Mount Leuser National Park, Trekking in The Wild
Covering both resilient Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and antique North Sumatra Province, most parts of the national park rest in the lush South East Aceh region, blessed with tropical fruits like mango, rambutan, durian, avocado, orange, papaya, and guava. The other parts are situated in the east Aceh, south Aceh, and Langkat of North Sumatra, known to produce world-class coffee and tobacco. Most visitors normally start their adventures in the national park through Bukit Lawang, North Sumatra, where you can always find the gentle giants of the jungle, the orangutans. Discover the gentleness of these sociable primates as your discovery of Sumatra begins right here.
Mount Leuser National Park, named after its highest peak, Mount Leuser (3,381 m), is one of the largest and the most diverse national parks in Indonesia, covering an area of 7,927 square kilometer in the northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. Embracing various ecosystems, the national park is in fact a cluster of various nature reserves and forests: Gunung Leuser Nature Reserve, Kappi Nature Reserve, Kluet Nature Reserve, Sikundur-Langkat Wildlife Reserve, Ketambe Research Station, Singkil Barat, and Dolok Sembilin.
The park is so extensive, it covers mangroves, beach and swamp forest, lowland rainforest, moss forest, and up to subalpine forest. When traversing its extraordinary landscape, enthusiastic adventurer like you will not be disappointed.
The Mount Leuser National Park, which is Taman Nasional Gunung Leuser in Bahasa, encompasses more than 100 kilometers of the Bukit Barisan Mountains, known for its steep, almost inaccessible mountainous terrains. The altitude ranges from beach area in Kluet (South Aceh), to 3,381 meter on top of the Gunung Leuser (Southeast Aceh). The breathtaking Alas River cuts the park into an eastern and western half, where your tropical thirst for adrenaline will be captivatingly fulfilled.
Around 130 species are identified in this park only. The mysterious Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinos, Siamang monkeys, macaques, clouded leopards, reptiles, fish, and around 325 species of birds are among the endemic wildlife known to inhibit the park. Surely the trek to the inner park is more than just a great adventure to the last zoo you visited. Come and take in the experience living in a small friendly village, Ketambe, where the locals are naturally knowledgeable and ecologically hospitable.
Bohorok River flows within the area of Bukit Lawang, a small village 86 km north-west of Medan, North Sumatra. It is the largest orangutan sanctuary and the only access to the Leuser National Park from the east side. In the sequence up the pathway by the river in Bukit Lawang, several accommodations are available to choose from.
• Jungle Inn is a pleasant accommodation, directly opposite the orangutan sanctuary. It offers reasonably priced rooms, but slightly inflated prices for food by Sumatran standards. Jungle Inn has a couple of very special rooms namely ‘Honeymoon Suite’ for IDR 350,000+ and the new ‘Penthouse’ for over IDR 450,000.
• Jungle Tribe is a free standing house at IDR 250,000 per night with ‘a bar and restaurant’ next door.
• Garden Inn stays not far from Jungle Inn, which is another pleasant place to stay in Bukit Lawang (Nice double bedrooms, cold shower and mandi for IDR 50,000 to IDR 60,000).
• Hostel Indra Inn is located directly at the riverside at your left side when you walk to the orangutan center. Authentic rooms and three new rooms that were completed at the end of March 2007 are now available. They serve good and healthy food for reasonable prices.
• Greenhill now has two rooms built high up behind their beautiful open air building with incredible views. Rooms are IDR 150,000 per night.
• Rain Forest is a new accommodation built by Nora’s family has five (5) rooms and a restaurant. Rooms are available from IDR 40,000 per night. It is a great place to stay, lots of fun entertainment with many of the guides playing guitar and singing in the evenings, great food and, as always, Nora herself provides a great company. Down by the river there are a number of other accommodations to stay in.
• Bukit Lawang Cottages also known as ‘Eco Lodge’ is just across the river from main village at the base of the hill and where the walking tracks start. It is a good option with prices starting from IDR 80,000 per night. It’s also one of the main places to eat/drink at night and meet in the morning for treks.
• 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 IDR 35,000. Bukit Lawang Indah has excellent cheap food.
• In village of Gotong Royong where the weekly market is held on 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 kilometers by road from the river, is a great kampung-style experience, starting from IDR 25,000 per night including self-contained shower and toilet.
Explore the multi-path jungle trek when you go to this park. Seeing the reclusive orangutan in the wild is one of the best experiences you will have in your life. So, prepare your gears to learn more than a swing in Bohorok-Bukit Lawang Orangutan Rehabilitation Station that detects more than 5,000 orangutans living in the sanctuary.
Collectively protects the diverse wildlife with Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat National Park, they form a World’s Heritage Site. It is the only place on earth where four of the world’s spectacular animals namely the orangutans, rhinoceros, elephants, and tigers are found altogether.
Take a breath during your break while watching the dynamic Thomas leaf monkey. They are superb creatures that leap into air, as they move from tree to tree. Their Mohawk hairstyles and faces make these tree-hopping actors a delightful interruption in your expedition. The village of Ketambe offers a childhood interlude activity in the Alas River. They love going tubing. Here, one uses an inner tube to float down the river. Tubes can be rented at various stalls along the village.
Other activities you might want to consider are visiting bat cave, hiking along the rice fields and rubber plantations, visiting social projects like free English school, Children’s home and clinics, and the joyful Friday market. If you are curious enough, just hang out with some of the locals and enjoy the relax-paced atmosphere around local warongs.
For a more challenging trip, you may consider hiking to the peak of Mount Leuser, which takes about 10-14 days. The small village of Angasan is a common and suitable starting point.
It is highly recommended to always go into the jungle with some assistance from your local guide. There are sufficiently good and reliable guides around for a great adventure. All reliable guides have to be licensed, and hence, ask to see their permit to make sure of someone’s expertise and service excellence. Not only will you have a safe expedition, as the chance to sightings of the orangutan and other wildlife can be much favorable.
In Bukit Lawang or Ketambe, walking is very pleasant as the village is quite small and accessible within short time. You can walk from one side to the other in about 25 minutes. There are three bridges that provide access to the resorts across the river. Access to the Gunung Leuser National Park is IDR 20,000 per person. Payment is done either in Bukit Lawang, or at the orangutan feeding ground.
Bukit Lawang is in North Sumatra, and getting to Medan is essential. Please refer to Getting There – Medan article for detailed accessibility to the city. Ketambe is also an alternative to get in to Leuser National Park. Getting to Ketambe is also easier from Medan or Kutacane, a closer city to Ketambe.
You can take a one-way large, non air-conditioned bus from Medan, Pinang Baris Bus Terminal to Bukit Lawang, 86 km by road to the north-west. Check the fare for one trip and prepare the money in advance. The bus leaves in every 30 minutes. Sometimes the schedule skips. Going back to Medan, you can take a minibus or a large bus from Bukit Lawang Bus Terminal.
You will expect to find insistent drivers offering minivans from the Belawan ferry terminal direct to Bukit Lawang. Also expect to be shifted to different minivan at least once in Medan. The prices may vary and higher compared to public transportation as they reduce your travel hassles. The driver will usually recommend a family or friend’s accommodation.
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