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Gunung Leuser National Park

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Gunung Leuser National Park is a large national park covering 950,000 hectares in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, straddling the border of the provinces of North Sumatra and Aceh.

Understand

The park is named after one of its highest point, the 3,381m Mount Leuser (Gunung Leuser). The highest point in the park is "Puncak Tak Punya Nama" ("The peak with no name").

History

Bukit Lawang literally means "door to the hills". Bukit Lawang is a small village situated 90 kilometers northwest of Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, Indonesia.

Bukit Lawang is most famous for being one of the last places in the world where one can see Orang Utans in the wild. Bukit Lawang is situated at the eastern side of Gunung Leuser National Park.

In 1973 a Swiss organisation set up an orangutan rehabilitation centre in Bukit Lawang. The purpose of the centre was to rehabilitate orangutans released from captivity. The rangers at the centre teach the orangutan all the necessary skills to survive in the wild. After an intense period of quarantine, readjustment to the natural habitat and reintegration in the (semi-)wild population, the orangutan is released back into the jungle. All orangutans released are still monitored by the rangers and they still provide them with supplementary food at the feeding platform until they become fully self relient.

In the years after the arrival of the rehabilitation centre more and more tourists found their way to Bukit Lawang and it became one of the most popular destinations in Sumatra

A flash flood hit Bukit Lawang on 2 November 2003. Described by witnesses as a tidal wave, the water was approximately 20 meters high, as it came crashing down the hills, wiping out everything in its path.

The disaster, which was the result of illegal logging, destroyed the local tourist resorts and had a devastating impact to the local tourism industry. Around 400 houses, 3 mosques, 8 bridges, 280 kiosks and food stalls, 35 inns and guest houses were destroyed by the flood, and 239 people (5 of them tourists) were killed and around 1,400 locals lost their homes.After eight months of rebuilding, Bukit Lawang was re-opened again in July 2004.

For many villagers the trauma of losing family, friends and their homes has taken a long time to come to terms with. The people were facing unemployment and homelessness. It has been a long road to recovery and an especially hard task to rebuild a town with only limited financial assistance from the government. However the people in Bukit Lawang are survivors and the new village is taking shape and more and more businesses are opening again.

Recent visit by yearly traveller to Bukit Lawang (July 2009) says traveller visitor figures are up to 2002 levels, but there is a lack of the vibrancy of that time due to the spread out nature of the businesses today now compared to the close knit buildings of the previous village.

Especially the young generation is hoping to rebuild the village in more sustainable way than before and they are very aware of the importance of preservation of the fragile eco system they live in. They can use all the support they can get and the income of tourism will help them in realising their ideas for a brighter future for Bukit Lawang. So what are you waiting for, finish reading this page, pack your bags and get on your way for your jungle adventure!

Flora and fauna

Seeing the orangutans is a magical experience. You can usually see them near the rehabilitation centre and at the feeding platform during the morning and afternoon feeding sessions. Still the best experience is an encounter in the jungle where there are many semi-wild and wild animals. The wild Orangutan can be difficult to spot unless you go deep into the jungle. There are also white and black gibbons that make an amazing noise calling out to each other, and Thomas Leaf monkeys. If you are lucky, you may be able to see toucans, moon snakes, monitor lizards. Since there are very few still alive, it is very improbable that either the Sumatran Tiger or the Sumatran Rhinoceros will be encountered, although footprints and droppings have been reported.

Climate

During the wet season, October to March, expect rain at least daily, towards the late afternoon and early evening. Intensity varies, but invariably the monsoonal rains always arrive. Climate is always very humid, so pack a lot of drinking water if you are trekking.

Get in

A one-way bus fare on large, non air-conditioned buses from Medan, Pinang Baris Bus Terminal to Bukit Lawang, 86 km by road to the north-west, was Rp 10,000 per person (in October 2008). There should be busses every 30', but sometimes some are skipped. Back to Medan, you can take a minibus (Rp 12,000 per person (October 2008)) or a large bus (Rp 10,000, but they might ask for more). They alternate every 15' from Bukit Lawang Bus Terminal.

There are many drivers offering minivans from the Belawan ferry terminal direct to Bukit Lawang, bargain hard. Expect to be shifted minivan at least once (in Medan). Prices vary between Rp. 60,000 and 70,000 all the way to Bukit Lawang. The extra cost should outweigh the hassle of getting into Medan, finding the bus station, then finding a hostel in Bukit Lawang (especially if you arrive during a torrential downpour). The driver will usually recommend a family or friend's hostel.

