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Semingoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Relatively close to Kuching is the Semengoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. This center differs in almost every aspect from Orangutan Sanctuary Sepilok. Tourism is just a side effect of this center, and there are little or no facilities for tourists here. But admission costs are only 3 Ringit for a licence.

Large male bornean orangutan in Semengoh

It is a little difficult to reach Semengoh by public transport. We take the early bus, which drops us off near the center, but there are no clear signs where to go. When we find the center after a 10 minute walk, the fences are closed and the information signs are unclear about where we can watch the feeding of the orangutans. Eventually, we find out that we have to take a path into the jungle before the actual center. We decide to go there before other tourists arrive, maybe we can spot some of the apes already.

Feeding the Orangutans

We find the feeding platform in the jungle, and take a seat on a bench to watch what will happen. But unfortunately, nothing happens, even when the feeding time has passed. When we start wondering whether we are at the right spot, a park ranger arrives with a group of tourists. And almost immediately high up in the trees 3 orangutans appear. It is a beautiful sight how they meander through the trees. There is a large male, a female, and a young orangutan.

The feeding in Semengoh is similar as in Sepilok. The animals are offered milk, which they drink from a bucket, and bananas. When they are done eating, they decide to take a path through the public. A little panic among the tourists, and now we can see how big the male actually is. Everybody moves to the side, and the orangutans climb via one of the benches up into the trees. At a height of 3 meters, the male takes a sanitary stop, before they climb higher to sit and relax. We stay around for a while, but they are so high we can hardly see them, so we decide to follow the others and return to the center.

Other animals in cages

Gibbon at SemengohIn the rehabilitation center we are curious whether we can see some orangutans in the cages. But most of the cages aren't accessible. We can only watch the cages of the crocodiles from close by. But a little further are some cages with gibbons, which are opened by a park ranger. The animals can choose for themselves whether they go and play outside or not. One of them fancies a little meandering and we can watch him in the trees around it. It gets even funnier when he is accompanied by a macaque from the forest, and they start chasing each other.

Catching a bus back to Kuching is a bit awkward. At the point where we were dropped off, no bus appears at the announced time. We wonder whether we should have taken the one heading in the wrong direction. We decide to walk to the bus stop a kilometer further, where more buses pass. There we are together with another tourist couple and some locals. The first two buses passing don't stop however, despite the heavy waving of all of us. We fear that we will be standing here all day waving at the buses, when suddenly one stops, and brings us back to Kuching. The bus system in otherwise well arranged Malaysia gets a minus, we get spoiled after being away from Indonesia for three weeks.

The Semengoh Orangutan rehabilitation center is a pleasant place to spot orangutans. It can be visited on a tour, but to avoid a crowd it can be visited by using public transport. A drawback is that we didn't get the see some other parts of the center, like the botanical research center and the forest reserve.

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