If you want to see orangutans in Borneo, one of the very best places to do it is at the Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesia.
The jungle at Tanjung Puting is home to hundreds of Borneo’s animal species, including some rare and endemic ones, and you get to see all of this while staying on a ‘klotok’ houseboat as it winds along the Sekonyer river.
We spent 3 days and 2 nights at Tanjung Puting and it was amazing. It’s not one of the cheapest places to visit in Indonesia, but the whole experience is really unique and special.
This travel guide will explain how to get to Tanjung Puting and see the orangutans, which boat tour company to use, and everything else you need to know before you go!
How To Get To Tanjung Puting National Park
Tanjung Puting is located on Borneo island, in the Central Kalimantan province of Indonesia, and if you look at it on a map it’s actually on the southern tip of the island.
The nearest town and airport is Pangkalan Bun (PKN), and there are direct flights every day from Jakarta, Surabaya, and Semarang. If you’re coming to Tanjung Puting from Bali, then you’ll have to transit in one of those airports on the way to Pangkalan Bun. You can shop for flights on Skyscanner.
Once you arrive in Pangkalan Bun, it’s easy to get a taxi to a hotel in town, or depending on your arrival time, you can usually go directly to the harbor and start your tour of Tanjung Puting National Park.
Most tour companies will pick you up for free from town or the airport, and then bring you to the harbor in Kumai where your boat will be waiting. From there, you can reach the entrance of the Sekonyer river and the national park in less than an hour!
River Boat Cruise: What To Expect
Tanjung Puting is normally accessed by boat via the Sekonyer river, and this is done with a liveaboard boat called a ‘klotok,’ which usually has a crew of at least 4 people: a boat captain, a deckhand, a tour guide, and a cook.
Besides enjoying the wonderful views from the boat, you’ll also make several stops to get off the boat and go see animals in the jungle, which involves a bit of short, flat trekking.
The boat has plenty of space, with a reasonably comfy bed and bathroom. There’s a flush toilet and shower, although the facilities are pretty basic. Think of it kind of like glamping. It’s not luxury, but it’s comfortable enough.
Meals are provided every day on the boat, and the food in our experience was great, including tempeh, omelets, toast, pancakes, fish, chicken, rice, and all kinds of fruit and veggies. Everything we ate was fresh and good.
You’ll be hot and sweaty during the day, but at night the temperatures drop a bit and it’s easy to cool off with a cold shower. Electricity is by solar generator in the evenings, so we were able to charge our phones and other electronics.
The boats have good rain covers so you don’t have to worry about getting wet. We experienced a massive storm and downpour on our first night in the park, but everything in the boat stayed dry.
Tours at Tanjung Puting typically last 2 or 3 days, but you can also visit on a 1 day trip with a speedboat if you’re in a hurry.
• Day 1: Tanjung Harapan
After about 2 hours of traveling along the river by klotok boat, the first place you’ll stop and visit in the national park is a camp called Tanjung Harapan.
This used to be a rehab center for orphaned and rescued orangutans, but now it’s just a feeding station where they help the animals get supplemental food (mainly fruit) so they can thrive and stay healthy.
When we landed at Tanjung Harapan, it was still early since the feeding time is at 3 PM, so we walked around near the camp a little bit and spotted our first orangutan, an adult female climbing in the trees.
At feeding time, we saw almost a dozen orangutans, including several juveniles, one baby, and a big adult male.
When we went back to the boat, we were also lucky to spot a bunch of proboscis monkeys across the river, staring at us from the treetops.
• Day 1: Night Trekking
At the end of your first day in Tanjung Puting, you normally have the option to do night trekking to see animals, plants, and bugs in the jungle near Tanjung Harapan.
In just an hour of flat and easy trekking, we saw a tarantula, pit viper, tree frogs, kingfishers, tokays, glow in the dark mushrooms, and lots of other interesting things.
The night trek is optional with most tours, but I’d highly recommend doing it if you have the energy!
• Day 2: Pondok Tanggui
For our second day in Tanjung Puting, we woke up at 7 AM and drove the boat another 1.5 hours to get to Pondok Tanggui. Along the way, we saw some wildlife in the trees, including proboscis monkeys, a crested serpent eagle, and a black-and-red broadbill.
We got to the camp just before feeding time, which starts at 9 AM. This time, we saw even more orangutans, including one very big and photogenic male orangutan who came at the end of the feeding time.
It was a good reminder to stay and wait a little bit, because sometimes the best animal sightings happen after the tourists have already started to leave.
