how to visit semenggoh nature reserve

How to Visit the Semenggoh Orangutan Rehab Centre in Borneo

The Semenggoh Nature Reserve near Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo has been in existence for more than 20 years now.  Their mission is to rescue young orangutans who have been orphaned and train them to survive in the wild.  The Semenggoh Nature Reserve and Semenggoh Wildlife Center is one of three such rehab centers for orangutans in Malaysia.  It’s here that you can see these semi-wild orangutans in the natural forest environment.  One of the benefits of visiting Semenggoh is that it’s incredibly easy to get here from Kuching.  Here’s how to visit Semenggoh Nature Reserve and everything you need to know to explore the Semenggoh Wildlife Center.

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Where to stay in Kuching

Fortunately, Kuching is an affordable place to explore but has plenty of resorts for those who aim for luxury and comfort. Budget travelers can find hostels in Kuching, there is also no shortage of mid-range Kuching hotels, while luxury resorts in Kuching are also available.

If you are looking for accommodation in Kuching, here are our recommendations for Kuching hotels:

The Waterfront Hotel is an incredible place to stay in Kuching, it offers a great view of the Sarawak River. It’s also conveniently located near all must-see attractions in Kuching. The Waterfront hotel has a fitness center, an infinity pool with a view, and a sauna.  You can check rates and availability of Kuching’s Waterfront Hotel here.

The Kuching Hotel is a great choice for accommodation due to its value for money. The Waterfront is only a 5-minute walk from the hotel. Although the Kuching Hotel doesn’t have an on-site restaurant, outside its doors are various places to eat from a quick bite to fancy dining.  There are more reviews on the Kuching Hotel here.

The Meritin Hotel is conveniently located near a busy area offering various tourist activities. Even though the rooms are small, the beds are comfortable and the AC works great. There is basic furniture, the rooms are very clean, and the staff are super helpful. The hotel has its own restaurant which also offers a buffet.  This is a great location check it out here.

About Semenggoh Nature Reserve

The Semenggoh Nature Reserve was set up in 1975 with the plan to rescue orangutans who had been kept in captivity, orphaned, or injured.  The program at Semenggoh was set up to rehabilitate young orangutans, teach them to survive in the wild, and release them back into the wild.  The program has been successful in that most of those orangutans now spend the majority of their time in the forest, but they do often return to the center for the twice-daily feeding times.

We’re here, visiting Semenggoh, really because of Ritchie. We’ve been incredibly lucky with our Orangutan spotting here on Borneo, after seeing an orangutan in the wild on our trip to the Kinabatangan River, and then again at the Orang utan rehabilitation center in Sepilok.  And so we figured we’d have one last trip. This time we’re in Sarawak, home of the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre. The main work of this center has moved to the Matang Reserve, which backs onto the Kubah National Park, however, Semenggoh is still open and it’s also incredibly accessible from Kuching via public bus.

Ritchie was born in 1981 and he’s the current dominant male here at Semenggoh – and because of him, we’re taking a last look at Orangutans on Borneo.  There’s more on Ritchie later, but first, here’s how to get to Semenggoh.

seeing orangutan when visit Semenggoh

How to Visit Semenggoh and See Orangutan from Kuching

The Semenggoh Nature Reserve is located just 24 kilometers (15 miles) from Kuching, and visiting Semenggoh from Kuching is one of the best things to do in Kuching.  There are several ways to visit. If you are renting a car in Malaysia, so you can drive here easily, you can take a local bus or you can take the easiest option and take a tour to Semenggoh.  Most tours to Semenggoh last for half a day and are designed to coincide with the feeding time at the center.  There is a morning feeding time at Semenggoh and also an after session too. 

Visiting the Semenggoh Wildlife Center

Each visit to Semenggoh begins with a short briefing, explaining what will happen and where the feeding takes place, along with some rules, and then the rangers here begin the feeding session.  You can choose a morning feeding session at Semenggoh, or the afternoon feeding time.  There are also information boards with data about the orangutan and the work that has been done here over the years.

You can visit Semenggoh at any time during the day, but the best time to visit is during the specific feeding times as that is when you are most likely to see an orangutan.  There’s no guarantee that you’ll see orangutan, but it is highly likely.

