What it is: Nature Reserve
Location: Sabah, Eastern Malaysia
Entrance Fee: RM30 per adult, RM 15 per visitor under 18 years of age. Additional RM10 will be imposed on visitors with video cameras.
How to get there: Start from the city of Sandakan in Sabah; at the city's waterfront market, look for the bus stand nearby and ride the blue bus marked “Sepilok Batu 14” (Sepilok - 14th Mile). This bus will take you on a 40-minute ride directly to the Sanctuary.
The orangutan is Asia’s only native great ape, and deforestation is making short work of its natural habitat. Logging, slash-and-burn farming, and hunting have decimated the orangutans of Borneo, with the game skewed heavily in humanity’s favor.
Against this carnage, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center stands as a protective island for orangutans – a sanctuary set amidst the 5,529 hectares of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, giving orphaned orangutans a fighting chance of surviving in the wild.
- For other nature reserves in the country, read our list of National Parks in Malaysia.
Educating Homo sapiens
The Center was established in 1964, originally to rescue orphaned baby orangutans and prepare them for life in the jungle. In recent years, the Center has expanded its scope – from rehabilitation of orangutans, the Center’s staff now helps educate Asia’s other ape (Homo sapiens, i.e. us) on how to protect nature. The Center also provides assistance to other conservation and breeding programs.
Sepilok also houses a Sumatran rhinoceros breeding center, but special permission must be requested to visit this area.
The Center’s facilities include a reception area, an information center, an animal clinic, and a quarantine area for sick apes. Visitors can also check into the Sepilok Jungle Resort if they want to experience the Jungle Reserve overnight.
See Orangutans Up Close
Visitors can climb large viewing platforms to see the Center’s work: apes being taught basic survival skills, from climbing to socializing with other apes. Very few visitors get lucky enough to see these apes up close, so be sure you have a long zoom lens on your camera.
You have your best chance at seeing these great apes at feeding times (10am and 230pm), as orangutans are naturally solitary and avoid human contact. Even then, ape sightings are not guaranteed. Actual contact with orangutans are discouraged by the staff.
Apart from orangutans, visitors can see so much more of nature in Sepilok – wild animals like snakes, hornbills, spiders, tortoises, ten native primate species, and over 200 species of birds call this place home, and tourists are welcome to explore the jungle on a network of jungle trails.
For more information, call the Sabah Tourism Board at +88 212121, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org