Sumatra Orangutan Photo Tour
Photograph orangutans swinging through the rainforest
- Best location to photograph wild Sumatran orangutans
- Gibbons, macaques, monkeys, and so much more
- Exclusive events with the Sumatran Orangutan Society
- Support local conservation efforts
- All meals and accommodation from Medan, Sumatra
- 7 days, 6 nights
Sumatran orangutans are among the most amazing, intelligent, and threatened animals on our planet. And you will fall in love with them, just as we have. We know this area well and have been traveling here for 10 years. Our guides are the very best in the business and will put you in the best position to take amazing photographs. They love orangutans and have dedicated their lives to orangutan conservation and protecting critical orangutan habitat.
Join us as we photograph orangutans up close in their natural habitat. We spend all day in the rainforest to maximize our opportunities for special encounters. Plus, you will get to see all kinds of wildlife: leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques, gibbons, so many birds, and many other wonders in one of the world’s greatest wildlife hotspots.
Tour Highlights: Best location to photograph Sumatran orangutans in the wild
* June 4-10, 2023 (1 spot left)
Tour Leader: Zac Mills
Group Size: 4
Price: $2,795 USD + 5% tax (US dollars)
Price includes: All meals, accommodation, and transport from Medan, Indonesia
Starting Location: Medan, Indonesia
Fitness Level: Active
One of the best places in the world to photograph Orangutans in the wild
TAKE THE QUIZ!
SUMATRAN ORANGUTAN CONSERVATION
Unfortunately, the relentless destruction of Sumatra’s rainforests has pushed the Sumatran orangutan to the edge of extinction. With fewer than 14,000 Sumatran orangutans remaining in the wild, they are classified as Critically Endangered. Their forest habitat is under immense threat and being being torn down for farmlands, logging, hydropower projects, mining and roads. International demand for products such as palm oil and timber, combined with weak forest governance and short-sighted land-use policies, are driving deforestation at an alarming rate.
Consequently, orangutan populations are left fragmented and isolated as roads and plantations divide up the forest. This makes them easy targets for poaching for the illegal pet trade, and causes conflict with local communities when the stranded and starving apes are forced to resort to raiding crops.
By participating in this tour, you will be supporting orangutan conservation through the amazing work of the Sumatra Orangutan Society and their conservation partners.
HUMAN OF THE FOREST
The word orangutan literally translates to “human of the forest”. We share 96.4 percent of our DNA with orangutans who are like us in so many ways, including each orangutan have their own unique fingerprint. Their proportions and dexterity are impressive. Their powerful arms are stronger and longer than their legs and can reach 2m in length, long enough to touch their ankles when they stand.
Among the most intelligent animals in the animal kingdom, orangutans have been documented using tools and eat more than 100 different types of food, including fruit, young leaves, bark, flowers, honey, insects, vines, and the inner shoots of plants. Did you know that orangutan mothers stay with their young for six to seven years, teaching them where to find food, what and how to eat and the technique for building a sleeping nest? And did you know male orangutans weigh twice as much as females, often over 200 pounds? There are just so many interesting and incredible facts about orangutans. We can’t wait to show you these remarkable “humans of the forest”.
Our typical day starts shortly after sunrise. After a morning coffee and breakfast, we begin our trek in the rainforest. We’ll be scanning the canopy as we walk as our eyes search for movement. Typically, we trek between 5-10km per day, though every day is different and some days may be less.
It may take a few hours, or only a few minutes before we see our first orangutan. We’ll be looking for new orangutans nests as well as signs of other animals, such as Thomas leaf monkeys, macaques, gibbons, the great arbus, and the rhino-horned hornbill, and many more species which inhabit Gunung Leuser National Park, one of the world’s wildlife hotspots. When we do find an orangutan, we hopefully will have the opportunity to observe their behavior for some time.
We break for a hearty lunch around midday and will continue in the rainforest for the rest of the afternoon, or until the wind picks up to signal approaching rains. We will then return to the lodge for dinner and a welcome overnight rest.
Orangutan photography is tricky for two primary reasons: (i) the rainforest canopy makes exposure very challenging and (ii) we are typically aiming our lens quite high, which can result in a blown out sky above the organgutan. But this is where experience and expertise make the difference. We have spent so many days in these forests and, with our expert guides, we will put you in the best possible position to take amazing orangutan photos.
Before the tour, we will have 2 hour long one-on-one sessions with you to understand your shooting style, discuss topics of interest (such as field techniques, composition, post-processing), and provide guidance to help you grow as a photographer and storyteller.
After the tour, there will be 2 more hour long one-on-one sessions to help you choose and edit your favorite images from the tour, and discuss other topics of interest. Our policy is simple: ask us anything at anytime about gear, technique, strategy, composition, post-processing and beyond. We are here to help you!
MEET YOUR GUIDE
As a wildlife photographer, traveler, and former World Bank economist, Zac brings a different perspective to wildlife conservation. He founded the Wildlife Collective to help others become better wildlife photographers and to use their voice for conservation. With leadership roles in several conservation organizations, Zac knows first hand that working together with like-minded individuals can make a difference. A certified guide and bear lover, Zac hopes to entertain you with stories from the wild, inspire you to get involved in conservation, and to become the best wildlife photographer you can be.
The tour departs from Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Medan is easily accessed via a short 1 hour flight from Singapore. If you have any questions, please let us know!
