RAIN FOREST PARKS OF NORTH SUMATRA

GUNUNG LEUSER NATIONAL PARK

Gunung Leuser National Park(100 kilometers from Medan reached from Bukit Lawang, Kuatcane or Takengon) is fairly accessible and covers 10,000 square kilometers of swamp forest, lowland rain forests, highland forest and moss forest. The park embraces several peaks over 3000 meters, including 3404-meter-high Gunung Leuser, the highest peak in the park and the source of the park’s name. The best time to visit is from June to October. [Source: Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Republic of Indonesia]

Located in both Aceh and North Sumatra Province, the park is known as Mount Leuser National Park in English and Taman Nasional Gunung Leuser in Bahasa. Most visitors enter the through Bukit Lawang, famous for its orangutans. The largest and the most diverse national parks in Indonesia, it covers an area of 7,927 square kilometers and embraces various ecosystems. The park was created by amalgamating a cluster of nature reserves and forests: Gunung Leuser Nature Reserve, Kappi Nature Reserve, Kluet Nature Reserve, Sikundur-Langkat Wildlife Reserve, Ketambe Research Station, Singkil Barat, and Dolok Sembilin.

Mount Leuser National Park is so extensive, it covers about kind of habitat and ecosystem found in Indonesia: swamp forest, lowland rainforest, moss forest, highland forest, subalpine forest, mangroves, beach and coral reefs. The park encompasses more than 100 kilometers of the Bukit Barisan Mountains, known for their steep, almost inaccessible mountainous terrains. The altitude ranges from beach area in Kluet (South Aceh), to 3,381 meter on top of the Gunung Leuser (Southeast Aceh). The breathtaking Alas River cuts the park into an eastern and western halves and offers thrilling rafting rides.

Wild animals are found here including orangutans, elephant, super rare Sumatran tiger, sun bears, clouded leopards, hornbills, snakes, gibbons, macaques, simangs, and seven species of monkey, one of the highest numbers on Asia, and 300 species of birds, including rhinoceros hornbill and helmeted hornbill. The chances of seeing tiger are remote but you are likely to see white-breasted Thomas leaf monkeys. there are akso orchids, ephitephts and two species of rafflesia: R. acehensis, and R. zippelni. Orangutans can be seen in the orangutan viewing places. Only a handful of, if any, Sumatran rhino remain. They are virtually never seen.

The park faces a number of problems, including deforestation that has resulted from illegal logging and encroachment by peasant farmers. Poachers have taken rhinos and tigers and nearly wiped out the park’s crocodile population. The Ketambe research is a world-renowned facility that is researching the ecology of the park and damage that is being done.

Tropical Rainforest Parks of Sumatra

Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra is UNESCO World Heritage Site According to UNESCO: “The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), Indonesia comprises three widely separated National Parks; Gunung Leuser (GLNP), Kerinci Seblat (KSNP) and Bukit Barisan Selatan (BBSNP), and covers a total area of 2,595,124hectares, constituting one of the biggest conservation areas in Southeast Asia. The site is located on Bukit Barisan range and holds the greatest potential for long-term conservation of the diverse biota of Sumatra, including many endangered species. The protected area is home to an estimated 10,000 plant species, including 17 endemic genera; more than 200 mammal species; and some 580 bird species of which 465 are resident and 21 are endemic. Of the mammal species, 22 are Asian, not found elsewhere in the archipelago and 15 are confined to the Indonesian region, including the endemic Sumatran orang-utan. The site also provides biogeographic evidence of the evolution of the island. [Source: UNESCO]

“This serial World Heritage site comprises three widely separated nationally protected areas along the Bukit Barisan mountain range, which runs along the western side of the island of Sumatra. The sites are Gunung Leuser National Park in the northern provinces of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and Sumatra Utara; Kerinci Sablat National Park in the south-central provinces of Sumatra Barat, Jambi, Sumatra Selatan and Benkulu; and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in the far southern provinces of Sumatra Selatan, Bengkulu and Lampung, partly bordering the south-west coast. The composite site, straddles the equator along the Bukit Barisan mountain range. This runs 1,650 kilometers down the western side of the island studded with active volcanoes. The eastern side of Sumatra is predominantly lowland and in the past has periodically been linked to the Asian mainland.

