Jungle Trekking in Southeast Asia

Jungle Trekking in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is one of the world's leading budget tourism destinations. Because it also has been at the forefront of the eco-tourism boom, it is one of the best places in the world to go for jungle trekking opportunities. Although Thailand is likely the best-known country for "jungle hike tours," these will be severely disappointing to the serious trekker. Better places to go for long, hard treks into the jungle are Indonesia, Malaysia and Laos.


Unlike its neighbors, Cambodia and Thailand, sleepy, highland Laos has not been thoroughly logged and is less overrun with tourists. It is probably the easiest place to go for real jungle trekking in Southeast Asia. Forests still cover almost half of the country. There are a handful of trekking opportunities here, but all of them require joining a guided group. The government of Laos is Communist and very strict about permits within its parks and restricted areas. Trekkers caught in these areas without a permit likely will be deported. Furthermore, the area along the border with Vietnam remains dangerous because of unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War. Multiday jungle treks are possible in Oudomxay Province and Luang Namtha.


Borneo is the world's third-largest island. Despite heavy logging, its densely packed jungle remains one of the world's largest habitats for orangutans. Borneo is split between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, but most of the trekking opportunities are in Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo. Of the two, Malaysian Borneo is better developed for tourists and trekkers. The center of Borneo trekking is Gunung (Mount) Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo, a 13,435-foot mountain that is the highest in Southeast Asia. Most treks in Borneo are either centered on or culminate in a trip to the top of this titan.

Saban Parks
Sinsuran Complex
Kota Kinabalu
Tel: (+6088) 211811


Sumatra is home to two sites for short, two- to four-day jungle treks, and both are in North Sumatra. Gunung Leuser National Park is the largest in Indonesia, located near the Bohorok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. After visiting the orangutans at the center, it is a good idea to go on any number of one- to three-day treks into the park. A guide is usually necessary for these journeys.

The second is Danau (or Lake) Toba. Samosir, an island in the center of the lake, is dominated by a high, forested ridge that is crisscrossed with trails used by Batak tribal herdsmen. These trails lead clear over to the other side of the island, across the causeway and onto the mainland. Taking the most direct route from one side of the island to the other probably will mean spending the night in one of the trail shacks in the forest. A thorough exploration of these trails would take more than a week.

Bohorok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
Bukit Lawang, Sumatra

Danau Toba
Parapat, Sumatra

Peninsular Malaysia

Peninsular Malaysia is home to Taman Negara, a national park that protects a 130-million-year-old tropical rain forest. Permits are necessary to visit, but these are easily secured. Taman Negara has become popular with tourists, who usually keep their hiking limited to canopy walks or day hikes on trails near the park headquarters. However, there are many treks (up to nine-day excursions) that are available in this jungle, which is home to such wild animals as tigers, rhinos and elephants. The journey to the top of 7,175 foot Gunung Tahan and back takes anywhere from seven to nine days.

Dept. of Parks and Wildlife
Semenanjung Malaysia
KM 10. Jalan Cheras,
56100 Kuala Lumpur

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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