Gunung Lesung National Park is possibly the most popular place for trekking in Sumatra. A UNESCO World Heritage site and named one of the most important ecosystems in the world, Gunung Lesung has trekking options from as little as 3 hours to as long as several days. The parks 2000 hectares is home to approximately 400 wild and semi wild orangutans as well as tigers, pythons, a variety of monkeys and other interesting wildlife.

Semi wild is the name given to those orangutans who were rehabilitated at the hands of the old Orangutan rehabilitation centre which was based in Bukit Lawang from 1973 to 2001. The centre came about when a traveller became an advocate for change after noticing a large number of orangutans being used as circus acts or cages pets. Together with the Sumatran government, a rehabilitation programme was developed and those formerly exploited primates gradually taught to forage for food in the wild and build nests. Some 200 orangutans through the programme now roam totally freely through the Gunung Leuser National Park together with their young, who are the wild orangutans.

sumatra jungle trekking
Jungle trekking in this region will almost certainly award up close encounters with wild and semi wild orangutans; an experience that simply cannot be replicated through the lens of a camera on the glossy pages of a magazine. In many cases the orange haired primates will come close, seemingly intrigued by humans, staring back while hanging precariously from tree branches. Mother primates with infants clinging to their chest or the unnervingly large male orangutans roam without any form of protection between trekker and wild animal.
The trek itself is a physically demanding experience. The jungle doesn’t have well worn paths and in many places trekking involves navigating intertwined tree roots and foliage, climbing muddy ascends and walking uneven surfaces. Combined with the dense humidity under the canopy of trees contributes to the intensity. Strong footwear which is appropriate for uneven terrain is required, as is comfortable and protective clothing; this is the wild and it needs to be treated as such.

It is illegal to trek Gunung Lesung National Park without the assistance of a guide and travellers would be foolish to attempt doing so. There are 5 patrol towers being erected to manage attempts at trekking without a guide, and fines are enforced. if this isn’t deterrent enough, there are plenty of stories of travellers attempting to trek in the Sumatra jungle without a guide who a lost for days until rescued by locals. The region is easy to become disorientated within.

Guides can be arranged easily through guest houses or in Bukit Lawang town centre and pricing typically includes meals, park entrance fees and returning to Bukit Lawang via rafting down the Bahorok River. Sumatra Paradise (book through their website) is highly recommended for guided jungle treks, and rest assured that guides enhance the experience rather than inhibit it. for travellers who prefer a remote experience, the best option is to trek in the off season or shoulder season as this will reduce the likelihood of coming into contact with other groups.

For the intrepid traveller who enjoys an authentic jungle experience, with a true wildlife component, Sumatra jungle trekking in Gunung Lesung National Park cannot be missed.

sumatra jungle trekking