The TRHS includes the highest volcano in Indonesia, Gunung Kerinci (3,805 meters) along with many other physical features of exceptional natural beauty, including; Lake Gunung Tujuh the highest lake in Southeast Asia, numerous other volcanic and glacial high-altitude lakes, fumaroles, waterfalls, cave systems and steep rocky backdrops. Both Gunung Leuser National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park contain frontages to the Indian Ocean, making the altitudinal range of the TRHS extend from the highest mountains on Sumatra to sea level. All three protected areas in the TRHS exhibit wide altitudinal zonation of vegetation, from lowland rainforest to montane forest, extending to sub-alpine low forest, scrub and shrub thickets and covering an astounding diversity of ecosystems.

“Gunung Leuser National Park in the north is 150 kilometers long, over 100 kilometers wide and is predominantly mountainous. It covers most of the West Barisan, West Alas and East Barisan ranges and is almost divided by the Alas valley graben. Kerinci Sablat National Park in the center extends 350 kilometers down the spine of the Bukit Barisan. Three-quarters of the park is steep. Its highest point is the magnificent Gunung Kerinci - at 3,805 meters, the highest peak in Sumatra and highest volcano in Indonesia. It is active. Nearby Gunung Tujuh is an outstandingly beautiful crater lake at 1,996 meters. Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park is also 350 kilometers long but only 45 kilometers wide on average. The northern two-thirds are mountainous, averaging 1,500 meters with a high point at Gunung Pulung of 1,964 meters.The southern half is lower; 90 kilometers of it is a peninsula and the park borders the sea for half its length. Dozens of rivers originate in the park and there are several lakes and hot springs.

“The Indonesian archipelago contains 10 percent of the world's flowering plants and Sumatra, the third largest island, is the location of the Sumatran Islands Lowland and Montane Forests Ecoregion and part of the WWF's Sundaland hotspot. Its forests are among the largest tropical rainforests in South-East Asia, comparable with those of Borneo and Papua New Guinea...The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra represent the most important blocks of forest on the island of Sumatra for the conservation of the biodiversity of both lowland and mountain forests. This once vast island of tropical rainforest, in the space of only 50 years, has been reduced to isolated remnants including those centered on the three components of the property. The Leuser Ecosystem, including the Gunung Leuser National Park, is by far the largest and most significant forest remnant remaining in Sumatra. All three parks would undoubtedly have been important climatic refuge for species over evolutionary time and have now become critically important refuge for future evolutionary processes.

Animals in Sumatran Rain Forest Parks

According to UNESCO: The biodiversity of the rain forest parks in Sumatra “is exceptional in terms of both species numbers and uniqueness. There are an estimated 10,000 species of plants, including 17 endemic genera. Animal diversity in TRHS is also impressive, with 201 mammal species and some 580 species of birds, of which 465 are resident and 21 are endemics. Of the mammal species, 22 are endemic to the Sundaland hotspot and 15 are confined to the Indonesian region, including the endemic Sumatran orang-utan. Key mammal species also include the Sumatran tiger, rhino, elephant and Malayan sun-bear. [Source: UNESCO]

“Sumatra has a high level of endemism, which is well represented in the nominated sites. It is evidence of the land bridge/barrier between the Sumatran biota and that of mainland Asia due to changes in sea level. Some of the animal distributions may also be evidence of the effect of the Mount Toba tuff eruptions 75,000 years ago. The Sumatran orangutan for example, is not found south of Lake Toba nor the Asian tapir north of it. The altitudinal range and connections between the diverse habitats in these areas must have facilitated the ongoing ecological and biological evolution. Key mammals of the parks are the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhino, orangutan, Sumatran elephant; also Malayan sun-bear and the endemics Sumatran grizzled langur, Hoogerwerf's rat. Rare birds noted in the site's nomination are Sumatran ground cuckoo, Rueck's blue flycatcher, Storm's stork and white-winged duck.

