The Semenggoh Wildlife Center has been handling orphaned or rescued Orang Utan for more than 30 years and currently has 37 Orang Utan in the area, 16 of them having been born at the center. The oldes one, a female, is 44 years old, has 3 offspring and 3 “grandchildren” already! The oldest male and “boss” of the group is 33 and apparently a bit on the grumpy side. They live in the wild and only come to the center for a free meal (especially when it is harder in the forest, outside the fruit season). It is a special treat to see them come to the feeding area and be able to take photos in their natural habitat.
I visited at the end of March, after the fruit season, and was lucky to see three of them in two different locations. They are not afraid of humans – seeing them on a regular basis has taught them that humans are not predators, at least not at the center… Soon after we got the the feeding area, we could see the first one move through the canopy towards the buffet of bananas! He, a young male, was not in a hurry and almost casually angled down from the tree, along some ropes, towards the bananas and enjoyed his free meal, observing the visitors all along. He even went for a coconut, smacked it repatedly against a tree to open it and got himself a drink…
The park rangers are very well organized and trying hard to show of their charges: They informed the visitors via radio that two more had been sighted near a second feeding area, giving us a chance to get another impression of them. These two were almost giving a show for us – they were hanging from the ropes just a few meters away from us, observing us, than turning their attention to the bananas and finally resting in a hammock of ropes!
Semenggoh Wildlife Center is close to Kuching and the various tour operators in town offer half-day trips, including pick-up and drop-off at the hotel and entrance at the park for 70-80MYR ($19-22). It’s easy to go by yourself, with a bus K6 from the downtown bus station No2 (near Merdeka Square) for 6MYR round-trip plus the 10MYR park entrance fee. The bus stops right at the center and you’ll have a 20 min walk in the park to the feeding area. There are two feedings at 9am and 3pm – the buses (7:20am/1pm) and tours are all aligned for those feeding times. The staff at the center is happy to share information about the park, feel free to approach them. It makes the trip much more informative!
Overall, this is a trip that should be high on your agenda if you are visiting Southern Borneo. It’s an amazing experience and easy to do from Kuching. While I liked Sepilok a little better, Semenggoh is much easier to reach, and either one is a very special wildlife experience. Sightings this close and in a natural habitat are very difficult to achieve outside this type of center and make them so well worth it!