In my opinion there are few experiences in life that match wild animal encounters and visiting The Orangutans in Borneo Malaysia was truly one of the most magical of all.
As most of you will know, any possible interaction with an animal in his or her natural habitat has me jumping on a plane without asking questions. I have been lucky enough to swim with whale sharks, bathe with elephants, scuba with sharks, free dive with dolphins and even watch the sun come up with kangaroos on the beach but every new sight of a wild animal gets me giddy with excitement!
Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre
Last month I was lucky enough to meet one of the most intelligent and charming creatures in the world, the amazing Orangutan. I traveled to Malaysia to see the playful primates at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, Borneo. One of the world’s most famous locations to see a rescued and rehabilitated Orangutan in his or her own natural environment. As an endangered species the chances of seeing these human like mammals are incredibly rare so people, like myself, travel to Malaysia from all over the world to enjoy this truly unmatchable experience of a lifetime.
The endangered primates live in the centre as part of a rehabilitation program and although the animals are aware of staged feeding times and viewing facilities for the public they are under no obligation to stay within the grounds as they are nurtured to fully return to the wild after a certain age. There is never a guarantee of seeing them when visiting the centre for this very reason but we were extremely lucky and saw five Orangutans during our short visit. Watching them go about their days was one of the most magical and memorable experiences of my life! They are so uniquely human-like and playful, each with their own distinct personalities. We watched as they swung through the trees, wandered along the walkways and happily climbed up and down their rainforest playground, it was simply incredible.
The centre is home to a mixture of rehabilitated and rescued Orangutans and those that are born within the facility. In Malaysia there is still a way to go when it comes to the education of the locals on nature and wildlife. These endangered animals are often kept as pets and or mistreated. They can be appealing as cute and cuddly babies but as they grow into adults the homeowners can not sustain their natural mannerisms and needs so they simply abandon them. It’s a really sad affair but one so often the case for countries that lack in the fundamental education and animal safeguarding programs.
By visiting the Sepilok centre all the proceeds from your ticket fee ( RM30 – £5.36 ) go towards the program of rehabilitating the Orangutans and asides from the life changing day trips for vistors, the program has had some incredible success stories of placing the adult Orangutans back into the depths of the wild. Animals that then go on to lead a uninterrupted and primitive life as nature meant them to.
Where to Stay
After exploring Malaysia’s stunning paradise archipelago of Langkawi, we flew to Borneo and based ourselves at the stunning Shangri-La Rasa Ria in Kota Kinabalu. The cost of an internal flight was really affordable (35 US Dollars) so I highly recommend if you are travelling form a far to see the Orangutans in Borneo you spend sometime in Langkawi before or after your visit. (I’ve written a full guide to Langkawi here.)
Kota Kinabalu is a coastal resort in Borneo with beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets to enjoy a few days in Malaysian Paradise before heading into the jungle it’s perfect. it has it’s own charm and things to explore which I will be writing about on Sunday but more importantly it’s a short 40 minute flight to Sandakan which is the airport closest to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
What time to Visit
The centre is open for two time slots per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, during both of these allocated times the volunteers feed the Orangutans to encourage the younger primates to reveal themselves for the on-looking public. When we visited the feeding location was clear for the majority of the time but that being said I would still recommend visiting in the morning as we did see 5 or 6 adults and adolescents ‘hanging around’ to welcome us all.
We boarded the early flight from Kota Kinabalu and jumped straight in a taxi to the Centre. All taxis are aware of the centre and flight times so you have no problem getting one immediately when you reach the airport. We had to wait for 20 minutes at the centre but we were pleased to some of the first few people there.
Say hello to the Sun Bears too
As well as seeing the famous Orangutans the centre is also the place that some of Malaysia’s rescued Sun Bear’s call home. If you are visiting Sepilok I highly recommend saving some time to see the adorable sun bears too, another group of cuties that have unfortunately imprinted on the hearts of wealthy Malaysian locals. These bears, much like the Orangutans are bought as pets for the affluent and when they grow past their young, cute and cuddly stage they are tossed. It’s horrendous but sadly true.
There’s quite a large group of these bears at the centre but a lot of people don’t realise they are there. You have to pay a small entry fee on top of visiting the Orangutans but please do as they also need the funds to help with rehabilitation. You can watch them climbing the trees or roaming the rainforest looking for food, they have the cutest little noses and will have you single Bear Necessities all day long 😉
It was truly a remarkable experience, one that I am so grateful to have been able to do. Watch my full interaction in my latest Youtube Video here: