As part of our goal to experience the Top 50 Adventure Holidays in the world, we went into the deep jungles of Sumatra, Indonesia and spent 4 nights trekking to chance upon the elusive Orangutan. The trek was physically tough but is doable by anyone who is generally fit.
As you make your way deeper into the jungle, the paths got narrower and steeper. Each night, we would go wild camping in one of their designated campsites that the crew would set up for us. The Sumatran Orangutan is one of the only two species of Orangutan and is now sadly considered as a critically endangered species due to deforestation.
Read through our experience to see if this adventure holiday is for you.
Our Jungle Trekking Experience
We trudged along the muddy path, gearing up for a 4-day trek through the jungles of Sumatra. Not knowing what to expect, we packed our bags and dutifully followed our guide as we crossed a bridge in the small sleepy town of Bukit Lawang. After 10 minutes of easy walking, we reached the border of Gunung Leuser National Park where we were to begin our trek. What seemed like an easy path quickly turned difficult as we began a near vertical ascent as we clawed through the ground and used vines and roots to pull us up. As soon as we reached a somewhat flat surface, our guides, Bram and Ricky happily looked back at us and said: “Welcome to the Jungle.”
We decided to go with the trusted and well-reviewed company, Sumatra Paradise. We did not regret our decision one bit as the trip was so well organized. Everyone from the owners, the guides, to the porters were fantastic! With nothing but our small backpacks and a liter of water, we began working our way through the jungle. Within the first hour, we saw three or four Orangutans which was swarmed with different tour groups. Being that day trips and two-day treks were very popular, we weren’t surprised at a number of people. Naturally, the further we went into the jungle, the fewer people we saw. Although I was a bit anxious about it, we were happy with our choice to do the four-day trek.
Related: Things to do in Indonesia
Sumatra Jungle Wildlife
The wildlife that we saw on our Sumatra trek was nothing short of fantastic. It is truly amazing to see animals in their natural habitat. Throughout our four day trek, we got to see six out of the seven types of monkeys found in the national park. From Orangutans, Thomas Leaf Monkeys and Black Gibbons, we had no shortage of wildlife! We were lucky because sometimes, the animals would even come visit us in our campsites! I almost had the shock of my life when I woke up to a giant Orangutan bouncing around in a tree right in front of our tent. Every time we encountered animals, our guide would happily stop and let us fully take in the sight as we observed their playful and sometimes naughty animal behavior. Naturally, these animals are still wild so a level of caution must be practiced when watching them. There is one notorious Orangutan called Mina who is rather aggressive and territorial. Our guides were extra cautious when guiding us through her portion of the forest. We also saw an alpha male early on and it was HUGE. It was happily chilling by the tree until it got down and started walking upwards. Everyone immediately got out of his way as he looked pretty intimidating. Being in the jungle, we also had our fair share of bugs, one inch ants, giant lizards, and leeches-all part of the jungle trekking experience.
Sumatra Paradise Jungle Trekking
The first day was one of the most challenging ones because we trekked the longest. I was actually surprised at how I fared as I am normally the world’s clumsiest person. Despite this, I trooped on as we went up and down through the many hiking paths and trails. Tom, on the other hand, was fighting a high fever and colds during the first day and miraculously still made it despite being somewhat delirious! Some paths were very steep as you literally used tree roots to pull yourself up. The downward trails were even more challenging as the foliage and wet mud made the ground slippery. There were moments where we used tree roots to rappel down steep inclines making us feel like the real Tarzan and Jane.
The last day was the hardest for me as I got into a little accident in the second campsite. I was hiking with my flipflops to get to the waterfall pool and my right foot slipped, tearing out a nail (Oh, the things that would only happen to me!). Needless to say, I was in excruciating pain the next day as I did a full days trek. Think blood oozing out with every step I took! (P.S. there might have been moments where I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry-but I trooped on). After Tom had recovered from his flu, he found the whole trek relatively easy and even carried my backpack for most of the uphill parts during the third day to make it easier for my foot. Over the three days, we alternated between hard treks and easy treks as we worked our way from campsite to campsite. The campsites of Sumatra Paradise were all strategically located in beautiful parts of the jungle which either had a waterfall or river. These bodies of water were heaven sent as there was nothing better than taking a cold swim after a full day of trekking.
