Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, Sabah, Borneo

Sepilok Forest Edge Resort

Sandakan still wasn’t in the jungle, so we decided to move to Sepilok Forest Edge Resort, near the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.  We paid quite a bit more ($35?) for a nice bungalow, but now we could actually see the jungle from our balcony.  We checked out of Hotel London in the morning and took a half an hour taxi ride to Sepilok.  The taxi driver was nice and waited while we dropped off our stuff and then drove us a bit more down the main road to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, so we wouldn’t miss the 10am feeding time.

Bungalow at Sepilok Forest Edge Resort
Bungalow at Sepilok Forest Edge Resort
Sepilok Forest Edge Resort
Sepilok Forest Edge Resort

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation center takes in injured, abandoned, or captive Orangutans and provides care and medical treatment until they are ready to be released into the semi-wild habitat.  It’s kind of like the Discovery TV show Orang Utan Island, for anyone who has watched that.  The orang utans (men of the forest) are able to freely move around in the jungle at Sepilok conservation area, but they are provided supplemental food twice a day.  It is their decision to come to the feeding so it is possible that none will show up, and that is probably a good sign that they are learning to survive on their own.  As proof that sepilok is working, it is known that wild orang utans have mated with the ones that were once in captivity and now have babies!  Purchasing a ticket entitles you to see the morning as well as the afternoon feeding at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation center.

Originally we weren’t sure if we wanted to go to Sepilok, since the orang utans there aren’t truly in the wild, but it’s rare to see one in the jungle, so we decided we had better visit Sepilok, where your chances of getting a good look at an orang utan are much higher.

After the morning feeding we went back to our hotel for lunch, while the center closed down for lunch time.  We headed back to the center when it re-opened to go for a hike on one of their trails.  We had been warned that there are a lot of leeches in the area, so we purchased leech socks and suited up with our rubber cleat boots.

Heidi suited up in leech proof socks and rubber boots
Heidi suited up in leech proof socks and rubber boots

The hike was only about 1km, which we thought we would easily finish in the hour we had.  It turned out it was so muddy that it was really slow going, and we had to head back after getting about half way.  We didn’t want to be late and miss the afternoon feeding.  We didn’t see much wildlife on the hike, just a couple giant millipedes and a couple horn bill birds flew overhead.  I was so proud of my nifty leech-proof socks, but they don’t warn you that they don’t do any good if you get bitten on your back!  Once we were safely back in our bungalow I discovered a bleeding leech bite on my back!  Yuck!

George hiking at Sepilok, Borneo Island
George hiking at Sepilok, Borneo Island

The Sepilok Center is a helpful short term solution for the individual orang utans that are cared for at the center, but it’s not a long term solution to the overall problem of habitat loss.  Much of the rain forest in Malaysian Borneo is cut down to plant palm tree plantations for palm oil.  The decreasing forest available for the orang utans to inhabit is causing their numbers to decline, and they could face extinction within 10 years.  More of the rain forest need to be protected and re-planted in order to ensure a future for the orang utans, whose only predator is human beings.  So if you are ever shopping for junk food and see on the ingredients list “palm oil,”  don’t buy it!  But many times it is just listed as “vegetable oil,” so you don’t know if the rain forest is being sacrificed for a cheap snack’s sake.  Luckily, the demand for palm oil is decreasing, so hopefully the economy in Borneo can move in a new more environmental direction.

Here are some photos George took during the afternoon session:

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And here is a  video clip from Heidi’s camera:

Click for video of Orang Utans

If you’ve fallen in love with these oh-so-human-like creatures, you can “adopt” one through the Orangutan Appeal UK, which provides funding to take care of the young orangutans.  You don’t get to take your adopted orang utan baby home with you, but you do get a pofile, photos, and newletter with an update on your orang utan’s progress.

3 thoughts on “Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, Sabah, Borneo”

  1. Thank you for your information about Uncle Tan Wildlife Adventure . Do you think the adventure is suitable for a 9 year old child? She has not done camping before but I believe is fairly opened minded and keen to experience new things

  2. Hi Megan,
    We certainly believe a 9 year old child can have the experience of a lifetime at Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Adventure! But there are some caveats and pluses to remember:

    – There will be mosquitoes 24/7 and they are hungry and you will all get bitten regardless of the amount of bug spray that you bring.
    – Does she like bugs? There are many other types of insects, big insects that fly around, some are beautiful and some scary looking and at night and they can get very loud.
    – Most people in our group hardly slept the first night because of the noises and insects and excitement.
    – You will be dirty and smelly since there is no running water, only brown river water that is brought in from the Kinabatangan River, but wonderful to wash with on the hot and humid days 😉
    – If there are 3 of you, you will share your hut with another couple of a few other single people. Usually 6 people per hut. Your hut does not have a door, only a mosquito net to protect you. Also, each person is provided with one sheet, which serves as your blanket, that’s it. So if you think you might get cold you might want to bring a jacket or an extra thin blanket.
    – The crew members of Uncle Tan are young men and they all smoke and drink a lot!

    – You will see endless forms of life in the jungle, especially Langur, Macaque Monkeys and hopefully the biggest prize, the orangutan – which will all be extremely rewarding for your daughter and probably make her a young environmentalist (if she isn’t already).
    – Despite the fact that the crew smokes and drinks, they are extremely friendly and helpful. In particular, the leader, Lan, is a good guide and the most knowledgeable of the group. if you need anything, just ask him! They like to sing songs and play their guitars in the evenings and they also have some children. A couple of young boys live there, probably the same age as your daughter and they are also very nice and I’m sure they would love to have someone their age there besides all the adults.
    – All of the tourists were very friendly and all had a good attitude.

    – Bring lots of insect repellent. We found some good (environmentally friendly) insect creams in the supermarkets in Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu.
    – Uncle Tan’s does not even have their own first aid kit, so bring your own. Luckily we came prepared and were able to help out one of our hut mates when he got a gash in his foot from playing football with the crew.
    – Bring plenty of drinking water. While, you can buy it from Uncle Tan’s, you can also bring your own supply.

    While we don’t have children yet, we wouldn’t hesitate to take our child on this adventure. Go with an open mind and you will have the adventure of a lifetime!!

    George and Heidi

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