There are times of the year, when, however, trees in the forest are fruiting and you might not see orangutans as their food supply is so abundant that they just don’t turn up.  (That’s good, it proves that they’re rehabbing successfully!).  If you travel between April and November you are very likely to see orangutans in Semenggoh.

How to Get to Semenggoh

The closest town to Semenggoh is Kuching, the capital of the state of Sarawak, and it’s from here that most people travel to Semenggoh, so if you’re planning to visit Semenggoh, then you should aim to stay in Kuching.  Our guide to Kuching (including where to stay) is here.

How to Go from Kuching to Semenggoh

To get to Semenggoh from Kuching, you can take a tour, drive, take a taxi  (or Grab), or take the local bus

Driving to Semenggoh from Kuching

If you are driving, then you can easily drive to Semenggoh from Kuching.  Additionally, if you take a taxi (or Grab) to Semenggoh from Kuching, then you’ll pay your fees at the entrance and continue driving down the road once you have passed the main gate to the Semenggoh Nature Reserve to the car park and headquarters.

A taxi will take about 30 minutes from Kuching to Semenggoh and should cost 40 RM each way.  If you get here using Grab, it’s likely to cost 20 – 20 RM each way.

Taking the Bus from Kuching to Semenggoh

The local bus is easy to take to Semenggoh from Kuching.  Take Bus number 6 – which costs 2RM and takes 45 minutes.  The first bus from Kuching leaves at 7:20 am, which gets you there in time for the reserve, which opens at 8 am.

The K6 (green) bus leaves from the bus stop on the corner of Jalan Masjid and Jalan Gertak, near the mosque.  This is NOT a bus station, just a road with buses parked on it, despite what the guidebooks may say.

visit Semenggoh bus tickets from kuching

If you need breakfast before you take the bus, then there are a few stalls set up where the bus leaves to pick up a snack.

The bus will drop you off right by the ticket office, and the bus to Semenggoh from Kuching takes about 45 minutes.  So if you want to go to the morning feeding session, you’ll need to be on the 7:20 am bus.  The morning feeding session is from 9 am until 10 am, and there is a return bus that leaves Semenggoh for Kuching at 11 am. 

After you’ve paid your entrance fees at the main gate, just walk down towards the headquarters area.  It will take about 20 minutes and there’s no need to rush.  It’s somewhat undulating but not unpleasant walk on a tarmac road. There are also a series of trails that you can follow off to the right and left, but it definitely feels a little unloved. At the headquarters area, there’s an information area, toilets, and a gift shop.  It’s here that you’ll get a briefing about what’s about to happen. 

The ticket office is right where the bus drops you off and tickets cost 10 RM each (it’s 5 RM for domestic tourists.)

visit Semenggoh arriving at Semenggoh

We took the bus, and having bought tickets, and walked down the road, we also had time to take a look around the small hut with information boards telling us the names and ages of the various Orangutans that come back for feeding here, and then we headed to the covered wooden platform for the mandatory briefing from the rangers.

Map of Bus Stop from Kuching to Semenggoh

map of how to get to semenggoh

You can also see the bus stop to Semenggoh on the map here.

When to Visit Semenggoh

You should aim to visit Semenggoh during one of the two feeding times, there is a morning feeding session and then an afternoon feeding session.  Feeding times are from 9-10 in the morning and from 3 until 4 in the afternoon.  The Semenggoh Nature Reserve is open every day.

visit Semenggoh orangutans at Semenggoh

Opening Times at Semenggoh

Semenggoh is open from 8 am until 11 am and from 2 pm until 4 pm.  Unlike the Orangutan Rehab Center in Sepilok, there’s little else to do here between feeding times, so plan to arrive just before the feeding

visit Semenggoh map of reserve

Feeding times at Semenggoh Orang utan Rehabilitation Center

Semenggoh feeding times are morning and afternoon.  The morning feeding time starts at 9 am, and the afternoon feeding time starts at 3 pm.  Orangutans tend to hang around for 30 to 60 minutes.

What to expect at Semenggoh

The main work of the Semenggoh orang utan rehabilitation center has moved to the Matang Reserve, which backs onto the Kubah National Park, however, Semenggoh is still open and it’s also incredibly accessible from Kuching via public bus.