• Day 2: Camp Leakey
After we left Pondok Tanggui, the boat ride took approximately 2 hours to get to our next stop, which was Camp Leakey. The feeding time there is at 2 PM.
The river at this point turns black because of chemicals from the plants, and the surface of the water is like a mirror reflecting the swamp. It looks spooky and beautiful.
We saw even more proboscis monkeys, and several macaques similar to the ones you might see in Bali. We also spotted a monitor lizard and a crocodile swimming around, although they disappeared before we could take any photos.
At Camp Leakey, we saw another dozen orangutans, but the highlight this time was seeing several mothers carrying babies. The lighting and photo ops at this camp seem to be the best since the jungle isn’t quite as dense and dark as the first two camps.
After taking hundreds of orangutan photos, we went back to the boat and started the return journey to Kumai and Pangkalan Bun, stopping several times along the way to see more animals on the riverbanks. We spotted lots of kingfisher birds and proboscis monkeys, including a mother with a baby.
We drove most of the way back and then spent the night near the entrance to the Sekonyer river, where there were lots of fireflies flickering in the palm trees. It looked kind of like a blinking Christmas tree.
• Day 3: Return To Pangkalan Bun
On day 3, we enjoyed breakfast and a sunrise on the river before traveling approximately 1 hour back to the Kumai port, where we also had the option to visit a traditional Dayak longhouse near Pangkalan Bun.
This concluded our tour. Tanjung Puting was a wonderful trip filled with many memories! We wouldn’t change anything about our visit.
Wildlife At Tanjung Puting National Park
There are hundreds of animal species at Tanjung Puting, and you have a great chance of seeing many of them when you visit.
On our 3D2N cruise at Tanjung Puting, the main animals we saw were orangutans, proboscis monkeys, macaques, kingfishers, and hornbills, plus a crocodile and monitor lizard. We also saw all kinds of bugs, frogs, and reptiles when we did the night trekking.
If you’re lucky, it’s possible to see clouded leopards, gibbons, leaf monkeys, tarsiers, wild pigs, gharials, flying foxes, Sunda leopard cats, Asian sun bears, and many other things, although your best chance of seeing these would be to do a longer trip where you can go further inland.
The national park covers 4,150 square kilometers (1,600 mi²) so obviously you can’t see everything in a short trip, but you can see some of the best highlights.
Orangutans At Tanjung Puting National Park
Of course, the star attraction at Tanjung Puting would have to be the Bornean Orangutans. You’re practically guaranteed to see orangutans here, and we saw almost a dozen orangutans every day we spent in the park.
Tanjung Puting has the largest wild orangutan population in the world, with 30,000 to 40,000 of them living in its jungles.
The orangutans you’ll see at the feeding stations are semi-wild since they’re accustomed to seeing humans, but I wouldn’t say it’s a zoo-like experience at all. We encountered several orangutans far from the feeding areas.
You can see the orangutans climbing high into the tree tops, carrying their babies, and going about their daily lives, so there are plenty of opportunities to see them in a natural setting.
Is Tanjung Puting Worth It?
There’s no denying this place is expensive by Indonesian standards. You’re looking at around 11 million Rupiah ($700 USD) for an all-inclusive 3 day, 2 night private cruise for two people. It’s hard to find a tour any cheaper than that.
Part of the reason it’s expensive is because you’re using a big boat staffed by at least 4 people, and you’re traveling up and down the river for days while burning petrol. Then you have all the meals, national park fees, and other costs involved in the trip, so everything adds up.
Is Tanjung Puting worth it? Yes, I think so, but if you’re on a smaller budget I would do Bukit Lawang in Sumatra first. It’s cheaper and you can see much of the same wildlife, including the orangutans, gibbons, leaf monkeys, etc. There’s also more to do in the Gunung Leuser area.
The main advantage of Tanjung Puting over Bukit Lawang is the river boat experience, which I must say is phenomenal. It’s a very unique and enjoyable way to see the jungle! Going to sleep at night with the bugs singing, watching the fireflies and the sunset over the river, and all of these other little details were special.
I loved sitting on the front of the boat with my camera, watching for wildlife all day as we churned through the river. There were tons of photo ops. It was loads of fun, and I can’t say I’ve ever done anything quite like it.
Best Tanjung Puting Boat Tour
Our top tour recommendation for Tanjung Puting would be Viator. They have high-rated 3 day and 4 day tours of Tanjung Puting, and they also have shared tours for solo travelers or honeymoon tours for couples.
