Orangutans in Borneo

They will have you enchanted!



A visit to see Orangutans in Borneo (Malaysia) is likely to be high on many tourist’s list of activities when they visit Borneo. While it is amazing to see them in the wild you may or may not be lucky....but you can be guaranteed seeing some if you visit an orangutan sanctuary.

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Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah is the one with the highest profile and therefore the most well known.

Semenggoh Wildlife and Rehabilitation Centre very near Kuching is also excellent. It is definitely worth visiting both if you have the opportunity.


Matang Wildlife Centre is about 30 kilometres from Kuching and has a variety of animals rescued from the wild including orangutans.

Your chances of seeing orangutans in Borneo in the wild are rarer....and of course you will need to be in the areas where their natural habitat is.

We saw one dominant male in a tree on the Kinabatangan River which was exciting....and another in his nest at Gomantong Cave. Although we really only got to see this sleepy orangutan stretch it’s arms and legs and then go back to sleep in a leafy nest. Orangutans are the only primates to build themselves nests in the trees....it looked very cosy!

Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre


Sepilok is located a short distance from Sandakan. There are day trips from Kota Kinabalu which involve flights between KK and Sandakan. The alternative is to include a stay at Sukau in a lodge on the Kinabatangan River.

You will start your visit at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre with a short video explaining the history and work of the Wildlife Centre. You then walk through rainforest to the viewing platforms. The orangutans are rehabilitated in various stages and at Sepilok you only see animals at a certain stage of their rehabilitation. How many you see is the luck of the draw! The food is put out and the orangutans come. But they do all tend to be of a similar age. It is a beautiful experience, to be highly recommended.

Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre


Keen to see as many orangutans in Borneo as possible we included our visit to Semmingoh in an independent day tour from Kuching .

We looked for a taxi big enough for 4 and negotiated a price with the taxi driver for the next day. It was great as when we arrived, rather than having to take the long walk from the road, we were driven right up to the centre....which was a blessing as one of our party had leg problems.

There are also buses to the gate.Once we had our tickets, we walked through some beautiful rainforest to viewing platforms.

NOTE:Before we headed off to the platforms, the importance of not talking or using flash on our cameras was stressed.


Ricky......a huge old orangutan had attacked a viewer the day before who had used a flash. He came out and sat with his back to us while scoffing bananas....... sometimes several at a time! The back view was apparently our punishment for the flash the day before!

Meanwhile the other orangutans hung around in the trees clearly waiting for him to leave. Eventually he swung of into the forest and we were treated to orangs of all ages from mother and baby to another skinny old boy coming down to gather food, or swing their way around the vines surrounding us. A close encounter with orangutans in Borneo truly is just magical!

In all of these sanctuaries it is very much the luck of the day how many and what animals you see. It may be a sanctuary but the orangutans are in their natural environment......despite being fed and looked after until they can be totally independent.

We saw at least 15-16.It was a very special experience....and I highly recommend you visit Semenggoh if you can.


Matang Wildlife Sanctuary – near Kuchung

Matang Wildlife Sanctuary is best reached by taxi. Several friends who visited both Matang and Semenggoh preferred Semenggoh if you are making a choice. Matang has quite a variety of animals including Crocodiles, Sambar Deer, Sun Bears, Bear Cats, Civets and hornbills ( Borneo’s national bird) as well as orangutans.

More Useful Borneo Information

Malaysian Borneo

Around Kuching

Mulu National Park

Mulu Caves

Mulu Canopy Walk

Kinabalu National Park

Kota Kinabalu



Borneo Hotels

Permai Rainforest Music Festival


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