Amazing Orangutans in Indonesia
With more than 18,000 islands in Indonesia full of volcanoes, beautiful beaches, the world’s largest lizards, unbeatable scuba, gnarly waves, ancient ruins, rich culture, awesome parties, and unique wildlife, it’s one of those countries that’s hard to decide what to do or even where to go. Well, let me help you decide on one thing. You absolutely, positively must go see the orangutans in Indonesia!
Wild orangutans only live in Malaysia and Indonesia on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, so this is a very unique wildlife experience. We spent 2 magical days on a riverboat on the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, or as Indonesians call it, Kalimantan. We were picked up from the airport by our guide and taken straight to our riverboat to meet the captain, skipper, and chef who would be taking us on our private tour to Tanjung Puting National Park.
Upon arriving to the boat, we were greeted with delicious snacks and beautiful smiles. The first few hours of the trip were spent enjoying the views and the fresh air from lounge chairs as we made our way up the river into the jungle.
After a delicious Indonesian lunch cooked right there on the boat, it was time to go meet nature’s gingers. After a short and easy walk through the jungle we reached a feeding platform. The park has the largest wild Orangutan population in the world, but they also have a lot of semi-wild orangutans. These are orangutans who were rescued from captivity, or the babies of semi-wild mothers.
What this means is they live on their own in the wild, but in low vegetation seasons depend on the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) to supplement their diet. OFI does a lot of wonderful work with Orangutans from preserving the Orangutans’ once dying environments (their homes were being destroyed by the logging industry) to helping prevent the illegal black market sales of these precious animals. Let’s not forget to mention loads of research in addition to some diet supplementing.
We reached the feeding platform to find a huge, fat faced, full grown male just chillin’. He ate some bananas, took a nap, then walked right past us – I mean literally inches from us (it was terrifying and amazing). Once the big male was gone, an influx of baby-toting mom’s arrived to the platform.
I didn’t know this until I witnessed it, but orangutans don’t swing through the jungle canopy. They sway. It’s like watching a beautiful slow dance. They gracefully rock back and forth in the treetops until the tree they’re in sways close enough to grab hold of the next one. Throw a baby into the mix and this stunning dance becomes pure magic. There’s simply nothing like watching a mother orangutan swaying through the jungle canopy, holding the tops of two trees together as her baby walks across her like a bridge. And the babies are sooooo cute!
After a couple hours watching the rotating cast of orangutan visitors, we finally closed our dropped jaws and headed back to the boat. Surprise, surprise, another yummy homemade snack awaited us. As we enjoyed our snack, the boat chugged further up the river to Camp Leaky – OFI’s infamous research headquarters. We strolled down a long wooden pier, encountering orangutan moms and babies way before reaching the jungle path.
Another short walk into the jungle took us to an even bigger feeding platform. Along the way we encountered some gibbons. We got to watch their very different, but just as graceful mode of transportation through the jungle canopy. Gibbons use their super long arms to swiftly swing through the trees like Tarzan.
After some close encounters with the gibbons, it was time to meet the king of the jungle, Tom. We thought the big male we saw earlier was big, but Tom was huge. We enjoyed nature’s show of wild boars and cheeky gibbons sneak food behind Tom’s back for a while before the king disappeared into the jungle. Again, there was a constant rotation of moms and babies coming for milk and bananas. Some moms had a toddler and an infant with them. Both baby and toddler orangutans keep at least one hand on their mom at all times – it’s very sweet!
After another stunning couple hours of up close and personal nature viewing, we headed back to the boat. A short cruise up the river, and boom, a Proboscis Monkey colony. I felt like Little Red Riding Hood – “My, what a big nose you have!” We spotted some king fishers and hornbills before docking for a spectacular firefly lit dinner.
As if we hadn’t had enough action for the day, we took a night walk through the jungle to see what nocturnal animals we might come across. We mostly just saw spiders, but your luck may be better. While out, the boat deck got transformed into our mosquito net draped bedroom for the night. We stayed up playing Uno and drinking beer. It was a truly perfect day!
Guess what we woke up to in the morning? Another delicious meal! As we ate breakfast the boat cruised along the calm river to another section of the park.
Time to view more orangutans in Indonesia! Yet another short and easy walk to a feeding platform. We were batting 1000! This feeding platform was busy with orangutans coming and going. After two great days, it was time to head back to town and human civilization. We ate lunch while we made our way back to where our journey began.
My only regret is that we only did a 2 day / 1 night tour. I absolutely loved every aspect of our tour and in hindsight would have stayed for at least 1 more day, especially considering it only cost us $175 USD per person. This included airport transfer, 4 meals, 2 snacks, a rugged yet comfy stay on a riverboat, a wonderful time, and priceless wildlife encounters.
So, if we have anything to say about it – don’t miss the orangutans in Indonesia!
If you want riverboats and orangutans in Indonesia, then you’ll want to contact Fardi at Orangutan Houseboat Tours.