Choosing the best guide to go jungle trekking in Bukit Lawang is probably one of the biggest headaches of planning a trip to Sumatra. There are so many options and it is hard to know if someone is right for you without meeting them in person.
We were preparing for our time in Sumatra and were in need of a guide to take us trekking in the jungle to search for Orangutans.
If you are currently on the fence about choosing a guide or are looking for more information on Thomas Jungle Tours, or what it is like to go jungle trekking in Bukit Lawang, you have come to the right place.
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Our Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking Experience
Thomas is an experienced and licensed guide that has been guiding people in the jungles of Gunung Leuser National Park since 1993. He has extensive knowledge of all the plants, trees, animals, and eco-system of the Sumatran jungle that you will be trekking through.
Having been born and raised in Bukit Lawang, he is a strong advocate for preserving the natural order of his home and the jungle that surrounds it. He practices responsible tourism in his tours, people he hires, and travelers he takes into the jungle.
Our Experience with Thomas Jungle Tours
For a taste of adventure, we signed up for a 2-day jungle trek that included camping overnight deep in the jungle. We wanted to get up close and personal with the jungle and its inhabitants.
To see Orangutans in their natural environment, and to push ourselves to the limit.
We accomplished all of this and had the time of our lives trekking with Thomas. We spent a solid 8 hours hiking through the jungle where we encountered many Orangutans, White gibbons, and a Thomas Leaf Monkey.
In addition, we learned about all the plants and trees we came across and took some time to observe a jungle peacock.
Thomas kept us laughing even when we thought we would perish from the heat and steep mountain climbs. We took several breaks to photograph animals and snack on the most amazing fresh fruit we have ever eaten. He served us lunch from a banana leaf smack dab in the middle of the jungle.
Arriving at Our Camp on the River
When we arrived at the camp, we had spare time to relax and swim in the river, which was incredibly amazing after 8 hours of trekking in the upper 90-degree heat.
While we were cooling off, Thomas and his staff began serving us tea and biscuits right on the banks of the river. Upon arriving back in camp, we were served more fresh fruit and given mats and bedding for our tents.
Dinner was served on the floor of the jungle near our tents and was a complete smorgasbord of amazing Indonesian dishes prepared by Thomas and his staff. We all sat around, including the staff, and gorged ourselves. Between the 5 of us, we couldn’t even finish everything.
Camping in the Sumatra Jungle
Following dinner and the setting of the sun, we all sat up by the light of our candles telling stories, singing, and playing games.
The camp is set up with tents for each organization that treks into the jungle, regardless of the guide if you are doing an overnight camping trip in the jungle, your first night will be spent in this camp.
With that said, Thomas was the most interactive guide in the whole camp and we were the only group enjoying ourselves. The other guides were nowhere to be seen and the other trekkers were hiding away in their tents.
The next morning we trekked to the other side of the river to a waterfall where we swam and played before arriving back at camp for breakfast. Following breakfast, we packed up our stuff and hopped into a raft for a 1.5 hours rafting journey back to Bukit Lawang.
Our time spent with Thomas and his staff in the Sumatran jungle was incredible. Our standards for jungle trekking will be forever raised by this experience and we hope that people will continue to support such a beautiful area and enthusiastic jungle guide.
The camp we stayed at is co-hosted by all the trekking guides and companies. All first nights of camping are spent at this location so the tents are already set up when you arrive.
They are not fancy by any means, but they are permanent. The guides have them set up to ensure animals cannot enter them while you are sleeping.
The ground is tarp-covered, so you won’t be sleeping on the dirt. It will be hard; this is rustic camping after all. Even with the sleeping pads and bedding. Pillows are not provided. There are no facilities, so you will be communing with nature while at camp.
The camp is literally located on the river and is one of the most beautiful camping locations I have ever seen. All around you is lush, a thick jungle where you can admire the hills you trekked over to arrive at camp.
If you are lucky, the orangutans do visit the camp from time to time. One greeted us when we first arrived but didn’t see her again during our stay.
How to Book Your Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek with Thomas
More information and contact information for Thomas can be found on his website at Thomas Jungle Tours. I would recommend contacting him directly via email for more information. He is extremely quick at replying and incredibly helpful this way. He can also be reached by mobile.
Additionally, you can read many reviews and forum discussions about Thomas on Trip Advisor. All of his contact details can also be obtained here.
TIP: His written English is not very good. DO NOT LET THIS DETER YOU. He is an exceptional English speaker and is very easy to communicate with in person. He understands all that you say and communicates everything to you in English with ease during your trekking.
If you need a place to stay in Bukit Lawang, I strongly recommend staying at Thomas’s Retreat. He regularly puts up people that trek with him here and it is a lovely little oasis.
It is very reasonable and comfortable. The café attached is affordable and very good. Besides walking the village, swimming in the river, and trekking, we never left the guesthouse.
More Tips for Visiting Bukit Lawang
Since no one is allowed to enter the Gunung Leuser National Park without a guide, it is important that you do your research and find someone that is properly trained to take you out trekking.
Besides, you are going to be sweating and exercising your way through the thick jungle in the humid heat of the day and you want to make sure you are looked after by someone that knows what they are doing.
Where to Find Jungle Guides
Finding the right guide can be a task, especially when there is a limited resource for them to advertise on the internet. You can start by conducting an online search for jungle trekking guides in Sumatra.
With this method, you will turn up guides that other people have written about or perhaps guides that have their own websites. You will probably get some of the bigger companies this way as well.
Another great way to search for guides is on Trip Advisor. It never fails that I find a great guide by searching the reviews and forums here for the destination I want to visit.
For Sumatra, I prowled over the forums first by searching the jungle trekking guide in Sumatra. You get real people (for the most part) giving you real reviews about the experiences they have had with the people you are considering hiring for your trek.
This information is invaluable, you can also search out activities in Bukit Lawang and you will see guides rated and listed there too.
Alternatively, you can wait till you arrive in Bukit Lawang and just start asking around. Either way will work as long as you have enough time to do your research.
What to Look For in a Jungle Guide
All guides that take tourists into the jungle must be licensed jungle guides. Be sure whomever you choose to take you trekking has a license and is willing to provide it to you. These guides have been trained to look after travelers while trekking and have the knowledge to educate you about the jungle.
They have been taught how to respect the jungle and how to treat the animals in their natural habitat. The last thing you want is to hire someone that throws garbage or harasses the animals while you are trekking.
Personality is always a big factor for me when choosing a guide. You want someone that is easygoing with a sense of humor. You will be getting some hard exercise and spending days with this person in one of the most remote parts of the world, you want to be sure you like them.
How & Why We Chose Thomas Jungle Tours
After heavy research, we decided to go with one of the smaller companies we came across. This small company is actually owned by the guide, so every aspect of the trip was much more personal.
We found Thomas Jungle Tours by conducting a search on Trip Advisor. We read many positive things about him in the forums and reviews. He has a website with detailed information and testimonials from other trekkers. A basic online search also returned positive information about people’s time spent with him in the jungle.
Thomas was able to help us arrange transport from the airport to Bukit Lawang, accommodation, trekking, and other activities in the area. He was knowledgeable, personal, and truly cared about the preservation of the jungle. This all made him the right choice for us.
We met people in Bukit Lawang that had gone every which way, hired the big companies, or just showed up and found a guide and it all seemed to work out fine for them. Choosing a guide comes down to what is right for you.
Doing your research is the best advice I can offer. We had a fabulous and memorable time with our jungle guide Thomas. No matter how you choose, you are likely to have a unique and memorable experience of trekking through the jungle in Sumatra.
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