Escaping from the hustle and chaos of Kuala Lumpur after the wedding was a God send. Inspired by National Geographic, an orangutang sanctuary at Bukit Lawang, Indonesia was the perfect option. I took a one hour flight to Medan followed by a four hour drive into the jungle, catching up on much needed sleep on the way.
Bukit Lawang is located on the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to numerous bird, plan and mammal species, most famously the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), which can be seen in the jungle in Bukit Lawang. Apart from visits to the jungle, Bukit Lawang offers a relaxed atmosphere alongside the banks of the Bohorok river.
Arriving at Bukit Lawang, the impact and destruction of the Palm Oil industry is astronomical. Palm trees stripped bare, a noticeable lack of wildlife, 30 plus lorries bombarding the small roads (and that was only in our 4 hour drive) and the lorries have destroyed the roads making any trip on these roads like four wheel off road driving. It’s made me question my impact on our environment and how long can it be sustainable, it can’t be too long before we destroy this beautiful part of the world (and others).
Moving past the Palm Oil sector into the Gunung Leuser National Park, the grandeur of the jungle is monumental. Full of towering palm trees and immense greenery, heaven is for real. The town stretches alongs the Bohorok river, as picturesque as it is refreshing.
Arriving at the Jungle Inn, there’s nothing but those smiles that have become synonymous with Indonesians. Our room was spacious and traditional with a beautiful outdoor bathroom, overlooking the river and close enough to see the monkeys playing on the opposite bank.
The Asian heat is just as oppressing here so the first order is getting in the water, white water rafting down the river was the perfect choice. Seated on round, inflated rafts, local guides took us on a fun and relaxing trip down the river. Cool water and an entertaining ride with swarms of the most beautiful dragonflies floating a metre above our heads. What a welcome!
Our evenings were spent sipping passionfruit juice and indulging in my favourite Indonesian meal, Gado Gado. A rich mixture of vegetables – string beans, bean sprouts, spinach, chayote, bitter gourd, corn and cabbage, with tofu, tempeh and hard-boiled eggs, all mixed in peanut sauce dressing – some of my favourite things served up on a plate. We finished off the evening drinking Bintang beer with one of the most amazing men i’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, Obi Wan. An indonesian rockstar lookalike, with a a beautiful and tragic life story of family and loss.
Our last day was the pinnacle, ORANGUTANG TREKKING. Lead by the local guides again, we ventured into the jungle and up the muddy slopes to a known Orangutang haunt. Taking between one to three hours depending on fitness levels, it’s not an easy trek. The perpendicular slope, the constant rain drops and the mud, after an hour and a half we arrived. The only indication of their presence was the rustling of trees quickly moving overhead. About a minute later I saw my first Orangutang. I was breathless. Minah, as the guides call her, climbed down and and took a seat in a grassy plateau whilst cradling her sweet daughter. They are incredible creatures so swift, elegant and balanced. Shortly after we were joined by another two young orangutangs. Vibrant and energetic as they were hungry. If you get an opportunity to see these animals, take it, they are truly remarkable.
We only spent two days at Bukit Lawang but could have easily stay the week, my next trip here will definitely be for much longer.