Gunung Leuser National Park
The Aceh section of Gunung Leuser National Park has slipped under the tourist radar for years, seeing only a trickle of visitors as the masses head to the more-hyped Bukit Lawang. Its jungle is basically the same minus the well-worn paths and tourists clambering about trying to spot semiwild orangutans. Here is the place for the real jungle experience. In the past it’s been largely off limits due to the conflict, but now that there’s peace in the region it’s starting to receive the recognition it deserves.
The World Heritage–listed Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the world’s most important and biologically diverse conservation areas. It is often described as a complete ecosystem laboratory because of the range of forest and species types.
Within the park’s boundaries live some of the planet’s most endangered and exotic species: tigers, rhinoceros, elephants and orangutans. Although your chances of seeing these celebrity animals are remote, you’ve got a reasonable chance of seeing orangutans, and you can be sure of encountering plenty of other primates. The most common is the white-breasted Thomas leaf monkey, which sports a brilliant, crested punk hairdo.
Habitats range from the swamp forests of the west coast to the dense lowland rainforests of the interior. Much of the area around Ketambe is virgin forest. Above 1500m, the permanent mist has created moss forests rich in epiphytes and orchids. Rare flora includes two members of the rafflesia family, Rafflesia acehensis and Rafflesia zippelnii, which are found along Sungai Alas.
More than 300 bird species have been recorded in the park, including the bizarre rhinoceros hornbill, the helmeted hornbill and woodpeckers.
The park faces a great number of challenges. Poachers have virtually wiped out the crocodile population and have severely reduced the number of tigers and rhinoceros. According to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, a fifth of the park has been adversely affected by illegal logging and road construction. A highly controversial road project called Ladia Galaska runs through the park, linking the eastern and western coasts of the province.
This park receives a lot of rain throughout the year, but rain showers tend to lessen in frequency and duration between December and March.
Bukit Lawang Tour and The OrangUtans Sumatra Sanctuary