Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the best places for a real jungle experience. It covers 7,927 km2 area, straddling the border of North Sumatra and the Aceh province. The park enjoys the uncontacted forest of Barisan mountain range stretching up to the peak of the namesake Mount Leuser. And together with Kerinci Seblat National Park, Gunung Leuser forms UNESCO-listed world heritage site named the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra.
The biological diversity of the national park is one of the richest in the world. It is an extremely important conservation area that protects lots of critically endangered species. In fact, the forest is the last remaining place on planet where you can see the exotic Sumatran Orangutan in the wild. It’s so exciting to see these red haired primates swinging across the forest canopy while feeding on fruits. The chance to see them closer is offered at Bukit Lawang where they are trained to be self-reliant before being released into the jungle. You can join in the two time of feeding session at the rehabilitation center under a supervision of the rangers. The orangutan is not alone in the jungle. They share the branches with the other unique primates like siamang, gibbons and the Mohawk-haired Thomas leaf monkeys.
The hinterland of the park mostly contains of steep slippery terrain and muddy slopes, but rangers will lead you through the trekking path for you to spot the native species of the forest. As you walk deeper, wide variety of flora is everywhere to see. You’ll find moss forests rich in orchids and the rare rafflesia family, Rafflesia acehensis and Rafflesia zippelnii, as you pass along the Alas river. Be watchful during the trekking or you’ll lose the priceless opportunity to spot the elusive Sumatran mammals of tigers, rhinoceros and elephants. Bird species are also abundant (more than 300 species) with the most eye-catching are the bizarre rhinoceros hornbill, the helmeted hornbill and woodpeckers.
Gunung Leuser National Park is accessible through two entrances – Bukit Lawang and Ketambe. The former is the most popular gate to the park since it’s relatively easy to reach from Medan. Some lodges and guest houses are available there that will be swarming with tourists on weekends and public holiday (usually in June – July). Ketambe is what you have if you avoid the crowd. It’s a small town located in Aceh, hiding in the wildest part of the park with completely relaxing atmosphere. To get there can be hard but the trip there is just an adventure of its own.
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