The greatest thing is to spot orangutans in their natural environment in the wild in one of the deep green rainforests that can be found on Borneo. Unfortunately, due to large-scale deforestation and various other circumstances, many orangutans become orphaned, injured or get captured. For the animals that are rescued there are special shelters, such as the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre on Sabah. A place where the orangutans are cared for with love. With the aim to release them in the jungle one day, where they belong.
Are you curious how these orangutans are being prepared for a return to the jungle? Then a visit to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is highly recommended. Find here all the information you need for your visit.
The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabailitation Centre is part of the 4,300 hectare Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve and was opened in 1964 to accommodate baby orangutans who had become orphans.
Since then, the shelter has functioned as a rehabilitation centre for orangutans who have become orphaned, injured, rescued from merchants or have ever been kept as pets. The caretakers take care of these orangutans with much love and teach the monkeys all kinds of survival techniques, which they need for the moment they will return to the jungle.
The rehabilitation of orangutans is absolutely the main goal of the rehabilitation centre. But in addition, it also focuses on teaching people about the conservation of animals and on research and help for endangered species.
The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is located 25 kilometers west of Sandakan, in the east of Borneo in the state of Sabah.
After you have bought an admission ticket, you will be asked to leave your belongings in a safe (free of charge). Sometimes a monkey is a bit too curious and then a backpack with something to eat and drink is of course very interesting. It is also not allowed to take insect spray and sunscreen inside, because this is harmful to the health of the monkeys and other animals. So please use your insect spray and sunscreen just before you go inside.
Once inside you can choose to watch a movie first, which gives you a good idea of the purpose of the rehabilitation centre and the work that is being done here. This movie runs a number of times a day and takes about 30 minutes. Then you are ready for your encounter with the “man of the forest”. In Malay, orang means “man” and utan means “forest”.
After the movie you will walk towards the viewing platform via a boardwalk through the rainforest and you will pass the youngest orangutans that are staying in the rehabilitation centre. From behind a glass wall you look out on a huge “playground” and will you see (when they are outside) these young orangutans, in the final phase of their rehabilitation, enjoy climbing and clambering. One of the skills they need to master at a certain level before they are released.
The residence of the youngest orangutans is open from 09.00-11.00h (09.00am-11.00am) and from 14.30-16.00h (02.30pm-04.00pm).
As soon as you have said farewell to the young orangutans, it is time to head for the viewing platform. Once you have arrived here, quickly find a spot with a good view of the feeding platform and then it is time to wait for the orangutans. In 2017 about 200 orangutans live in the area and despite this high number, only a few come to the feeding platform. The orangutans only come when they are hungry. There is therefore no guarantee that you will see them.
Don’t you see the orangutans? Of course that would be unfortunate for your visit, but do not be sad if you do not see them. This means that the caretakers have done their job well and the orangutans can survive in the jungle on their own.
But if they come, you will suddenly notice that some trees and ropes are moving and you will see the orangutans slowly climb towards the feeding platform. Here the orangutans enjoy the milk and fruit that is laid out for them and you have the chance to admire these special animals!
And if you’re lucky, a curious orangutan will stop by to have a closer look at you, as this orang utan did during our visit. A moment that you will not forget! During this moment, the caretakers present will ensure your safety and the safety of the orangutans at all times. Because they are and remain wild animals.
As soon as the orangutans have finished their breakfast or lunch, they will leave for the rainforest again and you have gained another unique experience!
TIP: do not opt for an organized tour, but explore the rehabilitation centre on your own. Take a local bus or taxi and decide for yourself how long you want to stay (within the opening hours) and what you want to see or do.
To visit the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre you need about 1.5-2 hours. The duration of your visit is partially dependent on whether the orangutans will come to the feeding platform to eat something and for how long.
Monday-Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: 09.00-12.00h (09.00am-00.00am) and from 14.00-16.00h (02.00-04.00pm).
Friday: 09.00-11.00h (09.00-11.00am) and from 14.00-16.00h (02.00-04.00pm).
Make sure you are present 30min-1 hour earlier than the feeding time. This so that you have enough time to buy an admission ticket, watch the movie (20min) about the rehabilitation centre and to walk to the viewing platform at ease.
Gate: daily from 08.00-17.00h (08.00am-05.00om).
Reception and ticketing office: daily from 09.00-11.00h (09.00-11.00am) and from 14.00-15.30h (02.00-03.30pm).
Exhibition hall: Monday-Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: 09.00-16.30h (09.00am-04.30pm).
Daily, at 10.00h (10.00am) and 15.00h (03.00pm).
