Sepilok on Borneo: Experience orangutans close up

Hey guys, welcome to Sepilok in Borneo – one of the few places on this planet where you can experience orangutans up close! We are excited to tell you everything you need to know about this cool travel destination and how to enjoy it on a budget. Sepilok combines perfectly with a visit to the Kinabatangan River. If you want to see orangutans but won’t be traveling to Sabah, no problem. There is also an orangutan rehabilitation center in Sarawak in southern Borneo called the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. However, before you visit, you should know that the facilities are more like a zoo than a natural wildlife encounter.

What is Sepilok?

Sepilok is a small town in Sabah, Borneo, largely known for its orangutan rehabilitation center. Here, orphaned and sick orangutans are taken in and raised by experienced caregivers before they are released back into the wild. The center is an essential stop on a trip to Borneo and offers a rare opportunity to experience these majestic creatures up close.

What can you do in Sepilok?

Orangutan Rehabilitation Center:
The orangutan rehabilitation center is the main reason why most people come to Sepilok. Here, you can observe orangutans in their natural habitat and learn more about their rehabilitation. You can even witness a feeding and observe the orangutans up close. The center is located in the Malaysian rainforest and is an essential location for the protection and preservation of orangutans, which are threatened with extinction due to poaching and deforestation. The center also operates a comprehensive breeding program to increase the number of orangutans in the wild and protect their population. Admission for adults is 30 MYR (approximately 6 EUR) and for children under 18 years old, it is 15 MYR (approximately 3 EUR).

If you want to experience animal care up close, you can volunteer at the center and assist the caregivers with their work. They will show you how to prepare food, clean cages, and even help treat sick animals. It is a great opportunity to show your love for wildlife and do something good.

Orangutan lying on railing

Our Tip: Night Hike from the Rainforest Discovery Center

For adventurers, there are also night hikes through the jungle of Sepilok, where you can observe nocturnal animals such as tarantulas, frogs, and snakes. The hike costs 30 MYR (approximately 6 €) per person and is definitely recommended. We saw exciting animals like the plump loris.By far, this was our most interesting experience in Sepilok.

Sun Bear Conservation Center:

There is more to discover outside the center. The Sun Bear Conservation Center in Sepilok is a unique place that allows visitors to experience these fascinating animals up close. The center is located right next to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and is an important place for the protection and conservation of sun bears, which are threatened with extinction due to poaching and habitat loss. When visiting the Sun Bear Conservation Center, visitors have the opportunity to learn more about these wonderful animals and observe them living in their natural habitat. The center also offers educational programs and tours to provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the importance of protecting sun bears. We personally have to admit that we found the center interesting but the admission price was too high for us, and the area was just too small. Admission to the Sun Bear Conservation Center costs 50 MYR (about 10 EUR) for adults and 10 MYR (about 2 EUR) for children under 18 years old.

Sun Bear

Butterfly Farm:

If you want, you can also visit the Butterfly Farm. We personally did not visit it but want to at least mention that it is an option during your visit to Sepilok.

How to get to Sepilok?

There are several ways to get to Sepilok – by bus or plane. The cheapest option is the bus to Sandakan, but you need to tell the driver that you want to get off at Sepilok. We walked the rest of the way, which is just under 2 kilometers. If you are already in Sandakan, there are several bus connections daily. If you miss them, there is also the option of taking a taxi. Generally, taxis are waiting at the intersection to Sepilok, so you don’t have to walk if you don’t want to.

From Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan:
There are various buses daily that can take you from KK to Sandakan. The journey takes just under 8 hours, and tickets cost 10-15 €. The buses are comfortable, making the trip easy.

From Semporna to Sandakan:
There are also various buses daily. You can also simply board along the route if you are elsewhere. This connection takes about 6-7 hours and costs around 10 €.

Flight to Sandakan:
Sandakan also has a small airport. However, if you care about the environment, it is better to take a bus, as the route is very manageable.

Accommodation in Sepilok:
There are many different types of accommodation available, depending on your budget. From luxurious lodges nestled in the jungle to simple B&B options, there is something for everyone.
Tip: When we were there, we stayed in dorms at Sepilok Jungle Resort. This is a relatively cheap option, and everything is within walking distance. However, I have been told that due to Covid, the resort may have aged a bit. Nonetheless, it is situated in the middle of the jungle, with a pool and breakfast included. The dorm bed costs around 10-12 €. If you are two people, a double room is worth considering.

Frequently Asked Questions About Your Visit to Sepilok

Sepilok is an orangutan rehabilitation center located in Borneo that raises and trains orphaned and sick orangutans for release back into the wild.

The entrance fee for adults is currently RM 30, for children it is RM 15.

Yes, there are various opportunities to do volunteer work at the Sepilok center. You can contact the center directly to get more information.

There is a night walk that gives you the opportunity to experience Borneo’s nocturnal wildlife. Additionally, there is a sun bear sanctuary where you can learn more about this endangered species.

Sepilok is located near the city of Sandakan on the island of Borneo. You can take a bus, taxi, or rental car from Sandakan to the Sepilok center.

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We are Julian & Naomi and we love to travel the world and immerse ourselves in other cultures. We have an adventurous, spartan, sustainable and reflective travel style. In our opinion, the greatest adventures are experienced when you do things on your own and try to live like a local. The taste of a country is best captured on the road
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