A few weeks ago I headed to Bukit Lawang, Indonesia for a 4-day weekend. I heard great things about the area, particularly my chances of seeing an orangutan, so it seemed like the perfect way to escape Singapore for the Chinese New Year weekend. I was right! I couldn’t have asked for a better way to detox and unwind. If you’re interested in a similar trek, read on for details and suggestions.
To get to Bukit Lawang you must fly to Medan, Indonesia, and then take a 3-4 hour drive. The drive is only so long because of the conditions of the road. Do yourself a favor and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to and from the airport. I also suggested not arriving too late. The drive is much safer when you can actually see everything around you, and after you leave the city you also leave behind most of the well-lit roads.
Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking Company
The company itself was great to deal with. I e-mailed using the information provided on their website and Janine got right back to me. She arranged all details for me, from airport pick-up to the trek itself. After spending one night at their lodge, we left early the next morning to start the trek. We had two guides, Jim and Roni who were both fantastic. They were very knowledgeable about everything in the forest, but also great cooks and were kind and funny. When I took a tumble they rushed to make sure I was okay and then checked to make sure I could handle the pace of the trek with my bruises. They also gave us plenty of time to prepare when an orangutan was approaching and knew almost all of them, including their habits. At certain points we had to retreat when an aggressive orangutan approached, but at other times we had the opportunity to get closer or actually interact with them. I even lost count of how many orangutans I saw. Once we got to camp after a long day of hiking, I figured that was it for seeing orangutans; but I was wrong. There was a mom and baby that slept along the river with us. They were very laid back and chill so we could just enjoy watching their daily life while we bathed in the river or ate breakfast. It was fantastic! In addition to the stars of the show, the orangutans, the rain forest was unbelievable. There was green as far as the eye could see, but also snakes, birds, monkeys, streams, waterfalls and even a little river rafting.
You will have to carry everything with you, so make sure to pack light. If you are going to be staying in the area after your trek you can leave behind another bag. Bukit Lawang Trekking was nice enough to store everything for us in a locker. I packed a sleeping bag and was glad I did. It gave a bit more cushion to the mat where we slept. I also used my extra clothes as a pillow, which was a lifesaver. As a vegetarian I often pack some extra snacks just to make sure I have enough to eat, but I can honestly say I wasn’t hungry at all. Bukit Lawang Trekking did an excellent job with the meals and even made sure to dispose of everything so as not to tempt the monkeys or orangutan.
There are a few organizations in the area that you can visit to learn more about the surrounding town and some of the problems they experience. Living in Singapore, I’ve always been curious about the palm plantations and associated burnings that happen every year. I was amazed to see the rainforest essentially side by side to the palm. We not only got to see the palm plantations, we also visited rubber plantations, where many make their living, a local school where kids are being taught how they can positively impact the environment, and we even did a tree planting. My boyfriend and I planted fruit trees to help feed the orangutan and prevent them from going into neighboring farmland where they may be killed. I absolutely recommend visiting both the school and planting a tree. While I loved hiking and seeing the orangutan, tree planting and getting to visit a local classroom were a close second. If you book with Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking, ask how you can get involved during your visit.