Sepilok is a small town in Sabah, Borneo that is 26 km from Sandakan. It is most famous for its Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. It also features Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and Rainforest Discovery Centre.
- From Kota Kinabalu: Catch the bus to Sandakan from Inanam station in KK (RM43.5, ~6 hours). Ask driver to drop you off at Sepilok. From Sepilok road junction take a taxi to the park or any nearby hotel, RM5 per person, taxi drivers usually wait at the Sepilok road junction.
- From Semporna: Catch the Tung Ma bus to Sandakan (RM40, 5 hr) and catch a taxi from there to Sepilok.
- From Sandakan: Bus 14 leaves ~hourly from the minibus station in Sandakan from 09:00 to 14:00. With the last bus leaving the park at 16:00. RM6 one way (2016).
The road from Sandakan is well signed making for an easy journey for those self-driving.
Taxi from Sandakan center costs aprox RM 50 one way and RM 100 for a return trip (2016). Arrangements can be made in advance with your accommodation in Sepilok for a car to meet you at the Sandakan airport, 40 MYR one way per car; the same price will be charged if arranging taxi via taxi booth in the airport (2016).
Taxi ride to Labuk Bay to see proboscis monkeys costs RM45 per person return. Taxi to Sukau (starting point for boat trips on Kinabatangan river) cost RM50 per person one way.
Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre
1 Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is situated on the edge of a forest reserve. Established in 1964, its purpose is to rescue orphaned and abandoned juvenile orangutans and to teach them to fend for themselves.
The best time to visit is at feeding times (approximately 10:00 and 15:00) as this is the probably the only chance of seeing the orangutans and monkeys such as the long-tailed macaques) which appear for the free feed of bananas and sugar cane. Note that if it is raining, the feeding times may be delayed as the rangers prefer not to sit out in the rain.
Within the reserve, the visitor is restricted to the boardwalks but there are some walking trails through the jungle. The visitor is also restricted to what they can bring into the centre - small backpacks must be left in lockers, neither handbags nor water bottles nor insect repellent are allowed. It is best to go with as little as possible, i.e. no bags, backpacks, water bottles. There is a shop selling water and other food items in the carpark.
Because the centre is in a tropical jungle, you should expect biting insects (spray yourself before you go in as repellent is not permitted inside). Also expect to get rained on. There is no shelter at the viewing area and thus a poncho is a good investment. Umbrellas aren't really useful as the rain can be absolutely torrential side ways at a relentless pace for over an hour complete with thunder and lightning. And umbrellas block views of others. It can be dark inside the jungle with difficult lighting at the viewing area if it is overcast so consider this if you are the avid photographer.
The centre is a popular tourist destination: expect that the morning feeding time will be crowded with a good half to dozen tour buses fresh from the morning flights from Kota Kinabalu. The hundreds of sweaty visitors will keenly jostle for that perfect photo. The afternoon feeding time is possibly a quieter choice for those with the luxury of time with the added delight of seeing a larger number of the animals in a more personal, peaceful atmosphere.
Admission fee: adult foreigner RM 30, Malaysian RM 5. 17 years old and below - foreigner RM 15, Malaysian RM 2. Camera fee: RM 10 (2016).
Office hours: 09:00-12:00 & 14:00-16:00. Exhibition Hall: Sa-Th 09:00-16:30.
With a ticket you can enter the park two times a day. So if you buy a ticket in the afternoon you cannot enter the park next day with the same ticket.
- 2 Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (next to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre), ☎ . 09:00-15:30. The only sun bear sanctuary in the world with about 40 bears living there. Divided into several separated areas so child bears can live apart from the adult ones (as older ones often bully younger), as well as to separate adults that try to fight each other. Bears tend to hide in the shade during the heat hours and start being very active once sun is not very high or hidden by the clouds, so it's better to get there not on a very hot day or in the morning. Centre itself is not very big, 30-40 minutes will be enough to see everything inside. Adults Malaysian RM 15, foreigner RM 30. Children aged 12-17 Malaysian RM 2, foreigner RM 5.
