Breakfast with orangutans in Borneo
Getting to know some of our closest cousins as they swung from branches and ropes above our heads at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was a highlight of our trip.
When we flew from KL to Borneo, we were shocked to see just how much of the rainforest has been sacrificed for palm oil plantations. Unfortunately, this has had a monumental impact on Borneo's population of wild orangutans.
Whilst Borneo remains one of two places in the world that you can see fully wild orangutans, we were unlucky on our trip on the Kinabantangan River so took a trip to Sepilok. Set in 43 sq. km of preserved rainforest, Sepilok has been in operation since 1964 and cares for orangutans that have lost their homes as a result of deforestation or those that have been victims of the illegal pet trade. Orphaned little ones are treated just like human babies with 24 hour care and orangutans are only released back into the wild once they are fully self-sufficient; a process that usually takes around 7 years.
At Sepilok, the orangutans natural diet is supplement with fresh fruit. Although rare, some days orangutans don't turn up at the feeding platform as the food they foraged is enough to keep their bellies full. That said, the orangutans know they can rely on breakfast at 10am, so there always tends to be a small group at least.
We had been told that Sepilok can get fairly busy so we got there early. By 10am (feeding time) there were a lot of visitors and people were standing on the benches to get a good view of the feeding platform.
Excitement built about 15 minutes before feeding time as we started to spot flickers of orange hair between the green rainforest canopy. Slowly, some more boldly than others, the orangutans came swinging in from all directions. For about an hour after the food was laid out (a huge bunch of bananas if you're wondering) new faces came and went. Some babies clung to their mothers backs whilst some mischievous teens had saved their morning wee for a stop off right above the our heads...
We visited Sepilok as part of Uncle Tan's Wildlife Adventure as we also spent time in the jungle with them. Otherwise, getting to Sepilok is around 45 minutes drive from Sandakan; there are a number of buses that depart daily.