Obviously these tours are pricey by Indonesian standards, but they’re comparable to the rates we saw on the ground. Tanjung Puting isn’t cheap. This 3 day tour is actually a better price than what we paid when we made a direct booking in Pangkalan Bun.
We’ve used Viator for lots of tours and activities around the world, and they’re great. Highly recommended!
Book Now: Tanjung Puting Boat Tour
Can You Visit Tanjung Puting Without A Tour?
Since Tanjung Puting is accessed by the river, a boat tour is required. Generally that means doing a private tour unless you can find other travelers to share a boat, which isn’t always easy.
We tried to find an open boat to share with other travelers when we went to Tanjung Puting, but didn’t have any success, even though my wife is Indonesian and we asked lots of locals near the harbor. This was on a weekday in the low season, so your experience may be different.
You could probably find a shared boat if you go on a weekend in the high season (especially July and August), but there aren’t any guarantees. This is one place where your options are pretty limited.
For that reason, I think it’s best to book a tour in advance rather than going to the harbor and trying your luck.
Other Tips For Tanjung Puting
- Cell Service: We had good 3G/4G signal with Telkomsel until we reached Tanjung Harapan, where we camped for the first night. We lost reception completely on the second day as we drive to Pondok Tanggui and Camp Leakey, and didn’t have it again until the third day, when we passed Tanjung Harapan again on the way back to town.
- Crocodiles: Do not swim in the Sekonyer river under any circumstances! There are crocodiles here and they’ve killed people in the past when they decided to take a dip. Even if you can’t see them, they’re lurking under the surface.
- Drones: The park doesn’t allow drones at the camps or anywhere near the orangutans, which is good. However, you can fly a drone from your boat when you’re cruising on the river. I coordinated this with my boat driver and was able to get some neat pictures of the river from above.
- Mosquitoes: Since this is a jungle, naturally there are plenty of mosquitoes. While riding on the boat, there’s a nice breeze so they can’t bother you. However, when you get off the boat for trekking you’ll always want to spray yourself with repellant. Long sleeves could be a good idea too. Every boat company will provide a mosquito net to protect you while you’re sleeping at night. Double check and make sure. I wouldn’t go to Tanjung Puting overnight without a mosquito net.
- Malaria: According to this Lancet study from 2018, Malaria has been eliminated from Tanjung Puting and this whole area of Kalimantan, which is great news. Even so, I would still err on the side of caution and protect yourself from bites.
Other Tips For Pangkalan Bun
- Cash: You can use your credit card to pay for your flights, hotels, and boat cruise, which should cover almost all of your expenses for Tanjung Puting. For anything else in town, cash is king.
- Hotels: If you need a place to stay before or after your visit to Tanjung Puting, there are plenty of comfortable hotels in Pangkalan Bun. Some good options are Arsela, Brits, Grand Kecubung, and Mercure Hotel. For budget travelers, there’s Mimi Guest House and others.
- Restaurants: There are plenty of places to eat in the town of Pangkalan Bun. We ate several times at Ayam Bakar Wong Solo and they can deliver food to your hotel if you WhatsApp them. There’s even a KFC and Pizza Hut in town if you’re craving western food.
How Long To Stay At Tanjung Puting National Park
We stayed at Tanjung Puting for 3 days and 2 nights, and I thought that was perfect. Anything less than 3 days wouldn’t be enough, in my opinion, and a day trip is definitely too short.
Most people probably won’t need more than 3 days at Tanjung Puting, although I’m sure a longer trip like 5 to 7 days would be a lot of fun if you have the budget and don’t mind living on a boat for that long.
After awhile, you do start to miss the luxuries of modern living.
When To Visit Tanjung Puting National Park
The best time to visit Tanjung Puting depends on what you’re looking for.
During the dry season, from May to August, the weather is more sunny and temperatures are milder and cooler. This is the best weather for visiting Tanjung Puting since you’re less likely to get rained on, but it’s also the high season, so the park can be a lot more crowded with boats and tourists.
During the rainy season, especially from November to April, the weather during the day can be hot and humid at 90-95 °F (32-35 °C). There’s a lot more rain in these months, but the park is also much less crowded, and the rain is mostly at night.
We visited Tanjung Puting during the rainy season (late November) and had a great trip. There was some rain on the first day, and a huge downpour at night, but we were able to stay dry in the boat.
More Indonesia Travel Tips
Thanks for looking! I hope you enjoyed this travel guide for visiting Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesia. We really enjoyed seeing the orangutans there.
Don’t forget to check out my complete guide for the best places to visit in Indonesia!