Do you want to avoid the bustle of the tour buses? Then plan your visit in the afternoon.
|Type of visitor||Entrance fee|
|Adult, 17 years and older||MYR 30 / € 6|
|Child, age 0-17||MYR 15 / € 3|
|Use of camera, camcorder, phone||MYR 10 / € 2|
In Sepilok and Sandakan there are also accommodations that provide a shuttle service (for free or against costs) to the rehabilitation centre, from for example the centre of Sandakan. Check this in advance, before you choose to travel to the rehabilitation centre in a different way.
If you are staying in one of the accommodations in the vicinity of the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, the rehabilitation centre is in 5 to 20 minute walking distance or on a 10 minute ride by shuttle bus.
From the bus station near the intersection between the Lebuh Dua and Lebuh Lima streets, a minibus (Batu 14) daily leaves for the rehabilitation centre.
Daily at 09.00h (09.00am), 10.30h (10.30am), 11.30h (11.30am), 13.00h (01.00pm) and 14.00h (02.00pm).
Sepilok – Sandakan:
Daily at 10.30h (10.30am), 11.30h (11.30am), 12.30h (01.30pm), 14.00h (02.00pm) and 16.00h (04.00pm).
Check de actuele vertrektijd voor de terugreis met je chauffeur alvorens je uitstapt.
Before you get off the minibus, check the departure time for the return journey with your driver.
The minibus can be found by means of a nameplate on the dashboard with “Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre”. Before you board, ask the driver to check whether he will actually drop you at the rehabilitation and not at the roundabout at a 2.5 km walk from the centre.
MYR 4 / € 0.85 per person one way. Duration: 40-50 minutes, depending on the number of stops.
Uber / Grab
Centre Sandakan – rehabilitation centre: MYR 19-27 / € 4-6. Duration: 33 minutes.
Sandakan airport – rehabilitation centre: MYR 13-19 / € 2,50-4. Duration: 23 minutes.
The number of Uber / Grab drivers in the Sandakan area is very limited, so keep in mind that Uber / Grab is not always available. Uber / Grab is not available at the rehabilitation centre. For the return journey you are therefore dependent on a minibus or a taxi.
Centre Sandakan – rehabilitation centre: max. MYR 50 / € 11 per one way. Duration: 33 minutes.
To avoid misunderstandings and/or a discussion, agree on the rate with the driver before you depart.
Sandakan airport – rehabilitation centre: max. MYR 45-50 / € 8,50-11 per one way. Duration: 23 minutes.
After your arrival, proceed to the taxi desk to buy a taxi voucher.
To/from Kota Kinabalu
From Kota Kinabalu you can travel to Sepilok by:
Long distance bus
MYR 45 / € 9,50 per person one way. Duration: 5-6 hours incl various stops for breakfast/lunch/dinner. At Kota Kinabalu the buses depart from the Inamam Bus Terminal. Ask the driver to drop you at the roundabout at 2,5 km walking distance from the rehabilitation centre or take a taxi from the roundabout (if available).
We traveled by bus from Kota Kinabalu, but because of the dangerous driving style of the driver we did not travel save and comfortable at all. If you want to travel safely and comfortably, then decide to fly!
From Kota Kinabalu Airport (BKI) you can fly to Sandakan Airport (SDK) in 40-45 minutes. Flights are operated by:
Flight tickets are available from MYR 59 / € 12 per person one way (excluding baggage).
After your arrival, take an Uber, Grab or taxi to the rehabilitation centre. No public transport is available from the airport to Sepilok.
When you want to visit the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, staying in Sepilok is the ideal option. From the various accommodations nearby you can walk to the rehabilitation centre in 5-20 minutes or you will be dropped off by shuttle bus by accommodations which are located further away. Below you will find a number of possibilities regarding accommodations, from budget to luxury.
You can stay in a dormitory or in one of the other simple rooms with a private bathroom and air conditioning. Some rooms have a balcony or patio.
There is also a restaurant.
Paganakan Dij Tropical Retreat can be found at 5.2km (10min drive) north of the rehabilitation centre.
You can spend the night in the middle of the rainforest, in one of the private rooms with en-suite bathroom or a dormitory with a shared bathroom. All have got a fan.
There is a restaurant and a free shuttle service.
From the Nature Lodge Sepilok you walk to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in about 17min .
The lodge offers the possibility to stay in a dormitory with shared bathroom or in one of the double rooms with a private bathroom. All rooms are air-conditioned.
At the lodge you will also find a restaurant.
The resort features wooden chalets with an en-suite bathroom and air conditioning, as well as a dormitory with a shared bathroom and a fan.