Arrive in Medan
You will be welcomed at the airport by a team member from the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) — SOS’s partner organisation in Sumatra — and be taken to your accommodation.
To the Rainforest
After breakfast, you will be picked up from your hotel and visit the Orangutan Information Center (OIC) offices, where you will learn more about their orangutan conservation work.
We will then drive the approximately 4 hours to Bukit Lawang, which will be our base for orangutan viewing. We will meet Darma, founder of Nature for Change (NFC), which is another of SOS’ frontline conservation partners in Sumatra. Darma will be our local orangutan guide during the trip.
Once we arrive in Bukit Lawang we will have the rest of the afternoon to orient around the village and visit an NFC program site. You will also have a one hour orientation meeting to learn how to approach photographing orangutans in the wild, ask any questions, and prepare for the days ahead.
For each of the next 5 days, we start the day with an early breakfast and will then trek in the rainforest in search of orangutans and other wildlife wonders of this global ecological hotspot. We trek on average 5–10 kilometers each day as we immerse ourselves in the rainforest with our cameras ready to capture amazing wildlife moments. You will return to your accommodation at the end of each day to relax, enjoy for a delicious evening meal, and get a good night’s sleep.
Conservation Site Visit & Tour Ends
After breakfast, we will visit some of Nature for Change’s nearby sites, where we will learn about their important conservation sites in the bufferzone adjacent to Gunung Leuser National Park. You will meet local frontline conservation staff, have a guided tour of the forest restoration and permaculture sites, and have the opportunity to plant a tree. You may also have the opportunity to photograph orangutans and other wildlife in these locations. After lunch, we will drive back to Medan where we will say our goodbyes.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How many orangutans will I see?
Nothing is guaranteed, but we have seen orangutans every day that we have visited Gunung Leuser National Park. We typically see between 3-6 individuals each day, though some days we have seen 10 different orangutans. Some encounters are fleeting and others last several hours.
What other wildlife can we see?
Gunung Leuser National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site ,and one of the one of the world’s most biologically diverse conservation areas. It is the only place in the world where tigers, rhinos, elephants, and orangutans coexist. While the likelihood of seeing tigers, rhinos, or elephants is unlikely, we are likely to see a variety of primates, such as monkeys, macaques, gibbons, plus many species of birds. Every day in Gunung Leuser is unique and we may be afforded a rare sighting if we are lucky.
How strenuous is the hiking?
This is an active tour and requires you to be able to hike unassisted through the rainforest on well developed trails. There are several incline sections where we will need to climb the equivalent of 20 stories of stairs, but there is no rush and we move at our own pace. If you can have any questions or concerns, please let us know!
How warm will it be?
It will be warm with temperatures ranging from an average of 30 degrees Celsius during the day to 22 degrees Celsius at night. However, the the rainforest canopy will often protect us from direct sunbeams, which makes the situation much more manageable.
Are there many bugs in the rainforest?
Yes and no. We will see a variety of insects, but with the appropriate mosquito repellent, you are likely to be unbothered.
What focal range do you recommend?
For orangutans, every focal range from 24-600mm can be of value. It depends on where we find them and the lighting situation. There are times where we will be close enough to shoot in the 70-200mm range, but the majority of time will be in the 400-600mm range. Thus, having a zoom lens, especially a zoom lens with a fast aperture, will be very benefical. We also recommend taking a wide angle lens to capture the orangutan in their environment and for photos of the orangutan conservation programs at work.
Can I bring a tripod?
Yes, though we recommend it be compact enough so you can attach it to your backpack as you hike around. A monopod is another great option.
What's the bathroom situation?
The washrooms in the hotel are perfectly acceptable, but once we are in the rainforest, we are leaving behind all toilet facilities.
What's the food situation?
Amazing! Expect to eat a lot of rice and incredible Asian food. All dietary restrictions can be accommodated.
What's the cell coverage like?
It’s good in Bukit Lawang, though we lose coverage as we make our way further into Gunung Leuser National Park. There is also limited cell coverage in Bukit Mas.
Send us an email and we’ll be happy to arrange a time to chat through everything with you and answer any questions you may have.
• All guiding and transportation
• Photography instruction
• All meals and non-alcoholic beverages
WHAT’s NOT INCLUDED?
• Insurance (required)
• Flights to Medan
• Alcoholic beverages
JOIN US FOR A TRIP OF A LIFETIME!
Why Our Photo Tours Are Different
We value our guests, so everyone who travels with the Wildlife Collective will automatically receive a 5 percent discount on all subsequent tours. It’s our way of saying thank you for your support!
All of our tours have a conservation focus. We will learn about the challenges facing our primary subject and ongoing conservation work. Plus, every tour makes a donation to a conservation partner.
We take you to the world’s most amazing wilderness destinations, which were chosen based on our ability to offer our guests the ultimate wildlife photography experience.
Every tour includes photography sessions before, during, and after the tour. With our hands on learning, you are going to leave our tours as a better photographer. Ask us anything at anytime!
We will never exceed 6 clients per instructor, and in most tours, the ratio will be even smaller. This ensures that you get the personalized attention that you deserve on our tours.
We work with the world’s best wildlife guides, who also happen to be our good friends. They are experienced, keep us safe, and put us in the best possible position to create a compelling image.