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What to do in Sepilok, Borneo - Sabah Orangutan Sanctuary and more

Discover the top things to do in Sepilok, Sabah - from the famous Orangutan Sanctuary to the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, Kinabatangan River Cruise and more. This guide includes all our recommendations to make the best of your visit to Sepilok, Sabah!

Orangutans in Sepilok

Sepilok is a small village in Sabah, Borneo, located about 26 kilometers away from Sandakan. It is most famous for its Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre but also features the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and Rainforest Discovery Centre. There are plenty of nature-oriented activities to do in Sepilok, Borneo, and in this article, we'll delve into the most interesting attractions of Sabah.


How to get to Sepilok in Sabah, Borneo

The best way to get to Sepilok is by arriving at the Sandakan airport, conveniently located 30 minutes' drive away from Sepilok. The recommended way to reach Sepilok from the airport is by taxi or Grab. Reaching Sandakan is also possible by the long-distance public bus from other airports in Sabah, like Kota Kinabalu or Tawau.


Feeding time in Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
Feeding time in Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
Baby orangutan learning to climb in Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
Baby orangutan learning to climb in Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

What to do in Sepilok Sabah, Borneo


Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in Sabah

Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre is one of the biggest and most well-known orangutan sanctuaries in Malaysia. Around 80 orangutans live within the 43-square-kilometer forest reserve. Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary has no gates or fences, so the orangutans here are free to roam in the jungle on their own. That’s why it’s not certain to see them during a visit to the sanctuary. To maximize your chances of seeing orangutans, visit the sanctuary during feeding time. If some orangutans have trouble finding food, especially outside of the fruiting season, they can always count on getting a snack in the sanctuary, every day at 10 am and 3 pm.


Some of the orangutans who visit the sanctuary are very shy and come only to quickly grab a few fruits before they again disappear into the forest. Others like to get some attention and come closer or even walk between the people on the viewing platform. After the orangutans finish their meal, other species come to take their share. Other monkeys you can see in Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center are long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, which sometimes tend to be loud and even aggressive, but there's nothing to worry about as the staff is taking care of the safety in the sanctuary.


You can visit Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center on your own during the opening hours: 9:00 - 11:30 and 14:00 - 16:00. A full-day ticket costs RM30 and can be paid only in cash. You can expect to see the most action during feeding time. The feeding is being proceeded in two places, first at 9:30 in the nursery where you can see young orangutans from behind the window, and then 30 minutes later from the viewing platform in the next location.


Orangutan in Sepilok

Sepilok Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah

Just in front of the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, you'll find the Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Sun bears are the smallest bears in the world and are only found in Southeast Asia. These bears are threatened by forest degradation, illegal hunting for bear parts, and poaching to obtain young cubs for the pet trade. The results of these threats have caused young sun bears to be living in unnatural captive conditions in Sabah, with no access to outdoor areas. There are currently 43 rescued ex-captive sun bears residing at the BSBCC. The Sun Bear Conservation Centre is open from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. The ticket costs RM50.


The skywalk in Rainforest Discovery Center
The skywalk in Rainforest Discovery Center
Borneo Black Hornbills in Rainforest Discovery Center
Borneo Black Hornbills in Rainforest Discovery Center

Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC) in Sabah

The Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC) is one of the most accessible natural rainforests in Sabah. It is truly unique to be literally in the middle of a jungle, hearing and seeing all the local animals from a very safe, comfortable, and, most of all, extremely fun skywalk. The RDC is a fantastic place for people who want to observe or photograph the unique flora and fauna of Borneo. The skywalk is a couple of hundred meters long and features observation towers from which you can see as high as the tops of trees.


Oriental Bay-Owl witness during a night walk in RDC
Oriental Bay-Owl witness during a night walk in RDC

More than that, there are dozens of kilometers of hiking trails crossing the whole forest. You can explore them with a guide or on your own, but if you decide to do it yourself, be sure to choose the right clothes and shoes for such an activity. It's especially interesting to explore the paths at night and see all the nocturnal animals that wake up when the sun goes down. To do so, sign up for the night walk led by a local spotter who will help you find all the species hiding in the jungle. The most famous are the Red Giant Flying Squirrels.


