do not only show you the local birds, but also butterflies, reptiles and mammals. Rp 300,000-600,000.  edit
  • Swimming in the Landak River. 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
  • Workshops, Ecolodge Bukit Lawang, [email protected], +62 812 607 99 83. 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 such workshops for 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 with them to 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 200,000-400,000 rupiah.

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.

  • Yusri Cafe situated across from the National Park Ticket Office. A very homely feeling cafe with Yusuf and Rita (with Rita & her mum doing all the cooking) taking care of you. Serving tasty local food at local prices with decent portion sizes. Good western selection of food for breakfast. Nasi Goreng Rp 8,000, Nasi Ayam Rp 10,000, Black Tea/Coffee Rp 2,000 with milk Rp 5,000, Banana toast Rp 7,000, Banana Pancake Rp 8,000.
  • Lawang Cafe Run by Janey who is a lovely, chatty Dutch lady that will go out of her way to make your meal a pleasure. She will knock up some local cuisine that contents with the best or treat you to her latest baking adventure. Excellent curries and wholesome brown bread.
  • Tony's Restaurant serves excellent home made pizza for those craving a touch of the west. The best spaghetti this side of Roma and a great tasting Gado Gado for those seeking some of the local fare.
  • Jungle Tribe a cocktail bar 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.
  • Sam's Bungalows 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.
  • Green Hill has great views of the jungle and there food is great. The restaurant is a lovely open plan space and a good menu and is brilliant for vegetarians e.g. banana and chocolate pancakes, tempe rendang, veggie curry...
  • Indra Valley Inn and Resto have a wonderful riverside location with jungle views. The restaurant & bar offer offer a variety of delicious fresh meals and snacks with a good variety of vegetarian options.
  • Rosa Restaurant, Jl. Orangutan. is newly opened and 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

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]

In order of position up the pathway by the river in Bukit Lawang.

  • Bukit Lawang Hill Resort, (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.), +6282166316641 +6282368407574 (), [2]. 300,000 IDR.  edit
  • 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 special rooms: 'Honeymoon Suite' for Rp 350,000+ and the new 'Penthouse' for over Rp 450,000.  edit
  • Back To Nature, A Guest House with 4 rooms that located 3 kms in jungle from feeding site, +6281375657004.  edit
  • Sam's - 3 lovely rooms with prices from 100,000-200,000, 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. Agun +6281361746375
  • Garden Inn, (100m south of Jungle Inn), Pardil +6281396000571. One of the most pleasant place to stay in Bukit Lawang. The manicured gardens and perfect view of the river and jungle make this one of the most relaxing guesthouse. It's further upstream but definitely worth the walk there. The team that run the place always have a smile for you and make you feel really welcome. To top it off the in-house food is excellent too. Nice double bed rooms, cold shower and mandi 100k+ INR.  edit
  • Indra Valley Inn & Trekking, (directly at the river at your left hand side when you walk to the orangutan centre), Obiwan: +6285207182234 (). Indra Valley Inn offers jungle view accomodation with balcony and riverview. Great restaurant & bar with healthy food for reasonable prices. Owner and operator Obiwan is a very experienced trekking guide. between 200,000 and 300,000 IDR.  edit
  • Green Hill Guesthouse, Andrea or Mbra +6281263643775 or +6281 370 349 124 (). 5 rooms built high up behind their beautiful open air building with incredible views 60k IDR for a simple room. 150k IDR for newer ones. 250k family chalet..  edit
  • Mboy Guesthouse. Newly built house with clean fan-rooms, western-style bathrooms and big balconies (Rp 250,000); older rooms (Rp 100,000-150,000), 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.
 100-250k IDR.  edit
  • Rain Forest. New accommodation built by Nora's family - 5 rooms and restaurant. Rooms from Rp 40,000/night. 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. 40k+ IDR.  edit

Down by the river there are a number of other accommodations to stay in.

  • Ecolodge Bukit Lawang (Cottages) - 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. Prices from 120,000-460,000, Contact www.ecoldoges.id, [email protected], Manager Bobi Chandra, +62 812 607 99 83
  • 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 kilometres by road from the river. A great kampung-style experience from Rp 25,000 upwards per night including self-contained shower and toilet.
  • Wanda's Homestay & Outdoor Adventures is in Landbou, a village only 10 minutes from Bukit Lawang by local bus. Wanda's Homestay is located in a great location in the rice paddy fields with amazing views of the forested mountains. There are 2 really nice rooms with the options of homemade Indonesian/Western foods and laundry service. Staying at Wanda and Anan's home you will get to meet their children...a great way to experience real Indonesian life. Wanda and Ana both speak English. To book email [email protected] or visit our website, www.wandashomestay.com
  • Plain's Stone. Lovely bungalows next to the river, across the bridge from town. En-suite toilet and shower (cold water). Local family owned and run. Great service, friendly, welcoming, and authentic. 100,000 IDR with delicious Nasi Goreng breakfast and tea throughout the day. (April 2012).  edit
  • Junia's Guesthouse, +6281396772804, [3]. 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. Family Room: Queen bed, mosquito net, extra mattress, balcony (175,000 IDR – Indonesian Rupiah/night) 4 rooms: Queen bed, mosquito net (75,000 IDR – Indonesian Rupiah/night).  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 81361219238. 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 tot 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. Price 200 000 to 300 000 IDR/night..  edit
  • Rumah Papa Homestay. 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 sun sets. 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

Stay safe[edit]

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 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 travellers 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 travellers.

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.

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.

Get Out[edit]

When that sad day finally arrives for you to leave, then the cheapest and one of the quickest ways out is by local bus. Firstly you'll need to make your way back to the road. Then catch a tuk tuk to the bus stop which also happens to be where the weekly market is held. This should cost you 10,000 Rupiah and you shouldn't need to haggle over the price. It's about a 5 minute ride, or you can walk which should take about 25 minutes.

Medan Once you arrive at the bus station you may encounter some overly enthusiastic minivan drivers trying to help you with you baggage into the the vans before you've even paid the tuk tuk driver. You can choose to take a ride with one of these chaps or take the local bus to Medan. The local buses are larger than the minivans and coloured a cheery orange. The sign on the front will say 'P.BARIS', this is the name of one of the bus stations in Medan. The ride should cost you 20,000 Rupiah. Prices correct as of March 2014.

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. 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. Once again the cost is 20,000 Rupiah. Price correct as of April 2014.

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This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!