April 13, 2018 Friday – Sandakan to Sepilok, Sabah
I am up at 6AM and put my bag out to be picked up before I leave to have breakfast. The hotel has a self-serve super-automatic espresso machine, so I have two cappuccinos along with some fruit, yogurt, and pastries. I check out and board the bus by 8AM. Everyone is onboard ahead of time, so we leave at 7:50AM for the one hour drive to the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary in time for the first feeding at 9:30AM. This is a private sanctuary for the monkeys operated by a palm plantation owner. Everyone in the group take fantastic photos and video of the monkeys, since they are only a few metres away from us. The monkeys are well-behaved, not aggressive at all.
After we have lunch in the highlands at the classic English Tea House & Garden, we drive to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, arriving in time to see the afternoon feeding. As always, our guides are well-organized and ensure everyone is at the feeding platforms ahead of the crowds, so our group all take some wonderful photos and video.
We then check in at the nearby MY Nature Resort. This is another resort run by the same company as our last lodge on the river. This travel company also supplies the guides and boats we have been using. This is a very nice resort, and thankfully the chalets are very roomy and have air conditioning, so it is much more comfortable to sleep at night.
Our guides conduct another night walk at the nearby Rainforest Discovery Centre, but again I pass on the opportunity since leeches are a very real risk at that location.
April 14, 2018 Saturday – Sepilok Orangutans and Sun Bears
After breakfast, we spend the full day at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, seeing both the morning and afternoon feeding of the organgutans. We also see the nursery, where young orphan orangutans are socialized, taught how to forage and build nests, and build up their strength. They are encouraged to explore the adjacent rainforest sanctuary, since there are no fences or barriers. For their own safety, they are housed in a nursery building at night. After about four years, they are released to a protected area if the staff are convinced they have the skills to survive in the wild.
We also visit the adjacent Sun Bear Conservation Centre. These small, cute bears encounter the same issues as orangutans – encroachment of human settlements on their rainforest habitat, poaching, and locals keeping them as pets. The CEO and Founder of the Centre is Dr. Wong Siew Te, who gives us a personalized tour. We are fortunate to see three of the Sun Bears come out of the bush and literally pose for us on a stump right in front of the viewing platform.