Saturday, 19 July 2014

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, Borneo

A mom and baby that we saw when visiting the rehabilitation center.
Before I ever went, when I thought about Borneo, like most people, I thought of a rugged jungle island and of course the orangutans. The reality is quite a bit sadder than this as palm tree plantations have taken away much of its jungles and the orangutans are suffering because of this. They have lost their habitats and many are injured at the hands of the farmers.

I remember watching a t.v program about 7 years ago about the Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation center. I was so interested in their work and seeing the love and care that they give to the orangutans was wonderful to watch. I never forgot about that show and then when I had the chance to go to Borneo in 2011 I jumped at the chance to visit the center and see the animals for myself.

We arrived in to Sandakan which is the nearest city/airport to the center and had a cheap delicious meal the night before going to the center. We had also booked a three day trip in the jungle after seeing the orangutans to hopefully spot some in the wild so it was a jam packed couple of days.

Sepilok is one of only four orangutan rehabilitation centers in the world. Thy help orphaned, injured, rescued and displaced orangutans learn how to live in the wild again. They have a huge jungle area where the animals can live. There is a feeding stand where the animals can be fed during the day. What's interesting is that when the orangutans become confident they can live in the outer areas of center away from all humans and survive by themselves, preparing for being released in to the wild. Sometimes these orangutans may only be seen at the feeding area only a couple of times a year.

Arriving at the center we were given some basic rules to follow (no flash photography/no loud noises) and were ushered in to a beautiful jungle walk. There are no cages so the animals are completely free in this area. When we walked in a man working there pointed up to a tree and we saw it moving, then an orangutan started climbing down and swinging down closer and closer to us. Before we knew it a beautiful mom and her baby were standing right next to us on the walkway. We were both mesmerized by her, she started walking along the walkway with us and then we saw another one, this time a male. It was so amazing that we got there at the time that we did as many people didn't have a chance to see them. It was probably one of the most memorable experiences in my life. We stayed for another while watching their feeding time and taking it all in and then watched an information video.

Coming closer to us.

Beautiful mom and baby.

Mom checking that baby is doing okay.

Scoping us out from afar.

Jasons "I just saw an orangutang" face.

An older male.

It was an incredible experience and I think we both walked around with huge smiles on our faces for the rest of the day. If you ever get the chance I would definitely recommend visiting the center and seeing all of the wonderful work that they do for the animals of Borneo (they also house baboons, sun bears and other animals)

It isn't just orangutans that you can see at the center.

How to get there:

Air Asia flys daily from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan. You can get a taxi from Sandakan to the rehabilitation center. 

Where to stay:

We stayed in a guesthouse in Sandakan on the first night (I can't remember the name of it) and then joined the Uncle Tan's adventures for 2 more nights in the jungle. They have an office right by the rehabilitation center. There are also many hotels on the road that leads up to the center. You can find out more about Uncle Tan's here

You can find out more about Sepilok and the Orangutans here

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