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Bornean Orangutans, Tanjung Puting National Park

Bornean orangutans are one of three species of orangutans (and distinct from their cousins Sumatran orangutans). These exceptionally photogenic primates are known for their distinctive reddish-brown hair. Bornean orangutans are critically endangered primarily because of habitat loss. There are several places in Borneo where you can photograph these remarkable animals, but one of the best is Tanjung Puting National Park.

Photographing Bornean orangutans

Where: Tanjung Puting is located in the island of Borneo in the province of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The nearest major city is Pangkalan Bun. You can reach Pangkalan Bun by air or boat from Jakarta or other major Indonesian cities. From Pangkalan Bun, you'll need transportation to Kumai, the gateway to the park. Once you arrive in Kumai, you'll embark on a klotok, a traditional wooden riverboat, to explore the park's waterways, where you'll have opportunities to spot orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and other wildlife. There are various options for accommodation in and around the park, ranging from lodges to houseboats. Many accommodations offer guided tours and transportation services.

Photographing Bornean orangutans

When: Tanjung Puting National Park is open year-round. The dry season, typically from May to October, is often considered the best time to visit, as there is less rainfall and better accessibility.

Photographing Bornean orangutans

Photography: While cruising the river, you can often spot orangutans in their natural environment, but the easiest way to photograph orangutans is at one of the several feeding stations in the park where visitors can observe these incredible primates up close. Feeding times are typically in the morning and afternoon, giving you at least two opportunities each day to photograph orangutans. Park staff places piles of bananas on wooden platforms where the orangutans come down from the trees to eat. The photography isn't particularly good when the orangutans are on the platform, but you'll have excellent opportunities when the orangutans are in the nearby trees before or after feeding. While on the platform, you can zoom in tight for portraits, excluding the wooden platform itself. Wait for a moment when your subject doesn't have bananas stuffed in its mouth, as this is not natural behavior.

Photographing Bornean orangutans

Park regulations require you to maintain a distance of at least 7 meters (23 feet) to avoid causing orangutans stress or disturbance. This makes a telephoto zoom lens ideal; something in the 100-400mm range will prove to be most useful when photographing orangutans as they swing through trees, forage for food, or interact with each other.

Female and infant orangutans are incredible subjects, but the big adult males are uniquely photogenic. Adult male Bornean orangutans can weigh up to 200 pounds and stand 5 feet tall. Males also develop prominent cheek pads and throat pouches as they mature, making them distinctive photo subjects.

Photographing Bornean orangutans

Remember that Tanjung Puting National Park is a protected area, and your visit should prioritize the conservation and welfare of the orangutans and their habitat.

Equipment notes: I used Tamron's 50-400mm lens on my Sony camera for my orangutan images. This lens allowed me to quickly zoom in and out to perfectly frame my subjects when they were both near and farther away. My fast Delkin Devices Black SD card ensured quick, reliable capture.

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Jul 05, 2023

Wonderful photos. Curious which Sony model camera you paired with the Tamron lens?

Ian Plant
Ian Plant
Jul 05, 2023
Replying to

Thanks! I am currently using a Sony a7R IV, although I might soon be upgrading to the mark V

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