Visiting Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
The Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok was one of the destinations we most wanted to see while travelling through Asia. Lisa and I are both animal lovers and we couldn’t miss the opportunity to see these amazing animals and visit this important conservation centre.
We did quite a lot of research before coming here as we wanted to get the most out of our stay. There are plenty of options of day tours from Sandakan to visit the Centre but we wanted to do things in our own time so we decided to stay a few nights in Sepilok in the nearby Sepilok Jungle Resort.
To get to Sepilok we caught the minibus number 14 from the main bus stop in Sandakan. We paid 6MYR each and another 6MYR for our backpacks which we thought was reasonable (a taxi is around 40 MYR, maybe 30 if you’re a good haggler). We did have to wait a little bit as the bus timetables are more of a guideline than set times here… Lucky for us there was a really helpful man who asked us what bus we needed and came to let us know when it had arrived. The journey was fine and took less than hour, since we were the only people left at the last stop the driver even dropped us right at the reception of our accommodation!
The Sepilok Jungle Resort is a 5 minutes walk from The Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre so it was a perfect choice for us, the resort itself was very good for the price. Our room was comfortable and spacious and it was lovely to walk around the grounds spotting wildlife and enjoying the ambience. It wasn’t perfect but we’d certainly recommend it if you want to have more than a flying visit to Sepilok.
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
We went to the Centre for the morning feeding, it opens at 9am and there is a video presentation before you head to the viewing platforms in time for the feeding at 10am. The presentation was excellent, charting the rescuing and rehabilitation of some of the orangutans over a period of several years. It was quite moving and certainly builds up the anticipation of seeing the orangutans for real!
Once the presentation is finished you’ll need to lock anything you’re carrying in the free provided lockers as some of the orangutans like to steal things if you’re not careful. It’s then a 5 minute walk to the viewing platforms, which look out over a clearing in the jungle where the orangutans are fed. A handler puts food out for the orangutans who can then come and take it if they wish. Since the whole idea of the centre is based around rehabilitation there is no obligation for any orangutans to show up, but it seems that at least a couple are likely to make an appearance. We waited quite a while for the first one to come swinging in but we were lucky enough to have 3 orangutans make an appearance as well as a family of cheeky macaque’s who were looking to get in on the free food!
There were initially quite a lot of people on the walkway all taking pictures and trying to get a good view, however with the advantage of staying just 5 minutes away we waited a little longer until the crowd had thinned out a bit and we were able to take some good photos of our own. This really was one of the highlights or our trip so far. The orangutans are very human-like and it’s easy to feel a connection to them. Despite the heat of the day we stayed watching them for almost an hour when most other people had left.
Further on from the viewing platforms there is a nursery where you can watch handlers playing with the baby orangutans too, this is not well advertised at the start so we nearly missed it! We did see a baby for a couple of minutes but would have come down a bit earlier if we’d known about it. It closes at 11am so try to get there before then if you can. There is also a rainforest walk you can do which is about a 2 hour round-trip. We made a start on this but weren’t really dressed or equipped for it so just did the first ten minutes, if you’re up for it it’s a good opportunity to spot more jungle wildlife though.
Opening Times and costs
The Centre opens from 9am until 11am in the morning and from 2:00pm until 3:30pm in the afternoon. If you make the morning feeding you can use the same ticket to view the afternoon feeding but your ticket is only valid for that day. We’d recommend going in the morning so you have a second chance if the orangutans don’t make an appearance!
The entrance fee is 30MYR for tourists and this goes right back to the running of the centre so is well worth it! There is also a charge of 10MYR for a camera pass which we both purchased.
A nice surprise!
On returning to our resort we thought we’d had our quota of orangutans for the day but we were wrong! Whilst walking along one of the resort walkways we turned a corner to see a woman sat on one of the benches watching an orangutan just a few feet away! Since the orangutans are free to roam as part of their rehabilitation they occasionally venture over to the resort to try their luck at getting some food. We couldn’t believe our luck and we sat and watched her for ages as she climbed around the stairs and sunbathed on the bench. We never thought we’d have the chance to get so close to such an amazing animal and this is a memory that will stay with us for a long time.