Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
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Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre information
Around 25km north of Sandakan, and covering some 40 sq km of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, this inspiring world-famous centre welcomes orphaned and injured orangutans for rehabilitation before returning them to forest life. There are currently between 60 and 80 living here. The new showstopper is the recently opened outdoor nursery , just two minutes' walk from the feeding platforms, where abandoned toddlers are taught the building blocks they'll need to keep them alive back in the wild.
The youngsters you'll be charmed by are between six and nine years, and in the refrigerated cool of the nursery viewing area, you can sit and watch them focusing on their swinging skills; it's a laugh a minute as they tumble comically into one another and do their best to irritate the trainers by walking on the ground instead of climbing. Try and get here early in the morning before they are fed and become sleepy.
Feedings at the platforms are at 10am and 3pm and last 30 to 50 minutes. Schedules are posted at the visitor reception centre. Tickets are valid for one day, although you can see two feedings in the same day. Watching the trees begin to shake, the cat's cradle of ropes vibrating, the first swatch of orange shifting through the branches, is a moment you'll never forget.
Also worth noting is that only around two to four of the population will feed at any one time. The larger males almost never congregate here. In order to get a good spot for your camera or kids, get here 20 minutes early. Finally, the morning feeding tends to be more tour-group heavy, so if you want a quieter experience, try the afternoon. It's especially important that you don't bring any containers of insect repellent into the reserve, as these are highly toxic to the apes and other wildlife. Spray yourself before entering, and put on plenty of sunblock.
Nature Education Centre
A worthwhile 20-minute video about Sepilok's work is shown five times daily (9am, 10.30am, 11am, noon, 2.10pm and 3.30pm) opposite reception in the auditorium here.
If you want to explore the sanctuary further, several walking trails lead into the forest; register at the visitor reception centre to use them. Trails range in length from 250m to 4km, and different paths are open at different times of year. Guided night walks can be arranged through the centre or at the various lodges. There's also a 10km trail through mangrove forest to Sepilok Bay; this is quite a rewarding walk, and if you're especially fit you may be able to complete it between feeding times. A permit from the Forestry Department is required in advance for this route. The department can also arrange basic overnight accommodation at the bay (RM100) or a boat back to Sandakan. Some travel or tour agencies can assist with the permit and other arrangements.