Top 5 (err 7…) places to see orangutans in Borneo

sarahjane 31 August 2010 3 comments

Although the ‘wild man of Borneo’ no longer roams freely, visitors can still encounter the ginger-haired being inside and outside its jungle home.

nature resort shangri la thumb

Baby orangutan at the Nature Reserve Rasa Ria

In the jungle:
For those with the will to experience the orangutan’s habitat – not to mention less-enticing creatures like leeches − Malaysian Sabah has several jungle hubs (all require overnight stays).

1. Kinabatangan River basin is most popular with tourists. This region contains endangered animals like pygmy elephants and orangutans (and freshwater sharks in the river!)  Accommodation includes an award-winning eco resort and several home-stay options. Night tours are definitely recommended!

baby croc Kinabatangan thumb

Baby croc swims in the Kinabatangan River

2. Danum Valley Conservation area is a protected area in a remote location with limited accommodation options (though less tourists).

3. Tabin Wildlife Reserve, located nearer Kinabatangan and run by the Forestry and Wildlife Department, has privately-owned visitor facilities and lots of wildlife.

Outside the jungle:

4.  Sepilok Rehabilitation Center is more accessible than the reserves but still requires a flight from the capital Kota Kinabalu (KK) to the city of Sandakan.  The Sepilok Center rehabilitates around 60-80 orphaned orangutans who swing from ropes above the visitor platforms during feeding times.  The antics of these playful juveniles are a dream for photographers.

visitors sepilok thumb
Camera…action at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

7.  Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. While the majority of orangutan ‘sights’ are in Sabah, Borneo’s other Malaysian state, Sarawak, has a low-key rehabilitation center 45 minutes drive from the capital, Kuching.  It lacks the facilities of Sabah’s center but is still pleasant and easy to access.

6. Nature Reserve at the Shangri La Rasa Ria Resort. It seems strange I know but this initiative between the Shangri La hotel group and Sabah State Wildlife Department offers visitors with less time an opportunity to experience orangutans in their own environment.  Affiliated with the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center and set up in a similar way − at feeding times the orphans swing on ropes above visitors platforms and there is an education center on site.  Outside visitors welcome by arrangement.

5. Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, 30 minutes drive from KK (Sabah’s main tourist hub), contains an orangutan enclosure as well as other native Borneo animals.  If you’re worried about tiny cages you might be relieved, like I was, to find the animals adequately cared for.

pygmy elephants Lok Kawi Wildlife Park thumb

Borneo pygmy elephants at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park KK



Born in New Zealand, Sarah Jane has been travelling since she was 2 years old and has never been able to shake the excitement of learning and seeing something new. Spending non-travelling years at Melbourne University and while working in magazine, book and electronic publishing, she has since made an art of being an expat. Living in her third overseas home in a decade, she now drags her family on regular travel adventures. She has published travel articles in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia in publications including: Vacations and Travel magazine, Holidays with Kids, Expatriate Lifestyle, Get up and Go, The Age and the Sunday Star Times. Aside from having a keen interest in just about everything, Sarah Jane’s great passions are: food, yoga, the environment, books, family and friends.

3 Comments For This Post

  1. sarahjane sarahjane Says:

    Thanks to for the photo of crowds at Sepilok.

2 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. » Top 5 (err 7…) places to see orangutans in Borneo | Travel + … Says:

    [...] View original post here: Top 5 (err 7…) places to see orangutans in Borneo | Travel + … [...]

  2. Top 5 (err 7…) places to see orangutans in Borneo | Travel + … Says:

    [...] this link: Top 5 (err 7…) places to see orangutans in Borneo | Travel + … August 31st, 2010 at 1:34 [...]

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Sign In

Amy Ma

Food & Drink + Hong Kong

Amy is a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal amongst other publications. [...]

Pua Mench

Hong Kong

Pua is a writing and traveling enthusiast based in Hong Kong, with a weakness for all things related to the culinary arts and healing modalities, and a passion for sustainable living. [...]

Kim Inglis

Wellness Spa

Kim has been an editor and journalist for over 20 years, more than half of which has been spent in Asia. [...]

Nellie Huang

Travel Adventures + Singapore

Nellie has been published in Food & Travel magazine and Lifestyle, and is a contributing author of V!VA's Guatemala Guidebook. She writes to travel, and travels to write. [...]

Sarah Jane Evans

Travel Adventures + Borneo

She has published travel articles in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia in publications including: Vacations and Travel magazine... [...]

Carrie Kellenberger

Photo Blog + Taiwan

She has traveled throughout Asia, finding work as a writer, editor, educator, voice over artist, photographer, and nightclub singer. [...]

Mark Lean

Kuala Lumpur

From writing about music, Mark expanded his focus to design, fashion, food and travel. In recent years, he has explored the highs and lows of Asia. [...]

Joel Quenby

Entertainment + Asia News

Joel is a British writer and journalist who's lived, worked and traveled in Southeast Asia since 2002. He's filed yarns for numerous publications...[...]

Alex Gunn

Chiang Mai

After several diverse careers as a circus performer, school teacher, psychotherapist, stunt pilot and university lecturer he can now be found poking about far flung markets, museums, restaurants and odd places in and around Chiang Mai.. [...]