After spending some time at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, I went to Sepilok – Sandakan’s world-famous ‘Tri-Conservation Centre’ (as I like to call it) where the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Borneon Sun Bear Conservation Centre and the Rainforest Discovery Centre are located.
A visit to the 3 conservation centres involves long, wonderful walks. Sandakan being an adventure territory, visitors can expect treading on various types of surfaces. So, best to come prepared with comfortable walking shoes. I nearly slipped at Sepilok. Therefore, a dependable pair that can grip all surfaces, wet and dry, stone or wood, etc., is a must.
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 the work-renowned Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre which lies on the edge of Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve. Also within the Forest Reserve is the Borneon Sun Bear Conservation Centre and the Rainforest Discovery Centre.
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
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 also a place that helps the orangutans 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’, which is quite often. It is said that if no orangutan appears, we can assume that they are doing well, with food aplenty, in the forest.
Nonetheless, most of the time, visitors are not disappointed. They do get to see an orangutan or two at the Platform, swinging from one huge tree to another, and climbing up the trees to sit on the nests.
Visiting Hours and Entrance Fees
The best time to visit is at 10 am and 3 pm. That’s 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 explore 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 on the feast.
To ensure you get to enjoy a leisurely walk to the Feeding Platform, plan to arrive 30 minutes earlier.
Unlike years before, visitors are no longer allowed direct contact with the orangutan. This is 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.
There are other activities beside watching the playful orangutans to keep you occupied in the Orangutan Sanctuary such as:
Watch videos at these times:
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).
BSBCC is 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;
- 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 endearing and endangered species.
There are also info about the entrance fees, maps, guidelines, etc.
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 That is, 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 www.forest.sabah.gov.my.
So, as you can see, Sandakan is not only huge in terms of its massive land area (which covers almost 40% of Sabah), it also dedicates a huge area for nature conservation and there are still more to explore – so watch out for my next posts! 😀
What else does the amazing Sandakan has to offer? Here are some more for you to ponder: