Searching for orangutans in Borneo

Gail Davis

18 Oct 2016

borneo adventure

I recently came back from a week in Borneo. Having found myself in southern Asia on another adventure, I decided I needed to go to Borneo and visit the rainforest. While I was there primarily for the orangutans, we did see many other species from pygmy elephants to multiple types of birds.

Once there and after many disclaimers by our guide about how rare sightings of orangutans in the wild are, we saw our first one on our way to the lodge to start the visit. We were paused on the Kinabatangan River busy watching a group of proboscis monkeys when the guide pointed out a big male orangutan in the trees just a bit downriver. Those who had a very long lens or binoculars saw details as he was very high up and just a dark blob to the naked eye.

Primates at Tabin

Fortunately he was just the first and of many orangutan sightings. Both along the river and at the Tabin Reserve, we saw at least one almost every day. Other monkey sightings included lots of long and pig tailed macaques, more proboscis monkeys and, at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, a family of gibbons who chose to reside in the trees behind the river rooms.

My favorite encounter with orangutans was the last morning at Tabin. Out for an early morning game drive where we saw very little at all until, at the point of turning back, we discovered a mother orangutan with a baby. The guide and I were standing in the back of the jeep cameras snapping away and our driver who was a little obsessed with the ‘tangs was out on the road when Mum decided to check us out. She came down from the tree top to a slender young tree about 20 feet away at our eye level and just stared us down. Junior started to come see us as well but did not come as close. The guide kept saying softly to the driver “Get back in the jeep, Get back in the jeep, Get back in the jeep” as he continued to snap away on his iPhone. After a bit he did and we slowly backed away from Mom.  

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