Orangutans at the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
When we heard that there are semi-wild orangutans at the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on Borneo, we didn’t hesitate and bought flight tickets to Kuching immediately.
In Sumatra we had an experience that left us with goosebumps: seeing orangutans in the wild! To be able to see something like this is, and was, something very special for us. We were so close to them that we could see their facial expressions. And their eyes! It was almost like looking in a mirror! The hands of the orangutans were incredibly human-like; just larger and more powerful. It is too bad that we left our cameras in the hotel and couldn’t capture those unforgettable details.
Our intention was to relive this incredible feeling during our city trip.But first, we decided to explore Kuching with all its highlights.
As the morning to see the orangutans came, we could hardly keep our anticipation under control. It was finally time to go to the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center! And hopefully we would be able to see orangutans in nature again.
The orangutans at the Wildlife Center in Borneo are semi-wild. Unlike in Sumatra, the orangutans here have been rescued. Orangutans that are either injured or sick are rehabilitated here in a safe environment. At the Wildlife Center, they are free and can act as they please. However, during the rehabilitation phase they are trained to be in certain places for feeding time.
Tip: The Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is located only 20 km south of Kuching, and you can easily get there with Grab (which is similar to Uber). It is also possible to book a guided tour (much more expensive) or arrive by taxi (also more expensive).
We decided on the less expensive option and went with Grab to the Wildlife Center.
Arrival at the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
There are two admission times: one at 8:00 a.m. in the morning and another at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon.
The feeding times are correspondingly one hour later, i.e. at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
We thought we would be smart and go a little early so that we could have a look at the information center in peace and take everything in.
So, we arrived at noon. But, when we got there, there was no cashier, and the entrance was closed. That is odd we thought. We saw another couple waiting at the gate that obviously had the same idea as us. We got into a conversation which killed the two hours and got along with them so well that we decided to go to Bako National Park together the following day.
Entering the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
At exactly 2 p.m., the cash register opened. We paid our 10 RM entrance fee per person and started the long walk. Our excitement was back and we couldn’t wait to see these incredible animals!
We walked for about 20 minutes on a paved path, but it seemed infinitely longer to us. Finally, we arrived and saw our first animal: a crocodile!
But before we entered the information center, we saw a keeper walking with food and decided to follow him.
That was a good decision because it wasn’t long after when we heard a rustle. In Sumatra, we learned that falling leaves could be a sign that orangutans are nearby. When they swing silently from tree to tree, you usually can only hear the rustling of the branches or see the falling of the leaves. We were so captivated that we might be able to see an orangutan right away. We were told that the orangutans are trained to come to the feeding times, but it does not guarantee that they really come. Afterall, they are wild animals and can decide for themselves if they want to come to the feeding stations or not.
But we got lucky.
And what we saw here, we will never forget!
The orangutan ate his bananas while we photographed him. And our eyes sparkled as we watched.
And then it happened…
A Very Special Moment
The keeper placed a coconut on the ground, and an orangutan climbed down to pick it up. Effortlessly and gracefully, he made his way back to a thick branch towards the top. And what happened next made us and all the others who were there gasp! With a fierce bang, he slammed the coconut against the tree. No one had expected that. Using his teeth, he then pried the coconut open and enjoyed it while sitting on his branch. He had used the tree as a tool to get to the meat of the coconut. Amazing!
We captured it on video (sorry for the poor quality), but it doesn’t give you nearly the same feeling that we experienced seeing it live.
Happy that we were able to see this, we continued further because we really wanted to see the alpha male.
At another feeding point we saw a mother with her child. We witnessed how protective and loving the mother was. There is nothing stronger than a mother’s love!
Unfortunately, however the alpha male remained hidden from us.
An Unforgettable Day
After this unforgettable day and seeing these beautiful creatures, we drove back to the city. We kept thinking over and over about this experience and how lucky and grateful we are for everything that we are allowed to see, discover and experience on our journeys!
We hope that mankind finally realizes what incredible wonders Nature has to offer. And does what is needed to protect it. It is our responsibility that our kids and grandkids will be able to experience all of this someday as well.