How to Book a Sumatra Orangutan Trek – The Ultimate Guide

Sumatra, the sixth largest island in the world, is home to some of the world’s most incredible wildlife, including the Sumatra orangutan. 

Bukit Lawang, a small village in North Sumatra, is the starting point for trekking tours to see these magnificent apes in their natural habitat.

How to Book a Sumatra Orangutan Trek – The Ultimate Guide

Sumatra, the sixth largest island in the world, is home to some of the world’s most incredible wildlife, including the Sumatra orangutan. 

Bukit Lawang, a small village in North Sumatra, is the starting point for trekking tours to see these magnificent apes in their natural habitat.

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Hi, we’re Rach & Marty!

We’ve visited every country in the world and want to help you get the most out of your travels!

Whether you need an expertly planned itinerary, some experienced hints and tips, or just craving a delicious food adventure, we’ve got you covered!

Hi, we’re Rach & Marty!

We’ve visited every country in the world and want to help you get the most out of your travels!

Whether you need an expertly planned itinerary, some experienced hints and tips, or just craving a delicious food adventure, we’ve got you covered!

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How to Book a Sumatra Orangutan Trek - Orangutan in tree

This article will explain how you can go trekking to see Sumatran Orangutans in the wild. 

Our post covers everything you need to know to book a Sumatra orangutan trekking tour from Bukit Lawang.

How to get to Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang is approximately 90 km northwest of Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra. Medan is the closest international airport to Bukit Lawang, with daily flights from Jakarta, Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur starting from USD 38 one way. 

You can book the best flight deals to Medan on Skyscanner.

From Medan airport, Bukit Lawang is a 4-hour drive. From Medan city, it’s a 3-hour drive. The journey to Bukit Lawang may take an extra hour or so in heavy traffic. 

The most common way to get to Bukit Lawang is by ‘tourist bus’, essentially a shared car with a maximum of six passengers at the cost of around 210,000 IDR or USD 14 per person. 

Once you have chosen a Tour Operator to book your Sumatran Orangutan Trekking Tour, they usually offer to make these arrangements for you in advance. 

You could also book a private car or Grab Taxi if you don’t wish to share it with anyone else. Book this private transfer from Medan airport to Bukit Lawang here.

Alternatively, you can take a public bus from Medan to Bukit Lawang.

The bus journey takes about four to five hours and costs significantly less than a taxi or private car; however, public buses in Indonesia can be crowded and uncomfortable, and you may be charged more as a tourist and for your luggage. 

How to Catch Public Bus from Medan to Bukit Lawang

public bus medan to bukit lawang
Public Bus from Medan to Bukit Lawang jungle in Indonesia route

You need to take 2 different buses to reach Bukit Lawang:

– First, take the local ALS bus (Antar Lintas Sumatera/orange color) from Medan Airport to Binjai, the journey takes around 2 hours and the price is approx 50,000 IDR per person.

– Once you’ve arrived at Binjai bus station, you have to take a tuk-tuk (5,000 IDR) to Tanah Lapang Binjai terminal. Alternatively, you can also get dropped at Binjai Supermall.

NOTE: the last buses can be at 4:30 pm, 6:30 pm or 7:30 pm (no fixed times, it’s random) so ensure you leave enough time to reach Binjai before 4:30 pm.

​- Then take the L300 or PS bus from Tanah Lapang Binjai terminal or from Binjai Supermall to go to Bukit Lawang. This bus journey takes around 3 hours and the price is 30,000 IDR per person. 

From where they drop you, take a tuk-tuk for 10,000 IDR to Bukit Lawang.

Once you’ve arrived in Bukit Lawang, it’s about a 10-15 min walk to head down to the river where most guesthouses and hotels are located. The road is narrow, but it’s doable to walk with your bags or even roll a small suitcase along the path.

If you can afford it, we recommend you take the ‘tourist bus’, it’s a very comfortable car with air conditioning to Bukit Lawang as mentioned above. 

We took this option and would likely choose it again if we returned to see Sumatran Orangutans in Bukit Lawang.

Which Sumatra Orangutan Trekking Tour Should You Choose

There are many trekking companies to choose from and they all offer a similar range of Sumatra orangutan trekking tours.

These range from short half-day walks to multi-day jungle treks. The type of tour you choose will depend on your fitness level and how much time you have available.

Half-Day Trek: If you’re short on time, a half-day trek is a perfect option. These treks typically last 3-4 hours and involve a gentle jungle walk to see the orangutans. 