Sumatra Paradise Campsites
For me, reaching the campsites was a big relief! By the end of every day, we looked forward to relaxing, eating the fantastic food prepared by our guides, and hanging out by the bonfire. Each camp was basic but had everything that you need. A bamboo structure was lined up with tarpaulin and was where our beds were laid out. Ideally, we would have loved thicker mattresses, but since these are lugged with us from campsite to campsite, we knew that they had to be thin and lightweight. Every day, as soon as we touched base, we ran off to attempt to get rid of the “jungle smell” which sadly, became a staple scent throughout our trek!
As we showered and relaxed, our guide/chef Erdi and the porter Baim, began preparing for dinner. We were spoiled with a feast as we dined on curries, sambal, tofu, Tempe, and potato pancakes every night. We were pleasantly surprised at how good all the meals were! We also always had loads of fresh tropical fruits throughout the day which was a nice touch! After that, we all gathered around the campfire as we told stories, exchanged riddles, sang songs, and enjoyed the serenity of the jungle. Every night, we were lulled to sleep by the sounds of nature and the river or stream close to us. Waking up every morning was an unreal sight as we awoke to a stunning and lush jungle surrounding us.
Cost of this Jungle Sumatra Trek with Sumatra Paradise
The costs of the jungle trek vary as to the length of your trip. We did a customized 3 night, 4 day trek which Sumatra Paradise will happily arrange for you. Laetitia, the person who you touch base with via email is amazing! Very accommodating and prompt in getting back to any questions and requests that you have.
All jungle treks include:
• Licensed English-speaking guide + porter
• Gunung Leuser National Park entrance + camera permit (IDR150,000 / day / person)
• All meals + fruits during breaks
• Rafting back to the village
What to Bring for Jungle Trekking in Sumatra
Food, mat, and a blanket will be provided by your guide but it would be handy to bring the following:
- 1500ml water bottle (to be refilled in the camps)
- Mosquito repellent (lots of it!!!)
- Sunscreen (although we didn’t even use ours!)
- Small towel
- Toiletries (soap/ toothbrush)
- Toilet paper/ baby wipes
- Head Torch
Overall, I had the best time in Sumatra trekking with Sumatra Paradise. To those that know me, you know that the jungle really isn’t my element as I am a beach baby, this, however, was an unforgettable experience and one of the best things we’ve done in Indonesia. The level of organization and service that we got from Sumatra Paradise was incredible. Our guides knew the jungle like the back of their hand and knew all the trails by heart. Throughout the trek, our guide Bram constantly pointed out interesting facts about the forest, taught us songs, and reminded us to keep smiling and take it easy!
Although the trek was challenging, we went at our own pace and had loads of breaks where we could enjoy the scenery and wildlife. Every day, we had a feast of fresh fruits which was amazing! We would stop for lunch and have either fried rice or fried noodles accompanied by a fruit buffet- jungle style! The last day was my favorite as we got to sleep in and laze around camp. After a delicious last lunch, we boarded some river tubes which were all tied together to make a large boat. From our campsite, we headed back to Bukit Lawang town by rafting down the river. The rafting was my favorite part as I got to fully take in the beauty of the jungle without the panting and sweat from hiking.
Disclaimer: Please note that some part of our Sumatra Trek from Sumatra Paradise was complimentary but all opinions are ours and remain completely unbiased.
Looking for more things to do in Indonesia? Check out our guides below
- Top 5 Adventures in Indonesia
- Where to Stay in Indonesia
- What to Eat in Indonesia: Dishes You Need to Try