The Gunung Leuser national park is covering an area of about 9.000 sq km, and Bukit Lawang is today the main point of access to this impressive habitat, which wildlife includes tigers, rhinos, tapirs, elephants, gibbons, reptiles and of course the orangutan. There are more than 380 species of birds and a huge number of flowers, trees and other plants.
Trekking here is very popular, but also somewhat tough physically, as the climate is very humid and hot, and the terrain often steep uphill or downhill. You will need a permit and a guide to trek here, and there are many alternative routes. You can do a one-day trek (which by some is called the “chicken-trek”) or trek for several days deep into the forest, crossing over to the Aceh side where the Gunung Leuser mountain is located, normally ending in Ketambe.
If you have never done this before you should consider to do a one-day trek first, to get a feeling for the conditions. You can also combine a trek with rafting back to Bukit Lawang, a very pleasant end of the day. Remember you should not feed the orangutans you encounter on the way, and not leave any trash behind.
The price will normally include lunch, bring plenty of water. The guides need to be licensed, but there are a few that are not. Most of the guides speak acceptable English. For a 4-5 day trek you will need good boots, long trousers and some T-shirts. Food, mat and tent will be provided by your guide.
If you don’t feel for a jungle experience there are some alternative walks from Bukit Lawang. 30 minutes or about 2 km south of Bukit Lawang there is a bat cave, it is outside the national park so you don’t need a permit to go there.
Tube rafting down the Bohorok river is a popular activity, you can end your trek in the forest in a very refreshing way on top of a tube down the rapids of the river. Or you can rent a tube in Bukit Lawang and float down the river for about 15 km and take the bus back, this will normally take about three hours. This should be done in company with somebody who know the area, especially during the rain season when the river can be quite swollen and dangerous, life jackets are not included in the price. Never tube alone or when the river is flooded, there has been a few accidents!