Full-Day Trek: The Full-day Trek is slightly more strenuous and involves a longer hike through the jungle. These treks typically last 6-7 hours and offer the opportunity to see orangutans and more wildlife, including gibbons, Thomas Leaf monkeys, and various bird species.

The 1-Day Trek is one of the most popular options for travellers hoping to spend some time viewing Sumatran orangutans in the wild. We chose the 1 Day tour option and were very happy with our Sumatra Orangutans Trekking Experience, and we saw eight orangutans in Sumatra jungle!

This tour had the right balance of viewing a range of Sumatran Orangutans, other wildlife, and great jungle views. 

Multi-Day Treks: For the ultimate jungle experience, consider a multi-day trek. These treks can last anywhere from 2-7 days and involve camping in the rainforest. This 1 Night / 2 Day Trek is very popular.

Multi-day treks offer the chance to see a wide range of wildlife and explore more remote jungle areas.

Camping Facilities – What to Expect on your Sumatra Orangutan Tour

If you book a multi-day Orangutan Trek, please remember that the facilities in the jungle are basic.

Campsites in the jungle are made with natural materials such as bamboo frames, covered by sizeable waterproof plastic sheets to protect from the rain. 

Your guides will provide each trekker with a mattress, a mosquito net, and a blanket. There is a kitchen area at each campsite where your cook will prepare local dishes, and this is where you will enjoy dinner with your crew and group. 

Usually, a toilet area is located a bit further away from the campsite, so it’s a good idea to bring your torch or headlamp.

Campsites are located near a river, a waterfall, or a small stream, so you can revitalise yourself and take a wilderness shower here.

All meals are provided on the Trek, including fresh fruit, tea/coffee, and biscuits at camp.

Food Included on your Sumatran Orangutan Trek

The food included in your Orangutan Trek is fantastic! 

Lunches are typically fried rice, fried egg, prawn crackers, cucumber/tomato, and tropical fruit such as pineapple, mandarins, bananas, and watermelon.

Dinner at camp is classic Indonesian dishes such as chicken or tofu curry, fried fish/tempeh & rice, and vegetables. 

Breakfast is a typical Indonesian breakfast of nasi goreng (fried rice) served with your choice of tea or coffee.

If you have any dietary requirements, your trekking company will do their best to accommodate your needs – just be sure to let them know before you depart on your Trek, although they will probably ask you beforehand.

How to Choose an Ethical Tour Operator 

When booking a Sumatra orangutan trekking tour, choosing an ethical tour operator is essential. Unfortunately, some tour operators in Bukit Lawang have been known to feed orangutans or exploit them for tourist entertainment, which can harm the animals and their natural behaviour. 

Choosing an ethical tour operator ensures that your experience is sustainable and responsible.

An ethical tour operator will prioritise the welfare of the orangutans, ensuring that they are not touched or fed by tourists. They will also follow strict guidelines to minimise the impact of tourism on the animals and their habitat. 

By choosing an ethical tour operator, you can have a unique and unforgettable jungle experience while supporting conservation efforts in Sumatra. This is very important to us, which is why we chose to book with an ethical and reputable tour operator, Sumatra Orangutan Explore.

These guys have wonderful reviews from past travellers, which speaks volumes about them as a company that cares. 

How to Book a Sumatra Orangutan Trek - Our guides
How to Book a Sumatra Orangutan Trek – With our guides, Yahya and Jaka

Why are Sumatran orangutans endangered?

The Sumatran orangutan is one of the most endangered great apes in the world. A common question is how many Sumatran orangutans are left? The answer is estimated to be approximately 17,000 individuals remaining in the wild.

Deforestation and habitat loss have been the primary drivers of the orangutan’s decline, as vast areas of Sumatra’s rainforest have been cleared for palm oil and other agricultural products.

In addition to orangutans, Sumatra is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including tigers, elephants, rhinos, and numerous bird and reptile species. 

The jungle surrounding Bukit Lawang is a crucial conservation area, and tourism can play a vital role in supporting conservation efforts. 

Is a Sumatra Orangutan Trek Considered Easy or Difficult?

Trekking to see Sumatran Orangutans could be considered quite challenging for some people. I hiked for Sumatran Orangutans on the 1 Day Trek and would admit that it was a little more challenging than I expected, and I consider myself with a solid level of fitness and agility.

