So, you’ve decided you’re coming to Bukit Lawang to experience the breath-taking Leuser jungle, one of only two places in the world where you can witness Sumatran orangutans in the wild. Exciting stuff.
This is a once in a lifetime experience, and therefore you only have one chance to get it right. So, what is the best way to experience the jungle? Is it in a group with other likeminded travellers, or is it best trek alone, as so many of the Leuser’s species do?
In this article we will illustrate the pros and cons of both private and group treks in order to help you decide which one is best for you. One thing we ask you to remember no matter which trek type you choose, is the success of all and any treks depends upon your ability to:
4. And to support each other and work together as a team.
Now without further ado, let’s take a closer look at these different types of treks!
The group trek- a cheaper compromise
The members of each group trek are created from tourists whose trek lengths and dates align. Guests are grouped according to their time frame, not physicality, jungle preference or personality. This can mean you are grouped with people who are in a better/worse/stronger/weaker physical state, who are focused on other species or elements of the jungle to yourself (e.g. birds, reptiles, flora etc. anything aside from the famous orangutan) and who may not share your humour/outlook/experiences. No trekking provider can control the nature of their guests along with their needs or wishes; all we can do is respond and try to accommodate the differences within the group. Having said this, we cap our group treks at a maximum of 4 people, to keep numbers and needs low, along with reducing your noise and presence whilst in the jungle.
Having said this, the heat and humidity of the jungle is a great equaliser and can render the ‘most fit’ just as laboured as the ‘out of shape’; it also can be really nice to move at a slower pace, in order to take everything in with a little more attention to detail. Additionally, many of our guests have returned from their group trek with new firm friendships, and a newfound respect for our guides for not only keeping them safe, but accommodating everyone’s needs and fostering a strong group bond. Lastly, the group trek is obviously a much cheaper trekking option than the private trek, as costs are shared out amongst the participants.
All this is to say, the biggest con on the group trek is that you will have to compromise your jungle expectations along will accommodating the different abilities found within your group, however the biggest pro for the group trek is that will experience the jungle at a much cheaper cost!
The private trek – tailor made at a cost
The private trek is a custom-made jungle tour, wherein you are supported and assisted by your own personal guiding team (guide, assistant guide and porter). Before the trek, there will be an opportunity for you to discuss your expectations and goals with the team, for them to establish the best route and schedule in order to achieve those goals. Perhaps you are particularly interested in bird life, or amphibious creatures or you want to acquire some additional survival skills whilst in the jungle, or you have an old injury which makes steep ascents and descents difficult, or you prefer to walk along the ridgeline rather than the river; all of these preferences can be accommodated for on the private trek, and this is the private treks biggest pro, that the whole experience can be tailored specifically to you! However it comes at an extra cost!
If you as a solo traveller, one of the big drwabacks or cons is that the the private trek is a very expensive option, as there is no one else to share the cost of the whole trek and guiding team etc. However, if you are travelling with a friend, or there is a small group of you (3+) the private trek is the perfect option for you, and works out the same price as the group trek; we like to call this ‘the private group trek’, as the trek is only attended by those in your travelling group.
So, if you have certain physical needs or limitations, or a specific set of goals for your time in the jungle (aside from seeing orangutans!), we would always suggest a private trek. This will come at a greater price, however there will be a much greater success rate for your unique goals or needs tahn when on the group trek.
2024 Trekking prices
Below you can see how our most common treks cost per person; the '1 person' column illustrates the prices for a private trek, whilst the '3 person' illustrates that of the group trek.
Please note these prices have been increased by the central guiding and tourism board (HPI) to reflect the rises in trekking and living costs.
These prices come into effect on Jan 1st 2024, however they still include all jungle permits, food, water, 24/7 guiding and assistance, camp use (tents, mattresses, mosquito nets and blankets) along with rafting back to your accommodation.
To conclude, we have tried to illustrate the pros and cons of both the private and group treks we offer here at SEE Sumatra. We hope this article has helped clarify which trek is best suited to you, your needs and wishes. However, if you are still unsure as to which trek you are most suited to, please feel free to reach out to us!