In Malay "orang-utan" means "person of the forest," and you will have to agree with this name especially after seeing them in their natural habitat. Even though almost every zoo in the world has orangutans, only a few areas on Earth have conservation areas with free and wild orangutans, and Malay Borneo is one of them.
Orangutans are native to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Interesting to know, they are believed to be the most intelligent primates. They use very sophisticated tools in their daily life, construct sleeping nests, and it is also believed that they adhere to specific cultural behaviour within their living groups. Orangutans live about 30 years and an adult male can reach an average height of 130 cm.
The best time to observe these animals starts in late April or May when the rain season transitions into the dry season. At this time, you might see orangutans searching for ripe fruits and occasionally for potential mates. They feast on fruits, especially figs and other nutritious ones to gain some weight for the upcoming fruitless months. If you a lucky, you will see some baby orangutans on their first exploration "into the wild", as they usually get out once it's not so wet outside.
In the hot months of June and August when the food resources are scarce, you can see orangutan families sitting or lying around in a lazy mode for the purpose of saving energy. During this period, they might eat some leaves and flower, or even have a caterpillar snack once in a while. Then in October, when the fruiting season is fully on, orangutans spend hours eating as much as they can to prepare for the rain season.
Batang Ai National Park is a good place, especially if you are also interested in meeting gibbons and seeing hornbills. Ethnic Iban people inhabit this area and it is possible to learn their culture during the visit as well. It is recommended to take a guide there, as the only way to reach the park is by boat.
Danum Valley is inhabited by orangutans and also by cute pygmy elephants. You can enjoy a simple daylight walk or join a night safari for a more mystic experience. Kinabatangan Wildlife Reserve consists of mangrove forests. There you can meet large families of orangutans on the trees and even larger groups of crocodiles on the ground. So, be careful!
When is the best time to observe orangutans in Malaysian Borneo?
Orangutans in Malaysian Borneo are best observed between late April or May until October when they search for ripe fruits, potential mates and build up stores of fat to survive the fruitless months. The hot season, from June to August, is quieter when orangutans save energy by consuming leaves and flowers. From October, the fruiting season is fully on, and orangutans eat as much as possible to prepare for the rainy season. Show more
Where can I see orangutans living in their natural habitat in Malaysia?
Free and wild orangutans can be observed in the conservation areas of Malay Borneo. Two famous areas to spot them residing in their natural habitat are Batang Ai National Park and Danum Valley in Borneo. At Kinabatangan Wildlife Reserve, tourists can observe orangutans, crocodiles and other exotic species in the mangrove forests. Show more
How do orangutans prepare for the fruitless months and the rainy season?
Before the fruitless months and rainy season, orangutans consume figs and other nutritious food to build up sufficient fat reserves. In the quiet months of June to August, when food is scarce, orangutans preserve energy by eating leaves and flowers. As the fruiting season begins from October, orangutans eat as much as possible to prepare for the fruitless season ahead. Show more
What other interesting animals could I spot alongside orangutans in Danum Valley?
In Danum Valley, pygmy elephants and orangutans are not the only animals you can spot. This protected region of Borneo has 275 known bird species, providing a fantastic opportunity for birdwatching. One can explore this mystic habitat through daylight walks and night safaris. Apart from orangutans, visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of Danum Valley's flora and fauna. Show more
Can I learn about the local culture while observing orangutans in Batang Ai National Park?
The Batang Ai National Park is an ideal place to experience the Iban culture along with orangutan spotting. It provides the opportunity to learn about the Iban people's farming and fishing occupations. Visitors can even discover the tradition of tattooing, which is still practiced in the area. A knowledgeable guide ensures you learn well about the local lifestyle and customs, and visitors can journey through the traditional longhouses to know more about the culture. Show more