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All Things Ape: How to Choose an Orangutan Tour in Kalimantan | Indonesia

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

Find yourself in the thick, lush rainforest of Kalimantan, Indonesia. Hear the jungle sounds from the deck of your klotok and look out into the trees. If you’re lucky, you might just encounter one of the greatest apes of all – we’re talking about the orangutan.

The name orangutan translates to “man of the forest” in Malay. They share a 97% genetic match with humans, but all it really takes to sense how similar we are is a moment of eye contact. Seeing orangutans in person is the experience of a lifetime. But to do it responsibly, you must choose an orangutan tour in Kalimantan that prioritizes responsibility, both to the orangutans and their environment.

Like so much of nature, orangutans are facing an existential threat as their habitats vanish to deforestation and habitat destruction. Want the chance to experience them face-to-face while making the lightest impact? Here are some of the best orangutan tours in Borneo.

Best Indonesia Orangutan Tour Operators

For this trip, we opted to see orangutans in Tanjung Puting National Park in Indonesia. The main reason is that we thought a multi-day river cruise sounded like a real adventure and a better way to ensure that we’d actually see some of the wildlife we set out to see.

When picking an orangutan tour in Kalimantan (or in general), here’s what you should keep in mind…

  • Ethics. Does the tour operator prioritize the well-being of orangutans and their habitats? Ensure your visit contributes to conservation efforts by reading traveler reviews.
  • Certifications and Memberships. Is the operator trusted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or the Orangutan Foundation International? These affiliations show a commitment to responsible tourism.
  • Reviews and Recommendations. Do they have positive reviews or come recommended? This isn’t always necessary, but it’s a good way to ensure the best experience.
  • Expert Guides. What about their guides? Are they knowledgeable about orangutan behavior? Committed to ethical practices? English speaking?
  • Group Size. How big are the groups? We always prefer a smaller group for wildlife tourism to minimize the impact of our visit.

Orangutan Applause

Orangutan Applause runs the most popular orangutan tour in Kalimantan. Their klotok houseboat trips are cozy – just a couple of travelers on the live-aboard houseboat – and itineraries run are available for 3d/2n or 4d/3n. We ultimately went with Orangutan Applause for our orangutan tour because of their commitment to sustainable tourism practices, orangutan conservation, and consistently amazing reviews of their guides and boat crew. Learn more about Orangutan Applause.

WOW Borneo

WOW Borneo offers a higher-end jungle expedition as their klotoks have private cabins. Their tours are a bit more expensive, but don’t compromise experience or adventure in the process. Travelers also talk about their committment to environmental conservation and knowledgeable guides. Learn more about WOW Borneo.

Varada Borneo

Varada Borneo also gets really great reviews for their orangutan tours in Kalimantan. Most people say the experience was one of the best of their lives, and praise Varada for their quick support, tasty food, and knowledgeable guides. Learn more about Varada Borneo.



Most of the tours in Tanjung Puting National Park are 2-4 days and aboard a klotok – a traditional boat – that travels down the Sekonyer River.The itineraries are relatively similar with most trips making stops at orangutan feeding stations like Tanjung Harapan or Camp Leakey and taking guests on guided jungle walks. Evenings are spent onboard the klotok, enjoying Indonesian meals and peaceful sleeps on deck.

Your guide will probably tell you both about wildlife and the local ecosystem as well as traditional Dayak culture with some visits to local villages. Overall, you can expect a nice mix of wildlife viewing, cultural experience, and a little bit of adventure in the Borneo wilderness.


Orangutans are native to Indonesia and Malaysia, primarily found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. In Borneo, they live in the Indonesian provinces of Kalimantan as well as parts of Malaysia’s Sabah and Sarawak regions. On the island of Sumatra, orangutans are found in the northern provinces of Aceh, North Sumatra, and West Sumatra.

Apart from Tanjung Puting, orangutans can also be found at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, Malaysia. You can also spot them in Gunung Leuser National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia, or venture to Bukit Lawang for guided treks. Additionally, orangutans roam freely in Danum Valley Conservation Area in Sabah, Borneo, providing another opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to observe them in their natural habitat.

Article on the best places to see orangutans coming soon!


A trip to Tanjung Puting National Park begins inPangkalan Bun – a tiny town in central Kalimantan. With just a few hotels, Pangkalan Bun serves as a gateway to the park. You can get to Pangkalan Bun by flight from major Indonesian cities – Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bali – although flights are infrequent and carrier options are limited.

As most travel in Tanjung Puting National Park is through dense rainforest and along a river, transportation to and within Tanjung Puting National Park must typically be arranged by a tour operator.


Besides orangutans, you can also find wildlife like proboscis monkeys, gibbons, and birds like kingfishers and hornbills. The lush forest is also home to plant species, including dipterocarp trees, orchids, and pitcher plants.

Need advice for your orangutan tour in Indonesia? Drop your questions below.

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