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!

orangutans in indonesiaWild 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.

tanjung puting national park orangutansWhat 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!

tanjung puting national park orangutansAfter 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!

tanjung puting national park orangutansAfter 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.

orangutans in indonesiaTime 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.


  1. April 29, 2017

    What an incredible wildlife experience; I’d love to do this tour! Your photos of the orangutans are awesome! There’s so many amazing things to do in Indonesia, I really hope to get there soon.

    • Rob Stiles author Kaylene Chadwell
      April 29, 2017

      Do it! Get a hold of Fardi (link at the end of the post). Great value and unreal experience.

  2. April 30, 2017

    Wow, this looks like a hell of a lot of fun! As chance would have it, I’ve just returned how from the zoo in Singapore where it is possible to get up close and personal with the Orangutans there but unfortunately, they didn’t feel like socializing today! This however, looks like a far more enjoyable and indeed natural setting however and one that is better for the animals

    • Rob Stiles author Gareth
      April 30, 2017

      We can not recommend this trip enough. We wish had booked a longer tour because it was worth every penny.

  3. April 30, 2017

    Borneo (Malaysian side) may probably be one of my next trips and I would love to live an experience like this one. Do you know if there is a similar thing on the Malaysian side? Or eventually is it easy to go from the Malaysian side to the Indonesian side and back? Thanks

    • Rob Stiles author Elisa Subirats
      April 30, 2017

      I’m not sure about the Malaysian side. We did fly into Pangkalan Bun, to set off on the boat trip, so perhaps you can fly there from the Malaysian side? I’ve heard of some extreme trekking expeditions where you can cross between the 2 sides, but I believe those are pretty intense.

  4. May 1, 2017

    This sounds awesome. I haven’t been to Indonesia so I’m def gonna check out this place when I finally make it over

    • Rob Stiles author Claire
      May 1, 2017

      Incredible experience. Worth every penny! It’s hard to say that about a lot of excursions like this. We loved it and would do it again in a heart beat. Also a fun thing to do with a small group!

  5. Jing
    May 1, 2017

    I’m happy to hear there are some organizations like OFI who genuinely cares about wild animals and lets visitors interact with the animals without harming them or the environment. Would place this on my list for things to do in Indonesia. 🙂

    • Rob Stiles author Jing
      May 1, 2017

      Place it on you list and get there! It’s an incredible experience!

  6. May 1, 2017

    I saw orang-utans in Borneo and one cheeky one urinated on me! It was pretty funny though 😛

    • Rob Stiles author Castaway with Crystal
      May 1, 2017

      They are pretty funny animals! We really enjoyed when animals other than the orangutans were at the feeding platform…pigs and gibbons. It was funny to see the social structure and interaction!

  7. May 1, 2017

    I was there in 2011. I loved the park and think the orangutan looks so funny. I saw like 10 of them having a big orgie haha. I would love to explore more of Indonesia and Malaysia as I was there for only some days on a trip through South East Asia. Your photos is amazing btw 😀

    • Rob Stiles author Vibeke Johannessen
      May 1, 2017

      You’re too kind. Thanks for your kind words. It really is an awesome and unique experience. You can never have enough days in Indo/Malaysia…SOOOOOO Many islands and adventures!

  8. Oh my gosh, your picture are adorable! I never associated Indonesia with Orangutans, but I am definitely wanting to go see them now. I am so glad the the OFI helps to take care of these animals. My husband works with Save the Chimps in Florida (for chimpanzees) and I have seen up close what amazing work these organizations do. Thanks for sharing this article!

    • Rob Stiles author Melody & Taylor Pittman
      May 4, 2017

      You guys keep up the good work. Get out to Indo and check out this amazing experience!

  9. The Roaming
    May 2, 2017

    Aww they’re so cute! We are really looking forward to seeing some of them soon in the Malaysian part of Borneo, so excited!

    • Rob Stiles author The Roaming
      May 4, 2017

      Best of luck & safe travels!

  10. May 4, 2017

    This is such an interesting experience! They seems like a funny animals to observe. It is great that the organisation is helping so much with the animals and preserving their environment. I have to admit a local dish prepared on the boat sounds like a great addition to this experience. Awesome views as well!

    • Rob Stiles author eostories
      May 4, 2017

      This really is an amazing experience and great value for the money!

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