Is a small villlage located on the border of the beautiful Gunung Leuser National Park
Bukit lawang is a small village located on the border of the mountainous Gunung Leuser National Park and sits besides the fast flowing Bahorok River. It is located about 86km northwest from the city of Medan in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Bukit Lawang meaning 'Gateway to the hills', is a popular and well known tourist destination. It is one of the best gateways to the national park and is most famous for observing semi-wild orangutans in the jungle.
Main gateway to the old visitor centre in the Gunung Leuser National Park
Photo taken by A. Zwegers
Bukit Lawang Rehabilitation Centre
Bukit Lawang became known because in 1973 two Swiss zoologists, Regina Frey and Monica Boernerthe established the Bukit Lawang Rehabilitation Centre, famously known as the Bohorok Orangutan Sanctuary. It was founded for rescued Sumatran Orangutans.
The main purpose was to preserve the decreasing number of Orangutans in the area due to illegal logging, hunting and pet trade. By rescuing, rehabilitating they could release them back in the jungle. Since opening, over 200 Orangutans were rehabilitated and released back into the wild, free once again to roam wild. Rangers monitored the released Orangutans and supplemented their diet by feeding them at the feeding platform.
Over the years, more and more tourists came to Bukit Lawang, to trek and see the ex-catpive Orangutans in their natural habitat or being fed at the feeding platform.
It became one of the most popular destinations in Sumatra. However, in 1980 the centre was taken over by the Indonesian government, but with little funding from outside the rehabilitation centre was not managed properly. With increased tourism, visitors behaviour was not being controlled or managed properly at the rehabilitation centre. Because of the high risk of disease transmission, the centre no longer served well as a rehabilitation centre. The last rehabilitated orangutan was received in 2001 and the centre was closed for good in 2002.
Not long after, a flash flood hit Bukit Lawang in 2003 as a result of deforestation. It wiped out many of the guesthouses and inns, thus destroying the local tourism.
Roughly 400 homes, 3 mosques, 8 bridges, 280 kiosks and food stalls were swept a.way. 239 people including 5 tourists were killed in the disaster and 1,400 locals lost their homes.
After about eight months of rebuilding, with the help of several international agencies, Bukit Lawang reopened as a tourist destination in 2004. However, there was another flash flood in 2015, luckily no one was hurt, but there was damage to the gardens of some guesthouses and it knocked out the crossing platform for the feeding platform. For some reason, it was decided to keep the feeding platform closed. Now, 2019, Bukit Lawang is flourishing with many guesthouses, eco lodges and restaurants.
Bukit Lawang is the usual starting point for the famously known 'jungle trekking' in the Gunung Leuser National Park, with tourist coming from all over the world to view the ex-captive Sumatra Orangutans in their natural habitat. This now the only way to see Orangutans in the GLNP. Jungle treks range from 1/2 days up to 7 days.
The high season for jungle trekking is from July to September, which is the driest months in the year. If you want to avoid all the crowds the best time to come is March - June, when it rains a little and there a few tourists.
What else there to do?
Bukit Lawang has more to offer than just trekking to see Orangutans in the GLNP. Bukit Lawang is a great place to sit back and relax. There are many local traditions and different cultures here, which can only keep thriving if we support them and visitors buy their local products. Village tours are a great way to see the local rural area and try out some real local food.
Just a short distance away there are other villages bordering the national park, like Batu Katak and Tangkahan. These places offer trekking but to see something very different, like the famous Rafflesia flower or local groups of Gibbons. These places are great to explore with amazing waterfalls, water caves and tubing.
Go another couple of hours away as a day trip, you can reach hot springs, more amazing waterfalls and activities like water cayoning. There are many exciting activities in and around Bukit Lawang for you to enjoy. By staying longer, you are not only supporting the Guides in Bukit Lawang but other local people and communities.
Landak river, meaning river of Porcupines is located about 3km from Bukit Lawang. It is situated in a tranquil area surrounded by the mountains of the Lesuer National Park.
It is not so crowded like the Bahorok River and the river is clean and clear. It can be accessed by walking from Bukit Lawang which takes between 45 mintues to 1 hour depending on where you stop. By walking, visitors will pass the track to the back Bat Cave,which well worth a visit.
Arriving visitors will be met by the slow flowing river with many deep pools for swimming. From the rocks above, you will just want to jump into the clear refreshing water. Walking further alongside the rivere, the locally famous Batu Kapal (Ship Rock) can be see. To fully appreciate Batu Kapal and not get lost its best to take a guide. We offer an adventure trek, to explore this using a local guide who knows the area very well.
This place is still naturally beautiful with only a few guesthouses and small buildings nestled in the agro-forests behind. It extremely peaceful, a great great place to explore and see many birds, butterflies, monkeys and even a glimpse of a wild orangutan.
Landak River can be explored alone, but we reccommend taking one of our tours, especially if you would like to visit the Bat Cave or explore the huge rock formations at Ship Rock so you make the most out of your visit.
We offer Eco-treks in this area too, to search for wild orangutans and observe all the other wildlife that you can not see in the GLNP.