Everything you need to know about orangutan safaris

As the jungle awakens with wild calls and chatter, you glimpse bright orange hair wisp through the emerald green rainforest, covering lithe and dextrous limbs and a pensive face which lives up to the name "person of the forest". Some swing Jungle Book style from branch to branch, others rest lazily in the trees while the daring scour the ground nearby for fallen fruit. Witnessing these endearing primates is so much more than just something to tick off the list and is a true highlight of your Bornean safari.


Starting as World Primate Safaris in 2005, we have years of experience designing itineraries that put you in the right place, at the right time for the ultimate Bornean orangutan safaris. We also support the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, which rehabilitates baby orangutans and those found in captivity with the aim of getting them back out into the wild. Visiting the sanctuary is the highlight of many peoples' visit, offering a great opportunity to witness these great apes in a beautiful setting, where they can comfortably coexist.


Borneo's animals, with their varying shapes and sizes, protruding noses or whooping calls, really do serve to amuse and entertain.


Travelling to Borneo to experience orangutans in the wild, you can also search for noisy proboscis monkeys, ferocious crocodiles, astounding bugs and even clouded leopards.

Expert's View: Jessica tiffin

Getting up close and personal with "the person of the forest" was like nothing I have ever experienced before, they swing through the trees with consummate ease and the whole time it felt like they were staring directly at me. 

I wasn't sure if I was watching them or they were watching me!

The orangutan

There are just three orangutan species left in the wild, the Bornean, Sumatran and Tapanuli. This "person of the forest" is the largest arboreal mammal and the only great ape in existence in Asia. With long arms that may reach two metres in length, shaggy reddish-brown fur and grasping hands and feet, the orangutan swings slowly through the tree canopy of Borneo. When night approaches they make nests of vegetation to sleep in and occasionally smaller ones during the day to rest.


Male orangutans are evident by their large size (weighing up to 90 kilos, compared to 50 kilos for females), their cheek pads and throat pouch. Generally antisocial apes, their primary social structure consists of solitary males and subadults of both sexes and adult females with one or two juveniles. They are not territorial animals; however adult males are usually quite hostile towards one another.


Males in Sumatra sport moustaches and beards, as well as prominent throat sacs which they use to bellow and roar. The Sumatran species is also a little thinner, with longer faces and longer, paler hair on their bodies.


Bornean and Sumatran orangutans are definitely very similar, but there are some differences. Sumatran orangutans have a closer social network than those in Borneo, gathering together to feed.

The discovery of the Tapanuli orangutan in 2017 marked the first time a new great ape species was introduced to science in almost 90 years. They have thicker, curlier hair than the other two species of orangutan, with males identified by their noticeably flatter cheek pads. Their “long call” – used to communicate with other orangutans when it is time to mate - is also noticeably distinct, as is their diet.

Why book with us

We are destination specialists

Our team of specialists have extensive on-the-ground knowledge and have all lived, guided or explored in great detail the destinations that they sell. They will design your journey around you, at the right place at the right time.

We are wildlife specialists

As a leading specialist operator we have excellent partnerships with naturalists and conservationists. We know our wildlife and do what we can to preserve its natural habitat.

We really care about our destinations

At Natural World Safaris we frequently monitor the social, economic and environmental impact of our travel operations to ensure we are at the forefront of a sustainable and ethical tourism industry. 

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT TRACKING PRIMATES IN THE WILD?

Our primate safari experts know everything there is to know about seeing primates in the wild. Get in touch to find out more and start designing your journey.

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