We visited Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, in August 2018. It was one of my long-awaited trips, and it did not disappoint.
We stayed in Bukit Lawang Eco Lodge and opted for the full day trek. Getting to Bukit Lawang is already quite a trip, we took a flight from Jakarta to Medan airport and then got at 3-4 hours car trip to the location (included in the lodge package). I believe this car trip is actually a very good thing for visitors to see with their own eyes the damage that palm plantation has done to the area. You will cross kilometres and kilometres of palm tree plantation that used to be forest.
Your trek will start early in the morning after breakfast, you will first go through some lands before entering the protected area. You will most likely see Thomas monkeys on your way there. Those little guys are very daring and will catch any seeds you have in hands. Guides will help you pick some food on the ground that you can give them.
Once you enter the protected area you will meet mostly orang-utans that have either been born in captivity or rehabilitated. The guides are familiar with most orang-utans and you can see the ones who are used/curious about humans visitors versus the ones who clearly do not care, haha! It was incredible to walk on the forest ground and just look up to see those majestic animals move from tree to tree. You could see they were looking at us and clearly intrigued for some of them, even following us. It was an incredible experience to be the one wandering around, looking up to spot them in their own natural habitat. They look funny and a bit clumsy but are just moving from branch to branch while observing you (or peeing, be careful).
We got very lucky to see at least a dozen on that day, and we met very closely with a female and her baby and one huge male that seemed just curious about us. While getting close to us the female was constantly checking her baby was still hanging there with her free hand.
When we met the male orang-utan we just all froze. When we saw how big and imposing he was, I think we all understood how he could just do anything he wanted to us, we were so small and fragile next to him. That was a very unique feeling, feeling insignificant in an animal’s own environment (I personally think it should happen to everyone’s life at some point so people would respect a bit more wildlife). Seeing him in front of me, I just could not possibly understand why people would go after such a powerful and majestic animal.
This trek has definitely been a memorable experience for me, I dreamt of meeting orang-utans in their natural habitat for such a long time… I think we got very lucky to meet a varied range of individuals, from wild to semi wild, from females with babies, youngsters or massive males. I highly recommend this experience to anyone looking for a one day “adventure” in nature, this is feasible for people of all fitness levels and age (just mind the heat that can be hard on some of us). You can have shorter treks as well as longer ones depending on your preferences.
I am definitely going back there once my kids are in age of walking a few hours. This is a must-do for everyone, first, to understand the impact that deforestation has on major areas, and second, for humans to learn to respect wildlife and understand how small we are.