One of the highlights of our visit to Malaysian Borneo was the 4300-hectare Sepilok Orang Oetan Rehabilitation Centre. This nature reserve, 23 kilometres from Sandakan, was built in the 1960s to rehabilitate displaced orangutans. After this they can be returned to the wild. Many of the orangutans who stay in the centre are here because their own habitat lost ground to tin mining and illegal logging. The ‘man of the forest’ is a protected but unfortunately also endangered species. In the reserve he learns to survive again in the Malaysian jungle.
A boardwalk takes you to the observation and feeding platform. There you can admire the great apes from close up, especially around feeding time at 10 am and 3 pm. They get milk and bananas, which also attract long-tailed macaques. We went into the park at other times too because it is quieter then. You run the risk that you will not see orangutans at all. Of course, it is even more impressive when you encounter an orangutan in its ‘real’ habitat, but for us the visit to the rehabilitation centre was very special. Maybe also because only then you realise how important the work of the volunteers there is, and how bad it is that the centre is needed at all.
Practical information for your visit to Sepilok
The park is open from 8 am to 5 pm. If you have booked a tour through a travel agent you will be dropped off right at the door. Otherwise you can take the bus or taxi from Sandakan, where you will find the best-priced accommodation. The bus, clearly the cheapest option, stops about one and a half kilometres from the park so you still have to walk a bit. A great alternative is to stay in one of the eco-resorts in the immediate vicinity. We stayed there in the really nice, middle-class Sepilok Nature Resort. A more luxurious option is the Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat.