Visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Borneo and how you can help - Travels Of A Bookpacker (2023)

The Bookseller's Travels

Southeast Asia

The Bookseller's Travels

Southeast Asia

The plight of the orangutan has been made even more apparent recently by advertisements for palm oil. A viral banned ad from British supermarket chain Iceland made many people aware of the problem and started looking for alternatives (seeher). We already knew about the negative impact of palm oil on the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia, but I don't think it was clear until we visited Borneo and saw miles of palm trees for ourselves.

We also visited the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, which was the first of its kind in the world and is doing incredible work to protect and restore the orangutan population in Borneo. It was a special experience to see these beautiful creatures up close and it was heartwarming to see such a well-planned project in an area that is so threatened.

Visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Borneo and how you can help - Travels Of A Bookpacker (1)

Orangutans in Borneo

Borneo's orangutan population has been documented to have declined by 50% over the past 60 years, and the orangutans are listed as critically endangered. The main reason for the population decline is deforestation, which destroys the orangutan's natural habitat.

Up to 80% of Borneo's rainforest is believed to have been destroyed, mainly due to palm oil plantations and other agriculture. This makes it very difficult to rebuild orangutan populations, as forest areas are often isolated or damaged and do not provide enough food sources for orangutans to live in the wild.

(Video) ORANGUTAN SANCTUARY in BORNEO MALAYSIA - Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre (STOP PALM OIL!!)

Visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Borneo and how you can help - Travels Of A Bookpacker (2)

About Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

The Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary was built in 1964 and is home to 60 to 80 orangutans. The center is located in 43 square kilometers of dense rainforest and is not enclosed. This means the orangutans can come and go as they please, but know that there is always care, protection and food when they need it.

In addition to the large outdoor area, the center also has a nursery for young orangutans to play with and feed. The very young are raised as human children and cared for until they are old enough to become independent. Many of the orangutans that come to the center are orphans or were rescued as pets.

Visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Borneo and how you can help - Travels Of A Bookpacker (3)

Visit the Sepilok orangutan sanctuary

Sepilok is about half an hour's drive from Sandakan. You can travel to Sepilok by public bus, taxi or organized tour, but if you have time, we recommend staying at one of the jungle resorts located next to the sanctuary. Sometimes you can even see orangutans in the garden! We spotted one by the pool on the first afternoon.

We stayed insideSepilok Jungle Resortwhich was a great value option and had a pool which was very welcome on wet days. The rooms vary from simple fan rooms to more beautiful and modern air-conditioned rooms. All rooms include a lakeside buffet breakfast.

If you are looking for something more exclusiveSepilok Nature Resortit's very nice and has a great restaurant/cafe serving a mix of western and local food at reasonable prices. They have modern decor and very friendly staff.

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary has feeding twice a day at 10am. and at 2 p.m. The center opens one hour before each feeding so visitors can walk the jungle trails, visit the nursery and find a spot on the viewing platform.

Entry to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary costs MYR 30 and MYR 10 for a camera. You can't take anything with you except your camera (including water), but there are free lockers at the entrance.

Are orangutan sightings guaranteed?

Visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Borneo and how you can help - Travels Of A Bookpacker (4)

(Video) ORANGUTANS in BORNEO! | Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Centre in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia

Because the sanctuary is open to the rainforest, the orangutans are free to come and go as they please. This means there's no guarantee you'll see them, although feeding time often attracts at least one pair, especially mothers and babies.

We were lucky enough to see four orangutans up close while walking around the sanctuary and another five or six during the feeding. Our best advice is to get in early, we arrived just before 9am (easy as we were staying next door) to be among the first. We went straight to the feeding platform, while all the other visitors (mostly tours) went to the nursery first, because they had to leave right after the feeding. Yet another reason why we like to do things independently.

