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Lost in the depths of the Sumatran jungle is this sweet little tourist town built around the popularity of its orangutan-viewing centre. But Bukit Lawang has much more to offer beyond our red-haired cousins. It’s very easy to while away a few days lounging in the many riverside hammocks, splashing about in the gushing river and watching the jungle life swing and sing around you. The forests surrounding Bukit Lawang are part of the vast Gunung Leuser National Park, which is one of the richest tropical-forest ecosystems in the word. The park as a whole is home to eight species of primate plus tigers, rhinos, elephants and leopards. However, aside from orangutans and various other primates, you are very unlikely to see any other large mammals here (or elsewhere in the park for that matter). The forests immediately surrounding Bukit Lawang are absolutely not pristine jungle – palm-oil plantations extend right up to the edge of the village and at weekends, when foreign tourists are joined by masses of domestic visitors, Bukit Lawang can feel as much like Tarzan country as a busy afternoon in a supermarket.
But don’t let this put you off, because when you first come face to face with a tree-swinging gentle giant or spend the night under a tarp in the forest you’ll quickly forget the tourist circus that accompanies a visit here.
The village is only 96km northwest of Medan.