The species listed below represent a small sample of iconic and/or IUCN Red Listed animals and plants found in the property.
Asarcornis scutulata / White-winged Wood Duck
Carpococcyx viridis / Sumatran Ground-cuckoo
Chelonia mydas / Green Turtle
Ciconia stormi / Storm's Stork
Cynogale bennettii / Sunda Otter Civet
Cyornis ruckii / Rueck's Blue-flycatcher
Dicerhinos sumatrensis / Sumatran Rhinoceros
Elephas maximus sumatranus / Sumatran Elephant
Lutrogale perspicillata / Smooth-coated Otter
Macaca nemestrina / Southern Pig-tailed Macaque

All three parks that comprise the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra are areas of very diverse habitat and exceptional biodiversity. Collectively, the three sites include more than 50 percent of the total plant diversity of Sumatra. At least 92 local endemic species have been identified in Gunung Leuser National Park. The property contains populations of both the world’s largest flower (Rafflesia arnoldi) and the tallest flower (Amorphophallustitanium). The relict lowland forests in the sites are very important for conservation of the plant and animal biodiversity of the rapidly disappearing lowland forests of Southeast Asia. Similarly, the montane forests, although less threatened, are very important for conservation of the distinctive montane vegetation of the property.

Threats to the Rainforest Parks of Sumatra

According to UNESCO: The three Sumtran rainforest parks straddle “the equator and comprises three widely separated nationally protected areas along the Bukit Barisan Mountain Range, running from Aceh in the north-west to Bandar Lampung in the south-east and representing whole or part of the three most significant remnant “islands” of the once vast Sumatran forests. Biological and ecological processes are preserved within the property because it contains a sufficiently large number of ecosystems, forest types, ranges of altitudes and topographies. The exceptionally beautiful features of Sumatra such as Gunung Tujuh and Gunung Kerinci are contained within the site in their entirety. [Source: UNESCO]

“The unique shape and size of the property provide significant habitat for in-situ conservation of thousands of Sumatran species, in particular species that require larger home ranges like Sumatran tiger, Sumatran orang-utan, Sumatran elephant, Sumatran rhino and Sumatran ground cuckoo. The property is a living laboratory for science and contains some of the most distinguished research centres in Indonesia (Way Canguk, Ketambe and Suaq Belimbing) and hosts international high-level collaborations from world renowned institutions.

“Threats to the integrity of the property include road development plans as well as agricultural encroachment. The main fundamental threatening processes are directly linked to the access provided by roads and failure to effectively enforce existing laws. Road access facilitates illegal logging, encroachment and poaching which all pose significant threats to the integrity of the component parks of the property. Collaboration with stakeholders, including Rhino Protection Unit (RPU), WWF Elephant Patrol, FFI Tiger Protection and Conservation, Zoological Society of London — Tiger Conservation has significantly reduced poaching incidents. Joint patrols with related parties including police officers and local government officers, and rangers recruited from local communities, support the Ministry of Forestry to enforce existing laws.

Conservation at the Rainforest Parks of Sumatra

According to UNESCO: “The TRHS is comprised of three national parks, and as such benefits from the highest protected area status under Indonesian law. All three parks are public lands designated as national parks by the Government of Indonesia and are managed by the Directorate General of Forest Protection and Forest Conservation (PHKA) within the Ministry of Forestry. The boundaries of the three component parts of the property require clear demarcation to indicate their location in the field. This is particularly important with regards to effective management of the property and the inclusion of important habitat national resources, but only a limited proportion of the property’s perimeter can be marked per year. For Kerinci Seblat National Park, the inclusion of 14,160 hectares former production forest of the Sipurak Hook area in 2004, delayed the recent boundary demarcation process due to the negative response from the inhabitants of the area.