Like the rehabilitation center at Sepilok, Sandakan Sabah, the center operates feeding times, to supplement the diet of rehabilitated Orangs. Here in Semmengoh, those times are 09:00 and 15:00. The center itself is open from 08:00 until 11:00 and from 14:00 until 16:00.

Before feeding happens there is a mandatory briefing, which for us, considering that they do this briefing every day it was poor. Full of waffle, repetitive and if he’d condensed it to 3 minutes rather than 15, it would have been more appropriate – somehow in lengthening the message he diluted it completely. And you’ll likely spend a lot of it wondering when you get to see the orangutan.  And they won’t tell you until the end which direction you’re going to.

visit Semenggoh briefing for morning feeding session

And so then our ranger says we need to head off to the left down a small track there is something of a stampede.

visit Semenggoh walking to the feeding platform

Of course, all the slower visitors are at the front and we trip over each other and tree roots for 10 minutes before arriving at another viewing platform, where we stand (vaguely quietly). I’m torn between hoping that the Orangs can’t find enough food and need to come here and hoping that they never need to come here again.

This is definitely much busier than even the morning feeding session at Sepilok but also feels more disorganized.

visit Semenggoh orangutan

We’ve been standing almost silent for 10 minutes when there’s a whisper that grows that Ritchie is back at the feeding platform that we left to come here.  If we want to see him we need to head back. The slow folks managed to get to the front again (how does that happen?) So we all trip over each other and the tree roots again and head back to the covered platform.  Here we’re held back by a rope and more disorganization.  Then we see several Orangutans head through the trees on ropes to the feeding platform.

Ritchie was born in 1981 and he’s the current dominant male here at Semenggoh – and because of him, we’re taking a last look at Orangutans on Borneo. (2022: He’s still there!)

Ritchie is lured by the rangers, along the ground. He’s HUGE.

visit Semenggoh ritche

Gigantic. I imagine he’s not in the trees because he’s too darned big for the trees, that they’d have buckled under his bulk. Oh, but I’m so glad we’re seeing him.

Although are we? Really seeing him, I mean.  His movements are so human. Part of me is convinced I’m watching a man in an Orang suit. Is he so human or are we so ape?

visit Semenggoh seeing ritchie

Ritchie was 34 years old in 2015. Even if we were to have Borneo on our agenda in the future (we don’t, there’s the rest of the world to see first), it’s unlikely we’ll get back in the rest of his lifetime. I’m seriously glad we got to see him, it’s a privilege, despite all the loud clicking cameras and exclamations from a crowd who seem to have forgotten to shut up now Ritchie is here.

It’s been a pleasure to share one of our last wild moments in Borneo with the king of this area.

The orangutans drift off when they’ve had enough to eat, and if you’re here independently, you’ll just want to head back to your car, or the bus stop and head back to Kuching.

Semenggoh Entry Fees

The cost to enter Semenggoh is 10 RM for foreign adults and 5 RM for domestic adult visitors.  Children aged between 6 and 17 cost 5 RM (foreigners) and 2 RM (Malaysians).  Children under the age of 6 get in for free.

Where Else to see Orangutans in Malaysia

You can also see Orangutan in Matang, just a little further from Kuching.  If you are also visiting the state of Sabah, then head to either the Kinabatangan River area (it’s truly amazing, and our guide is here and you may get to see Orangutans in the wild).  There’s also an Orangutan Rescue center in Sepilok – which I wrote about here and it’s one of the top things to do in Sandakan, which is the nearest town to the center.  If you were to visit just one rehab center to see Orangutans here in Borneo, I’d go to Sepilok rather than Semenggoh, there are fewer people, and despite first appearances, it’s definitely less touristy.

If you’re staying in Kuching, then you should try and also visit Bako National Park, which is a super day out from Kuching.

Malaysia Travel Tips

Final Words on Visiting Semenggoh from Kuching

If you’ve come to Kuching, then the chances are that visiting Semenggoh is high on your list of things to do.  And it’s well worth it.  We came here, to Semenggoh specifically to see Ritchie and we’re seriously glad that we did.  Whether you choose to visit Semenggoh on a tour, drive or take the local bus here, it’s a super experience and one that you should miss.

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