Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Guide for spotting Orangutans - Insider tips from Matt Brazier

Whilst in 2006 there was an estimated 66,000 orangutans in the world, now there’s thought to be only 45,000  – an incredibly steep decline. The prospect of seeing such a unique and clever creature at risk of disappearing in the next few decades is a powerful draw. So here’s how to best see orangutans, locally known as the people of the forest.

Choose where you want to see them: in the wild or in a rehabilitation centre, or both?

When choosing your orangutan experience, be prepared that each will have its pros and cons depending on whether you see them in the wild or in a semi-wild environment. Combining both experiences gives you a fuller picture of the survival of this animal, but it really depends on how much of a focus orangutans are for your holiday.

Rehabilitation Centre

These are centres dedicated to rescuing orangutans from habitat loss, poaching and the illegal pet trade. They usually encompass a large area of land, providing orangutans with supplementary food for support before they can leave of their own accord through a rain forest corridor out to the wild. With regular feeding times, you are virtually guaranteed to see an orangutan during your visit.


* Very high likelihood of sighting
* Relatively close proximity to the orangutans – around 10 feet away
* Good on site information about the species
* Money goes towards conservation


* Group environment with other travellers
* More staged and static

There are three popular centres you can visit:

1. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is a 40-minute drive from Sandakan, Sarawak. It is the largest rehabilitation centre in the world and has 43 km of protected rainforest for 60-80 orangutans to live in.

2. Semengoggoh Wildlife Centre is a 30-minute drive from Kuching and is the largest rehabilitation in the western state of Sarawak. It boasts 7 km of forest reserve for around 30 semi-wild orangutans to inhabit.

3. Matang Wildlife Centre is in the Kubah National park and is 40-minute drive from Kuching. It specialises in looking after orangutans with previous issues such as territorial and aggressive behaviours. The apes are kept in enclosures and large cages, and this is a less frequented centre as it provides quite specialist care. I mention it here for travellers particularly interested in the rehabilitation of difficult individuals.