Bukit Lawang is one of the most popular destinations in Sumatra located in North Sumatra. It is a convenient first stop for travels in Sumatra with lots of activities, great nature, tourist adapted food, convenient accommodation, and friendly people. Here one can get adjusted to Sumatra before onward travels. Bukit Lawang and its many restaurants and accommodation are nicely located along the clear and clean Bohorok River on the outskirts of the huge national park, Gunung Leuser.
Enjoy the Orangutans, the Long tail and Pig tail macaques, Thomas Leaf monkeys, Langurs, Siamangs and of course the Orangutans. It is hard to miss them. Some jump over your bungalow.
Besides seeing orangutans Bukit Lawang also has a long range of other out-door activities. Bukit Lawang is easily accessible and is a lively and social place. On Sundays it is particularly lively as hundreds of Indonesians come to picnic along the river and watch the tourists. Bukit Lawang is perfect for relaxing and for families. It is easy to see orangutans, even if you are in a hurry.
Bohorok is the administrative unit that contains Bukit Lawang. Indonesians often say Bohorok when they refer to Bukit Lawang. The area of Bohorok has many plantations like cocoa, palm oil, rubber, oranges, etc. Bukit Lawang started as an orangutan rehabilitation center, but quickly developed into one of the most popular destinations of North Sumatra.
The feeding of orangutans in Bukit Lawang is a big attraction. The orangutans are fed on a platform in the jungle. The number of them depends on the availability of food in the jungle, but normally there are 0-4 orangutans showing up. It is recommended to be there early to see the apes arrive. To reach the feeding site on the other side of the river walk past Jungle Inn and go with the canoe over the river. The entrance fee is Rp. 20.000 per day and includes the river crossing. The feeding times are 08.30-09.30 and 15.00-16.00. Leave your accommodation in good time in order to have time for the river crossing and the 1,5 km walk to the station and from there the last 300m to feeding site with the park rangers.
It is strictly forbidden to touch and feed the animals. Keep your distance. The Orangutans are not aggressive, but when angry they are dangerous. Do not enter the quarantine area. You can spread diseases. Read ORANGUTAN WATCHING under PRACTICALITIES on the home page. Get more information in the Visitor Center at the bus station and read about orangutan and how confiscated orangutans are rehabilitated.
Bukit Lawang is very convenient for jungle trekking. There are many alternative treks to do and there are plenty of English speaking guides. There are one-day treks, several day treks, and treks combined with fun rafting. This combined trek takes 1 day. The return to Bukit Lawang is done drifting down the river through the jungle on tubes. Price quotes can vary a lot. Bargain. A jungle trek straight to Kutacane takes 5 days. A trek to Berastagi alos takes 5 days. The former 3 day trek has become a road. See also under Tangkahan. Inquire about treks in your losmen or at a HPI Tourist Information Center. Jungle trekking is nice and if you never have done it; Bukit Lawang is a good place to do it for the first time.
A trekking permit for the Leuser National Park is Rp. 6.000 per day. Guides are approximately Rp. 150-300.000 and up per day and person, normally including food, permits and camping gear. Trails can differ from guide to guide. Chose your guide carefully. Small groups are usually nicer than bigger ones. Registered guides have a legal responsibility. If you have a guide who feeds orangutans, report it to the National park office (PHPA). There are cases where feeding is done with the purpose of making tourists happy, without any consideration of the consequences for the animals. Don’t forget to bring your trash back, even if others leave it behind.
Caves and Walks
There are several lime stone caves within walking distance from Bukit Lawang. The so-called bat cave (see map) is 2 km south of Ecolodge. It is a 30 min walk and a short climb up to the cave, it is advisable to wear good shoes. There are bats and many small animals to see in this 200m long cave. No permit is needed, as it is outside the national park. Bring a flashlight. There are more bat caves at Boat Rock 4 km further downstream, but it is recommended to use a guide if you want to enter these caves. The walk to the Panorama Outlook is nice. It starts north of Jungle Inn. It takes 20 minutes along a slippery and steep path through the rainforest to reach the viewpoint. A 20 minutes further walk leads to the bat cave Goa Luntur.
A fun activity is to float on a rubber tube (fun rafting) for 15 km down the river Sungai Bohorok towards Bohorok. It takes app. 3 hrs. After the float, take a bus back. Tubes can be rented in Bukit Lawang for Rp. 10.000 per day. When tubing, follow the safety recommendations of the American Canoe Association. You can read them at Sumatra Savages. Be especially careful in the rainy season. There have been a few fatal accidents in Sungai Bohorok. Never go tubing alone. There are guides with swift water license if you prefer. Don’t tube when the river is flooded. Look out for strainers in the water, for example fallen trees, bridge pilings, etc. Avoid dams, ledgers, etc. Don’t use drugs or alcohol before tubing. Consider using a lifejacket and helmet.
The river Sungai Bohorok that flows through Bukit Lawang is not big enough for rafting, however there are other more suitable rivers for this. There are one or two organizers of rafting in Bukit Lawang. Most rafting is done on Sungai Wampu. The lower part from Bukit Lawang down to Bohorok (grade 2-3) is an easy rafting nice for beginners. The first 30 minutes of the stretch has several easy rapids, nice surroundings and also a hot spring. A normal price for rafting on Sungai Wampu is € 40 per day. The upper part of Sungai Wampu is in Karo land and there the river is called Lau Biang. The river goes through a deep canyon leading to a big waterfall. The river is called Lau Biang ("Dog River"), as only a dog can survive it. This part of the river is not used for rafting though. Rafting on Lau Biang can be done on a 3-day trip, of which 2 days are spent on the river. The rafting starts in Bintang Meriah and ends in Lemang, before the fall. Sumatra Savages charges € 130 for this rafting adventure. Another river suitable for rafting is Sungai Bingai, which has grade 4 at high water levels. The only operator standing by with equipment in Bukit Lawang is Sumatra Savages.
Maryke is a village on Sungai Wampu south of Bohorok. It is often used as a starting point for rafting, but there are also a few caves and a waterfall in the vicinity. Most of the over 1.000 families living in Maryke are Karonese and Protestants. If going between Bukit Lawang and Maryke by motorbike, there is a nice shortcut (see map). It leads over shaky suspension bridges and through several villages.
Off road driving with jeep or Landover between Bukit Lawang and Tangkahan through rural areas and traditional villages can be organized. See under "Transportation". Enquire in your accommodation or at the HPI Tourist Information Center. It can also be a good idea to travel around on minor roads in the countryside. You can do it either on your own on a rented motorbike, with a guide or someone from your accommodation, or with a chartered RBT (motorcycle taxi). Most accommodations or restaurants can arrange motorbike trips through plantations and the countryside, including a few caves and a waterfall in Maryke.