If you come to Borneo to see wild Orangutans do not be disappointed if you don’t see one. Unfortunately the deforestation that has been taking place in Borneo for many years has resulted in a great reduction of wildlife, including the Island’s famous inhabitant. During my stay I only saw one, far away in the distance (some 200-300 meters into the jungle). I would have missed it if it wasn’t for other people’s great eyesight! Luckily I had my ultra-zoom lens so I could take decent pics of distant animals even though I could not see them properly…
If you are indeed unlucky in seeing Orangutans in the wild, there is hope and it might be equally exciting! Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre located in Sandakan offers a great opportunity to see those amazing mammals close-up. There is little to no fencing in Sepilok so you can almost touch them (but don’t actually do that!) if they do decide to come down from the trees (and they often do).
The Centre is now a popular tourist attraction and offers all amenities including a place to eat and drink (although it was fairly busy). The opening hours are very limited so make sure you plan your visit well.
Much of the area of the centre is covered by virgin rainforest with super tall trees. I haven’t seen any monkeys climbing the really tall ones though.
The centre isn’t home just to Orangutans. There is other species that call it home, too. But perhaps they are less friendly and you better stay alert. After all you are a guest to their home…
The walkway around the centre is not long at all and there is a fairly huge area where visitors have no access to. Oragnutans can stay out of human reach if they want to as the centre has been built for them, not us. It’s not a zoo after all. To make sure you do see them it’s best to come around feeding time. Food is placed on a platform which attracts all hungry ones.
Wicked looks! Obviously he/she(?) does not like being looked at when eating!
A new part of the centre was opened couple of years ago for public. You can see cute little orangutans making their first steps in the outside.
Some are so scared they do not want to let go of their human guardians… awwww….
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is not a destination where you can spend hours upon hours. It’s a great place to visit and and support the cause, but there is a second attraction next door worth a visit too. Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is literally across the road and offers a great opportunity to see and get to know these funny little bears in person.
The centre was only opened in 2004 but was a much needed venture considering the bad situation of the animals in captivity. The conservation centre, much like Sepilok, is not a zoo and is not intended mainly for tourist (although the income from visitors is much needed). The main goal of the centre is to improve the well being of animals with the intention of release to the wild.
Once you finished If your onward destination is Sandakan, then there is a local bus offering quick transfers to the city on a themed bus. The ride is quite something as you travel to the rhythm of some great music from the 80’s The bus driver is clearly a fan of Liverpool FC! So far away from home and yet so close 🙂
Unfortunately I did not get to see Sandakan, as I arrived late and left early in the morning. So, again, another reason to come back? 🙂