Sadly, there are only two places in the world to see orangutans in their natural habitat: Borneo and Sumatra. In Borneo, you’ll find rehabilitation centres that adopt the orphaned and young so they can return to the jungle. Here’s where to see orangutans while in Southeast Asia.
Planning a trip and want all the details taken care of? Book yourself onto Culture Trip’s 10-day adventure to Borneo, which includes visits to an orangutan sanctuary and an organic tea farm, and a snorkelling trip in Kota Kinabalu.
For the chance to see wild orangutans in the Malaysian jungle, head to Danum Valley. This vast forest became a protected area before the era of mass deforestation, which has led to widespread habitat destruction elsewhere. As such, the reserve has changed little in millennia. Located approximately two hours’ drive from Lahad Datu in eastern Sabah, the reserve centre is full of guides who can take you into the rainforest to spot wild orangutans. Stay at least a night or two in the on-site hostel or bungalows.
The Kinabatangan River area features varied habitats, housing a range of wildlife. The river itself is full of saltwater crocodiles – the ones that wouldn’t think twice about eating humans – as well as a relatively large population of wild proboscis monkeys. River cruises, both during daylight hours and at night, take visitors on wildlife safaris. Lucky passengers might catch a glimpse of an orangutan among the mangroves.
Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, approximately 26km (16mi) west of Sandakan, is the number one place to see orangutans in Malaysia. The reserve was opened in 1964 by conservationist Barbara Harrisson, and became the world’s first centre dedicated to orphaned orangutans. Today, it houses between 60 and 80, of which approximately 25 are infants living in the nursery. Feeding takes place at 10am and 3pm every day. You can watch the primates come out of the reserve and swing to the platform to grab fruit.
Several species of endemic wildlife, including proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants and orangutans, are inside Lok Kawi. While the primates aren’t in their natural habitat, the wildlife park is within a 30-minute drive of Sabah’s capital Kota Kinabalu. If you have limited time in Malaysian Borneo, you’ll be able to see orangutans without travelling deep into the jungle.
Semenggoh has been an active rehabilitation centre since 1975. Young or orphaned primates brought to the centre are taken care of until they learn jungle survival skills. For those in Kuching, Semenggoh is just 28km (17mi) south of the Sarawak capital. Primates inside the nature reserve roam around freely, so catching a glimpse isn’t a guarantee. But visit during feeding – between 9am and 10am and again from 3pm to 4pm – and you’ll likely see them.
Sarawak’s Kubah National Park sits just 21km (13mi) west of Kuching. On its western side is the Matang Wildlife Centre, which houses a variety of animals, including orphaned orangutans. The centre adopts rescued primates and teaches survival skills in the same way as a rehabilitation centre. Visitors can stay overnight in the national park and experience the jungle after dark, or spend time hiking along trails to waterfalls.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.