So you’ve flown to Borneo and landed in Kuching. No doubt top of your list is to visit Semenggoh national reserve to see the Oragnutans. The park at Semenggoh is great, easy to get to and cheap.
Semenggoh nature reserve protects, cares for and rehabilitates wild animals that have been injured, orphaned, mistreated in captivity or otherwise displaced. Semenggoh is solely focused on conservation and although there are two set times to visit the apes, tourism is not it’s main focus unlike parks in other parts of Borneo, such as Sabah.
Anyway if you are staying in Kuching centre, its very easy to get to the park. There is a public bus running two times every day. These bus times coincide with the viewing times in the park. Bus services run twice at, 7.30am and 1.30pm.
Get to the bus station
Any good hostel will know exactly where to send you to get the bus to the park. However incase they don’t have this information and you want to get there yourself or take a taxi, here’s how you get there. The bus station (it’s not much of a station, just a gathering of busses) is at the crossroads for Jalan Masjid, Jalan P. Ramlee and Jalan Garlek. Look for the Suajana car park complex or the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple. Theres a nice little street market here in the morning sellinf noodles, rice, curry puffs, spring rolls and other treats. The bus only costs 3RM and only takes an hour.
No. 6 which stops outside the main gate, from there it is a 20 minute walk to the Centre through the park.When you get off the bus make sure you ask the driver when he will be coming back. There are only two busses leaving the park, and those also coincide with feeding times. Entrance to the park was 5-15RM which is very cheap for what you are about to see.
So the deal with the park is that twice a day the staff offer food for the orangutans and you are invited to come and watch. Although most of the Orangutans live wild and eat wild fruit in the park, there are certain apes that are known to visit at feeding times. Feeding times are 9am-10am and 3pm-4pm. You are not guarenteed to see any apes and should consider yourself very lucky if you do.
You will be given a talk by the park guide explaining how to act around the apes, safety in the park and general information about your visit.
I visited the park for both feeding times, as I figured this was the main reason I was in Borneo so why not spend as much time with the apes as possible. We took the bus early in the morning and arrived at the park with enough time to make it to the centre. We were told at the time there were no oragutans at the feeding area and we were readying ourselves for not seeing any apes.
Around half an hour into the feeding time we a glimpse of a first ape. It was a little shy and eventually swung down from the ropes grabbed a few bananas and a coconut from the platform and headed back up to the canopy. It spent around twenty minutes in the canopy working on smashing open the coconut and quickly headed back off to the deep rainforrest.
It was amazing to see the orangutans and we felt blessed that we had the opportunity to see any apes, as you could see how easy it would be to visit the park and not see any. Everybody else left the park after the feeding time, but we decided that we would stay, walk around the wild fruit trees and see some other areas of the parks. However this wasn’t the case as everything seemed to be closed. Once we realised this we headed back down to catch a bus, this is when we found out there are only two busses returning to Kuching.
We had our lunch we collected from the bus station and we sat out the 3/4 hours before the next feeding time in a shelter.
We made our way to the centre in time for the second viewing time. When we got close to the centre we were shocked to see an orangutan sat in the tree next to the benches enjoying a coconut. We walked closer and saw the oldest orangutan in the park laid on a bench enjoying a basket of sweet potatoes. We then saw a crowd of around four people looking up in the trees where we saw a mother and her baby hanging form a rope as the park ranger threw fruit up for them to catch. It was amazing, and compared to our experience in the morning we were so lucky to see so many apes at one time.
The orangutans stayed in this area for a good 45 minute period. The park ranger wasn’t sure if we would bother going to the feeding platform but eventually decided to open the platform where we were graced with the presence of another two orangutans. We had to leave to make the 20 minute walk back to the gate to catch the last bus back to Kuching.
We left the main crowd of the visitors and walked back through the rain forrest. As we reached the centre we decided to visit the small gallery which has some pictures of the apes and a few other things. Around two minutes after we entered the gallery the park ranger rushed in, and said we needed to leave immedietly as a large alphamale orangutan had arrived and it was not safe for visitors to be so close to one.
The park ranger will give you all the information you need about the large alpha male and will explain that you are very lucky if he decides to show his face during your visit, and there he was. Ritchie is his name and he is huge. Long haired and plate faced, he strolled down through the centre standing around 4ft tall on all fours, moved towards a basket of fruit, sat down, and devoured it before shooting off.
My advice for anyone visiting would be to visit both viewing times. The park ranger said the morning time can be sightly more hit and miss than the afternoon viewing time. However you may as well see both as it is most likely the main reason you are in Borneo. I don’t suggest you stay in the park to be honest. You’ll have enough time to get the bus back to Kuching, grab some lunch and come back to the park. The bus is so cheap that this is probably your best option.