Another option is to self drive a rental car. This is possible with an international drivers licence and will cost around Rp 350,000 per day plus fuel (Jul 08). The road to Bukit Lawang varies in state from well made dual carriage ways through to deep pot holed aphalt roads and some gravel. Anyone considering driving in Sumatra should travel with a local bus first to get familiar with the driving style of the locals. The drive takes about 3.5 hours and you can park the car with security at one of the local hotels for Rp 10,000 per day. Yoga Car Rentals in Medan is the most prominent company on the internet and their service was great.

Fees/Permits

Access to the Gunung Leuser National Park is Rp. 20,000 per person - payable either in Bukit Lawang, or at the orangutan feeding ground. Permit should be included in all treks and jungle activities, but check with the guide to be sure.

Get around

Bukit Lawang is a small village and it is easy to get around by foot. You can walk from on side to the other in about 25 minutes. There are three bridges that provide access to the resorts across the river.

See

The rangers are highly qualified and can tell you a lot about orangutans and the project. Please always follow their instructions to guarantee your and the orangutans safety. The feedings are a great opportunity for amazing pictures as the oragnutans usually stick around a bit whilst munching on their bananas.

Note also that the airline flying is on a contract basis and from time to time when the contract finishes there are times when there are NO flights until a new contract is signed.

As of 14th May 2009 NBA Airlines signed a new contract to fly from Medan to Kutacane and from Kutacane to Banda Aceh on Wednesdays and Fridays of each week. Check the www.ketambe.com website for more details. From Kutacane take a mobil (local transport) and go 30 km to Ketambe. At least 6 guesthouses in Ketambe(Pak Mus Homestay, Sadar Wisata, Cinta Alam, Pondok Wisata, Gurah Bungalows and new one called Friendship Guesthouse) offer accommodation in wooden bungalows with bath from about Rp. 50.000. Indonesian and western style food is available. It is possible to organize trekking. You will see real wild living orangutans (not like in Bukit Lawang, were you can even feed them), monkeys and many kind of birds. On a 2 to 3 day trip you can go to a hot spring beside the Alas river and camp over there. There are a lot of opportunities to do a trekking tour; even a 14 days hike to the top of the Mount Leuser (3400 m). Every guesthouse can organize a rafting trip down the Alas river.

There are two main accommodation places in Tangkahan namely Bamboo River owned by an English woman Jane and her Indonesian husband Wayan and Jungle Lodge owned by a German woman Sylvia and her Indonesian husband Alex, both overlooking the river. Prices as of September 2006 were from 50,000 up to about 75,000. Nowadays there is a third smaller cheaper backpacker place owned by one of the English speaking guides Mega. Mega's 3 rooms are next door to Bamboo River. Note, however, that fewer buses go to Tangkahan than Bukit Lawang from Medan so conditions are rougher and longer. It is about 2 hours by motorbike to Tangkahan from Bukit Lawang over dirt roads, as there is no direct bus service between Tangkahan and Bukit Lawang, despite being closer together than either is to Medan. In Bukit Lawang as of July 2007 there are two guides namely Romi and Wanda who do jeep trips down to Tangkahan. Rates for arranging guides to drive you by motorbike to Tangkahan from Bukit Lawang were Rp.220,000 for 3 motorbikes and 3 guides to drive the bikes there and take them back. A face mask and cheap sunglasses will help with dust. The rainy season can make sections of this route impassable.

update for "Kedah Village": trek to Gunung Leuser peak and back to Kedah takes 10 days in total. guides charge Rp. 350.000,-/day/person. Since trek is about 70% in alpine regions, you will not see too much wildlife, but exciting flora. For wildlife you better choose trek to Gunung Angkosan (2 days) or to upper Alas valley (4 days). [2]

Another excellent contact in Kedah is Pak Umar and his English speaking son who is based in Blangkejeren.

Do

A jungle trek is a must when you go to Bukit Lawang. Seeing the Orangutan in the wild is one of the best experiences you will have in your life.

