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Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Cost:

RM 30.00 adult entrance fee

RM 15.00 child entrance free

RM 10.00 camera fee

Getting there:

Taxi – From Sandakan a taxi can be arraigned for relatively cheap. However, it’s often easier to settle on a driver for a full day, which can include stops at other attractions including Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, the Sandakan Water, Village and the Sandakan Memorial Park.

Bus – From Sandakan catch the Batu 14 from the station located in front of the Nak Hotel. Remain on the bus for the entire length of its route as Batu 14 ends its route at Sepilok.

From Kota Kinabalu – if you’re bound to see the center all the way from Kota Kinabalu you’ll need to arrange a short 45 minute flight to Sandakan ahead of time. You can then purchase a taxi ticket at the airport for transfer to the rehabilitation centre. Or, if you have ample time or are planning an overnight stay in Sandakan, buses can be caught at the main bus terminal outside of Kota Kinabalu. It’s an approximate 5 hour bus ride. To reach Sepilok get off the bus at the Jalan Sepilok junction, and walk 2.5 kilometers to the centre’s entrance.

The Experience:

The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre sits nearly 23 kilometers outside of the supposedly eco-friendly city of Sandakan on Malaysia’s great Borneo island. Amid towering jungle trees and lush, green overgrowth the matted, burnt orange hair of the Borneo orangutan can be spotted as they gracefully swing from tree to tree. Although extremely shy and generally elusive, the absolute best way to see Sepilok’s ‘men of the forest’ is ensure you’re visit coincides with one of two feeding times: 10am and 3pm.

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It’s best to arrive at least 30 minutes prior as you will be able to watch a brief video presentation on Sepilok’s mission and its orangutans, as well as check in all your belongings (they’re not allowed inside the park) and secure your spot at the front of the gathering crowds along the feeding platform. The leafy, green trees rattle and shake as dozens of macaques excitedly move toward the platform and their larger more graceful counterparts wait patiently out of sight. It’s only moments, though, before one of Sepilok’s dedicated works climbs the platform delivering an array of fruits and milk for the Orangutan’s feast. The cheeky little macaques most likely will reach the platform first as the powerful and graceful orangutan’s take their time swinging along ropes toward their breakfast. There is no telling how many orangutan’s will come to feast. It may be one a few or a handful, but one thing is sure – they will come. Many don’t linger long and instead grab their food to good as they slink back into the thick trees reaching toward the sky. But some may stay as they happily munch on their buffet.

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While watching the feeding is your best chance to see the Orangutans, it’s not a must. A network of trails winds its way through Sepilok’s reserve and gives visitors the chance to see wild orangutans and other wildlife. The park also offers a night walk and the chance to see nocturnal creatures crawling about. The walks are vary simple and don’t involve steep grades, but vary in length from 250 meters to 5 kilometers.

It’s a wonderful way to see only a portion of Kabili-Sepilok forest’s 4,294 hectares and get to know the forest’s creatures along with the often curious orangutans. It’s Sepilok’s mission to return orphaned or injured orangutans back into the wild. As soon as an orangutan is brought to the center their health is evaluated and they’re placed within quarantine to ensure no disease will be transmitted. Younger orphaned orangutans are taught necessary skills like how to climb, find food or build nests – skills they would at one time have learned from their mother. When they’re up to par, they’re moved to an outdoor nursery with increase freedoms and less human interaction. Rehabilitation specialists tout most animals ability to gain total independence before they’re admitted back into Sepilok’s wild orangutan population.

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Sepilok was founded in 1964 to rescue baby orangutans from logging sites, plantations and to save them from illegal hunting, and has successful rehabilitated a number of orangutans, although some of the creatures grow too fond of human interaction and are unable to be released back into the wild.

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A visit to Sepilok is well worth the time if you’re in the area, and prove to be an integral part of rehabilitating and restoring Borneo’s dwindling Orangutan population.

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