Sepilok in Sabah – A Destination in it’s Own Right

Sepilok, home of the Orangutan Sactuary in Sabah, Borneo, is a common stopover for many travellers – and that’s all it ever tends to be – a stopover. With many package tours in the area including a visit to the sanctuary, visitors pop in and out of Sepilok for just a few hours. What they don’t realise, is that it’s quite a hub with several fantastic sights where you can easily spend several days visiting.

We spent two nights and two days in Sepilok on our recent visit to Sabah and thoroughly enjoyed our visit there. It’s well deserving of a visit, perhaps before or after a trip out to the Kinabatangan river.

Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre

The Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre, established in Sepilok since 1964, has rehabilitated over 700 orang-utans that were orphaned, kept as illegal pets or displaced from their natural habitats. The Centre encourages the orang-utans to survive again in the wild, releasing them once they have learned these vital skills in to the virgin rainforest surrounding the reserve. Many do not return, which is a testament to the success of the program.

However many still return – especially during their early days on their own, and this is one of the reasons why feeding times twice a day are held at a special feeding platform. The orang-utans supplement their diet with additional fruit and sugar cane that is provided at these platforms.

We were incredibly lucky to see both a mother and her child at the feeding platform - bub was too cute for words!
We were incredibly lucky to see both a mother and her child at the feeding platform – bub was too cute for words!

With a feeding time in both the morning and afternoon, and your ticket valid for a whole day, you can easily spend the best part of a full day at the centre. In addition to the feeding platforms, there is also nursery where younger orang-utans first learn to play and climb outside (super cute!) as well as treks and trails throughout the park that vary in length. There is a very informative ‘museum’ with interesting information about the centre’s history and also a ‘movie room’ where you can watch a short documentary on the centre.

The centre is well worth a visit – whilst the orang-utans don’t visit the feeding platforms every day, there is a high chance of seeing them here – an opportunity you may not necessarily have in the wild.

Entry: 30 RM Per Adult (Valid the entire day) + 10 RM Camera Fee

This gorgeous guy was loving the attention of the crowds at feeding time.
This gorgeous guy was loving the attention of the crowds at feeding time.
Instagram user @hello.l4wrence who was staying at Uncle Tan's with us snapped this beautiful shot of the elusive Sun Bear.
Instagram user @hello.l4wrence who was staying at Uncle Tan’s with us snapped this beautiful shot of the elusive Sun Bear.

Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre

You can combine a visit to the Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre with a visit to the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre – the entrances are opposite each other.

Founded in 2008, the BSBCC is home to 37 rescued bear’s – hunted for their many ‘supposed’ medicinal benefits, kept as illegal pets or having lost their homes to deforestation. The aim of the centre is to promote the conservation of the bears and to return them to the forest.

Entry: 31.80 RM Per Adult

Rainforest Discovery Centre

Initially established as an environmental education centre, the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) has been opened to visitors since 2007.

The highlight of the RDC is it’s Canopy Walkway – 347m and suspended up to 25m above the ground, it provides an opportunity to experience the rainforest from the treetops. There is nothing quite like looking up (and up, and up!) to the top branches of a tree hundreds of years old – it makes you feel very small indeed!

A number of rainforest discovery trails throughout the RDC provide the opportunity to view flora and fauna up close – night walks throughout the park are also available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (2 Hours, 30 RM Per Adult).

The visitor building has a number of displays, posters and information counters on everything from the wildlife to the plant life of the Borneo region.

Adjacent to the visitor building, the Plant Discovery Garden offers a number of walks over a hectare of land, with dedicated displays of a variety of plants – orchids to pitcher plants, ginger and other spices as well as aquatic plants and others.

Entry: 15 RM Per Adult. An RDC shuttle is also available to take you back to your accommodation in Sepilok for 10RM.

Visiting the gorgeous Rainforest Discovery Centre at Sepilok.
Visiting the gorgeous Rainforest Discovery Centre at Sepilok.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Sepilok – we had originally planned to spend our time in Sandakan but glad we made the decision to base ourselves here instead. If you’re a nature lover – plants, animals and the like – you won’t regret spending a few days here in Sepilok!


  • Getting there
    Sepilok is easily reachable from all major stops in Sabah. We came from Kota Kinabalu, on a bus bound for Sandakan, and got off at the Sepilok Junction where it was just a short walk to our accommodation. From Sandakan, bus 14 leaves for Sepilok frequently.
  • Where to stay
    We stayed at Uncle Tan’s B&B, just a short walk from the Sepilok Junction. We were very impressed with the ‘budget accommodation’ – we had a room with shared bathroom and paid just 53 RM each ($17.30 AUD) – the room had air-conditioning, there was great wifi in the common area, and the price was inclusive of full board – breakfast, lunch, dinner and continuous tea and coffee. Given that there isn’t a lot around Sepilok in the way of food, this was fantastic value.
    It was also a great hub to meet other travellers – we stayed up late into the night on both nights we spent there meeting and talking with other people which was a nice change to being on our own up until this point.
    They also provide free shuttles twice a day to both the Orangutan Reserve and the RDC – both are walking distance, but it’s nice to have the comfort of air-conditioned transport in the heat of the jungle.
    We’d highly recommend a stay here if you’re visiting Sepilok!

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Sepilok in Sabah - A Destination in it's Own Right

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