Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Centre
It's a rehab centre because people bring in orphaned or injured ones found in wild, and they're cared for and even trained to climb until they're ready for re-release into the sanctuary.
I learnt a new backpacker's secret!
Since in Malaysia accomodation seems to be generally a little more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia, so I've decided to bunk in dormitories whenever I find the prices for private rooms too steep for my liking.
Despite having been a long-term backpacker, and despite its significantly cheaper price, I generally don't like dormitories for several reasons. Of course there's the privacy issue, including noise etc where sometimes the dorm almost turns out to be like a never-ending slumber party, with noisy chit-chatting way past official lights out time. I guess it's a good opportunity to meet new people and socialise, but sometimes I really just want to have some peace and quiet time to myself. Then there's the snorers (hands up, I'm a guilty party myself). And it's just less convenient when you're changing etc, because most dorms are co-ed.
Also, there's the issue of safety of my belongings. Most dorms don't provide lockers, so it's really a bit of a roll of the dice whenever you leave valuables in your backpack in the dorm. Of course some packs can be locked, but that still doesn't prevent a determined thief
RDC Canopy Walk
With some very serious-looking bird-watchers in the back.
from simply hauling the entire pack away when you're out during the day! I've always literally slept more soundly (for both above-mentioned reasons) when I'm in a private room, notwithstanding having to shell out more money for it.
But alas, now on to the secret, which is to seek out dorms which are empty! In other words, pay for a dorm room but potentially have the entire room to yourself. This works particularly well for smaller dorms (e.g. four beds in a room). So when you inspect a dorm, see if there's anyone else bunking there already. If not, and if it's already pretty late in the day, chances are you might have a "private" dorm to youself for the night.
This was my experience at Uncle Tan's B&B in Sepilok. I arrived at this dilapidated-looking guesthouse, which looked like some sort of abandoned summer campsite, because when I entered there was nobody, and it wasn't until after I wandered around for several minutes before someone popped up to ask me what I wanted. I asked to see the dorms, and they looked like nobody had stayed there for a loooong time! Bingo!
And I was right.
This Cat Eats Margarine
I found out when I left momentarily to top up my coffee, and found it licking the knife.
In fact for two nights, I had the entire room to myself. Of course there was no guarantee, since at any time someone could have showed up, and taken a bed in the same dorm. But hey, that's what I paid for anyway.
Of course, there are reasons why a particular dorm might be empty. As mentioned it could just be the low season, or it could be an unpopular place, and unpopular for perhaps the wrong reasons. Uncle Tan's was almost ramshackle, not that I wasn't warned, as LP described the rooms as dank. But it was functional enough, and the package price came with three square meals a day, and I wasn't exactly spoiled for choice in little Sepilok anyway.
So why was I here in this little hamlet in Sabah?
Well I'd taken the 3.5h bus ride from Mt Kinabalu Park to check out the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre here, one of only four in the world. The primates are native to only Sumatra and Borneo, and it is here where orphaned or injured orangutans rescued from the wild are rehabilitated for subsequent re-release. Tourists usually make the day trip here from KK, but
A spartan, run-down campsite-like lodge, where I was pretty much the only guest over the two nights.
this ain't no zoo, and orangutan sightings aren't guaranteed. But the rehab centre staff do conduct a daily feeding session, where some orangutans usually do show up, including the day I went.
It's funny cos you can actually find orangutans also in the zoo back home in Singapore, which I'd been several times since my youth. So orangutans aren't particularly exotic to me per se, but somehow it feels different when you see them in a semi-wild state, and of course learn about them in a centre dedicated to their conservation.
After this, I head deeper into the Sabahan wilderness for a potential cruise down the River Kinabatangan, in hopes of more wildlife sightings.
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