History of jungle trekking in Bukit Lawang
In 1973 two zoologists from Switzerland established an orangutan rehabilitation centre in Bukit Lawang. It sounds crazy, but orangutans were (and sometimes still are) held as pets throughout Indonesia, and the centre was founded to to reintroduce them to the jungles. It was funded by the WWF and Frankfurt Zoological Society. The centre was built a couple of kilometres away from Bohorok to minimise human contact. The rangers taught the orangutan all the essential skills to survive in the wild. After some time of quarantine, refamiliarisation to the rainforest as well as reintegration to the (semi-)wild orangutan population, the animals were released back into the wild. The ability to see orangutans up close brought local as well as international tourists to Bukit Lawang.
In addition to the rehabilitation centre, the first jungle trekkings for tourists were carried out in the late 1980s. At that time it must have been a real adventure. Since the beginning of the 90s there is the ITGA-HPI, the Indonesian Tourist Guides Association. All guides who want to lead tourists into the jungle have to pass an exam. All our guides are licensed by the ITGA-HPI, speak very good English, have been trained accordingly and had to pass an exam.
The centre has been closed in 2002 as it was not suitable anymore for the animal welfare. All orangutans of the center have been slowly released to the jungle. That’s why you can still see some semi-wild orangutans while jungle trekking in Bukit Lawang. These semi-wild orangutans are used to humans and sometimes they want to touch you. If that happens, stay calm and follow the instructions of your guides.
For some years now there are the prebuilt campsites in the jungle for guests who opt for the exciting overnight stay. That makes the trekking a little more convenient.