Once we got away from the noisy groups, we saw two female orangutans right on the path in front of us. The staff were nearby advised us where to stop but we were able to see them very close and take great photos. A little further down the trail we saw a huge male sitting on the fence. We kept a safe distance, but we could see him much closer than if there was a larger group of people around. It was really special and we are so glad we did because at 10:00 am. about a hundred people fell over and the orangutans who came to get food avoided approaching people.

How to help orangutans

Adopt an orangutan

You can register at the center or online to adopt one of the beautiful orangutans at Sepilok Sanctuary. You can choose which one you want to sponsor and you will receive an adoption certificate and a DVD of your orangutan. This is a great gift for kids or animal lovers and all proceeds go towards food and medical care for the orangutans at the center. Check out the websiteher.

Stop using palm oil

Palm oil plantations are the main cause of deforestation in Borneo and Malaysia is one of the largest producers of palm oil in the world. By reducing our palm oil consumption or consciously using sustainable palm oil, we can send a message to manufacturing companies that we do not support their practices. The decrease in demand for palm oil and awareness of how it is produced is also leading to the use of alternative and ethical options.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done because palm oil is found in so many products today and can be listed under many different names in the ingredients. For some more tips on reducing your palm oil use, read thisarticle.

Visit the shrine with respect

Visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Borneo and how you can help - Travels Of A Bookpacker (5)

The money raised from visitors to the sanctuary is used to buy food and medical supplies for the orangutans and to rehabilitate them into the wild to restore the orangutan population in Borneo. By visiting, learning about and respectfully observing the orangutans, you can support their great work at the sanctuary and have an unforgettable experience.

Spread the word

When we saw these amazing creatures, it was very hard not to get behind their cause. By sharing your experiences of visiting the sanctuary and sharing the story of what is happening in Borneo (and Sumatra), you can help others learn more about the situation and take action to help. A little chat or a few photos on social media goes a long way.

If you're traveling to Borneo, make sure you take the time to morally see some of nature's most beautiful areas and creatures and do your part to make sure they're still there for future generations to encounter and visit.

(Video) We Took a 3 Day Borneo Jungle Cruise! (Orangutan Land)

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What can we do at Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation Centre? ›

The facility provides medical care for orphaned and confiscated orangutans as well as dozens of other wildlife species. Some of the other animals which have been treated at the centre include; sun bears, gibbons, and elephants. Recently rehabilitated individuals have their diet supplemented by daily feedings.

Is Sepilok worth a visit? ›

Sepilok is one of the best places to visit in Borneo when it comes to seeing plenty of wildlife. Here there is the Sepilok Sun Bear Rehabilitation Centre, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Rainforest Discovery Centre.

How much does it cost to see orangutans in Borneo? ›

In case you are not interested in visiting Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary near Sandakan, which we recommend visiting anyway, you can do a 2-day, 1-night trip to Sukau, go for two river cruises (day and night) or one river cruise and one jungle trek. If you do it independently, you'll pay MYR 246/$77.

What do you wear to Sepilok? ›

Make sure you have sun screen, hat and plenty of water. A poncho or light weight rain jacket just in case of sudden downpours. Enjoy. Helpful?

What is so special about Sepilok? ›

The Sepilok Ape Man Reserve specifically protects the orangutan, known as the "Borneo Savage", which researchers believe is one of the primates that are closer to humans. The reserve was established in 1964 and occupies an area of 45 square kilometers. It is currently the largest ape reserve in the world.

How much is the camera fee at Sepilok? ›

Visitors are also welcome to adopt an Orangutan. Use of Cameras, camcorders, camera phones etc. will be charged RM10. 00.


1. Malaysia: Seeing the endangered Orangutans - BBC Travel Show
(BBC Travel Show)
2. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (+ Sun Bears) | Sabah, Northern Borneo
(With the Sparrows)
(Loz's Leisure)
(Ways of the World)
5. Flying To Borneo Just For That ONE MOMENT! A Crazy Wildlife Experience
(Max and Jacqueline)
6. How to DO Borneo on a BUDGET!
(The Budget Savvy Travelers)


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