Orangutans in Borneo; How to See Them & How Much It Costs
I spent 6 months visiting every country in South East Asia after I finished my contract teaching English in Chiang Mai. When I made it to Malaysia, I learned that Borneo isn’t actually a country! It’s an island belonging to Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Even better, it was possible to see Orangutans in the Borneo IN THE WILD! There are 2 ways to see Orangutans in Borneo, and it depends on your time and budget. You can see them in the wild (I’ve listed the 7 best places to see orangutans in the wild below), or you can visit them as a day-trip in their sanctuary.
Borneo conjures images of deep jungle, exotic wildlife and local tribes – and rightly so, Borneo has it all! I already wrote a post about climbing Mount Kinabalu in Borneo (the biggest mountain in South East Asia). Borneo also offers a lifetime opportunity to see wild Orangutans in their native land, deep in the rainforests of Borneo. These awesome creatures are native to the rainforests of the Borneo and Sumatra, so a visit to Borneo isn’t complete until you’ve made the trek to see these guys at home.
Where Can I See Wild Orangutans in Borneo? 7 Best Places to See Orangutans in the Wild:
Orangutans are native to Borneo, but the 5 best places to see Orangutans in Borneo are:
Kinabatangan River, Sabah.
Danum Valley, Sabah.
Deramakot Forest Reserve, Sabah.
Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah.
Batang Ai National Park, Sarawak.
Gunung Leuser, Sumatra, Indonesia
Tanjung Puting, Kalimantan, Indonesia
Are Orangutans Endangered?
Yes, in fact, they’re officially critically endangered. There are about 100,000 orangutans left in the wild.
The Best Way to See Orangutans in Borneo (on a budget):
Lots of people don’t have the time, or budget, to spend 4/5 days in the Borneo jungles trying to find Orangutans. But don’t worry. You can visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. This is exactly what I did.
The ‘Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre’ is found in Sabah, in the North East of Borneo. You can easily rent a car or jump on a bus from Kota Kinabulu on the more visited western Bornean coast, spend the night in Sepilok and use the next day to see these crazy creatures roam around the centre.
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre opening times and ticket price:
Entry Costs (Malaysian/ Non-Malaysian nationals): Adult- RM5/ RM30 (+ camera cost of 10RM). So about $10 all-in.
Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday- 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 4pm. Fridays 9am-11am and 2pm to 4pm.
Orangutan feeding times: 10am and 3pm. It is recommended to arrive 30 minutes before feeding time.
Sepilok is one of the Sabah’s most popular tourist spots (although it’s still far from overcrowded). Orphaned orangutans are brought to this centre and helped recuperate so, where possible, they are returned to the wild. Sepilok has been massively successful in this respect, where around 60 orangutans are now living in the wild thanks to the centre.
How to reach Sepilok:
Sepilok is easy enough to get to, it can be reached via bus, taxi or hired car. I personally found a car hire place and rented a car with a few friends (about $30 between 4) and we road-tripped it from Kinabalu (West Borneo) to Sepilok over the day. It took us around 10 hours or so (our car broke down, brakes failed going down a hill in the middle of the jungle, long story!). You can also get public buses early in the morning (around 12 hours, and about $15 USD).
From Sandakan (26km away) Bus 14 leaves hourly from 9:00 to 14:00 takes around 30 minutes. If you’re feeling flush, Sandakan has an airport which you can get to from all over Malaysia.
Accommodations around Sepilok
Places around here are quite pricey, especially around the actual centre. Sleeping Sanadakan is more reasonable. But if you’re heart is set on staying right outside, then you can choose between Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort ($$$!), Sukau rainforest Lodge or Borneo Rainforest lodge. The latter of which is around $30 so not to bad.
What to Wear to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre:
It’s pretty developed so don’t worry about dressing up in all your mountain climbing gear (expect lots of rich tourists in their full gear because they’re on their holiday in wild Borneo! Don’t be one of them!) That being said, don’t wear flipflops and long trousers could be handy so the mosquitos don’t go crazy for you.
The Orangutans at Sepilok
Wow wow wow! There are two feeding times daily (I think 10am and 3pm but double check when you’re there). The carers sit in the jungle and the orangutans swarm in and grab all the food they can lay their hands on, it’s a pretty amazing site seeing these things 5 metres from you. Other than that you can walk around the centre and try to spot the apes swinging around the trees.
This is another thing that needs to be added to bucket lists around the world! An amazing experience, if you’re in South East Asia whack this in your itinerary. Borneo often gets skipped on the backpacker circuit, mainly because people think it’s out of their price range, which is madness because, there’s loads of bargain holidays, cheap accommodation, local buses to avail of so check it out guys. Happy travels!
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