Hanging with Orangutans at the Orangutan Sanctuary Borneo

orangutans swinging through the trees

I was excited to be spending time with the orangutans in the Orangutan Sanctuary Borneo.

The Sanctuary is actually in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah in the nature reserve attached to the Shangri La Rasa Ria resort, which is a feeder to the Sepilok orangutan sanctuary.

Orphaned baby orangutans go through their first stage of rehabiliation here before being returned to Sepilok for the second stage and final stage.

I wasn’t sure how our time hanging with the orangutans would be in comparison to my experience seeing them in the wild in Sumatra, Indonesia.

We were jungle trekking in Bukit Lawang (coolest place name ever!) and a few orangutans came swinging through the trees when they heard us approaching.

They were rehabilitated orangutans so were used to human contact, so used to it that we hand fed them biscuits.

Bukit Lawang Orangutans
Jungle trek in Bukit Lawang

It’s pretty hard to beat an experience like that.

But travel is not always about beating one experience or comparing, it is about savouring each moment as it is presented to you.

Visiting the orangutans in Kota Kinabalu was different, but there was so much I  enjoyed and gained from it.

Mostly how precious they are, how they are so like humans, and how they desperately need to be protected.

There are only 20,000 left alive in Borneo and 5,000 in Sumatra. Hang our head in shame humans!

orangutans in Borneo

Visiting places like the orangutan sanctuary in Borneo allows us to see just how much they are worth protecting and causes us to fight harder for them.

The orangutan sanctuary is doing all it can to rescue orphaned babies, become their mothers and teach them how to survive in the wild.

It’s a pretty hard thing to do when you have poachers and habitat-destroyers tracking their orange furs down in their rainforest homes.

Orangutan child-like playfulness

All I could think of were my children as we sat and watched.

The two girls were just as cheeky and playful. They loved to show off and be the centre of attention. They fiercely protected their food from scavenger long-tailed macaque, who were very clever in staging their food kidnappings.

long-tailed macaque monkey stealing food
A crafty steal

They hung upside down to eat and did limbering exercises and yoga poses with the flexibility that only our babies ever know.

We watched from a platform inside their jungle home.

The nature reserve is within the forest and they could wander off if they chose to, but they are happy and content in their home for now until they learn how to survive in that big bad world.

We were there for feeding time, a time that involved a lot of playing, unco-operativeness and tantrums.

Hmmm just like my house at feeding time.

I recognized Kalyra’s animal twin in one of the orangutans as she threw herself on the floor, rolled around banging her head and hanging over the edge of the platform in protest.

Human parents aren’t the only ones who suffer at meal times.

orangutans feeding Orangutan sanctuary Borneo
Feeding time

Orangutans sabah Borneo

The Baby Orangutan

We were lucky enough to see the baby orangutan in a small bamboo sheltered area of ther eserve.

She was a little frightened by all the people and ran from one tree to the other making little squawking sounds. I wanted to pick her up, cuddle her and shoo everyone away.

She was the same size and weight as Savannah and just as clingy and cuddly begging her handler to hold her all the time, but he kept releasing her for some play and swing time.

She was precious.

baby orangutan

baby orangutan Borneo

baby orangutan Borneo
Please cuddle me

baby orangutan swinging

Orangutans in Borneo
Cuddle time

Orangutan sanctuary Borneo

baby orangutan

baby orangutan sanctuary Borneo

orangutan sanctuary Borneo

They may not speak human words, but they act, play, and feel like us. They are called Man of the Forest for a reason and we need to take better care of our animal friends.

They need us more than ever.

A friend told me of his experience encountering orangutans both at the reserve and while remote jungle trekking in the Sabah. Of course he compared the wild encounter to be more worthwhile.

I don’t think you could beat the thrill of that, but there is so much joy to be had in spending time watching them play in sanctuaries as well.

Whether it’s a random encounter or a planned visit, it’s heart warming to be close to their care-free, playful spirit.

I wish us humans could be more like it in all we do.

Want to learn more about Borneo? Check out the Lonely Planet Borneo (Travel Guide)

Have you seen orangutans in the wild before or in a sanctuary?

Share your experiences below in the comments.

I traveled to Malaysia courtesy of Malaysia airlines and Tourism MalaysiaIf you’re inspired to check out Malaysia just as I have, head to travel.com.au for more info

Caz Makepeace is the co-founder of y Travel Blog and has been traveling the world since 1997, first solo, then with her husband, and now with her two daughters. Get her free email series on the 4 best ways to reduce travel costs. Follow her on Google+

16 Comments on “Hanging with Orangutans at the Orangutan Sanctuary Borneo”

  1. This would be an amazing trip for my kids!!! Wow.

  2. Oh! Such cute creatures. It would be so fascinating to be able to play with them. Wonderful captures :)
    Arti recently posted..Melbourne Memories… In Monochrome
    Arti recently posted..Melbourne Memories… In Monochrome

  3. I agree that travel “is about savouring each moment” instead of comparing. And I also agree we need to take better care of our Earth and everyone in it. What a wonderful experience it sounds like you had. Love the video, too.
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..A Volcanic Eruption, A Hurricane and a Seminar Meet
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..A Volcanic Eruption, A Hurricane and a Seminar Meet

  4. I loved seeing the orangutans in Borneo last year! Such an incredible experience. I’m not sure if I was at the same exact place you went to, but it sounds similar. Did you also get to see the proboscis monkeys nearby? They were pretty incredible too.

  5. How absolutely lovely! Beautiful, beautiful creatures. We should go, I’ve always wanted to
    alyson recently posted..Platypuses at Tarzali Lakes.
    alyson recently posted..Platypuses at Tarzali Lakes.

  6. Wow, this is going on my bucket list! We recently visited a turtle conservation program and I had the same thoughts – how do we allow such beautiful animals to be so endangered?
    Your photos are beautiful Caz!

    • Thank you Serena! We need to be doing so much more to protect our animals. It’s heartbreaking to see what we do

      • Yes I travel and meet the most incredible people who really are taking action – but usually to band aid the problems the rest of us create. It’s such a contradictory world we live in.

  7. That would be an amazing experience! Added to my list of things to do! :)

  8. I can imagine that seeing them in the wild would be more exciting, but the sanctuary is a great cause for their survival, and visiting and supporting a place like this is a great way to help preserve their species and create awareness. I want to go!
    Candice recently posted..Easy Rider: Three Benefits Of An Escoted Tour
    Candice recently posted..Easy Rider: Three Benefits Of An Escoted Tour

  9. Thank you Caz! We are in KK now and didn’t even realise this place was here, gonna go check it out. We saw some in Sarawak and really enjoyed watching them interact with each other and swinging around.

  10. nice shots!
    Sarawak Tour recently posted..Discover the Rafflesia in Malaysia
    Sarawak Tour recently posted..Discover the Rafflesia in Malaysia

  11. Dominique Betts

    I’m looking into volunteering at a sanctuary for orangutans at the moment.. I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more about your trip: such as where you stayed, rough prices for you flight and accommodation per week?
    I’d really appreciate it!
    Thanks ([email protected])

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