This post should really be called Orangutans: Nature’s True Yogis but I felt that kind of played down the good work being done by the volunteers and staff at the centre. Especially since I’m pretty sure yoga has nothing to do with the rehabilitation process.
So, Borneo. Orangutan central. Right. Why else would you come here? I came for the orange, hairy yogis but discovered so much more. Including sun bears, macaques and the most incredible, lush rainforest. Since I wasn’t lucky enough to see any orangutans on my jungle trek experience the centre at Sepilok was the next best thing.
This centre was opened in 1964 for rescued, orphaned orangutans who had been illegally hunted, kept as pets or as a result of logging or plantations. These little pumpkins were taught skills to help them to survive in the wild and eventually be reintroduced to an independent life. It broke my heart to see the smaller orangutans playing in the nursery (viewing area opened in October 2014) knowing that they were orphaned, most likely, as a reult of human interference in their habitat. Palm oil harvesting, logging and deforestation to build more hotels for tourists as well as morons who keep these creatures as pets creates a need for this centre to even exist.
The centre aims to educate the public on orangutans and their habitat so as to raise awareness of the effects humankind has on the envoronment and how we can stop it. The entry fee helps to fund the centre and they also run ‘adoption’ programs where you can donate a fee and get regular updates on the orangutan you have chosen to ‘adopt’.
Enough preaching. Check out these stunning primates. Once you enter the centre you walk along a wooden walkway along which, at any time could stroll an orangutan. Granted, it’s more likely that they will show up at feeding time (10am, 3pm) but still. How freeking amazing is that!?
There were guides or handlers dotted along the path and at one stage I could hear a rustling in the trees and see a swaying of branches. Out of the foliage emerged the uniquly coloured, orange furbaby.
He watched the keeper and reached his hand out to him a few times but there was no contact. You are not allowed to touch the orangutan, rightly so, and the staff encourage you to be aware when they are passing and not to interfere with them. Having learnt the day before not to look the monkeys in the eye, as it is seen as an act of aggression, I kept my eyes lowered but all the while trying to take a sneaky photo. Hence why my photos are shaky! The orangutan was walking inches from me. A wild, orphaned orangutan in its native environment was strolling right past me. Goals!
One of my favourite fun facts that I was told about this centre is that the staff place the same fruits and vegetables on the feeding platforms for the adults every day, twice a day. The orangutans get sick of this diet and forage in the surrounding forest to vary their diet. Therefore they are not reliant on the centre for food and eventaully visit less and less frequently. The staff do not want to create a dependency by the orangutans so while the food is healthy are nutritious, it’s boring! I’d wander further afield to vary my diet too. No flies on these guys.
The nursery staff encourage the orangutans to play, climb, swing and eat a variety of foods. They are taught to groom and socialise as they would in the wild, to equip them with the essential skills necessary for survival outside the centre.
Make sure to get to the centre early as in betweed feeding times the centre is closed. 10am and 3pm are feeding times and if you walk to the far right of the adult feeding platform there is a rope above your head along which some orangutans sometimes swing in to reach teh platform. You will be rewarded by a great view and a close up experience of the incoming primates. This isn’t guaranteed, of course. They are wild animals and will not perform on cue!
- Adults (Non Malaysian) – 30 RM + camera charge 10 RM
- Children – 15 RM
- Opening hours:
- Saturday to Thursday- 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 4pm.
- Fridays 9am-11am and 2pm to 4pm.
- Orangutan feeding times: 10am and 3pm. It is recommended to arrive 30 minutes before feeding time.
- Facilities: Souvenir shop, cafe and toilets, bag lockers.
How to Get There:
Getting there: Many organised tours leave from around Sabah at varying prices. Public bus #14 departs from Sandakan taking approximately 45–60 minutes, costing RM5. The Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan bus can also drop you at junction Jalan Sepilok, around 2.5 km from the Center. Journey approximately 5 hours from Kota Kinabalu.
Taxis are usually available outside the centre (RM40 to Sandakan). I took a taxi there and back to my hotel in Sandakan and this place is a must visit for anyone in the Sabah area.