Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary

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September 27th 2009
Published: September 28th 2009
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This is my 100th Blog entry!!!

When we arrived at the bus station to go to Sandakan we were accosted by all the usual touts trying to get us to use their bus company. As we had already booked our they just left us alone straight away and picked on some other easy looking targets. We collected out tickets and realised we were on a not so comfortable bus and that there was a very comfortable looking bus leaving at the same time to the same place. You cant win here in Asia. Book in advance, you get the crappy bus, no ticket then you have to fight the touts off and then wonder who is telling the truth about where the bus is really going and how long it will take. When they say ‘direct’ here, it means it will get there eventually and stop every where and anywhere. The ‘rules’ I’m afraid, do not apply to Asia. Just when you think you start to understand it, it throws a curve ball and you feel as confused about everything as the day you first arrived. This is Asia.
Also at the bus station we got to see the touts at work while we wait to board our bus. Someone would arrive by taxi to the station. Up to 10 touts will surround the person, shouting everything about there company and where they go. Eventually the person submits and declares where they are going. Touts without buses drop out of the game. The remaining touts then surround the person/people in a circle and practically lift them up and carry them to the ticket counter, while other touts try to break the circle and get them to their counter. Bags are grabbed off them and they are literally manhandled to the counter. It seemed though that they only used this technique for locals or people from nearby countries. As I said to Michelle, if they tried it on me or probably most other western travellers, it would end up in a row of some sort and probably even physical. I’m not sure is this technique unique to Kota Kinabalu, but it brightened up our morning and gave us a bit of a laugh watching how it all works.

We arrived in Sandakan and like all Malaysian towns, there isn’t a whole lot of sights to see. Everything involves a tour and there isn’t much historical sights or beautiful buildings. There was so little in Sandakan that we spent the day in our room, with the air-con on full blast, reading and catching up with things on the internet. After a bit of searching on the internet we found a really cool and well recommended place near the Orang-utan centre, to stay for a few days. Next day we got on a bus and fled Sandakan as quick as possible. Before we left though we did have to pose with a waiter from the next door restaurant for a photo which he has asked us to e-mail to him! The place we are staying in now is excellent. We have a 12 bed dorm all to ourselves and the food here is cheap, excellent and best of all, filling! It is set in the middle of the jungle and has some amazing surrounding scenery. The place is called Paganakan Dii and our dorm bed is only €5 each. The chalets here are real plush and a bit out of our budget.

So the part most people will want to know about. The Orang-utan Sanctuary. It costs €6 to enter and that covers you for the day. There are two feeding times, at 10am and 3pm. We were there at 9am and at the front of the platform to get a good view. Every movement in the trees brought a gasp or a collective pointing of fingers towards the area of movement. As it was early morning it wasn’t that hot yet but we were still feeling the heat. Eventually an orang-utan appeared on the viewing point right beside us. He walked along the wooden hand rail past everyone, looking at everyone as if to say what are you doing here? He was so close he was in kissing distance never mind touching distance. I was so shocked and in awe that I even forgot to take a photo. Everyone just stood back and watched in amazement. Unfortunately some people just cant respect an animals space and felt the need to crowd around it. At one point it sat down on the wooden railing. A women , with a rather large camera took a photo of it, right in its face, with the flash on. The orang-utan then rubbed its eyes for a minute or so, the same way you or me would react after a camera flash in your face. I have said it before but you can tell people a million times not to use their flash around animals and they will ignore it out of stupidity or just plain ignorance. It really annoys me, as you can see!

The feeders arrived on time at 10am and on queue other Orang-utans arrived to be fed. They quickly take the bananas and a drink of milk and then find a spot to eat. They’re an extremely powerful animal with hand like feet and swing from ropes and trees gracefully. We watched them for about half an hour before they disappeared into the jungle never to be seen again, well, until 3pm anyway. Most orang-utans will keep coming back for food after being released into the wild, for a few months. Eventually they will be able to look after themselves and will never return again. The orang-utan did come passed us again before the end and I got a photo this time. After feeding we watched a 20min movie about the Borneo orang-utan before hitting the road to the Rainforest Canopy walk.

It took us nearly 30 minutes in the heat to get there but it was worth it. They have built huge towers in the jungle linked by platforms to each other. Each walk way is through the jungle canopy and although we didn’t see any birds or animals it was quite cool and well worth the visit. We made it back to the sanctuary in time for some lunch before heading back in to watch feeding time again. It was amazing again to see them and this time Macaque monkeys came as well. They are mischievous and were trying to steal the bananas off the orang-utans. Afterwards we had to wait 30mins for our lift to our resort, so we watched the video in the nice air-coned room again! Next time you will hear from us again we will be in Thailand. We are really looking forward to it and we have that feeling you get before your go on holidays, so we are still not board of all this carry on yet!

In a bit. DH

Song of the blog: Cher - Believe (Happy birthday Brendan)

Additional photos below
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4th October 2009

Loved your blog on Sepilok Darren!
Hi Darren i came across your blog as i have been searching for sepilok/orang updates on web due to withdrawal symptoms! I have just arrived back after an 8wk volunteer programme at Sepilok. The larger orang utan you have photographed is Eyos, she is 13yrs and appears almost every feeding time without fail, the smaller looks like SogoSogo, she is just beginning the release programme and has taken to the freedom of the forest really well. I miss them all so much, pleased to read the respect you had for the great orange creatures. Great blog, regards jules
14th October 2009

I love Monkeys
Awwww them orang utans are class, so jealous ye were so close to them, I love them!!!! Ps: Hurry home
19th January 2010

Sepilok 8 week volunteer program
hi, noticed Jules mentioned doing the 8 week volunteer program at Sepilok. I am trying to register for that myself, but not having any luck. can anyone provide me with more info about it? kind regards Pete

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