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Asia » Malaysia » Sabah » Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
June 11th 2018
Published: June 11th 2018
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(I've put the location for the blog post as the Orangutan Sanctuary because there's no option for just Sepilok which is odd. The orangutan sanctuary is about 3km away)

People in other rooms were making a lot of noise during the night including a small child running around and screaming and being very much budget accommodation, the walls are very thin indeed so I didn't have the best night's sleep which does rather defeat the point of a private room.

I got the monorail to KL Sentral where I changed to get the KL Ekspres directly to the airport. I can't remember what I thought of the price when I got it on my first day, but it seems very expensive now at almost 50 ringgit. It's much cheaper than a taxi though and easier and more reliable than a bus which is important for catching a flight obviously.

I left plenty of time to get to the airport because I didn't know how efficient or not it would be getting to the airport and because officially you're supposed to be there three hours before your flight. I really hate it when airlines/airports do this and say three hours before. It was always two hours, and that has always worked fine. I get that they're trying to make sure people are early but people who are going to be early or on time will be whether it's two or three hours and even when they say three hours, people who are going to be late are still going to be late and any unexpected circumstances that make people late will still happen. It doesn't improve anything and is just annoying. I'm flying with Malaysian Airlines again because when booking reasonably far in advance as I did, the full fare airlines tend to I be cheaper and after adding baggage the MH flight was only slightly more than Air Asia and at a much more reasonable time in the mid-morning rather than stupid o'clock. It also has the added advantage of getting me One world frequent flyer points which will almost certainly never add up to anything useful but whatever.

Getting to the airport just over 2 and a half hours early (not even 3 hours like they say) obviously meant I was at the gate ages before my actual flight and I had almost two hours after getting to the gate before take off. Getting to airports this early is clearly unnecessary but I suppose it does facilitate their sales of overpriced airport tat by having people get to the airport way too early.

My flight to Sandakan was absolutely full with a very large number of families with small children on board. It's about a three hour flight from KL to Sandakan on the far Eastern side of Sabah and you couldn't get much further on a domestic flight in Malaysia. There was lots of turbulence throughout the flight, but I think that's normal for this region and I'm the least nervous flyer possible anyway so that's not a problem for me. The cabin was absolutely freezing though and that's not just because I'm getting used to the heat, they really had the cabin temperature too low.

Despite being a domestic flight, you have to go through immigration on arrival as if it was international. The Eastern States of Malaysia do like to keep apart from the Peninsula. I got a RM40 taxi direct from the airport to Sepilok which was extremely easy of course. I'm sure there must be some long and convoluted way to get there by public transport but I really didn't fancy trying to work it out in the midday heat with all my stuff.

I had booked a private room at the Sepilok B&B where I was staying because it was just 1 ringgit more per night on but they didn't have any private rooms when I got there and I'm staying in a dorm instead. They also wanted to charge RM50 per night for the room which is much more than the price which aims booked quite a way in advance but I paid the price. Apparently they have updated their pricing and an RM50 dorm if you were to book it now is very expensive indeed! I'm pleased I booked in advance. Everything is quite pricy around here with RM15 per day entry fee to the Rainforest Discovery Centre, which is where the wildlife watching is, and food is about 50% more than Taman Negara for example, though I think I have to accept that Taman Negara was particularly cheap.

I headed into the Rainforest Discovery Centre, RDC, at about 4 which I thought would be late enough for the start of the evening bird activity but it wasn't. The whole place was completely dead with no birds active at all.

Eventually the birds did start to come out though, along with a few unusual squirrel species, and although most of the common species like bulbuls and such are the same as at Taman Negara, I added some nice species including Walllace's Hawk Eagle and Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot. Best of all though was an all too brief flyover by Bornean Bristleheads! Already! They were one of the absolute top targets for here and the fact that I've already got a brief look is a great start. Hopefully I'll find a group them in a tree one of these days and get some pictures.

