Travel / What to do

Meeting Orangutan in Their Natural Habitat

Bukit Lawang, Beautiful forest in North Sumatra, Indonesia

Sumatran Orangutan

If you ask to Indonesian about places you have to visit in the country, people will probably suggest you to go to the east site of the nation. Bali, Gili Trawangan, Komodo Islands, Raja Ampat, and many many more places in the east. They have beautiful beaches with amazing underwater life you don’t want to miss in your life. No doubt.

But, Indonesia is not only about beaches. You might have learned that Indonesia is home to the world’s third largest tropical rainforest. And it will be great should you have a chance to visit the forest.

Me personally have a limited experience adventuring around forests and one day I decided to join an eco-trip with a group of friends to visit one of the biggest national park in Indonesia, Leuser Mountain National Park (LMNP). It is located in North Sumatera, in the west area of the country and the trip was amazing!

The Gate

LMNP takes place in a 1,094,692-hectare area across Aceh and North Sumatra province. You can visit it from Bukit Lawang (Lawang Hill) gate or Tangkahan gate. I visited both of the places, however at this post I am going to share my adventure in Bukit Lawang, and you can check out the one from Tangkahan in another article I will post later.

As planned, in the next morning of our group’s arrival in Bukit Lawang, we went to the LMNP to see Orangutan on their natural habitat. For this trekking trip, two rangers accompanied us. The leader ranger’s name is Baik, originally from Bukit Lawang. Baik is good in speaking English, Dutch and little bit of France. My suggestion is to book the ranger two or three days prior to the arrival in Bukit Lawang. This is to ensure that you get guide who suits your need. They will also brief you about what you have to prepare a day before the trekking day.

100 years old ++ Damar tree

There are several types of trekking trip. You can choose from the four hours trekking, eight hours trekking or from one day to a week of camping. The longer you stay in the wood, the further you can go, and the more you can see. My group took the easiest one, four hours trekking. It cost us around Rp 1,000,000 (USD 90) for five persons in a group, with two rangers companion.

Usually, the ranger suggests us to visit Orangutan in the breakfast or lunchtime. On those schedules, the Orangutans usually come to an area and are having breakfast or lunch there. However, there is no guarantee whether they will come or not. The Orangutan is categorized as semi-wild and wild, thus there is no one allowed pushing them to do anything. Visitors also not allowed feeding them, as the rehabilitation center wants to train the Orangutan to get food from the wildlife forest.

Tourist ready to took picture of the Orangutan around the feeding area, unfortunately there was no Orangutan showed up.

After 30-minutes hiking, we arrived in the feeding area. We silently waited to the appearance of Orangutan, but it was only monkeys that came. Had been waiting for more than 30 minutes, we decided to leave the feeding area.

Baik led the group and one other ranger walked behind us. We trekked along the forest, hoping to see anything we never saw before. Rain forest is beautiful. We can see a 100-years-old plus trees to clove tree, but what we wanted to see was Orangutan.

Bang Baik, our ranger in the middle of the forest

We were very tiring when we heard a group of people talked smoothly somewhere in the woods. They mentioned “Orangutan” and we walked closer to the voice. We were very happy seeing two Orangutans sat down under a tree, a mother and its son.

After took several pictures, it seems that she started to move. Our ranger warned us to walked away and not run. Baik said that the Orangutan could be wild, so we need to keep in distance. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the Orangutan followed us. They walked like they are part of our group.  It was funny to know that, but we were also scared if they run over us and endangered us. The two rangers separated to distract the Orangutans’ attention. Baik led us to go away, the other ranger led the Orangutans to the other way.

The two Orangutans walked behind us

Not far from there, we met another group of three Orangutans. Not like the previous ones who were on the ground, these three were up on the tree; one male and one pregnant female with her son. “The Orangutan here are different with the Borneo ones. Here, they mostly spend their time up on the tree. It is because we have Sumatran tiger in the forest,” Baik said.

When we visited the three Orangutans, they were about to took a nap and what was amazed me, the orangutan could create a (looks-like) comfortable nest by taking several tree branches and leafs in only less than three minutes. Baik said that when it comes to the rainy season, they would also take a big size leaf for the nest’s roof.

Up on the tree

We were very happy meeting two groups of Orangutan. On the way home, we also had a chance to see a deadly bees nest and honey bear’s nail scratch on the tree. That was such an amazing adventure in the forest. I can’t imagine what else we would see if we had a chance to stay longer.

Honey bee’s nail scratch on a tree

Deadly bee nest

“If you take the camping trip, you might be able to see Sumatran tiger,” Baik said. “But don’t worry, we will only be able to see them from far. It is because they know our smell is different and they think that we are dangerous. Wildlife Sumatran tiger will only attack people when they feel attacked,” he explained.


There are several hostels with positive feedback in Bukit Lawang. The hostel where I stayed named Green Hill. It looks like a tree house for me as it’s surrounded by trees. I got the highest room in which from the balcony, I can see the woods of LMNP. The hostel provides each room with hammock. It’s perfect staying there listening to the sound of the forest and sometime you can be visited by monkeys.

Tree house

The balcony with hammock

To reach Bukit Lawang, it needs four hours driving from Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra province. You can rent a car and ask them to drive you to Bukit Lawang. Here is a car rental contact (Edo – Email:,, Phone: +62813 70203574, +62823 6203 3923)

My suggestion is to set all your accommodation upon your arrival. It will be much easier as they don’t have proper and many public transportation.

Moreover, the numbers of the hostel rooms are limited. Here are several options of hostels and some other information about the are on TripAdvisor: Bukit Lawang.

Otherwise, you can also contact Baik for his assistance to arrange your trip (Phone +62852 70757377). My friend Nidinda who helped me arranging trip to Bukit Lawang and Tangkahan might be able to help you too (Phone: +62816784440 or email:

Hope it helps!


Photos: Aziz Hasibuan, Fachrul Azhari, and Rudi Cahyadi.

– The Toilet Post

This post is not for my personal commercial purpose and written in English to help foreigner who has plan to visit Indonesia. Please pardon my broken English writing. I hope that it still able to help you to understand the story, however should you have any questions, just leave message in the comment.

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