It is not permitted to go unaccompanied into the jungle. There are plenty of good and reliable guides around so take your time to get to know some of them, have a chat, make your choice and prepare for a great adventure. All guides have to be licensed so ask to see their permit if in doubt of someone's expertise. A fixed price for jungle treks is €25 per day. Usually food and camping gear is arranged for by your guide. Always ask though to make sure. It's highly recommended to do a trek with one of the official rangers from the Orangutan rehabilitation centre. They are much better trained than other guides and they take the protection of the nature conservation very seriously. It happened quite often that some guides feed the Orangutan with normal foodstuffs during a trek just to coax the wild animals for the tourist. Several Orangutan get sick or die for this reason. You can book a trek with the rangers in their office (on the right side of the village entrance). People gained very good experiences with the rangers Indra Syamputra and Jhon Purba.

Even though sightings of the orangutan and other wildlife can never be guaranteed, when following the instructions of your guide the chances are favourable.

Another hero is the Thomas Leaf Monkey. Such a wonderful creature that leaps into air with wild abandon as they move from tree to tree. Their mohawk hair styles and faces filled with millions of years of character really make these little guys stand out.

If you want to go on a multiple day trek make sure you are fit and in good condition. The humidity coupled with the intensity of grade of the hills makes for some hard work. The reward at the end of your jungle adventure is a late afternoon paddle in the river back to the village.

Everyone who is planning to go on a jungle trek or even to the feeding platform is asked to refrain from any physical contact with the orangutans. Getting too close to an orangutan increases the risk of passing on disease and viral infection, which jeopardises the orangutans chances of survival and in turn the health and survival of the wild orangutan population in the entire area. All guests should keep at least 10 metres away and move away if an orangutan approaches. The motto of any jungle adventure should be take only pictures, leave only footprints

Another popular past time activity is tubing. When tubing one uses an innertube to float down the river. Tubes can be rented at various stalls along the village and expect pay around 10.000Rp per tube. Be carefull on the water because currents are strong.

You can also visit the bat cave, make a stroll around the rice fields and rubber plantations, visit some of the social projects (like the free English School, Children's Home and free clinic), visit the Friday market or just hang out with some of the locals and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. Whatever you do, remember to enjoy your stay to the fullest!

Buy

In low season not many of the shops are open on weekdays, however in the weekend there are several small shops that sell the locally made coconut necklaces. Also there is a small shop selling bamboo souvernirs, like key chains, picture frames, etc. There are also a few shops that sell wood carvings and at the beginning is Genta's batik shop, selling traditional batik paintings.

Eat

Andrea who has a PHD in Primates and Conservation has a small conservation corner at Green Hill.

Drink

At sunset a great place for a Bintang is the terrace at the Eco Lodge. The friendly folks there will serve you up a cold beer and you can watch the colours change over the town and river below.

Sleep

Lodging

In order of position up the pathway by the river in Bukit Lawang.

Jungle Inn has a couple of very special rooms namely 'Honeymoon Suite' for 350,000+ and the new 'Penthouse' for over 450,000. Contact name and no. to book. Rahman +6281375324015

Authentic rooms and 3 new rooms that were completed on the end of March 2007. Good healthy food for reasonable prices.

Contact name and no. to book Andrea or Mbra +6281263643775 or +6281 370 349 124

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 great company. Contact name and no. to book Nora +6281362070656 ( note Nora's mobile no. is incorrectly written in LP Indonesia guide.

Down by the river there are a number of other accommodations to stay in.

It's also one of the main places to eat/drink at night and meet in the morning for treks.

Cheap rooms with a double and single bed go for Rp. 35,000. Bukit Lawang Indah has excellent cheap food

In village of Gotong Royong where the weekly market is held in 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.

Stay safe

Some guides can get quite flirtatious/annoying with the girls during trekking trips esp in Bukit Lawang so team up with a larger group during a hike if travelling as a single female or pair.

Any woman who experiences sexual harassment in any form in Bukit Lawang should report the incident immediately to the Guides Association at +62-813-70730151 (Bahrum the leader). Also make sure you get a photo of the guide as well.

Get out

Public bus to Medan leaves all the time. Expect 20 people in a van with 10 seats, so snuggle in.

Hire a car from Andreas or Nicky at Yoga Car Rentals. They meet you at the airport and give you the keys and map. That's all you need if you've got any sense of adventure. The people are wondeful and the drive is a bit bumpy but great fun.

Related Information




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A list of contributors is available at the original article on Wikitravel. Additional modifications may have been made by users at TRAVEL.COM [5].

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.

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