Sandakan & Sepilok

Few travelers visit Malaysian Borneo without a trip to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. Founded in 1964, and run by the Sabah Wildlife Department, the center was created to rehabilitate young orangutans rescued from captivity or left homeless after deforestation. Located on the edge of the forty-three square kilometer Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve, along with the neighboring Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and Rainforest Discovery Center, a visit to Sepilok will leave you educationally fulfilled and in awe of Borneo’s famous great ape.

Orangutans may be the big attraction in Sepilok, but the newly-opened Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is equally impressive. The center helps rehabilitate Bornean sun bears, the smallest, most arboreal, and least studied bear. Active and playful during the day, these bears do not hibernate, and build nests in the trees for sleeping. After an orangutan feeding, head over to watch the sun bears snack on some coconuts!

Not to be missed in the Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve is the Rainforest Discovery Center. Set up by the Sabah Forestry Department, and originally built as an environmental education center for students and teachers, it opened its doors to visitors in 2007 and is now one of Sepilok’s main attractions. Discover the rainforest from the treetops along a 347-meter steel canopy walk, and explore the extensive network of discovery trails on the forest floor below.

Sepilok is half an hour from Sandakan, Sabah’s second largest city. Once a wealthy port for oil, tobacco, coffee, sago, and timber, Sandakan’s economy now revolves around fishing, ship building, and tourism. A day in Sandakan warrants a visit to the Sandakan Memorial Park, Saint Michael & All Angels’ Church, the Agnes Keith House and English Tea House & Restaurant, and the Buli Sim Sim traditional stilt water village.