The Incredible Orangutans of Sumatra

The Incredible Orangutans of Sumatra

Orangutans are incredible creatures and I was excited to finally get to explore the #nature of their characteristics. You will only find them in very few places and I can highly recommend Bukit Lawang, #Sumatra, it was an enlightening #active day in the jungle.


If you want to see Orangutans, head to Bukit Lawang in Sumatra.

Initially I thought my place to find them would be Malaysian Borneo. I had many reasons for visiting Borneo, namely because I simply hadn’t been before, but also because I wanted to see some amazing wildlife and spend some time in the jungle. Due to the deforestation given the influx of (mostly foreign) palm oil plantations, and lack of Orangutans in general, I was left feeling disappointed.

I wanted to see some amazing wildlife and spend some time in the jungle

The feeding platform I stopped by in Sepilok while motorbiking around Borneo ended up being a let-down for me. It was chalk-full of loud tourists and felt more like a zoo than an opportunity to appreciate the Orangutans in a natural environment, seeing how they would naturally act.

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Jungle Trek & Feeding Platform

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I wanted to give it another shot. Given Orangutans only live in Borneo and Sumatra, Bukit Lawang seemed like the perfect place to give Orangutan viewing a fighting chance. I’m delighted to say that I was not disappointed this time around. A one-day trek ended up providing an amazing viewing opportunity:

Bukit Lawang seemed like the perfect place to give Orangutan viewing

A mature female (I know what you’re thinking… she looks like an old man) in Bukit Lawang A pensive, pot-bellied one, in Bukit Lawang A Blue Steel impersonation in Bukit Lawang It’s like he was posing for me in Bukit Lawang Cutest ball of fur in Bukit Lawang
A mature female (I know what you’re thinking… she looks like an old man) in Bukit Lawang 
A mature female (I know what you’re thinking… she looks like an old man) in Bukit Lawang A pensive, pot-bellied one, in Bukit Lawang A Blue Steel impersonation in Bukit Lawang It’s like he was posing for me in Bukit Lawang Cutest ball of fur in Bukit Lawang
A pensive, pot-bellied one, in Bukit Lawang
A mature female (I know what you’re thinking… she looks like an old man) in Bukit Lawang A pensive, pot-bellied one, in Bukit Lawang A Blue Steel impersonation in Bukit Lawang It’s like he was posing for me in Bukit Lawang Cutest ball of fur in Bukit Lawang
A Blue Steel impersonation in Bukit Lawang
A mature female (I know what you’re thinking… she looks like an old man) in Bukit Lawang A pensive, pot-bellied one, in Bukit Lawang A Blue Steel impersonation in Bukit Lawang It’s like he was posing for me in Bukit Lawang Cutest ball of fur in Bukit Lawang
It’s like he was posing for me in Bukit Lawang
A mature female (I know what you’re thinking… she looks like an old man) in Bukit Lawang A pensive, pot-bellied one, in Bukit Lawang A Blue Steel impersonation in Bukit Lawang It’s like he was posing for me in Bukit Lawang Cutest ball of fur in Bukit Lawang
Cutest ball of fur in Bukit Lawang
Hanging out, as you do in Bukit Lawang Like Thomas Leaf monkeys in Bukit Lawang White-Faced Gibbons in Bukit Lawang Black Gibbons (and their babies) in Bukit Lawang And lizards too in Bukit Lawang
Hanging out, as you do in Bukit Lawang

But, as amazingly bright and intriguing as they are, there’s much more to the jungle than only Orangutans.

Hanging out, as you do in Bukit Lawang Like Thomas Leaf monkeys in Bukit Lawang White-Faced Gibbons in Bukit Lawang Black Gibbons (and their babies) in Bukit Lawang And lizards too in Bukit Lawang
Like Thomas Leaf monkeys in Bukit Lawang
Hanging out, as you do in Bukit Lawang Like Thomas Leaf monkeys in Bukit Lawang White-Faced Gibbons in Bukit Lawang Black Gibbons (and their babies) in Bukit Lawang And lizards too in Bukit Lawang
White-Faced Gibbons in Bukit Lawang
Hanging out, as you do in Bukit Lawang Like Thomas Leaf monkeys in Bukit Lawang White-Faced Gibbons in Bukit Lawang Black Gibbons (and their babies) in Bukit Lawang And lizards too in Bukit Lawang
Black Gibbons (and their babies) in Bukit Lawang
Hanging out, as you do in Bukit Lawang Like Thomas Leaf monkeys in Bukit Lawang White-Faced Gibbons in Bukit Lawang Black Gibbons (and their babies) in Bukit Lawang And lizards too in Bukit Lawang
And lizards too in Bukit Lawang

A Little Info

The Orangutans seen in the jungles of Bukit Lawang are “semi-wild,” meaning they were most likely orphaned, have been rehabilitated, and have since been released back into the wild. This is why they are easier to spot in the jungles and don’t mind being somewhat near to humans. There are even a couple of Orangutans that are famous for “hugging” or even biting tourists if they get too close.

There are even a couple of Orangutans that are famous for hugging

That said, these photos were all taken with a zoom lens. I appear to be much closer to the animals than I actually was.

It’s worth mentioning that Sumatra, like Borneo, is also prone to deforestation due to spreading palm oil plantations. One of the ways to help keep the Orangutans’ homes preserved is to visit the areas where they live, proving that they can be a lucrative tourist attraction.

Do it Yourself

A great budget option for your stay is Bukit Lawang Indah – the price is right at 50,000 RP per night and the food and atmosphere are both great. Cross the large white bridge from the main town and find the guesthouse at the end of it on the other side.

Find the right guide. A huge part of my amazing trekking experience was my guide, Robet’s, sixth sense when it came to searching out wildlife. Booking ahead through the wrong agency or believing stories about guides either being “dead” or “not trekking anymore” can lead to overpaying and getting stuck with a guide who doesn’t know the jungle well. Trek Sumatra is a great resource for the best guides in the area, gives the guide a much fairer cut, and provides the best budget options. You can also ask for Robet or Rinto (two guides I can personally vouch for) at Bukit Lawang Indah’s reception.

A huge part of my amazing trekking experience was my guide

A package including transport from Medan and accommodation can be booked. If you are on a budget, make your own way to Bukit Lawang and search out a guide for 25-30 Euro per day. Bargaining below this price is discouraged.

Things to avoid: Some guides feed the animals during treks. This is particularly harmful to the animals’ natural habits and can even lead to an early death. If your guide does this or tells you it’s ok to offer the animals food of any kind, be firm and say that you do not support this kind of tour or tourism.

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