The little village of Bukit Lawang is situated on the eastern banks of the pretty Bahorok River, facing one of the grandest forest areas in South East Asia, the Mount Leuser National Park. With its restful and pleasant setting, this was once one of the most popular tourist destinations in Northern Sumatra, the town existing primarily to cater to the tourist trade, with guides, restaurants and a variety of delightful guesthouses strung along the river. Since November 2003, however, Bukit Lawang has struggled to recover from the massive flash flood that wiped out most of its infrastructure, causing a huge dip in the tourism that once formed the backbone of its economy. Rebuilding is underway and Bukit Lawang has maintained its charm despite disaster, and its major attraction, the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre across the river, welcomes visitors more enthusiastically than ever.
The Rehabilitation Centre helps orphaned orangutans that have been displaced because of land clearing, or rescued from captivity, and teaches them the necessary skills to be able to survive in the wild. Visitors have an opportunity to view the apes twice daily when they come swinging through the trees to collect the bananas and milk left on feeding platforms in the forest, providing visitors with one of the more memorable experiences in Indonesia. Jungle trekking and tubing down the river are other popular activities.