One of the most popular attractions near Kuching is the Semenggoh Wildlife Center. It is also one of the best opportunities to see orangutans outside of a zoo. There are only two islands in the world home to these primates: Borneo and Sumatra.
This center was founded in 1975 and takes in rescued or injured Orangutans. In a three step program, they train the monkeys to adapt to the wild with the target to release them after successfully completing the training.
Since the food is too scarce in this part of the rainforest, especially from June to November, the center still has to support the monkeys with their feeding. That is why the inhabitants are called semi-wild, they receive food when they can’t provide for themselves but are free to move around the 650 square kilometer park. To finance their efforts, visitors are allowed in the park for the two feeding times at 9am and 3pm.
How to get there
There are several tour companies offering trips to visit the park, also taxi drivers will approach you. There is no need at all for this because you can just take the local bus number K6 from the bus terminal. The bus leaves at 7.20 am or 1 pm and takes you back at 11.05am or 4.05 pm. The one-way journey costs less than a dollar per person.
Also, a great advantage of taking the bus is that you arrive before all the tour companies. Our group of about ten people who had taken the local bus had about 15 minutes with two monkeys before the main crowd arrived. Save yourself a place on the right side close to the rope that blocks the way towards the gallery. The Lonely Planet promotes two hiking trails but when we asked the rangers they told us that the trails are closed because it is too dangerous with the wild orangutans so close.
Watching these orangutans up close is quite an experience, we first saw a mama orangutan and her child following her closely behind. The little one gave us an amazing acrobatic show, swinging from tree to tree and even cartwheeling on the ropes! The mama was more chilled, but made sure her child was getting enough food by sharing bananas with him.
We then saw from far, the alpha male, and his slow approach to the rangers carrying the food. It was overwhelming to see this gigantic ape swing and then walk on all 4. He enjoyed his food for a while just there, right in front of us, allowing us to take some amazing, close-up shots.
We were then lured to the feeding platform station, where the rangers start calling out the other orangutans, and it was just breathtaking to watch so many orangutans, one by one, make their way to the platform and enjoy their breakfast. Our favorite was watching another mama orangutan carrying her baby in her arms. The baby was only months old and was absolutely adorable. We watched all of them play and enjoy their breakfast for an hour and then the rangers asked us to leave as they close the park until the next feeding time.