SANDAKAN, The Nature City of Malaysia: Land of Diversity and Conservation Part III

Sandakan sabah

After spending some time at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, you really must visit Sepilok – Sandakan’s world famous ‘Tri-Conservation Centre’ (as I like to call it) at Mile 14 where there are the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Borneon Sun Bear Conservation Centre and The Rainforest Discovery Centre.

But make sure you set aside at least half day in Sepilok and wear comfortable walking shoes – there will be lots of walking involved and the path can be rather slippery after the rain.

Now, who hasn’t heard of the cute and endearing orangutans? 

With their expressive eyes and child-like gestures, you can’t help but feel like instantly hugging them.  Though you can see orangutans in the zoo, orangutan natural habitats can only be found in the islands of Sumatra and Borneo – and among them is Sepilok.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

The world renowned Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre or the Orangutan Sanctuary is located in the middle of a beautiful virgin rainforest, about 25 km from Sandakan town and covers an area of about 43 sq km.

Its conservation program began in 1964 to help and rehabilitate orangutan orphans which have been separated from their mothers, injured, or formerly in captivity (usually kept as pets) so that they can fend for themselves in the wild.  It’s a place that helps the orangutan when they need help such as medical attention, food, etc.

Note the word ‘Rehabilitation’ – it’s not a zoo

So, be prepared for orangutan ‘no show’.  It is said that if no orangutan appear, we can assume that they are doing well, with food aplenty, in the forest.


However, most of the time, visitors do get to see an orang-utan or two at the Platform, swinging from one huge tree to another, and climbing up the trees to sit on the nests.

The best times to visit the orangutans are at 10am and 2.30pm when the primates emerge from the forest for their daily ration of bananas and milk.  Sometimes, they are also served with corn and sugar cane.  The boring menu is intended to motivate them to try out other fruits in the forest and consequently learn to be independent.

Aside from the orangutans, monkeys and squirrels could also drop by to crash in the feast.

Orang Utan Feeding times

orangutan sepilok

Unlike years before, visitors are no longer allowed direct contact with the orangutan to protect the orangutan from diseases or infections.  Furthermore, there are cases of naughty orangutans snatching visitors’ handbags, cameras, etc.

Therefore, visitors are required to store their handbags in the lockers provided at the centre.


Here’s a funny video of them:

There are other activities beside watching the playful orangutans to keep you occupied in the Orangutan Sanctuary such as:

Watch videos at these times:

watch video

Walk the trails:


If you wish to know more, Orangutan Appeal UK has lots of info about orang utans and the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre.

Borneon Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)

When you are ready to move away from the Orangutan Sanctuary, do drop by its closest neighbour – the Borneon Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), a haven that provides for the care, rehabilitation and release (back into the wild) of orphaned and ex-captive sun bears; provides an improved long-term living environment for captive sun bears that cannot be released; as well as educate the public by raising awareness about the sun bears both in Malaysia and internationally.

Sun bear is so named probably because of the white yellowish crescent mark on its chest which many say looks like the rising or setting sun.  They are merely between 3.5 – 4.5 feet in height, making them the smallest of the world’s 8 bear species – about half the size of the American black bear.  Simply cute!

Do visit the excellent Borneon Sun Bear Conservation Centre website to learn more about the centre’s efforts at protecting this cute and endangered species.

There are also info about the entrance fees, maps, guidelines, etc, here: BSBCC and also has lots of info and photos about this centre.

Rainforest Discovery Centre at Sepilok

Next, you should also visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre at Sepilok and experience the Canopy Walkway in Rainforest Recovery Centre (if you don’t have a fear of heights).  Climb 28 metres above the forest floor to the sturdy 147 metre steel canopy walk and stroll on the Rainforest discovery trail.   Breathe deeply and take in the clean air.

The Rainforest Discovery Centre at Sepilok is an environment education centre managed by the Sabah Forestry Department.  The entrance fees for Malaysians are RM7 (Adults) and RM3 (Children from 5-17 years old).  The entrance fees for Non-Malaysians are RM15 (Adults) and RM7 (Children from 5-17 years old).  Children below 5 years old get free entrance.  For more info, please visit

So, as you can see, Sandakan is not only huge in terms of its land area which covers almost 40% of Sabah (see my post here: SANDAKAN, The Nature City of Malaysia: Land of Diversity and Conservation), it is also a huge nature conservation area and there are still more to explore – so watch out for my next posts! 😀

– SANDAKAN, The Nature City of Malaysia: Land of Diversity and Conservation Part III

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