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Mount Leuser National Park
Stunning Ketambe village, is situated on the only non-coast road, splitting Aceh into east and west. - photo by Franc Pallarès López
Ketambe Village is a perfect starting point to go for trips into the jungle to see really wild living orangutans - photo by Franc Pallarès López
Mountain trekking and spotting wildlife are recommended for outdoor activities, more over there is also water sport activity that can be go through by rafting along the Alas River, start from Gurah to Muara Situlen, than continue to Gelombang for a three-day trip. There is wide range of treks available in Bukit Lawang, Ketembe and Tangkahan, which vary from 1 to 3 days options, giving you experience to sleep in the jungle.
If you start your trekking route from Bukit Lawang, you should accompanied by one of the official rangers from the orangutan rehabilitation centre, to ensure that you can get any chances in feeding and seeing orangutan in wildlife. Orangutan Feeding Station in Bukit Lawang opens daily at 8.00AM and 3.00PM.
On a 2 to 3 day trip through Ketembe you can stop by to enjoy a hot spring beside Alas river and have a camping over there. You can also see real wild living orangutans in Ketembe, but you might be forbidden to feed them.
For the multi-day treks, the best starting points are the village near Blangkejeren to Kedah with a jungle trekking around Pucuk Angkasan. This trek will take two days, continuing to upper Alas valley that will take two more days and going back to Blangkejeren, which will spend around 10 days in total. You can try more experience with elephant trekking through the jungle in Tangkahan. Though just seeing the elephants is very cheap and rides on the elephants are negotiable.
Medan holds the nearest big airport for accessing the region. You could fly to Kutacane from Medan or Banda Aceh but the flight will only available on Wednesdays and Fridays, than you'll need to continue by road from Kutacane.
The village of Bukit Lawang provides the main access point into the Gunung Leuser National Park, one of only two remaining natural habitats for the Sumatran orang-utan which located approximately 80km North West of the city Medan. The easiest and cheapest way to get to Bukit Lawang is by bus from Pinang Baris Bus Station in Medan. Get a taxi that looks like minibus to drop you off at the station and ask for the bus to Bukit Lawang. The journey takes approximately three hours and the bus attracts jungle guides seeking to sell jungle trips to tourists and backpackers.
You can also arrange a private pick-up car, which will take you from Medan to Bukit Lawang or reverse. Many Bukit Lawang hotels will arrange this service for you in conjunction with an accommodation booking.
When to Go
Best time to visit is from June to October. 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.
Private car transfers between Medan and Bukit Lawang around 500,000 IDR per day for 5 pax. A public bus between Medan and Bukit Lawang around 15,000-25, 000 IDR. Guides for trekking tours around 350.000-400.000 IDR per day per person. Attending the feeding costs at Bukit Lawang 20,000 IDR. Tangkahan guides charge 180,000 IDR for guided jungle treks by elephant. Accommodation for local guesthouse around 50,000-150,000 IDR per night
It is necessary to take a guide and at least 1 porter with you. Climate is always very humid, so pack a lot of drinking water if you are trekking. Make sure you take enough dry clothes, as it's so humid nothing will dry once wet. The electricity supply can be bit variables so don’t leave charging your electronic gadget until the morning you head out to the jungle! Careful with some guides in Medan offer you trekking tours for less than 350,000 IDR per day, they might be not professional or they don't have an experienced guide.
Eco Travel Tips
Local villagers manage almost every home stay and guesthouse around Bukit Lawang, Tangkahan, and Ketembe. Those accommodation were designed to suites their natural environment. Choosing a low-impact place to stay is not only greener, it’s often less expensive. If the weather is nice, you can try camping options. When you're staying hydrated on the go you might be tempted to let your green guard down. Focus on reusable water bottles, which are better for the environment, and which also provide the added bonus of helping you avoid inflated prices on bottled water.