Saving Orangutans

The Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, at Bukit Lawang on the island of Sumatra, was founded in 1973 by two Swiss women with the aim of returning captive and orphaned orangutans back into the wild.

The apes have become extremely popular as pets in South East Asia, particularly in Singapore, where a baby orangutan can fetch up to US$40,000. During rehabilitation, the orangutans spend time at the quarantine station – a large cage – in which they are retaught the basics of being a wild orangutan, such as tree climbing and nest building. Up the hill is the feeding station, where orangutans that are closer to rehabilitation come twice a day for bananas and milk.

Try to go to both feeding sessions – it’s amazing to watch the apes up-close, feeding and swinging through the jungle with their babies.

If you’re looking for a bit of action, lots of travellers head up-stream from the rehabilitation centre and float down the river in inner tubes. It looks relaxing and peaceful but where the water is faster, it becomes quite exhilarating. Be careful – it’s easy to whack yourself against the stones and Bukit Lawang’s medical facilities certainly aren’t the best in Indonesia.