“The property has strong and clearly explained management plans and each is included in the Indonesian Biodiversity National Strategy and Action Plan. Stakeholder forums have been established in each park and include bi-annual dialogue with local governments, national and international NGOs, local people and private sectors. However, there is variation in the involvement and contribution of these stakeholders in the three parks, which needs to be addressed. Intensive coordination among park management remains a priority with acknowledgement that coherent and coordinated protection measures among the three parks are paramount in the effective protection of flora and fauna, and particularly for threatened species.

“A Presidential decree on illegal logging and saw-mill eradication issued in 2005 was followed-up by an integrated effort from the provincial and district governments, as well as from the Departments of Justice, Police and Forestry. As a result these threats have been virtually eradicated from the property. Mining, which occurs exclusively outside the boundaries of the property, remains a potential threat to the property. Within the property anti-poaching units are active, while site-specific human-wildlife conflict mitigation and anti-encroachment efforts are in place. Encroachment remains the most complex and difficult issue affecting the property and attempts to address it at a national level through the “Kelompok Kerja Penanganan Perambahan”, an Indonesian-wide Anti Encroachment Task Force are required. The threat to the integrity of the property from road development requires effective planning, environmental assessment and regulatory measures to protect the property from damage to its Outstanding Universal Value.

“Routine forest patrols take place in every park, along with site-specific law enforcement actions and encroachment eradication programmes. The State Party has made financial support for the TRHS a priority, with the aim to improve ground level management, particularly concerning building staff capacity to combat illegal wildlife trade and encroachment. The size of the property, while providing a degree of protection, requires adequate and increased patrolling efforts and human resources to adequately cover the property, and establishment of an effective GIS based monitoring system would assist with this. The recruitment of local rangers is also encouraged. Invasive species also provide an additional emerging management issue in certain components of the property.”

Trekking and Activities in Gunung Leuser National Park

Treks at Gunung Leuser National Park into the rain forest can be done for one day or up to two weeka. There are camps where trekkers spend the night. Some of the climbs are quite steep and the going can be quite rough and slippery. White water rafting is available, You can also rent motorbike and visit local villages. The best time to visit is from June to October.

Tourist who enter the park need a permit, which can be obtained, at the PHKA office in Tanah Merah. Guides are required if one plans to do any trekking. Trips offered by local trekking organization range from a few hours to 14 days. Treks starting in Kuatcane or Takengon are regarded as better than that offered at Bukit Lawang. Sungai Alas River is popular with white water rafters. There is lots of wildlife but not much white water. Trekking destinations include 3404-meter-high Gunung Leuser, the highest peak in the park (14 days there and back); 3314-meter-high Gunung Kemiri, the 2nd highest peak in the park (five or six days there and back); 2828-meter-high Gunung Perkinson, known for its moss forests (seven days there and back); 3270-meter-high Gunung Simpali, through an area with rhinos (seven days there and back). The small village of Angasan is the usual starting point.for hikes up Gunung Leuser.

It is highly recommended to always go into the jungle with some assistance from your local guide. There are sufficiently good and reliable guides around for a great adventure. All reliable guides have to be licensed, and hence, ask to see their permit to make sure of someone's expertise and service excellence. Not only will you have a safe expedition, as the chance to sightings of the orangutan and other wildlife can be much favorable.

Among the highlights or any trip are watching the dynamic Thomas leaf monkey, who leap spectacularly in the air as they move from tree to tree and look as if they have Mohawk haircuts. The village of Ketambe offers tubing on the Alas River. You can slso visit bat caves, hike through rice fields and rubber plantations, volunteer as an English teacher in a village school, and checkout the Friday market.

For more information please contact: Lembaga Pariwisata Tangkahan - LPT (Tangkahan Tourism Institution) Visitor Center; Kawasan Ekowisata Tangkahan (Tangkahan Ecotourism Area); Desa Namo Sialang, Tangkahan Tel: +62 8126567432, 81361662387, 81361674113 e-mail: tangkahan_ecotourism@yahoo.com

Gurah (accessible from Kuatcane or Takengon, five hours by bus from Medan) is the main access point to Gunung Leuser National Park. There is not much in Gurah or for that matter Kuatcane or Takengon either. Make sure and stock up on supplies in the last large city you are in before you reach the park. Gurah Recreation Forest is an area within Gunung Leuser National Park set aside for visitors. Covering 9200 hectraes, it is crisscrossed by a network of trails, including a five kilometer trail to a hot spring and a six kilometers trail to a waterfall. (Source: Gunung Leuser Trek]