The Rainforest Discovery Center is about a 25-minute walk away from the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. Full-day tickets cost RM15, and the 2-hour long Night Walk costs RM30 per person. Booking must be made before 5 pm.




Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary in Sabah

Although the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is technically not in Sepilok but in the remote oil state of Labuk Bay, it's only a 25-minute drive from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, making it easy to visit both places on the same day. Unfortunately, there's no public transportation that can take you there, so the best way to reach the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is by hiring a private driver from the hotel where you stay to take you there and back.


The monkeys at Labuk Bay are free to roam the mangroves. Unlike the wild monkeys that live on the Kinabatangan River and other areas of Sabah, are very comfortable around people, offering visitors a chance to see them from a very close distance.



Similarly to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, you can expect the most action during the daily feeding time. The sanctuary has two platforms. Feeding takes place at Platform A at 9:30 am and 2:30 pm, and at Platform B at 11:30 am and 4:30 pm. At most feeding times, groups of proboscis monkeys descend from the nearby forest and mangroves and head to the wooden platform for a free meal. The entrance fee for foreign visitors is RM60.


After Proboscis Monkeys finish eating, other animals like the silver-leaf monkeys come to get their share. They're also used to people and like to come closer, being fed from the hand.




Kinabatangan River Cruise in Sabah

The 560-kilometer Kinabatangan River is Sabah’s longest river. Day tours are available from various operators in Sepilok and Sandakan for the river cruise in Kinabatangan, located a 2.5-hour drive away from Sepilok. During the cruise, you can see the Borneo Big 5: Pygmy Elephant, Proboscis Monkey, Orangutan, River Crocodile, and Hornbill. Although taking a tour from Sandakan or Sepilok is very popular, the best way to explore the Kinabatangan River is by staying in Sukau and taking sunrise and sunset tours from there to maximise your chances of seeing the animals.



How long to stay in Sepilok, Sabah

At first, we stayed in Sepilok only for one night, allowing us to visit the orangutan sanctuary and proboscis monkey sanctuary before we rushed to Sukau to make it for the evening river cruise at 4 pm. Right away, we felt that the time spent in Sepilok wasn't enough for us. That's why we decided to return for one more day on our way back. As most of the attractions in Sepilok are related to observing the animals, you can maximize your chances of seeing the most by extending your stay to a couple of days. When talking to other travelers, we were surprised that many visitors stay in Sepilok for a few weeks or even months. They were also able to name an impressive list of animals they spotted during their stay.


Sepilok Orangutan

Where to stay in Sepilok, Sabah

There are several resorts in Sepilok within walking distance from the Orangutan Sanctuary or the RDC. We really enjoyed staying in the Jungle Resort, barely 5 minutes away from the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. This resort has rooms with private bathrooms, beautiful bridge paths, and even a swimming pool, which we never used. There aren't any restaurants in the area, so you'll end up eating in your hotel or at the RDC.


Besides the resort we stayed in, there are a few other resorts with great ratings and lots of positive comments on the Booking app, so you can't go wrong with booking in Sepilok. If you prefer, you can also explore all the attractions in Sepilok while staying in Sandakan, but this won't give you the real jungle vibe as when staying in Sepilok.


Our Experience in Sepilok

Staying in Sepilok was our favorite part of our trip to Sabah. We liked it so much that we decided to visit for two more nights on our way back. We tried all the local activities, and to be honest, I wouldn't mind repeating everything once again. When joining the tour, you're told right away that seeing the animals depends on luck. Even though the tour operators study the behaviour of the animals in Sabah, it's never certain to see anything during the tour. This would be the reason I would consider staying in Sepilok for a few days next time to maximise my chances of getting the best out of my visit.


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