Expect some very steep inclines and declines where your leg muscles will work hard. 

Nearing the end of the 1 Day Trek, the decline from the top of the jungle heading straight down to the river is quite challenging. Furthermore, the ground can be mucky and slippery with spikey tree branches, roots, and leeches. 

Add the intense humidity and shining sun; at times, you’ll certainly work for your views of Sumatran Orangutans.

If you don’t have a good level of fitness or have a fear of heights, I’d recommend you do the Half-Day 3 hr Trek to get a taste of the jungle and view some Orangutans. 

Also, I’d recommend you speak with your Orangutan Trekking Company to discuss the best Trek to suit you. They’ll consider individual needs and requirements for your special jungle Sumatra experience.

If you book a private 1 Day Trek (incl transfer from Medan), your guide can also lead you around on a more accessible circuit to avoid strenuous ups/downs on the trekking trail.

Jungle Rules to Go Trekking with Sumatran Orangutans

This jungle is part of the Gunung Leuser National Park, and it is home to some endangered animals, so there are a few rules that you are expected to follow:

  • Only Enter the National Park with a Guide. Your Sumatran Orangutan Trekking Tour should include two guides, they are required to accompany you whilst inside the park. They are responsible to keep you safe and provide information about the Sumatran Orangutan and other wildlife you will encounter.
  • You must have a permit to enter the park. Your guide will take care of this for you and provide you with your permit upon entry.
  • Don’t touch or feed Sumatran orangutans or wildlife. You should never feed or touch wildlife because they may become dependent on humans for food or could contract disease or virus from us.
  • Stay at least 10 metres distance from wildlife. These are animals in the wild, and to ensure your safety, please keep your distance.
  • Take all of your garbage with you. Whatever you take with you, please wrap it in a plastic bag (used toilet paper, food scraps, cigarette butts) and take it with you out of the National Park once you leave.

Prices to go Orangutan Trekking in Bukit Lawang

The cost of Sumatra orangutan trekking tours in Bukit Lawang can vary depending on the length of the trek.

On average, this is what trekking tours to see Sumatra Orangutans cost:

  • A half-day (3 hrs) trek can cost around 700,000 IDR / 45 USD 
  • 1 Day Trek (6-7 hrs trekking) can cost 900,000 IDR / 59 USD
  • 2 Days Trek 1,500,000 IDR / 99 USD
  • 3 Days Trek 2,000,000 IDR / 132 USD
  • 4 Days Trek 2,800,000 IDR / 185 USD
  • 5 Days Trek 3,300,000 IDR / 218 USD

Where To Stay In Bukit Lawang

Marty along the river in Bukit Lawang
Marty walking along the river where most of the guesthouses and hotels are located for your Sumatran orangutans Tour

Regarding accommodation, Bukit Lawang has a range of options to suit different budgets and preferences. The village has several guesthouses, homestays, and a few mid-range and luxury hotels/lodges.

Budget options in Bukit Lawang can cost as little as 100,000 IDR (approximately 7 USD) per night for a basic room with shared facilities.

Mid-range options can cost between 300,000 IDR to 600,000 IDR (approximately 21 USD to 42 USD) per night for a private room with air conditioning and an en-suite bathroom. 

For a spacious room with high-end amenities, luxury options can range from 1,000,000 IDR to 2,000,000 IDR (approximately 70 USD to 140 USD) per night.

We recommend booking accommodation in advance, especially during peak tourist season, as availability can be limited. 

Many of the tour operators in Bukit Lawang also offer accommodations, so it’s worth considering booking a tour and accommodations together for convenience and saving some money.

Here are some of our top picks for accommodation in Bukit Lawang:

  • Green Travelodge – Top-rated hotel in town, with rave reviews – 425,000 IDR ($28 USD)
  • Garden Inn – Standard rooms with a garden view – 270,000 IDR ($18 USD)
  • Hotel Orangutan – Double Room – 300,000 IDR ($20 USD) Family room (sleeps 6) with balcony – 1.2 Mil IDR ($79 USD)
  • Ida Guesthouse & Restaurant – Budget option with great reviews– Double Room with Patio 120,000 IDR ($8 USD)
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Tips to Prepare for your Sumatra Orangutan Trek from Bukit Lawang

