5 Places to See Orangutans in the Wild

18 Aug 2017

Orangutans may be the largest tree-dwelling primates on the planet, but it’s not their size alone that makes them impressive. It’s a combination of this and their recognisably human characteristics, their intelligence and their rarity. With them becoming increasingly elusive in the wild, here are five places you can still hope to catch a glimpse…

Danum Valley Conservation Area

WHERE? Sabah, Malaysia

Endangered wildlife species thrive here – from the Asian elephant and clouded leopard to, of course, the orangutan. It’s a remote region, uninhabited by humans, and stretching across 170 square miles. Orangutans are in abundance in this untouched rainforest reserve though – around 500 to be exact – making it one of the best places in the world to spot the arboreal mammal.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

WHERE? Sabah, Malaysia

Created in 1984 to preserve Sabah’s rare animals, Tabin is a great place for spotting Borneo pygmy elephants and 220 species of exotic avifauna. It’s also a perfect location for budding photographers to put their camera skills to the test, especially when trying to capture fast-moving birds on film. As for primates, you’ll find eight different types here, including orangutans and the unusual proboscis monkey. The numbers aren’t huge, but you can camp out in the jungle, increasing your changes of a sighting.

Tanjung Puting National Park

WHERE? Kalimantan, Indonesia

Spotting orangutans in Tanjung is all but guaranteed. To maximise your chances, tour the park in a klotok, a traditional wooden boat that cruises the waterways for two or three days at a time. You will sleep and eat onboard, meaning you are constantly exposed to the surrounding forest and its orange-haired inhabitants. There are also feeding stations scattered along the banks of the Sekonyer River, so you’ll often see orangutans and proboscis monkeys stopping off for a snack.

Gunung Leuser National Park

WHERE? Sumatra, Indonesia

The locals who live in and around Gunung Leuser have such a close relationship with the orangutans here that they even have names for most of them! A two-day guided hike – departing from the village of Bukit Lawang – should quickly reveal some of these tame primates; just be sure to keep looking up into the tree canopy above.

Batang Ai National Park

WHERE? Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo

By night in this nine-square-mile national park you’ll spot fireflies, dancing over the Batang Ai and Lubang Baya rivers, then, by day, there’s the orangutans. In fact, Bantang Ai has the highest orangutan population density in central Borneo, making your chances of seeing one in the wild pretty high. That said, you must undertake some of the park’s four hikes if you have any hope of a sighting – be sure to hire a ranger and bring plenty of food and drink before embarking on your trek.

Batang Ai National Park in the sunshine

Make an appointment with one of our Travel Experts about spotting orangutans and tailor making your Asia holiday to include Malaysia, Borneo or Indonesia.


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Alexandra Gregg

Once a roving local news reporter and now a travel-obsessed writer/sub, I'm head-over-heels for nature, wildlife and the ocean. When I'm not getting up close to animals and sea creatures, I'm seeking out the sets of my favourite TV shows around the world. Follow me @wonderg1rl89.