Bohorok Orangutan Viewing Center

Bohorok Orangutan Viewing Center (south of Gunung Leuser National Park, 100 kilometers west of Medan at Bukit Lawang) is where orangutans that have been raised in zoos and found by timber companies in Sumatra are taught how to fend for themselves in the forest. The orangutan's live in the forest and come to the center during feeding time in the morning and the afternoon, which are the best time to visit.

Bohorok was set up in 1973 as a rehabilitation center and has been officially operating a viewing center since 2002, when a quarantine center was set outside Medan. The Medan facility is where rehabilitation and training is done. Bohorok has been closed to new orangutans since 1996 but those that were already there had no place to got and were allowed to stay on.

Bohorok used to be very difficult to get to. Steep hills, rivers and wilderness had to be traversed to get there. It is still somewhat isolated but that has not stopped tourists from going there. Now it is one of Sumatra’s largest tourist attraction and has became a victim of its own success. There are problems with guides feedings orangutans in the forest for the benefit of tourist (a clear no no that defies the rehabilitation concept), tourists touching the orangutans and possibly spreading disease to the animals and orangutans stealing tourist packs. The Medan facility is closed to tourists.

The area around Bohorok contains one of the largest populations of orangutans in world. By some counts there than 5000 wold ones living in the area in addition to the rehabilitated ones at the center. The number of orangutans in wild in Indonesia has decreased as a result of hunting, animal trading and a damaged environment. The rehabilitation center helps orangutans regain their natural habits by putting them through intensive training before their release back to the wild. Once a primate heads back the jungle, the rehabilitation center keeps providing it with food supplements and regular check-ups.

Viewing Orangutans at the Bohorok Orangutan Center

The Orangutan Feeding Platform is about two kilometers from Bukit Lawang in the jungle on the west bank of the Sunghai Bohorok, where orangutans come out of the forest for bananas and milk. To reach the site tourist cross the river in a dugout canoe. The feeding times are between 8:00am and 9:00am and between 3:00pm and 4:00pm. River crossings are available between 7:30am and 8:00am and between 2:30pm and 3:00pm.

On most days about a half dozen orangutans show at the platform, less if there are abundant food supplies in the forest. Visitors need to be accompanied by a guide to enter the park and have to buy a permit at the park entrance. It takes 30 minutes to walk from the park entrance to the boat crossing and another ten minutes to get to the viewing platform. Longer walks can be done in the forest.

It is the impact of humans, through poaching and logging that has threatened the orangutan for decades. For this reason there are strict rules in place to regulate how visitors interact with orangutans. The main rules are don’t feed them and don’t disturb them in any way.

Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang (four hours from Medan, about half on a rough road) is the nearest town to Bohorok Orangutan Viewing Center and Gunung Leuser National Park. It was a sleepy, isolated village until the Bohorok Orangutan Viewing Center became a popular tourist attraction. The place is popular with backpackers and has a reggae-hippie atmosphere. Weed and mushrooms are often available.

Bukit Lawang literally means "door to the hills". It sprawls along the Bohorok river with many of backpacker inns and restaurants on the opposite side of the river from the village. The village is quite small. You can walk from one side to the other in about 25 minutes. There are three bridges that provide access to the places to stay across the river. Access to the Gunung Leuser National Park is IDR 20,000 per person. Payment is done either in Bukit Lawang, or at the orangutan feeding ground.

Bukit Lawang is the only access to the Leuser National Park from the east side. Most travelers spend three or four days there, visiting the orangutan center and going for treks in the rain forest. During the week the town is quiet but on the weekends it sometimes fills up with visitors from Medan. The touts and guides are very persistent and irritating and are some poorly qualified. The WWF-run Bukit Lawang Visitors Center is worth a look. A number of short walks can be taken in the era. Popular destinations include several bat caves.

