Those, who dream about jungle experience and watching orangutans should come to Sumatra, Indonesia. Bukit Lawang means “door of the hill” and it’s a small village in North-West Sumatra, on the entrance to Gunung Leuser National Park. This park is one of the richest in South East Asia and since 2004 it is on the UNESCO heritage list. Thomas leaf monkeys and Sumatran orangutans which are endemic, elephants, rhinos, tigers, leopard cats, siamangs, luwak cats, macaques, black gibbons are just a handful of the thousands of species found in this unique ecosystem.
I was always wondering, how rain forest looks like. However, scared of the insects walking all around my body was taking this thought away. Moreover, I love nature as it is and believe we shouldn’t disturb wildlife and just let it be. Instead, we are putting there our chemical mosquito repellent sprays and tons of waste? I was quite skeptical about coming to Bukit Lawang. I thought, it is just touristic trap of agencies destroying the nature and unfortunately, in most of the cases, it is.
Agencies focus on profit, not necessarily thinking in perspective, which can have destructive effects on the environment. Feeding wild animals is forbidden, since it destroys their natural habits and can be poisoning. Touching them can transfer dangerous bacteria to our body as well as make animals sick from our bacteria, which their organism is not familiar with. Bringing to the jungle tons of waste, plastic, chemicals changes the rain forest forever. Luckily, I found about EcoTravel, agency which is struggling to change it, focusing on ecology and responsible tourism.
First of all, some agencies don’t even pay the jungle permit ticket, still collecting 10€ from each tourist for that purpose. Indonesia is so corrupted, so be sure to ask for a ticket on your hand before you go for a trekking. I was positively surprised when I found out about vision of sustainability and conservation of the forest claimed by EcoTravel. Moreover, every six months they organize action called “Keep the jungle green”. They walk around all the paths to clean waste left by tourists and some of the agencies, which simply don’t care. More than 1150 glass bottles and 15 big bags full of garbage were collected in the jungle in one day during their last campaign. Altogether 10.000 litres in 3 years! Quite impressive, huh?
How was my jungle trekking in Bukit Lawang?
Surrounded by incredible and intelligent nature, walking in the humid and hot jungle, watching the wildlife – insane experience. We were in the group of 5 people from different countries plus two guides taking care of us in the forest. Everyone got water and sleeping bag and carried small backpack for 2 days in the jungle.
During the first trekking day we saw plenty of animals, most of them in a very close distance. Ten orangutans throughout the hike, swinging around and feeding their babies. Thomas Leaf Monkeys with a cute punky hairstyle and long tail macaques, which were pretty much everywhere. White handed Gibon jumping on the trees with her baby. Huge hornbill birds high on the trees making an impressive sound with their wings. Long Monitor Lizard like a monster swimming in the river just next to us, not scared at all. We saw herds of termites, big ants, blood sucking leeches and plenty of colorful butterflies. Incredible trees and flowers, rain forest wildlife even more beautiful, than I imagined! Every square meter was full of life, buzzing sounds and greenness.
Overnight in the jungle
Even though the hike was difficult because of the hills, mud and humidity, we had enough breaks to rest, eat and watch animals. In effect, I didn’t really feel tired when we reached the camp. We came there before the evening to have a bath in the river, followed by hot tea or coffee. Dinner was absolutely delicious and we could ask the guide any questions about orangutans and heard many jungle stories. Camp is situated on the bank of the river. It has simple kitchen, toilet, and tents for sleeping. I was surprised about the high quality of comfort provided as I didn’t expect to have mattress, pillow and sleeping bag in the jungle. All the tents are under the roof so no worries about the rain as well.
The next day, we did another short trekking up in the mountains and went to chill in the refreshing waterfall. Came back to the camp to eat lunch and ton of fruits and impatiently waiting for the last part of the experience – rafting! Around 20 minutes going back down on the pontoons was so much fun! We came back all wet and happy straight to the EcoTravel Cottages.
Leave nothing but footprints
I can highly recommend trying the jungle experience in Bukit Lawang to anyone! There is range of choices from 2 days trekking to even 7 days when you can learn about surviving in the jungle, plants you can eat or how to build a shelter. I think there is nothing what can impress me as much as the beauty of nature. If you like to visit National Parks, be sure to include this one while in Indonesia.
In summary, considering jungle experience in Bukit Lawang, please be careful. Don’t let people destroy the nature of our planet and choose wisely the agency to hike with. Having a selfie with orangutan is not as important as their survival in the natural environment.