Borneo is famous for its orangutans and the highlight for many travellers here is to see them in the wild. While it is possible to join trips going deep into the jungles of Sarawak and Sabah, these can be expensive and while there are an estimated 20,000 or so orangutans in Borneo there’s no guarantee you’ll actually come across them.
Orangutans are naturally shy creatures and live solitary lives mostly up in the trees so it can be hard to come across them.
So many short on time that want guaranteed sightings will visit places like the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre, just outside Kuching (Sarawak) or the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary near Sandakan (Sabah).
I visited the former during my visit to Kuching as I was very keen to see these “people of the forest” – the direct translation of the name orang utan. What’s important to note about the orangutans at Semenggoh is that while they aren’t purely living in the wild, they are largely free to come and go as they please.
Food is provided twice daily to supplement their needs as there simply isn’t enough protected forest left for them to roam. Apparently large adults will naturally roam a large area of forest each day just to find enough to eat, so without the supplemented diet at Semenggoh there wouldn’t be enough food for them all.
Orangutans are of course an endangered species and thankfully protected by law in Malaysia. Authorities have been trying to counteract their loss of habitat, and the live animal trade, that has decimated their numbers, by setting up these rehabilitation centres.
We had a car and driver to take us to Semenggoh from the hotel in Kuching as there were quite a few of us. This saved us a 20 minute walk from the gate, as the public bus, number 6, only drops you at the entrance. It also returns at 5pm so you have to watch the time if you go in the afternoon.
It is best to visit during the feeding times which take place daily from 9-10am and 3-3.30 pm. There’s usually a considerable crowd gathered for these so it’s not a completely unique or camera free experience, but once the orangutans start arriving you forget about everything else.
Around 9am workers at the sanctuary started putting out fruit for the primates. This seemed to be predominantly bananas and pawpaw but apparently they are fond of figs, eggs and even the pungent durian. For awhile we all stood there with our gaze skyward to the trees hoping to catch a glimpse of them.
Continue reading (incl. Pics) at: Close encounters of the primate kind – visiting the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre