There are few places in the world with a healthier population of young orangutans than the jungles surrounding the Semenggoh Nature Reserve near Kuching. This thriving population of wild orangutans owes its success to the three-decade-old rehabilitation program at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, situated within the 2.6-square-mile (6.8-square-km) reserve. So many orangutans were successfully reintroduced into the surrounding forest that the habitat reached capacity, and all rehabilitation activities were moved to the Matang Wildlife Centre inside Kubah National Park. During its years of active rehabilitation, the center cared for nearly 1,000 endangered animals, with birds, mammals, and reptiles representing dozens of species.
While rehabilitation efforts have ended, visitors to the reserve can still observe some of the program’s “graduated” orangutans—now living in the surrounding forest reserve with their offspring in tow—during twice daily supplemental feedings. Since the orangutans are free to roam, there’s no guaranteed sightings, but many of them stop by the center regularly for a free meal of fruit, eggs, and sometimes hidden vitamins.
Two trails take visitors through the primary rainforest, where it’s sometimes possible to spot rescued gibbons, crocodiles, river terrapins, or porcupines from a safe distance.
The reserve is located 14.9 miles (24 km) south of Kuching, and takes about 40 minutes to reach by car. While the No. 6 bus line from Kuching can take you close to the destination, most guided tours of the reserve include round-trip transportation from your hotel accommodation. The reserve is open every day from 8am to 5pm, but the best time to observe wild orangutans is during the morning or afternoon feeding sessions at 9am and 3pm. Sightings are never guaranteed, and during the fruit season when natural food is plentiful, orangutans may not appear at all.
Occasionally, an orangutan might approach visitors at the reserve headquarters. Keep in mind that should this happen, you should keep at least 20 feet (6.1 m) between you and the animal; touching, feeding, or making any other direct contact with the animal is not permitted.