Sumatra: Big Orange Beard

On arrival into Medan airport we planned on getting aboard a bus which would take us to the main bus terminal for the city and from there get onward transport to Bukit Lawang where we would fit in our last three days in Indonesia. As we made our way out of the airport we were approached by a nice Spanish couple who said they had a driver who would take them to Bukit Lawang and after a little bartering we agreed to car share with them for the same price as the bus, thinking this would save us some time and be a more comfortable journey. I admit that for me this was one of my most grumpy times whilst travelling as I was first of all… hungry and also because our drivers cigarette smoke blew into my face for the entire journey, as he seemed to be a chain smoker this was the majority of the trip. Thankfully we did have a stop for food at a small local café in the middle of nowhere, just as we’d finished our food a storm blew in and we were surrounded by a torrential downpour with thunder and lighting. All our plates and cutlery got blown across the room, we got soaked through and our journey got delayed until the weather died down. Back in the car it was a very bumpy journey to Bukit Lawang where we arrived as dark set in. Turns out it would have been faster and more comfortable to get the bus.

The little village of Bukit Lawang was lovely and peaceful, there were a cluster of guesthouses and shops set around the river. At our guesthouse for the night we wasted no time in arranging a jungle trek for the following day as our time left in Indonesia was limited. All of the tours are led by one company who have set prices for everything; these set prices are very high! We had planned on having a two day one night trek but due to the price we settled for a one day trek instead which was still more expensive than we had hoped to pay for the two days. Off we went for an early night to be ready for our day in the jungle the following morning.


We had booked onto the trek with the Spanish couple we had got the car share with the previous day and met them and our guide Felix for breakfast in the morning. We went into the jungle in search of Orang-utans and whatever other wildlife we could spot. It wasn’t long before we came across a mother and baby Orang-utan swinging in the trees; it was evident as soon as we saw them that these were semi-wild because of how close they were to us without getting scared off. This didn’t take away from how amazing it was to be so close to these beautiful animals in a wild setting, watching them sway between trees clinging onto vines. Shortly after this we spotted a group of Orang-utans building a nest high up in the trees, as we gazed up we caught sight of white-handed gibbons leaping from one tree to another. The gibbons are my favourite primate, they’re so energetic and the markings on the white-handed gibbons are fascinating to look at. As we were watching all the nest making and treetop swinging our guide Felix shouted us over to look at a gigantic male Orang-utan sat in a tree watching what was going on. Again it was obvious that this particular Orang-utan was semi-wild because of how tame he was but none-the-less there we stood looking at a huge male Orang-utan complete with big orange beard sat in the tree. For a moment we had a little laugh at how surrounded we were by monkeys and apes in the middle of the jungle in Sumatra, what an amazing place to be. We pulled ourselves away from this spot and made our way through more jungle where we saw a group of Thomas-Leaf monkeys which have a very distinct hair style and grey fur.

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Our lunch was the traditional jungle styled rice served on a banana leaf but it went down a treat! Just as we finished eating we were joined by a peacock-pheasant grazing around in the leaves looking to eat our left-over scraps of food. As we watched the pheasant strut around we noticed a pig-tailed macaque making itself at home in a tree. Felix dragged us away and we made our way back toward the village. Not long after we had left our lunch spot we noticed more Orang-utans and gibbons making their way through the jungle, as we stood in amazement watching them move another huge male appeared striding through the tree tops. He made his way closer and closer to us to the point where Felix told us to ‘move’ so we wouldn’t be in his path; the five of us ran through the jungle just missing the path of the huge male. I couldn’t help but feel like he just wanted to be our friend and we’d hurt his feelings by running away from him in such a hurry. As we neared the edge of the jungle we saw more Orang-utans, Gibbons and Thomas-Leaf monkeys. It was quite unbelievable how much wildlife we saw that day. Those animals are obviously so used to humans DSCF2114coming roaming around their home so it makes it easier for us to see them in their natural environment. That night we sat on the terrace outside our room, listening to the sound of the river and reflecting on what an amazing day we had and how much wildlife we had seen. Being in the jungle and looking out for wild animals never gets boring.

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Our plan for the next day was to get a bus back to Medan and then travel onwards to the port of Dumai from where we would get a boat across to Singapore. Only we didn’t actually look at a map when we devised this plan and it turns out that it would have taken us well over 24hours to do this and as we had only one day remaining on our visas this wasn’t feasible. So our plans changed and we booked a last minute flight from Medan to Kuala Lumpur (the cheapest place to fly to) and our plan was to get a bus from KL to Singapore the following day. So off we set to Medan in a very hot minivan. We had got dropped off somewhere near the bus station in Medan and had about 15minutes there before we got the onward bus to the airport. I wouldn’t have wished it to be any longer than 15minutes, from what I experienced it’s a very rude place where foreigners are a target to be ripped off. Luckily we had our wits about us and we swiftly dodged the people intent on scamming us.

We got aboard our last flight in Indonesia, which like the other three flights we took in this country were delayed by at least an hour and had a short journey back to familiar Kuala Lumpur. Looking forward to our next country and my last destination of our travels in the morning.

Until then!

Apologies for the awful filming, trying to track one too many primates at a time.

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