Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The Travelling Stomach: Visiting the Orangutans in Borneo at Tanjung Puting National Park

When should I visit the orangutans in Borneo?

June or September – To avoid the rush of visitors coming to see the orangutans in Borneo in July and August visit during shoulder season. There will be way less people, with a maximum of 15 boats at each feeding station instead of over 30. The weather is still fairly dry, although it has been a touch more unpredictable in recent seasons, not that this puts the orangutans off coming for their bananas!

July or August – For the best weather visit during July or August, the driest months in Borneo, however this is also the most popular time to visit. Expect much more crowded feeding stations as everyone tries to see the orangutans.

How do I get to Borneo?

The easiest way to get to Tanjung Puting national park is to fly into Pangkalan Bun airport. There are a few direct flights each day from Jakarta (1 hour flight) and other Indonesian airports. Be aware that these flights tend to be operated by small airlines without a website, therefore you will have to book via an online agent such as Nusa Trip. If you have booked a tour prior to arriving in Borneo your tour operator may be able to assist in booking your flights. In peak season these flights get booked up quickly so make sure you are ahead of the game!

The airport is a 25 minute drive from Kumai pier, where you will board your kelotok ready for your rainforest adventure. If you have a pre-booked tour, the tour operator will likely meet you at the airport and take you to the pier by private car, with the opportunity to stop off enroute for any supplies. If you arrive into Tanjung Puting without a tour you can easily find several companies at the airport selling spots on their boats leaving later that day (sometimes this is not the case in peak season if all the kelotoks are full).

What should I pack to take to Borneo?

Aboard the kelotok your luggage is stored on the top deck of the boat alongside where you eat, sleep and chill. It is essential to be able to easily access anything you will need during your trip without unpacking your entire suitcase across the floor of the boat (sometimes cheeky monkeys might try to steal your belongings!), therefore I recommend using packing cubes. You can easily organise the clothes you need for your orangutan experience without getting your other clothes dirty.

Although tours to visit the orangutans in Borneo are often  phrased as jungle trekking, the walk to the three feeding stations in Tanjung Puting is along a well-trodden, relatively easy path. You do not need to bring serious walking shoes, a comfortable pair of trainers will suffice, along with a pair of flip flops to wear on the boat so you don’t spread dirt across the deck!

With humidity levels often exceeding 80% in the rainforest, I recommend wearing very thin, breathable clothes that will also dry quickly if you get caught in a downpour. The baggy trousers you can pick up at night markets in Asia are perfect! If you opt to partake in the night trek (arachnophobes beware) make sure you can tuck your trousers into your socks to avoid blood sucking leeches.