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18 January 2010

Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary in Sabah

By David

Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary in Sabah is one of the must-visit places when you are in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. I had the pleasure of visiting the largest and oldest Orangutan Sanctuary and Rehabilitation in the world located just outside of Sandakan town

Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary in Sabah was set up in 1964 in the 4,300 hectare Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve which is looked after by the Wildlife Department of Sabah. The main reason for this center is to rehabilitate orphaned baby orangutans who have been either captured as pets or found without their mothers. Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary also has a reception center, information center, and animal clinic, a quarantine area, a nursery and an enclosure for various endangered animals which are found in Sabah.

While visitors are confined to the viewing platform which is about 20-30 feet away, an occasional orangutan may come up to the viewing platform. You are not allowed to touch them as orang utans may contract human flu or other types of bacteria. The best is to stand back from these lovely creatures. There have been many cases where children and adults will try to touch them or even pose for a picture so please refrain from doing so when you are there.

After about 15 minutes of watching these playful orangutans swinging and climbing the trees, two park attendants climb up the main feeding platform with buckets of food. One of them holds a sign that says ‘Silence Please’ while he takes his seat.

The playful orangutans then know it is feeding time and slowly make their way to the platform one by one. Surprisingly the attendants do not feed them by hand which I thought was very good. The Orangutans make their way to the buckets and help themselves. Remember, these orangutans are not trained to perform but are let to live freely in the sanctuary. They will automatically make their way there when it is feeding time as most of the orangutans are still in the juvenile stages.

As we exited the main walkway, we were directed back to the main building. A souvenir shop is available for those who want memories and mementos of Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. Various T-Shirt designs are available for reasonable prices while stuffed Orangutan toys line the shelves in the shop.

The adjoining building has two sections, an exhibition area focusing on endangered wildlife of Sabah and Borneo is on the left while an audio video room is on the right. It is here that you will watch a presentation on the Orang Utan and also learn about the Orangutan Adoption Program by Orangutan Appeal UK.

Orangutan Appeal UK has a counter in the main building. It is located by the entrance to the sanctuary and is managed by Sarah. It s here that you can help the Orangutans by either adoption one (no, you cannot take them home) or you can help by purchasing milk and food for the orangutans.

For the second option of milk and food, it is broken into three choices:

* RM30 (US$8.80) for one weeks supply of milk for two baby orphaned orangutans.
* RM50 (US$14.70) for one months supply of bananas for the junior orangutans.
* RM70 (US$20.00) for one weeks supply of vitamins for the baby orangutans.

We bought a RM30 supply of milk for the baby orangutans from Sarah as even a small contribution makes a difference for these amazing creatures. I hope that those who plan to visit Sepilok will also contribute to the best they can in making sure that these Orangutans get the best help and care they can.

Getting to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary:

* Located just out of Sandakan town, Sepilok is about 23 kilometers from town. Getting to Sepilok is fairly simple as it takes about 30-40 minutes by car or van. (Self drive or tour company)
* There is a public bus service from Labuk Bus Company that departs from the Sandakan Town Council at RM2.10 (US$0.60) one way but the bus stops at the junction of the main road. You then need to walk in about 1.5km.
* Taxi service from Sandakan is available with a return trip costing about RM100.00 (US$29). Do negotiate with your taxi about the prices.
* Getting to Sepilok from Kota Kinabalu (KK) is also possible. A bus ride would take about 7-8 hours from KK to Sandakan and would cost around RM30-50 (US$9-$15) one way. Visit this site for Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan bus fares and tickets.
* Better option is to fly to Sandakan as there are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. Airasia offers some cheap tickets if you book early.

Admission/Entrance Fees and Rates to Sepilok

* MyKad Holders (Malaysians) – RM5.00
* Others (Foreigners) – RM30.00 (US$8.80)
* Camera Charges – RM10.00 (US$2.95)

Opening Hours

* Security Gate: Daily from 8.00am till 5.00pm
* Reception & Ticketing Counter: Daily from 9.00am till 11.00am and 2.00pm till 3.30pm
* Exhibition Hall: Daily (except Fridays) from 9.00am till 4.30pm
* Main Center: Daily from 9.00am till 12.00pm and 2.00pm till 4.00pm Fridays 9.00am till 11.00am, 2.00pm till 4.00pm

What NOT to do

* You are advised not to wear loud colours (bright colours) when visiting Sepilok as it distracts the Orang Utans there.
* In the event an Orang Utan comes to the platform, keep back as they may grab your items such as camera or bag.
* Do not touch or hold the Orangutans at any time.
* If you bring children, please ask them to keep silent.

This posting was also featured in my travel site here

Regards,
David