One of the main attractions for me in Borneo was the diverse wildlife it has to offer, including pygmy elephants, sun bears and orangutans., so it made sense that The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was one of my first stops. I was staying in Sandakan so at 9am, I took a bus to Sepilok for 6RM. The bus dropped me off right outside the centre.
I paid for my entrance which cost 30RM plus 10RM to take a camera. Lockers are provided free of charge at the entrance because visitors are not permitted to take any bags or food into the centre. This is because the orangutans are more than capable of stealing from people. Inside the information centre, there’s a number of photos of orangutans with cameras, water bottles and other items stolen from tourists.
Food is placed on the feeding platform twice daily, at 10am and 3pm. By the time I’d purchased a ticket and put my belongings in a locker, it was almost 10am. I made my way to the viewing platform to hopefully see some orangutans. I was surprised to see the viewing platform completely packed with people. 10am came and one of the staff climbed onto the feeding station holding a basket of fruit. Once he’d placed the fruit onto the platform, an orangutan appeared from behind a tree and helped himself to the fruit. He sat and ate, apparently unfazed by all of the tourists gawping at him.
Once he’d finished, he swung off into the trees away from all of the tourists. At that point, I headed over to the Outdoor Nursery to watch the younger orangutans being fed. The Outdoor Nursery is where young orangutans go once they’re old enough to start learning the skills to live in the wild. Orangutans are free to come and go from this area as they please but the younger, less experienced ones tend to stay in this area until they’re old enough to fend for themselves. Here we got to see a couple of young orangutans eating and playing. It seemed like the volunteers were trying to encourage them to eat from separate platforms but one orangutan in particular, was not happy about this. Once they’d finished eating, they went around the side of the building, presumably to their sleeping quarters.
I tried out the bird trail which was an easy walk through the rainforest but wasn’t lucky enough to see any birds. I headed back to the cafeteria at the main entrance for lunch. When I approached the entrance of the cafe, my friend was pointing at something by the door – an orangutan was opening the door to the cafe! He went inside before us and helped himself to a customers chips, before being shooed away by a member of staff. He looked so pleased with himself for stealing some chips.
At around 1pm, I headed to the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre which is across the road from the Orangutan Centre. It cost 18RM to enter. In the entrance is a video about the work that the centre does and why sun bears end up there. Apparently one of the reasons is because people think they’re cute (they are) and take cubs from their mothers to keep as pets. Fully grown bears are difficult to control so they end up being kept in small cages.
To see the bears, there’s a walkway around the centre and there are a couple of members of staff who will point the bears out to tourists. Looking for bears requires a bit of patience, especially as most seemed to be sleeping at the time I was there. I did manage to see a few, including a large one who kept growling at any approaching bears.
I headed back to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to watch the second feeding of the day. This time was much quieter than the morning feeding, with perhaps only a quarter of the tourists. For this feeding, I was lucky enough to see a mother and baby orangutan. The baby was showing off to the tourists by swinging on the ropes whilst the mother enjoyed some food.
I really enjoyed seeing these animals in their semi-wild habitats. The staff and volunteers do a great job rehabilitating these animals back into the wild. It’s a shame that centres like this have to exist because these creatures are mistreated.
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