Ever since King Louie swung into our hearts in Disney’s The Jungle Book, the general public has had an affection for orangutans. But meeting a real-life king of the swingers is trickier than just hiding the secret to fire; you have to travel to some far-flung areas of the world to see them in their natural habitat. Luckily for all animal loving wanderlusters out there, the rugged island of Borneo is not only the best place in the world to see these awesome apes, but it’s also one of the most beautiful places on earth and well worth a visit in its own right.
As orangutans are an endangered species, it’s important to make sure that any holiday that’s geared towards meeting them is as ethically-conscious as possible. While some argue that the influx of tourists to the rainforests is part of the problem, there is a strong push against this with the concept of ethically-minded orangutan trips that educate tourists on the real reasons why these areas of the world and their animal inhabitants are in danger, including the huge deforestation caused by the palm oil industry.
For more information on this topic, visit orangutan.org.
Where Are the Best Places to Find an Orangutan in Borneo?
Since Borneo is split between three different countries we’ve decided to split our top places to find orangutans the same way. You probably won’t get to go to all of them, so you may want to choose your locale based on the amenities surrounding the area and personal preferences.
Indonesia / Kalimantan
Meet a Rescued Orangutan Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve If you want to be guaranteed to see an orangutan then you can’t go wrong with the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve, located in Central Kalimantan in southern Borneo. It’s surrounded by beautiful forests and rivers and is home to an estimated 700 orangutans. The reserve is one of the few places that helps to nurse rescued orangutans back into the wild.
Tanjung Putting National Park Is a Wonder Of the World On the south coast of Borneo you’ll find the National Park that the Orangutan Foundation International proudly proclaims to be one of the natural wonders of the world. From some of the crispest views of the stars to thick forest and a veritable feast of wildlife that unrolls before your eyes, Tanjung National Park is heaven-esque. It is also home to Camp Leakey, the world-renowned orangutan research and conservation station. If you want to meet an expert in the field, this is where you’ll find them!
Nyaru Menteng Reintroduction Center Will Make Your Day From humble beginnings to becoming the largest orangutan conservation facility in the world the Nyaru Menteng Reintroduction Center is a great place to see firsthand the amazing work that goes into protecting and preserving the natural habitats of the critically endangered orangutan. The center has a series of natural habitats for reintroducing these majestic animals into the wild and is staffed by over 200 people, most of whom are locals, allowing you to get a real flavor for the surrounding area and culture. The one thing you can’t miss here is the Baby School, where your heart will break as you see the little rescued orangutans learn their way around their natural habitats.
Get Wild At the Semengoh Wildlife Center Located on the stunning west coast of Malaysian Borneo, the center looks after a wide array of wild animals that have been orphaned, injured or kept as illegal pets. The center has been a stunning success in over 30 years of business, as it looks after over 1,000 different species of endangered animals. This has resulted in the center being used as a study location for the biology and behavior of orangutans. It’s a wonderful establishment and you’re guaranteed to see a lot of beautiful creatures when you visit.
Experience an Orangutan Like a Local in Batang Al National Park The luscious park found on the border of Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo is home to the Iban tribes, who also happen to be custodians of the National Park. This is one of the most authentic examples of experiencing local life in Borneo and potentially spotting an orangutan in the wild. Beware though, Batang Ai is a very remote spot and if you want to access it you’ll be traveling along rivers and by boat for a lot of your trip here. The area is also home to some of the most unique and diverse wildlife in Asia, and you’ll find something new and exciting around every corner.
Get Lost in Paradise at Rasa Ria Nature Reserve How does perfect white sand beaches and crystal clear water mere meters away from one of the world’s oldest and most renowned rainforest sound? This is as close to paradise as you’ll get on this earth. The nature reserve features a private 64-acres of land, where you can get up close and personal with these amazing creatures in style. They also do some amazing rehabilitation work with orphaned orangutans and their bar makes a sumptuous Mai Tai, to boot.
Lose Your Breath in Sepilok Forest Reserve This 40 km protected orangutan reserve is home to between 60-80 orphaned orangutans. The center was founded in 1963 to help deal with the effects of illegal logging and deforestation of the orangutans’ natural habitat. The center has feeding times at 10am and 3pm, which is a great time to get up close and personal with an orangutan. The nursery is open to the public between 9am and 11am, so make sure you’re early enough to see these lovely little fellas.
Feed Your Brain At the Rainforest Discovery Center Borneo Starting as an education center for local children, this is now an experiential venue where guests can get as close as possible to an orangutan in its natural habitat, without searching for centuries. The giant canopy walkway that hangs perilously over the rainforest below gives you an amazing view of orangutans whizzing through the treetops. It’s one of the less crowded orangutan centers and we highly recommend it.
So there we have it guys, a list of our top places to see an orangutan in Borneo. We hope that it has fired your imaginations and set the wheels in motion for you to make your orange-tinged, high-swinging dream a reality.
Perhaps on this trip more than ever, planning and communication are crucial; chat with your fellow BUCKiTDREAMERs and ask them for tips on how to carry out this journey ethically, responsibly while still maximizing your enjoyment. And if you manage to get a selfie with an orangutan, don’t forget to share it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!