Viewing orangutans in their natural habitat is a sight to behold. They are among the most intelligent primates and have distinct behavioural characteristics.
There are only two species of orangutans in the world, both found in Southeast Asia. On the island of Borneo, Bornean orangutans reside, while their cousins, Sumatran orangutans, live on the island of Sumatra.
One of the top destinations to spot orangutans is Borneo, and Malaysia and Indonesia split the region. The protected areas and national parks of Borneo are abundant in wildlife, flora, and fauna. There are several tours and conservation centres that allow tourists to see orangutans up close.
But there are a few essential things to keep in mind while going on an orangutan tour. These great apes are considered critically endangered as their numbers keep decreasing. The severe decline in their population and ranges is due to human activities. Threats to wild orangutans include poaching, the illegal pet trade, and habitat destruction.
While going on orangutan tours, tourists need to make sure that their viewing experience does not cause any harm to the apes. Moreover, the tour you select must be part of a legitimate ecotourism company.
Keeping these crucial points in mind, here are the top five national parks in Borneo that offer a safe and eco-friendly experience to see orangutans:
1. Kinabatangan River, Sabah
The Kinabatangan River is one of the best places to watch Borneo’s wildlife. It offers a chance to see orangutans in Sabah and Sarawak. A three- to four-day tour of the Kinabatangan River will guarantee not only sightings of orangutans but also various other endangered species like pygmy elephants.
An estimated 1,100 orangutans live in the lower region of the river. Instead of trekking through the rainforests in search of the apes, you can easily spot them from boats. The Kinabatangan River is preferable for any type of tourist, as viewing orangutans becomes more comfortable on a boat tour.
Sightings of orangutans occur along the main riverbank, its tributaries, oxbow lakes, and the Menanggul River.
The Kinabatangan River has the highest chances of seeing orangutans and is a comfortable option.
2. Danum Valley, Sabah
Danum Valley also goes by the name of the Borneo Danum Valley Conservation Area. An estimated 500 orangutans live in the undisturbed and pristine forest of Danum.
The conservation area is vast and features the exquisite wildlife of the rainforest. It is also one of the top places to have a rainforest experience. You can see many other distinct species along with orangutans, clouded leopards, Sumatran rhinos, and Malayan sun bears.
Several trails exist in Danum Valley, including a suspended walkway that you can easily undertake. If you want guaranteed sightings of orangutans, it is recommended to stay in Danum for at least 3 days. The lodges in Danum Valley have strict guidelines to minimise tourists’ effects on wildlife.
Danum Valley is a must-visit destination due to its beautiful rainforest, eco-friendly rules, and conservationist ethics.
3. Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah
Tabin Wildlife Reserve is a massive protected area that houses 1,400 orangutans. It is situated in the eastern part of Sabah, on the island of Borneo.
The chances of seeing these apes are relatively moderate, along with other exotic wildlife in the reserve. There are several bird species and vulnerable animals that can be spotted at Tabin.
The reserve can be accessed by logging roads and plankton. There are wildlife jungle treks and a few night safaris offered by Tabin.
You can only visit the wildlife reserve on an organised tour. For accommodation, Tabin Wildlife Resort is the only place to stay and has hillside and riverside lodges.
4. Tanjung Puting National Park
Tanjung Puting National Park is located in Central Kalimantan and is regarded as one of the world’s natural wonders. It has a vast and dense rainforest spread over 4000 sq. km. You can spot wild orangutans resting on treetops and mangroves in the national park.
One of the best ways to see these apes is by travelling to the Sekonyer River by Klotok, a type of riverboat. Locals use a Klotok, and tourists can also use it to travel around the park.
Klotok also helps tourists get to Tanjung National Park easily. A local guide will equip you with all the information you need about the Bornean orangutans living in Tanjung.
Tanjung Puting also accommodates Camp Leaky, a well-known research facility. Here, you can meet up with wildlife researchers and get close to orangutans in rehabilitation centres.
5. Kutai National Park
Kutai National Park in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, was once a green wonderland. Unfortunately, a forest fire devasted a large part of the national park, leaving only 30% of the regional forest behind. Yet the national park is recovering and growing steadily.
The National Park has around 2000 orangutans dispersed all over the area. One of the main access points to Kutai, known as Sangkima, offers perfect photography opportunities for orangutans and other creatures.
Sangkima also has a boardwalk and walking trail that leads to the biggest trees found in the forest.
Prevab, another area in Kutai, preserves the forest in good condition and is a secluded section of the park. Here, you can catch sight of wild orangutans among the rich flora and fauna. One can also see sun bears, long-tailed macaques, and flat-headed cats.
Trekking through Kutai National Park requires a local guide and a permit.
One must see orangutans as a special experience and perform it with caution. Tourists should also help local national parks create a safe environment for endangered orangutans.
If you loved reading this story, then subscribe to our blog here (it will ask to verify your email) to get inspiring travel stories and trivia delivered to your email. Stories about wildlife trivia, cultural experiences, curated luxury hotel lists, underrated places to travel, polar journeys and much more.
The content team at Wild Voyager. We are passionate to bring you travel stories and unique experiences from around the world. Spread the love and feel free to share these stories.