The orangutans are three extant species of great apes native to Indonesia and Malaysia. Orangutans are currently only found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. Classified in the genus Pongo, orangutans were originally considered to be one species. From 1996, they were divided into two species: the Bornean orangutan (P. pygmaeus, with three subspecies) and the Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii). 

In November 2017 it was reported that a third species had been identified, the Tapanuli orangutan. Genomic comparisons show that the Tapanuli orangutan separated from the Sumatran orangutan about 3.4 million years ago. The Tapanuli orangutan separated from the Bornean orangutan much later, about 670,000 years ago. The orangutans are the only surviving species of the subfamily Ponginae, which also included several other species, such as the three extinct species of the genus Gigantopithecus, including the largest known primate, Gigantopithecus blacki. The ancestors of the Ponginae split from the main ape line in Africa 16 to 19 million years ago (Mya) and spread into Asia.

Orangutan could be found in 5 National park in Indonesia

1. Tanjung Puting National Park

Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo

Tanjung Puting National Park has been called one of the natural wonders of the world. A vast and dense rainforest that spans over four thousand square kilometres, Tanjung Puting is full of wild orangutans who love the tree tops and swampy mangroves. The best way to get a great view of wild orangutans is to travel down the Sekonyer River on a Klotok. A Klotok is a type of river houseboat, used by locals to transport goods up and down the river, and also by tourists as a great way to get around.

The easiest way to get to Tanjung Putting National Park is via Klotok. It’s a good idea to make sure your tour booking includes or can arrange an airport or hotel transfer, as well as transport to and from the park. Between travelling on a Klotok, bonding with a local tour guide and spotting the elusive Bornean orangutan throughout your trip, Tanjung Puting National Park has it all.

The best part? Tanjung Puting is also home to the well-known research facility Camp Leaky, where you can meet wildlife researchers, get up close with orangutans in rehabilitation and other creatures of the jungle.

Make your way through Tanjung Puting with us, at Orangutan Trekking Tours. Our ecotours help the Green Team buy back areas of the forest to protect them from illegal palm oil farmers and poachers, and they’re a fantastic way to explore the rainforest and all its inhabitants.

2. Kutai National Park

East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo

Kutai National Park is located in East Kalimantan on Indonesian Borneo and is home to around two thousand orangutans. Unfortunately, a large part of this forest has been devastated by deforestation and fires in the past, which has left only 30% of the original forest behind. This means that the forest is no longer the green wonderland it was, but it is on its way to recovery and still worth a visit.

There are two main access points for tourists to the park. Along the road between Sangatta and Bontang you’ll find Sangkima, with a number of old national park buildings still standing. It provides fantastic photo opportunities of the orangutans, otters and monitors lizards from the easily accessible loop platform. Sangkima has a walking trail and boardwalk that will take you to one of the largest trees of the forest. This area, due to its easy accessibility, is under growing pressure from tourism.

Prevab is a more remote section of the park that was preserved, and the forest here is in fairly good condition. It is accessed via a 25 minute boat ride on the Sangatta river. It’s here that you will be able to see orangutans as well as an array of exotic flora and fauna, such as sun bears, flat-headed cat and long-tailed macaque. Trekking through the Kutai National Park requires both a permit and a local guide.

3. Gunung Palung National Park 

West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo

Gunung Palung National Park is estimated to be home to around two thousand orangutans The forest in Gunung Palung National Park is quite dense and less visited by tourists, which has helped the growth and protection of its diverse habitats, including mangroves, swamps and lowland forests. The park was given official National Park status in 1990, but it has a history of mismanagement. Until recently, tourism to this area was taken away from the control of the locals and exploited by a company who made travelling to this area far more expensive than it should be. Luckily, this struggle is beginning to end and tours operated by local villagers are now taking place again.

One of the unique things about tours through Gunung Palung National Park is the absence of the tourism industry. There are no real pathways or roads, and the primary place of accommodation is camp Lubuk Baji, a wooden building that sits on stilts and has been likened to a tree house. The orangutans that call Gunung Palung home aren’t used to seeing people, which makes the furry apes of this park wilder and harder to find. But this means it’s twice as rewarding when you do see them swinging through the trees!

4. Betung Kerihun National Park

West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo

Betung Kerihun National Park runs along the Malaysian Borneo border, Sarawak. It has four main waterways that run through from the other side of the border. Throughout the park are small villages of locals, some only accessible by long boat. The locals live in houses suspended on the river banks above potential flood levels, called ‘Long Houses’. The tours through Betung Kerihun National Park are primarily run by the Nanga Potan people who supply long boats, insight into their culture and opportunities to see wild orangutans in this region. It is a key area for conservation in Indonesia.

A great way to experience this part of Borneo is by bike. Between some of the villages, there are narrow pathways which can take either motorcycles or bicycles. While this experience is seasonal, it provides a great ground-floor view of the forest, and a bit of a workout for the willing tourist. Bornean Orangutans are not afraid to come down from the trees, and you might just have a face-to-face encounter with one of these amazing creatures as you cycle through the forest.

5.  Danum Valley Conservation Area

Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

This park is technically not in Indonesian Borneo, but we’re giving it a special mention due to its eco-friendly, conservationist ethics.

Located on the Malaysian side of Borneo Danum Valley Conservation Area, this is the most accessible of the National Parks that we’ve mentioned. There are many walking trails through the park, including a suspended walkway. A popular choice for accommodation is the Borneo Rainforest Lodge which sits alongside the Danum River. There is no roughing it here, with premium accommodation, including optional spa packages, so you can see the rainforest in style.

There are a couple of wild orangutans who call the surrounding trees home, although it is not guaranteed; you may not have to leave the lodge to see wild orangutans here. The lodge has strict guidelines for guests when leaving. These are put in place to minimise tourism’s effect on the surrounding forest and wildlife and are common among eco-tourism accommodation providers.


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