You can go to the restaurant for a snack and/or a drink.
The Sepilok Nature Resort can be found on a 5-minute walk from the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.
All the rooms are equipped with a private bathroom, air conditioning and a balcony with a beautiful view of the green surroundings.
The resort has got a restaurant with a terrace next to the water.
The My Nature Resort was opened in 2016 and is located on 2.2km from the rehabilitation centre.
You will stay in one of the 39 luxury rooms with private bathroom, fan and air conditioning, spread across various chalets with a view of the jungle.
The resort has got a restaurant, a swimming pool and a shuttle service to the rehabilitation centre.
Another option is to stay at Sandakan, located 25 km away. This means, however, that you are bound to a minibus or taxi. Also there is not much to see and do in Sandakan. If you still consider to stay in Sandakan, here you will find a number of options regarding accommodations.
Harbourside Backpackers is a hostel located at Harbor Square in the centre of Sandakan.
At the hostel you can choose for a private room or a bed in the dormitory. All rooms have shared bathroom facilities.
The hostel also has got a kitchen, TV lounge and a common room.
The S’kan Styles Hotel Sandakan is located at Harbor Square in the centre of Sandakan.
The hotel offers neat simple rooms with a private bathroom, rain shower and air conditioning. The rooms have views of the city or the Sulu sea.
For a snack and a drink you can go to one of the two restaurants.
You will also find an outdoor pool, two restaurants, a squash- and tennis court, a gym and a spa.
The disadvantage of the Sabah Hotel is that the hotel is located 1.5 km from the centre of Sandakan.
The Four Points By Sheraton is a very affordable luxury hotel in the centre of Sandakan.
The air-conditioned luxurious rooms have views of the harbor or the Sulu sea and include a private bathroom.
There is a beautiful infinity pool on the rooftop, a fitness room and you have four dining options.
As of September 1, 2017, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in Malaysia has introduced a Malaysian tourist tax. The so-called tourist tax, TTX. This means that all foreign travelers have to pay a surcharge of MYR 10 / € 2 per room per night, whether you are staying in a hostel or in a luxury hotel. This surcharge must be paid on site at check-in or check-out.
Residents of Malaysia are excluded from paying this surcharge.
The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is not the only centre in Borneo which take care of orangutans. Also in the west of Borneo you can visit such a rehabilitation centre: the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. This centre is located at 29km south of Kuching, is smaller and also feels less touristy.
Absolutely, the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is also worth a visit. Here, the moment on which you will see the orangutans (when they are hungry) come out of the trees from the jungle is definitely a moment you will never forget! So do not miss the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre when you are near Kuching!
In the vicinity of Sepilok you can definitely enjoy yourself for a day or two. Besides the rehabilitation centre you can also visit the:
Sun Bear Conservation Centre
At the Sun Bear Conservation Centre they take care of the world’s smallest bear, the sun bear (or honey bear), and offer them a better life until they are ready to be released. In the centre you can watch the bears from various board walks and viewing platforms or you can learn more about the work of the rehabilitation centre at the visitor centre. The centre is located opposite the entrance of the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.
Rainforest Discovery Centre
The Rainforest Discovery Centre is an educational centre where you can learn more about the rainforest of Borneo. You can take a walk on the Canopy walkway, take a look at the exhibition about the flora and fauna on Sabah or take a walk through the Plant Discovery Garden or one of the Rainforest Discovery Trails. The centre is located 1.6 km north of the rehabilitation centres.
Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
The Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is located 23 km northwest of Sepilok. A very small area where you can find about 300 Proboscis Monkeys (also called the Dutch Monkey). However, a visit to this area is a at least questionable and I personally discourage a visit. Why?
The area is not a rehabilitation centre, but belongs to a local palm plantation owner. After he had cut down trees first for his palm plantation(s) and thus drastically reduced the natural habitat of the monkeys, he decided to “do something back” for the monkeys. He stopped with cutting down trees to save a habitat for the monkeys to survive. Just like in the rehabilitation centre, the monkeys are fed daily at certain times and you can watch the monkeys from one of the two viewing platforms (if they already come to the centre to eat).
Obviously you need to decided for yourself whether you are going to visit this centre or not and want to “support” this centre with the entrance fee. Do you want to get see the Proboscis Monkey in a good and animal-friendly way? Then, for example, visit the Bako National Park or one of the other beautiful rainforests on Borneo and try to spot the monkeys yourself in their natural habitat!
What did you think of your visit to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre?
All times and prices mentioned above are subject to changes.