Thursday, June 11, 2015

Visiting the Orang-utans at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, Kuching

One of the main reasons we included Borneo on our trip itinerary was to have the chance to see orangutangs in their natural habitat.

As the two types of orangutang are only found in Borneo and Sumatra, Borneo it was!

Numerous places offer the chance to see orangutangs in the wild or semi wild but we chose the Semenggoh Wildlife centre, a national park area managed by Sarawak’s forestry ministry.

The centre used to train orphaned or rescued orangutangs how to survive in the wild, but this role has now been passed onto the Matang Wildlife Centre in Kubah National Park.

As the programme was relatively successful, the forest surrounding Semonggoh is now home to 27 adolescent and Young adult orangutangs plus a tiny baby boy!

Mostly wild, the orangutangs spend most of their days wandering freely throughout the forest, but return to the centre for a free meal every now and again.

Because of this, a sighting is nowhere near guaranteed as during the fruiting season the animals have no need for any extra food from the centre.

Many guests never see any whilst some lucky guests have sighted as many as twelve; we felt exceptionally lucky to have been able to see five, including a newly born baby boy with its mum!

We set our alarm for 5.45am, in order to catch the local bus to the centre, around 20km outside Kuching.

Unlike Sri Lanka and India, the buses didn’t just whizz past every two minutes and we had to stick to a fairly restrictive time schedule. (This seems to be a theme in Kuching!)

The bus K6 leaves from Jalan Masjid (the second road to the left of the plaza Merdeka shopping mall when you exit from the back, or by the entrance to the fast food restaurants).

The bus service in Kuching is served by a number of different companies who all have separate bus terminals so it’s best to arrive a good ten minutes before the bus to make sure your at the right place!

We weren’t even too sure if the bus was going to show up, as all of the bus timetables contain the following warning; ‘public bus service is not accurate or reliable’!!

The wildlife centre visiting times correspond with the orang-utan feeding times, so it’s best to pick a session and then work the bus times around that.

Opening times are 8am-12pm and then 2pm-4.45pm with feelings times between 9-10am and 3-4pm approximately.

Outside the feeding times, it’s not very likely that orang-utans will be spotted visiting the centre.

We went for the morning feeding as we heard that early sightings were more likely.

We took the 7.20am bus to the centre and aimed to catch the 10.40am back to Kuching.

The fare was cheap at only 4 ringgit (70p) per person each way, with the journey taking around 35-40 minutes.

For the afternoon feeding the bus leaves the same stop at 1.20pm and returns at 4.00pm.