When to see orangutans


This means that in theory they can be seen year-round, especially in the rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries, where the question of when to see orangutans only concerns the set feeding times. Nov-Feb can be soggy though – with most of the rain falling in mid-afternoon, monsoon-style downpours, so jungle hikes can end up being pretty miserable in these months, and leeches more prevalent. However, there are savings on both flights and accommodation to be made by traveling in the low season – so shop around, and you might snag a bargain.

When to watch orangutans

month by month guide

If you're hoping to watch orangutans in January or February then make sure you bring an umbrella as this is still considered to be the tail end of the rainy season for both Borneo and northern Sumatra.

However, just because you might get wet doesn't mean you won't see orangutans and there's many a bargain to be found during the traditional monsoon season that tends to stretch from October and November all the way through to March and April.

In reality the best time to see orangutans is all year round as they're not actually going anywhere especially in the rehabilitation reserves and wildlife centers of Sepilok.

If you're looking for heat then May, June and July never fail to get sun worshippers in a spin although forest fires can put a cloud over proceedings and make Malaysia and Indonesia really quite unpleasant.

September is one of Sumatra, Sabah and Sarawak's wettest months and probably best avoided if you're looking to combine trekking with orangutan watching so why not consider southern Kalimantan for a much drier alternative.

The best time to see orangutans

Responsible Travel recommends

Nicki Hollamby is a Borneo specialist with our supplier, Audley Travel, shares her advice on when to see orangutans:

“If you are spending the day at Sepilok, I always suggest you go to the afternoon feeding in your own time because although there are fewer orangutans, there are also fewer people.”
Kate Tyler, from our supplier Odyssey World, on when to see orangutans: “If you are looking to go to the Kinabatangan River area, I would avoid going earlier than about March or April, or in December, because the weather is atrocious. The rain is so heavy. It can be a year-round destination but when the rain is at its heaviest it can really hinder your experience. It can be really humid. Peak is probably from end of April through to October, so it’s perfect for a summer vacation destination – but it does get really busy.”
Tom Hewitt, founder of our supplier Adventure Alternative Borneo, shares advice on when to see orangutans:

“It’s an all-year-round destination really. That’s the great thing about it. It doesn’t have huge typhoons like the Philippines, or monsoons like other parts of Southeast Asia. There’s no volcanoes, no earthquakes... If you’re doing serious trekking then you don’t want to go in the rainy season. But other than that it’s great year-round.“
Photo credits: [Chart background - canopy jungle: Paul Mannix] [Kinabatangan River: Laura]
Written by Vicki Brown
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