Gunung Leuser National Park: Trekking In The Wild In North Sumatra

Gunung Leuser National Park: Trekking In The Wild In North Sumatra
| 5 min read

Have you ever seen a Tarzan film? Tarzan films are always inspiring, aren’t they? Few may be inspired by Tarzan who likes to wear clothes made of straw, and swing on tree branches while travelling from one tree to another. However, the films may make you wonder about what it feels like to live for days in a real jungle inhabited by wildlife. Well, if you take one of the jungle packages in ‘Gunung Leuser National Park’, located in a thick tropical jungle in North Sumatra, Indonesia, you will know what it is like, and more than that you will get to learn something from the primates living in the jungle.

Welcome to ‘Gunung Leuser National Park’

gunung leuser national park: trekking in the wild in north sumatra | welcome to ‘gunung leuser national park’

Like its name, ‘Gunung Leuser National Park’ is an animal conservatory jungle area located on the slope of Mount ‘Leuser’, in a district named ‘Bukit Lawang’, around 150 km (93.20 mi) from Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra. There are lots of wild animals living here, including the endangered orangutans, a type of primates larger than the macaque monkeys normally found in Southeast Asia. In order to be able to explore the jungle, you need to arrange your trip with one of the jungle trip organizers, and the one I would suggest is ‘Bukit Lawang Eco Travel’. This organizer has many packages to choose from, starting with just a 4-hour trek, to several-days of trekking through the wilderness that requires you to spend your nights in the camps provided, and set up, in the jungle. It also has its own lodge, very close to the park, named ‘Eco Travel Cottages’, which only accommodates the jungle explorers.

Get up close with orangutans

gunung leuser national park: trekking in the wild in north sumatra | get up close with orangutans

From ‘Kualanamu International Airport in Medan, you will be picked up by some staff members, and after a- 4-hour drive (the last hour is quite bumpy), you’d arrive at the cottage to rest and recharge your energy before going on the trek the following day. What animals can be seen in the jungle? There are many, but the highlight of this trip is to meet the orangutans. As you approach an orangutan, you will find that what scientists say about our close genetic relationship with primates is proven to be true. Like monkeys, the activities always involve their hands and arms, but since their size is almost like ours, they just look like one of us in several ways. They eat using their hands, as well as carry and hug their baby with their arms instead of carrying it by ‘biting’ the baby’s nape, like what other non-primitive mammals do. When you meet the orangutans, you will be able to feed them (bananas will be provided by the rangers). At first, they are timid and head back to the tree top after grabbing the food from your hand, but after a few minutes if you are lucky enough to meet a sociable orangutan (like us, they have different personalities!), they will come down the tree, grab your hand and walk while you hold each other’s hand!

Other creatures, including an animal-eating plant

gunung leuser national park: trekking in the wild in north sumatra | other creatures, including an animal-eating plant

Along the river, you will see not only orangutans but also other wild animals such as monkeys, gibbons, hornbill birds, and crocodiles. During the trek, you will be brought to a cave full of sleeping bats (did you know bats are nocturnal?). These creatures are all amazing, and you might have only seen them in a zoo, but other than the intelligent orangutans, what impressed me the most was not the type of animals, but an animal-eating plant named ‘Rafflesia Arnoldii’, or the corpse flower, where you may not have seen it anywhere else. It’s a giant-sized plant that eats on small animals like insects and frogs by attracting them to come into its sunken and spiky trap in the center of the flower by its stinky smell (the small animals like it, though) before snapping shut and consuming the prey. It’s a native plant of Sumatra, so you won’t see it growing in the wild in other places.

Elephant ride

gunung leuser national park: trekking in the wild in north sumatra | elephant ride

If you take an elephant tour, you will get the chance to get up close and personal with the elephants. Not only will you have an elephant ride (around one hour), but you will also get the chance bathe an elephant. The elephants live in another part of the national park in the ‘Tangkahan’ District, and to get there, from Bukit Lawang, you will have a 2.5-hour ride in a 4WD car.

At the night camp

at the night camp

If you take an overnight tour, you will spend the night in a camp located in the jungle with very minimal facilities. You’ll also experience sleeping on an air mattress inside a tent made of tarp. You may wonder what there is to do in the middle of the jungle where there is no electricity, and you won’t have access to TV, smartphones, or any kinds of electronics. Don’t worry though, as water, food supplies, and cooking equipment are provided by the rangers. The rangers are good at cooking fried rice, and will make sure none of you go hungry during the journey! They also bring candles and cards to play to pass the time, and you will be surprised that they are also good at doing card tricks!

Eat durian on a durian plantation

eat durian on a durian plantation

During the jungle trip, you will make a stop at a durian plantation, located near the bat cave, to eat some durian. Have you had durian? It’s a spiky fruit, but with sweet, aromatic, soft, and fleshy seeds inside. If you choose the village homestay package, you will get a chance to live in the house of a local, and even get the chance to take part in their daily activities, like farming and cooking.

Professional rangers

Depending on the package you choose, it costs 27.73 USD for a ‘Jungle View Hike’ package (a 4-hour trek through the jungle), and 216.30 USD for the ‘Jungle Observation II’ (a 5-day trekking adventure). During the journey, you will always be accompanied by the rangers, who are professional and friendly. They all speak good English, and are all very familiar with the kinds of wildlife there, making sure that everything goes smoothly from your airport pickup to the time when you leave from the airport. They bring adequate supplies of water to make sure everyone is well hydrated during the jungle trip. Physical fitness is required as the routes includes some rafting, as well as climbing steep cliffs, where you need to hang on to tree roots and branches. If you don’t feel like you are fit enough for the trek, the guide can arrange a shorter route, and you can always ask the rangers to stop whenever you need to rest. When is the best time to go? The dry season (April to October) is a great time, but some people also like to go during the monsoon season (October-April) because the weather is cool inside the jungle around this time. So, are you ready for your own Tarzan style adventure?

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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A versatile individual, Tejos nutures a passion for travel, writing, translation, and teaching. With expertise in crafting articles spanning diverse subjects, he specializes in travel, business,...Read more

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