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
Semi wild Orangutan eating bananas from the feeding platform. Photo taken by A. Zwegers
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 and releasing 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 semi-wild Orangutans in their natural habitat and 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, so with the 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 flash flood hit Bukit Lawang in 2003 as a result of deforestation, wiping out many of the guesthouses and inns, and destroying the local tourism. Roughly 400 homes, 3 mosques, 8 bridges, 280 kiosks and food stalls were swept away. 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' with tourist coming from all over the world to view the Critically Endangered semi-wild Orangutans in their natural habitat, along with Thomas leaf monkeys, White-handed Gibbon, Siamang or a Hornbill which can all be seen here. However, Bukit Lawang has more to offer than just trekking to see Orangutans. There are many local traditions and different cultures here, which can only keep thriving if we support them and visitors buy their local products.
Would you like to see how local people live, see where some of the food come from and how it is made?
We offer day activities to learn the local traditional trades, like wood carving, bamboo making, cocounut necklaces. We offer tours to explore the local traditions and villages, like visiting the rice paddies, watching buffalo, or watch and learn how to make brown sugar or tofu. We have something to suit everyone. By joining these activities or tours, visitors fees go directly to the local people.
Landak river, meaning river of Porcupines is located about 3km from Bukit Lawang and situated in a tranquil area surrounding 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, or by motorbike. By walking, visitors will pass the track to the back Bat Cave, then onwards through oil and palm plantations. On 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, the famous Batu Kapal, Ship Rock can be explored.
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 ours 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 trekking in this area too, to search for wild orangutans and observe all the other wildlife and a special adventure trek to explore and scramble around incredible towering limestone rock formations among rainforest.