- 3 Rainforest Discovery Centre. 08:00-19:00, ticket counter closes at 17:00. An environmental education centre situated within the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve. Its primary function is to create public awareness and appreciation of the importance of conserving forests, as well as the sustainable use of forest resources. RDC has a 347 m-long canopy walkway strung between huge towers that allows great views of the forest canopy and is also good for bird-watchers. Adults RM 15, children 5-17 years old RM 7.
- 4 Taman Hiburan Jalil Alip Theme Park, 1, Jalan Jalil Alip (a 5-min detour drive), ☎ . A local recreation park popular among locals, to fish, paddle boats and feed local species of deer and crocodiles in their individual sanctuaries in the park.
There are a couple of trails within the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre area, but only the 1.1 km 1 Bird trail is possible without a special permit, although this trail is closed until further notice as of Oct 2016.
Whole bunch of trails are can be found inside of the Rainforest Discovery Centre, one of them requires permit, which needs to be attained at the entrance ticket booth.
The fundraising shop at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre sells postcards, fluffy monkey toys and other touristy merchandise.
Cafeteria near the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre entrance has a small shop inside, also there is a smallish 1 shop on the road junction leading to RDC. Both are very small and has very limited variety of products. The nearest big supermarket is "Giant", taxi ride there costs 35 RM one way/60 RM return.
No banks or ATMs are available in Sepilok. The closest ATM is at the Mile 8 settlement, taxi there costs RM 30 one way, RM 40 return (2016).
Eat and drink
Sabah Vegetables are a local specialty. When stir-fried with garlic or other herbs/spices these ferns are tasty and have a texture like crunchy bok choy or asparagus.
Most of the hotels have their own restaurants.
- 1 Kantin Sepilok. M-F 12:00-16:00. Located on the territory of the Forest Research Centre and caters mainly for its workers, however, anyone from outside can eat there as well. The menu is rather limited, usually they have only couple of options available at one time, most often they have rojak and chicken soup, also fried bananas and some snacks. Food is very tasty. Meals RM6-8, drinks RM1-2.
- 2 Lepak Lounge. Till 17:09. As long as it's located inside of the Rainforest Discovery Centre, anyone wishing to dine here needs to buy entrance ticket to RDC. They always have 5-6 types of meal available, chicken soup, fried rice, fried chicken. Food is good, fast service. RM10 meals, RM5-7 juices.
- 3 Cafeteria (right next to the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre entrance). Prepare simple food like fried rice, etc. It also has a small shop inside selling snacks, fruits, drinks. RM7-10 per meal, RM2-6 drinks.
- 1 Sepilok Nature Resort, ☎ . 3 star hotel with chalet-style accommodation. RM 240.
- 2 Sepilok Jungle Resort, Mile 14, Jalan Rambutan, ☎ . This is a basic chalet resort that charges as if it were a luxury eco-lodge. Despite a good location and layout, the facilities are at a bare minimum with aircon that doesn't work, and a restaurant that serves poor quality food. The staff are either timid or unfriendly and the guides for the nightwalks and park very disinterested with a lazy attitude. Accommodation is clean and basic double aircon rooms. An open-air dining area serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Beer, soft drinks and bottled water are sold. Note that this accommodation venue is not suitable for those who are mobility impaired. RM 130.
- 3 Sepilok Forest Edge Resort. Nice looking spacious rooms ornamented with wood. It also hosts restaurant and a bar. Double RM 243+, dorms RM 42.
- 4 Sepilok Bed & Breakfast, ☎ . RM 120.
- 5 Uncle Tan B&B, Mile 14, Jalan Sepilok. Dorms RM 50+ per person.
Outside of town
- 6 Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat (at Taman Jalil Alip), ☎ . Retreat set on top of a hill overlooking a distance of over 5km in radius and the nearby Labuk Road forest reserve. For those wishing to experience a contemporary interpretation of traditional stilt house living, and enjoying a serenity rare among the Sepilok doorstep offerings. Using recycled & rare timber, reject scraps from sawmills and redefining the use of simple and commonplace objects, the structures are created to highlight a unique, tropical design style. Only 5mins drive from Sepilok. Look for a signboard with a hornbill sitting on it. Double RM 180m, dorms RM 35.
- Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. Tours which take in Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary often also visit the nearby Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.
- Sandakan is the practical departure point for those travelling by air.