Most of our holidays have one main purpose, usually falling into two categories: wildlife we would like to see in the wild, and natural or archaeological areas of beauty. This trip was based around the former, and so we jumped on a plane from KL straight to Sumatra, one of the few homes of wild orang-utans. I’ve longed to see these incredible apes for years, and was becoming increasingly excited as we drove to the town of Bukit Lawang after landing at Medan airport, the gateway to Gunung Leuser national park.
The jungle hit us with its humidity, sounds and staggeringly tall canopy as soon as we arrived, and as we settled into our room we saw a first brief glimpse of our red-headed cousins in the dense forest opposite. Soon after we headed up to the rehabilitation centre, where orang-utans slowly weaned off of human dependency to live wild in the jungle, for the afternoon feeding of the semi-wild inhabitants. Here we struck gold – as well as a couple of females who had come for their supplemented diet, we found ourselves surrounded by several curious new friends, including four babies clinging to their mothers and tentitively exploring their surroundings. A few even came down from the trees and walked right past us, barely half a metre from where we stood. They were even more spectacular then I had possibly imagined, and definitely made us even more excited for the two day jungle trek we had booked for the following morning.
The town of Bukit Lawang was also a real delight, with friendly locals greeting us as we explored, reflecting the laid back and relaxed atmosphere. There were small cheeky monkeys everywhere – clambering on the top of buildings, swinging across the river and trying to get into our belongings. But I think what made the place really special (and would be the trend across the island) was the lack of a touristy set-up – we only saw a small handful of other tourists and everything had a far quieter and authentic feel to it. You could lose weeks just hanging out, watching the river rush by and the gentle beauty of nature all around.