One of the things you have to do while in Borneo is see orangutans in the rainforest. I went on a river rafting trip that included a stop at Semenggoh Wildlife Center (national park) on the way. From my research I believe this was 1 of the 2 good options for seeing wild orangutans near Kuching.
The orangutans are free in the forest. They stop by the viewing points because of the tasty food (many were also brought here for rehabilitation so they are comfortable seeing people – though the rehabilitation is largely moved elsewhere now).
Because the orangutans are free when fruit is in season sometimes few or no orangutans show up. They generally have feeding time in the morning at 9 to 10 AM (when I went) and in the afternoon (3 to 3:30 PM).
To me it is important that the orangutans are free, but in reality based on what you see it isn’t much different than a very large zoo exhibit. I recommend a visit to view the orangutans in the wild but I do think it can be a bit disappointing if your expectations are too high.
The orang utan (pongo pygmaeus) is found in the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah), Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan) and North Sumatra. It is one of the world’s largest primates, and is almost completely arboreal (tree living). The word “orang” is Malay for “person” whilst “utan” is derived from “hutan” meaning forest. Thus, orangutan literally translates as “person of the forest”.
In one respect, Semenggoh has been too successful – so many orang utan have been successfully reintroduced into the surrounding forest reserve that the forest’s carrying capacity has been reached, and rehabilitation activities have been transferred to the Matang Wildlife Centre, part of Kubah National Park.
Orangutan are primarily fruit eaters and spend most of the day roaming the forest foraging for food. They are particularly fond of wild figs and the pungent smelling durian. Although fruit is their most important source of food, they also feed on young leaves, insects, bark, flowers, eggs and small lizards. Each individual builds a new nest each night, a safe resting place 12-18 metres (40-60 ft) up in the roof of the forest.
The larger feeding and viewing area is a short (a few hundred meters) walk through the forest.
Wild orangutan are generally solitary. However, adolescents often gather in pairs and females occasionally form temporary groups of four or five. This rather lonely existence stems both from the relative scarcity of food in the rainforest and from a lack of predators. A mature adult roams a vast area of forest every day in order to find enough food to satisfy its healthy appetite. Its huge size also eliminates the need for ‘group defence’.