The world’s largest and oldest Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is located at Sepilok, which is a 20-minute drive from Sandakan. An area of 11,000 acres of virgin equatorial rainforest has been set aside as a forest reserve and orangutan rehabilitation centre. Here at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation, you can experience a close encounter with the “Wild Man of Borneo.”
When a young orangutan is orphaned or kept as a pet, it is unable to live in its natural habitat on its own; much of its survival depends on acquired skills, which the young orangutan gets from its mother in its first five to six years of life. At the Sepilok Orangutan, Rehabilitation Centre orphaned or pet orangutans are trained to live an independent life in their natural habitat. This process can be quite long and includes a “kindergarten,” enclosed and controlled areas, and in its last stage the open forest reserve in Sepilok, where the orangutan are free-roaming. It is in this forest reserve where visitors get a chance to see the orangutans. The best time to view them is during feeding times at 10 a.m, and 2.30 p.m, at the feeding platform. At other times access to the reserve is restricted to minimise disturbance of the apes. The trail to the feeding platform is a plank-walkway suitable for all visitors, and on the way, you can marvel at huge and rare rainforest trees. If you observe the canopy closely, you will find orangutan nests, and with some luck, a curious ape will meet you on the way to the platform. Please do under no circumstances touch the animals, and be aware of the naughty pig and long-tail macaques. Leave your bag, inclusive handphone, cigarettes, and mosquito repellent at the reception, where you have to pay entrance and camera/video fees.
After the feeding of the orangutan, it is recommended that you head for the video presentation at the visitor centre. The short film explains in detail the philosophy of the rehabilitation, and the importance of the work of the rangers of Sepilok.
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre can be reached by car or public transport from Sandakan town. If you purchase a tour package from a tour operator, transport will be ready to pick you up from your hotel, or the Sandakan Airport. Make sure you bring the following gear: insect repellent, long trousers and long-sleeved shirt (no loud colours please), raincoat, sunhat, trekking boots or trainers, binoculars, camera & water bottle.
There are daily return flights in the early morning and afternoons being catered by our local airliners MAS and AirAsia if you need to fly from the capital city Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan to visit Sepilok. Most tour operators will recommend you book the airlines and will advise on the latest flight numbers and flight times. The return flights are suited in so you can catch the feeding times in the morning or the afternoon.