Orangutans and Magic

I have been so busy traveling and planning future trips that I haven’t been called to sit down and write for a while….until now.

I just read an article posted by my now dear friend Marie who owns the Riverside Guesthouse in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra. It prompted me to share some of the experiences I had during my memorable time there.

It is truly a magical place…that is the word that best describes it…so much so that I am returning there this June and bringing as many of my children that I can gather!

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The article stated how critically endangered the Sumatran Orangutan is and how dire their situation is due to the deforestation and loss of the jungle they live in. This is happening at an alarming rate primarily because of the clear cutting of their natural habitat for palm oil plantations.

This is also happening in Malaysian, Borneo which in addition to Sumatra are the only two places on the planet that you can find these incredible creatures.

Reading the article left me feeling such a sense of helplessness. What can I possibly do to help…to contribute to their survival? I often feel overwhelmed by all the sad things I read about that are happening across the globe to my beloved animals.

Since I was young girl animals have been a huge part of my world. When I was all of six years old I hid my five assorted turtles in my room to stop my parents from giving them away before a cross country move from New York to California. My mother didn’t have the heart to see me so despondent so off we moved with those turtles in tow (which escaped on the plane and marched down the aisle but that’s another story!) That was just the beginning of countless stories of my life long crusade to save creatures. To date I have owned and rescued dozens of furry and feathered friends!

So…what I can do is write about the beautiful orangutans I was so fortunate to see and hope to maybe spark someone to go and visit…to support the dedicated community that have created their lives around saving them. The more local people know that tourism can be a sustainable livelihood the more chances there will be to stop destructive projects that many see as their only means of survival. 


Now for the reason I wanted to come!

Many years ago I saw a nature show about an orangutan sanctuary and was smitten. If I hadn’t ended up having children there’s a good chance I would have become a surrogate mommy for  orphaned orangutans 🙂

They are highly intelligent animals and they share 97% of our human DNA!

The name orangutan translates to ‘man of the forest’ in the Malay language. They spend nearly their entire lives in trees—swinging in tree tops and building nests for sleep.

They are very social animals with mothers staying with their young for up to eight years—longer than any other great ape.



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Oh yeah…seeing them requires trekking. I had read that the hike was challenging. I consider myself to be in pretty good shape but it was tough…as in walking up/down some trails clinging to jungle vines with a machete wielding jungle guide paving the way.


The scenery is stunning and of course the moment I saw my first orangutan I was captivated. I was fortunate to see a few that were alone but the best part was having the utter privilege of watching a mother and her young baby boy for about an hour. It was incredible to see how they interacted in such a ‘human’ way. The baby was just like a toddler..being busy, playing with sticks and bugging his mama.

As I sat on the ground just a few feet away the baby came up and touched me and tears of gratitude streamed down my face. 


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In addition to the orangutans there is a host of other critters as well…baboons and all sorts of monkeys and birds.


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After seeing the wildlife and having a wonderful picnic lunch we made our way back to the guesthouse by inner tubing down the river and stopping to get cooled off in a watefall….SO MUCH FUN!!!!


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Trees and plants are lush and giant here in paradise!


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The village of Bukit Lawang is completely charming…a tiny town right up against the river with a cobblestone path lined with many restaurants and the friendliest, smiliest people I found in all of Indonesia.


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And of course the children…they always capture my heart.


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The surrounding area is so incredibly scenic with many outdoor activities to do.  I spent a couple of days meandering the local countryside  which is a great way to really get a feel for the local life.


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Often times the thought of travel to far away places is overwhelming and that keeps people from living out a dream they have. I don’t usually write about the logistical and financial aspects of my travels, as there are so many blogs dedicated to this, but I am a serious budget traveler and this trip definitely falls into that category. I am always happy to advise on trip planning and will do anything I can to help support Bukit Lawang and the people who are trying to save these magnificent creatures.

Blessings, Lisa



8 thoughts on “Orangutans and Magic

    1. Thank you my friend. I actually was thinking about you and all the magical experiences you have been having…you have inspired me. The baby orangutan was absolutely precious and watching him annoy his mom was so funny!


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