I headed back to the accommodation around dusk for dinner - food is only available at set times and I was very hungry by this point having not had a proper new at breakfast or dinner. Then at about 7:30 I headed back across to the RDC, which is 400m down the road, for spotlighting. There are lots of species possible at the RDC and my biggest target which is a species I've got a pretty good chance of seeing is tarsier. I really want to see a tarsier here.

So I was walking in and past a little bit with a guard in it at the entrance and he waved and said hello and I just waved back, no problem. I continued walking and he called me over so I went over and I was told I could not go in. So I just explained to him what I wanted to do and assured him that I knew what I was doing etc but he still wouldn't let me in and no amount of polite reasoning and discussion which turned eventually to what was essentially just grovelling and pleading would let me. They have official night walks too and I spoke to the night walk guide to try and persuade him to let me in but no. It's the official Sabah Parks rule. I really hope I won't have this problem throughout Sabah. He did say that the rules had changed recently but I'm pretty sure that was just to shut me up about people who I know visiting recently and being allowed in. I did persuade the guy that I knew what I was doing and that it would be safe (it's totally completely safe, there's no dangerous animals and you can't get lost. Taman Negara was more dangerous than this) and he did genuinely seem to want to let me in. But he couldn't break the rules and let me in, it is his job. I tried to persuade him that I would be fully responsible if anything happened (there's phone signal across the whole place for god's sake, there's no risk) but I was being completely brick walled and without sneaking through the forest around the hut (which I was unwilling to do) there was no way. I tried spotlighting a bit along the road but there was no point so I just had to call it quits. Really frustrating!

The obvious thing to do of course is go in before sunset and just stay in, then come out later although it will be difficult to get dinner then because the B&B stops at 9 and there's no other places or shops to buy food at all. I have got to go spotlighting in there though. I really want tarsiers! The other worrying thing is he said to come back when it opens at 8 the next morning. 8?! All the bird activity will be gone by 8!

I find these sort of things really frustrating. I come all the way here and get so close and for no reason I'm prevented from going into the forest. I seem to be taking other sorts of hiccups with traveling fine and I'm getting used to just rolling with the punches but getting right up to the entry of the tarsier and moonrat infested forest and being told to go away is killer

Speaking of rolling with the punches, I contacted the tour I had booked well in advance for the Kinabatangan River and it turns out they cannot do the dates I had booked and didn't think/forgot to tell me about it! I had originally booked 3 nights at Kinabatangan but they are closed for my first night so I have had no choice but to extend Sepilok to 6 nights here and cut Kinabatangan down to 2 nights because of fitting it in with the Danum Valley. Oh well. I'm more annoyed about being denied entry to the forest for spotlighting and I'm a bit concerned about what the guides will say tomorrow night when I walk past them coming out of the forest at about 9 but we'll see. I have got to see a tarsier. Grrr. Things like having to be in a dorm when I booked a room and missing buses and even my booked accommodation in KL not having a place so having to switch to a much grubbier odd place don’t bother me that much. They’re annoying, but I just accept them and move on, but aint nobody getting between me and my wildlife sightings! I have got plenty of time here at Sepilok though I suppose.

(I feel like the tone of the end of this post is a bit downbeat because obviously the spotlighting has annoyed me, but the Sepilok B&B where I’m staying is lovely and although it’s not cheap, it is actually a really nice place to chill out and although I’m in a dorm, it’s one guy in it and he seems a decent bloke just here chilling out and doing casual wildlife photography at the RDC. I am enjoying it here and as long as I get this issue with the ‘opening hours’ of the RDC sorted, everything will be great.)

New birds seen:

Red-throated Sunbird

Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot

Wallace’s Hawk Eagle

Bornean Bristlehead


Prevost’s Squirrel (all black above pluto subspecies)

Ear-spot Squirrel


12th June 2018

So sorry William.
WILLIAM I feel annoyed for you and I can imagine how hard it is not to be furious. Are they wanting a bribe. They know you so badly want to go in so they see it as an opportunity to get a bribe. Hope they wont be so rediculous today.

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