Indonesia • Sumatra • Medan and the orangutan sanctuary

Embark on a journey of less than 10 minutes through Medan, Sumatra. Immerse yourself in the mysteries of Indonesia's second city, its imposing buildings and fascinating history. Feel the essence of the exotic village of Bukit Lawang and unlock the secrets of the orangutan reserve. Every minute, an emotion, a thrill, a discovery. The wonders of Indonesia have never been so close. Explore. Learn. Be amazed. Historical explanations will guide you every step of the way. Join us and let the charm work. An unexplored Indonesia awaits you.

This film was made on the basis of photos and videos taken during the trip Indonesia • Sumatra, Java and Bali (EN)

vimeo chapterA click on this icon above displays the list of chapters of this film about Sumatra in Indonesia. A click on a dot goes directly to a chapter.

Reading the text below will help you better understand the cultural context of the images in this video.

00:21 • Medan

00:56 • Raya al Mashun mosque

02:02 • Istama Maimun Palace

02:55 • Bukit Lawang

03:02 • Thomas' semnopithecus

03:33 • the Sumatran orangutan

06:29 • the village of Bukit Lawang

08:18 • ... and palm oil



Medan, in the north of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is the second largest city in Indonesia by number of inhabitants, after Jakarta. Medan has about 4 and a half million inhabitants if we count the faubourds. Medan itself has a population of 2.5 million people. A big city, therefore, the financial heart of Sumatra. There are relatively few historical monuments to see in the city, but some buildings are worth a visit.

Among the interesting buildings are the Grand Mosque and the Istama Maimun Palace.

Raya al Mahsun mosque

The mosque was built at the very beginning of the 20th century and was originally part of the Maimun Palace complex. The mosque was commissioned by Sultan Maimun Al Rashid Perkasa and funded by himself and a few groups of wealthy businessmen from Medan. The sultan's idea was that the mosque, which is a public building, should be more important than his own palace. the Maimum palace.

the Istama Maimun palace

"Istama Maimun Palace" is a pleonasm, as Istama means royal palace ... This palace was built at the end of the 10th century and is currently a museum. The architect who designed this palace is Dutch and its original style blends Malaysian, Islamic and Indian architectural elements and is partly furnished with Italian and Spanish furniture.

the sumatran orangutan

Sumatra was an island almost entirely covered with tropical forest. But little by little the forest gave way to people and their cultures. This movement accelerated sharply in the 20th century with the increase in population and an even greater search for yield. The discovery of the (especially economic) benefits of palm oil quickly reduced the forest to a few percent of the total area. These forests were not only a lung for the planet, but the habitat of many endemic animals like the sumatra tiger and the orangutan.

Close to extinction, the orangutan survives in a few nature reserves where scientists strive to save the species, and why not, to give it back its vigor.

One of these reserves is in the village of Bukit Lawang. In the forest near the orangutan rehabilitation center, a few couples, sometimes accompanied by babies, live in the forest and constitute an attraction for tourists, who fortunately no longer flock to the village in droves as was the case in the 2000s. There were then so many tourists that the orangutan rehabilitation center had to close its doors, no longer able to ensure the well-being of the great apes with this influx of tourists.

Watching a mother and her little one climb their tree and come down to eat the banana stretched by a guardian of the reserve is always an extraordinary sight.

The orangutan does not live alone in this forest. Thomas' semnopithecus has also taken up residence there.

the village of Bukit Lawang

The tourist craze for the village of Bukit Lawang was suddenly stopped in 2003, not so much because of the closure of the orangutan center, but because of a catastophic flood destroying 400 houses, 35 hotels and guesthouses, mosques and caused nearly 250 deaths, including several tourists. These floods have been attributed to the uncontrolled ravages of illegal logging. The village is gradually recovering from its injuries.

A walk in the village is a moment of happiness. Smiles on everyone's lips, despite the tragic past and the scars left by these deadly floods.

And as the economy always takes over, new oil palm plantations are being cleared every day. Fortunately, the habitat already reduced to its vital minimum, the orangutans of the reserve remains protected ... But for how long ...?

Because the oil palms, not content to take the place of the rich primary forest, are extremely greedy in water, which creates new problems, and not only for the local fauna.



Orangutan and her baby, Medan, Sumatra • Indonesia

What's the weather like in Medan?

About the  places in this film


Medan is the capital and largest city of North Sumatra province and one of Indonesia's 4 main cities. The agglomeration of Medan has nearly 4.5 million inhabitants.

The city was founded by Guru Patimpus Sembiring Pelaw in the 16th century.

The economy of Medan was mainly based on the cultivation and production of tobacco, rubber, tea, palm and coffee, but the growing manufacturing sector like automobile, production of machinery, tiles, paper and pulp, etc., also currently contributes to the city's economy.

Bukit Lawang is a small village on the banks of the Bahorok River in the province of North Sumatra. The village has housed a rehabilitation center for orangutans since 1973. As the place was becoming too touristy, the center was closed in 2002 since it could no longer fulfill its rehabilitation task under these conditions.

In November 2003 catastrophic floods devastated the village causing great damage. This flood is believed to be due to illegal logging. Thanks to the support of numerous international organizations, the site was able to reopen its doors in June 2004.



 - YouTube video library - Anamalie, (© Anamalie by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



 - YouTube video library - Argonne - Zachariah Hickman

 - YouTube video library - Automn Day, (© Autumn Day by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



 -  - Lurking Shadows


Disclaimer: Despite its appropriateness, copyright issues prevent the use of indonesian traditional music in "Indonesia • Sumatra • Medan and the orangutan sanctuary", hence the use of royalty-free music. Despite our careful selection, some might regret this decision, which is necessary to avoid potential lawsuits. Although difficult, this decision is the only viable solution.

Orangutan with her baby in the reserve of Bukit Lawang, Medan • Indonesia • Sumatra

Orangutan with her baby in the reserve of Bukit Lawang

Medan mosque, Medan • Indonesia • Sumatra

Medan mosque

young girls bathing in a canal in Bukit Lawang, Medan • Indonesia • Sumatra

young girls bathing in a canal in Bukit Lawang

houses along the river in Bukit Lawang, Medan • Indonesia • Sumatra

houses along the river in Bukit Lawang

Medan and Bukit Lawang, Sumatra. Indonesia

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