Most of the lodgings have restaurants, so you can ask the owner to provide your meal. Along the river, there are some small cafes; here you can have fruit salad, nasi goreng and snacks. Local pizza's are also available at Tony's restaurant. The Bukit Lawang Visitor Centre, open from 8.00am to 3.00pm The PHKA Ranger Station is open from 7.00am to 3.00pm. For more info please visit: bukitlawangtrust.org

About the same distance away as the orangutan platform, through a rubber plantation, is a bat cave. Many visitors going tubing on a 12 kilometer stretch of the Bohorok River. The trips takes two to three hours. Tubes can be rented at numerous places. You get out at the bridge and take public transport back to Bukit Lawang. Tuding s not advised when the river is running high. White water trips on the Wampu and Asahan Rivers are run starting at around $50 a day by Sumatran Savages. The Wampu is a good river for beginners. The Asahan is for more experienced rafters.

Trekking at Bukit Lawang

Treks into Gunung Leuser National Park are arranged through guest houses in Bukit Lawang. A guide is necessary to enter the park and treks range from a few hours to several days. Destinations of the three- and five-day treks are to the towns of Berastagi and Kuatcane. Some complain that the treks out of Bukit Lawang are not so good and the guides are lousy. Some promise that you will see a Sumatran tiger but that is unlikely. When I was there some of them were recruited by poachers to kill the tigers for the Chinese medicine market. Prices for treks begin at around $30 a day for guide, food and supplies. Kuatcane and Takengon are regarded as better places to begin treks into Gunung Leuser National Park,. The small village of Angasan is the usual starting point for hikes up Gunung Leuser.

If you plan to go trekking: 1) Make sure you are healthy, fit and well prepared because navigating the Sumatran jungle is not always easy; 2) Bring along a mosquito and leech repellant, sunscreen and lots of water; 3) wear shoes with good grip as the ground is always slippery; 4) Wear long sleeves and long pants for protection against insects and thorns; and 5) do not litter and carry out your trash. 6) There is often heavy rain in the afternoon; so bring your rain jacket and a water resistant bag to cover your items.

Many people do a two-day trek because they don’t have a lot of time and they want to seei orangutans and other wildlife in their natural habitat. Make sure to inform the guide if you are especially interested in seeing a specific plant or animal. Guide rates include basic meals, guide fees, permit and camping equipment. Be prepared to leave early in the morning to make the most of your trek. If you're up for a challenge, try hiking to the peak of Mount Leuseur (3,404 meters). This epic trek takes about 10-14 days. The first five days is be spent trekking through virgin rain forest where rare primates are often seen. You need to be physically fit and accompanied by a guide.

Accommodation in Bukit Lawang

The Bohorok River flows within the area of Bukit Lawang Many places to stay are on the sequence of pathways by the river in Bukit Lawang. Most of the hotels in Bukit Lawang are run by the local citizens. The foll, several accommodations are available to choose from.

Jungle Inn is a pleasant accommodation, directly opposite the orangutan sanctuary. It offers reasonably priced rooms, but slightly inflated prices for food by Sumatran standards. Jungle Inn has a couple of very special rooms namely 'Honeymoon Suite' for IDR 350,000+ and the new 'Penthouse' for over IDR 450,000. Contact name and number to book is Rahman at +62 813 753 24015

Sam's has three lovely rooms with prices range from IDR 80,000 to IDR 180,000. Contact name and number is Samsul at +62 813 700 93597

Jungle Tribe is a free standing house at IDR 250,000 per night with 'a bar and restaurant' next door. Contact name and number is Iman at +62 812 637 49602

Garden Inn stays not far from Jungle Inn, which is another pleasant place to stay in Bukit Lawang (Nice double bedrooms, cold shower and mandi for IDR 50,000 to IDR 60,000). Contact name and number is Pardil at +62 813 960 00571

Hostel Indra Inn is located directly at the riverside at your left side when you walk to the orangutan center. Authentic rooms and three new rooms that were completed at the end of March 2007 are now available. They serve good and healthy food for reasonable prices.

