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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 here (the biggest mountain in South East Asia). Borneo also offers a lifetime opportunity to see wild Oranutans 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.

Orangutans at sepilok

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.

About Sepilok: Sepilok is one of the Sabah’s most popular tourist spots (although it’s still far from over crowded). Orphaned orangutans are brought to this centre and helped recuperate so, where possible, they are returned to the wild. Sepilok has been massively succesful 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 Kinabulu (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).

Driving in Borneo
Our car breaking down, stranded for hours! aaaaagh

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: Places round 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 chose 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.

Clothing: 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: Wow wow wow! There are two feeding times daily (I think 11 and 3 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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0 thoughts on “Seeing Orangutans in Borneo

  1. I tell you what, you are really making us feel confident about our trip and that we have made the right choices of the main things we want to see and do. My Partner (the BF) can’t wait to see the orangutans!! Me (the GF)… well, most animals are beautiful but “just DON”T let it touch me!”. We are sooo geared up and waiting time to pass, bring on the 15th Feb! Thanks Again.

  2. Aah so excited to do this. A friend and I will be backpacking through Indonesia in April and plan to stop. It’s her dream to visit primates in sanctuaries/their natural habitat all over the world, and I am more than game to join in the fun! Thank you for the tips and blog in general. It’s both very inspiring and entertaining!

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