Another item on my bucket list for Asia has been to see orangutans in the wild. I can’t tell you when my love for these animals began but I have always had a desire to see them in their natural habitats and after postponing a trip to Borneo to see them, we decided to travel to Sumatra, another key destinations where you can see these beautiful animals in the wild.
Knowing very little about Sumatra, I undertook a lot of research to find out the places to see them in their natural environment. Bukit Lawang came up time and time again during that search so we booked the flights to Medan and used Sumatra EcoTravel to help us to get to the jungle.
The flight from Singapore to Medan is only just over an hour and arriving in Medan we made our way our hotel, Adimulia, in a massive thunder storm that is so common in this part of the world. The hotel was absolutely lovely, it’s a brand new hotel in a central location with high spec bedrooms and rainshowers in the bathroom. We were completely surprised as I thought I had just booked a standard hotel for the night but we realised it was a bit more upmarket when we saw that the entrance hall was covered in marble and crystals!
After a great nights sleep and a huge breakfast the next morning (there was so much choice the tables went out onto the terrace!), we met our driver from the tour company and headed off on a three hour journey to the jungle. The initial part of the journey was nice and smooth and then when we got closer to the jungle the roads started to get very rough and we were jostling on the road with cows, children who were playing in potholes, huge trucks carrying products to the palm oil factories.
Arriving on the edge of the village that flanks the jungle we were greeted by 2 porters who carried our bags through the village and to the hotel at the far end of the village. The village is situated on one side of the river with the edge of the jungle towering on the opposite side of the bank like a huge barrier. Our hotel was made up of individual rooms with benches and tables flanking the river where we ate breakfast.
We arrived later on the Saturday so we spent time looking around the village and preparing for the trek the next day. In the evening we headed down towards the main part of the village for dinner. There are plenty of options for dinner from more local food to Thai to western pizzas and burgers but we decided to eat some local noodles which were delicious!
Top Tip: *There are no street lights so make sure you take a torch with you when heading into the village*
*It also rained quite a lot in the evenings so best to take some waterproofs and an umbrella although the hotel should be able to provide you with an umbrella*
The trek was on the Sunday and we began by walking over a very rickety bridge across the main river before heading into the jungle. I was hoping to see orangutans but I hadn’t got my hopes up as they are wild animals and this is not a sanctuary. However, we were so lucky as we spotted a large male sleeping in the tree which was amazing just as we entered the jungle.
The guides are good at spotting where the animals are going to go and we had to make a swift exit via another path when the male quickly came down from the tree and walked down the path towards us.
Walking deeper into the jungle the guides were quick to spot another group of orangutans this time it was a mother and baby which was so adorable! Taking a rest in a clearing our guides brought out a selection of local fruits which was a welcome relief after a few hours of trekking. Whilst eating our fruit we had numerous monkeys jumping around us including macaques and a species of monkey that has a Mohican; which was a great experience.
After walking higher up into the jungle and seeing more orangutans we stopped for lunch which was nasi goreng before we began our descent towards the river. The descent is not for the faint hearted a steep climb down the side of the hill with no hand holds except for the tree roots.
The descent is almost as long as the climb up but eventually we reached the edge of the river where we placed all our valuables in plastic bags and our guides set up the rubber rings which we were going to use to get back to our accommodation. The raft is a set of 3 rubber rings tied together with rope and we all got in and rafted down the river back to the edge of our hotel and it was great fun!
After playing in the river with the local kids who joined in with a game of jumping off the pier, we headed out for dinner to another local restaurant where we ate Massamam curry with a well deserved beer!
I am so pleased that I managed to tick another item off my bucket list and was lucky enough to see eight orangutans! I would highly recommend this tour and the company as they were so helpful and friendly. If you can spare additional time you can go deeper into the jungle and camp with the possibility of seeing rhinos and the illusive tigers.