Greenhill now has two rooms built high up behind their beautiful open air building with incredible views. Rooms are IDR 150,000 per night. Contact name and number to book is Mbra at +62 812 636 43775 or +62 813 703 49124

Rain Forest is a new accommodation built by Nora's family has five (5) rooms and a restaurant. Rooms are available from IDR 40,000 per night. It is a great place to stay, lots of fun entertainment with many of the guides playing guitar and singing in the evenings, great food and, as always, Nora herself provides a great company. Contact name and number to book is Nora at +62 813 620 70656 (note: Nora's mobile phone number is incorrectly written in the LP Indonesia guide. Please revise accordingly).

Down by the river there are a number of other accommodations to stay in. Bukit Lawang Cottages also known as 'Eco Lodge' is just across the river from main village at the base of the hill and where the walking tracks start. It is a good option with prices starting from IDR 80,000 per night. It's also one of the main places to eat/drink at night and meet in the morning for treks.

Wisma Bukit Lawang Indah is across the river next door to Yusman, which is next door to Wisma Sibayak. Cheap rooms with a double and single bed go for IDR 35,000. Bukit Lawang Indah has excellent cheap food.

In village of Gotong Royong where the weekly market is held on Fridays is Nora's other homestay. Almost opposite the new hospital built with the inspiration and determination of the amazing Becky Coley of Bukit Lawang Trust Foundation.

Nora's Homestay, approximately two kilometers by road from the river, is a great kampung-style experience, starting from IDR 25,000 per night including self-contained shower and toilet.

Here are alternatives to stay in during your visit to Bukit Lawang: Bukit Lawang Eco Lodge (+628126079983), an eco-friendly lodging situated in the forest Noras Homestay & Restaurant (+62813620706561), situated on the rice field side and the materials are dominated by bamboo huts.

Wisma Leuser Sibayak

Devastating Flood at Bukit Lawang

In November 2003, more than 200 people were killed in the Bukit Lawang area and the orangutan reserve there was closed after floods caused by torrential rains that sent thousands of logs and water crashing down in Gunung Leuser National Park in north Sumatra.

Most of the devastation was caused the along Bohorok River, which overflowed its banks and washed into Bukit Lawang village and Bohorok backpacker village and swept away wood and concrete guesthouses, killing five foreign tourists — two Germans, a Singaporean, and two Austrians. Bodies pulled from the river were put in building that was two stories high, a mosque became a makeshift morgue.

The disaster was blamed on illegal logging. Logs are believed to have created a sort of dam that clogged a river and collapsed, releasing a huge flash flood. Devastation was not just caused by water but also by logs and boulders and mud that were carried down with the water and crashed through an area with guest houses and restaurants that serve backpackers visiting the nearby orangutan sanctuary. Environmental groups had been warning that a disaster like this was bounded to happen, After the disaster the government promised to punish illegal loggers that it blamed for the disaster.

Getting to Bukit Lawang

From Medan use a car, minibus or a bus to get to Bukit Lawang. Buses depart frequently from Pinang Baris bus terminals (located at Jalan Gatot Subroto). The trip takes around 3 hours. If you are traveling in a group or want something more convenient instead of the public bus, you can rent a car with arranged trips through most of the main tourist destinations. National Car Rent (+624157744) which is located at Jl. Balai Kota 2 is a good alternative.

You can take a one-way large, non air-conditioned bus from Medan, Pinang Baris Bus Terminal to Bukit Lawang, The bus leaves in every 30 minutes or every hour. Returning to Medan, you can take a minibus or a large bus from Bukit Lawang Bus Terminal.

You can expect to find insistent drivers offering minivans from the Belawan ferry terminal direct to Bukit Lawang. Also expect to be shifted to different minivan at least once in Medan. The prices may vary and higher compared to public transportation as they reduce your travel hassles. The driver will usually recommend a family or friend's accommodation.

Ketambe is an alternative to get in to Leuser National Park. Getting to Ketambe is also easier from Medan or Kutacane, a closer city to Ketambe.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( indonesia.travel ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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