  • ATM: There isn’t an ATM in Bukit Lawang – and the nearest ATM is about 10 km away. Ensure you bring enough cash or you may also pay for your tour package by bank transfer or via Wise.com. There is no currency exchange and credit cards are not accepted anywhere in Bukit Lawang.
  • WiFi: Many small restaurants and guesthouses have WiFi. It won’t be super fast, but it’s enough to do most things.
  • Hotels: Expect cold showers and fans only, air conditioning is limited here. Electricity may go out sometimes but is usually stable. Bring a good power bank to ensure your camera and phone are fully charged for trekking each day.
  • Phone Service: We used Airalo eSIM to stay connected as we travelled in Indonesia, it’s awesome! The connection to the local carrier in Bukit Lawang was fantastic, we highly recommend purchasing an eSIM for Indonesia
  • Restaurants: Many guesthouses have in-house restaurants for their in-house guests, but there are many places to eat along the river. We recommend My Resto Restaurant – they’ve got awesome reviews for great home-cooked food. We ate both pumpkin curry and eggplant curry with rice and it was wonderful – very fair prices too.
My Resto Restaurant Bukit Lawang
Eat at My Resto Restaurant in Bukit Lawang – so tasty!
  • Safety: We felt very safe in Sumatra. Solo travellers – we recommend asking your preferred tour operator to group you with other tourists who are doing the same trek on the same day as you. This way, you can share the experience and perhaps feel a little safer in the jungle, especially if you’re hoping to do a multi-day trek.
  • Monkeys: There are lots of mischievous monkeys jumping around town, usually they’re trying to find food or cause chaos. Remember to lock your hotel windows at night and keep your things out of their reach!
  • Mosquitoes: Although malaria or dengue isn’t a threat here, the mosquitoes are fierce, and they’re huge. Bring some good repellent with you – and if you forget, then the little shops here in town sell some too.
  • Bring a waterproof rain jacket: You’re heading into a rainforest, and it could rain at any time. And believe me, when it rains, it pours here. Take a good waterproof rain jacket or poncho with you.
  • Take hiking shoes/or invest in local rubber-made shoes: We’d recommend wearing a good pair of hiking shoes as the terrain is quite slippery and very muddy. We didn’t have our hiking shoes with us (just Nike Running Shoes), which were fine for our 1 Day Trek, but for grip on rocks and declining down the steep side of the jungle cliff, we really missed our hiking shoes. Another alternative is to buy these local rubber shoes that all of the local hiking guides wear. They’re around 20,000 IDR to buy a pair in town and the biggest size they make them is size 42. They’re great shoes for gripping onto rocks, and they’re waterproof too, as they’re made entirely of rubber. 

When To Visit Bukit Lawang

Here are some things to consider when planning your trip:

  1. Weather: The weather in Bukit Lawang is tropical and humid year-round, but there are distinct wet and dry seasons. The dry season runs from May to September, with August being the driest month. The wet season runs from October to April, with the heaviest rains typically occurring in November and December. If you want to avoid the rain and enjoy the best weather for outdoor activities, the dry season is the best time to visit.
  2. Orangutan sightings: The best time to do so is during the dry season. During this time, the orangutans tend to come down from the trees in search of food, making them easier to spot.
  3. Trekking: The best time to go trekking is during the dry season when the trails are drier and easier to navigate.
  4. Crowds: Bukit Lawang can get crowded during peak tourist season, which runs from June to August. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of April-May or September-October.

Overall, the best time to visit Bukit Lawang is during the dry season (May-September) if you want to enjoy good weather, orangutan sightings, and trekking. However, if you prefer fewer crowds and don’t mind the occasional rain, the shoulder seasons of April-May are a good choice too.

Let’s do the right thing and look after our Special Forest People

How to Book a Sumatra Orangutan Trek - Small organgutan climbing

A Sumatra orangutan trekking tour is an unforgettable experience that offers the opportunity to see some of the world’s most incredible wildlife in its natural habitat. 

Did you know that the word orangutan comes from the Malay words “Orang,” meaning person, and “Hutan,” meaning of the forest? So, therefore, “Orangutan” literally translates to “person of the forest”.

Let’s take care of these endangered people of the forest and consider booking your Sumatran Orangutan Trek with Sumatra Orangutan Explore or other ethical Sumatran Orangutan Trekking Companies.

Our knowledgeable and professional guide, Yahya, and our assistant guide, Jaka, were fantastic. They both spoke very clear English, knew their way around the jungle, and gave clear directions about what was happening as the day progressed. 

We rate our Sumatran Orangutan Trekking Tour Experience with 5/5 Stars!

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