Most travellers to this part of Sandakan will visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Still, for nature lovers heading here, I have created a list of what to do at Sepilok if you plan to spend a few days here.
Sepilok is located about an hour’s drive from the city of Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah and is part of the Sepilok-Kabali Forest Reserve.
What to do at Sepilok
Sepilok is world-renown for the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre or sanctuary because rescued mammals are brought here from all over Borneo to be cared for and released back into the wild.
However, one can only see so much of orangutans before seeking other things to do around here. Asian travellers mostly come here on a quick half-day trip to see the orangutans and then continue their journey to different places like Gomantong Caves and the Kinabatangan River.
Westerners usually like to take their time and spend a few days here, enjoying the pure nature of the Sepilok-Kabali Forest Reserve before moving to their next destination in Sabah.
Also, the yearly Borneo Bird Festival at the Rainforest Discovery Centre or RDC, located in Sepilok, and birdwatchers, photographers and naturalists will be spending a weekend here for the avifauna event. Therefore, I decided to come up with this list of what to do at Sepilok when you are here.
1. Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
This is probably why visitors are here in Sepilok, and one can easily spend at least two to three hours around here. There is no other well-designed conservation like this found around the world, making the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre a must-visit and tickets are sold at the entrance.
Places of interest include the visitor centre, where conservation efforts are displayed, the feeding platform, where the timing is at 10.00 AM and 3.00 PM, and a cute orangutan nursery where visitors can view the infants from an indoor enclosure.
When you exit, there is a gift shop where you can get various souvenirs, and after you exit, there is a small cafe outside selling local food and drinks, plus a well-maintained toilet. And just so you know, even the world-renown Malaysian-Hollywood star Michelle Yeoh visited Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in 2018.
2. Check out the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)
Just across from the Orangutan Conservation Centre lies the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, which is equally interesting as efforts to conserve and rehabilitate captured or rescued Bornean Sun Bears are done here. This is also a ticket entry premises.
Inside, there is a massive viewing platform where visitors can see the smallest bears in the world in their natural habitat, sometimes on the ground looking for ants or busy climbing trees. There is also a visitor centre towards the end, with washroom facilities and a gift shop to support the cause.
3. Explore the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) Trails
The RDC is hands down one of the best places to discover Sabah’s flora and fauna through the learning centre and the many trails around here. They have several trails rated easy to moderate and can be done in one day. While the place is enormous, you may need to visit twice to enjoy most of the experiences.
At the Rainforest Discovery Centre, you can find a lovely lake with rentable paddle boats, an interesting cafe and restaurant serving local food and drinks, and the majestic steel canopy walk that circles the area.
4. Walk the Longest Steel Skywalk in Southeast Asia
Some visitors will head to this massive steel rainforest skywalk early at 7.00 AM when the centre opens and to spot some of the endemic birds of Sabah here. The place is different, minus the crowd; therefore, it is a beautiful moment when you are up by yourself.
There are three main steel towers erected where visitors can climb up for a canopy view of the rainforest. They are the Bristlehead Tower, Trogon Tower and Hornbill Tower, which are placed apart. This is where birdwatchers and photographers like to hang out to spot some of the higher-canopy birds.
5. Book a stay at one of the Nature Resorts
This would be great for anyone seeking an extended stay at the Sepilok-Kabali Forest reserve. You can book one of the fantastic nature resorts here to disconnect from society and the concrete jungle.
There are several beautiful nature resorts in Sepilok, depending on your budget and the type of resort you like. Some are located away from everything, while most are located in the main vicinity of the conservation centres.
This list of what to do at Sepilok was created to benefit anyone planning to visit here and spend a few days. Also, I hope this serves as a simple guide for first-timers coming here, namely for the Borneo Bird Festival, as you will spend around three to four days here.
Overall, the places mentioned above can get a little busy on weekends; therefore, if you plan your timing correctly, you could avoid the peak times and have a less-crowded experience.