When we were planning our travels there were a few things we wanted to see more than anything. One of those things was to see Orangutan’s. I have been obsessed with them ever since watching Monkey World when i was small – I love primates and Orangs above all are my favourite. So Borneo was on the map.
Kota Kinabalu – Sepilok (Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre)
We flew into Kota Kinabalu, stayed overnight in an Airport Hotel. It was pretty basic but it suited our budget and it was only for one night! In the morning we took a short internal flight out to Sandakan. From there we got a Grab (Uber) and drove to Sepilok. This is where the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is as well as the Sun Bear Conservation Centre is.
We stayed at the Sepilok Forrest Edge Resort – It was less than a ten minute walk to the Oragnutans & Sun Bears. I highly recommend this place if you were planning on visiting here – the rooms were gorgeous, the staff were amazing and the food.. the FOOD – it was excellent.
Our first afternoon we spent just relaxing in the communal / restaurant area playing games and having some lunch. They did the most amazing drink at Forrest Edge – a Lemon grass water with cinnamon – Sounds weird but it was so refreshing! We got ourselves an early night. Grabbed breakfast in the morning (they made the most amazing fried eggs, cinnamon and apple cake and the coffee was excellent) and made the short 10 minute walk to the Orangutans & Sun Bears.
Orangutans & Sun Bears
The Orangutan sanctuary was nothing short of amazing. Here they rescue orphaned Orangutans and teach them the skills they need to survive themselves in the wild. We went to the outdoor nursery and watched all the young ones playing, swinging around and eating – I could have happily stayed here and watched them all day. We also learnt about how many of the Orangs became orphans – a lot of the mothers were killed because of logging (for building and PALM OIL, illegal hunting and deforestation) The work they do here is incredible – We were very lucky because we saw the dominant male of the area, he was HUGE and we also got very close to an adult female orangutan. We were just walking along and she swung through the trees right next to us. It was very special.
The Sun Bear Centre is right next door to the Orangutans so we wandered back the our hotel for lunch and came back here for the afternoon. Sun Bears are the smallest bears in the world and are only found in South East Asia. In Sabah they are threatened by deforestation, illegal hunting for bear parts and poaching. Sadly there is a big demand for Sun Bear cubs as pets because they are so cute – The result of this is that these young bears are kept in unnatural and usually very small captive conditions with zero access to outdoor pens.
The centre rescues captive bears and bring them to their facility which has massive outdoor enclosures just like their natural environment – from here they rehabilitate them for their release back into the wild. The bears looked like they were having a blast playing with each other and exploring their natural habitat. We met a British girl who had been volunteering at the centre for the last six months and she had some great information about the bears and the behaviour they were displaying.
I highly recommend a visit to these centres – the entrance fee is pretty small but every penny goes towards reducing and rehabilitating other Orangutans and Bears.
We stayed in Sepilok for two nights and then head to the Kinabatangan River. A friend who had been to Borneo recently loved her trip here so we decided to check it out. You can do river cruises on small boats to see Monkeys, Birds, Crocodiles and other creatures in their natural environment.
The 2 hour journey there was a bumpy one. I noticed as we drove a long a staggering amount of lorries carrying logs and wood. There were huge areas of land that had once been forests that were now bare. We saw entrance signs to palm oil plantations and huge amounts if rubbish lining the roads. It was sad driving through these areas that had once had huge forests that so much wildlife once had lived in.
We had booked with Suku Backoackers B&B – It was okay but looking back we could have afforded something a little nicer, the rooms were pretty grim but the food was good and we weren’t going there to experience a luxurious resort with Wifi anyway! We had bought the package where they would provide transfers to and from Sandakan, morning, night and afternoon cruises and also a jungle trek.
On the first day we arrived we did an afternoon cruise and a night cruise. We saw Long Tail and Pig Tail Macaques, Proboscis Monkeys (the ones with the funny noses) beautiful birds, lizards and crocodiles. It was pretty amazing to see all these creatures in their natural habitat. That night we had a really tasty Malaysian dinner a couple of beers and a few rounds of scrabble before heading for an early night. We had a 6AM morning cruise to prepare for after all!
The Morning cruise was so peaceful – We saw a lot of wildlife as well which made up for the early start. That afternoon we had our jungle trek – which was not what we were expecting at all !! We thought we just be walking along a man-made path in the jungle… ohhhh no. We were taken deep into the jungle, we scrambled up hills and saw a hellllaaaaa lot of creepy crawlies!! We didn’t see any primates sadly but our guide Rex was so knowledgeable about all the plants, bugs and trees – It was a great experience but we were in desperate need of a shower when we got back!
That afternoon was our last cruise – it was a real treat because we saw a wild Orangutan!! She was making her nest for the night and it was truly amazing to witness.
The next morning we were taken back to Sandakan and caught our flight back to Kota Kinabalu (KK). All in all it was great to go to the river just to experience it but I would stay somewhere a little nicer next time.
Kota Belud – Big Fin Divers Resort
For our last few days we just wanted a bit of beach time. My friend Louise had recommend Big Fin Divers resort to us. We don’t dive but this place was incredible. About a two Hour Taxi drive from KK airport and then a small boat you will arrive on a tiny stretch of beach with some huts looking over the bay – It was HEAVEN (or at least it would have been if it didn’t rain the entire time we were there!)
The guys who run it were so friendly, the food was unbelievable and they have dogs too (bonus) Even though it chucked it down it was still really nice. We just chilled on our balcony in our hammocks, reading and played cards & scrabble in the evening. One of the dogs slept on our balcony each night, followed us everywhere and just became our buddy.
The day we were going to leave the sun came out! We didn’t leave the resort till about 4PM so we just chilled on the beach had a bit of sun time and a bit of a swim with our new doggo friend.
We were genuinely sad to leave here and we would 100% go back – it was amazing and I’m still thinking about those Banana Pancakes I had for breakfast.